Alice Takes Back Wonderland Spotlight & Review Tour


Genre: Contemporary FantasyA

Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press

Date of Release: September 28, 2015

Cover Artist: Amy Chitulescu

Find Online: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Goodreads


After ten years of being told she can’t tell the difference between real life and a fairy tale, Alice finally stops believing in Wonderland. So when the White Rabbit shows up at her house, Alice thinks she’s going crazy. Only when the White Rabbit kicks her down the rabbit hole does Alice realize that the magical land she visited as a child is real. But all is not well in Wonderland.

The Ace of Spades has taken over Wonderland and is systematically dismantling all that makes it wonderful. Plain is replacing wondrous, logical is replacing magical, and reason is destroying madness. Alice decides she must help the Mad Hatter and all those fighting to keep Wonderland wonderful. But how can she face such danger when she is just a girl?

Alice must journey across the stars to unite an army. She discovers that fairy tales are real in the magical world beyond the rabbit hole. But they are not the fairy tales she knows. Fairy tales have dangers and adventures of their own, and Alice must overcome the trials of these old stories if she wants to unite the lands against Ace.

With the help of Peter Pan, Pinocchio, Snow White and heroes old and new, Alice may have the strength to take back Wonderland.

David HammonsAbout The Author:

While visiting Cambridge during my time studying abroad, I tried to sneak into C. S. Lewis’s old apartment. I wanted to stand where the old master stood. I wanted to glean bits of imagination that no-doubt still clung to those walls. A locked door barred my path, and I fled to the safety of the campus pub.

It has been my goal to live a life that is notable as the life of that master of writing. I’ve climbed the slopes of Machu Picchu, swam in Loch Ness, smuggled ice cream into China, and made moonshine in my hometown. I studied writing and business in school, and gave up a position in my family’s Black Walnut company to chase my dream. Life, if you make it so, can be an adventure.

Despite all my adventures, there is no greater journey than that which can be found in a book. It was cartoons that got me into writing, works meant for children that as an adult fascinated me with their joyful outlook. It was the old masters, Lewis, Tolkien, Hemmingway, Vonnegut, who challenged me to live an adventure of a life, and then write even greater adventures in books. Perhaps one day I’ll make it into that old Cambridge apartment. Perhaps one day I’ll be invited.

Find David Hammons Online:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Curiosity Quills Press (CQ) is a small hybrid publishing company specializing in genre fiction of the highest quality. With 150+ titles in our catalog already and approximately 6 new books coming out each month, there’s never a dull moment at CQ. We work with major retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Audible to ensure that you, the reader, can find whatever you are looking for at your convenience.

Founded in 2011 by Eugene Teplitsky and Lisa Gus, CQ was initially a resource portal for writing and publishing, created in an effort to help writers, like themselves, survive the publishing industry. After rapid success, CQ morphed into publishing press that over time has solidified its share in the market. Now we spend our days searching for the next great escape!

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Sept Review tour

The Suffering by Rin Chupeco Spotlight and Giveaway

The Suffering

By Rin Chupeco

September 1, 2015; Hardcover ISBN 9781492629832; Trade Paper ISBN 9781492629849

cover65656-mediumBook Info:

Title: The Suffering

Author: Rin Chupeco

Release Date: September 1, 2015

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire


Praise for the Suffering:


“Rin Chupeco’s The Suffering is a horror lover’s dream: murders, possessed dolls, and desiccated corpses. I cringed. I grimaced. You won’t soon forget this exorcist and his vengeful water ghost.”

–Kendare Blake, author of Anna Dressed in Blood


“Chupeco deftly combines ancient mysticism with contemporary dilemmas that teens face, immersing readers in horrors both supernatural and manmade. The Suffering is a chilling swim through the murky waters of morality.” 

–Carly Anne West, author of The Bargaining and The Murmuring



Breathtaking and haunting, Rin Chupeco’s second novel is a chilling companion to her debut, The Girl from the Well.

The darkness will find you.

Seventeen-year-old Tark knows what it is to be powerless. But Okiku changed that. A restless spirit who ended life as a victim and started death as an avenger, she’s groomed Tark to destroy the wicked. But when darkness pulls them deep into Aokigahara, known as Japan’s suicide forest, Okiku’s justice becomes blurred, and Tark is the one who will pay the price…

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About the Author:

Despite uncanny resemblances to Japanese revenants, Rin Chupeco has always maintained her sense of humor. Raised in Manila, Philippines, she keeps four pets: a dog, two birds, and a husband. She’s been a technical writer and travel blogger, but now makes things up for a living. Connect with Rin at

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Excerpt from The Suffering:

It’s still early morning when our group is given clearance to enter. Aokigahara is a deceptive forest. It has all the hallmarks of a popular tourist destination: narrow but well-­maintained hiking trails with a surprising amount of litter, not to mention strips of tape and ribbon wrapped around tree trunks. The leader explains that hikers use them as markers to maintain their bearings. Later on, one of the other volunteers whispers to us that some of the tapes were left by those who came here to kill themselves, in case they decided to change their minds. The revelation horrifies Callie.

A few miles into our hike, anything resembling civilization disappears. Roots crawl across the hard forest floor, and it’s easy to trip if you’re not constantly looking down. We’re outside, but the trees make it feel claustrophobic. They reach hungrily toward the sun, fighting each other for drops of light, and this selfishness grows with the darkness as we move deeper into the woods.

It’s quiet. The silence is broken by the scuffling of feet or snapping of dry twigs as we walk. Every so often, volunteers call back and forth to each other, and rescue dogs exploring the same vicinity that we are will bark. But there are no bird calls, no sounds of scampering squirrels. We’re told that there is very little wildlife in Jukai. Nothing seems to flourish here but trees.

This deep into the woods, any roads and cleared paths are gone. At times, we’re forced to climb to a higher ledge or slide down steep slopes to proceed, and there’s always some root or rock hiding to twist an ankle.

And yet—­the forest is beautiful. I like myself too much to seriously think about suicide, even during my old bouts of depression, but I can understand why people would choose to die here. There is something noble and enduring and magnificent about the forest.

That sense of wonder disappears though, the instant I see them. There are spirits here. And the ghosts mar the peacefulness for me. They hang from branches and loiter at the base of tree trunks. Their eyes are open and their skin is gray, and they watch me as I pass. I don’t know what kind of people they were in life, but they seem faded and insignificant in death.

Okiku watches them but takes no action. These are not the people she hunts. They don’t attack us because they’re not that kind of ghosts. Most of them, I intuit, aren’t violent. The only lives they had ever been capable of taking were their own.

I’m not afraid, despite their bloated faces, contorted from the ropes they use to hang themselves or the overdose of sleeping pills they’ve taken. If anything, I feel lingering sadness. I can sympathize with their helpless anguish. These people took their own lives, hoping to find some meaning in death when they couldn’t find it in life. But there’s nothing here but regret and longing.

And there’s that tickle again, so light it is nearly imperceptible. Something in this forest attracts these deaths. It lures its unhappy victims with its strange siren’s call and then, having taken what it needs, leaves their spirits to rot. A Venus flytrap for human souls.

Something is wrong here, and suddenly, the forest no longer looks as enticing or majestic as when we arrived.


cover40746-mediumNew in Paperback from this Author: The Girl From The Well

Praise for The Girl From The Well:

“[A] Stephen King-like horror story.” –Kirkus Reviews           


“Told in a marvelously disjointed fashion.”  -Publishers Weekly STARRED Review                              


This gorgeously written story reads like poetry.” –Brazos Bookstore                                                                     


Darkly mesmerizing.” -The Boston Globe


“A superior creep factor that is pervasive in every lyrical word.” –Booklist




 The Ring  meets The Exorcist in this haunting and lyrical reimagining of the Japanese fable.

Okiku has wandered the world for hundreds of years, setting free the spirits of murdered children. Wherever there’s a monster hurting a child, her spirit is there to deliver punishment. Such is her existence, until the day she discovers a troubled American teenager named Tark and the dangerous demon that writhes beneath his skin, trapped by a series of intricate tattoos. Tark needs to be freed, but there is one problem—if the demon dies, so does its host.

With the vigilante spirit Okiku as his guide, Tark is drawn deep into a dark world of sinister doll rituals and Shinto exorcisms that will take him far from American suburbia to the remote valleys and shrines of Japan. Can Okiku protect him from the demon within or will her presence bring more harm? The answer lies in the depths of a long-forgotten well

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The Dogs by Allan Stratton Spotlight and Giveaway

The Dogs

By Allan Stratton

September 1, 2015; ISBN 9781492609384

cover57536-mediumBook Info:

Title: The Dogs

Author: Allan Stratton

Release Date: September 1, 2015

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire


Praise for The Dogs:


“Stratton masterfully constructs a creepy gothic setting…A monstrous, stalking father, unhinging nightmares, a ghostly boy, wild dogs, and a moldy basement add creepy deliciousness to a murder mystery and tale of a boy who, in trying to solve a mystery, may just discover what a loving family might be. An engrossing blend of murder mystery and family story.” –Kirkus STARRED Review

“There’s fear aplenty in Allan Stratton’s The Dogs and a tantalizingly uncertain element of the supernatural… refreshingly like an old-fashioned mystery, but the passion and terror underlying (our hero’s) own family give it emotional complexity and suspense.” – Toronto Star

“A real page-turner… [The Dogs] stayed with me for days, author Allan Stratton having created an unsettled aura the likes of which Alfred Hitchcock and Stephen King routinely built into their work, too… Stratton’s depiction of setting and characters is masterful, and his ability to create tension and keep readers on edge is equally strong.” – Montreal Gazette

“A chilling tale of a mother and son on the run, from the author of the award-winning Chanda’s Secrets…Written in accessible prose, The Dogs manages to thrill while exploring the mindset of the victim in ways that are both insightful and affecting, artfully portraying permanent state of dread and a creeping self-doubt. This is an accomplished, gripping and thoughtful story, whose dramatic ending delivers on every level.” –The Guardian

“Brilliant, page-turning, and eerie. Had me guessing to the very end.” –Joseph Delaney, author of The Last Apprenticeseries.

“An Agatha Christie mystery novel on cocaine” –SLJ Teen Newsletter


Constantly on the run from a dangerous father, Cameron’s used to pushing away the trauma of his past. But when his mother moves them to an old farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, he discovers that there are some things you can’t escape.


His new schoolmates taunt him about the bloodthirsty dogs that supposedly haunt the farm, and Cameron soon stumbles upon a child’s drawings in the cellar that depict a violent history. The line between reality and nightmare begins to blur as the house’s horrifying secrets mix with fragments of Cameron’s own memories—some best left forgotten.


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About the Author:

Allan Stratton is an internationally published playwright and author. His awards include a Michael L. Printz Honor Award, multiple ALA picks and the Independent Publisher Book Award.

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Excerpt from The Dogs:


go up to my bedroom. It’s at the top of the living-­room stairs, next to a small bathroom and near the big room over the kitchen. That’s the room Mom thought I’d pick, and I would have, except for the trapdoor in the ceiling. It’s sealed up with nails and paint. When I saw it, I asked Mom what she thought was up there.

“An attic.”

“Yeah, but what’s in it?” I pictured a dried-­up body, half eaten by mice. I mean, who seals up an empty attic? Anyway, that’s why I didn’t choose the big room. If I don’t see the hatch, it’s easier not to think about what’s on the other side.

The bedroom I picked came with an oak desk, a wooden chair, a night table with a lamp, and a metal-­frame bed. The mattress is new, unlike the wallpaper, which is stained and peeling along the seams near the window. Under the peels are layers of older wallpaper, one with little orange canaries on it.

The window over my desk is the one good thing about my room. Looking out, I can see the barn with the fields all around and the woods in the distance. At night, the stars and the glow of the porch-­lamp light up bits of the barn and the first row of cornstalks.

I start to do my homework. Pretty soon, though, I’m looking out the window, watching the stars come out and trying to forget my life. I wonder who all are staring up at the moon right now. Are they wondering the same thing?

Out of the corner of my eye, I catch something moving by the barn. When I look, it disappears. Wait. There it is again at the cornfield. Some movement, some thing.

I count to twenty. Nothing. I relax. Then—­did that stalk move? I turn off my light so whatever’s out there can’t see in.

It’s probably just a breeze.

Or Mr. Sinclair. Or Cody and his gang.

Don’t be nuts. If it’s anything, it’s an animal. A coyote or a dog.

The dogs. I close my curtains. If I don’t look out, whatever’s there will go away. But I can’t not look. I sneak a peek. Nothing. Wait. By the barn. Is that a boy?

I blink. The boy is gone.

My eyes scan the barn. There’s a missing board up in the loft area. The more I stare, the more I think I see the boy staring back at me from the shadows behind the hole. He’s maybe ten, very pale, and he’s wearing one of those old Davy Crockett hats with the raccoon tail hanging from the back. Are those freckles on his cheeks?

Don’t be crazy. The barn’s too far away to see stuff like that.

The face disappears. I stare till I see double. The face swims back into view.

This is too weird. I close my eyes and try to clear my head by thinking about the bus and the Cheerios between Benjie’s teeth. When I open my eyes, everything’s normal. There’s no face. Nothing. Just the night.

And that’s how it stays.

I close my curtains, get ready for bed, and crawl under the covers. I hate the way I scare myself. It’s always the same and it’s always stupid. And the scared-­er I get, the more I talk to myself, which is even stupider.

Besides, even if there was a boy in the barn, what’s scary about that? Maybe he just likes exploring places like I do. Still, it’s weird he’s on our property, especially so late. I wonder where he lives.

Who says he lives anywhere? Who says he’s real? What parents let a kid that young wander around at night?

Mom knocks on my door. “Cameron?”


“May I come in?”


I know she wants to give me a good-­night hug, but I told her to stop it when I was twelve, so she just stands in the doorway. “I know you didn’t mean anything. You’ve had a hard day. I’m sorry I overreacted.”

I hate it when she’s all understanding. It makes me feel like an even bigger jerk. “That’s okay. Mom, I really am sorry.”

“I know.” She pauses. “’Night, then. I love you.”

I want to say the l-­word back, but I feel dumb, so I just say,
“You too.”

Mom closes the door. I go to turn off my lamp and get flashes of Mr. Sinclair and the dogs and the kid I maybe saw in the barn. What’s out there in the dark, circling the house when we’re asleep? What could be out there?

I leave the light on.


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Smoked by Mari Mancusi Spotlight and Giveaway

cover63585-mediumTitle: Smoked

Author: Mari Mancusi

Series: Scorched, #3

Pubdate: September 1st, 2015

ISBN: 9781402284649


Once upon a time the world burned.

Until a girl and her dragon smothered the flame.

But the spark that ignited the apocalypse never went out.

And the scorch is about to begin…

When Team Dragon rescues Emmy from the government lab, they think the future is finally safe. But they soon discover that Emmy has a secret—a secret so dangerous it could trigger the very apocalypse Connor and Caleb were sent back in time to prevent.

As a dragon hunter, Connor has committed his life to saving the world. There’s nothing he wouldn’t do to complete his mission…even if it meant betraying his brother and losing Trinity’s heart. Even if it meant doing the unthinkable.

But a desperate choice meant to prevent The Scorch, may be the spark that sets the world aflame once more.

The epic conclusion to the genre-bending Scorched series, which Melissa de la Cruz, New York Times bestselling author of the Blue Bloods series, called  “A heart-pounding, twisty, time-travel fantasy.”

Mari Mancusi is a two-time Emmy award-winning television producer and author of novels for adults and teens. A graduate of Boston University, she now lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and young daughter. When not writing or producing she enjoys traveling, snowboarding, reading fantasy novels, and her favorite guilty pleasure: video games.

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An Excerpt


“Okay, Fire Kissed,” he said. “It’s showtime.”

Together they jumped out of the truck, slamming the doors behind them. Connor ran around the back, rolling up the door and pulling out a huge box. Trinity helped him heave it onto the loading dock.

“Are you okay in there?” she whispered to the box. “Perfect,” Nate assured her from inside. “You guys go on ahead. I should be close enough now to hack into their security cameras and get them offline.” He paused then added, “Good luck. Just don’t forget about me once you have your dragon.”

“Never,” Trinity assured him, patting the box. Then she rose to her feet and approached Connor. “Ready?”

“As I’ll ever be.”

With confident, casual steps, they strode up to the guard, who was propped in a chair by the elevator, his feet up, nose in a book, completely ignoring the chaos around him. Guess deliveries weren’t in his job description. Connor gave him a small smile. “We need the elevator,” he informed him.

“Yeah, well, I need my ex-wife to get off my back,” the guard said lazily, snapping his gum. “We’ve all got problems.” Connor’s eyes zeroed in on him. “I don’t think you under- stand,” he said. “We need the elevator. We need to get upstairs. You need to let us in.”

Trinity drew in a breath, watching him work. She had to admit, Connor looked particularly hot when he was working to manipulate people’s minds. It was like he got this look in his eyes—those blue, glowing eyes of his—like he was some kind of Jedi Master or something. Truth be told, it kind of made her want to jump his bones. Not that this was the time or the place.

Pushing the inappropriate thought down, she turned back to his victim. Sure enough, the man’s face had gone slack, and he was staring up at Connor with vacant eyes. “You need the elevator,” he droned. “You need to get upstairs. You need me to let you in.”

Then, to Trinity’s excitement, he slowly rose to his feet, walked over to the elevator in question, and inserted his key. Just like that. A moment later, the doors yawned open. The guard looked at them expectantly.

Trin flashed Connor an approving look. You didn’t even need my help for that one, she teased.

Yeah, well, it’s all you from here on out, he shot back, but he looked pleased by the compliment all the


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What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi Spotlight Tour with Giveaway

cover59070-mediumWhat You Left Behind

By Jessica Verdi

Sourcebooks Fire

Young Adult Fiction

August 4, 2015

Hardcover ISBN: 9781492614401

$16.99 Hardcover

Trade Paperback ISBN: 9781492608745

$9.99 Trade Paperback

About the Book

Jessica Verdi, the author of My Life After Now and The Summer I Wasn’t Me, returns with a heartbreaking and poignant novel of grief and guilt that reads like Nicholas Sparks for teens.

It’s all Ryden’s fault. If he hadn’t gotten Meg pregnant, she would have never stopped her chemo treatments and would still be alive. Instead he’s failing fatherhood one dirty diaper at a time. And it’s not like he’s had time to grieve while struggling to care for their infant daughter, start his senior year, and earn the soccer scholarship he needs to go to college.

The one person who makes Ryden feel like his old self is Joni. She’s fun and energetic—and doesn’t know he has a baby. But the more time they spend together, the harder it becomes to keep his two worlds separate. Finding one of Meg’s journals only stirs up old emotions. Ryden’s convinced Meg left other notebooks for him to find, some message to help his new life make sense. But how is he going to have a future if he can’t let go of the past?

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What You Left Behind–

Amazon | Apple | B&N | BAM | !ndigo | IndieBound | Kobo

About the Author

Jessica Verdi lives in Brooklyn, NY and received her MFA in Writing for Children from The New School. Her favorite pastimes include singing show tunes at the top of her lungs (much to her husband’s chagrin), watching cheesy TV, and scoring awesome non-leather shoes in a size 5. She’s still trying to figure out a way to put her uncanny ability to remember both song lyrics and the intricacies of vampire lore to good use. Follow Jess on Twitter @jessverdi.

Connect with Jessica Verdi

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Praise for What You Left Behind

“A powerful indictment of reparative therapy–a sweet love story–and an unforgettable main character!” –Nancy Garden, author of Annie on My Mind

“Ryden’s story is a moving illustration of how sometimes you have to let go of the life you planned to embrace the life you’ve been given. A strong, character-driven story that teen readers will love.”

–Carrie Arcos, National Book Award Finalist for Out of Reach

Praise for The Summer I Wasn’t Me:

“Verdi has written a book that I wish I wrote.” –Sara Farizan, author of If You Could Be Mine

“His [Ryden’s] candid voice is endearing, and although his present-tense narration at first seems like every other teen novel on the shelf, the granulated iteration of baby details helps to illuminate the crushing burden he feels. Other characters are also well-drawn, and the plot moves along tidily to a satisfying conclusion. Verdi balances her plot elements deftly.” — Kirkus Reviews

“Verdi holds nothing back, shedding a realistic light on Ryden’s situation, his decisions, and their very real consequences. His voice is spot-on and doesn’t sugarcoat the harsh realities that he faces. It isn’t often that a book nails the male teen voice as well as Verdi does in this work. An excellent addition to YA collections.” — School Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“Teens will be hooked by the premise but will stick with Ryden and

his friends in this all-too-real portrait of a modern family.” — Booklist

Excerpt from What You Left Behind

Chapter 1

If there’s a more brain-piercing sound than a teething baby crying, I can’t tell you what it is.

I fall back on my bed, drop Meg’s journal, and rake my hands through my hair. It’s kinda funny—in an ironic way, not an LOL way—that I even notice how greasy my hair is with the wailing filling my room and ringing in my head. But I do. It’s gross. When was the last time I washed it? Three days ago? Four? I haven’t had time for anything more than a quick soap and rinse in days.

And here I used to purposely go a day or two without washing it. Girls have always liked my chin-length hair that falls in my face when I’m hunched over a test in school and that I have to pull back with a rubber band during soccer practice. But now it’s gone past sexy-straggly and straight into flat-out dirty.

God, I would kill for a long, hot, silent shower. I would lather, rinse, repeat like it was my fucking job.

Tears squeeze between Hope’s closed eyelids and her little chubby feet wiggle every which way. Her pink, gummy mouth is open wide, and you can just begin to see specks of white where her teeth are coming in.

Her crib is littered with evidence of my attempts to get her to please stop crying—a discarded teething ring, a mostly-full bottle, and this freakish, neon green, stuffed monster with huge eyes that my mom swore Hope liked when she first gave it to her, though I have no idea how she could tell that.

I pick up Hope and try massaging her gums with a damp washcloth like they say to do on all the baby websites. I bounce her on my hip and walk her around my room, trying to murmur soothing, shhhh-ing sounds. I even rub her head, as gently as my clunky, goal-blocking hands can manage. But nothing works. The screams work their way inside me, rattling my blood cells.

Yes, I changed her diaper. I even brought her to the doctor last week to make sure nothing’s actually wrong with her, some leftover sickness from Meg or something. There’s not.

Ever since Hope was born six months ago, I’ve been learning on the fly, getting used to the diapers and bottles and sleeping when she sleeps. I spend all of my free time reading mommy-ing websites, finding out which stores have the right kind of wipes, and shopping at the secondhand store for baby clothes, because they’re basically just as good as new and Hope grows out of everything so fast anyway.

Hope’s never fully warmed to me. She always cries more when I hold her than when my mom does—but it’s never been this bad. This teething stuff is no joke. According to the Internet, anyway. It’s not like Hope’s giving me a dissertation on what she’s feeling. Whenever I get anywhere near her, she screams her head off. Which means no matter how hard I try or how many books I read or websites I scour, I’m still doing something wrong. But what else is new?

Lately I’ve had this idea that I can’t seem to shake.

What if I’m missing some crucial dad-gene because I never had one of my own? What if I’m literally incapable of being a father to this baby because I have zero concept of what a father really is? Like beyond a definition or what you see of your friends’ families and on TV.

I have no idea what that relationship’s supposed to be like. I’ve never lived it.

And inevitably that thought leads to this one:

Maybe finding my dad, Michael, is the key to all of this making some sense. Maybe if I tracked him down, I’d finally be clued in to what I’ve been missing. The real stuff. How you’re supposed to talk to each other. What the, I don’t know, energy is like between a father and a son. Not that I’m into cosmic energy bullshit or anything.

If I could be the son in that interaction, even once, for a single conversation, that could jumpstart my being a father. Right? At least I’d have some frame of reference, some experience.

But that would require getting more info about Michael from my mom. And I’ve already thrown enough curveballs her way to last a lifetime.

The music blasting from Mom’s home office shuts off. Five o’clock exactly, like always nowadays. She loves her job making custom, handmade wedding invitations for rich people. Before Hope, Mom would work all hours of the day and night. But it turns out babies costa shitload of money, and despite how well Mom’s business is doing, it’s not enough. So the new arrangement is that during the day Mom gets to turn her music on and her grandma duties off while I take care of Hope. Then Mom takes over when I leave for work at 5:30.

In a few days that schedule’s going to change, and I don’t know what the hell we’re going to do. That’s another topic I haven’t brought up with Mom. She keeps saying we need to talk about our plan for “when school starts up again,” like she’s forgotten that soccer practice starts sooner than that. Like it doesn’t matter anymore or something.

But I can’t not play. Soccer is the one thing I kick ass at. It’s the whole reason I’m going back to school this fall instead of sticking with homeschooling, which I did for the last few months of last year after Hope was born. Fall is soccer season. I need to go to school in order to play on the team. And I need to play on the team because I’m going to UCLA on an athletic scholarship next year. It’s pretty much a done deal. I’ve even spoken to their head coach a few times this summer. He called me on July first, the first day he was allowed to contact me according to NCAA rules. He’s seen my game film, tracked my stats, and is sending a recruiter to watch one of my games in person. He wants me on his team. This is what I’ve been working toward my whole life. So Mom’s delusional if she thinks I’m giving it up.

I wipe the tears from Hope’s face and the drool from around her mouth. Her soft, unruly, dark hair tickles my hand as I set her down in her crib. She’s still crying. She grasps onto my finger, holding on extra tight, like she’s saying, “Do something, man. This shit is painful!”

“I’m trying,” I mumble.

I meet Mom in her office, where she’s sitting on the floor, attempting to organize her materials. Stacks of paper and calligraphy pens are scattered among plastic bags filled with real leaves from the trees in our yard. Three hot glue guns are plugged into the wall, and photos of the Happy Couple glide across Mom’s laptop screen.

“Hippie wedding in California?” I guess, nodding at the leaves. The people who hire Mom to make one-of-a-kind invitations always want a design that relates who they are. Mom and I started this game years ago. She tells me what materials she’s using, and I try to guess what kind of people the Happy Couple are. I’m usually pretty good.

Mom shakes her head. “Hikers in Boulder.”

Or I was pretty good. Now everything is so turned around that I can barely think.

“That was my next guess,” I say.

Mom smiles. She’s been so great about everything. She’s not even pissed about me making her a thirty-five-year-old grandmother. She says that she, better than anyone, gets how these things happen. But this is not your typical “oops, got pregnant in high school, what do we do now?” scenario, like what happened to her. This is the much more rare “oops, I killed the love of my life by getting her pregnant in high school, and ruined my life and the lives of all her family and friends in the process” situation.

And deep down, I know Mom knows that. Mom’s green eyes used to sparkle. They don’t anymore. It’s not because of the baby—she loves that kid to an almost ridiculous level. It’s because of me. She’s sad for me. Even though the name “Meg” is strictly off-limits in our house, I can almost see the M and E and G floating around in my mom’s eyes like alphabet soup, like she’s been bottling up everything she’s wanted to say for the past six months and it is about to overflow. I need to get out of here.

“So, I’m out,” I say quickly, clipping my Whole Foods nametag to my hoodie. “Be home at ten-fifteen.”

Mom sighs. “Okay, Ry. Have fun. Love you.”

“Love you too,” I call back as I head to the front door.

She always says that when I leave to go somewhere. Have fun. She’s been saying it for years. Doesn’t matter if I’m going to school or work or soccer practice or a freaking pediatrician’s appointment with Hope. Have fun. Like having fun is the most important thing you can do. Like you can possibly have fun when you’re such a fucking mess.


I’m restocking the organic taco shells in the Mexican and Asian Foods aisle, trying to block out the Celine Dion song that’s playing over the PA system, when I notice a kid, no older than six or seven, climbing the shelves at the opposite end of the aisle. His feet are two levels off the ground, and he’s holding onto a shelf above him, trying to raise himself up another level.

“Hey,” I call down the aisle. “Don’t do that.”

“It’s okay. I do it all the time,” he says, successfully pulling himself up another foot. He lets go with one hand and stretches toward something on the top shelf.

“Wait.” I start to move toward him. “I’ll get whatever you need. Just get down.”

But there’s a determined set to his jaw and he keeps reaching higher, the tips of his fingers brushing a bag of tortilla chips. I keep walking toward him, but I slow down a little. He really wants to do this on his own, you can tell. I’m a few feet away, and he’s almost got a grab on the bag, when his one-handed grip on the shelf slips and his Crocs lose their foothold. Suddenly he’s falling backward, nothing but air between the back of his head and the hard tile floor. I move faster than I would have thought possible, given how tired I am. I shoot my arms under his armpits and catch the boy just before he hits the ground.

The kid rights himself, plants his feet safely on the floor, and looks at me. My heart is beating way too fast, but I tell it to chill the fuck out. The kid is fine. Crisis averted.

“Thanks,” he mumbles.

“No problem.”

He ducks his head and starts to walk away.

“Hey,” I call out.

He stops.

I grab a bag of chips off the top shelf—funny how easy it is for me to reach; sometimes I still feel like a little kid who the world is too big for—and hand it to him.

He takes it, no thank you this time, and disappears around the corner.

I’m dragging my feet back to the taco shells, back to the monotony, when there’s a voice behind me.

“Why, Ryden Brooks, as I live and breathe.”

My spine stiffens. I haven’t heard that voice since before I left school in February. I turn and find myself face to face with Shoshanna Harvey. Her soft, Southern Belle accent comes complete with a delicate hand to the chest and a batting of long, thick lashes. I fell for that whole act once. Before I found out about a little thing called real life.

Apparently today is weird-shit-happening at Whole Foods day. I saw her in the store once about a month ago, but ducked down a different aisle before she saw me. This time, I’m not so lucky. “You do know we live in New Hampshire, not Mississippi, right?”

Shoshanna just purses her lips and studies me. “How are things, Ryden?”

“Things are great, Shoshanna. Really, just super.”

“Really?” Her eyes are bright. Clearly, she’s never heard of sarcasm. “That’s so great to hear. We’ve been worried about you, you know.”

“We? Who’s we?” You never know with Shoshanna—she could be talking about her family or she could be talking about the whole damn school.

Just then another familiar voice carries down the aisle. “Hey, Sho, how do you know when a cantaloupe is ripe?” It’s Dave. His hands are placed dramatically on his hips and he’s got three melons under his shirt—two representing boobs and one that I’m pretty sure is supposed to be a pregnant woman’s belly. A flash of rage burns through me but I smother it deep inside me where all my unwelcome emotions reside. It’s getting pretty crowded in there.

“Dave,” Shoshanna hisses, her eyes growing as-wide-as-possible in that thing people do when they’re trying to get someone to take a hint without saying the actual words.

He follows Shoshanna’s nod toward me and drops the doofy grin. “Oh. Hey, Ryden.” He relaxes his stance and the cantaloupes fall to the floor.

I look back and forth between Shoshanna and Dave, and it all clicks. They’re the “we.” My ex-girlfriend and my former best friend are together. That kind of thing used to require at least a “Hey, man. Cool with you if I ask out Shoshanna?” text, but I guess we left the bro code behind right around the time my girlfriend up and died and I became a seventeen-year-old single father. Yeah, Dave and I don’t exactly have much in common anymore.

“You work here?” Dave asks.

“Nah, I just like helping restock supermarket shelves in my free time.”

“Oh. I thought…” Dave looks at my Whole Foods nametag, confused.

“He was kidding, Dave,” Shoshanna whispers.

Ah, look at that. Sarcasm isn’t completely lost on her after all.

“Oh. Right. We’re, uh, just getting some food for the senior picnic tomorrow down at the lake. You coming?”

I stare in Dave’s general direction, unthinking, unseeing. I forgot all about the picnic, even though it’s been a Downey High School tradition for pretty much ever.

Dave keeps talking. “Coach said you’re coming back to school in September. You are, right? We really need you on the te—”

“Hey, Ryden, can you help me with a cleanup in dairy?” a female voice asks, cutting him off. “Some asshole kids decided to play hacky sack with a carton of eggs.”

I blink a few times, push the picnic out of my mind, and look down to find what used to be a box of blue corn taco shells crumpled in my hands. Oops.

The source of the voice is a girl with short, medium brown hair that is juuust long enough to fall in her eyes, skin just a shade or two lighter than her hair, earrings stuck in weird places in her ears, and tie-dyed overalls over a black tank top. She looks like she works in a Whole Foods. Definitely a lesbian.

“Uh, yeah. Sure,” I say. I turn back to Shoshanna and Dave, glad to have an excuse to bail on this happy little reunion. “Gotta go.”

“Bye, Ryden!” Shoshanna’s voice travels down the aisle after me.

“Yeah, see ya tomorrow, Ry.”

I shake my head to myself as I follow tie-dye girl to dairy. Good thing that wasn’t awkward or anything.

Once we’re out of sight of the Mexican and Asian aisle, tie-dye girl stops walking and spins on her heel. “Right, so…” she says as I screech to a halt behind her. “There’s no cleanup in dairy.”

“Huh?” That’s all I got. I’m so tired.

“Sorry, it just looked like you were having a moment there. Thought you might need a little help with your getaway.”

I lean back against a display of recycled paper towels. They’re soft. I could totally curl up right here on the floor and use one of the rolls as a pillow.

“Thanks,” I say. “How did you know my name?”

She points to my nametag.

“Right” I say. “Where’s yours? Or do you not even work here?”

She pulls the top of her overalls to the side to reveal a nametag pinned to her tank top. Joni. “I’m new. Started the day before yesterday and already blew my first week’s paycheck on ungodly amounts of pomegranate-flavored soda. That stuff is like crack.”

I smile for the first time in centuries. “Nice to meet you, Joni,” I say.

“I saw you catch that kid,” she says.


“That was cool.”

I shrug. “I guess.” There’s an awkward pause, like she’s waiting for me to say something else. “Well, see ya,” I mumble and book it out of there as fast as I can.

“Nice to meet you too, Ryden,” Joni calls after me.

Rafflecopter Giveaway

3 signed copies of What You Left Behind & 3 signed bookmarks

Open 08/04 – 08/18

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Back to School Round-Up Spotlight Tour

Back to School Round-Up


9781492609988-PRThe Very Best Teacher!

By Ye Shil Kim

Illustrated by Miku Moriuchi

Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

June 30, 2015



Book Info:


Ten little mice search for the perfect gift to give their teacher!


Tomorrow is Ms. Tulip’s birthday and a celebration is in order! But how will her ten students decide on the right present? Luckily ten minds are better than one when choosing the ideal gift for the very best teacher.


Amazon | B&N | BAM | !ndigo | IndieBound


About the Author:


Ye Shil Kim is the author of numerous picture books in Korea. She works as an illustrator agent for EenArt in Korea.


About the Illustrator:


MIKU MORIUCHI graduated with a BA in illustration from the Norwich School of Art and Design, and an MA in illustration from Brighton University. She has illustrated 21 picture books, and lives in London.



9781402297458-PR-2Off to School!

Created by the Sesame Workshop

Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

July 7, 2015




Book Info:

Tomorrow is a very exciting day–it’s Elmo’s first day of school! And Elmo needs your help to get ready. Let’s go off to school!

Amazon | B&N | BAM |!ndigoIndieBound


Smart Start Series

By: Ellen Honeck, Ph.D, Nancy B. Hertzog, Ph.D, and Barbara Dullagan, M.Ed.

Prufrock Press

August 1, 2015

Series Info:


The Smart Start series fosters engaging conversations for parents and their children through the use of interactive questioning. Images in these books convey children in realistic and familiar stages of play, and each image’s corresponding questions prompt children to think at critical, creative, and mathematical levels about their everyday surroundings and activities. The open-ended questions stimulate curiousity and invigorate conversations between parents and children. The books in this series highligh the vast world of a child’s imagination and encourage children to think deeply about the objects and situatious they’re faced with every day.


9781618214492Around My House!

The first book in the Smart Start series for pre-readers fosters engaging conversations for parents and children through the use of interactive questioning. Images in this book convey realistic and familiar settings around the house: in the kitchen, the playroom, the bedroom, the garage, and more.

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9781618214508Let’s Play!

The second book in the Smart Start series. Images in this book convey children in stages of play, and each image’s corresponding questions prompt children to think at critical, creative, and mathmatical levels about their everyday surrounding and activities.

Amazon|  B&N |  BAM


9781618214515Let’s Go to the Market!

The third book in the Smart Start series. Images in this book convey chidren and parents in a familiar shared experience: going to and exploring the market. 

Amazon | B&N | BAM


About the Authors:

Ellen Honeck, Ph.D., is Dean of Gifted and Talented Academy for Laurel Springs School

Nancy B. Hertzog, Ph.D, is a professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington and the director of the Halbert and Nancy Robinson Center for Young Scholars. She is the author of two books, Ready for Preschool, and Early Childhood Gifted Education.

Barbara Dullaghan, M.Ed., is currently Elementary Gifted and Talented Coordinator for Bloomington Public Schools in Minnesota.

RAFFLECOPTER GIVEAWAY LINK for Back-to-School Prize Pack including all the books featured (Runs July 26-August 28th):



The Escape by Hannah Jayne Book Spotlight with Giveaway

cover59545-mediumThe Escape

Hannah Jayne

July 7, 2015: ISBN: 9781492616542

Book Information

Title: The Escape

Author: Hannah Jayne

Release Date: July 7, 2015

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire


Not everyone who goes into the woods comes out…

It was supposed to be a short hike, a way for Fletcher and Adam to kill time one boring afternoon. But when day turns into night and neither boy returns home, their town is thrown into turmoil.

Search teams comb through the forest. Then Avery, the police chief’s daughter, stumbles on a body. It’s Fletcher- disoriented, beaten, and covered in blood. He has no memory of the incident, and worse yet, he has no idea what happened to the still missing Adam…

As danger and suspicion grow, one thing becomes very clear. No one can escape the truth.

Goodreads Link:

Buy Links:


Barnes & Noble-

Books a Million-




About the Author:

Hannah Jayne is possibly the only person living in Silicon Valley who has never worked in high tech. When she’s not writing, she’s obsessively watching HGTV or shopping at Target…also obsessively. Find out more about Hannah’s urban fantasy, young adult thrillers, and latest obsessions at


Social Networking Links




Excerpt from THE ESCAPE by Hannah Jayne:

“Hello?” she called out. “This is Avery Templeton with Search Team Five. Hello?”

The silence was complete, except for the steady thump of Avery’s heart. She took a step forward and slid on the loose earth, tumbling forward onto her hands and knees. Rocks tore skin and the knees of her jeans as she slid. When she stopped- eight, ten feet at the most- she was breathing heavily, her mind reeling. She did a quick assessment for damage. Other than the sting on her palms, nothing hurt.

So why was there blood on her hands?

She brought her hands towards her face and grimaced as the streaks of rust-colored blood-congealed, dirt stained-that covered her palms.

She wasn’t bleeding.

This wasn’t her blood.

It was then that she heard the slow gurgle, the sparse intake of breath followed by a low, throaty whisper. “Avery, you have to help me.”

Avery stared at the figure lying in front of her, allowing her eyes to adjust to the dim light.


The word came out in a desperate hiss, and he clasped a muddy, blood-caked hand around her wrist, his grip limp, his fingers trembling.

She gasped. “Fletcher?”


Rafflecopter Giveaway: Hannah Jayne Book Pack including all of Hannah’s Backlist from Sourcebooks (Runs July 1-31st) U.S. and Canada only: