Category Archives: Book Review

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.

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.

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.

 

Blog Tour Book Review & Contest: The Third Twin by C.J. Omololu

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Today, I am so thrilled & so honored to be part of the official blog tour for The Third Twin by C.J. Omololu.

You may have heard CJ’s story. She’s an amazing author with amazing friends who are supporting her as she battles Stage 4 colon cancer that has spread to her brain, hips, spinal cord, and several organs. Until recently we weren’t sure if CJ would make it to the release date of The Third Twin, but with the help of some modern medicine, and a whole lot of good thoughts and prayers – it looks like things are good to go for the big day.

That’s why I’m so pleased today to be able to do just a small part to help support this book and the amazing, strong woman who wrote it. Cancer sucks. CJ ROCKS!

Be sure to check out our review, then keep reading for your chance to win one of several AMAZING prize packs!!!

BOOK REVIEWOmol_9780385744522_jkt_all_r1.inddAn edge of your seat thriller awaits readers within the pages of The Third Twin by C.J. Omololu, which follows sisters Lexi and Ava, as they face the terrifying consequences of a childhood prank taken too far. As kids, they blamed a fake “third twin” – Alicia – for any trouble they got into. As teens, they use “Alicia” to date boys they’re not serious about. But when one of those boys turns up dead, the sisters begin to suspect each other … or wonder whether “Alicia” is actually real.

Omololu builds a realistic mystery, that is gripping and engaging. Readers will race through the pages, as eager as Lexi is to solve the puzzle of “Alicia” and the murder. And though she places clues throughout the book, the ultimate twist is a good one and not easy to guess (I didn’t). Readers will have their suspicions, but it’s not until all is finally revealed that the full picture becomes clear.

Suspense and intrigue keep the pages turning, but it’s the relationship between the sisters that gives the story heart. An engaging and thoughtful read, The Third Twin is in stores February 24th.

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PRE-ORDER a SIGNED copy of THE THIRD TWIN from A Great Good Place for Books
By calling: (510) 339-8210 or e-mailing them at: books@ggpbooks.com

about the bookIdentical twins. Identical DNA. Identical suspects. It’s Pretty Little Liarsmeets Revenge in this edge-of-your-seat thriller with a shocking twist.

When they were little, Lexi and her identical twin, Ava, made up a third sister, Alicia. If something broke? Alicia did it. Cookies got eaten? Alicia’s guilty. Alicia was always to blame for everything. The game is all grown up now that the girls are seniors. They use Alicia as their cover to go out with boys who are hot but not exactly dating material. Boys they’d never, ever be with in real life.

Now one of the guys Alicia went out with has turned up dead, and Lexi wants to stop the game for good. As coincidences start piling up, Ava insists that if they follow the rules for being Alicia, everything will be fine. But when another boy is killed, the DNA evidence and surveillance photos point to only one suspect: Alicia. The girl who doesn’t exist. As she runs from the cops, Lexi has to find the truth before another boy is murdered. Because either Ava is a killer…or Alicia is real.

Amazon |B&N | Kobo | Goodreads

about the authorcynthia Photo Robin Mellom 2-24-11CJ OMOLOLU is the author of the ALA-YALSA Quick Pick Dirty Little Secrets and several other YA novels. She loved to read but never thought to write until she discovered that the voices in her head often have interesting things to say. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and their two sons. Visit her online at www.cjomololu.com and follow her on Twitter @cjomololu.

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25 Prizes. 16 Winners. One Huge Giveaway filled with signed books, gift cards + more!

Must be 13 + To Enter. Shipping restrictions are listed after each prize in the form, All open to US, some open INTL. | One entry per person, per household.

Fill out the Rafflecopter form HERE to enter.

Book Review: A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas

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What happens after happily ever after? That’s the premise behind Rhiannon Thomas’s clever twist on “Sleeping Beauty” in A Wicked Thing, which follows Princess Aurora after the (yes, slightly creepy) kiss that awakens her from a magical slumber.

wicked thing, aRhiannon Thomas’s dazzling debut novel is a spellbinding reimagining of Sleeping Beauty and what happens after happily ever after.

One hundred years after falling asleep, Princess Aurora wakes up to the kiss of a handsome prince and a broken kingdom that has been dreaming of her return. All the books say that she should be living happily ever after. But as Aurora understands all too well, the truth is nothing like the fairy tale.

Her family is long dead. Her “true love” is a kind stranger. And her whole life has been planned out by political foes while she slept.

As Aurora struggles to make sense of her new world, she begins to fear that the curse has left its mark on her, a fiery and dangerous thing that might be as wicked as the witch who once ensnared her. With her wedding day drawing near, Aurora must make the ultimate decision on how to save her kingdom: marry the prince or run.

Rhiannon Thomas weaves together vivid scenes of action, romance, and gorgeous gowns to reveal a richly imagined world … and Sleeping Beauty as she’s never been seen before.

Thomas tackles the less savory aspects of the “Sleeping Beauty” head-on in A Wicked Thing, starting with that magical, awakening kiss. Aurora is immediately put-off by being kissed against her will … and is even more horrified (rightly so) to learn that the kiss that awoke her was one of many kisses attempted over the 100 years she has slept.

After awakening, Thomas proves that Aurora’s story is not the fairy tale it’s been romanticized as (even within the world of the book). Aurora finds herself a pawn in a political struggle for the rule of her kingdom — all while mourning the family that died while she slept on, unaware. For much of the book, I felt as if Aurora was frustratingly passive — but when she finally “woke up” a second time, and took charge, I rooted hard for her success.

The first in a series, A Wicked Thing is in stores February 24th. I can’t wait to see where Aurora’s journey takes her next.

Blog Tour Book Review: Vendetta by Catherine Doyle

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A new YA book about the mafia has arrived, and it is glorious. I’m talking about Vendetta by Cahterine Doyle, and I’m so excited to be posting today’s book review as part of the official blog tour! Be sure to keep reading for your chance to win a copy, too!

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vendettaA dangerous romance stirs, amidst an unfolding family conspiracy — and readers will find themselves swept away by the forbidden romance between the son of a crime family, and the girl who is inextricably linked to them.

Blood Will Spill, Hearts Will Break: With a fierce rivalry raging between two warring families, falling in love is the deadliest thing Sophie could do. An epic debut set outside modern-day Chicago.

For Sophie, it feels like another slow, hot summer in Cedar Hill, waitressing at her family’s diner and hanging out with her best friend Millie. But then someone moves into the long-abandoned mansion up the block–a family of five Italian brothers, each one hotter than the last. Unable to resist caramel-eyed Nicoli, Sophie finds herself falling for him — and willfully ignoring the warning signs. Why are Nic’s knuckles cut and bruised? Why does he carry an engraved switchblade? And why does his arrogant and infuriating older brother, Luca, refuse to let her see him? As the boys’ dark secrets begin to come to light, Sophie is confronted with stinging truths about her own family, too. Suddenly, she’s torn between two warring dynasties: the one she’s related to and the one she’s now in love with. She’ll have to choose between loyalty and passione. When she does, blood will spill, hearts will break. Because in this twisted underworld, dishonor can be the difference between life and death.

The first in a fantastic new series, Vendetta is a seductive read that will leave readers eager for more forbidden romance and more dangerous encounters. Even as Sophie learns the horrifying truth about Nic — and her own family — she is drawn to him, and drawn into his world.

What I love about Sophie is that, despite her initial naiveté, she comes to hold a pretty solid understanding about Nic’s world — and chooses to enter it willingly. I couldn’t help drawing comparisons to Kay, Diane Keaton’s character in The Godfather movies, who for so long, was so naive and oblivious to the reality of Michael Corleone’s world. In Vendetta, I feel as if Sophie chooses to be with Nic with her eyes wide open, even realizing that there is still much she doesn’t yet know.

And Nic. So dangerous, but so seductive — both to Sophie, and to the reader. With Sophie, we are drawn into his world and want to know more about him; want to spend more time with him. But it’s not just Nic — it’s the rest of his family, too — his brothers, who are also intriguing, and it’s fascinating to see how the different characters unfold and grow throughout the story.

I have always said I love YA books that feature the crime world, and I am so thrilled that this latest addition is so flipping fantastic. Vendetta is in stores February 24th.

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Want more YA books about the mafia or organized crime? Here are some of my favorites:

  • Arcadia Awakens Trilogy by Kai Meyer
  • Curse Workers Trilogy by Holly Black
  • Firebug by Lish McBride
  • Kiss Kill Vanish by Jessica Martinez

For the comments: What are some of your favorite YA books that feature organized crime?

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Catherine Doyle 2About the Author:

Catherine Doyle lives in the west of Ireland. She holds a bachelor’s degrees in psychology and a master’s degree in English from the National University of Ireland, Galway. Vendetta is her first novel. Catherine lives in Galway, Ireland. Follower Catherine on Twitter @Doyle_cat and on Tumblr at www.Catherine-Doyle.tumblr.com.

Visit Catherine via: her Website | Twitter | Tumblr | Goodreads

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Enter to win one of ten copies of VENDETTA! US residents only. You must be 14 years or older to enter. Prizes are provided by Scholastic

Just fill out the Rafflecopter form here to get started!

Follow the blog tour on Twitter with the hashtag #bloodforblood for more content & more chances to win!

Book Review: No Parking at the End Times by Bryan Bliss

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A thoughtful portrayal about one teen’s crisis of faith — both in God and in her family — is the center of Bryan Bliss’s sensitive debut novel, No Parking at the End Times.

no parking at the end timesAbigail’s parents have made mistake after mistake, and now they’ve lost everything. She’s left to decide: Does she still believe in them? Or is it time to believe in herself? Fans of Sara Zarr, David Levithan, and Rainbow Rowell will connect with this moving debut.

Abigail doesn’t know how her dad found Brother John. Maybe it was the billboards. Or the radio. What she does know is that he never should have made that first donation. Or the next, or the next. Her parents shouldn’t have sold their house. Or packed Abigail and her twin brother, Aaron, into their old van to drive across the country to San Francisco, to be there with Brother John for the “end of the world.” Because of course the end didn’t come. And now they’re living in their van. And Aaron’s disappearing to who-knows-where every night. Their family is falling apart. All Abigail wants is to hold them together, to get them back to the place where things were right. But maybe it’s too big a task for one teenage girl. Bryan Bliss’s thoughtful, literary debut novel is about losing everything—and about what you will do for the people you love.

It would be easy to criticize religion — extreme religion belief, in particular. But Bliss offers a thoughtful and thought-provoking portrayal of one teen and her family, who has lost everything after putting their blind faith into one man — and where they must go next when the end times fail to arrive.

Abigail ponders her own feelings on faith, God, and family — and Bliss uses her experiences to really explore modern theology in a mindful, respectful way. Abigail’s journey is largely internal, and No Parking at the End Times takes readers inside her mind for the ride — leading to an ultimately hopeful, uplifting ending.

No Parking at the End Times opens the doors to thoughts and conversations about religion, family, growing-up, and finding your own identity — even when you already thought you knew who you were. Lovingly and carefully written, this is the type of book that will give readers plenty to ponder.

No Parking at the End Times is in stores February 24th.

Book Review: A Study in Scarlet illus. by Gris Grimly

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The newly-released edition of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s beloved Sherlock Holmes classic A Study in Scarlet with new, original illustrations by Gris Grimly is a thing of beauty, and a must-have for any fan of the famous detective.

study in scarletI’ve loved Grimly’s previous illustrated versions of classics, like Frankenstein and the collections of Edgar Allan Poe. But his work on A Study in Scarlet might be the most fitting one yet. After all, Doyle’s work lends itself so well to Grimly’s macabre, yet whimsical style of illustrations. Sherlock has achieved such a cult status these days, between movie adaptations with Robert Downey Junior and the beloved BBC series with Benedict Cumberbatch; Grimly’s illustrated re-telling just seems a fitting next step in the detective’s legend.

And for fans who only know of the detective through screen adaptations (be it big or small), this new edition of A Study in Scarlet is the perfect volume to begin reading the original source material. Much like these popular film and TV adaptations, Grimly’s illustrated edition of A Study in Scarlet offers the perfect twist for modern audiences to truly appreciate dear Sherlock Holmes.

Look for Gris Grimly’s illustrated edition of A Study in Scarlet on sale February 17th. Here is the official synopsis:

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s first novel—and the origin story of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson—is reimagined in the first unabridged, fully illustrated version since its debut, by acclaimed and bestselling illustrator Gris Grimly.

The year is 1881. The city, London. A man lies dead in an empty house, not a mark upon him, and no clues—save for the word “RACHE” scrawled in blood on the wall above. Elsewhere, two men—a former army doctor called John Watson and a brilliant eccentric called Sherlock Holmes—meet for the first time. These two events set in motion an adventure into the darkest corners of men’s hearts as the cold, calculating investigative methods of Mr. Holmes are put to the test in a case that spans decades and continents, rife with danger and intrigue.

Originally published in 1887, A Study in Scarlet was the first novel to feature a character whose name would become synonymous with the art of deduction. Today it is completely reimagined with artwork by the modern master of gothic romanticism, Gris Grimly, bringing this thrilling tale of love and revenge to a new generation of readers.

Novel Novice Book Review: I Am Jackie Robinson by Brad Meltzer

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Proving once again that “Ordinary People Change the World,” Brad Meltzer offers another fun and approachable biography for kids, this time spotlighting a baseball hero. I Am Jackie Robinson shows young readers what it means to be brave, and to pave the way for a better world.

i am jackie robinsonThere’s a reason Meltzer’s “Ordinary People Change the World” series has continued to land on the best-seller lists. He does a masterful job of telling complex, real-life stories in simple, inspiring ways for young readers. I Am Jackie Robinson does a good job of illustrating a tumultuous time in American history, and how one man helped paved the way for significant change.

At times, some aspects of Robinson’s life are glossed over and it feels like maybe I missed a paragraph (for example, one page begins, “By the time I got out of the army” … but we never learned he had BEEN in the Army) — but on the whole, Meltzer does a good job of telling a brief recap of Robinson’s life. The real focus is on how Robinson overcame the odds against him, and how he faced challenges to make — and change — history.

Meltzer and illustrator Christopher Eliopoulas also did a nice job of weaving in some humor and charm — like how Robinson is always depicted wearing his Brooklyn Dodgers baseball hat, even as a baby and long before he joins the team. A running gag throughout the book is what the “B” on his hat stands for. (It’s very cute.)

Eliopoulas’s illustrations are also very charming — they remind me of a hybrid of Charles M. Schulz (“Peanuts”) and Bill Watterson (“Calvin & Hobbes”).

I Am Jackie Robinson is a great way for kids to learn about an American legend. It is in stores now. Here is the official synopsis:

This New York Times Bestselling picture book biography series by Brad Meltzer has an inspiring message: We can all be heroes.

Jackie Robinson always loved sports, especially baseball. But he lived at a time before the Civil Rights Movement, when the rules weren’t fair to African Americans. Even though Jackie was a great athlete, he wasn’t allowed on the best teams just because of the color of his skin. Jackie knew that sports were best when everyone, of every color, played together. He became the first black player in Major League Baseball, and his bravery changed African-American history and led the way to equality in all sports in America.

This engaging series is the perfect way to bring American history to life for young children, providing them with the right role models, supplemementing Common Core learning in the classroom, and best of all, inspiring them to strive and dream.

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard: Book Review, Blog Tour Contest + “10 Random Things”

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Today, we’re hosting a stop on the official blog tour for Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard — and we’ve got some great content in store for you. Below, you will find:

  • Our review of Red Queen
  • A “Ten Random Things” post from Victoria Aveyard
  • Contest to win Red Queen & other goodies

So keep reading for all these goodies, plus more about Red Queen.

BOOK REVIEW

red queenWhen a book is as hyped as Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard has been ahead of publication, I tend to be a little wary. Is the hype worth it? Are the publishers over-compensating for something? I’ve been burned before by over-hyped books.

Such is NOT the case with Red Queen, which blew me away with how fantastic it was! Though I’m not normally a fantasy reader, I was swept away by this world of Reds and Silvers, of power, corruption, rebellion, betrayal, and romance. I was sucked into Mare’s world and I couldn’t get it out of my head long after finishing the last page. As much as I loved reading Red Queen, I still want more. Which is probably a good thing, since this is the first book in a new series.

Aveyard does a masterful job of world-building, without slowing down the pace of the plot. She is able to introduce this universe while still moving the story forward — and it was easy to slip into the world of Red Queen. That made it all the more enjoyable to dive into the story and the characters, who are the heart of the book. Mare, the princes, her friends and her family, the leaders of the rebellion, the other members of court … each character, big or small, plays a key role in the plot of Red Queen, and Aveyard does an excellent job of making sure each individual feels fully realized, no matter how often they appear within the pages.

Red Queen is a masterful new entry into the fantasy genre, lush with power, betrayal, and love. Look for it in stores February 10th.

feature10 Random Things from Victoria Aveyard

  1. I wrote the entire first draft of Red Queen without a desk. I hunched over a coffee table and probably have permanent back damage from it.
  2. The two things I promised myself I would get if I sold a manuscript were a desk and a new pair of glasses.
  3. I hate movie/TV show tie-in book covers.
  4. I love drawing fictional maps.
  5. I could eat cheese pizza for every meal for the rest of my life.
  6. I own two copies (reading copy and fancy copy) of The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, and The Hobbit.
  7. I spent my 21st birthday waiting in line for George RR Martin to sign my copy of A Dance With Dragons.
  8. I’m double-jointed on my both my index fingers.
  9. I bought and filled out a Frozen coloring/puzzle book.
  10. My favorite Disney ride is Star Tours.

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One Winner will get Finished Copies of: RED QUEEN by Victoria Aveyard, THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE by Cynthia Hand and MY HEART AND OTHER BLACK HOLES by Jasmine Warga

Enter by filling out the Rafflecopter form HERE.

Ships in US only | Must be 13+ To enter

About the Book:

The poverty stricken Reds are commoners, living under the rule of the Silvers, elite warriors with god-like powers.

To Mare Barrow, a 17-year-old Red girl from The Stilts, it looks like nothing will ever change.

Mare finds herself working in the Silver Palace, at the centre of
those she hates the most. She quickly discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy Silver control.

But power is a dangerous game. And in this world divided by blood, who will win?

In stores February 10th from HarperTeen.

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Victoria-Aveyard_author-photo-copy-5About the Author:

Victoria Aveyard is a screenwriter/YA author who likes books and lists. This site is the nexus of my universe. Her book RED QUEEN will be published Winter 2015 from HarperTeen at HarperCollins. She’s repped by the incomparable Suzie Townsend at New Leaf Literary & Media, Inc. The genres she’s into include YA, Fantasy, Historical, Adventure, Apocalyptic – if people are dying, she’s buying.  TWITTER | WEBSITE