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The Compulsive Reader: September 2014

Monday, September 29, 2014

Under the Lights Cover Reveal

Today's guest post is from Dahlia Adler, author of Behind the Scenes! Her newest book, Under the Lights, will release next spring and she's slowly revealing the cover.

About Under the Lights:
Josh Chester loves being a Hollywood bad boy, coasting on his good looks, his parties, his parents' wealth, and the occasional modeling gig. But his laid-back lifestyle is about to change. To help out his best friend, Liam, he joins his hit teen TV show, Daylight Falls...opposite Vanessa Park, the one actor immune to his charms. (Not that he's trying to charm her, of course.) Meanwhile, his drama-queen mother blackmails him into a new family reality TV show, with Josh in the starring role. Now that he's in the spotlight—on everyone's terms but his own—Josh has to decide whether a life as a superstar is the one he really wants. 
Vanessa Park has always been certain about her path as an actor, despite her parents' disapproval. But with all her relationships currently in upheaval, she's painfully uncertain about everything else. When she meets her new career handler, Brianna, Van is relieved to have found someone she can rely on, now that her BFF, Ally, is at college across the country. But as feelings unexpectedly evolve beyond friendship, Van's life reaches a whole new level of confusing. And she'll have to choose between the one thing she's always loved...and the person she never imagined she could.
And here's Dahlia!

Welcome to part 3 of the UNDER THE LIGHTS cover reveal! When I saw Tirzah’s post on The Compulsive Reader about how pretty much all books featuring a romance between two girls have covers featuring “Lesbian Hands,” rather than the kind of all-over-the-map variety hetero Romances get, I knew this was a blog I needed to take part in my reveal. This was exactly the conversation I’d been having for weeks as we geared up to design this cover, and the post was the perfect confirmation that we were right to decide we absolutely needed it to feature two girls.

And so it does…which you’ll see when the full cover is revealed in one hour! For now, here’s another piece of the puzzle:


I know, I know—I’m being kind of a tease. But hopefully, this last excerpt, which, ironically enough, features some flirty handholding, will make up for it!

Excerpt from Under the Lights:

“Hey.” Her hand covers mine. “It’s okay if you’re not a hundred percent sure what you’ll be doing in five years. I mean, it has to be, right? If you’re screwed, I’m beyond screwed.”

I laugh, squeezing her fingers. “Then yes, it has to be. Because we’re both gonna be fine. We just need to make some actual plans, or something.”

“And to move out of our moms’ houses!” she adds triumphantly. “Definitely a solid goal for both of us.”

“I will if you will.”

“I will, so you will.” The confidence in her voice is unwavering, and it makes me smile. It’s infectious. More than that, it’s the first time I’ve actually felt like maybe I can make it happen, especially if I have someone trying to dig out of the same hole at the same time.

“We could do it together, even,” I say, growing excited now. “Get our own cute place. Something close to both the set and Jade’s office.”

“Could we get a shaggy purple rug? I’ve always wanted a shaggy purple rug.”

I burst out laughing. “Of all things, that’s what you want? Sure, we can get a shaggy purple rug. As long as there’s enough space on the hardwood for our yoga mats.”

“Obviously. And fish—we should get fish. One of those really cool fish tanks they have in fancy hotels and whatever.”

“I’m pretty sure those are like a billion dollars,” I tell her sadly.

“Oh.” Her face falls. “Well, maybe just a dinky little goldfish bowl then. I’ve always wanted a pet.”

“I thought you’ve always wanted a shaggy purple rug.”

“That too. Shockingly, Jade wouldn’t let me have either one.”

“I am shocked. I bet you’d make a great fish mom, too.”

“I totally would, right? I’d spoil those babies rotten.”

“I believe it,” I say sincerely. “You are a very excellent caretaker.” I realize then that her hand is still on mine, and I hook my pinky around hers. “I really am glad you came.”

She swallows hard but doesn’t respond.

For the second time in two days, I feel like a complete and total idiot, and I quickly slip my hand out from hers. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean…I’m sorry.”

“You know, you don’t flirt like a straight girl,” she murmurs, the words rolling right through my body to curl my toes.

My skin prickles with heat as a guilty flush steals over me, and I’m grateful it’s hidden in the twilight. It isn’t that I didn’t realize I was flirting, exactly, but…why am I doing it? Yeah, I like hanging out with her, and she makes me feel good about myself when no one else can, but she’s a friend. Period. Because that’s all girls are to me.

Isn’t it?

“I’m sorry,” I rasp again, and mean it. “I’ll stop.”

She’s silent. And then fingertips, soft and cool as they sweep through my hair, rest on the base of my neck. “No,” she says, softer now, her touch tingling my skin. “Please don’t.”

Oh God. The prickle of heat blazes brighter, lower, and there isn’t any ignoring what it means. I don’t understand how, or why, but I am turned-on beyond belief.

By a girl.

And I really, really don’t want to stop flirting with her.

***

I love the excerpt, and I'm really excited for the full cover release! I think you'll all really like it! Click over to Cuddlebuggery.com at noon today to see the full cover!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

If you missed my interview with Marie Lu about The Young Elites, click here to read it!

When Adelina was a child, she survived the blood fever that ravaged her country. She was physically marked and now a teenager she is known as a malfetto and is unwanted. Some malfettos possess special powers, making them one of the Young Elites but Adelina is not one of them…at least, that’s what she thinks until one night she runs away from home and her powers are unleashed in a horrible accident. Now on the run, Adelina is taken in by the Young Elites and trained to become one of them, if only she can control her vengeful urges.

Spun as a villain origin story, The Young Elites explores Adelina’s descent into darkness when dangerous powers awaken in her and she must navigate between those who want her dead and those who mistrust her. The fantasy world is heavily influenced by Renaissance Italy, with all of its decadence, providing an interesting context for the story. The chapters alternate between Adelina’s perspective and the points of view of other characters who are on shifting sides of the conflict between Young Elites and those who wish them dead. It’s unclear who the hero of this world will be, or if one will even emerge, but there is no shortage of interesting characters and the tension between them keeps the plot moving. The Young Elites is an interesting new addition to YA fantasy.

Cover Comments: I like the way the dagger is used in the font and I think the stormy sky is really atmospheric, although this cover isn't really all that exciting otherwise.

ARC provided by publisher. The Young Elites will be out on October 7th!


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Stuff YA Readers Say

I stumbled upon this video on YouTube a few days ago and it made me laugh very hard. All true, and I feel as though I could add a few gems from what I've overheard in the YA section at the bookstore...

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry

When the headmistress and her brother keel over during supper one Sunday evening, the allure of freedom is too much for the young ladies of the school on Prickwillow Place and they make an impulsive decision to cover up the apparent murders. But the young ladies forget one thing—there is still a murderer at large, and they may be the next targets.

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place is witty and sly, full of clever twists and dramatic secrets. Berry balances the large cast of characters with varying personalities with great aplomb and unfolds the mystery in quick precision. The young ladies and their thirst for excitement keep this farce entertaining and lively, and they are fiercely independent and resourceful without seeming too anachronistic. The quick pace of the novel heightens stakes, elevates tension, and forces the characters to get quite creative in how they cover up, investigate, and solve the murder, then save themselves from scandal. Berry’s latest is a winner.


Cover Comments: I love the artwork on the cover and the interior of this book. It's appropriate for the time period, pretty, but also a bit morbid once you take a closer look.

ARC provided by publisher.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Interview with Marie Lu About Her Newest Book, The Young Elites

Some hate us, think us outlaws to hang at the gallows.
Some fear us, think us demons to burn at the stake.
Some worship us, think us children of the gods.
But all know us.

Marie Lu is the author of the Legend trilogy (Legend, Prodigy, and Champion, and they're all out in paperback now!) and The Young Elites, out October 7th! The Young Elites has the same action and danger and world building as the Legend trilogy, but in a very different fantasy world inspired by Renaissance Italy. In The Young Elites, a plague has ravaged the land, leaving some of the surviving children with unexplainable powers. Now teenagers, the affected are known as the Young Elites and are hunted down by the crown. But they want to fight back, and Adelina Amouteru might be the key to helping them defeat their oppressors, but only if she can learn to control her dangerous power. (Review forthcoming!)

I was very fortunate to be a part of a phone interview with Marie about the release of The Young Elites, and she answered some very pressing questions...

When talking about the "origin story" of The Young Elites, Marie says, "I definitely thought of The Young Elites first." After seeing the name online, it stuck with her.  "And after I thought about it for a while, I was like, 'Gosh, it would really fit this world and the people that are living in this world,' because they're--they are extraordinary, but they're very, very young. And that bleeds very much into who they are in terms of their powers and how they're treated by their families."

About the setting, Marie admitted, "It was a completely different experience from writing Legend." A lot of research went into building the world. "For The Young Elites, I did a lot of reading about Renaissance Italy and Renaissance Venice and what life was like back then, and what people ate and how they dressed. And a lot of those things went into the story."

Despite the differences in researching and timelines, the two books are similar in feel. Marie says, "It was definitely a different experience because Legend was sort of looking forward and this is kind of looking back in time. And it was interesting playing with that, because oddly enough they kind of end up at the same place where it's still a dystopia in some ways."

But as for the basics of writing the setting, Marie did have to switch up her writing style:  "I kept trying to avoid using a lot of modernisms that kept creeeping their way into the story. And the first time that I turned in my manuscript, my editor was like, 'I feel we could tone down on the modern tone of your stuff. It's kind of futuristic for an old-timey sort of story.' So, that was an adjustment as well."

One of the most fascinating aspects of this novel is that The Young Elites is essentially a villain's origin story, with the protagonist as the antagonist. On setting Adelina up to the be the villainess of the series, I asked Marie about how she approached writing the scenes from Adelina's perspective. She said, "It was really, really hard to get into that mind space, and it's still very hard for me. I'm working on book two right now."

She went on to say, "I thought of writing from the antagonist's point of view after I was talking to my agent about this book. So, when I first started writing The Young Elites, it was right after Prodigy came out. And I wanted to write a fantasy book, but at the time it actually starred Raffaele instead of Adelina, and Raffaele was a totally different character too. He was very, very bland, just sort of like your every-boy, and he was going to university and he thought he was a Young Elite.

It just--it was a very, very sort of bland story. And I couldn't quite put my finger on what was wrong with it, but I knew I wanted to write something about these types of people. So, I gave the first hundred pages to my agent, and she was like, 'Well, who is this side character over here? She's kind of interesting.'

And Adelina was a side character who is total evil. And after my agent said that, that was when I was like, 'Hmm, I never thought about writing it from her point of view, but that might be an interesting exercise.'

And it was totally different from Legend, because Day and June, they live in a really dark world, but they're inherently good people at heart. They have good families who treated them right, and I feel like that really made them who they are as people when they grew up.

And Adelina is totally different. Her family is twisted and terrible, and that rubbed off on her a lot. And it was kind of disturbing to have to get into that headspace, because I didn't experience any of that. And to be able to try to figure out a way to make this person do horrible things but also not make her totally unlikeable so that you're like, 'God, I just want this character to die already' was a bit of a challenge too."

Marie calls it a "very, very odd" experience that requires some distance at the end of a writing day, but about writing Adelina, Marie says it was "also kind of fun and liberating, I guess, to write about somebody who just--she just doesn't care sometimes. She just doesn't care that she's really angry at the world and she feels very entitled to that."

She went on to say that, "I feel there's something kind of empowering about letting yourself be bad. I guess it's why we want villains so much. I mean, I love, you know, Loki and Magneto. You can kind of feel for them in a way. Like Loki, he kills lots of people, but he loves his mama and, you know, he's had some feuds with his brother. And I think it's fun to kind of imagine that space, because I think we all have issues in our lives.

And we all have that moment sometimes where you're stuck in traffic and someone cuts you off, and you're just like, 'I just want to kill you right now. I just want, like, some force to come eat your car.'And then, I thought, you know, what if I create a character who actually acted out some of that stuff? And then, afterwards she's like, 'Oh, shit, I actually did this horrible thing that I wanted to do at the time, but now I kind of regret it.'

And it's fascinating and kind of an unsettling way to write some of that stuff, because she feels powerful when she thinks that and does those things, but then afterwards she never feels great about it. So, it's kind of like don't always act out your demons--your inner demons kind of thing."

But it wasn't all darkness and villains for this interview. When asked what Young Elite power she would like to possess, Marie said, "I would really, really love the ability to stop time. So, the entire world will stop, but you can still keep going and do some, like, work on stuff.  I'm such a dork. I just want to work more. I mean, this would be amazing for meeting all my deadlines. I could just pause time for 500 years and get it all done, and then you'd just click on again and time keeps going."

I'm sure her readers wouldn't mind terribly if she had that kind of power--think of how many books Marie could write in the space of 500 years. "That would be kind of cool," Marie admitted, "but I think that would mess up the space-time continuum."

The Young Elites will be out on October 7th, so mark your calendar! Check out her website for more information, and definitely give her Pinterest page a look! And read an excerpt here.


About The Young Elites:

I am tired of being used, hurt, and cast aside.

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.

Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt.

About Marie:

Marie Lu is the author of the New York Times bestselling Legend series. She spends her spare time reading, drawing, playing Assassin’s Creed, and getting stuck in traffic. She lives in Los Angeles, California, with one boyfriend, one Chihuahua mix, and two Pembroke Welsh corgis.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Cover Reveal: Breaking Sky by Cori McCarthy

Cori McCarthy is an amazing writer whose debut novel, The Color of Rain, took my breath away. She's also a great friend and she has been hard at work at her amazing new novel, Breaking Sky, since I've known her. (True story: When we first met, this book was called Sex and Jets. Things have changed slightly, but it's still sexy and still full of fast jets.) I am so, so excited to reveal the cover!

About Breaking Sky:

In this high-flying, adrenaline-fueled thriller, America's best hope is the elite teen fighter pilots of the United Star Academy

Chase Harcourt, call sign "Nyx," is one of only two pilots chosen to fly the experimental "Streaker" jets at the junior Air Force Academy in the year 2048. She's tough and impulsive with lightning-fast reactions, but few know the pain and loneliness of her past or the dark secret about her father. All anyone cares about is that Chase aces the upcoming Streaker trials, proving the prototype jet can knock the enemy out of the sky.

But as the world tilts toward war, Chase cracks open a military secret. There's a third Streaker jet, whose young hotshot pilot, Tristan, can match her on the ground and in the clouds. Chase doesn't play well with others, but to save her country she may just have to put her life in the hands of the competition.

Are you ready??


So. Bad. Ass.

This cover exudes toughness and energy. I love the flames and bullet holes, and I think that the title treatment is awesome. I am not usually a fan of tag lines, but I love the one on this cover: "Aim High. Fly Fast. Fight Hard." Cori pointed out that it was adapted from the Air Force's motto, which is "Aim High...Fly-Fight-Win."

The circle on the cover is more than just an awesome image--Cori shared with me an exclusive excerpt from Breaking Sky in which main character Chase argues with the academy's psychiatrist (click on the pictures to enlarge!):



Breaking Sky will be out on March 3rd, 2015! Check out CoriMcCarthy.com for more info!

Buy the book because it's awesome, yo.

Also Known As by Robin Benway

Maggie Silver is the genius safe-cracking daughter of spies, but being part of a spy family in an international spy ring isn’t really all that exciting. At sixteen, Maggie is usually bored to death by the new identities and new surroundings, until she finally gets her own mission in New York City—get close to a cute boy in order to find out what his father is hiding about Maggie’s family’s spy ring in his safe. How hard can it be?

Maggie is a straight-talking, good-humored, plucky heroine with a distinct, savvy voice. She has been in the spy business long enough to not get overly excited about the intrigue of secret missions, and she happily tells the truth about the scrapes and mishaps she gets into during her search for information and safe-cracking. A friendship with another loner and a strong connection to the boy she’s supposed to get close to complicate things quite a bit, but to humorous effect. Benway connects Maggie’s mission and her desires to be a useful, contributing member of her family and spy ring in a meaningful way, making Also Known As a funny, engaging, ultimately satisfying read.

Cover Comments: This is a cute cover. I'm not overly fond of it, but it does make this book appealing to upper MG/lower YA readers, which I think is the ideal audience. I like how the many words for spy are blending into the background color.

Book purchased from my indie.