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Young Adult

Read It First: "Gates of Thread and Stone"

Gates of thread and stoneDebut author Lori M. Lee talks about Gates of Thread and Stone and how books like The Hobbit inspired her to become a writer. Gates of Thread and Stone doesn't release until August 5, but you can read it first here. Learn how below.

Describe your new book, Gates of Thread and Stone, in just two sentences. Gates of Thread and Stone is about a girl who can manipulate the threads of time. When her brother goes missing, she risks getting caught up in a revolution in order to save him.

What book or books inspired you to become a writer? The Hobbit was my introduction to epic fantasy, and I’ve since loved everything about Middle Earth. Other fantasy influences that I fell in love early with are The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and The Phantom Tollbooth.

Who are some of your favorite writers from the past or present? J.R.R. Tolkien, of course. But I also have a mad author crush on Neil Gaiman, R.L. Stine (who inspired me to write terrible horror novels in my youth), Holly Black, Margaret Atwood, Leigh Bardugo, and Lois Lowry.

What new novels are you looking forward to this Fall? So many! Beware the Wild by Natalie C. Parker, which sounds creepily fantastic. The Young Elites by Marie Lu, because I loved her Legend series. Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis. And Silvern by Christina Farley, because I loved Gilded.

What can we expect from Book 2 in the Gates of Thread and Stone series? Kai will learn more about the world beyond Ninurta and discover the true extent of her abilities.

Is there a question that you haven’t been asked that you have been dying to answer? You can probably guess the question by my answer: Yes, I am totally cool with fan fiction and fan art.

Gates of Thread and Stone doesn't release until August 5, but you can read it first here. You must have a Kindle or Kindle for Android/iOS app registered to your account to receive the ebook. Offer expires 8/1/14 at 11:59pm.

Sign into Whispercast using your account. Once delivered, the ebook will be found on your Kindle device, Kindle for Android/iOS app, or your account on in Manage Your Content, under Documents. Delivery of the ebook may take up to 24 hours after signing into Whispercast.


Guest Blogger: Alexandra Adornetto, Author of "Ghost House"

Ghost-hosueAlexandra Adornetto, author of the Halo Trilogy and upcoming release Ghost House, looks ahead to Fall and rounds up the books she's most excited to read.

I don’t always have the time to keep up with new releases but here are some of my must-reads for this Fall:

Rooms by Lauren Oliver I’m always attracted to stories about the supernatural and was intrigued reading the synopsis for this book. I’m already familiar with Lauren Oliver’s best-selling YA books, but Rooms is her first adult title. It’s about a house whose ghosts haunt the new family that arrives. As someone who has just written about ghosts, I’m interested to see how another author handles the spirit and human world intersecting. And what will be the result of these two worlds colliding? Can’t wait to find out.

Let’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid I recently met Adi at a Book Expo America book signing in New York. There was so much excitement about his debut novel, Let’s Get Lost, that it immediately went on my “To Read” list. I love the idea of a road trip where a girl (Leila) heading to Alaska meets up with four other teens, all with issues of their own to resolve. Road trips always provide opportunities for growth and adventure so I’m looking forward to finding out what these characters discover from their journey.

The Jewel by Amy Ewing The cover has to be one of the most breathtaking I’ve seen. The plot is reminiscent of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, which is one of my favorites. Violet has been raised to be a surrogate for royalty but when she gets to Jewel, she finds life there not quite what she expected. With elements like royal scandal, deception, and illicit love this has to be a dramatic read.

Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham I found the TV show Girls very funny and have a lot of admiration for Lena Dunham and for what she’s achieved. To get your own show sold as writer/actor is no mean feat! I’m looking forward to reading her memoir made up of short stories that are bound to have hilarious moments. But I’m also interested to find what experiences shaped her as a person.  

One Kick by Chelsea Cain It’s hard to ignore a book with such an original title, especially when you know that Kick is the name of the heroine. She’s 21, a former kidnapping victim who becomes an expert in self-defense as part of her recovery. Then Kick finds her purpose in life—to help find missing children. She sounds like a strong character, to have overcome the trauma she’s experienced. Despite what might be at times grim subject matter, this sounds like a fast-paced thriller with some surprising twists.

Guest Blogger: "Blightborn" Author Chuck Wendig

BlightbornChuck Wendig, author of Under the Empyrean Sky and its new follow-up, Blightborn, reflects on memorable worldbuilding in teen and YA literature.

Worldbuilding. Such a tricky thing. Epic fantasy worldbuilds with a heavy hand (How many times do I have to read about a half  dozen family crests or the mating rituals of the Bonebreak Goblin or which fork you’re supposed to use at what meal when dining at the table of a red-bellied Copper Dragon and all his cantankerous dragon pals?).

For me, the real power is when worldbuilding follows the story—when it starts slow, goes bigger as needed. When readers get just enough to move them to the next page, each small spoonful of the world act as a tantalizing mystery—a bite that keeps you eating instead of filling you up from the first word.

A book that does this particularly well? The first two books in John Hornor Jacobs’s Incarcerado trilogy. In the first book, The Twelve-Fingered Boy, we meet two boys sentenced to an Arkansas juvenile detention center who happen to have psychic powers. And at first, the world is small. It’s just them and the other boys and workers of the facility. That’s it. But slowly, the world shows its cracks, and you start to get the sense of a larger picture—factions and forces beyond them and beyond the walls. And by the time you get to the second book, The Shibboleth, the world grows much larger—but still not so much that you’re overwhelmed by it. The book still preserves mystery while parceling out all the crucial details of a secret world laid over our own. That’s when, for me, worldbuilding is successful—when it doesn’t overwhelm, when it works to show more than it tells, and when it serves the story instead of forcing the story to serve it.  

In book two of the Heartland Trilogy, Blightborn, my goal was twofold: first, to open up the world, and second, to dig deeper into the characters. So, in effect, that means readers get to go out into the world but also go within the characters—and so, we learn more about Gwennie and we get to spend a lot of time on one of the Empyrean flotillas. We visit a lot of new locations and chalk up a lot of unseen characters—some we’ve only heard about before but never glimpsed. That’s part of the fun of a second book: you get all this other stuff out of the way and more time for sweet, sweet worldbuilding.

Exclusive Excerpt: "As Red as Blood"

As red as bloodThe new teen mystery As Red as Blood by Salla Simukka is one of this month's Kindle First books. Prime members can download the book for free through July 31, 2014.

In the book, the first in the Snow White Trilogy, 17-year-old Lumikki Andersson finds herself caught in a dangerous web of events after discovering a stash of money and attempts to track down the origins.

Check out an exclusive excerpt from As Red as Blood (PDF).

A Q&A with Leigh Bardugo, Author of "Ruin and Rising"

Ruin-and-risingLeigh Bardugo's new book, Ruin and Rising, marks the end of The Grisha Trilogy. The author chats with editor Noa Wheeler about the perception of beauty.

Noa Wheeler: One of the things I love about working on books with you, Leigh, is your eye for detail, both emotional and physical. And I feel like that attention to physical detail really ties in to your previous profession as a makeup artist. Does that background affect the way you portray your characters?

Leigh Bardugo: I got into makeup and effects because I always loved costuming and the whole idea of transformation. So I do think that my background played a role in the way I see not just the character, but the scene, the setting, the world. I don’t think it’s just about the visual but about the tactile as well. How does velvet feel? What is the grain of the wood beneath your feet? What about the smell of boot polish or the flowers in a bride’s hair? I love all of those little details.

But really, I think the biggest impact came not just from working in Hollywood but from growing up there. I got a close-up view of what physical beauty (and I'm talking about a very specific type of beauty that conforms to a narrow standard) can and can’t do for you, and I’ve always understood it as a commodity. I think teenagers are keenly aware of that because beauty has even greater currency when you’re young, so I wanted to be honest about that in my work.

NW: Yes, I definitely agree that teenagers have a sharp eye for beauty as currency, both in our own world and in fiction. Do you think this changes the portrayal of beauty and artifice in teen books as opposed to adult books? Does it or should it affect what authors present in their books for each readership?

LB: No, I don’t really think there should be a difference. Men and women both contend with what culture throws at us. We get bombarded with really wretched and relentless messages about what is attractive and the way that impacts our worth. That doesn’t stop when you get out of adolescence.

NW: In your opinion, what book (for teens or adults) best addresses this issue?

LB: I think Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell does this wonderfully sneaky, powerful thing: it shows us how Eleanor views herself (and the brutal way she assesses herself—her accute self-consciousness will be familiar to a lot of readers). Then Rowell gives us Park’s perspective, and we see how very wrong Eleanor is about the way he views her. The desire he feels is so direct and authentic, so tightly tied to the very physicality causing Eleanor pain. That shift in perspective is more powerful than a hundred “love yourself” lectures could ever be.

NW: I really did feel the difference in that book between Eleanor literally looking down at herself, and having this weird perspective on her own body (which we all do), and Park looking at her with an element of remove—he sees her as a whole, in many ways, and it’s always difficult to see ourselves that way.

LB: I love that Park is attracted to her body and all of her lovely parts. It’s not just about inner beauty, but about physical desire as well and I think that’s important. We’re too frequently taught that our “imperfections” are something to be looked past or overcome, rather than that we can be desirable body and soul.

Maureen McGowan: Tackling the Trilogy

GloryMaureen McGowan closes out The Dust Chronicles with Glory. The author shares her thoughts on the final installment and trends in trilogies.

In the realm of fiction, a trilogy is a set of three books. Unless you’re Douglas Adams—in which case it’s five

Looking at the best seller lists for young adult fiction from the past decade, it almost seems as though writing trilogies was mandatory. I have my own theories—in fact, a trilogy of theories—to explain this trend.

Theory 1: Readers enjoy trilogies. Once readers fall for a set of characters and a world, they want more, more, more.

Theory 2: Many of the stories that YA authors want to tell don’t fit inside a single ninety-thousand word novel. The stories are too big.

Theory 3: And… this one is less generous. Some authors drag out a plot—which could easily be covered in one book—over three books.

When I was first noodling with the idea that became the Dust Chronicles (Deviants, Compliance, and Glory) I quickly realized that either I had to rein in my story ideas—about Glory, a girl with a deadly secret and the post-apocalyptic world she lived in—or write her story as a trilogy. The story was too big.

Now, I’m not one for reining things in, but I’d never tackled a trilogy before so I spent a lot of time considering what makes good ones work. While I didn’t discover a formula or a single answer, the goals I set for myself were:

  1. Create a compelling story thread that spans all three books.
  2. Each book should be its own satisfying read and none should end mid-scene or with a major cliffhanger.
  3. Book 2 of the trilogy should not be slow or a filler book. Au contraire, it should be the meat of the story.
  4. Each book should be different and not repeat the same structure or plot points.
  5. The main character should transform over the course of each book. That is, if she faced the challenges from book 3 in books 1 or 2, she would fail.

While it will be hard to leave behind the world and characters I created for the Dust Chronicles, I hope I achieved my goals. I can’t wait to share new worlds and characters with readers.

Guest Blogger: "Slap Your Sides" Author M. E. Kerr

Slap your sidesAward-winning author M. E. Kerr discusses writing her novel Slap Your Sides, set during World War II. Much of Kerr’s inspiration came from her personal experiences growing up in Auburn, New York. For more historical fiction from Kerr, check out Your Eyes in Stars, set during the Depression, and Linger, which takes place during the Gulf War crisis.

I always wanted to be a writer. My older brother, Al, said that was why I liked the oddballs in town. There were plenty of them, starting with the prisoners. They were on all the trains going to and from our little town in upstate New York. On their way there, they were manacled to other men, and leaving Auburn, they wore new suits and often carried birdcages, even bowls of fish, their company during the years they were sentenced to prison.

We were a prison city, and Ezra Spring was one of the local kids who played chess with the prisoners, Sunday afternoons. Ezra was named after the founder of Cornell University, who was a Quaker, as all of the Spring family were. Ezra was what you’d call “devout.” Al said that Ezra and his girlfriend called each other “thee.” “Thee have a good night,” he’d once heard Ezra say to her. It was called the “plain language.”

I never thought much about Ezra until the war. Then Ezra became a conscientious objector, or, as kids in Auburn said, a “conchie.” The Spring family was always cleaning yellow paint off the windows of their small grocery store. They were always rubbing away curses against Ezra, the same ones yelled at him in school.

Al was a naval pilot, heading back to base one night after a short leave. My younger brother, mom and dad, and I were at the train station where half a dozen guys like Al, in uniform, were going back to war.

“Well, look who’s here,” Al said loudly, “our local slacker.”

In those days, that was about the worst thing you could call anyone. It announced that you were against the war.

Ezra Spring, of course, was not in uniform. He was carrying a small suitcase, a big fellow towering over his father but staying very close to him, as though Mr. Spring could protect him.

Dad said, “Why didn’t Ezra just become a 1A0? He could join up but he’d never see combat.”

Al said, “Then he couldn’t flaunt the fact he’s against the war! He’s going to CPS camp with the other cowards!”

“Hush, Al,” said my mother. “He doesn’t look like he’s enjoying himself.”

Continue reading "Guest Blogger: "Slap Your Sides" Author M. E. Kerr" »

Exclusive Excerpt: "The Shadows"

The shadowsMegan Chance introduces The Shadows and provides an exclusive first look at her Victorian fantasy romance.

Imagine that one day a legend comes to life before your eyes.

In Victorian New York City, Grace Knox is overwhelmed by her family’s problems and old myths are far from her mind. But when the Irish Fianna—a mythical band of warriors—suddenly appear, Grace is reluctantly dragged into their orbit. The legend says that the Fianna, Ireland’s original superheroes, lie in an enchanted sleep, waiting to be called back in Ireland’s time of need. So who called them and why? Why are they in New York instead of Ireland? And as for the myth about a Druid priestess who must sacrifice her life to end a legendary curse—what has Grace to do with any of it?

I’ve always loved history and fantasy and romance, and I used them all create the world of Grace Knox, a normal girl who finds herself at the center of an ancient prophecy that could cost her everything; the Fianna warrior Diarmid, who is torn between love and duty; and Patrick Devlin, Grace’s childhood friend, who offers Grace his heart and his hand, and who has a dangerous role of his own to play.

I hope you enjoy this excerpt from The Shadows.

Read an exclusive excerpt of the The Shadows (PDF)

Katie McGarry's Top 5 Beach Reads

McgarryThe Take Me On author shares which books she's taking to the beach this summer.

What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick is the perfect beach read as it takes place in the summer at the beach. The story follows seventeen-year-old Gwen Castle. She’s a working-class girl determined to escape her small island town, but when rich kid (and smoking hot) Cass Somers, her biggest mistake ever, shows up to work on the island for the summer, her entire life changes. There’s a scene that involves mapping, and it will just make you melt.

Do you want a hot read on a hot day? Read White Hot Kiss by Jennifer L. Armentrout. Layla wants to be a normal teenage girl; trouble is, she is anything but—she’s half demon, half gargoyle. She risks the wrath of a boy she's loved forever by joining forces with a sexy demon who claims to know her secrets.

The Lonesome Young by Lucy Connors is one of those books that sweeps you up and causes you to forget the world around you. That’s what I love in a beach read. The Hatfields and the McCoys had nothing on The Lonesome Young’s Rhodales and Whitfields—they have been fighting for decades. But what happens when the next generation falls in love? Teens Mickey and Victoria do fall, and they try to see if their love and passion outlast the hate between their families.

Three by Kristen Simmons is the third and final book in the Article 5 series. I love sitting on the beach and reading the conclusion of a series I adore. In Three, Ember and Chase seek refuge with the mysterious resistance organization, Three, which may give Ember not only a safe place to hide but a chance to fight back.

Running on Empty by Colette Ballard is a suspenseful, edge-of-your-seat and swoon-worthy read. Seventeen-year-old River Daniels kills her controlling boyfriend in self-defense. Then, with the help of her closest friends, she eludes police until she can find evidence to clear her name. One of the people helping her? Justice, the hot cowboy who has stood by her for years and who has loved her for as long as he can remember.

Steven James: Blame It On My Uncle

BlurBest-selling author Steven James introduces Blur, the first book in a new thrilling YA trilogy.

I’ve always liked to read stories that get my pulse racing. White-knuckle suspense. Mind-bending mysteries. New twists on old tales.

It’s probably my uncle’s fault.

All those campfire tales he told us.

We kept asking him for scarier and scarier stories, and he delivered. Then when I became a camp counselor myself, I passed on those same stories. However, toward the end of the summer I used up all my uncle’s stories and I had to start making up my own.

So that’s pretty much what initiated my career as a storyteller and novelist—keeping my campers awake a little too late into the night.

Although I’ve written nine thrillers for adults, I’ve never been able to put aside my memories of being a teen enjoying a great mystery or suspense story.

One day I asked myself what it would be like to be sixteen and start losing touch with reality—and have to solve a crime at the same time. That question gave birth to the first book in my new series of suspense novels for teens, Blur.

In this installment, high-school football star Daniel Byers starts having disturbing visions relating to the suspicious death of a girl at his school. He and his friends question whether he’s mentally ill or gifted with a psychic ability that could help lead them to solve the mystery. The story has the kinds of twists and turns that I always liked when I was a teenager.

I remember as a young teen being on a fantasy kick for a while and reading and rereading Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain and Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Quintet. Eventually, I migrated to horror and flew through the chilling short stories of Stephen King and Poe, and then the mysteries in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. I couldn’t get enough of them.

This summer I’m looking forward to checking out the first books of a few new young adult series: The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd (for that new take on an old tale), and Legend by Marie Lu (for that suspense that has always drawn me in). I can’t wait to see where they take me.

Reading, storytelling, and summer have always gone together for me. Stories are my lifeblood. And this summer I plan to really live.

Blur doesn't release until May 27, but you can read it first here. Use your account to sign into Kindle Whispercast to receive your copy. Request here through 5/26/14. To ensure delivery, check the Kindle Library or archives on your device to locate the book.