YA Snowmen 2014: Part 3 of 3

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Today, we have part 3 of our three-part collection of 2014 YA snowmen. This annual tradition comes thanks to my talented mom, Laurie, who is the artist behind these drawings every year.

We have 12 original illustrations this year, each one inspired by a YA novel or movie adaptation. See the first eight illustrations of this year here and here! (You can also check out past illustrations here!)

divergent_nn giver_nn hooksrevenge_nn if i stay_nn

As always, we ask that you link back here to Novel Novice to share these, rather than reposting the images on other sites. Thank you!!!

AUTHORS: Is one of your books featured? Would you like the original artwork? Email me & I’ll make it happen! sara.novelnovice@outlook.com

A Book Blogger’s New Year’s Resolutions

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I’ve never been a big fan of the New Year’s Resolutions. For one, I don’t need a new calendar year to motivate me to make changes or improvements if I feel like I want to make them. And two, I’m the type of person who prefers to set the bar a little low, and then blow past it — for whatever reason, that’s more motivation to me, than setting a loftier goal and aiming high to just meet it. I like to surpass more realistic expectations. That’s just how I roll.

Photo by Candace Robinson

Photo by Candace Robinson

But with Novel Novice’s 5-year anniversary rolling around this January (!!!!), I’ve been thinking a lot about who I am as a book blogger, what things have been working well on Novel Novice, and what things could use improvement.

It also doesn’t hurt that last year, I was a major blog slacker because I was planning my wedding — and post-wedding this year, I fell back into a really good groove. I’ve been in a good place this year with my blogging, and that makes me so happy. But it also makes me want to improve on areas where I’m still not great.

So with all that in mind, here are my book blogger New Year’s resolutions — or rather, Things I Want to Work on in 2015:

1. Replying to Emails

inboxBetween personal & blogging emails, and work emails, I get a ton of messages in my Inboxes everyday. Work emails tend to take priority because … well, it’s WORK. Income. Livelihood.

I always try to respond to blogging-related emails (from publishers, authors, other bloggers, blog tour hosts, etc.) in a timely matter — but it doesn’t always happen. I see a message, get excited about it, but then forget to reply until a week or more later.

So in 2015, it’s my goal to reply to blogging-related emails as soon as I get them — no more forgetting to reply, no more waiting a week or more to respond. Get an email, then reply. I know it won’t be a perfect process — but I’m consciously going to work on being more prompt in my responses.

2. Choosing Contest Winners

winnerI have notoriously been horrible at choosing contest winners in a timely manner in the past. I feel like I’ve been better than usual this past year, but there’s still room for improvement.

This year, I’ve implemented a system of choosing winners monthly — and I like that, because it’s a concise way to wrap up several contests in one blog post, and means I’m not constantly choosing contest winners left and right. But when I announce contest winner’s for the past month, I want to do so earlier in the following month. Need to choose August contest winners? By the first weekend in September, that should be done! None of this waiting until it’s almost October to get around to it.

3. Sending Contest Prizes

packagesMost of our prizes are sent out by publishers or publicity companies who sponsor the contests we run — but every once in a while, I’m in charge of sending out prizes. And it always takes me forever to get those prizes out in the mail.

Thank goodness for all of you winners who are SO patient with me — but you shouldn’t have to wait so long!

The delays come from a few reasons: one, the time it takes me to package up & label the prizes. Two, actually going to the Post Office to mail them. But the biggest delay is making sure I’ve got money in the budget to cover postage. So I need to be more diligent about making sure my husband and I allocate however much money I’ll need to mail out prizes so I can cover the postage expenses when I have contest prizes to send out.

4. Accept or Request Only the Review Books I Can Handle

sara book profile photoIt’s always so tempting to accept book review pitches or request review books when there are ALL THE SHINY BOOKS and they all sound OMG SO GOOD. But there’s only so many hours in a day, and so many days in a month, and only so much time for reading in between eating, sleeping, working, blogging, spending time with my husband, and you know, seeing friends and family and having a life. (If only someone would just pay me to read books all day!)

Sometimes I am very good about accepting/requesting a manageable number of review books. But other times, I’m too tempted by all the amazing books out there, and I find myself with any overwhelming TBR pile.

My goal is to always be at least one month ahead of myself. Because most of the books I read are ARCs (Advance Review Copies), I try to stay a month ahead of release: ie, I read all the January release books by the end of December; all the February release books by the end of January, etc. On months when I have a smaller number of ARCs to read, I try to squeeze in books that have already been published and that I’ve been waiting to read just for my own personal enjoyment. (Not that I don’t enjoy reading ARCs – I very much do, but there are other books I want to read that I don’t get an ARC for, and I want to find time to read them, as well!)

So in 2015, I want to be more conscientious of requesting and accepting review books — knowing that there are often books that arrive unsolicited and they sound amazing, too, and get added to my reading pile. I just need to make sure my reading list stays manageable more often than not — and there have been a few times this year, where it was very overwhelming.

5. Event Recaps

cassie holly saraThis is something I’ve almost never done, but always intend to do. I attend lots of amazing book/author events — often as a moderator. I always tweet about the events, and sometimes live tweet if I’m not moderating. I usually take a few photos. But I never do a write-up after the fact.

So in 2015, I want to try doing event recaps more often. This will be a challenge for me, since I usually schedule posts in advance — and event recaps will need to be written and posted very promptly after the event takes place. But I want to push myself, and this is a good challenge for me.

6. Posting Reviews Elsewhere

IMG_7794I know how very important it is for authors to have good reviews on GoodReads and online book retailers. Whenever an author asks if I will post my review of their book on one or more of these sites, I do it instantly — with pleasure. But I am very lazy about doing this on my own, on a regular basis.

I have very sporadically posted my book reviews on GoodReads, Amazon, B&N, and Powells.com — but it’s my goal to do so much more regularly and consistently. It needs to become a habit. I usually write and schedule my reviews ahead of time (as I do with almost all of my blog posts), so the habit needs to come from posting reviews on these other sites AFTER my reviews have gone live here at Novel Novice. But maybe I can make this something I do once a month, and just post that month’s reviews across those other websites.

For the comments: What are your New Year’s resolutions? For my fellow bloggers, what are things you want to work on?

Best Middle Grade Books of 2014

best of 2014
Yesterday, we posted our picks for the Best YA Books of 2014. Today, we’re spotlighting our favorite Middle Grade Books of 2014. In no particular order, here are our picks:

hook's revengeHook’s Revenge by Heidi Schulz

I adored this whimsical twist on the classic Peter Pan story, in which Captain Hook’s daughter comes to Neverland to exact revenge on the crocodile that killed her infamous father. Schulz has crafted an insanely clever and witty story, and the book’s illustrations add just the perfect extra touch of whimsy. Funny and heartfelt, this is a book both kids and the adults in their lives will enjoy.

fleabrain loves frannyFleabrain Loves Franny by Joanne Rocklin

This charming tribute to Charlotte’s Web is full of heart and history. Rocklin brilliantly marries a wealth of historical information about the polio epidemic and the creation of the polio vaccine, with a sweet story about one girl’s unique friendship with a magical flea. Rocklin lovingly captures Franny’s journey from polio patient to hero.

Night Gardener, TheThe Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

Auxier weaves a dark and twisted tale about an enchanted manor, and the two orphans who become unlikely heroes against a mysterious evil. I love Auxier’s writing, and he crafts the perfect moody atmosphere for his story. And if you’re worried this tale might be too dark for your kids, don’t be. Auxier certainly weaves a dark story — but it’s never inappropriate for the book’s intended audience.

stay where you are and then leaveStay Where You Are & Then Leave by John Boyne

A brilliant historical drama about one boy’s quest to learn the truth about his deployed father’s fate during World War II. The book is a beautiful portrait of love, strength, and how far we’ll go to save the ones we hold most dear. Boyne paints a captivating portrait about life during the war, captured through the lens of one boy’s determination to find his father and save him.

rain reignRain Reign by Ann M. Martin

As if anything written by Ann M. Martin wouldn’t be brilliant? Rain Reign is a beautiful story about a girl on the autism spectrum, and the unique bond she shares with her dog. The book shows us her anxieties and her fears and her struggles, but also her strength, determination, and bravery.

cartwheeling in thunderstormsCartwheeling in Thunderstorms by Katherine Rundell

Adventure, freedom, and the enormity of growing up are at the heart of this book, which bears echoes of A Little Princess — as one girl is transported from her home on the plains of Africa to the confines of a boarding school in England. With a message that is ultimately liberating and reassuring, the book shows that there are different ways to be yourself and find freedom, while conforming to society’s needs for children to grow up.

For the comments: What are your favorite middle grade books from the past year?

Best YA Books of 2014

best of 2014
Every year, it’s always so hard to choose my favorite books of the year. But there are certainly stand-outs — and even probably a few other titles that should be on this list, that I’ve failed to include for one reason or another. Regardless — here are my picks for the best YA books of 2014! (Look for my top middle grade picks tomorrow.)

The books below are listed roughly in chronological order of when I read them over the last year.

arcadia fallsArcadia Falls by Kai Meyer

I’ve been obsessed with this series from German author Kai Meyer from the beginning — it’s a delightful mix of the paranormal and the mafia. This sexy, mature YA series takes place mostly in Italy — and this third and final book in the series is probably my favorite, since it elevates the stakes and it’s just so thrilling to see how the characters resolve their larger than life conflicts. Being wrapped up in two warring crime families certainly makes their forbidden romance much more dangerous!

tsarinaTsarina by J. Nelle Patrick

J. Nelle Patrick is the pen name of author Jackson Pearce — and I’ve long been a fan of Jackson’s work, so it’s no surprise I was just as enchanted by her historical fiction as I have been by her other books. I loved this delightfully magical twist on the fall of the Romanov family, and the start of the Russian Revolution. Gut-wrenching, romantic, and whimsical at every turn.

nogginNoggin by John Corey Whaley

Of course I’ll love anything John Corey Whaley writes, but Noggin was an exceptionally quirky, funny, and charming story. I love how practically Whaley approaches such an outrageous premise — that’s part of what makes this whacky story work so well! And as always, his writing is crisp, eloquent, and endearing.

sekretSekret by Lindsay Smith

Though the two books are very different, I almost felt like this was the perfect book to read after Tsarina because historically, the events in Sekret are largerly informed by the Russian Revolution chronicled in Tsarina. I loved this magical twist on the Cold War, and am eager to read the sequel in 2015.

ask meAsk Me by Kimberly Pauley

I just adore Kimberly Pauley, and Ask Me is probably my favorite of her books to date. It’s a delightful combination of thriller, murder-mystery, and the supernatural — blended together with a healthy dose of Pauley’s signature humor, which gives the story just enough wit and charm to keep it from being too dour. Fans of Kimberly Derting’s The Body Finder series should definitely pick up Ask Me — and I sincerely hope Pauley’s publisher sees fit to allow for more books featuring these characters, as there is plenty of series potential.

dreams of gods and monstersDreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor

When I found out that Laini Taylor didn’t know how this series was going to end when she first started writing it, I was shocked. Shocked! Because Dreams of Gods & Monsters so perfectly wraps up what was already a lovely and elegant fantasy series. Everything comes full circle, and is so poetically wonderful … as always, Taylor’s writing is just breath-takingly gorgeous — and her masterful storytelling is at an all-time high, as she concluded this epic trilogy. This book — this series — is just a complete masterpiece.

treatment, theThe Treatment by Suzanne Young

Suzanne Young’s The Program was such a wholly original new story, and this year’s sequel was so compellingly-written and captivating … it had to make my “Best of 2014″ list. Suzanne cleverly brings the drama and the emotions full-circle, while still inserting her signature humor and wit into what is otherwise a very serious, dark storyline. I can’t wait to see where the rest of this world goes in the upcoming novella The Recovery, as well as her spin-off novel, The Remedy.

Sincesince you've been gone You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

A fun, light-hearted contemporary story about BFFs with a healthy dose of romance and an awesome playlist. I was blown away by how outstanding this story was — from conception to execution. A fun, smart idea about a bold “to do” list, left behind by a best friend MIA. The heart and emotion of Since You’ve Been Gone resonated so much with me, and I was just swept away by this fantastic summer story.

raging starRaging Star by Moira Young

I have adored every moment of Moira Young’s Dustlands Trilogy — and this final chapter was just so beautiful and brilliantly executed. I can’t say enough good things about this series, and this final book. It’s an emotional and epic conclusion to the Dustlands, and it was so satisfying to witness Saba’s tumultuous journey and transformation from book one through book three. Raging Star is just a masterpiece.

lost, theThe Lost by Sarah Beth Durst

I’ve long been a fan of Sarah Beth Durst, and devour pretty much anything she writes. In fact, this is one of two books she released in 2014 — the other being Chasing Power, which should probably get an honorable mention on this list, given it’s fantastic Indiana Jones-esque feel, delightful characters, and wonderfully imagined magic. But The Lost eked it out just a teensy bit on my list, even though this book was technically adult and not YA (like Chasing Power). I was blown away by the imaginative world, where lost things and people end up — and the smoldering, smart, and bold plot twists that carried the book through. I am still mourning the loss of the two planned sequels when Harlequin was acquired by Harper Collins.

firebugFirebug by Lish McBride

More magic & mobsters! Yes, I’ve said it before and I’ll continue saying it — I love the combination of magic and the mafia. Lish McBride’s new series, starting with Firebug, wholly satisfies by lust for more of this unique combination. (I’ve been suffering from withdrawals since Arcadia Falls concluded one such trilogy earlier this year; and Holly Black’s Curse Workers trilogy wrapped up a few years ago.) But beyond this delightful combination that I love so much, Firebug has really, really wonderful characters and a smart plot that was largely wrapped up in this first book — while still leaving PLENTY of bigger-picture issues to resolve in future additions to the series. (Like a certain romantic pairing!!!)

i'll give you the sunI’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Beautifully written and expertly plotted. This book takes you back and forth in time and perspective, weaving together an intricate tale about siblings, family, love, and loss in magnificent prose. I don’t often say this about a realistic contemporary novel – but I could not put this book down. I had to know what happened next, how the story would unfold, and how the two storylines would finally connect. Just a brilliant book, from start to finish.

jackaby Jackaby by William Ritter

Sherlock meets Doctor Who in this fantastic book about a brilliant detective with a gift for seeing the supernatural, and his spunky assistant (our delightful narrator, with a love of dresses with pockets). Charming and engaging, I just fell in love with these characters — and though the plot of Jackaby is wrapped up within this single book, there is plenty of room for more adventures with this pair and I honestly can’t wait to read more.

AThousandPieces_hc_cA Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

“Every me loves every you” became the sort of unofficial tagline for this book, in which a teen girl hops across multiple universes to try and solve the mystery of her father’s murder. But I could easily say, “Every me loves every page of this book.” I’m a huge fan of Claudia Gray’s work, and this might be her most thrilling and unexpected book to date. She tackles the science fiction genre like nobody else, mixing in bits of historical fiction (with a twist) and romance (with a twist) and adventure (with … you guessed it … a twist). I can’t get enough of the worlds within this book, and can’t wait to see where the series goes next.

paper airplanesPaper Airplanes by Dawn O’Porter

Like an ode to your BFF, Paper Airplanes is a celebration of female friendships. Taking inspiration from her own teenage journals, Dawn O’Porter’s Paper Airplanes is imbued with a raw honesty that is hard to find in most contemporary YA novels. I fell in love with these girls, and their relationship reminded me about all the things I love about my own best friend. This is a book I need to share with her STAT!

For the comments: What are the best books you read in 2014?

November Contest Winners

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It’s time to round-up our contest winners from November! Check out the winners below, and be sure to enter our most recent contests for more great chances to win!

Betting Blind Kindle Paperwhite Giveaway

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One lucky winner will receive a Kindle Paperwhite pre-loaded with Betting Blind by Stephanie Guerra. The winner is: Tosha Hector.

Dead of Winter Kindle Giveaway

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For this contest, we offered up a Kindle pre-loaded with the first three books in Kresley Cole’s Arcana Chronicles, including an early peek at Dead of Winter. The winner is: Rhonda Burkhardt.

Deep Blue & Rogue Wave Contest

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The winner of this contest will receive a copy of Deep Blue, plus custom nail polishes inspired by Deep Blue and Rogue Wave. The winner is: Saeanna Yeager

Raven Cycle Books + Tarot Cards Giveaway

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For this contest, we offered up all three books in the Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater, plus a set of Maggie’s custom Tarot deck inspired by the books. The winner is: Len Maidenveil.

House of Night Contest

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For this contest, we offered up one signed copy of the House of Night comic to celebrate the final book’s release. The winner is: Kelley J.

Loop by Karen Akins Giveaway

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One winner from this contest will receive a copy of Loop by Karen Akins. The winner is: Katherine Ivan.

GoneReading.com e-Gift Card

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From our Holiday Shopping Guide, we offered up one $40 e-gift card to a lucky winner. That winner is: Clarisa Ramirez. Happy shopping!

A Thousand Pieces of You Multi-Verse Writing Contest

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For our November Book of the Month contest, we asked you to write a 250-500 word piece describing or taking place in an alternate universe. The winner is Stephanie Parke and here is her winning entry:

Rachel smiled softly and flipped her hair over her shoulder as she walked. She made sure she showed the perfect amount of ankle and breast as she led the man back to her room. He’d been so eager to follow her out the door and Rachel quite liked being the hunter instead of the prey.
The alley was dark but she wasn’t afraid. She was a time officer and routinely handled serial killers like this one, sexual predators. She had been selected from a long list of applicants and she enjoyed it, enjoyed catching the psychos.

The door creaked sounding like a scream in the silence of the slums. The room in the heart of Whitechappel reeked, with cheap furniture and a bed that sagged in the middle. The man cleared his throat and motioned her forward trying to play his part, but she knew better.

The door shut and Rachel made sure to keep her back to the man inside the room. She waited a breath before turning to face him and was not at all surprised to see him in her personal space. His eyes gleamed and for anyone else it would have been terrifying. He wrapped his fingers around her throat as he pulled her to the bed and pushed her down.

“Please don’t hurt me.” Rachel said with false fear, trying her best to pretend to be afraid. He held her down and let all pretense of civility go as the knife in his hand gleamed. He laughed evilly as he wrapped one harry hand around her throat, running the knife over her. She could see he got off on it, the way he caressed the knife, because his smile widened.

Rachel pried his hand free twisting his arms behind his back. He screamed as he felt his shoulders snap as she pushed him off. She smiled as she held both hands in one of her own and stood. She tisked as she looked at him, thinking no one would be afraid of him if they could see the coward now. She bent the knife in two and tossed it behind her as she crushed his neck with a quick clench of her fist. He gurgled until the light faded from his disbelieving eyes.

Rachel threw him down and wiped her hand on her skirt before she opened her bag. She took out the syringe and opened the panel in her neck injecting the aether into the port there. As a half human-half clockwork, she needed to refuel every few hours or so. She shook her head distributing the aether through her body, feeling the surge as her clockwork mechanisms sighed with contentment. She slid back the panel on her wrist pushing the button signaling the time crimes unit, letting them know that her job was done. “Bastard” she said fiercely as she kicked the body lying on the floor. She smiled knowing that no one would ever need to fear Jack the Ripper again.

Congrats again to all of our winners!

Book Review: Being Audrey Hepburn by Mitchell Kriegman

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A charming, contemporary YA caper that pays homage to the films of Audrey Hepburn, written by the creator of “Clarissa Explains It All” (AKA the quintessential TV series of my childhood & early adolescence)? Of course I was destined to adore Being Audrey Hepburn by Mitchell Kriegman! And I did — this charming book did not disappoint.

being audrey hepburnLisbeth comes from a broken home in the land of tube tops, heavy eyeliner, frosted lip-gloss, juiceheads, hoop earrings and “the shore.” She has a circle of friends who have dedicated their teenage lives to relieve the world of all its alcohol one drink at a time.

Obsessed with everything Audrey Hepburn, Lisbeth is transformed when she secretly tries on Audrey’s iconic Givenchy. She becomes who she wants to be by pretending to be somebody she’s not and living among the young and privileged Manhattan elite. Soon she’s faced with choices that she would never imagine making – between who she’s become and who she once was.

In the tradition of The Nanny Diaries and The Devil Wears Prada, this is a coming of age story that all begins with that little black dress…

Though a little older than most YA protagonists, Lisbeth is easily relatable for teen readers, as she struggles to figure out what to do with her future, find what makes her happy in this world, and cope with a tumultuous family life.

I cringed as Lisbeth stumbled through some rocky situations, and cheered for everyone of her successes, and then cringed some more as I watched her make typical 19-year-old mistakes (having been there, done that myself some years ago). But following her adventures did remind me, in a subtle way, of what I loved about watching “Clarissa Explains It All.” And while the TV show and Being Audrey Hepburn are quite different, Kriegman’s flair for capturing the adolescent woman so perfectly is still apparent.

Being Audrey Hepburn captures that impossible time between adolescence and adulthood, when you must find your path in the world and figure out what exactly you want out of life, and how to make it happen. Toss in some romance, a high society scandal, and plenty of personal drama, and you’ve got a rollicking, charmer of a novel.

Being Audrey Hepburn is in stores now.

YA Snowmen 2014: Part 2 of 3

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Today, we have part 2 of our three-part collection of 2014 YA snowmen. This annual tradition comes thanks to my talented mom, Laurie, who is the artist behind these drawings every year.

We have 12 original illustrations this year, each one inspired by a YA novel or movie adaptation. See the first four illustrations of this year here, and look for part 3 of the collection on December 18th. (You can also check out past illustrations here!)

since you've been gone snowmen_nn TFIOS snowmen_nn Tsarina snowmen_nn

better off friends_nnAs always, we ask that you link back here to Novel Novice to share these, rather than reposting the images on other sites. Thank you!!!

AUTHORS: Is one of your books featured? Would you like the original artwork? Email me & I’ll make it happen! sara.novelnovice@outlook.com

Top 15 Most Beautiful Bookshelves

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It seems there is little book-lovers enjoy more than a beautifully organized set of bookshelves — except perhaps books themselves. Several years ago, I installed 9-foot wide, floor-to-ceiling shelves in my bedroom to house my ever-expanding collection of books (the overflow is in my den) — and I constantly receive admiring comments from those who see the shelves, whether in person or in a photograph I post online. But as much as I love my shelves, I still admire plenty more myself and dream of having a bigger home “library” someday when my husband and I finally buy a house.

So today, here’s a look at our picks for the top 15 most beautiful bookshelves to inspire your own home library.

This Office/Library Combo:

office library(Source)

This Wall of Books:

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This Colorful Reading Nook:

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This Cozy Attic Reading Space:

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This Combination of Book Wall & Art Wall:

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This Space-Saving Staircase Shelving:

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Or These Staircase Shelves:

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This Hallway of Books:

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This Lofty Library:

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This Floor-to-Ceiling Stunner:

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This Ladder Library:

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This Secret Door Library:

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This Rainbow-Hued Reading Room:

rainbow library(Source)

These Bright Blue Shelves:

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These Shelves That Encourage Reading Over Sleeping:

book bedroom(Source)

For the comments: Which shelves are your favorite? Feel free to post pics of your own libraries in the comments!

Falling Kingdoms Contest + Q&A with Morgan Rhodes

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Today, we’ve got an exciting giveaway for you to celebrate the release of Gathering Darkness by Morgan Rhodes, the third book in the Falling Kingdoms series. But before we get to the AWESOME giveaway, here’s an exclusive Q&A with Morgan:

Photo credit: ShanonFujioka

Photo credit: ShanonFujioka

In the FALLING KINGDOM series, magic has been forgotten. Do you think magic has been forgotten in our world? Do you ever see signs of “magic” in your own life?

This is such a good question! I have always considered myself to be a non-believer in all of the supernatural – ghosts, psychics, etc. However, there was one moment I was reading a book and realized that it had utterly swept me away to another world. I swear, it literally felt like magic in that moment. So, that’s what books are, I think –the closest thing we have to real magic in this world. And the combination of the writer’s and the reader’s imagination combine to create that wonderful magic!

Gathering DarknessThe FALLING KINGDOMS series has been your first foray into writing high fantasy. What have been the biggest challenges? The biggest rewards?

Earlier in my writing career, I never had an urge to delve into high fantasy or historical writing since I knew it would require a ton of research. Perhaps I was just lazy! Now, I’m not writing a historical text with my series, but things need to be at a level that doesn’t pull readers out of the story. Just touches here and there help. I’m okay with a touch of anachronism when it comes to dialogue, since modern day readers are reading these books and too much Old English – well, it wouldn’t be accurate, since FK is a fantasy not in our world, and I would never enjoy reading a book with that kind of dialogue. I write what I’d like to read. But, yes, research and making sure all of that flows is the biggest challenge – as well as keeping multiple viewpoints straight. That’s a lot of subplots to wrangle! LOL! But this challenge has come with some incredible rewards, mostly in the form of readers who tell me on Facebook and Twitter how much they love the series. That is seriously priceless to me.

GatheringDarkness_SocialQuotes_LuciaWhat’s one thing you think will surprise readers about GATHERING DARKNESS?

One thing that will surprise readers about Gathering Darkness is that I’m not going to make readers wait until book six in order to get some answers and see some progress in my character’s goals. To say STUFF HAPPENS in Gathering Darkness would be an understatement! :) Plus, there is a kiss near the end that I hope will make (most) readers quite happy!

Tell us a little about A BOOK OF SPIRITS & THIEVES! How does it relate to the FALLING KINGDOM series, and will new readers be able to follow along if they haven’t read FALLING KINGDOM?

I like to call ABOSAT a companion trilogy, rather than a spin-off trilogy. It is absolutely 100% accessible to someone who hasn’t read any of Falling Kingdoms. However, if you’ve also read FK, then ABOSAT is chock-full of Easter Eggs when it comes to piecing together the mythology about the goddesses, the original sorceress, and how Mytica became three separate cursed kingdoms.

A third of the book is spent in “ancient” Mytica, and two-thirds take place here in our world, where there is a secret society after an unreadable book full of magic that’s connected to another world (gee, what world could that possibly be??), and the two sisters who discover the book and its many mysteries.

You’re so much fun to follow on Tumblr! Can you share your favorite GIF with us?

LOL! Thank you! I do love me some Tumblr. There are so many gifs that I enjoy as I scroll through other people’s posts I can’t possibly post one. But since I love Supernatural I’ll share this one. It made me laugh so hard, since it’s the moment in the Supernatural 200th Episode Show when Dean is told about “Destiel.” That look is absolutely priceless! :)

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Thanks for stopping by, Morgan!!!

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One winner will receive the following prize pack:

  • Falling Kingdoms postcard set,
  • Falling Kingdoms tshirt,
  • plus copies of Falling Kingdoms, Rebel Spring and Gathering Darkness.

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Thanks to Penguin Young Readers for the amazing prize pack. The contest is open to U.S. addresses only, and runs through midnight (PT) on Tuesday, December 16th.

To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter form here!

about the bookGATHERING DARKNESS
Book 3 in The Falling Kingdoms series
by Morgan Rhodes
In stores December 9th

The seeds of revolution have been sown…but in Mytica the lust for power reigns supreme.

THE REBELS forge ahead. Princess Cleo slays with sweetness—and a secret that might control Lucia’s magic—as she and vengeful Jonas lead the hunt for the all-powerful Kindred.

THE KRAESHIANS join the fray. Ashur and Amara, the royal siblings from the vast kingdom across the Silver Sea, prove to be just as ruthless as they are charming as they manipulate their way to victory.

THE WATCHERS follow Melenia out of the Sanctuary. They ally, in the flesh, with King Gaius, who vows to use Lucia’s powers to unveil the Kindred.

And which side will Prince Magnus choose, now that he’s been betrayed by everyone he’s ever loved?

Read a sneak peek of Gathering Darkness here!

Falling Kingdoms AllCovers

SERIES OVERVIEW:

In the three kingdoms of Mytica, magic has long been forgotten. And while hard-won peace has reigned for centuries, a deadly unrest is simmering.

As the rulers of each kingdom grapple for power, the lives of their subjects are brutally transformed…and four key players, royals and rebels alike, find their fates forever intertwined. Cleo, Jonas, Lucia, and Magnus are caught in a dizzying world of treacherous betrayals, shocking murders, secret alliances, and even love.

In AURANOS, privileged Princess Cleo is forced to confront violence for the first time in her life when a shocking murder sets her kingdom on a path to collapse.

In LIMEROS, the king’s son, Magnus, must plan each footstep with shrewd, sharp guile if he is to earn his powerful father’s trust, while his sister, Lucia, discovers a terrifying family secret about her birth that will change everything.

In PAELSIA, rebellious Jonas lashes out against the forces of oppression that have kept his country cruelly impoverished—and finds himself the leader of a people’s revolution centuries in the making.

Witches, if four, are put to death, and Watchers, immortal beings who take the shape of hawks to visit the human world, have been almost entirely forgotten. A vicious power struggle quickly escalates to war, and these four young people collide against each other and the rise of elementia, the magic that can topple kingdoms and crown a ruler in the same day.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Morgan Rhodes is the New York Times bestselling author of the FALLING KINGDOMS series. As a child, she always wanted to be a princess—the kind that knows how to wield a sharp sword to help save both kingdoms and princes from fire-breathing dragons and dark wizards. Instead, she became a writer, which is just as good and much less dangerous. Along with writing, Morgan enjoys photography, travel, and reality TV, and is an extremely picky yet voracious reader of all kinds of books.

LEARN MORE:

 

New YA Releases: December 9, 2014

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

for realFor Real by Alison Cherry

No parents. No limits. No clue what they’re in for.

Shy, cautious Claire has always been in her confident older sister’s shadow. While Miranda’s life is jam-packed with exciting people and whirlwind adventures, Claire gets her thrills vicariously by watching people live large on reality TV.

When Miranda discovers her boyfriend, Samir, cheating on her just before her college graduation, it’s Claire who comes up with the perfect plan. They’ll outshine Miranda’s fame-obsessed ex while having an amazing summer by competing on Around the World, a race around the globe for a million bucks. Revenge + sisterly bonding = awesome.

But the show has a twist, and Claire is stunned to find herself in the middle of a reality-show romance that may or may not be just for the cameras. This summer could end up being the highlight of her life… or an epic fail forever captured on film. In a world where drama is currency and manipulation is standard, how can you tell what’s for real?

little white liesLittle White Lies by Katie Dale

Fans of Pretty Little Liars will be ensnared in this tale of deceit. Christian is hiding terrible secrets from his girlfriend, Lou. But Lou has told lies as well. What if their accidental meeting wasn’t an accident?

The first time Lou meets mysterious Christian, she knows he is The One. But Christian is hiding a terrible secret. Why does he clam up every time Lou asks about his past? Why doesn’t he have any family photos, and why does he dye his blond hair black? When Christian’s house goes up in flames, his tires are slashed, and he flees for his life, Lou insists on going with him. But as Christian’s secret is unveiled in front of the whole world, it seems everything he’s ever told Lou is a lie. Can what the media are saying about him really be true? Should Lou trust him? Or is she in grave danger?

But Christian isn’t the only one keeping secrets. For what if their accidental meeting was no accident at all?

now that you're hereNow That You’re Here by Amy K. Nichols

In a parallel universe, the classic bad boy falls for the class science geek.

One minute Danny was running from the cops, and the next, he jolted awake in an unfamiliar body–his own, but different. Somehow, he’s crossed into a parallel universe. Now his friends are his enemies, his parents are long dead, and studious Eevee is not the mysterious femme fatale he once kissed back home. Then again, this Eevee–a girl who’d rather land an internship at NASA than a date to the prom–may be his only hope of getting home.

Eevee tells herself she’s only helping him in the name of quantum physics, but there’s something undeniably fascinating about this boy from another dimension . . . a boy who makes her question who she is, and who she might be in another place and time.

And, coming soon, Duplexity, Part II: While You Were Gone flips this story on its head and tells the tale of the alternate Danny and the alternate Eevee, living in Danny’s parallel world.

princess of thornsPrincess of Thorns by Stacey Jay

Game of Thrones meets the Grimm’s fairy tales in this twisted, fast-paced romantic fantasy-adventure about Sleeping Beauty’s daughter, a warrior princess who must fight to reclaim her throne.

Though she looks like a mere mortal, Princess Aurora is a fairy blessed with enhanced strength, bravery, and mercy yet cursed to destroy the free will of any male who kisses her. Disguised as a boy, she enlists the help of the handsome but also cursed Prince Niklaas to fight legions of evil and free her brother from the ogre queen who stole Aurora’s throne ten years ago.

Will Aurora triumph over evil and reach her brother before it’s too late? Can Aurora and Niklaas break the curses that will otherwise forever keep them from finding their one true love?

no place to fallNo Place to Fall by Jaye Robin Brown

Amber Vaughn is a good girl. She sings solos at church, babysits her nephew after school, and spends every Friday night hanging out at her best friend Devon’s house. It’s only when Amber goes exploring in the woods near her home, singing camp songs with the hikers she meets on the Appalachian Trail, that she feels free—and when the bigger world feels just a little bit more in reach.

When Amber learns about an audition at the North Carolina School of the Arts, she decides that her dream—to sing on bigger stages—could also be her ticket to a new life. Devon’s older (and unavailable) brother, Will, helps Amber prepare for her one chance to try out for the hypercompetitive arts school. But the more time Will and Amber spend together, the more complicated their relationship becomes . . . and Amber starts to wonder if she’s such a good girl, after all.

Then, in an afternoon, the bottom drops out of her family’s world—and Amber is faced with an impossible choice between her promise as an artist and the people she loves. Amber always thought she knew what a good girl would do. But between “right” and “wrong,” there’s a whole world of possibilities.

top ten clues you're cluelessTop Ten Clues You’re Clueless by Liz Czukas

Top Five Things That Are Ruining Chloe’s Day

5) Working the 6:30 a.m. shift at GoodFoods Market

4) Crashing a cart into a customer’s car right in front of her snarky coworker Sammi

3) Trying to rock the “drowned rat” look after being caught in a snowstorm

2) Making zero progress with her crush, Tyson (see #3)

1) Being accused—along with her fellow teenage employees—of stealing upwards of $10,000

Chloe would rather be anywhere than locked in work jail (aka the break room) with five of her coworkers . . . even if one of them is Tyson. But if they can band together to clear their names, what looks like a total disaster might just make Chloe’s list of Top Ten Best Moments.

gathering darknessGathering Darkness by Morgan Rhodes

In GATHERING DARKNESS, book three of the New York Times bestselling Falling Kingdoms series, the stakes have never been higher as three teams push forward on a race to find the Kindred, the four elemental crystals possessing ancient all-powerful magic, first:

Prince Magnus has just witnessed torture, death, and miracles during the bloody confrontation that decimated the rebel forces. Now he must choose between family and justice as his father, the cruel King Gaius, sets out to conquer all of Mytica. All Gaius needs now are the Kindred – the four elemental crystals that give godlike powers to their owner. But the King of Blood is not the only one hunting for this ancient, storied magic…

• THE KRAESHIANS join the hunt. Ashur and Amara, the royal siblings from the wealthy kingdom across the Silver Sea, charm and manipulate their way to the Kindred, proving to be more ruthless than perhaps even the King of Blood himself.

• THE REBELS forge ahead. Princess Cleo and vengeful Jonas lead them, slaying with sweetness, skill, and a secret that can control Lucia’s overpowering magic – all so they can use the Kindred to win back their fallen kingdoms.

• THE WATCHERS follow Melenia out of the Sanctuary. They ally in the flesh with King Gaius, who vows to use Lucia’s powers to unveil the Kindred.

The only certainty in the dark times is that whoever finds the magic first will control the fate of Mytica… but fate can be fickle when magic is involved.

zodiacZodiac by Romina Russell

At the dawn of time, there were 13 Houses in the Zodiac Galaxy. Now only 12 remain….

Rhoma Grace is a 16-year-old student from House Cancer with an unusual way of reading the stars. While her classmates use measurements to make accurate astrological predictions, Rho can’t solve for ‘x’ to save her life—so instead, she looks up at the night sky and makes up stories.

When a violent blast strikes the moons of Cancer, sending its ocean planet off-kilter and killing thousands of citizens—including its beloved Guardian—Rho is more surprised than anyone when she is named the House’s new leader. But, a true Cancrian who loves her home fiercely and will protect her people no matter what, Rho accepts.

Then, when more Houses fall victim to freak weather catastrophes, Rho starts seeing a pattern in the stars. She suspects Ophiuchus—the exiled 13th Guardian of Zodiac legend—has returned to exact his revenge across the Galaxy. Now Rho—along with Hysan Dax, a young envoy from House Libra, and Mathias, her guide and a member of her Royal Guard—must travel through the Zodiac to warn the other Guardians.

But who will believe anything this young novice says? Whom can Rho trust in a universe defined by differences? And how can she convince twelve worlds to unite as one Zodiac?

Embark on a dazzling journey with ZODIAC, the first novel in an epic sci-fi-meets-high-fantasy series set in a galaxy inspired by the astrological signs.

suspicionSuspicion by Alexandra Monir

Mysterious. Magnificent. Creepy. Welcome to Rockford Manor.

“There’s something hidden in the Maze.” Seventeen-year-old Imogen has never forgotten the last words her father said to her seven years ago, before the blazing fire that consumed him, her mother, and the gardens of her family’s English country manor.

Haunted by her parents’ deaths, Imogen moves to New York City with her new guardians. But when a letter arrives with the news of her cousin’s untimely death, revealing that Imogen is now the only heir left to run the estate, she returns to England and warily accepts her role as duchess.

All is not as it seems at Rockford, and Imogen quickly learns that dark secrets lurk behind the mansion’s aristocratic exterior, hinting that the spate of deaths in her family were no accident. And at the center of the mystery is Imogen herself–and Sebastian, the childhood friend she has secretly loved for years. Just what has Imogen walked into?

Combining a fresh twist on the classic REBECCA with a spine-tingling mystery and powerful romance, SUSPICION is an action-packed thrill ride.

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