Spotlight & Excerpt: The Half-Orphan’s Handbook + Giveaway

TheHalf Orphan Handbook Tour

The Half-Orphan’s Handbook
by Joan F. Smith
Published by: Imprint/Macmillan
Publication date: April 6th 2021
Genres: Coming of Age, Contemporary, Young Adult

For fans of John Green and Emily X.R. Pan, The Half-Orphan’s Handbook by Joan F. Smith is a coming-of-age story and an empathetic, authentic exploration of grief with a sharp sense of humor and a big heart.

It’s been three months since Lila lost her father to suicide. Since then, she’s learned to protect herself from pain by following two unbreakable rules:

1. The only people who can truly hurt you are the ones you love. Therefore, love no one.

2. Stay away from liars. Liars are the worst.

But when Lila’s mother sends her to a summer-long grief camp, it’s suddenly harder for Lila to follow these rules. Potential new friends and an unexpected crush threaten to drag her back into life for the first time since her dad’s death.

On top of everything, there’s more about what happened that Lila doesn’t know, and facing the truth about her family will be the hardest part of learning how a broken heart can love again.

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Excerpt:

I opened the door. “Hi?”
“Hi,” the woman said. “I’m Mari. Lead counselor.” She had a medium-brown complexion and pale green eyes. I’d never seen legs so long in my life. They stuck out of a pair of cutoff jean shorts. Her smile revealed a row of crooked bottom teeth.
I forced a smile back. “I’m just dropping off my brother.” “Really?” Mari hugged a clipboard to her chest and adjusted a beaded bracelet on her wrist. I started to pull the door closed but stopped when she spoke. “That’s not what Sammy says.”
Traitor. I narrowed my eyes at Sammy, who beamed. I swallowed. “Uh. Right. I—”
Mari gestured toward the clipboard she held. “I can give you a sec.”
I glanced at Mom, and her expression was so goddamn hopeful that I almost relented. She unbuckled her seat belt and used her knee to nudge open her door. “You can heal here, Lila.”
The tips of my ears burned. Heal? Like how counseling healed Dad?
“Honey . . . your dad would want this.”
Would he, now? Oh, well, in that case. I couldn’t stand any part of this. I couldn’t fathom the ride home with her, or entering our ridiculous house without our ridiculous father. I glanced out the window, where Sammy waited, and finished pulling the door closed with a sharp click. I didn’t want him to hear some bogus explanation about what our father would want. I steeled myself. “Jesus Christ, Mom. I’m not some knee scrape you can put Neosporin on—”
“Honey—”
“I don’t need to be healed.” “We all do, sweetie. We do—” “Stop it. Please. Just stop.” “You don’t need to be scared.”
“God, Mom, do you ever stop? No wonder he left us.” The second the words left my mouth, I couldn’t believe I’d said them. I wanted to snatch them from the air between us. “Mom. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean it.”
Her mouth rolled into itself, and she gripped the steering wheel so hard her arms shook. I watched her knuckles drain of color. “I know you didn’t mean that. But that . . . you . . . Not cool, Lila. Not cool.”
“I don’t even know why I said it. I’m sorry.” Guilt rained over me, soaking my hair and settling into my toes.
“I forgive you,” she said, her tone making it very clear that she more than likely did not. At least not yet.

 

Author Bio:

Joan F. Smith lives with her family in Massachusetts, where she works as an associate dean, a creative writing professor, and a dance instructor. She received her MFA in creative writing from Emerson College, and has written articles for The Washington Post and Thought Catalog on destigmatizing discussions around mental health and suicide prevention. The Half-Orphan’s Handbook is her debut novel.

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Spotlight & Excerpt: Unwritten + Giveaway

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Unwritten
by Alicia J. Novo
Publication date: May 8th 2021
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

Books whisper to Beatrix Alba. But they aren’t the reason she has never fit in. Bullied at home and school, she keeps a secret—a power of violence and darkness.

When the spell that keeps her hidden fails, she’s catapulted into the Zweeshen, a realm where all tales live, and her dream of meeting her favorite characters comes true. But wishes are tricky, and behind its wonder and whimsy, the Zweeshen is under attack. A character is burning bookworlds in pursuit of a weapon to rule both stories and storytellers. To succeed, he needs a riddle in Beatrix’s possession.

Now he’s hunting her down.

Joining forces with William, a cursed conjurer, Beatrix must face an enemy who knows her every weakness in a realm where witches play with time, Egyptian gods roam, and Regency heroines lead covert operations. And with her darkness as the only weapon, she may have to sacrifice everything to save a world that rejects her.

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Excerpt:

The Test of Character

“Not Truth. Not Control,” the disembodied voice from earlier said, returning Beatrix to the hallway. The window had darkened, and she felt the trace of water on her skin. She dried her face with the back of her hand. So that’s how it worked. No, control wasn’t her motivation; that much was certain. Truth? She wished for it. But she had too many secrets for truth to be her guiding force.
The next story was tougher. When the sultry beauty smiled at the detective, Beatrix struggled not to warn him about her future betrayal. She was all glamour and jeweled charm; he, all shadows and jaded humor. His office stank of alcohol and stale cigarette smoke. One hung from his lips, his sardonic smile a poor cover to hide all the hurt inside him. But he needed this.
“Not Cunning. Not Sacrifice,” said the voice, and it startled Beatrix back to the test and the windows.
Other choices were easier. The young magician tempted by the secrets of darkness and the spells that rose the dead. His hunger made the Furie thrum but frightened her at the same time. She didn’t struggle as much allowing him his mistakes, and when the door faded, she felt no regret.
“Not Power. Not Ambition.”
There was a story she would have loved to share in. Not to change, but to snatch the handsome protagonist for herself. What would that mean to the heroine, though? And would the guy be faithless enough to transfer his affections? Beatrix doubted she’d want someone who would.
Some were heartbreaking, and she set one foot past the threshold before stopping herself, undecided. Especially when a single hit from her Furie would have decimated a killer that had gone on a rampage. Or a well-placed insult would have brought down a bully after a kid twice his size.
“Not Self-interest. Not Strength.”
“Not Independence.”
“Not Justice.”
At some point, it all began to blur—the decisions, overwhelming.
“Not Passion. Not Adventure,” the voice droned.
“What? Wait, that one moved too fast.” But Beatrix already faced the next window.
“Not Beauty. Not Perfection.”
“Not Recognition.”
“Not Status.”
By now, her mind floated and her body swirled with emotions, with shared experience and too much adrenaline. How could she choose one story when they all meant so much? She no longer knew what was right. What felt real. What belonged to her and what she could live with. What you take, you keep.
The next book she couldn’t identify, and she stepped forward, eager for a closer look. The glass was smeared and dirty, so Beatrix wiped it with her cuff. It remained stubbornly opaque, and even with her eyes pressed to it, she distinguished but a blurred silhouette. Then from the other side, a hand matched hers against the glass. “Help me.”

 

Author Bio:

Alicia has a weak spot for happy endings and transformative journeys. She spent her teenage years
in Argentina and Europe, speaks several languages and loves to travel.

An eclectic reader, she grew up on a diet ranging from Lucy M. Montgomery and Jane Austen to Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Raymond Chandler, Hermann Hesse, Jorge Luis Borges, and many classics. She’s never been cured of reading a bit of everything and is as likely to geek out about Mr. Darcy as Dr. Who.

She is a history and astronomy aficionado, who walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain, completed her Masters in the Netherlands and worked for Google in Ireland. She decided to become a writer at six but took a full, winding road here. Along the way, she learned if there’s one thing that cuts across cultures, one unifying thread that pulls everyone together, it’s a good story.

A big-city girl, she now lives in the Midwest, where she occasionally picks apples and pretends witches exist.

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Spotlight & Excerpt: Dare + Giveaway

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Dare
by Christina Bauer
(Pixieland Diaries #3)
Publication date: March 30th 2021
Genres: Paranormal, Romance, Young Adult

What happens when a pixie outcast seizes the throne of Faerie… while her beloved elf prince becomes a wanted criminal?

Sassy pixie Calla loves the prankster life, even if it does make her an outcast among other fae. But everything changes when Calla’s magic erases an evil blight destroying the Faerie realm. That’s when the pariah pixie becomes something unexpected: a Fae Queen.

Yet no sooner does Calla take the crown than a new and unstoppable plague appears. Things get even worse when Calla’s longtime crush, the elf Prince ‘Dare’ Darius, appears to have masterminded the outbreak before fleeing to the mountains. According to the Faerie elders, there’s only one way to end this disease…

Calla must hunt down Dare and destroy him.

Yeah. Like that will ever happen.

Instead of killing anyone, Calla vows to cure the plague while proving Dare’s innocence. And if she must pull a few mega-pranks to make it all happen? Not a problem. Even so, the path ahead is still fraught with trouble. Secret enemies scheme to manipulate the outbreak—as well as Calla’s feelings for Dare—in order to bring our favorite prankster down, once and for all.

Pixieland Diaries Series
1. Pixieland Diaries
2. Calla
3. Dare
4. Winter Prince
5. Ley Queen

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Excerpt:

Day 95

Dear Diary,

This morning, I wake up with a plan. Brace for the drumroll…

Ba ba ba ba ba BAAAAAAA!

And here it is…

Now that I’m Queen of the Summer Fae, I shall flush some seriously crappy stuff out of my realm. And because this diary will surely become a major historical document, I will list the two poopy things in question.

My Massive, Idealistic, And Yet Totally Achievable Goals As Queen

One. Free the human changelings who are trapped in Faerie.

Two. Make the Elven High Council accept all fae as co-rulers, not just those of the snooty and pointy-eared variety.

Together, I call this my Changeling-Council Plan. These two things have been my main obsession for years, so long as you don’t count Prince Dare.

Which brings me to the present moment. I lie curled under the covers in my royal bedroom (which is totally pink and cute) and consider my next move. There are lots of folks I should consult about my Changeling-Council Plan. But there’s only one person who never-not-once questioned that I’d eventually kick the council’s butt and redefine changeling-hood.

Prince Dare.

Keeping a diary means being brutally honest. Here goes. There’s a secret goal on my previous list of queenly stuff.

Three. Dare

I don’t have anything more specific at this point. What can I say? I’m only sixteen.
But I do know what I need from Dare in terms of my Changeling-Council Plan. After all, the guy grew up in the winter court. Talk about knowing how to get stuff done. And the fact that Dare lives half-way across Faerie isn’t a problem, either. The prince and I have a secret way of contacting each other that’s worked since we were kids: we appear to one another as ghosts.

So it should be easy to talk to Dare and chat about my Changeling-Council Plan.

It isn’t, though.

There are two big issues in my way this morning. To begin with, I’ve got a supernatural and tickly feeling crawling up my back. And when I say ethereal tickles, you think impending doom. The last time I got this sensation, the Fartburger Trolls launched a surprise attack on Pixieland. I stopped them with a prank, but it was still a close call.

The second issue is far more serious. I cannot, not, NOT be the first one to ghost-call the prince.
Why? Last night, Dare and I went on a sleigh ride and totally smooched. Although it was my first kiss, I know the rules. Dare must begin contact with moi, not the other way around.

So instead of getting ghosty, I shall spend my morning drawing something that is completely unrelated to Dare.

Like a tree.

Author Bio:

Christina Bauer thinks that fantasy books are like bacon: they just make life better. All of which is why she writes romance novels that feature demons, dragons, wizards, witches, elves, elementals, and a bunch of random stuff that she brainstorms while riding the Boston T. Oh, and she includes lots of humor and kick-ass chicks, too.

Christina graduated from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School with BA’s in English along with Television, Radio, and Film Production. She lives in Newton, MA with her husband, son, and semi-insane golden retriever, Ruby.

Be the first to know about new releases from Christina by signing up for her newsletter: http://tinyurl.com/CBupdates

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