Tuesday, June 28, 2011

29 In Stores This Week (with Interviews & Giveaways) Part 2

Are you prepared for another handful of tantilizing reads? We've got them just for you. Read on for author interviews, as well. And don't forget to enter our giveaway all the way down at the bottom. Did you miss yesterday? You'll want to go back and see what else is in stores this week and enter our giveaway for a second time!

This Week's Interviews

Torn by Erika O'Rourke
  • From Goodreads: Everyone has secrets. Even best friends. Mo Fitzgerald knows about secrets. But when she witnesses her best friend’s murder, she discovers Verity was hiding things she never could have guessed. To find the answers she needs and the vengeance she craves, Mo—quiet, ordinary, unmagical Mo—will have to enter a world of raw magic and shifting alliances. And she’ll have to choose between two very different, equally dangerous guys—protective, duty-bound Colin and brash, mysterious Luc. One wants to save her, one wants to claim her. Which would you choose?
How long did you work on this book?
From first sentence to polished final draft took me about three years. In the middle of that, however, I took a year off while pregnant with my youngest daughter. Nothing kills inspiration like 24-hour morning sickness and the exhaustion that accompanies a newborn.

How was your journey to publication? Long, short, how many rejections?
Once I started querying in earnest, it was a pretty short turnaround. I don’t know the exact number of rejections, but probably around fifteen. But the thing to keep in mind is that I didn’t follow the traditional “query-agent-sub-offer” route to publication. I was a finalist in Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart Contest, and one of my final-round judges asked to see the full manuscript. Six weeks later, she called with an offer of publication. It put me in the delightful position of emailing agents and saying, “I have an offer of publication on the table. Would you like to see the manuscript?” It’s a vastly more pleasant way to go about the querying/publishing process, but also fairly uncommon.

After my agent negotiated the deal -- as launch author for Kensington’s new K Teen line -- things sped up even more, as my pub date was moved up nine months. My first book, Torn, will debut at the RWA National Convention in New York, almost exactly a year since I received “the call” from my editor. So the process has been very, very fast. In fact, I still have trouble believing it, sometimes.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?
Work on your craft. I firmly believe good authors never stop learning, never stop honing their skills, never become complacent. There’s always something that can be improved: take classes, read books about writing, allow people you trust to critique your work. Agents and editors aren’t kidding when they say good writing trumps everything else, and the only way to get to that level of skill is to work at it.

What has surprised you most about becoming a published author?
How much behind-the-scenes work goes on! It’s not just my work, either but the effort that my agent and editor and their respective teams have put into this project. It’s a far more massive undertaking than I realized, and a very collaborative one. My name goes on the cover, but the credit really belongs to a large group of people who have been incredibly generous with their time and energy.

Also, I still get queasy every time I have to autograph one of my own books. I should probably work on that, huh?

From Willa, With Love by Coleen Murtagh Paratore
  • From Goodreads: It's a surprising, sparkling summer for Willa! It's August on Cape Cod and Willa has a lot to look forward to. Soon, JFK will return home from baseball camp, and Willa has an idea for an exciting new project that will challenge her to dream big! But life throws Willa some unexpected twists and turns: Ruby has bad news, a beloved friend leaves, a dear friend returns, her brother Will has something he does't want to talk about, and of course, there's a wedding to plan! There's also a cute boy who likes Willa . . . a lot, and Willa thinks she might like him too. It's a summer full of romance and surprises!
How long did you work on this book?
I wrote the first draft of From Willa, With Love, in twelve days, February 8-19, 2010. My process as a writer is to show up on the page when I'm passionately excited to begin writing -- firefly ideas spark, spark, sparking -- I've got my main character and I know what she/he wants more than anything in the world -- and I'm off in a flurry. It's sort of like being pregnant and the due date is drawing near and inside you're getting ready with ideas/thoughts/feelings and then, NOW, that baby's ready to come. That's when I know it's time to hunker in and write. I go in to "cave mode" and block out as much of the world as possible so that I can become completely absorbed in the story.

Also, as I've been writing about Willa Havisham since 2003 (the first "Willa book," The Wedding Planner's Daughter, debuted in 2005; From Willa, With Love, is the now the 6th book in the ongoing story of her life), Willa is constantly in my mind and heart. I could write her forever. She's the teenage daughter I never had (I am the lucky mother of three sons, Chris, 21, Connor, 18, and Dylan, 16 :)).

When I start a new Willa book, I read the last one in the series, feel where she is right now, what's on her mind, what's in her heart, and when she starts talking, I start writing.

How was your journey to publication? Long, short, how many rejections?
I broke into this field in 2002 with a contract from Simon & Schuster for a picture book, How Prudence Proovit Proved the Truth about Fairy Tales. This after nearly two years of working it, working it, working it, writing loads of stories, submitting constantly, receiving 179 rejections. This was my training time. That first book came out Summer 2004. In this, the summer of 2012, my 15th book debuts. 15 books in 7 years, it's been a baptism by fire, for sure, and I've learned a tremendous amount.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?
Best advice? Write when the fireflies spark inside you -- that is, write when you are excited about a new idea -- there's great energy in those moments. Stop, drop, and write wherever you are. Write what you are hearing in your head, as fast as you can, without worrying or editing or second-guessing. Catch those firefly ideas on paper quickly. If you wait, those sparks might fly away, just like fireflies.

What has surprised you most about becoming a published author?
What has surprised me most? Wow... good question....hmmmm.....how generous and loving and supportive my fans are...their letters and emails humble me and bring me to tears and motivate me to write the next book, the best book of which I am capable, because they deserve no less than that. And....still, for me, the best part about all of this is the joy I find in writing. I am happiest when I am writing.

Pretty Bad Things by C.J. Skuse
  • From Goodreads: Paisley and Beau are boldface names again. Last time, paparazzi called them the "Wonder Twins," two kids found alone but alive in the woods of exotic New Jersey. Three days after their mom's death -- and before their dad's criminal misdeeds. Flash-forward to now: Their so-called lives? Suck out loud: Hating on their cougarized, Botoxic grandma, they're totally clueless about the location of ex-con Daddy. Till they discover a stash of old letters. That's when they decide to jack the Pontiac and hit the road. Holding up donut shops in Sin City might seem extreme, but if they can just get their pretty bad faces back on TV -- or TMZ -- they might wrap up their whole gaga saga with an Oprah-worthy reunion already!
How long did you work on this book?
Pretty Bad Things is the result of conjoining two short stories I wrote during a BA in Creative Writing. One of the short stories was about six-year-old twins who ran away from home (ala Hansel and Gretel) and the other was about a teenage Bonnie and Clyde caught up in a motel room shoot out. Neither story had a definitive beginning nor ending, so for my MA in Writing for Young People, I put the two together so that one grew up to be the other. Around eighteen months after the original kernel of an idea, I had a finished manuscript, or at least, one I was happy for the world to see.

How was your journey to publication? Long, short, how many rejections?
I started writing my first novel when I was around sixteen/seventeen and for about eight years I was sending it back and forth to agents, because I was told you had to have an agent to get anywhere. Fifty agent rejections later, I realised that perhaps it wasn’t just about finding the right agent that would get me published, it was about improving my writing. It was then a case of Googling degree courses in Writing for Children and that took me to Bath Spa University where I did my BA and MA to hone my skills. All in all, my journey to publication has been about a decade, give or take.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?
Personally, I think if you have a basic talent but lack the skill to see the problems in your own work, I would seriously consider investing in a reputable degree course in creative writing. I wouldn’t bean author without doing my BA and MA, I can say that with some certainty. The feedback I received and the contacts I made on those courses were worth their weight in gold and made me a much better writer than I thought I could ever be. I really think if anyone is serious about wanting to become a published author but just can’t catch a break, they should consider a course like an MA in Creative Writing. If they are willing to listen to the criticism and put in100% effort, there is a very real chance they will get results.

What has surprised you most about becoming a published author?
The biggest surprise for me has been learning that even if you write the best book you can possibly write, there is a probability that it will get swallowed in the already existing sea of other books out there. It’s kind of depressing! I’ve made a rod for my own back really because I probably should be working on some Wimpy Kid or Hunger Games novel right now in order to catch the wave of success these series are having, but I’m not that good a writer - not even in the same league as Suzanne Collins! At the moment it feels like my two tiny books are floating around on this vast ocean of literary giants and award winners and popular titles and I’m always amazed when anyone I don’t know emails or tweets me to say they’ve found one of them and read or even enjoyed it. Even if they’ve hated it, I’m just glad it’s reached them somehow! Plus I’ve learned that there are only so many subjects I’m interested in writing about. I like quite shocking topics and I always strive to be as original as possible or else I get very bored very quickly. I’ve also discovered this with reading too. Frustratingly and probably quite arrogantly too, there are very few books that hold my interest for long!

The Ascension: A Super Human Clash by Michael Carroll
  • From Goodreads: They'd done it. Not only had Roz, Abby, Lance, and Thunder survived their first battle with a super villain, they'd defeated him. Krodin was dead, and they had saved the world. Now everything could go back to normal-good old, boring normal. School. Parents.  Friends. But three weeks later, the world suddenly changes. The United States is under martial law, the people are little more than drones, and where Central Park should be there now stands a massive glass-and-steel building, home to the all-powerful Chancellor. In Michael Carroll's follow-up to the acclaimed Super Human, the world has been remade in the Chancellor's image, and it's about to get much much worse. Only this young band of heroes has a chance of stopping him, but can they return the world to what it was, or will they be stranded in this alternate world forever?
How long did you work on this book?
Hmm... let's see... The Ascension is part of the Quantum Prophecy series - it's the fifth novel out of a projected eight - so there are elements of the plot that I began developing back in early 2002, such a long time ago now that I actually had *hair* when I started. Not much, but it was there. You know that sort of forehead-island of hair that balding men get and they do their best to sweep it back in such a way that they like to believe fools others into thinking that they've still got a full head of hair? Well, I had one of those. I must stress that it was *not* a comb-over - that's just undignified - but it was definitely a "yep, he's going bald" situation. And it wasn't that I was in denial about it, I was just making the best of what little I had. I think there's an important lesson in there for everyone. I'm not sure what the lesson *is*, but it's definitely important.

But I digress... The majority of the work on The Ascension began in early 2009, and I wrote the first draft in September of that year. It follows on directly from its predecessor, Super Human, which is the fourth book in the series. Or, from some points of view, the first book... Super Human is a prequel to the first three book, and so is The Ascension, but as it's set *after* Super Human, then it's not *quite* as prequelly. Is "prequelly" a real word? No? Well, it is now - I've invented it. Any future use of the word "prequelly" must at all times be accompanied by a copyright notice, or face the wrath of my lawyers, the well-respected firm of Suem and Bedammed. (That lame joke is also copyright Michael Carroll... Unauthorised users of said joke will face the wrath of my lawyers, the well-respected... Hang on, I think I'm stuck in a loop here!)

I seem to have digressed once more... What was the question again? Oh, right. How long I worked on this book... The first draft came together very quickly, as most first drafts tend to do when the author takes the time beforehand to plot the book in detail, then it went through two major revisions. The first revision was entirely at my own request, before my editor even saw the book: when I'm done with a first draft I set the book aside for a few days and then go through it marking everything that doesn't work, or could be done better. Once the first revision was done, my editor had some notes on tightening up the pacing and clarifying certain plot elements.

Even though I hate it when people tell me that the book isn't perfect, I do my best to keep in mind the simple truth about editing: no writer is good enough to constantly produce work that won't benefit from someone else's input. My editor at Penguin - Kiffin Steurer - is a great supporter of the series, but he's not shy about telling me when something doesn't work (he's right more often than not, but don't let on).

After the final draft, there was the usual copy-editing stage and so forth. In all, the book took about nine months. Kind of... With a multiple-book series such as this, there's always a lot of advanced plotting so who knows how much time each individual book takes? I mean, I've already got the plots for the seventh and eighth books about 70% done (and I've finished the sixth book, due out in summer 2012).

How was your journey to publication? Long, short, how many rejections?
No rejections for this particular book, thankfully. But the series itself took a long time to get up and running... Back in December 2002 I sent the first book to a Big Name Publisher in the UK. Heard nothing back after three months, so I wrote a follow-up letter. Then I sent another letter as a sort of rescue-party to track down the first letter and see what had happened to it. Eventually, after about six months, I received a reply saying that the book had indeed arrived, and someone would be getting back to me very soon. So I waited. And waited. And eventually - following a couple more letters that I believed were going to the publisher but I quickly began to suspect had just run away from home - I gave up.

I figured it was time to find an agent. This proved to be rather trickier than I'd expected... There are some agencies here in Ireland (the country in which I live!), but none of them were interested in taking me on, even though I'd already published a whole bunch of other books by then! So I looked across the water to the UK, and, after being rejected or ignored by twenty-two different agencies (the few who even bothered to return my calls all wanted me to have a deal in place with a publisher before they'd take me on, and weren't impressed when I asked them "Well, in that case why would I need you?"), I found one! Woo-hoo! My agent loved the book, and within days had arranged a meeting with Another Big Name publisher. They pretty much signed me on the spot, which was something of a relief as I thought I might have to fall back on my other career as an elephant-towel salesman (there's not a lot of call for the towelling of elephants here in Ireland, especially not since the Great Irish Elephant Migration of 1984, but of course you don't need *me* to tell you all about that - there's hardly a day goes by when there's not a documentary about it on the History Channel).

The most satisfying twist to the story came a few days later... Yes, *fourteen months* after I submitted my manuscript, a letter arrived from the first Big Name Publisher: "Dear author whose name we can't be bothered to learn, Thank you for sending us your book. It does not suit our needs. Get stuffed. Yours, Ineffective Low-Ranking Minion Masquerading as Someone in The Arts, Big Name Publisher, London."

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?
1. Never stop writing. The only time one fails as a writer is when one quits. So don't stop.

2. Always plan your work in advance. If you plan properly, you're much less likely to get stuck.

3. Finish what you start. Stuck? Well, it's your own fault – either you didn't plan properly, or you deviated from the plan. Get over it and go back to rule #2.

4. Don't talk about your book before it's finished. If you're talking about it, you're not writing. Plus - and this is very important – no one cares about what you're *going* to do, only what you *have* done.

5. Read. And don't be a snob about it - read everything. Don't like a particular genre? Well, read it anyway. You'll learn more from reading books you're not that interested in than from reading your favourites over and over.

6. Grow a thick skin, because you'll need it to cope with rejections. Rejections aren't nice, but, hey, if you received a rejection that means you're automatically way ahead of most writers, because you actually followed rule #3. A thick skin will also help when the reviews come along... Yes, it stings when someone gives your book a nasty review. But it won't kill you - it's just one person's opinion. Remember: reviewers are wrong when they don't like your book, and right when they do like it. Simple as that.

7. Don't write a vampire romance novel. Really. It's been done. I don't care *how* much heart-rending angst you put into it, that odds are that your idea is *not* sufficiently different to the bazillion other vampire romance novels out there to make it stand out. Hmm... And if this thought upsets you, have a look at rule #6, then go back to rule #1.


What has surprised you most about becoming a published author?
Well, I've been in this business a long time now... Eighteen years since my first novel was published, and twelve years since I went full-time, so it was all so long ago now that I can barely remember it. I know I had hair at the time... Wait, we've already been down that road, haven't we?

One thing that was surprising was that I did not become instantly wealthy and famous. I'd led myself to believe that as soon as the book hit the shelves I'd be able to retire on the vast royalties. Turned out that it's not so simple... Y'see, folks, we hear so much about the Harry Potter and Twilight books that it's easy to forget that most writers are *not* millionaires. The fact is, most writers earn less than the minimum wage.

Look at it this way: imagine there's a great big pot of "writing money" that every year is divided up between all the world's writers. 99% of that money goes to 1% of the writers. The rest the money goes to the other 99% of the writers (these figures are for illustrative purposes only, because I made them up - the actual figures are probably way off, like 99.9% of the money going to 0.1% of the writers).

It's not all about the money - not by a long way - but we all need money to live, so why do we do this? Why do we spend so much of our lives making up stories? The answer is simple: "Because we love it. I may never become rich or famous, but I don't care (though given the choice I'd choose the former!). There are books out there with my name on them, and that's cool but it's not nearly as important as the fact that there are stories out there written by me that people are reading and - hopefully - enjoying.

Another mildly-surprising thing was discovering that it wasn't that big a deal to most people. Sure, my friends and family were all very pleased for me when the first book was published, but they got over it a lot sooner than I did! I had imagined - well, hoped - that becoming a published writer would somehow make me much more interesting and important than I had been, but that didn't happen then and hasn't happened yet!

There are some people whose attitude is, "So he wrote a book. Big deal. I could do that. It's only words on a page - how hard can that be?" Annoyingly, in many ways they're right. In cosmic terms, writing a book isn't a major achievement. We're not saving lives or inventing things that make life easier for others, we're telling stories. Fiction. We make up stuff that's not true.

But on a *personal* level... Finishing a book is a tremendously satisfying achievement, equaled only by seeing that book in a book-store for the first time. It's not world-changing, but it's far from trivial. Using only our imaginations as building materials and our story-telling skills as tools, we are able to craft whole new universes that can transport our readers to anywhere we like. We can make them laugh and cry, cheer the heroes and jeer the villains. We can - for a brief time - help them to set aside the real world and all its economic strife, rampant intolerance, endless warfare and cold drizzly rain, and, at the end, hopefully leave them feeling a little better about everything.

The best a writer can hope for is that the reader will get to the end of the book, close it, and think, "Ooh, that was fun! Now, what's for lunch?" For any writer that should be more than enough to make the job worthwhile!

Additional Releases
Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma
  • From Goodreads: Seventeen-year-old Lochan and sixteen-year-old Maya have always felt more like friends than siblings. Together they have stepped in for their alcoholic, wayward mother to take care of their three younger siblings. As defacto parents to the little ones, Lochan and Maya have had to grow up fast. And the stress of their lives—and the way they understand each other so completely—has also also brought them closer than two siblings would ordinarily be. So close, in fact, that they have fallen in love. Their clandestine romance quickly blooms into deep, desperate love. They know their relationship is wrong and cannot possibly continue. And yet, they cannot stop what feels so incredibly right. As the novel careens toward an explosive and shocking finale, only one thing is certain: a love this devastating has no happy ending.

The Rites and Wrongs of Janice Wills by Joanna Pearson
  • From Goodreads: For anyone who's ever survived a rite of passage or performed a mating dance at Prom . . .The Japanese hold a Mogi ceremony for young women coming of age. Latina teenagers get quinceaneras. And Janice Wills of Melva, NC ... has to compete in the Miss Livermush pageant. Janice loves anthropology--the study of human cultures--and her observations help her identify useful rules in the chaotic world of high school. For instance: Dancing is an effective mating ritual--but only if you're good at it; Hot Theatre Guys will never speak to Unremarkable Smart Girls like Janice and her best friend, Margo; and a Beautiful Rich Girl will always win Melva's annual Miss Livermush pageant. But when a Hot Theatre Guy named Jimmy Denton takes an interest in Janice, all her scientific certainties explode. For the first time, she has to be part of the culture that she's always observed; and all the charts in the world can't prove how tough--and how sweet--real participation and a real romance can be.
Giveaways

You can get your hands on some of the great books we've featured here today. Fill out the form below and leave a comment on this post. You'll be enetered to win a copy of FORBIDDEN, THE ASCENCION: A SUPER HUMAN CLASH, THE RITES AND WRONGS OF JANICE WILLIS, and one of two copies of FROM WILLA, WITH LOVE. Erica O'Rourke is offering a copy of TORN, along with a bookmark and a deck of cards that link to a secret scene! Our contest is open to US residents and winners will be announced Thursday!

Happy reading!
The Ladies of ACP

29 comments:

  1. Finally, Forbidden is being released in the U.S.! I've read good reviews about it and it's been on my TBR-list forever.

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  2. Putting two short stories together? I love it. These are great potential reads!

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  3. Super giveaway! So many wonderful talented authors.

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  4. Thanks for the interviews and giveaways! I've been looking forward to all of these.

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  5. So many stacks of books to look at, sometimes I don't know where to start!

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  6. Some fantastic picks, and the covers are all diverse. Love them!

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  7. I am definitely going to have to check out Torn it sounds great. I hope she gets over the queasiness while signing her books soon! :)

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  8. Thanks again for posting inspiring interviews and giving away books! I always look forward to these! :)

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  9. I've heard good things about Torn and Forbidden. Looks like lots of good books are coming out this week!

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  10. Thanks for the round-up and contest! Your blog has such great material. I love reading these author interviews.

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  11. I've been wanting to read Forbidden for so long now. I can't wait to get my very own copy.

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  12. Forbidden looks AMAZING, but Torn has really caught my eye.

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  13. I have always wanted to read both of these books. All of them look amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  14. I am really looking forward to Forbidden. It is certainly a topic that is taboo. I can't wait to see how the author handles the situation. Thank you for pointing out some new great reads!

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  15. As a big fan of book covers, these ones make me very happy! Not only do I love the covers, but all the books sound like something I'd enjoy. I'm particularly excited for Torn and Pretty Bad Things. I enjoy reading about such an eclectic group of authors and learning how they went from writers, to becoming published authors.

    Thanks for another giveaway too!

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  16. LOVE the covers...again! So many books to read.

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  17. Torn sounds great, I'm really hoping to read that one soon. I've heard amazing things about Forbidden, so I'm really looking forward to that one! Great interviews. Thanks for the chance!

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  18. Wow, I can't believe there's even more great books being released this week. I've wanted to read Forbidden for the longest. :)

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  19. looking forward to Torn! and Forbidden sounds great too! =]

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  20. Yes, indeed, writers usually don't even make minimum wage, as Michael Carroll said. But hopefully we love what we do! and then it's worth it (and don't give up the day job).

    Interesting also the concept that CJ mentioned--a published book getting lost in the sea of published books. There ARE a lot of them out there. It's mind-boggling.

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  21. The Ascencion: A Super Human Clash sounds pretty epic. :)

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  22. Victoria ZumbrumJune 28, 2011 at 8:19 PM

    All the books sound really great. I really want to read them all especially Forbidden. Please enter me in contest. Tore923@aol.com

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  23. Thanks for another giveaway! I was actually stopping by to thank you again for Haunting Violet, which I got in the mail today. So exciting! Torn looks really great! I love the cover. Thanks for another chance to win!

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  24. Forbidden and Ascension sound amazing.... Thanks for the fantastic interviews....

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  25. Can't wait for the next Willa and for Rites & Wrongs! Thanks so much!

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  26. Haven't been thrilled about a lot of new releases so far this year, but talk about a fantastic line-up this week! =) Thanks for a fantastic giveaway!

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  27. Wow more great books, I seriously can't keep up!

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  28. I haven't heard of some of these books, but Ascension looks amazing! Thanks for the giveaway!

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