Author Archives: Sara | Novel Novice

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

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

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:



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.


And on the back of his left hand yet another.


“. . . 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.


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.


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

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 and co-authors the blog, Writing on the Sidewalk.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads


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:

More from I’ll Meet You There author Heather Demetrios

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I’ll Meet You There is easily my favorite book by Heather Demetrios — but I’ve loved her others quite a bit, too. If this is your first introduction to her writing, you are in for a real treat. Here’s a look at Heather’s other books:

something realSomething Real

Winner of the 2012 PEN New England Discovery Award!

There’s nothing real about reality TV.

Seventeen-year-old Bonnie™ Baker has grown up on TV—she and her twelve siblings are the stars of one-time hit reality show Baker’s Dozen. Since the show’s cancellation and the scandal surrounding it, Bonnie™ has tried to live a normal life, under the radar and out of the spotlight. But it’s about to fall apart…because Baker’s Dozen is going back on the air. Bonnie™’s mom and the show’s producers won’t let her quit and soon the life she has so carefully built for herself, with real friends (and maybe even a real boyfriend), is in danger of being destroyed by the show. Bonnie™ needs to do something drastic if her life is ever going to be her own—even if it means being more exposed than ever before.

Exquisite CaptiveExquisite Captive (Dark Caravan Trilogy #1)

Forced to obey her master.
Compelled to help her enemy.
Determined to free herself.

Nalia is a jinni of tremendous ancient power, the only survivor of a coup that killed nearly everyone she loved. Stuffed into a bottle and sold by a slave trader, she’s now in hiding on the dark caravan, the lucrative jinni slave trade between Arjinna and Earth, where jinn are forced to grant wishes and obey their human masters’ every command. She’d give almost anything to be free of the golden shackles that bind her to Malek, her handsome, cruel master, and his lavish Hollywood lifestyle.

Enter Raif, the enigmatic leader of Arjinna’s revolution and Nalia’s sworn enemy. He promises to free Nalia from her master so that she can return to her ravaged homeland and free her imprisoned brother—all for an unbearably high price. Nalia’s not sure she can trust him, but Raif’s her only hope of escape. With her enemies on the hunt, Earth has become more perilous than ever for Nalia. There’s just one catch: for Raif’s unbinding magic to work, Nalia must gain possession of her bottle…and convince the dangerously persuasive Malek that she truly loves him. Battling a dark past and harboring a terrible secret, Nalia soon realizes her freedom may come at a price too terrible to pay: but how far is she willing to go for it?

Inspired by Arabian Nights, EXQUISITE CAPTIVE brings to life a deliciously seductive world where a wish can be a curse and shadows are sometimes safer than the light.

Coming Soon: Blood Passage (Dark Caravan #2) and Freedom’s Slave (Dark Caravan #3)

Exclusive Cover Reveal & Contest: The Vanishing Island by Barry Wolverton

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Today, we are so excited to be hosting the exclusive cover reveal for The Vanishing Island by Barry Wolverton — the author of Neversink. But before we get to the INSANELY GORGEOUS cover, here’s a little bit more about The Vanishing Island:

Does  the Vanishing Island really exist? And if so, what treasure—or terrible secret—was hidden by its disappearance?

It’s 1599, the Age of Discovery in Europe. But for Bren Owen, growing up in the small town of Map on the coast of Britannia has meant anything but adventure. Enticed by the tales sailors have brought through Map’s port, and inspired by the arcane maps his father creates as a cartographer for the cruel and charismatic map mogul named Rand McNally, Bren is convinced that fame and fortune await him elsewhere. That is, until his repeated attempts to run away land him a punishment worse than death—cleaning up the town vomitorium.

It is there that Bren meets a dying sailor, who gives him a strange gift that hides a hidden message. Cracking the code could lead Bren to a fabled lost treasure that could change his life forever, and that of his widowed father. But to get there he will have to tie his fate to a mysterious Dutch admiral obsessed with a Chinese legend about an island that long ago disappeared from any map.

Before long, Bren is in greater danger than he ever imagined, and will need the help of an unusual friend named Mouse to survive. Barry Wolverton’s thrilling adventure spans oceans and cultures, brings together the folklore of East and West, and proves that fortune is always a double-edged sword.

Sounds exciting, no? And if that’s not enticing enough, then get ready … for one … amazing … cover …

Are you ready?

Here it is …

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So fantastic!!! I am in LOVE with this cover. It’s gorgeous, engaging, and so enticing. It just draws me in and makes me want to start reading immediately!

And to celebrate, we’re giving away a signed copy of Barry’s previous book, Neversink to one lucky reader! To enter, just tell us in the comments what you think of The Vanishing Island cover & then fill out the Rafflecopter form here.

Contest is open to the U.S. only, and runs through midnight (PT) on Tuesday, March 3rd.

Book Review: Sorceress by Claudia Gray

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I had mixed feelings upon concluding Sorceress by Claudia Gray: heartbreak that another brilliant series was over, and joy over how perfectly it was ended. Gray has once again masterfully crafted a romantic, paranormal drama filled with powerful women, courage, and love.

sorceressTo 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.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m a huge fan of Claudia Gray’s work — I’ve literally read all of her books, and I love them all. But that doesn’t stop me from being continuously being blown away by her talent. Sorceress is just another great example of how Gray can weave together so many elements to create a thoughtful, high-stakes drama and carry it over multiple books, and have it work out so well. She has clearly thought long and hard about this series, and her diligence shows in the execution of all three books, but perhaps none more so than in Sorceress, where we see everything come together climatically. Gray’s skills are a magic all their own.

If you haven’t picked up this series yet, now is the perfect time to do so, since you can now binge-read all three books. And if you’re already a fan, you will not be disappointed.

Spellcaster is in stores March 3rd.