Blog Tour: Permanent Record – Mary H. K. Choi {Excerpt + Giveaway}

Blog Tour: Permanent Record – Mary H. K. Choi {Excerpt + Giveaway}Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi
Published: September 3, 2019
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From the New York Times bestselling author of Emergency Contact, which Rainbow Rowell called “smart and funny,” comes an unforgettable new romance about how social media influences relationships every day.

On paper, college dropout Pablo Rind doesn’t have a whole lot going for him. His graveyard shift at a twenty-four-hour deli in Brooklyn is a struggle. Plus, he’s up to his eyeballs in credit card debt. Never mind the state of his student loans.

Pop juggernaut Leanna Smart has enough social media followers to populate whole continents. The brand is unstoppable. She graduated from child stardom to become an international icon and her adult life is a queasy blur of private planes, step-and-repeats, aspirational hotel rooms, and strangers screaming for her just to notice them.

When Leanna and Pablo meet at 5:00 a.m. at the bodega in the dead of winter it’s absurd to think they’d be A Thing. But as they discover who they are, who they want to be, and how to defy the deafening expectations of everyone else, Lee and Pab turn to each other. Which, of course, is when things get properly complicated.

~~~~~~~~~~~

About Mary H.K. Choi

Mary H.K. Choi is a writer for The New York TimesGQWired, and The Atlantic. She has written comics for Marvel and DC, as well as a collection of essays called Oh, Never Mind. Her debut novel Emergency Contact was a New York Times bestseller. She is the host of Hey, Cool Job!, a podcast about jobs and Hey, Cool Life!, a podcast about mental health and creativity. Mary grew up in Hong Kong and Texas and now lives in New York.

I double tap without hesitation. The gauntlet has unquestioningly been thrown. Let the record show I am game.

But for what?

For three full days I contemplate the futility of a DM slide while waffling maniacally as to whether or not I should leave a comment. I decide not to. I wish there were a field guide for this. Someone to ask about the rules. Quora, unsurprisingly, is unhelpful. That’s always an accurate gauge for desperation. If I’m on the Quora part of the Internet, it’s a cry for help.

In an effort to exert even a modicum of chill, I do absolutely nothing and writhe in self-loathing while being extra vigilant around the deli just in case she really does live in the area. The loserish feelings have reached a deafening, skin-crawling crescendo by the time she comes back.

Which she does.

Just like that.

Leanna Smart strolls into the store. This happens in a disembodying dreamscape slow motion. I’m basically Dare­devil I’m delivered so much information at once. The way she smells (different from the perfume bearing her name), the way her head bobs when she speaks, her teeth. I can’t even explain how in the moment it feels impossible but entirely inevitable. Like the end of the world in certain mythology where everyone knows it’s coming but you don’t fully believe it until it arrives. Except of course this is different. It’s a beginning.

Finally.

“Hey, Sad Boy,” Leanna Smart calls to me exactly eleven days after we met. Again at an ungodly hour.

I’m stunned as thousands of windows in the browser of my mind explode to play a manic GIF of me fist pumping the sky. I am jubilant. Triumphant. I am also tempted to poke through her cheek to make sure she’s not one of those freakish flight attendant holograms you get at the airport now.

This time she’s wearing an enormous puffer coat with a fur collar and sweats.

“Uh, hey,” I tell her. And then, “What’s up, Suarez?” Since calling her Leanna Smart feels insane. Like calling someone Mickey Mouse. Or Coca-Cola.

“You know,” she says. “I’ve eaten your food and huddled to you for warmth, but I don’t know your name.”

She smiles easily. As though we’re friends. As though we’ve been friends.

Me, I’m working on a delay. I’m stuck on her lips, the way they move. Her cheekbones. The hand brushing a strand of hair away from her forehead. Her short thumbs that make better big toes than fingers. Statistics fly through my head: 345,112,459—the number of times people have viewed Leanna Smart’s multi platinum single “Tower” from her bestselling fourth studio album Milestone. One hundred and forty-three million—Leanna Smart’s follower count across all social media platforms (rando bots notwithstanding). How her left eye’s slightly bigger than her right one. Sadder. Sadder? Yes, sadder. Slightly. And the voice, the voice, the voice. Deeper than you’d ever imagine. Gravelly. No, raspy. Textured. Tangible.

“I know ‘at Munchies Paradise’ isn’t your government name,” she says evenly. “Unless your parents are Frito-Lay industry plants and you’re the poster child for early-onset type 1 diabetes. Plus gout.”

She smiles at me, tilting her head in a way my mind recognizes as A Thing Leanna Smart Does from the hours of interview videos I’ve studied.

I remind myself to clear my browser history.

“Can you imagine?” I ask her coolly. My heart is thundering in my chest—spelunk, spelunk, spelunk—but I keep it together. “If that were what my parents ultimately wanted for my life? I’d have to tattoo junk food logos on my body like NASCAR patches.”

“That would be amazing,” she says. “Part SoundCloud rapper, part Nestlé ad.”

She approaches with her hand extended. “You can call me Lee,” she says, and I feel a warmth at the prospect of calling her anything since I thought for sure I would never see her again.

Lee. My mind furiously attempts to reconcile the syllable with building-size ads and the countless—so very many—photographs from every conceivable angle that I’ve absorbed. Lee. As in the title of the only-just-announced fifth studio album from one Leanna Smart. Allegedly the grown-up one. The . . .

Shit. Answer her.

“Pablo,” I tell her, taking her hand. It’s cold. I release it reluctantly. “And don’t think my parents did me any favors. Pablo Neruda’s my first name. Last name Rind.”

“The poet?”

Usually I dread this. People who recognize the name ask me to recite something, as if to make them closer to a dead Chilean poet laureate. Then again, I’m happy that Leanna— Lee—knows who he is. Tons of people don’t.

“Yeah,” I say.

“Jesus. That’s emo.”

She’s not wrong.

“So, wait,” she says. “Do I call you Pablo Neruda as your full first name?”

“Nah. Pab’ll do.”

“Pab’ll it is.” She smiles goofily.

 

August 26thVicky Who Reads
August 27thAdventures of a Book Junkie
August 28thUtopia State of Mind
August 29thRead by Tiffany
August 30thRich in Color
August 31stYour Tita Kate
September 2ndBooks on Pointe
September 3rdAndi’s ABCs
September 4thBook Scents
September 5thTwirling Pages
September 6thBookshelves & Paperbacks
September 9thYA Bibliophile
September 10thMary Had A Little Book Blog
September 11thChasing Faerytales
September 12thNicole’s Novel Reads
September 13thMel to the Any

One winner will receive a hardcover copy of Permanent Record. US ONLY. Ends September 10, 2019 at 11:59pm EST.

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Cover Reveal/Excerpt – Superfan by Sarina Bowen {giveaway}

I’ve been a huge fan of Sarina Bowen for a while now so I’m super excited to get to share the cover for her new book, Superfan, out June 25th. It is book 3 in the Brooklyn series and I can’t wait to read it!

Superfan by Sarina Bowen
Published by Tuxbury Publishing LLC
Published: June 25, 2019
Buy on Amazon
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Sometimes lady luck shakes your hand, and sometimes she smacks your face. Sometimes she does both on the same day.

Three years ago I met the most amazing girl in the world. We were both down on our luck. Then I got that call—the one that tells you to get your buns on a plane to go meet your destiny.

But the girl was left behind. I didn’t have her phone number, and she didn’t know my real name.

While I became a professional hockey player, she became a superstar, with platinum records and legions of fans. And a slick, music producer boyfriend who treated her badly.

But fate wasn’t done with us yet. When Delilah turns up at a hockey game, I can’t resist making contact. The internet swoons when I ask her out on a date.

She might not remember me. But her jerkface ex does. He’ll do anything to keep us apart.

Good thing athletes never give up. This time I’m playing for keeps.

More information at SarinaBowen.com

Are you ready for it?

Here it is:

 

“Would you like a beer?” the cute bartender asks me.

I glance at the pile of mint leaves on his cutting board and hesitate. “Sure,” I say. But the mint looks so fresh and pretty.

“I could make you something different.”

“Beer is great. A cold…”

“—lager,” he finishes. “No glass, no opener.”

When I look up to flash him a smile, my heart does a little somersault. Those kind eyes are smiling at me, too. “Thank you,” I whisper.

“It’s really no problem.” He turns toward the beer cooler. “You’re an easy customer, trust me.”

But I really meant—thank you for remembering. As he leans down to grab a bottle for me, I find myself admiring the strong muscles in his back. Stop it, I admonish myself. It only gets worse when he turns around and places the bottle in front of me. I’ve never seen hands like his. I didn’t even know wrists could look muscular.

Even so. Ogling him is not why I came here. I pull out my keychain opener and remove the cap from my beer.

He discards it, gives me another pleasant smile and then picks up his paring knife again.

I take a sip, wondering when he’s going to mention my show at the Coconut Club. He was there. I saw him.

He separates some mint leaves from their stems and says nothing.

I last about seventeen seconds. “Well?”

“Well?” He looks up. “Sorry?”

“Jesus lord.” I close my eyes and then open them again. This is not going how I’d hoped it would. “What did you think?

“Of…?” His amazing eyes are studying me.

“Forget I asked.” I take a swig of beer.

“Think about what?” He pushes the cutting board aside, and his smile turns knowing.

“My set at the Coconut Club! I saw you holding up that wall in the back. Don’t lie.”

He tips his head back and lets out a sudden laugh. “I’m so busted. I loved your show, but I didn’t expect you to spot me.”

“You loved it so much you weren’t going to say anything?” The sentence sounds crazy to my own ears. I put down the beer. “You know what? Never mind. I’m just being psycho right now. This town is getting into my head.”

“Listen, girly.” He braces both (muscular!) hands on the bar and looks me right in the eye. “I loved it so much that I don’t even know what to say about it. From that moment at the beginning—when you shut that asshole’s maw? To the part where you made a lady cry.” He shakes his head. “I couldn’t look away. And I never wanted it to end.”

I give him a slow blink, just trying to take that in. It’s so much more than I was even hoping to hear.

“Shit, Delilah. If that set doesn’t win you whatever contract you’re looking for, they don’t even deserve you.”

Something warm and unfamiliar settles into the center of my belly. “That might be the nicest thing anyone ever said to me. Which only means you’re still trying to get my phone number.”

He laughs immediately. “Can’t both things be true? Both my musical assessment and my interest in your evening plans?”

“Because you know so much about music.” I flip my hair and take another sip of beer.

“Look. I don’t know shit about music. But I know plenty about talent.” He leans down on a set of forearms I shouldn’t be noticing. “I know that talent sometimes takes a nap at just the wrong moment, but it never stays asleep for long. I also know that luck matters, too. If they don’t give you what you want, it won’t be your fucking fault.”

“Thank you,” I say quietly.

But he’s not done. “I saw something else valuable the other night. You’re good in the clinch. And that counts for double, I swear to God.”

“The clinch?”

“Yeah. You’re not just good at practice.” He pauses, wrinkling up his interesting nose. “What word would a musician use? Okay—you’re not a rehearsal musician. That stage was like your home. Either that or you fake it really well. That’s going to pay your rent someday, I promise.”

“Wow.” It’s like he looked right into my terrified little soul and found the very thing I needed to hear. Those beautiful eyes of his are practically burning me right now, so I have to look away. “Thank you. Really. I really needed that pep talk.”

I make the mistake of looking up at him again, and, for a split second, I see pure yearning. It’s like our souls vibrate at exactly the same frequency. And I have no idea what to do with that.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Seriously I can’t wait to read this book! It fits so well with the other 2 books in the series!

To get you excited there is another great surprise:

 

Be the first to read! Three winners (US or Canada) will win early signed paperback copies of Superfan!

Enter here: https://geni.us/SuperfanGiveaway

Make sure you add this series to your TBR!

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Blog Tour: Excerpt of In Another Life – C. C. Hunter

 

Read an excerpt from In Another Life

“What are you doing?” I ask when Dad pulls over at a con­venience store only a mile from where Mom and I are now living. My voice sounds rusty after not talking during the five-­hour ride. But I was afraid that if I said anything, it would all spill out: My anger. My hurt. My disappointment in the man who used to be my superhero.

“I need gas and a bathroom,” he says.

“Bathroom? So you can’t even come in to see Mom when you drop me off?” My heart crinkles up like a used piece of aluminum foil.

He meets my eyes, ignores my questions, and says, “You want anything?”

“Yeah. My freaking life back!” I jump out of the car and slam the door so hard, the sound of the metal hitting metal cracks in the hot Texas air. I haul ass across the parking lot, watching my white sandals eat up the pavement, hiding the sheen of tears in my eyes.

“Chloe,” Dad calls out. I move faster.

Eyes still down, I yank open the door, bolt inside the store, and smack right into someone. Like, my boobs smash against someone’s chest.

“Crap,” a deep voice growls.

A Styrofoam cup hits the ground. Frozen red slushie explodes all over my white sandals. The cup lands on its side, bleeding red on the white tile.

I swallow the lump in my throat and jerk back, remov­ing my B cup boobs from some guy’s chest.

“Sorry,” he mutters, even though it’s my fault.

I force myself to look up, seeing first his wide chest, then his eyes and the jet-­black hair scattered across his brow. Great! Why couldnt he be some old fart?

I return to his bright green eyes and watch as they shift from apologetic to shocked, then to angry.

I should say something—like, add my own apology—but the lump in my throat returns with a vengeance.

“Shit.” The word sneaks through his frown.

Yeah, all of this is shit! I hear Dad call my name again from outside.

My throat closes tighter and tears sting my eyes. Embar­rassed to cry in front of a stranger, I snatch off my sandals and dart to a cooler.

Opening the glass door, I stick my head in needing a cool-down. I swat a few stray tears off my cheeks. Then I feel someone next to me. Dad’s not letting this go.

“Just admit you screwed up!” I look over and am swal­lowed by those same angry light green eyes from a minute ago. “I thought you were . . . Sorry,” I say, knowing it’s late for an apology. His look is unsettling.

He continues to glare. An all­-in-­my-­face kind of glare.

As if this is more than a spilled slushie to him.

“I’ll pay for it.” When he doesn’t even blink, I add an­other, “I’m sorry.”

“Why are you here?” His question seethes out.

“What? Do I know you?” I know I was rude, but—hotness aside—this guy is freaking me out.

His eyes flash anger. “What do you want?” His tone car­ries an accusation I don’t understand.

“What do you mean?” I counter.

“Whatever you’re trying to pull, don’t do it.”

He’s still staring me down. And I feel like I’m shrinking in his glare.

“I’m not . . . You must have me mixed up with someone else.” I shake my head, unsure if this guy’s as crazy as he is sexy. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. But I said I’m sorry.” I grab a canned drink and barefoot, carrying sticky sandals, hurry to the front of the store.

Dad walks in, scowling.

“Careful,” a cashier says to Dad while mopping up the slushie just inside the door.

“Sorry,” I mutter to the worker, then point to Dad. “He’s paying for my Dr Pepper! And for that slushie.”

I storm off to the car, get in, and hold the cold Diet Dr Pepper can to my forehead. The hair on the back of my neck starts dancing. I look around, and the weird hot guy is stand­ing outside the store, staring at me again.

Whatever you’re trying to pull, don’t do it.

Yup, crazy. I look away to escape his gaze. Dad climbs back in the car. He doesn’t start it, just sits there, eyeball­ing me. “You know this isn’t easy for me either.”

“Right.” So why did you leave?

He starts the car, but before we drive off, I look around again and see the dark­-haired boy standing in the parking lot, writing on the palm of his hand.

Is he writing down Dad’s license plate number? He’s a freak. I almost say something to Dad but remember I’m pissed at him.

Dad pulls away. I focus on the rear-view mirror. The hot guy stays there, eyes glued on Dad’s car, and I stay glued on him until he’s nothing but a speck in the mirror.

“I know this is hard,” Dad says. “I think about you every day.”

I nod, but don’t speak.

Minutes later, Dad pulls over in front of our mailbox. Or rather Mom’s and mine. Dad’s home isn’t with us anymore. “I’ll call you tomorrow to see how your first day of school was.”

My gut knots into a pretzel with the reminder that I’ll be starting as a senior at a new school. I stare out at the old house, in the old neighborhood. This house once belonged to my grandmother. Mom’s been renting it to an elderly couple for years. Now we live here. In a house that smells like old people . . . and sadness.

“Is she home?” Dad asks.

In the dusk of sunset, our house is dark. Gold light leaks out of next door, Lindsey’s house—she’s the one and only person I know my own age in town.

“Mom’s probably resting,” I answer. There’s a pause. “How’s she doing?”

You finally ask? I look at him gripping the wheel and staring at the house. “Fine.” I open the car door, not wanting to draw out the goodbye. It hurts too much.

“Hey.” He smiles. “At least give me a hug?”

I don’t want to, but for some reason—because under all this anger, I still love him—I lean over the console and hug him. He doesn’t even smell like my dad. He’s wearing cologne that Darlene probably bought him. Tears sting my eyes.

“Bye.” I get one slushie-­dyed foot out of the car.

Before my butt’s off the seat, he says, “Is she going back to work soon?”

I swing around. “Is that why you asked about her? Be­cause of money?”

“No.” But the lie is so clear in his voice, it hangs in the air.

Who is this man? He dyes the silver at his temples. He’s sporting a spiky haircut and wearing a T-­shirt with the name of a band he didn’t even know existed until Darlene.

Before I can stop myself, the words trip off my tongue. “Why? Does your girlfriend need a new pair of Jimmy Choos?”

“Don’t, Chloe,” he says sternly. “You sound like your mom.”

That hurt now knots in my throat. “Pleeease. If I sounded like my mom, I’d say, ‘Does the whore bitch need a new pair of Jimmy Choos!’” I swing back to the door.

He catches my arm. “Look, young lady, I can’t ask you to love her like I do, but I expect you to respect her.”

“Respect her? You have to earn respect, Dad! If I wore the clothes she wears, you’d ground me. In fact, I don’t even respect you anymore! You screwed up my life. You screwed up Mom’s life. And now you’re screwing someone eighteen years younger than yourself.” I bolt out and get halfway to the house when I hear his car door open and slam.

“Chloe. Your stuff.” He sounds angry, but he can just join the crowd, because I’m more than mad—I’m hurt.

If I weren’t afraid he’d follow me into the house all pissed off and start an argument with Mom, I’d just keep going. But I don’t have it in me to hear them fight again. And I’m not sure Mom’s up to it either. I don’t have an option but to do the right thing. It sucks when you’re the only person in the family acting like an adult.

I swing around, swat at my tears, and head back to the curb.

He’s standing beside his car, my backpack in one hand and a huge shopping bag with the new school clothes he bought me in the other. Great. Now I feel like an ungrateful bitch.

When I get to him, I mutter, “Thanks for the clothes.” He says, “Why are you so mad at me?”

So many reasons. Which one do I pick? “You let Darlene turn my room into a gym.”

He shakes his head. “We moved your stuff into the other bedroom.”

“But that was my room, Dad.”

“Is that really why you’re mad or . . . ? He pauses. “It’s not my fault that your mom got—”

“Keep thinking that,” I snap. “One of these days, you might even believe it!”

Hands full, chest heavy, I leave my onetime superhero and my broken heart scattered on the sidewalk. My tears are falling fast and hot by the time I shut the front door behind me.

Buttercup, a medium­-sized yellow mutt of a dog, greets me with a wagging tail and a whimper. I ignore him. I drop my backpack, my shopping bag, and dart into the bathroom. Felix, my red tabby cat, darts in with me.

I attempt to shut the door in a normal way instead of an I’m- totally- pissed way. If Mom sees me like this, it’ll upset her. Even worse, it’ll fuel her anger.

“Chloe?” Mom calls. “Is that you?”

“Yeah. I’m in the bathroom.” I hope I don’t sound as emotionally ripped as I feel.

I drop down on the toilet seat, press the backs of my hands against my forehead, and try to breathe.

Mom’s steps creak across the old wood floors. Her voice sounds behind the door. “You okay, hon?”

Felix is purring, rubbing his face on my leg. “Yeah. My stomach’s . . . I think the meat loaf I had at Dad’s was bad.”

“Did Darlene fix it?” Her tone’s rolled and deep­fried in hate.

I grit my teeth. “Yeah.”

“Please tell me your dad ate a second helping.”

I close my eyes, when what I really want to do is scream, Stop it! I get why Mom’s so angry. I get that my dad’s a piece of shit. I get that he refuses to take any blame, and that makes it worse. I get what she’s been through. I get all of it. But does she have a clue how much it hurts me to listen to her take potshots at someone I still sort of love?

“I’m going to sit out on the patio,” she says. “When you’re out, join me.”

“Uh­huh,” I say.

Mom’s steps creak away.

I stay seated and try not to think about what all hurts, and instead I pet Felix. His eyes, so green, take me back to the boy in the store. Whatever youre trying to pull, don’t do it.

What the heck did he mean?

Blog Tour: Excerpt of In Another Life – C. C. HunterIn Another Life by C.C. Hunter
Published by Wednesday Books
Published: March 26, 2019
Buy on Amazon
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Chloe was three years old when she became Chloe Holden, but her adoption didn’t scar her, and she’s had a great life. Now, fourteen years later, her loving parents’ marriage has fallen apart and her mom has moved them to Joyful, Texas. Starting twelfth grade as the new kid at school, everything Chloe loved about her life is gone. And feelings of déjà vu from her early childhood start haunting her.

When Chloe meets Cash Colton she feels drawn to him, as though they're kindred spirits. Until Cash tells her the real reason he sought her out: Chloe looks exactly like the daughter his foster parents lost years ago, and he’s determined to figure out the truth.

As Chloe and Cash delve deeper into her adoption, the more things don’t add up, and the more strange things start happening. Why is Chloe’s adoption a secret that people would kill for?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

About C.C. Hunter

C.C. HUNTER is a pseudonym for award-winning romance author Christie Craig. She is lives in Tomball, Texas, where she’s at work on her next novel.

Christie's books include The Mortician's Daughter seriesShadow Fall Novels and This Heart of Mine.

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Blog Tour – Sky Without Stars by Jessica Brody and Joanne Rendell

Blog Tour – Sky Without Stars by Jessica Brody and Joanne RendellSky Without Stars by Jessica Brody, Joanne Rendell
Published by Simon Pulse
Published: March 26, 2019
Buy on Amazon
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A thief. An officer. A guardian.


Three strangers, one shared destiny . . .

When the Last Days came, the planet of Laterre promised hope. A new life for a wealthy French family and their descendants. But five hundred years later, it’s now a place where an extravagant elite class reigns supreme; where the clouds hide the stars and the poor starve in the streets; where a rebel group, long thought dead, is resurfacing.

Whispers of revolution have begun—a revolution that hinges on three unlikely heroes…

Chatine is a street-savvy thief who will do anything to escape the brutal Regime, including spy on Marcellus, the grandson of the most powerful man on the planet.

Marcellus is an officer—and the son of a renowned traitor. In training to take command of the military, Marcellus begins to doubt the government he’s vowed to serve when his father dies and leaves behind a cryptic message that only one person can read: a girl named Alouette.

Alouette is living in an underground refuge, where she guards and protects the last surviving library on the planet. But a shocking murder will bring Alouette to the surface for the first time in twelve years…and plunge Laterre into chaos.

All three have a role to play in a dangerous game of revolution—and together they will shape the future of a planet.


Power, romance, and destiny collide in this sweeping reimagining of Victor Hugo’s masterpiece, Les Misérables.

Chapter One

Chatine

The rain was falling sideways in the Marsh. It was never a straight downpour. It was always crooked. Just like the people here. Con artists and hustlers and crocs, the lot of them.

Anyone can be a saint until they’re hungry enough.

Chatine Renard was perched high above it all, watching the stream of people churn through the busy marketplace like clotted blood through a vein. She was straddling an exposed metal beam that once connected the old freightship to its roof.

At least, that’s what Chatine had been told—that the Frets were once titanic flying vessels that soared across the galaxy, bringing her ancestors to the planet of Laterre, the coldest and wettest of the twelve planets in the System Divine. But years of neglect and crooked rain had corroded the PermaSteel walls and ceilings, turning the staterooms in the passenger freightships into leaky, mold-ridden housing for the poor, and this cargo freightship into an open-air marketplace.

Chatine pulled her hood farther down her forehead in an attempt to block her face. Much to her dismay, she’d noticed over the past few years that her eyelashes had grown longer, her chest had filled out, her cheekbones had become more pronounced, and her nose had slimmed to a dainty point, which she despised.

She had streaked her face with mud before coming to the Marsh today, but every time she caught sight of her reflection in a puddle or the metal of a partially collapsed wall, she cringed at how much she still looked like a girl.

So inconvenient.

The Marsh was far more crowded today than usual. Chatine leaned forward and balanced on her stomach, hugging the beam to her chest as she scanned the countless faces that passed beneath her. They were always the same faces. Poor, downtrodden souls like her trying to find creative ways to stretch their weekly wages.

Or con their neighbor out of a larg or two.

Newcomers were rare to the Marsh. No one outside of the Third Estate bothered with the picked-over cabbages and mangy turnips for sale. With the exception of Inspecteur Limier and his army of Policier droids tasked with keeping the peace, the Frets and the marketplace in its center were normally avoided at all costs by anyone who didn’t live here.

Which was why the man in the long coat immediately caught Chatine’s eye. His wealth was written all over his groomed black beard, matching hair, pressed clothes, and sparkling adornments.

Second Estate, to be sure.

She’d never known the First Estate to ever venture out of Ledôme. The climate-controlled biodome sat high on the hill just outside the capital city of Vallonay, shielding the First Estate from Laterre’s persistent downpours.

And the slums below.

Chatine’s eyes raked over the man, taking in every stitch and every button. Her gaze expertly landed on the gold medallion dangling like bait from his neck. She didn’t have to see it up close to know it was a relic from the Last Days, rescued from the burning embers of a dying planet. The Second Estate loved their First World relics.

Five hundred largs easy, Chatine calculated in her head. Enough money to feed an entire Third Estate family for weeks.

But it wouldn’t be long before the rest of the crocs in the Marsh spotted the treasure too and made their play. Which meant Chatine had to move fast.

Gripping the beam with both hands, she swung her legs over the side and launched her body to the nearby catwalk, landing silently in a crouch. Directly underneath her, the man continued farther into the marketplace, weaving around the loose chickens that roamed the stalls searching for scraps. His gaze swept left and right as though taking mental inventory of the space.

For a moment, Chatine wondered what he was doing here. Had he gotten lost on his way back up to Ledôme? Or was he here on some kind of business? But then she remembered the annual Ascension happening later today and reasoned he was probably a foreman of a fabrique, come to round up his workers who were skipping out on their shifts to get jacked up on weed wine, all the while hoping to win a new life.

“Win a new life?” Chatine muttered to herself and let out a bitter laugh.

Deluded fools, all of them.

She crept across the grid of overhead walkways and ramps, skillfully ducking to avoid broken water pipes and leaping over giant chasms in the grated floor. All the while, she kept a close watch on the man, making sure she was never more than a few steps behind him.

He finally slowed near Madame Dufour’s stall, pulled an apricot from his pocket, and took a large bite, the juice dripping into his beard. Chatine’s mouth started to water. She’d only ever tasted an apricot once, when a crate had fallen off the back of a cargo transporteur delivering fruit from the hothouses to Ledôme.

Chatine watched Madame Dufour size the man up with sinister fascination. The old croc was practically licking her lips at the sight of such an easy mark.

It was now or never.

Ducking under the broken railing, Chatine grabbed onto the raised rim of the walkway floor and somersaulted over the edge. She whipped her body forward, fell three mètres down, and adeptly caught the beam below her. She circled around until it rested against her hips and she could balance there.

She was now only a mètre above the man’s head. Yet with the buzz of the busy marketplace, no one even bothered to look up.

“What a pitiful sight,” the man said, taking another bite of his apricot. He didn’t even bother to hide his disgust. The Second Estate rarely did. It was something about being stuck in the middle, Chatine had always noticed—not quite rulers and yet far from being one of the wretched like her—that gave the Second Estate their shameless sense of arrogance.

They were almost more intolerable than the First Estate.

Almost.

Chatine’s gaze cut to the left, taking in the tower of empty crates stacked up next to Madame Dufour’s stall. She shimmied along the beam until she was directly above them. Then, she tipped forward, rotated around, and kicked both feet out in front of her.

The crash was louder than she anticipated. The crates toppled to the ground, avalanching around the man as he fell to his knees with a grunt.

Chatine moved quickly. Landing in a squat, she crawled through the wreckage until she found the man and graciously helped him back onto his feet. He was so busy brushing dust and cabbage leaves from his coat, he didn’t even feel the medallion being lifted from his neck.

“Are you all right, Monsieur?” Chatine asked in her friendliest tone, slipping the pendant into her pocket.

The man barely looked at her as he straightened his hat. “Quite all right, boy.”

“You must be careful in the Marsh, Monsieur. It isn’t safe for someone of your rank.”

“Merci,” he said dismissively as he tossed the apricot he’d been eating toward Chatine.

She caught it and flashed him an appreciative smile. “Vive Laterre.”

“Vive Laterre,” he echoed before turning away.

Chatine grinned at the man’s back as she turned on her heels and slipped the half-eaten apricot into her pocket. It took all her strength not to consume the entire thing here and now.

She knew the man would hardly even miss that gold medallion from his neck. He probably had ten just like it back in his manoir in Ledôme. But to her, it was everything.

It would change everything.

The wind picked up, howling through the stalls and biting viciously at Chatine’s skin. She pulled her tattered black coat tighter around her, trying in vain to stave off the chill. But the holes and ripped lining of her clothes weren’t the problem. It was the hunger—the ribs poking through her skin. There wasn’t a single shred of insulation left on her body.

But after that score, she was finding it hard to care.

As Chatine headed toward the south exit of the Marsh, weaving through stalls selling moldy potatoes, slimy leeks, and pungent seaweed dragged in from the nearby docks, there was a new lightness to her gait. A new hopefulness in her step.

But just before passing through what used to be the old cargo ship’s loading bay, Chatine felt a large hand clamp down on her shoulder and she stopped dead in her tracks, a shiver running through her.

“So nice of you to help out a member of the Second Estate,” a cold, robotic voice said. “I’ve never seen such chivalry from a Renard.”

The emphasis he placed on her last name made Chatine squirm. She closed her eyes, mustering strength, and painted on a blithe smile. She slowly turned around.

“Inspecteur Limier,” she said. “Always a pleasure.”

His stony expression didn’t change. It hardly ever did. The circuitry implants on the left side of his face made it nearly impossible for the inspecteur to express any emotion. Chatine often wondered if the man was even capable of smiling.

“I wish I could say the same for you, Théo.” His tone was flat.

Only her parents called her Chatine. Everyone in the Frets knew her as Théo. It was the name she’d given herself ten years ago, when they’d first moved to the capital city of Vallonay and Chatine had decided that life as a boy would be much less complicated than life as a girl.

Chatine clucked her tongue. “I’m sorry you feel that way, Inspecteur.”

“What did you take from the kind monsieur?” Limier asked, his half-human, half-robot voice clicking on the hard consonants.

Chatine refreshed her smile. “Whatever do you mean, Inspecteur? I know better than to steal from the hand that feeds me.”

She nearly gagged on the words. But if they saved her from a one-way ticket to Bastille—the price you paid for stealing from an upper estate—then she could choke her way through them.

Chatine held her breath as the inspecteur’s circuitry flickered on his face. He was computing the information, analyzing her words, searching for hints of perjury. Over the past ten years of living in the Frets, Chatine had learned how to lie. But lying to a human being was one thing. Lying to a cyborg inspecteur, programmed to seek the truth, was quite another.

She waited, keeping her smile taut until the circuits stopped flashing.

“Will that be all, Inspecteur?” Chatine asked, smiling sweetly while pressing her hands against her tattered black pants. Her palms were starting to sweat, and she didn’t want his heat sensors to pick up on it.

Then, slowly, Chatine watched the inspecteur’s gloved hand extend toward her. With a soft touch that chilled her to the bone, he pushed up her black hood to reveal more of her face. His electric orange eye blinked to life, scanning her features. It seemed to linger a beat too long on her high, feminine cheekbones.

Panic bloomed in her chest. Can it see who I really am?

Chatine hastily took a step back, out of the inspecteur’s reach, and yanked her hood back down. “My maman is expecting me home,” she said. “So, if you don’t mind, I’ll be going now.”

“Of course,” the inspecteur replied.

“Thank you, Inspecteur. Vive Laterre.”

As Chatine turned to leave, she felt her entire body collapse with relief. She had done it. She had fooled his sensors. She was a better liar than even she had come to believe.

“I’ll just need to check your pockets first.”

Chatine froze. She quickly surveyed her surroundings. She spotted five Policier droids in her vicinity. More than usually roamed the Marsh, due to the annual Ascension ceremony today. The droids—or bashers as they were referred to around here—stood at almost twice the size of an average man and their slate-gray exoskeletons crunched and whirred as they walked.

Chatine wasn’t afraid of them, though. She’d escaped Policier droids plenty of times. They were fast and stronger than ten men, but they still had their limitations. For instance, they couldn’t climb.

Careful not to move her head, Chatine glanced up, thanking her lucky Sols that there was an old pipe running directly over her head. She refused to get flown off to Bastille. A neighbor was currently serving three years for stealing a measly sac of turnips. A First World relic lifted off a Second Estater? She’d be looking at ten years minimum. And hardly anyone lived that long on the moon.

She slowly spun back around to face Limier. “Of course, Inspecteur. I have nothing to hide.”

Flashing another smile, Chatine stuffed her hand into her pocket and felt the medallion cool and smooth against her skin. The inspecteur once again reached a hand in her direction. Then, before he could react, Chatine hurled the apricot the monsieur had given her straight at the inspecteur’s face. His circuitry sparked as his brain tried to make sense of the incoming object. Chatine bolted, scrambling onto a table full of fabric scraps before leaping toward the pipe.

For a second, she was flying, soaring above the inspecteur, the shoppers in the Marsh, and the Policier droids who were just starting to take notice of the disturbance. As she caught the pipe, she used her momentum to circle her legs around until she was straddling the rusty, metal pole.

“Paralyze him!” Inspecteur Limier shouted to his droids, peering up at Chatine. His circuitry was going haywire, like someone had hacked the signal. “Now!”

The bashers maneuvered their bulky PermaSteel bodies around one another, assembling into attack formation. Chatine knew she had to move quickly. One rayonette pulse she could dodge, but five? That would be rough.

The pipe was too narrow to walk on, so Chatine shimmied across it on her stomach, weighing her options. The north exit was out of the question. It backed up to the Vallonay Policier Precinct, where she would certainly run into more droids. There was a catwalk about three mètres ahead of her. If she could reach it without getting shot, she could crawl the rest of the way to the east exit, back near Madame Dufour’s stall.

A split second later, she felt the heat of the first rayonette pulse whizz by the side of her face. She sucked in a sharp breath and shimmied faster. A second droid took aim below her, its shot perfectly aligned at her left knee. She braced herself for the impact. But just then, a group of drunk exploit workers stumbled through the fray, arguing about who among them had the most Ascension points stored up. One of them crashed right into the droid, and the pulse barely missed her leg.

“Oh, excuse me, Monsieur,” the drunk worker slurred to the droid, bowing ceremoniously. His friends broke out into hoots of laughter while Chatine took the opportunity to slide the rest of the way across the rusted pipe.

Thank the Sols for strong weed wine, she thought as she launched herself toward the catwalk. She caught the railing with both hands just as a third pulse was fired from below. This one glanced her left shoulder.

It wasn’t a direct hit, but it was enough. The pain was instant. Like someone had scraped her skin with a blazing-hot knife. She bit her lip to keep from crying out. The sound would only improve the droids’ aim.

Within seconds, her left arm started to lose sensation from the paralyzeur now pumping through her blood. She scrambled to swing her feet up over the ledge of the walkway but was unsuccessful. Now she was just dangling there, her feet paddling against the air.

The droids shoved people aside as they zeroed in on her location. More rayonette pulses tore past her, rippling and bending the air. It was only a matter of time before another one found its target.

Chatine knew she needed a distraction. She spotted a crate packed with chickens directly in front of her. She shook out her left arm, trying to chase away the numbness that was spreading toward her fingers, but it was no use. The paralyzeur was quickly working its way through her muscles.

Favoring her right hand, she gripped the railing as tightly as she could and pumped her legs until she’d built up enough momentum to reach the crate. She arched her body and kicked her legs out hard. The crate crashed to the ground and busted open. The chickens squawked and tried to fly away, but their useless wings barely allowed them to get off the ground.

The commotion was enough, though.

People were screaming, the stall owner was desperately trying to wrangle the loose birds, and the Policier droids fought to barrel through it all. But their efforts only managed to rile up the birds even more. They fluttered about, scraping people with their sharp claws.

The droids started firing with abandon. But with all the chaos below, their aim was poor. They hit more chickens than anything else. The birds absorbed the stun of the rayonettes and fell limp to the ground. They wouldn’t be able to move again for a few hours.

With the droids distracted, Chatine was finally able to pull herself onto the catwalk and crawl, one-handed, across the rusty, metal plank before shimmying down a support beam next to Madame Dufour’s stall.

She glanced back to see the bashers still trying to push their way through the crowd to reach her. But with the number of people in the Marsh today and the riled-up chickens, it wasn’t an easy task.

Madame Dufour glared at Chatine, her wrinkled arms folded across her chest. “Like father, like son,” she said, making a tsk sound with her teeth. “Mark my words, boy, you’ll be rotting on the moon before the end of this year.”

Chatine flashed her a goading grin before swiping a loaf of chou bread from one of Madame Dufour’s crates and darting toward the exit.

“Arrête!” The old woman’s command sounded like a croak. “Get back here, you wretched croc!”

“Thanks for breakfast!” Chatine called back in a singsong voice.

And then, before the droids could track her or Madame Dufour could catch her, Chatine was gone.

Once she’d put a good distance between herself and the marketplace, she slowed to a walk and massaged her dead arm with the opposite hand. It wasn’t the first time she’d been shot by a rayonette. And it probably wouldn’t be the last. The sensation would return soon enough.

Chatine reached into her pocket and pulled out the pendant she had lifted from the Second Estater. She sucked off the sweet apricot juice and held the medallion in her open palm, studying it. For the first time, Chatine noticed the ornate golden Sol carved into the surface. It was unlike any of the three Sols that hung in the sky of the System Divine. This was a First World Sol. Its brilliant, fiery rays flared out to the edge of the medallion. Chatine reverently clasped the pendant around her neck, a rare genuine smile creeping across her face.

She hadn’t seen the light of a Sol in nine years.

This was definitely a sign of good things to come.

Excerpted from Sky Without Stars by Jessica Brody and Joanne Rendell. Copyright © 2019 by Jessica Brody and Joanne Rendell. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

 

About Jessica Brody

Jessica Brody is the author of more than 15 books for teens, tweens, and adults including Addie Bell’s Shortcut to Growing Up, A Week of Mondays, Boys of Summer, 52 Reasons to Hate My Father, and the three books in the sci-fi Unremembered trilogy. She’s also the author of the Descendants: School of Secrets series, based on the hit Disney Channel original movie, Descendants. Her books have been translated and published in over 23 countries and Unremembered and 52 Reasons to Hate My Father are currently in development as major motion pictures. She lives with her husband and four dogs and splits her time between California and Colorado.

About Joanne Rendell

Joanne Rendell is the author of three novels and holds a PhD in English literature. She teaches fiction writing to teens and kids and is a board member for the youth Shakespeare company, New Genesis Productions. With her husband and son, Joanne divides her time between New York City, and New Paltz, New York. Visit Joanne at JoanneRendell.com.

 

 

March 20th

That Artsy Reader Girl – Promotional Post

March 21st

NovelKnight – Guest Post
Andi’s ABCs – Book Spotlight
L.M. Durand – Review
Book Beach Bunny – Review + Dream Cast

March 22nd

BookCrushin – Guest Post
Hauntedbybooks – Review + Favourite Quotes
Dazzled by Books – Review + Favourite Quotes
The Mind of a Book Dragon – Review + Playlist

March 23rd

Wishful Endings – Interview
Moonlight Rendezvous – Review + Favourite Quotes

March 24th

Confessions of a YA Reader – Promotional Post

March 25th

Camillea Reads – Review + Favourite Quotes

March 26th

Book Slaying – Interview
In Between Book Pages – Review + Favourite Quotes

 

Pre-order a hardcover of SKY WITHOUT STARS by Jessica Brody and Joanne Rendell from a participating indie bookstore* before March 26, 2019 and you’ll receive an exclusive Sky Without Stars Gift Pack, including the following:

  • A limited edition two-sided 12”x16” poster featuring the ONLY available colored version of the book’s world map
  • Sky Without Starsbookplate, signed by both authors
  • Sky Without Starspostcard
  • Sky Without Starsbookmark

The gift pack will be included with your book when it is shipped or picked up in store.

*Click here for participating stores.

 

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Blog Tour – An Excerpt of Intercepted by Alexa Martin

Blog Tour – An Excerpt of Intercepted by Alexa MartinIntercepted by Alexa Martin
Published by Berkley Books
Published: September 11, 2018
Buy on Amazon
Add to Goodreads

Marlee thought she scored the man of her dreams only to be scorched by a bad breakup. But there's a new player on the horizon, and he's in a league of his own...

Marlee Harper is the perfect girlfriend. She's definitely had enough practice by dating her NFL-star boyfriend for the last ten years. But when she discovers he has been tackling other women on the sly, she vows to never date an athlete again. There's just one problem: Gavin Pope, the new hotshot quarterback and a fling from the past, has Marlee in his sights.

Gavin fights to show Marlee he's nothing like her ex. Unfortunately, not everyone is ready to let her escape her past. The team's wives, who never led the welcome wagon, are not happy with Marlee's return. They have only one thing on their minds: taking her down. But when the gossip makes Marlee public enemy number one, she worries about more than just her reputation.

Between their own fumbles and the wicked wives, it will take a Hail Mary for Marlee and Gavin's relationship to survive the season.

The idea of Gavin showing up to my family home sets the butterflies in my stomach free. I have to remind myself he doesn’t remember me, he’s just being friendly to a teammate’s girlfriend. End of story.

“Don’t you wish. Chris isn’t even promised a seat. Quarterback or not, my family doesn’t share well when it comes to pasta.”

“Well, I’m awesome, and Chris is questionable. Your family would love me.”

“Maybe they could find a seat for you, but I’m not sure the room is big enough for your ego to tag along.” I ignore the jab at Chris, handing Gavin the final plate.

“Damn. You got jokes?” He acts insulted, but there’s a smile on his face when he says it. I shrug it off and give him a hand towel. I tend to forget not everybody knows my sense of humor. Something I should try harder to remember when it concerns my boyfriend’s coworkers.

He hands me the last plate to dry, and his fingers graze mine. The contact is so minimal, I shouldn’t have noticed it. But when it comes to Gavin, I notice everything. “Thanks for helping, but I really do have work to finish.”

I hang the towel from the stove and try to play it cool. I’m not a relationship expert or anything, but I’m pretty sure I’ve watched enough reality shows to know crushing on your boyfriend’s coworker is generally a no-no.

“TK told me you did his website. I checked it out and it looks fantastic. Are you taking on new clients?”

When I turn away from the stove and face him, he’s in the same spot, watching me with what I think is either curiosity, mistrust, or kindness.

Yes, I’m aware those are all different, but I’ve never been very good at reading people.

“Always. It’s rare for me to ever turn down a client.” I look for something else in the kitchen to keep me busy.

“Good, because my website needs an overhaul since I switched teams.”

Oh no. Not gonna happen. Seeing him on occasion is one thing, but working for him is on a whole other level of asking for trouble.

“Your website? Didn’t you already have somebody design your website?” I scramble for any excuse to say no. “I doubt you need a new one, just a few tweaks, and I don’t like messing with other people’s work.”

“You just said you didn’t turn down a client. I want a new website. I’ll have Madison email you some pictures of me in Mustangs gear and shots of my charity events.”

Oh lovely, Gavin and Madison. This keeps getting better and better.

“Your girlfriend is your secretary? How very old-school.”

“Madison isn’t my girlfriend. She’s an old friend who happens to work in PR.” He shakes his head, acting like the idea of him with the leggy beauty is outrageous. “Think about it for me. I’d really appreciate it, and I promise to recommend you to everyone I know.”

Dammit. Doing this would be huge for me. I got my degree in graphic design from the Art Institute five years ago and started doing some freelance work to keep me busy. Business has been growing slowly over the past five years . . . which is fine. Chris gets all offended when I offer to pay for anything so I shovel all my money into savings and paying off my student loans.

I graduated with my masters in marketing last spring and have spent all summer (unsuccessfully) trying to find an adult job complete with medical. Unfortunately for me, the closest I got to medical was the marijuana dispensary next door to an interview I went to. So while I wait to find the apparent unicorn job I’ve spent my entire life preparing for, I might just have to build a website for my ex-fling turned current boyfriend’s coworker.

I’m about to agree when the intercom buzzes and Chris’s voice booms through the kitchen. “Marlee, can you go find Pope for us?” he asks. He hangs up before I have the chance to answer.

“I guess that’s my cue.” Gavin starts walking out of the kitchen but stops before he makes it all the way out. “By the way, I think you dropped this.” He pulls something small out of his pocket, tosses it to me, and is gone before I even realize what I’m holding.

My grandma’s necklace. The one my mom gave me after she passed.

The one I lost four years ago in a Chicago apartment.

Holy shit.

He kept it?

Holy shit.

He remembers me!

~~~~~~~~

Seems like the perfect book to read as football season kicks off!

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