Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Author Interview: Steve Brezenoff

From the acclaimed author of Brooklyn, Burning comes Guy in Real Life, an achingly real and profoundly moving love story about two Minnesota teens whose lives become intertwined through school, role-playing games, and a chance two-a.m. bike accident.

It is Labor Day weekend in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and boy and girl collide on a dark street at two thirty in the morning: Lesh, who wears black, listens to metal, and plays MMOs; Svetlana, who embroiders her skirts, listens to Björk and Berlioz, and dungeon masters her own RPG. They should pick themselves up, continue on their way, and never talk to each other again.

But they don't.

This is a story of two people who do not belong in each other's lives, who find each other at a time when they desperately need someone who doesn't belong in their lives. A story of those moments when we act like people we aren't in order to figure out who we are. A story of the roles we all play-at school, at home, with our friends, and without our friends-and the one person who might show us what lies underneath it all.



Name three things you loved about writing Guy In Real Life.

Oh, it's so hard to distinguish between when I loved writing this book and when I absolutely dreaded writing it! It was a long process--this book took me almost two years to write, and even longer if you start the clock from when I first wrote the synopsis back in 2007 or so. But I'll do my best. Okay, so here's what I loved:
Meeting the characters, and by that I mean not just Lesh and Lana, the main characters, but most of their friends: Lana's best friend forever Roan, and the others in the gaming club, Reggie and Abraham. I got very attached to that crew. And Lesh's something-like-friend Jelly--a girl a little older and a lot bolder than him--was a joy to write. I fully intend to go back to her and create a story all her own.
The research! It's probably not fair to call it research, since I didn't know I was researching when I did it, but playing World of Warcraft from 2006 till 2012 or so (on and off) was often a lot of fun. It was also often completely maddening and addicting. I will definitely never play it again--until the next expansion comes out.
And revising, which probably sounds insane to other writers. But the fact is that working on the revisions with my editor at Balzer + Bray, Jordan Brown, was a pleasure, not to mention educational and elucidating.
 
What's your best advice for someone who wants to be a writer?
Read a lot, with tremendous variety. Write a lot--as often as you can. And get some writing buddies--online or in-person--so you can exchange critiques, and be open to the criticism you receive. That said, if your writing buddies aren't jiving with you completely, get new ones.
 
With your novel now out on the shelves, how does it feel?  What was your favorite part of the process?
I'm writing this two weeks before G.I.R.L. hits shelves, but I've had two other novels on shelves before, and I can tell you it feels great, like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. At the same time, though, it's panic-inducing and paralyzing, because now these words that I obsessed over for literally years of my life are out there, and anyone can just pick them up and read them and be like, "Meh. Whatev." Writers are in a vulnerable position in that way, and that can be very stressful and exhausting.
My favorite part of the process is probably the first month or two of first-drafting, when I'm still meeting characters and figuring out how stuff is going to go wrong for them. After that, there's lots of heavy lifting yet to do, but it's never the same rush for me at that point, aside from the occasional revision epiphany. Those are fun too.
 
Your books have all taken place in cities and states where you've lived at one time or another.  Does it help you to write around what you know?
Absolutely. I grew up on Long Island, so I was quite familiar with its landscape and manner of speech and all that before I wrote The Absolute Value of -1. I lived in Brooklyn on and off for about ten years before I wrote Brooklyn, Burning, which was plenty for me to get a feel for the neighborhood of Greenpoint and really know how it felt to move through its streets at all hours of the day or night. Having lived in the Twin Cities for eight years now, I'm just beginning to feel comfortable with my knowledge of the area to write fiction inside it. That said, I'm sure I've gotten some things wrong--things about how people interact here, how they drive, how they move through their cities, their turns of phrase, stuff like that--and I expect someone will let me know pretty soon.
 
What's in your reading pile right now?  Any recent favorites you've read recently that you'd recommend or tell us to steer clear of?
You should read Perfectly Good White Boy by Carrie Mesrobian, which will be out later this year. You should also read Bone Gap by Laura Ruby which will be out like next year. Sorry for the not-out-yet titles!
 
If you could travel anywhere you wanted, where would you go and why?  If you could only take three things with you, what would they be and why?
I'd go to New York. I'd always go to New York because I miss it. And the three things I'd bring are my wife, my son, and my daughter!
 
About the Author:
 
 
Steve Brezenoff is the author of young adult novels Guy in Real Life; The Absolute Value of -1; and Brooklyn, Burning, as well as dozens of chapter books for younger readers. He grew up on Long Island, spent his twenties in Brooklyn, and now lives in Minneapolis with his wife, Beth, who is also a writer for children, and their children Sam and Etta.
 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

In My Mailbox (132)

This is a meme that I first heard about from Kristi over at The Story Siren and immediately wanted to jump on board. I'm always picking up new books, because I never tire of reading, but the other thing I like about this meme is that it gives everyone an opportunity to check out what other book fanatics, bloggers, etc... got for themselves. I've gotten great recommendations from this meme and hope that keeps up in the future.

Here's what I got, what did you guys get this week?

  
For Review:
 
 
Lucy races against time and magic in this sequel to the “richly and thoughtfully written” (Publishers Weekly) Chantress.

Lucy is the last Chantress, the only remaining girl who can sing magic into the world. Since she defeated the evil Lord Scargrave, England has changed—and not for the better. With crops failing and the people rebelling, Lucy is called urgently back to King Henry’s court. His Inner Council is convinced that making gold through alchemy will save England. But a critical element to the alchemical process has been stolen. Lucy is tasked with finding it with her magic… or else. And until she succeeds, the castle is on lockdown.

Court too has changed. Scargrave's brutal Chantress-hunter has become King Henry's closest advisor. Lucy’s beloved Nat has fallen out of favor and is shunned by his colleagues; their romance means trouble for both of them. Worst of all, something goes wrong with Lucy’s magic. The palace is a labyrinth, and there’s a monster at its heart — a monster who may have the power to defeat Lucy once and for all.

Amy Butler Greenfield returns to the beguiling world of Chantress for a suspenseful tale of courtly intrigue, music, and magic in Chantress Alchemy.
 
Getting By (A Knight's Tale, #1) by Claudia Y. Burgoa (Thanks to Literally Alpaca Illustrations, LLC)
 
When Emma Anderson arrived at San Francisco International Airport, she regretted accepting the distinction of being the maid of honor to Gaby’s—her childhood friend—wedding. It had been years since the last time she set foot in Menlo Park, where her parents had been killed. The rug where she had been shoving her feelings since that day looked bumpier than a camel’s hump. Who could blame her; if she hadn’t been selfish they’d still be around. Ever since that fateful day, Emma has been perfecting the knack of Getting By.

Cade’s wedding in Menlo Park—a city close to San Francisco—might be the perfect place for Jake Knight to shake the memories of his ex, Emma Anderson for good. Single, available women galore for an entire week was the perfect medication, one he intended to take three times a day for an entire week to return to his player days. It was a plan the former spy thought flawless until he came face to face with the maid of honor. Jake’s perfect retreat turns into a flight, fight or hide week of celebrations.
            
 
 
High school reporter Sloane Masterson knows she has one helluva story when she witnesses hottie Hayden Lancaster bending forks with his mind.

Like any good journalist, Sloane sets out to uncover the truth, even if it includes a little stalking. When the superhuman feats start to pile up and the undeniable heat rises between them, Hayden has no choice but to reveal his secret: he’s an alien hybrid.

They’re as different as night and day—she’s a curvy, purple-haired, horror junkie and he’s a smoking hot, antisocial, brainiac—yet the intense fascination between them refuses to go away. Even at Hayden’s insistence that dating each other is “off limits” and crazy dangerous, their fiery attraction threatens to go supernova.

Now Sloane’s dealing with creepy government agents, über snobby extraterrestrials, and a psycho alien ex-girlfriend out for revenge. After a crash course on the rules of interstellar dating, Sloane must decide if their star-crossed romance is worth risking her own life...
 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Blog Tour: The Space Beyond (The Book of Phoenix, #2) by Kristie Cook

As members of the Phoenix, Jeric and Leni are thrust into their new lives, expected to lead Earth’s guardians. But Leni struggles with trusting her own soul, and Jeric is more concerned about keeping Leni safe than meeting others’ demands. When Darkness swarms Lake Haven, they embark on their first mission with little preparation and no idea which soul the Dark hunts.
 
Born and raised in Lake Haven, Bex hopes to escape her small-town life, ideally in the arms of her soul mate. She knows he exists, and her heart aches with the need to find him. When her long-lost mama calls to announce she's knockin' on death's door, Bex reluctantly makes the trip to see the uncaring bitch (bless her heart), only to be knocked off her feet by the sexy and charming Dr. Mason Hayes. Is he really The One?
 
Leni’s soul felt an instant connection to Bex, but if Bex found her soul mate, she isn’t their mission. So who is, and why does Leni instinctively feel drawn to her? Can Leni even trust her intuition? And will Jeric step up and lead when the time comes or continue to hold them back?
 
If they don't learn to trust themselves and each other quickly, Darkness will claim them all…along with the rest of Earth’s souls.
 
I couldn't be more excited to be a part of this great blog tour for this fantastic sequel to Kristie Cook's Book of Phoenix series, The Space Beyond.  After reading Cook's first series installment, The Space Between, falling in love with her characters was easy so it was a no-brainer that I would want to share an excerpt with all of you from Jeric's point of view.  Enjoy.....and go grab your own copy of the second installment today!
 
From Jeric, in The Space Beyond: 
 
[Leni] paused for a moment, staring at her hands as her fingers tapped a rhythm on the blanket, and I already knew her next thought. I had to control myself from clamping my hand over her mouth to keep her from saying it, as though that would prevent the thought from already being a reality. Because remembering our pasts was kind of fun, like solving a weird mystery, but what she was thinking took us to a whole different level. One I wasn’t ready for. 
 
“I have this strong feeling the guy in the Gate who’d sounded so desperate was Nathayden,” she said. “And I think … saving Rebethannah is our first mission.” 
 
She lifted her head to look at us. I turned mine to stare at the wall, my jaw clenching. She already knew my feelings on this theory. 
 
“What do you guys think?” she asked when nobody said anything. 
 
My eyes cut to Brock and Asia, who shared another look, but they didn’t hold back this time. Asia reached out and laid her hand on Leni’s knee. 
 
“You tell us,” she said to my other half. “We remembered last night that this has always been your thing, like your super power—you lead us to the souls we’re supposed to help.” 
 
The hair on the back of my neck rose, and I jumped to my feet as though the bed itself had caused the feeling. But what I felt came from inside, and no matter how much I wanted to deny it, to make it go away, to pretend it didn’t exist, I couldn’t. The truth is the truth, and what Asia just said was no doubt a truth. I knew it in my gut, or in my soul, as everyone else would say. Leni was our light, showing us the way. Theo and Mira had emphasized this when we’d been Forged at the Gate. Not just mine, but everybody’s. I hadn’t fully understood what that meant at the time, but it was starting to make more sense. 
 
Didn’t mean I liked it. 
 
“No,” I said, unable to form the words I wanted to say. “Just … no. Not yet.” 
 
“Jeric—” Leni started, and I spun on her. 
 
“Can you really say you feel ready to do this?” I demanded, leaning over her on the bed. “Do you even know what you’re doing?” 
 
Leni stared at me for a moment, opening her mouth then closing it like a carp as she considered my question. 
 
“Yes,” she finally said, and when I lifted my brow and sucked in a breath to argue, she held a hand up. “It’s not knowledge to be gained, Jeric. I don’t have to learn this. It’s intuition. Instinct. My soul talking to me. I know how that sounds, but look at our lives now. Look at what we do know and tell me that relying on our instinct, on our souls that have existed for eons compared to our measly human brains, isn’t what we’re supposed to do. That’s the lesson we’re supposed to learn more than any others. Am I right?” 
 
She turned back to Brock and Asia, who both nodded. 
 
“So we’re just supposed to cut off our brains and all logic?” I snapped. 
 
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Asia said with a sigh. “You just have to let your brain catch up to what you already know in your soul.” 
 
I glared at each of them in turn, not sure why this bothered me so much. I’d practically vowed to trust Leni and her intuition, to accept her as our light to lead the way. And I knew deep down that she’d be right—that her soul would know exactly what we’re supposed to do. The “normal” side of me, the Jeric I’d been for the last twenty-three years, however, bristled at the thought of going out and being some kind of supernatural-like ninja, helping people who probably didn’t even know they needed to be helped. How were we supposed to do that anyway? 
 
“So you think your soul will lead us right to whoever Rebethannah is now?” I demanded. “And you really think that’s our mission?” 
 
Leni pressed her lips together and dropped her gaze to the blanket again. “I don’t know yet,” she nearly whispered, but then she lifted her eyes to me and raised her voice. “But it’s time to find out.”

Monday, May 19, 2014

Release Day Blitz!!

 

Today is release day for The Space Beyond (Part Two in the Book of Phoenix) by Kristie Cook!! If you haven't read The Space Between (Part One in the Book of Phoenix), it's on sale for 99c! (Links below) - Join Kristie, along with author Lynn Rush, whose book Absolute Zero releases on May 21st! It's an ongoing DUAL RELEASE CELEBRATION starting TONIGHT with several guest author appearances! https://www.facebook.com/events/509122122526573

We also have a GIVEAWAY to share with you!! Look for how to enter down below!

The Space Beyond 
Part Two of the Book of Phoenix
Author: Kristie Cook
Release Date: Currently Available
Where: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo (all countries) | Read Our Writes


Hearts break, souls shatter, love lies in The Space Beyond...

As members of the Phoenix, Jeric and Leni are thrust into their new lives, expected to lead Earth’s Guardians. But Leni struggles with trusting her own soul, and Jeric is more concerned about keeping Leni safe than meeting others’ demands. When Darkness swarms Lake Haven, they embark on their first mission with little preparation and no idea which soul the Dark hunts.

Born and raised in Lake Haven, Bex hopes to escape her small-town life, ideally in the arms of her soul mate. She knows he exists, and her heart aches with the need to find him. When her long-lost mama calls to announce she's knockin' on death's door, Bex reluctantly makes the trip to see the uncaring bitch (bless her heart), only to be knocked off her feet by the sexy and charming Dr. Mason Hayes. Is he really The One?

Leni’s soul felt an instant connection to Bex, but if Bex found her soul mate, she isn’t their mission. So who is, and why does Leni instinctively feel drawn to her? Can Leni even trust her intuition? And will Jeric step up and lead when the time comes or continue to hold them back?

If they don't learn to trust themselves and each other quickly, Darkness will claim them all…along with the rest of Earth’s souls.




Other books in the series:


The Space BetweenPart One in the Book of Phoenix
Author: Kristie Cook


Currently Available

Where:
Amazon US | Amazon UK | B&N | iBookstore | Kobo

When life falls to pieces, answers lie in The Space Between...


Leni Drago can't make a smart decision on her own, according to her mother anyway--the few times she's tried resulted in disaster. When her uncle sends her on a dance tour in Italy to find her real self, she returns to an empty home and any evidence of his existence wiped out. Then things get even stranger, like the mysterious appearances of Jeric Winters--inked, pierced and a hit-'em-and-quit-'em type. He's one decision that should be easy for Leni. Or is he?


Jeric doesn't do girlfriends. Unless they're someone else's. He left the fighting cage and modeling for a reason, and girls who want more than a night of fun are distractions he doesn't need. Especially when they come with as much baggage as Leni carries. But he can't shake the gut feeling that he needs to know her. All of her.


To discover the truth behind their connection and their ties to a journal from 1989, they must face painful secrets from their pasts. And they must do so quickly because their own existences are falling to pieces.


This first part of The Book of Phoenix takes you on a heart-wrenching ride as you discover the answers that lie in The Space Between.


The Space Within
Part Three in the Book of Phoenix
Author: Kristie Cook

Release Date: July 14, 2014
Where: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo (all countries)
 
When Darkness threatens, what matters most lies in The Space Within...

Completing a mission that reunites Guardian Twin Flames turns devastating when the Book of Phoenix throws Leni and Brock into a Dark world, leaving Jeric and Asia behind. They count on their other halves to rescue them, but when that doesn’t happen, they must fight through the Darkness and find a Gate that will take them home.

Except all of Earth’s Gates are sealed.

Enyxa, ruler of Darkness, and her horde of Dark souls storm the Gates to push their way through to Earth. While Leni and Brock fight Enyxa on their side, Jeric and Asia must figure out how to save their Twin Flames without jeopardizing all of Earth’s souls. Through it all—and with a little help from Enyxa—Brock and Asia begin questioning their relationship and whether they’re truly meant to be together…or if they’re two Lost souls forced to become one.

If the Broken dyads don’t find each other fast, they’ll be lost to the Dark forever. But to reunite means choosing themselves over all of Earth’s souls. Can Jeric make that decision? And will Brock and Asia find the love they both desperately crave? Or are they all doomed to perpetual Darkness?

Discover how it all ends in The Space Within, the explosive conclusion to The Book of Phoenix trilogy.

About the Author:

Kristie Cook is a lifelong, award-winning writer in various genres, from marketing communications to fantasy fiction. She continues to write the Soul Savers Series, a New Adult paranormal romance / contemporary fantasy, with Promise, Purpose, Devotion, Power, and the latest release, Wrath, book five, available now. She’s also written a companion novella, Genesis: A Soul Savers Novella, which details the compelling history of her Soul Savers mythology. Over 300,000 Soul Savers books have been sold, with Promise peaking at #54 on the Amazon Top 100 Paid list and at #1 in the Amazon Fantasy category.

Kristie’s second series, The Book of Phoenix, is a New Adult paranormal trilogy. The Space Between is currently available, and The Space Beyond is releasing May 19, 2014, and The Space Within will be available Summer 2014.

Besides writing, Kristie enjoys reading, cooking, traveling, and riding on the back of a motorcycle. She has lived in ten states, but currently calls Southwest Florida home with her husband, three sons, a beagle, and a puggle. She can be found at:


 

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Sunday, May 11, 2014

In My Mailbox (131)


This is a meme that I first heard about from Kristi over at The Story Siren and immediately wanted to jump on board. I'm always picking up new books, because I never tire of reading, but the other thing I like about this meme is that it gives everyone an opportunity to check out what other book fanatics, bloggers, etc... got for themselves. I've gotten great recommendations from this meme and hope that keeps up in the future.

Here's what I got, what did you guys get this week?

  
For Review:
 
After the End by Amy Plum (Thanks to HarperTeen)
 
Michael Grant's Gone series meets M. Night Shyamalan's The Village in this riveting story of one girl's journey to save the very people who have lied to her for her entire life. Amy Plum, internationally bestselling author of the Die for Me series, delivers a fast-paced adventure perfect for fans of Marie Lu and Robison Wells.
 
Juneau grew up fearing the outside world. The elders told her that beyond the borders of their land in the Alaskan wilderness, nuclear war had destroyed everything. But when Juneau returns from a hunting trip one day and discovers her people have been abducted, she sets off to find them. And leaving the boundaries for the very first time, she learns the horrifying truth: World War III never happened. Nothing was destroyed. Everything she'd ever been taught was a lie.
 
As Juneau comes to terms with an unfathomable deception, she is forced to survive in a completely foreign world, using only the skills and abilities she developed in the wild. But while she's struggling to rescue her friends and family, someone else is after her. Someone who knows the extraordinary truth about her secret past.
 
Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu (Thanks to Katherine Tegen Books)
 
Secret: I kissed someone else's boyfriend.
Assignment: Do it again.


Like most who find Life by Committee, Tabitha is a little lost. Her best friend has ditched her, her Vermont town is feeling way too small, and she's falling head over heels for a guy named Joe—who already has a girlfriend. Just when Tab is afraid she'll burst from keeping the secret of Joe inside, she discovers Life by Committee. The rules of LBC are simple: Tell a secret, receive an assignment. Complete the assignment to keep your secret safe.

Tab likes that the assignments push her to her limits, empowering her to live boldly and go further than she'd ever go on her own. But in the name of truth and bravery, how far is too far to go? Perfect for fans of E. Lockhart and Jennifer E. Smith, Life by Committee is a fresh, vibrant novel about the power of wanting, the messiness of friendship, and the truths we hide and share.

The Secrets of Lily Graves by Sarah Strohmeyer (Thanks to Balzer + Bray)

Gone Girl meets Six Feet Under in bestselling author Sarah Strohmeyer's romantic YA mystery about a girl who must unravel a web of lies in her small town before it's too late.

Descended from a long line of female morticians, Lily Graves knows all about buried secrets. So after senior-class president Erin Donohue—perfect saint to the community—turns up dead, Lily believes it's her job to find the culprit. But Lily has feelings for Erin's ex-boyfriend, Matt, which makes both of them suspects and makes Lily's investigation . . . complicated. As her world crumbles around her, Lily must figure out the difference between truth and deception, between genuine love and a web of lies. And she must do it quickly, before the killer claims another victim.

Fans of Sara Shepard who enjoy realistic contemporary fiction with a dash of mystery will love the secrets, lies, and romance swirling in this sexy, intriguing novel.

Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg

For Macallan and Levi, it was friends at first sight. Everyone says guys and girls can’t be just friends, but these two are. They hang out after school, share tons of inside jokes, their families are super close, and Levi even starts dating one of Macallan’s friends. They are platonic and happy that way.

Eventually they realize they’re best friends — which wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t keep getting in each other’s way. Guys won’t ask Macallan out because they think she’s with Levi, and Levi spends too much time joking around with Macallan, and maybe not enough time with his date. They can’t help but wonder . . . are they more than friends or are they better off without making it even more complicated?

From romantic comedy superstar Elizabeth Eulberg comes a fresh, fun examination of a question for the ages: Can guys and girls ever really be just friends? Or are they always one fight away from not speaking again — and one kiss away from true love?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Blog Tour: Royally Lost by Angie Stanton & Giveaway

Dragged on a family trip to Europe’s ancient cities, Becca wants nothing more than to go home. Trapped with her emotionally distant father, over-eager stepmother, and a brother who only wants to hook up with European hotties, Becca is miserable. That is until she meets Nikolai, a guy as mysterious as he is handsome. And she unknowingly finds herself with a runaway prince.

Nikolai has everything a guy could ask for-he's crown prince, heir to the throne, and girls adore him. But the one thing he doesn't have...is freedom. Staging a coup, he flees his kingdom and goes undercover on his own European tour.

When Nikolai and Becca meet, it’s their differences that draw them together. Sparks fly as they share a whirlwind of adventures, all the while dodging his royal guard. But Becca's family vacation ends in a matter of days. Will Nikolai and Becca be forced to say goodbye forever, will his destiny catch up to him, or will they change history forever?


Food, food, and more food!

What’s vacation with out food and our recent fascination to take pictures of it? While doing research for Royally Lost, I was amazed at how food is displayed and sold in Europe. There are a lot of open-air markets with food sold in bulk. Here are some pictures from the Naschmarkt in Vienna where Nikolai and Becca spend time.

I love food, and the first thing I do when I get to a new city, is look at the restaurant choices. I’m kind of picky, but I love anything with a good sauce. Germany is known to have a lot of heavy food with sauces, num! And everywhere I went and ordered a Coca-cola light, (not much Diet Pepsi where we traveled) they served it in an old fashioned Coke glass.

Regensberg, Germany supposedly has the world’s oldest sausage kitchen. Of course, we stopped and the food was delicious! They also sold their famous Regensberg mustard. We brought several jars back. 

The next city, Nuremberg, also claimed to have the world’s oldest sausage kitchen, too. Hmm. We decided there was probably one in every tourist town.

Thanks so much for hosting me on your blog today. I hope everyone enjoys reading Royally Lost as much as I enjoyed writing it.
 
 
 
 

 
 
About the Author:
 
 
Angie Stanton never planned on writing books; she wanted to be a Rockette. However, growing up in rural Wisconsin, with her brothers' 4-H pigs as pets, dance didn't work out. Instead she became an avid daydreamer. After years of perfecting stories in her head, she began to write them down, and the rest is history.

Angie is the author of six books including Royally Lost, Rock and a Hard Place, and Snapshot. She graduated with a Journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin, and is a proud double finalist of the National Readers Choice Awards for Love 'em or Leave 'em.
 
Where can you find Royally Lost???
 
 
And now for the giveaway!!! 
  
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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Guest Post: Author Jennifer Brown & Giveaway


Born and raised in the Midwest, Jersey Cameron knows all about tornadoes. Or so she thinks. When her town is devastated by a twister, Jersey survives -- but loses her mother, her young sister, and her home. As she struggles to overcome her grief, she's sent to live with her only surviving relatives: first her biological father, then her estranged grandparents.

In an unfamiliar place, Jersey faces a reality she's never considered before -- one in which her mother wasn't perfect, and neither were her grandparents, but they all loved her just the same. Together, they create a new definition of family. And that's something no tornado can touch.
 
I write books that deal with tough subjects. School shootings, dating violence, cyberbullying, and OCD are just some of the issues that appear in my books. My characters go through harrowing bouts of physical and emotional pain, judgment, fear, confusion, grief, anger. They must be resilient. All of them.

But Jersey Cameron, the character featured in Torn Away, is perhaps the most resilient of all of my characters. She faces a devastating tornado alone. She loses everything she has—house, belongings, the people she loves. She is exhausted and homeless and has no idea what will happen to her next.

But she keeps moving forward. She keeps fighting for herself, even as she realizes she’s the only one left who can and will.

Jersey must face her grief. She must stare down her fears. She must be strong. And she must do these things without shutting down. She must protect herself without closing her heart. She must somehow hang onto hope, even when she feels there is nothing left to hope for.

Jersey was not inspired by a particular person. She was inspired by a group of people. Particularly, she was inspired by the people of Joplin, Missouri, some of whom I got the chance to meet and spend time with after a tornado destroyed much of the town in 2011. I was astounded by the destruction I saw, but I was also astounded by the hope I encountered. People who’d, literally, lost everything they owned were refusing to call it quits. They were cleaning up; they were rebuilding. They were going on with life, because they knew they had to. In this sense, Jersey was inspired by all people who rebuild after their lives are upended.

But in a sense, in the same way that Jersey wasn’t inspired by any one person, the tornado in Jersey’s story wasn’t inspired by any one tornado. In fact, it wasn’t necessarily inspired by a tornado at all. We all have our natural disasters—be they tornados or hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, fires—and we also have our personal disasters. We live through divorces, death of loved ones, car accidents and loss of friends, eating disorders and rape and schizophrenia, and a whole host of personal tragedies that I haven’t even begun to describe. The relentless clutches of depression can take down an individual as swiftly and readily as an ocean wave. Nobody is spared from finding themselves, at some point in their lives, digging out from the rubble in their own personal basements, blinking in the rain, wondering what to do next.

With this in mind, I sought to answer the following question through Jersey: Is it possible to ever lose “everything?” As long as you have that glimmer of hope in your heart, can’t you crawl out of the broken bricks and boards and take a shaky step toward daylight? Call it faith, call it the human spirit, call it whatever you wish—the question is can you be taken down if you desperately hang onto it?

Jersey’s journey after a tornado takes everything attempts to wrestle with that question. In the process, she became a real person to me—a person whom I admire for her strength. Can we all be as resilient as Jersey Cameron? I don’t know, but I know that after spending months with her, I definitely would hope to try.
 
About the Author:
 
Jennifer Brown writes and lives in the Kansas City, Missouri, area with her husband and three children. She is the author of Thousand Words; Perfect Escape; Bitter End, which was named an ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults title; and Hate List, which was selected as an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, a VOYA Perfect Ten, and a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year.
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Time for the Giveaway!!!

Jennifer was kind enough to offer up a signed hardcover copy of Torn Away to one lucky winner!  This contest is for U.S. Residents only.  Good luck!
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