Happy Monday! I know it is Monday... blah... but I have something terrific for you! How about a Fire and Ice Bonus Day???? I had one more fantastic guest post and giveaway, but I didn't want to double book so I saved it for today, besides it is always nice to kick off the week with a great book! I have the wonderful Paula Stokes here again today....you might be thinking again, I have never seen Paula Stokes on your blog... well Paula writes the The Secrets of the Eternal Rose Series under her pen name Fiona Paul. Now she is branching out into contemporary YA. I am so excited to have her here. Her new book The Art of Lainey is adorable and all kinds of fun, I hope you check it out! Paula is now a resident of Portland, Oregon! Hooray for another great local author!
Paula is here with a fun post and giveaway for you all today, but first let me reintroduce you all to Paula:
Paula Stokes is half writer, half RN, and totally thrilled to be part of the world of YA literature. She started out writing historical fiction under a pen name and is now branching out into other YA genres. When she's not working (rare), she's kayaking, hiking, reading, or seeking out new adventures in faraway lands. She's petted tigers, snuggled snakes, snorkeled with stingrays, and once enjoyed the suction-cuppy feel of a baby elephant's trunk as it ate peanuts from her palm. Paula loves interacting with readers. Find her on her website, Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads.
Here is Paula:
Hi everyone! I’m Paula Stokes, one of the YA Valentines, so of course I’m psyched to be hanging out here with Heidi and talking about my thoughts on writing romance. But first, here’s a little bit about my YA romantic comedy, THE ART OF LAINEY, releasing in May:
Soccer champ Lainey Mitchell is gearing up to spend an epic summer with her amazing boyfriend, Jason, when he suddenly breaks up with her—no reasons, no warning, and in public no less! Lainey is more than crushed, but with help from her friend Bianca, she resolves to do whatever it takes to get Jason back. And that’s when the girls stumble across a copy of The Art of War. With just one glance, they're sure they can use the book to lure Jason back into Lainey’s arms. So Lainey channels her inner warlord, recruiting spies to gather intel and persuading her coworker Micah to pose as her new boyfriend to make Jason jealous. After a few "dates", it looks like her plan is going to work! But now her relationship with Micah is starting to feel like more than just a game…What's a girl to do when what she wants is totally different from what she needs? How do you figure out the person you're meant to be with, if you're still figuring out the person you're meant to be?
If you like fluffy, funny books with flawed characters and happy endings, you should definitely enter to win an ARC. But although I call it a romantic comedy, it runs light on smexy makeout scenes. Not that there is anything wrong with those—I like a good fictional hookup as much as the next girl J But in general, I’m a big believer in the idea that less is more, and that the buildup to a relationship provides opportunities for tense, romantic moments that shouldn’t be wasted.
I’m a huge fan of long looks, fingertips brushing, playful shoulder punches, and similar. Is it just me, or are almost-kisses just as hot, if not hotter, than actual lip locking? One of the most smoldering sexy relationships I ever saw on television was Captain Mal and Inara from Firefly, and those two never even kissed. I am still awaiting that kiss! I will wait forever for that kiss—that is how brilliantly their relationship buildup was rendered.
When I really started crafting the romantic interactions between Lainey and Micah, I wanted them to feel like real teen experiences. I never had any Instalove or Instalust when I was in high school. (Maybe some Instacrushes, but they were always one-sided) so I worked hard to build a relationship that developed organically, from initial curiosity to awkward moments, to being unsure of one’s feelings, to being unsure of the other person’s feelings, to fear of rejection, to courage, to what eventually becomes something like love. My characters won’t be uttering the L-word, though, because like I said, less is more. Plus, my book only takes place over six weeks, and Lainey and Micah aren’t people who throw that word around lightly.
Here are a few excerpts to show you what I mean:
I smile a goodbye to Micah’s mom over my shoulder as he practically drags me out of the apartment. I stare at his mohawk as we head down the steps and out of his building. Individual tufts of hair lean to the left in the warm breeze. I can’t help wondering what his hair feels like. Is it soft? Is it prickly? I could touch it if I wanted to. I mean, he was going to touch my hair before I pulled away. I think about it for a moment, but then decide against it. I wouldn’t want to give him the wrong idea.
For a second, we stand in the middle of the smoky dance floor, unsure of how to join ourselves together. Our hands bump as we reach for each other. His fingers are warm. Eventually both his hands end up on my waist, and mine around his neck.
I keep a small slice of space between our stomachs and chests, but even still there’s no way to really assume this position without being very close, especially since we’re practically the same height. I end up pressing my cheek to his, mostly so I don’t have to look at him. I angle my nose away so I’m not exhaling directly into his ear.
“Your hair smells good,” he says.
Random. He must feel as awkward as I do.
My thoughts feel hot inside my head, like they should be radiating a laser beam across the club, but Micah’s eyes are still closed, his body loose. He’s oblivious to the fact I’m thinking about kissing him. He has no idea my eyes are skimming their way down the lines of his body. His cheekbones. His beard stubble. The ridge of muscle connecting his jaw to the center of his chest. The faintest trace of sweat glistens where his neck meets his right shoulder. I want to touch my lips to it.
This is crazy. It’s Micah. I don’t like Micah. He doesn’t like me. We have about as much in common as, well, nothing. I sneak another glimpse at him. He’s still completely entranced by the song. He’s still completely kissable. It has to be the beer, or the music, the violins and guitars and electronic pulsing, the whole otherworldly quality to this song. Or maybe it’s just because I’m not myself here, and I don’t have to obey the rules of Lainey.
I feel his mouth smile against my shoulder. “Sorry,” he says. “Didn’t mean to get all heavy. Now you have to tell me one of your secrets so we’re even.”
Well, I couldn’t ask for a better setup than that. Here goes nothing. “I like you,” I blurt out. And even though he doesn’t say anything right away, even though tears form out of nowhere and I’m shaking and my heart is threatening to explode, part of me feels like I’ve just lost fifty pounds.
It takes my characters many many pages to figure out what they want, but to me the anticipation makes it sooooo worth it. I’ve always been one of those people who endured multiple seasons of TV shows like Bones or Castle waiting for that inevitable kiss between the male and female leads. But once that kiss happens, so much romantic tension is lost that sometimes it’s hard to keep people interested. That’s one reason I’m a huge fan of not rushing relationships—in real life and in fiction.
I hope you enjoyed my thoughts on crafting romance in YA and the excerpts from my first contemporary YA novel, THE ART OF LAINEY. Happy belated Valentine’s Day and good luck in the giveaway!
I so agree, Paula, I wrote up a post last week about what I liked in a romance and you echoed my thoughts. I like slow building romances based on a solid friendship, and I love waiting for it to finally take off. I also agree when it comes to the physical part, less is more... exactly what I said. Those almost kisses and small touches can be so hot! I know what you mean about those romantic television couples that never quite go there... Mulder and Scully from X-Files.....
Anyway, thank so much to Paula for taking time out of her insanely busy schedule to stop by! Today, Paula is offering a chance to win an ARC copy of The Art of Lainey along with some swag! The best part, Paula is making this giveaway International! So show her some love! To enter fill out the Rafflecopter after reading the Contest Policies. Good Luck!
Here is my review:
The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes
Soccer star Lainey Mitchell is used to getting what she wants, and when her boyfriend Jason breaks up with her for no reason, what she wants is to win him back before the start of their senior year.
Lainey and her friend Bianca check the interwebz for tips and tricks, but the online dating advice is all pretty lame.
Then the girls stumble across a copy of The Art of War. Didn't someone once say that love is a battlefield?
Jason isn't going to stand a chance once Lainey and Bee go all Zhou Dynasty on him...
Old school strategy and subterfuge meet modern-day dramarama in the story of a girl who sets out to win at all costs and ends up discovering what's really worth fighting for.
Paperback, 384 pages
Expected publication: May 20th 2014 by HarperTeen
Four Stars: A positive, realistic book about self discovery and an unexpected romance.
Lainey plans on having the perfect summer before starting her senior year. Soccer, hanging with friends and most of all spending time with her boyfriend Jason. Everything comes crashing down when Jason stops by her work and informs Lainey in front of everyone that he needs a break from their relationship and then walks out. Lainey is crushed but determined to get him back. Bee, her best friend, has a battle plan and it involves following the tactics of an age old book: The Art of War. Quickly, the pair think up a battle plan that involves making Jason jealous. Lainey recruits her fellow co worker, Micah, to be her fake boyfriend. Micah wears a mohawk and tattoos, and he is certainly not the type of boy that Lainey would normally hang with, let alone date. Micah is also trying to win back his ex. Hopefully, their fake dating will make their exes jealous and everyone will be back together and happy before the start of senior year. Lainey doesn't realize that perhaps Jason isn't right for her and that love can come at the most unexpected time. Will Lainey win the battle and woo Jason back to her side?
What I Liked:
- The Art of Lainey is a cute, feel good romance that is all about self discovery, growth and an unexpected new romance. I liked that this book features a teenage girl who undergoes an identity crisis when her boyfriend dumps her without warning. I think many of us can relate to the pain of a crushing breakup and floundering as we try to make sense of the relationship's demise while looking to win back what we once had. Along the way, change and growth occur, and then we realize breakups often happen for good reasons. This is what happens to Lainey during this book.
- I loved watching Lainey transform during the book. At first she is wrapped up in her boyfriend, friends and popularity. When Jason dumps her, Lainey begins to see things differently especially while hanging out with Micah. By the end of the book, she is an entirely new girl able to stand on her own two feet and think for herself. I especially liked when she sees her fellow classmates without her rose colored glasses, and I enjoyed watching her learn to see beyond labels and prejudices. I was pleased when she decided to stop worrying about what other people think and just be herself. I admired the girl she became and applauded her decisions. I loved that this not only was a book about transformation and self discovery but also about learning to be true to yourself, which we all know as a teenager is a huge challenge.
- The romance is sweet and perfect. Micah and Lainey are a case of complete opposites attracting. They even poke fun at their differences while together. Micah is the troubled bad boy with piercings, tattoos and a shady past. Of course, there is so much more to him than meets the eye. Underneath his bad boy persona, there is a kind, caring, hardworking, artistic, misunderstood young man who has overcome tremendous adversity and heartache. He is absolutely wonderful. I loved watching their relationship build, and I was ecstatic that it didn't involve either of the characters changing who they were for the sake of the romance. This is a slow building romance that starts out as an unexpected alliance that moves into something more. I love that the romance is about self discovery as both Micah and Lainey learn to experience new things. It is a relationship that builds with some unanticipated feelings, a shoulder punch, several awkward moments, to a touch that elicits heat, to that heart melting moment of the first kiss. This a romance that builds and builds until it hits that perfect high note. No insta love or lust or believe it or not love triangles.
- Aside from Micah and Lainey, there were some terrific secondary characters such as Bee, Lainey's loyal and shy best friend, Leo the bashful smart boy who is also trying to win back an ex, and I even liked Jason the ex boyfriend. I thought Ms. Stokes did a great job with Jason the supposed villain. She refrains from making him a complete slime ball. He is a teenage boy under the thrall of his hormones, unable to consider his relationship with Lainey anything more than hooking up, which is realistic. I was pleased with the way things worked out between them at the end.
- I appreciated that Lainey's parents played strong roles. Lainey's mother is quirky but she is involved. I liked that she even discussed sex with Lainey, much to Lainey's dismay.
- Finally, I liked that this was a YA contemporary that refrained from heavy drama and angst. It tackles some realistic issues while keeping the story light and fun. This is a feel good romance with a positive message that is perfect for spring and summer reading.
And The Not So Much:
- While I liked that this book portrays teens realistically, I wasn't a big fan of all the drinking. There is a scene toward the end where Lainey's friend Kendall even drives drunk with no repercussions, she basically gets away with it. Yes, I realize that underage drinking is part of being a teenager, but I didn't like that one of the characters drove drunk and it wasn't a big deal. The drinking is the one aspect of this book that would cause me to refrain from recommending this romance to teens under sixteen. I was pleased though with the way Ms. Stokes handled the sex. So word of caution this is a book with teen drinking and discussions of sex, so it is best suited for more mature teenage readers.
- I liked all the characters except for Kendall. I thought she was a nasty, self absorbed mean girl who had no redeeming qualities. I was hoping that she would come through, but like in real life, that doesn't always happen.
- The story line is predictable from the beginning. There aren't any big twists or surprises. You pretty much know from the get go how it is going to play out, so if you are looking for original and fresh, you may be disappointed, but this is certainly worth the read for the cute romance that is just right.
- Even though I loved how the book ended, I wanted just a bit more since it ends abruptly on a high note. I would love to have see how things played out down the road a few months, but I shouldn't complain it was a satisfying resolution without cliffhangers or a bunch of loose ends.
The Art of Lainey is an excellent book about self discovery, seeing things through different eyes and an unexpected romance. I loved the positive messages in this one, and I thought that it was realistic and fun. This is a perfect romance for summer. I highly recommend getting your hands on this one when it releases in May 2014.
"I'm surprised you like this group," I say. Pianos? Violins? I thought you only listened to hard-core punk and screaming death metal. You know, music to murder by.”
“It sounds lame, like I care what everyone else thinks. But the reality is that everyone cares about what some people think. “
“Sometimes it’s easier to fight for the wrong thing than to recognize it’s time to let go.”
“Standing up for yourself is about more than flinging barbed-wire insults around. It’s about picking your battles, knowing when to fight, knowing exactly what and who is worth fighting for.”
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.
Be sure to check out Paula's other amazing books:
Watch for Paula (Fiona) back here in March!