Thursday, August 11, 2016

Under a Million Stars by Rita Branches

Title: Under a Million Stars
Author: Rita Branches
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Release Date: August 8, 2016
Can a beating heart bleed from the shattered pieces?

Her heart cracked when her best friend walked away; it completely shattered when she lost her family in a tragic accident.

Now orphaned at seventeen, Charlotte Peterson is forced to live with her former best friend, Jacob Parker. Charlie, a talented pianist, desperately wants their loving friendship back, but something is holding Jake back. The more she spirals into the darkness of depression, the more she needs him.

Jacob vowed to stay away from her—no matter how much he still loved her. Armed with secrets that would have destroyed both of their families, he chose to end their friendship and walk away, which nearly killed him. As he watches the girl he once knew begin to fade away, however, he realizes that their relationship is more important than the truth he’s hiding.

Now it’s up to Jacob to put the pieces of Charlie’s broken heart back together—even if it means revealing the secrets he so desperately wants to protect her from.

Will Jacob find a way to bring back the carefree, talented girl he once knew, or is it too late for both of them?

I was so curious to see where he was taking me that I didn’t pay attention to where I put my feet. I stumbled a few times before reaching the car door. He was serious, and I didn’t want him to give up on our stroll, so I kept my mouth closed. I focused on the landscape: the huge trees that shadowed the car. When we were closer to home, he turned onto a dirt road I knew well. After a few hundred meters, he turned again onto an even older road, where the car bounced on the potholes.

I sat straighter in my seat. “You’re taking me to…” I didn’t finish, but my heart started pounding. No, I hadn’t been there in two years. The last time was too painful to remember, and I didn’t understand why he was bringing me here again. Was he a masochist, or did he not care at all?

He parked the car far from the house, because the road was overgrown with bushes, but it just made the scene even more beautiful. The house was just as I’d remembered.

The abandoned farmhouse was situated just to the north of our town, where other houses started to sit farther away from each other. It hugged the south shore of one of the smallest lakes at the base of the mountain. It looked like it had been taken off the cover of a mystery novel, and I’d always loved it. Constructed of wood, the two-story structure was almost a hundred years old, and almost all of the windows were broken.

The front entrance was now covered with weeds; when we were kids, we kept them pulled, but now, with no one to care about it, they’d grown almost to the base of the windows.

Mr. Sullivan, the owner of the house and land that surrounded it, including the entire lake, lived in one of those homes for the elderly. He was almost ninety and had no close family. We’d met him when we were seven and used to visit my grandmother there, before she passed away. But Mr. Sullivan was a great friend of hers and we considered him family ever since.

I’d used to visit him all the time. He had never sold the house, because anyone who would have bought it was likely to destroy everything and build apartment complexes or luxury houses for the rich. He had never agreed to it, so I’d used to joke that, one day, this would be mine, and I would never sell it. Jacob and I would buy the house, restore it, and live there forever.

He’d smiled and said, “Oh, dear, I wish my wife and I had a daughter just like you. When you grow up, you won’t want to live there, though. It is too peaceful for a young person.” I had answered that I loved it because of the peaceful feeling emanating from it.

Jacob and I had used to come here all the time, ever since we were allowed to play alone in the street. This was our secret place; we’d gone through the small forest behind his house to come play around the house, inside it, or even in the lake, when the weather was warm enough.

When our parents had found out that we’d been coming here, they’d grounded us, saying it was too dangerous to be here alone and that the house was old and falling apart, which could hurt us. After that, we’d been more careful about not letting our parents know, but we’d still come to the house almost every day, until two years ago, when we’d kissed.

“Come on,” Jacob said, taking me out of my stupor. We climbed the weak steps that lead to the front porch, and I dragged myself to the front door, which earned me a frown from Jacob.

“Have you come back here, after…” I let the words drop, but his eyes were shadowed for a second, before he nodded, while kicking the door lightly to open it.

“A couple of times when I was… you know, down.” He looked around the hall before letting me in. One big hole greeted us, making the passage difficult. “I think a storm weakened the roof that gave in, there.” He pointed to the ceiling, where I could see the blue sky. “A piece of it fell on the already-weak floor—I almost fell through the first time I saw it.” I let out an involuntary shriek, and he frowned again. He could have been killed here and nobody would have found him.

“The rest of the house is still the same, with a few more holes and broken windows.” He stopped walking and talking the moment we reached the living room. It was exactly the way it had been the last time we’d been here. It would have been more normal if it had been empty, but it wasn’t.

We’d made a house of it, with a small sofa we’d found on the street, a mattress that had gotten too old for my mother’s approval, a couple of blankets we’d stolen from our houses, and boxes full of stuff our mothers had wanted us to get rid of, including some clothes and snacks that were probably spoiled by now.

Jacob had left the room exactly as it had been that day. I leaned against the door and braced myself for the pain that was bound to come at any second. I closed my eyes for a minute, and it was like I went back in time. The two years that had passed evaporated.

When or at what age did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I always loved to read and build up stories in my mind, but I started writing in high school.

What is the earliest age you remember reading your first book?
My mother always read to me, since I can remember, I suppose I started reading those children’s books as soon as I was able to. In English (my first language isn’t English, for those of you who don’t know), it was Harry Potter. I couldn’t wait for the next book to be available in Portuguese, so I bought it in English and realized it was easy to understand, so I started reading more and more in English.

What genre of books do you enjoy reading?
Right now, it’s New Adult and Young Adult (which is what I write) but I read almost anything.

What is your favorite book?
It’s difficult to say. I went to my goodreads’ favorite’s bookshelf for this question and I have 67 books there and I try to be selective with the books I put there. The firsts that come to my mind are: Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma (really depressing but beautiful), The Host by Stephenie Meyer (like the whole concept of that world), A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks (it’s Nicholas Sparks, I don’t need to mention it’s depressing). Harry Potter, of course.

But the most well built and that I felt was not understood, was Hunger Games, I think it’s much deeper than people think, I watched the last movie (I read the books long ago) and kept linking the story to what’s happening now in the world, with the refugees, with the world leaders… and I think the public didn’t understand what was under the romance (which is next to nothing and very well done, realistically speaking).

You know I think we all have a favorite author. Who is your favorite author and why?
It’s the same with favorite books, it’s hard to say. I think J. K. Rowling is brilliant, and for the reasons I stated above, Suzanne Collins is as well.

If you could travel back in time here on earth to any place or time. Where would you go and why?
Have you watch documentaries on the health problems? The lack of hygiene? I’m kidding - but not really. I like to visit historic places and imagine what it would be like to live there in the past, but I can’t say I would like to live in the past - I’m more curious about the future.

When writing a book do you find that writing comes easy for you or is it a difficult task?
It depends on the day, there are days I can’t write a sentence that sounds right. When I finished Under a Million Stars, I wrote 10k words in one day and it came out perfectly (even though I went to bed with sore eyes).

Do you have any little fuzzy friends? Like a dog or a cat? Or any pets?
Two amazing dogs, both rescued from the street.

What is your "to die for", favorite food/foods to eat?
I love sushi and pasta.

Do you have any advice for anyone that would like to be an author?
Write, write, write, the more you write, even if it isn’t a story you wish to publish, writing, like with everything in life needs practice. You’ll get better with each paragraph. Then take a chance and publish it. Don’t get stuck on the idea that no one wants to read your stories.

Author Bio:
Rita Branches is an independent YA (young adult) author who enjoys spending every free moment (when she´s not reading) writing emotional stories. 


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Bound by Duty by Stormy Smith

Title: Bound by Duty
Author: Stormy Smith
Series: Bound #1
Genre: New Adult, Fantasy
Release Date: July 24, 2014
Amelia grew up in a world of half-truths. She knows she’s an Elder but has no idea what that means. Her father reminds her daily that she must maintain control but he refuses to explain why. Even worse, she’s betrothed to the prince of the Immortals and she doesn’t even know his name.

Finally breaking free to live a few normal years at a community college, the last thing Amelia expects is to find her best friend in a cheeky Southern girl and to fall for a self-assured human who sees her for who she is and not what she’ll be.

As she learns more about herself, Amelia realizes the line between love and duty is a thin one. As her power continues to increase exponentially and her questions are slowly answered, Amelia must make the ultimate choice. The question is, will her head or her heart win the battle?

To set the stage, this scene features Amelia and Aidan. They are just getting to know each other and both have pasts that have irrevocably changed the people they have become. There are secrets and fears that have been buried their whole lives. The question is if they can trust each other?

Without looking back at me, he squeezed my hand tightly. His fingers pressing hard into the divots between the bones in my hand. He clutched at my hand as if I could keep him here, pull him away from the memories that overwhelmed him, that threatened to pull him down into a place I could feel he didn’t want to go.

“You can tell me, but only if you want to.” I put the words between us and let the silence follow. Turning back to stare at the sky, I gave him time to decide. I had no idea what he had been through, what he would say, but I understood what the darkness of truth could do to you if you let it.

“I don’t know why, but I want to tell you, Amelia. It’s insane because I never tell anyone this stuff. But, I want to tell you. Before this goes any further, I want you to know who I am.” He still wasn’t looking at me so while I saw him in my peripheral, I kept my gaze on the clouds. “Then, tell me,” I said. Taking a deep breath, I finished with a surprising, “Tell me and I’ll tell you.”

The longer Aidan held my hand, the more I got used to the feel of my nerves being raw and the increased sensations that vibrated from our point of contact throughout the rest of my body. As I lay there, waiting for him to speak, he kept our hands locked, sliding his middle finger up and down in a slow rhythm over the back of my hand. I could feel callouses on his palm and the heat he radiated. It was soothing and, for once, I was truly in control, at least as far as my power was concerned. My heartbeat, however, raced triple time as I had time to realize that I was laying on the forest floor holding hands with Aidan Montgomery, waiting for him to unlock doors I hadn’t known I wanted inside of. Someone I could give some of my truth to and who wanted to give me theirs in return.

Hi everyone! Stormy Smith here.

Music is a HUGE part of my life. I am addicted to Spotify and adore finding new artists. I spend a lot of time getting to know local artists and live shows are among my favorite places to be. When I wrote Bound by Duty I knew it would have a soundtrack. Every significant moment in my life has a song associated with it and the book I spent a year pouring myself into would be no different!

I’m a little bit of an odd duck in that I can’t actually write listening to music that has words. So, I spend my writing hours listening to classical music that helps distract my mind just enough to keep the creativity flowing without stopping the lovely voices in my head from telling me their stories. But, once I’m in the car, cleaning, or doing anything else, I’ve always got an ear out for songs. I find that the lyrics often inspire new plot lines, emotions or authentic reactions in characters.

You can check out the full Spotify soundtrack for BBD, but here are my top ten in no particular order:

The One That Got Away – The Civil Wars
Haunted – A Taylor Swift cover by Jess Moskaluke and Alex G.
In My Veins – Andrew Belle, featuring Erin McCarley
Hurricane – MSMR
Clarity – A Zedd cover by Corey Gray
Boston – Augustana
I’mnotwaiting – Bonne Finken
Breathe Again – Sara Bareilles
Promising, Promises – Jon McLaughlin
No Light, No Light – Florence and the Machine

It was really important to me to not only cover the storyline with my choices, but also the emotions of the characters. Music is really important to Amelia, my heroine, and she often lets herself get lost in it. I didn’t want to date my story by announcing the songs and artists in the book, but in my head I always knew what she was listening to.

Bound by Duty is truly a coming of age story. It’s a paranormal fantasy that explores the many layers of what makes a person themselves. Is it your family, your duty, the ones you love, the pieces of you that you can’t control or the family (i.e. friends) you choose for yourself? How do you balance the person you are with the life you want? Amelia faces all of these questions as she finds herself with her first-ever best friend – a sassy Southern girl – and her first dose of young love. But there are situations out there bigger than she ever imagined and she has to decide who she’s going to be and what she’s made of.

If you decide to give Bound by Duty a shot, I’d love to hear the songs it brought to mind for you! Hook up with me at facebook or on twitter

Fun facts about me by Stormy Smith
1. M&Ms or Skittles? M&M’s all the way. Bonus points if they are the special Christmas mint kind.

2. Fantasy or Horror? Fantasy. I’m a TOTAL scaredy-cat. The one and only time I went to a haunted house I tried to bum rush the emergency exit because I was so terrified and up crying my way through it.

3. Typing or Pen & Paper? For writing the book itself, typing, but for brainstorming I like giant sticky post-its all over my basement so I can scribble and pace while I blare my playlist and talk to myself.

4. Ebooks or Print? E-books for most books but print for the authors I love.

5. Eat in or Eat out? In. Then no one has to worry about who’s driving while I pour glass after glass of wine.

6. Water or Flavored Drink? Water.

7. Apples or Oranges? Apples. With peanut butter, preferably.

8. Laundry or Dishes? Dishes. I HATE LAUNDRY.

9. Shopping or Movies? Shopping, only because I so rarely see my girl friends anymore I’d rather spend time perusing and chatting than just sitting next to them.

10. Comfy clothes or Fashionista? Fashionista! I don’t know that I am one, but I’d love to be.  I just feel better in girly clothes. Like I can conquer the world!

11. Go-to book series? Karen Marie Moning’s Fever Series. I could reread them over and over. And Jericho Barrons…swooooon.

12. Favorite way to unwind? A glass of wine and a date with my husband and our DVR. My brain goes non-stop between work, grad school, marketing one book and writing another. I like the down time!

13. Cats or Dogs? Cats. I like that they are more self-sufficient and have their own personalities. I have one that won’t stop walking across my keyboard right now and I love she wants to purr all over me and lick my hands for attention.

Author Bio:
Stormy Smith calls Iowa's capital home now, but was raised in a tiny town in the Southeast corner of the state. She grew to love books honestly, having a mom that read voraciously and instilled that same love in her. She knew quickly that stories of fantasy were her favorite, and even as an adult gravitates toward paranormal stories in any form. 

Writing a book had never been an aspiration, but suddenly the story was there and couldn't be stopped. When she isn't working on, or thinking about, her books, Stormy's favorite places include bar patios, live music shows, her yoga mat or anywhere she can relax with her husband or girlfriends. 

If you want to stay tuned in to all of the new release news, sign up for Stormy's spam-free newsletter. It only comes out when something exciting is happening...promise! 


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