Dead of Winter by Kresley Cole – Exclusive Excerpt & Contest

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We are BIG big fans of Kresley Cole’s Arcana Chronicles here at Novel Novice, so obviously we’re super excited about the January 6th release of book 3, Dead of Winter. But if you’re like us, and you just can’t wait until January to get started, you’re in luck … because today, we have an EXCLUSIVE sneak peek at the book!

We’re part of the Dead of Winter Chapter 1 Blog Tour Reveal, and today we’ve got your look at the second excerpt. Plus, keep reading for your chance to enter an AMAZING giveaway!!!

excerpt

A wolf’s howl pierced the night.

 

I jolted awake in the saddle. The rain had dwindled to a foggy drizzle. How long had I been out?

I rubbed my gritty eyes. Almost screamed. I was surrounded by shadowy figures.

Wait, not figures. All around me were towering stacks of rocks, placed like logs for a bonfire. There were so many stacks the area resembled a forest. The stone forest.

Who would waste calories to assemble these? And why did I find them so chilling?

Matthew, are you there?

At last, I felt his presence in my mind! —Empress!—

Has Violet joined her brother yet?

—The Violet is not there.—

Oh, thank God.

—Soon.—

Shit! You told me Vincent camped within days of Death’s castle. I’ve ridden for DAYS.

—Arcana all around.—

I heard their calls, as if from a sound-out. . . .

—Eyes to the skies, lads!— Joules.

—Trapped in the palm of my hand.— Tess.

—I watch you like a hawk.— Gabriel.

—Behold the Bringer of Doubt!— Selena.

—Don’t look at this hand, look at that one.— Finn.

—Crazy like a fox.— Matthew.

—We will love you. In our own way.— The Lovers.

So many Arcana were close. Which meant I was close.

—Terror from the abyss!— Huh?

Before I could ask about the new call, my sense of being watched returned. I jerked my head around.

—Empress, you’re one stone forest and one clearing away. Some . . . obstacles between us.—

Movement. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a man skulking from one stack of rocks to the next.

Another man loped to join the first. The armed pair wore fatigues and creepy night-vision goggles. Soldiers of the Lovers’ army?

The stones were for cover, staged as if for a paint-ball course! How long had those men been lying here in wait?

Matthew, I’m in trouble! I slapped the reins against the mare. She whinnied a protest, but increased her speed. Chest heaving, she wound around the stacks.

I craned my head back. Two soldiers had become ten, all with rifles at the ready. Now they walked in plain view. Because I was already surrounded?

As the ground began to flatten, those stacks grew fewer. I raised my hand above my eyes, straining to see. Ahead—the clearing Matthew had spoken of !

My face fell. With no vegetation, it was a quagmire, water and muck pooling in huge craters.

Past that, a wall towered, must be thirty feet high. What lay behind it?

A shot rang out; a bullet whizzed by my head. My mount fled from the sound. “Go, GO!”

In my panic, my nails morphed into thorn claws. The razor-sharp edges sliced through the fingers of my gloves. My glyphs stirred, moving over my skin.

A second gunshot. The near-miss bullet pitted the mud beside the horse’s hooves. She shrieked, trotting faster.

The shooters missed on purpose. They would want me—and the horse—alive.

Women and horses were two valuable A.F. commodities.

Desperate for safety, I squinted at the wall. Men guarded a brightly lit gate.

—Head there, Empress.—

My mare would have to slog through the clearing. It was like a moat fronting that wall. The soldiers would catch me long before then.

A bright color drew my attention. Attached to a post was a handcrafted sign emblazoned with a red skull and crossbones—along with the warning: DANGER! MINES!

And that explained the craters.

Are you kidding, Matthew? Soldiers trailing me; mines ahead. How do I get past a minefield?

An agonized yell sounded behind me.

I dared a glance back. Only nine soldiers followed. They ran toward me at a faster clip. The ones at the edges aimed their guns—off to their sides.

Another horrified yell.

And another.

Open gunfire erupted. Muzzle flashes warred with fog; I couldn’t make out anything.

I turned forward. Screamed.

Three soldiers stood before me, rifles trained on my face. The mare reared, punching hooves at them.

The other gunmen had been pushing me toward these!

Yet behind them, a black beast melded with shadow. One brilliant golden eye gleamed like a lantern.

Cyclops! Had Lark sent her one-eyed wolf to protect me?

Baring dagger-size fangs, the massive beast gave a spine-chilling snarl. The men twisted around—

Cyclops launched himself at the panic-stricken soldiers, knocking them to the ground. His mighty jaws clamped down on limbs and rifles, snapping through bone and metal.

Body parts sailed into the air. Blood spurted like a mall fountain. I winced, though I should be used to seeing stuff like this.

The wolf lifted his head from the carnage and growled at the stupe­fied soldiers positioned behind me. Those bastards had driven me into a trap; Cyclops ate the trap.

Faced with the beast’s dripping maw, they fled headlong.

For me, Cyclops wagged his scarred tail. “Good damn wolf. Good boy.”

Matthew said: —Ride for the fort! You have to make it to the wall.—

What’s behind the wall? For all I knew, Matthew was sending me into the Milovnícis’ camp.

—RIDE!—

Into mines? We’re going to get blown away! Forget my self-healing powers; I couldn’t regenerate from decapitation.

—Go left.—

Directing me around the danger?

I turned to Cyclops. “I don’t know if you can understand me, or if Lark is steering her familiar. But follow my mount carefully unless you want to regrow limbs.” He was still limping from our battle with the Devil Card.

He chuffed, and bubbles of blood formed over his snout. With a swish of his tail, he defiantly snapped up a dismembered arm, carrying it like a chew toy. But he did move behind me.

I’m trusting you, Matthew. I swallowed and guided my horse left.

—MY left!—

Quick correction. Cyclops followed.

—Faster, Empress. Or the Azey will figure out our mine moat maze.—

Your what? Who are the Azey?

A.S.E. Army of the Southeast. Go right for three seconds. Then left.—

Holding my breath, I slapped the reins yet again. One thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three. I tugged the reins to my right.

—Faster!—

Soon I was galloping through a minefield, a telepathic Arcana in my mind and a giant wolf at my heels.

I could hear those same wet breaths. The wolf had been following me! If I lived through this night, I was so going to owe Lark.

The gate creaked open ahead. I spurred the mare, racing to reach the fort.

With no idea what awaited me . . .

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One lucky winner will receive an Amazon Kindle, pre-loaded with Poison Princess, Endless Knight, and an advanced e-copy of Dead of Winter.

Enter by filling out the Rafflecopter form HERE!

Contest is open to the U.S. only. Contest ends at midnight (PT) on Friday, November 21st.

See more chances to win, and get more sneak peeks from Dead of Winter by visiting all of the blog tour stops this week:

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Here’s more about Dead of Winter:

dead of winterCan Evie convince her rival loves to work together? Their survival depends on it in this third book of #1 New York Times bestselling author Kresley Cole’s Arcana Chronicles, a nonstop action tale of rescue, redemption, and a revenge most wicked.

Heartbreaking decisions
Evie was almost seduced by the life of comfort that Death offered her, until Jack was threatened by two of the most horrific Arcana, The Lovers. She will do anything to save him, even escape Death’s uncanny prison, full of beautiful objects, material comforts and stolen glances from a former love.

Uncertain victory
Despite leaving a part of her heart behind with Death, Evie sets out into a frozen and perilous post-apocalyptic wasteland to meet up with her allies and launch an attack on The Lovers and the vast army they command. Such formidable enemies require a battle plan, and the only way to kill them once and for all may mean Evie, Jack, and Death allying. Evie doesn’t know what will prove more impossible: surviving slavers, plague, Bagmen and other Arcana or convincing Jack and Death to work together.

Two heroes returned
There’s a thin line between love and hate, and Evie just doesn’t know where she stands with either Jack or Death. Will this unlikely trio be able to defeat The Lovers without killing one another first?

Pre-order Dead of Winter here and check out the official website for the Arcana Chroincles.

For the comments: Tell us why you’re excited about Dead of Winter!

Exclusive Cover Reveal: The Recovery by Suzanne Young

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So you want more from The Program and The Treatment by Suzanne Young? Her next book, The Remedy, comes out in April — and while it’s set in the same universe, it focuses on a whole new set of characters and plot twists.

But you’re still in luck. Enter … The Recovery, an original e-novella all about Michael Realm:

Six months after the fall of The Program, ex-handler Michael Realm is struggling with his guilt. After all, he was instrumental in erasing the memories of several patients—including one he claimed to love. With a lifetime of regret stretched before him, Realm vows to set things right.

Along with his friend, James Murphy, Realm will track down those he’s hurt in an attempt to give them back their lives—starting with Dallas Stone. He’s not looking for forgiveness or redemption; he’s not a hero. But Realm hopes that with each recovered past, he’ll be able to reclaim a small bit of his own.

Sounds amazing, right? It’ll be available on February 24th, and you can pre-order it HERE! — but until then, let’s marvel at this awesome cover:

The Recovery coverIsn’t it fabulous??? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!

New YA Releases: November 18, 2014

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

stolen heart of dreadStolen by Michael Johnston & Melissa de la Cruz

Nat and her drakon are the last of their kind—sworn to protect what their enemies seek to control—and she’s risked her life for their reunion. But fighting for the majestic Blue meant saying goodbye to Wes, breaking both their hearts. Back in New Vegas, citizens are threatened by the resurgence of magic and declare war on all the marked. Wes and his team travel to the extravagant indoor city of El Dorado looking for his sister, but when they are caught on the wrong side of the RSA’s strict new laws, Wes is forced to do the unthinkable—surrender and rejoin the military’s quest to uncover the magical source, the same land Nat is struggling to protect. Now he and Nat find themselves on opposing sides of a war that could potentially destroy what’s left of the world.

For the comments: Are you excited about Stolen? Do you know of any other new releases we missed today?

Deep Blue & Rogue Wave Contest

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Today, we’re excited to be hosting a giveaway to celebrate the upcoming release of Rogue Wave by Jennifer Donnelly (in stores January 6th), second book in the best-selling Waterfire Saga. With the holiday season upon us, now is the perfect time to catch up on book 1, Deep Blue, and get excited for the release of Rogue Wave after the New Year.

Check out more information about the books below, and enter to win this fantastic giveaway now:

The Prize:

One winner will receive custom Deep Blue and Rogue Wave nail polishes, plus a copy of Deep Blue, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

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How to Enter:

Just fill out the Rafflecopter form here for all your chances to win. Be sure to comment below for extra entries, and if you use social media, use the hashtag #RogueWave

The Rules

ROGUE-WAVEABOUT ROGUE WAVE:

 In this exciting sequel to DEEP BLUE, the mermaids are on an exceedingly important and dangerous quest. Their journey is testing their skills and their friendships, forcing them to grow and take on new challenges, and will alter their lives forever.

Serafina, Neela, Ling, Ava, Becca, and Astrid, six mermaids from realms scattered throughout the seas and freshwaters, were summoned by the leader of the river witches to learn an incredible truth: the mermaids are direct descendants of the Six Who Ruled–powerful mages who once governed the lost empire of Atlantis. The ancient evil that destroyed Atlantis is stirring again, and only the mermaids can defeat it. To do so, they need to find magical talismans that belonged to the Six.

Pre-order Rogue Wave:

DeepBlueABOUT DEEP BLUE:

Deep in the ocean, in a world not so different from our own, live the merpeople. Their communities are spread throughout the oceans, seas, and freshwaters all over the globe.

When Serafina, a mermaid of the Mediterranean Sea, awakens on the morning of her betrothal, her biggest worry should be winning the love of handsome Prince Mahdi. And yet Sera finds herself haunted by strange dreams that foretell the return of an ancient evil. Her dark premonitions are confirmed when an assassin’s arrow poisons Sera’s mother. Now, Serafina must embark on a quest to find the assassin’s master and prevent a war between the Mer nations.

Led only by her shadowy dreams, Sera searches for five other mermaid heroines who are scattered across the six seas. Together, they will form an unbreakable bond of sisterhood and uncover a conspiracy that threatens their world’s very existence.

JenniferDonnellyABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jennifer Donnelly is an award-winning author of both adult and young adult books, including Deep Blue, the first book in the Waterfire Saga. For adults she has written a trilogy of best-selling books that includes The Tea Rose, The Winter Rose, and The Wild Rose. Her first young adult novel, A Northern Light, received many accolades, among them the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, a Carnegie Medal in the UK, and a Michael L. Printz Honor. Her second young adult novel, Revolution, was named a Best Book of 2010 by Kirkus Reviews and School Library Journal, and the audiobook received a 2011 American Library Association Odyssey Honor. She lives in New York’s Hudson Valley.

Learn More:

Take the “Which Mermaid Are You?” Quiz:

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For the comments: Tell us why you’re excited to read the Waterfire Saga.

Exclusive Q&A with A Thousand Pieces of You Author Claudia Gray: Part 1

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Today, we’ve got part 1 our exclusive Q&A with A Thousand Pieces of You author Claudia Gray. Thanks for taking the to chat with us, Claudia. Readers – catch part 2 of this interview on Wednesday, with part 3 to follow on Friday.

AThousandPieces_hc_cYou’ve called ATPOY the “book of your heart.” What makes this one so special to you?

It’s hard to articulate exactly why — there’s not a quantifiable reason, mostly — but all I can say is that these characters became so beloved to me, so quickly, and their emotions felt so real from the very start. While I love playing with the concept of alternate dimensions (and now have some trouble understanding why I didn’t do this earlier), that concept doesn’t really explain why this book matters so much to me. It’s more that Marguerite, Theo, Henry, Sophie, Josie and Paul mean so much to me, and A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU is their story.

Claudia GrayYour other books have been pretty firmly rooted in the world of supernatural – but ATPOY dives head-first into science fiction. Did the switch in genres change anything about the way you approached working on the book?

Switching from paranormal to scifi didn’t feel like that much of a leap, to be honest; I’ve always been fans of both genres, and I think I’m not alone in that — most people who like one probably like the other, to some degree. When I was a little kid, I would read books about Dracula and watch movies about UFOs, and the differences between them didn’t seem to be nearly as important as the fact that they were both much, much more interesting than real life.

That said, the switch did influence how I worked when writing A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU. With magic and the paranormal, you have a big more “wiggle room” — if you need magic not to operate in a certain way at a certain time, or there’s some way for vampires to do this but not that, well, then, you simply design the mythos to work in that way. You can write in exceptions to every rule, if you need to. (Of course, you have to have some consistency, some hard limits — but still, it’s flexible.) With science fiction, principles have to be much more consistent and inflexible. The Firebird is a totally imaginary device, but I had to work out exactly how it would operate, all the things it could and could not do. That was probably the single hardest part of writing the book, honestly. And once those principles were in place, they couldn’t budge. Science fiction is a little more demanding in that way.

The question of love becomes much, MUCH more complicated in the worlds of ATPOY – and the underlying question really comes down to whether we are, ultimately, the same person in every universe, regardless of the different decisions we make, or the different situations we find ourselves in. What do you believe? And can we expect Marguerite and the other characters to explore this more in the next book in the FIREBIRD series?

I believe there is something essential that remains the same throughout all the universes — and yet each world’s version of an individual will also have something unique to them, some experience or thought or emotion that is theirs alone. When you fall in love with someone, are you falling in love with what’s unique to the world you share, or with that essential, deepest self? That answer is going to be different in different situations, and it is definitely something Marguerite and the other characters explore in even more depth in the future books of the series.

Thanks again for stopping by, Claudia!

Exclusive Playlist for A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

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Today, we have a really amazing guest post from A Thousand Pieces of You author Claudia Gray. That’s because for today’s post, she is sharing her exclusive playlist for the book — and this is the only place you’ll find it! Check out her amazing song choices & her thoughts on each selection:

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atpoy playlistI’ve been promising a full listing of the soundtrack for A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU – and now, at last, here it is! For the songs that are most important, I’ve included some snippets of the lyrics, and what they mean for the book.

(Well, almost full. I’m not going to go through and list every bit of movie-score music I used, because I think that would get to be a bit tedious for you guys to read. But films whose scores I used included “Doctor Zhivago,” “Stardust,” and weirdly enough, the love theme from “The Secret of My Success.”)

Theme Song For The Whole Trilogy

“Breath of Life” by Florence + the Machine: The lyrics don’t exactly match up, but I don’t care – something about the driving intensity of this song speaks to me powerfully. I heard this for the first time while I was in the beginning stages of working on ATPOY, and instantly I knew it captured something vital about Marguerite’s mindset as the story begins. Her father is dead, she’s been betrayed by someone she cared about, and nothing is left but this quest for vengeance.

Sample lyrics

And my heart is a hollow plain
For the devil to dance again.

The First Universe

“A&E” by Goldfrapp: A deceptively lyrical, bubbly song about someone having a total breakdown.

“Ghosts” by Ladytron: What I think Marguerite might imagine is going through Paul’s head.

“Hunter” by Bjork: Another song about Marguerite’s need for vengeance.

 Sample lyrics

 If travel is searching
And home has been found
I’m not stopping
I’m going hunting
I’m the hunter …
You could smell it
So you left me on my own
To complete the mission
Now I’m leaving it all behind

“Mercy Street” by Peter Gabriel: This song is actually about the poet Anne Sexton, but it captures profound grief, the desire for self-destruction, and the longing for a father who can never come back.

“I Love It” by Icona Pop: Now I’m going to get all hipster and say, I was into this song almost a year before it became a US hit. For the purposes of ATPOY, this is a song playing in one of the clubs Marguerite goes to during the first phase of her journey.

“Compulsion” by Doves: A song about trying to see through the eyes of someone who’s hurt you terribly.

“Problem” by Natalia Kills: Maybe this is the theme music for the Marguerite native to this first universe? I think it would fit…

The Second Universe
(oh, the cover gives it away – might as well call it the Russiaverse)

“Two Planets” by Bat for Lashes: Honestly, I’m not entirely sure what the lyrics for this song mean, but these lines, at least, seemed to fit Marguerite now that she’s racing through different dimensions – and through different versions of herself.

Sample lyrics

Show me moonlight on the sunrise
I’ve seen so many planets dancing
I’ve seen too many people hiding
Show me sunset and I won’t forget
That I am one of two planets dancing
I am part of two planets dancing

“Frosti” by Bjork: An instrumental, but one that always conjures the visions of snowflakes in the air, and ice lacing every branch. Also it sounds a bit like a music box – which is appropriate for reasons you’ll understand once you read the scene in the Easter Room.

“Time After Time” by Eva Cassidy: My favorite cover of a hauntingly beautiful love song, one that promises not just one reunion, but countless reunions, over the course of an eternal romance.

“Nostalgia” by Mikhail Alperin: Another instrumental, sadder and more introspective. The fact that the musician is Russian makes it fit the book even better.

“Skyfall” by Adele: Okay, maybe a James Bond theme is a slightly unusual choice for this book’s soundtrack? But given the meaning of the lyrics – and what happens for this world’s Marguerite and Paul – this song had to be included.

Sample lyrics

Where you go, I go
What you see, I see
I know I’d never be me
Without the security
Of your loving arms
Keeping me from harm
Put your hand in my hand and we’ll stand –
Let the sky fall
When it crumbles
We will stand tall
And face it all, together

“Permission” by Aby Wolf: a wonderfully atmospheric song about refusing to be careful any longer, and taking a tremendous chance.

“Once Upon a December” by Sarah Morgann: This was the cover closest to the version in the movie “Anastasia.” How could I not have music from that film in the Russiaverse?

The Third Universe

“Somewhere A Clock Is Ticking” by Snow Patrol: A song about the willingness to destroy someone you love, once they’ve changed into somebody dangerous, somebody you don’t recognize at all.

“Echoes” by Klaxons: I discovered this song in a promo for “Fringe” – a TV show I loved, and one that did alternate universes beautifully. Which is why these might be the most perfect lyrics possible for ATPOY –

Sample lyrics

Send out a sound for the wood between the worlds
Gently repeat as the boundaries start to swirl
Keep to the call that is twice now liminal
It’s not the same where the trails lead to the outer regions
Echoes from the other world turn horizons into endless, ever-present
Echoes – many other worlds true horizons start to turn

“Strobe” by Friendly Fires: About reunited lovers unsure whether they desperately need each other, or whether they should walk away again now.

“One Thing” by Finger Eleven: This song is one I first heard in a YouTube vid dedicated to the love story in the movie “Atonement,” starring James McAvoy and Keira Knightley. I can’t say precisely why or how “Atonement” works into ATPOY, but it was something I thought and daydreamed about a lot while the idea for the Firebird trilogy came to me. They’re linked, somehow, on a level that doesn’t quite reach the conscious. So this song is on the soundtrack to acknowledge that. Besides, it’s a beautiful love song, and one that fits the book’s central romance perfectly.

Sample lyrics

 If I traded it all, if I gave it all away
For one thing, just for one thing
If I sorted it out, if I knew all about
This one thing – wouldn’t that be something?

“Touched” by VAST: This song has been on my several of my writing soundtracks – for more than a decade now. Gosh. But there’s a reason why I love it so much, and keep going back to it for inspiration.

“Out of Sight” by the Bloody Beetroots (featuring Paul McCartney): Sir Paul does dubstep! There’s a cynical edge to this song that fits what’s going on better than Marguerite even suspects at the time …

The Fourth Universe

“Bachelorette” by Bjork: Yes, Bjork keeps showing up on this soundtrack. Not sure why! But this song is perfect for someone hell-bent on revenge.

Sample lyrics

 I’m a path of cinders
Burning under your feet
You’re the one who walks me
I’m your one-way street

“Too Close” by Alex Clare: Is this a song for Theo? Or not? Even though this song has always been a part of my writing process for ATPOY, I’m still not sure.

“Theme from ‘Somewhere in Time’” by John Barry and Roger Williams: a rapturously romantic instrumental, one I absolutely had to include.

“Glorious” by Andreas Johnson: How I imagine Paul sometimes thinks of Marguerite.

 “In My Life” by the Beatles: Marguerite’s father = huge Beatlemaniac. This is the song she’d hear him hum or as he did the dishes at night. One of my favorite Beatles songs, bar none.

Sample lyrics

Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life, I love you more

“The Lightning Strike (What If This Storm Ends?)” by Snow Patrol: For me this is absolutely, completely what Paul is feeling in the final scenes.

That’s the soundtrack! If you read A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU and think of other songs that you feel remind you of Marguerite, Paul and Theo – or of racing through the universes – let me know. I’d love to discover new music through you guys.

For the comments: Share your thoughts on the soundtrack & any songs you’d add to the list!

Book Review: Atlantia by Ally Condie

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There are three things I’d like you to know about Atlantia by Ally Condie:

  1. It is not about mermaids.
  2. It is a standalone.
  3. It’s wonderful.

atlantiaCondie’s first novel since her best-selling dystopian Matched trilogy is a brilliant tour-de-force of fantasy and science fiction, with a wildly unique spin on a classic premise: what if we were forced to live below the sea due to environmental catastrophe?

Atlantia doesn’t feel like traditional science fiction. It’s not bogged down by overly-complex world building, nor does it suffer from an over-abundance of gadgetry and wonder. In many ways, it feels very contemporary — despite its unusual setting and magical aspects. The story is easy and unassuming, as much as it is unique and captivating. Nothing about Atlantia feels forced. Condie has masterfully plotted and planned this story about life under the sea — and the world above that Rio longs for so desperately.

I expected good things from Condie; but Atlantia simply blew me away — it was so incredibly wonderful. Beautiful story-telling and writing, captivating characters, and a page-turning plot that kept me eagerly reading.

Atlantia is available now. Here is the official synopsis:

Can you hear Atlantia breathing?

For as long as she can remember, Rio has dreamt of the sand and sky Above—of life beyond her underwater city of Atlantia. But in a single moment, all her plans for the future are thwarted when her twin sister, Bay, makes an unexpected decision, stranding Rio Below. Alone, ripped away from the last person who knew Rio’s true self—and the powerful siren voice she has long hidden—she has nothing left to lose.

Guided by a dangerous and unlikely mentor, Rio formulates a plan that leads to increasingly treacherous questions about her mother’s death, her own destiny, and the complex system constructed to govern the divide between land and sea. Her life and her city depend on Rio to listen to the voices of the past and to speak long-hidden truths.

Book Review: Misdirected by Ali Berman

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Ali Berman’s Misdirected is a charming examination of the different ways bullying can manifest, and how our own prejudices affect the way we approach the world and those with different perspectives.

misdirectedMisdirected is the story of fifteen-year-old Ben, who moves to a small conservative Colorado town where his atheism seems to be the only thing about him that matters to everyone. His classmates bully him for not fitting in, his teachers don’t understand him, and with his brother serving in Iraq and his sister away at college with problems of her own, Ben is left on his own to figure things out. Being a teen is tricky to navigate when you’re an outsider, and Ben struggles to find his place without compromising who he is. He rebels against his teachers, he argues with his classmates, and he rejects what others believe, bringing the reader with him on his enlightening journey as he learns the value of challenging accepted beliefs—including his own.

Religion, friendships, relationships, family, sexuality, war, and finding your place in the larger world — these are all issues every teen faces throughout their lives, and Berman does a lovely job of incorporating them all into her story in some way. We see Ben struggle to fit into a society that is less than welcoming when he refuses to share their belief system and values.

For the most part, Berman does a good job of offering a variety of perspectives on the hot button issues in her book — most notably religion. Tess — Ben’s classmate, neighbor & crush — especially proves to be a welcome voice of reason, both supporting Ben’s right to his own beliefs while standing up for her own, and rebuffing Ben’s own prejudices. But at times, Misdirected feels a little one-sided. Many of the other Christian characters felt one-dimensional and almost cartoon-ish in their zealotry and their refusal to accept Ben’s different belief system.The story would have felt more genuine had these characters been more fully realized.

The real success of Misdirected is Berman’s use of charm and humor to temper the more serious aspects of the story. Despite some heavy material, the book has an overall light-hearted feel, which makes for an enjoyable reading experience, despite any minor shortcomings.

Misdirected is in stores November 25th.

October 2014 Contest Winners

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Another month, another set of contest winners. Here’s a look at the winners from our October 2014 contests:

Sublime Contest

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The winner of this contest will receive a copy of Sublime by Christina Lauren. The winner is: Tamara Augustin

The Perfectionists Read-Along Contest

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The winner of this contest will receive a Perfectionists tote bag and an ARC of an upcoming HarperTeen book. The winner is: Kathy Lynn

Atlantia Contest

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The winner of this contest will receive an Atlantia-inspired necklace. The winner is: Alyssa Susanna

Worst Witch Contest

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The winner of this contest will receive a set of all 6 Worst Witch books, featuring their new covers. The winner is: Katherine Ivan

The Dungeoneers Cover Reveal Contest

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The winner of this contest receives a copy of Minion and Sidekicked by John David Anderson. The winner is: Christine Delfin-Hernandez

Unmarked Writing Contest

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For this contest, we asked you to submit your best story about ghost-hunting. Two winners will each receive a copy of Unmarked by Kami Garcia. The first winner is Maria Touet and here is her winning entry:

I was certain that the barn was empty tonight. That’s why I came all the way out to Destiny, to spend time at the Culliver Farm…alone.

For years I’d heard reports of unusual happenings at the old barn, you see, I’m a hunter. I hunt ghosts that are trying to re-enter our world. I hunt them then send them on to where they need to go in order to be at peace. Sometimes they go to heaven and sometimes…they don’t.

Destiny is famous for the many legends of the old barn at Culliver Farm. You see, the old barn is a portal or gate of some sort where ghosts enter to reanimate here on earth. Tonight is All Hallows’ Eve and that is the only night that the portal opens, one night a year, Halloween.

I enter the barn keeping my light off in hopes of seeing something.

I smell it first— the smell of damp hay mixed with another less pleasant, less earthly smell. Ghosts smell like, well, like something dead. Sweet and sour, old and decaying, like dead marigolds left to rot in a garden. The odor is emanating from above and it is drifting down, the portal is opening.

I race to the ladder and climb up as fast as I dare. There is a glow coming from the far corner, up along the roof line. It’s faint, but I can make it out in the darkness.

The glow begins to drip. Each drip is a soul coming through the gate. I run to capture each drip in my bottle before they hit the wooden floor. That is the key to capturing ghosts. They must not touch a surface that once lived otherwise they can return to life. Since glass comes from sand it’s the best choice. Some hunters use brass, but I like to see the souls when I catch them.

Bottled souls can be quite beautiful, like pieces of sea glass you find on a beach. The colors are muted, softened by age and the pressure of passing through the portal. Golden, green and blue drips, but occasionally a black drip will come out and those are the drips that go into a different vessel. The black drips are souls that do not get to heaven. They must be caught and delivered to the Miner. The Miner takes the black drips and buries them deep inside the earth. He is the Guardian of the Dark.

I come prepared for a black drip since they may appear anytime, and there one is. It is small and just beginning to form in the glow. My hands shake as I pull the stopper from the rock crystal vessel. I put the opening of the bottle below the drip and catch it as it falls from the portal.

The glow begins to die and I make my way out of the barn to bring the black drip to the Miner. He will be very pleased to see me.

The second winner is Stephanie Parke & here is her winning entry:

The floorboards creaked and Civ shivered in the chilly air. She flipped on her heat sensor and scanned the room shivering again as the temperature dropped another four degrees. She slapped it hard and it read the same. The Rowan hill plantation seemed to shudder in the silence of what should have been a hot summer night, but suddenly felt like an icebox. The house had seemed familiar when she’d see the profile but now being here, all her years of experience disappeared.

Rowan hill sat back away from the road, It’s location made it isolated except for the dock where packages had been delivered.. Civ wasn’t sure why or how she knew that but she found herself walking with confidence through the chilly rooms of the plantation, as if she’d been here before. The feeling of déjàvu was so strong that Civ felt like puking.

Civ felt her heart beat faster as currents of cold air wrapped around her as she stepped into the large ballroom. She wasn’t sure how but she could almost see the dancing couples. The heat sensor in her hand shook as the temperature dropped another three degrees and fog began to roll in through the cracked windows.

The room seemed Halloween spooky as the floor disappeared beneath a blanket of thick white. Civ turned and tried to run as the mist swirled toward her but found her feet stuck to the floor. She tried to radio for help but the radio was dead static. Civ willed her feet to move until she felt the touch.
Light and gentle it traced her face in the sudden darkness.. Civ tried to pull away but then she heard the voice and stood still. “Civiana” the voice whispered as It swirled around her “I have missed you.”

The hair on the back of her neck stood up as the voice moved. Her blood froze at the idea that whatever it was knew her full name. She hated her full name, a remnant of her mother’s obsession with the romanticism of the old south.

“Where have you been?” The voice asked as the touch became more solid. She could feel the hand sliding down her neck and she found herself leaning into it.
Civ opened her eyes to see the form of a black haired man with ice blue eyes materialize. He was dressed in the style of a sourthern gentleman from the time before the civil war and he was devastatingly handsome. He smiled and pulled her to him and Civ melted into his arms, despite the protests of her rational mind.

“where have you been?” he asked again softly as he leaned his forehead against hers and began to sway to music only they could hear.

Time shifted and she found herself drifting, suddenly the room was no longer empty as they swirled around the floor. Civ looked into his eyes and knew the answer.

“waiting for you.” She whispered softly as they began to fade away.

Congrats to all our winners! Be sure to check out all our latest contests here.

A Thousand Pieces of You Desktop Wallpapers

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Today to celebrate our November Book of the Month, we’re featuring some original desktop wallpapers for A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray. As always, click to view full-size, then right-click to save!

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