Thursday, December 11, 2014

Desert Star (The Desert Series) by Lisette Brodey (Giveaway, Excerpt, Interview, Review)

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Title: Desert Star

Series: The Desert Series #2

Author:  Lisette Brodey

Published:  November 12, 2014

Publisher:  Saberlee Books

Word Count:  100,000

Genre:  YA Paranormal

Content Warning:  Mild sexual content and non-gratuitous profanity

Recommended Age:  14+


Larsen Davis isn’t afraid to stand up to those who bully him, but in a two-against-one situation at Mystekal High, it’s never easy. When classmate River Dalworth witnesses the abuse and intervenes, the two seniors become good friends. Larsen explains that he’s fighting another battle at home: his own mother, Raylene, bullies him for being gay.

When Larsen meets River’s mother, Arielle, and learns she is overseeing the renovation of the Desert Theater, he shares his dream for a career on stage. Soon, Arielle offers Larsen a job as her assistant, but Raylene is dead set against the idea of her son doing what she considers “gay work.” After Raylene gets a new boyfriend, Reggie, the bad situation at home worsens and Larsen has no choice but to leave.

Now working at the Desert Theater, Larsen feels the unearthly presence of someone in the long-abandoned theater. Meanwhile, as the theater nears completion, a talent show is scheduled for opening night. As it becomes more evident that the theater may have a ghost, it also comes to light that someone may be sabotaging the renovation and the show. Is the ghost real or just the handiwork of someone with a grudge?

Opening night at the Desert Theater sets the stage for a crime, never-imagined reunions, long-awaited explanations, and otherworldly miracles.
Larsen’s eyes began to water. “My father died when I was eleven. My mom says that the lack of a good male role model is what made me gay. She’s clueless. You know, Riv, when I was ten, my dad took me to the mountains one day. We were just sitting there, looking at the view, and he told me, ‘Son, when you grow up, there are gonna be some people who will bust your balls for being different. But take it from your old man, it’s okay to be whoever you are.’ ” “So your father knew you were gay?” Larsen wiped away a lone tear. “Yeah, he knew before I did. And I think he knew he was sick. That’s why he told me. I’m sure of it.” “Oh, damn, dude. I’m sorry. What did he die from?” Looking right, then left, Larsen paused before answering. “Some kind of lymphoma. My mother won’t talk about it.” “Sorry, Lars. I really am. So, what’s up with her?” Larsen looked in the distance and saw Jax and Antonio jump into a black Mustang where the driveway to the school met the main highway. “Let’s go, Riv. You don’t need to stand here and watch me hold the building up.” River laughed as he and Larsen started walking away from the school, toward the large expanse of desert where several students were still milling about, waiting for rides, or just talking. “I’ll tell you, if you can hold the building up, you can take care of those two clowns.” Larsen frowned. “Yeah, maybe. Anyway, my mom, well, she’s embarrassed to have a gay son. Tells me all the time that it’s hard enough being black, so what the hell did I have to go and be gay for. I keep telling her that I had as much choice in being gay as I did being black. But she’s not buying that. She told me she’s gonna squeeze the gay right out of me one day.” “Yeah, right. C’mon, come over to my house. Hang with me for a while. I live about a mile down the road, off to the right.” “I live about a mile and a half in the other direction. Oh, man, Riv. What if someone sees us walking to your house together?” “Then it means their eyeballs are in good operating condition. C’mon.” Surprised but pleased, Larsen walked alongside River. “You’re a pretty good guy.” River was embarrassed. “I’m okay. Tell me about your mom.” “She works as a waitress in Palm Desert. She goes in before I get home from school and gets off work around ten-thirty.” “She’s not around to cook dinner for you?” Larsen sighed. “No. I eat mostly frozen dinners. Sometimes on the weekend she cooks up a pot of something and leaves it for me to heat up. Or I cook a little something myself. But that’s not the worst part, Riv. My mom picks up men all the time. And she doesn’t know them that long before she brings them home. She says she’s doing it for me. Wants me to meet ‘real men.’ They stick around for a couple of weeks and dump her.” “Wow, dude. That’s some lame shit.” Larsen picked up a small rock and threw it as far as he could. “She told me the last guy dumped her because he couldn’t sleep in the house with a homosexual in the next room. What kind of idiot thinks that gay people are attracted to just anyone of the same sex? Or that we’re all sexual perverts? Makes me mad. Anyway, Mom told me I’m ruining her life.” River bit his bottom lip while Larsen’s words replayed in his head. “Sounds to me like it’s the other way around … sorry, I shouldn’t have said that.” “S’okay, Riv. I’m down with the truth. Your parents gonna have any problems if you bring me home. I don’t want to—” “No. No way. My family isn’t like that. We’ve got our own history, you know. Nobody in my house is going to judge you. This is probably TMI, but my mom split on us years ago and went to live in LA with some loser producer. It’s a long story, but she came home, stuff happened, and then she and my dad fell in love again and got remarried. When she first left, we thought she was gone for good. So you never know. We’ve even got a dog now. Maybe things will get better for you.” “Don’t think so, Riv. My mom hates me more every day.”


I received a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

In Mystical High, the first book of The Desert Series, the town of Mystekal was in decay. As if to underscore how much, multiple people reported ghost sitings. But they quickly found out that the living could be much more frightening than the dead, and the death of the Ernest Carrow, the murderous high school principal who also owned much of the town, allowed the residents to start rebuilding their lives and rebuilding Mystekal. 

Arielle Dalworth, newly returned to Mystekal (and remarried to her husband after an ill-conceived tryst with a slimeball Hollywood producer) is charged with reviving the once grand theater. As she's making arrangements, her hilariously brilliant son River meets Larsen "Lars" Davis, a talented young man who dreams of a career as an actor but whose life is made hellish by the bullying he suffers over his sexuality- both in school and at home. River may be quirky, but he's also brave, and there's no way he's going to watch someone suffer like that. But there are limits to what a good friend can do, especially when most of your trouble is at home. Lars is going to need a guardian angel to help get him out of his miserable situation...and one happens to be working in his school cafeteria. But what is haunting gentle, kind Kathryn, and why does it hurt her so much to see him bullied? There's a lot to unravel and unpack, and some of it is going to include a shocking revelation that will help explain some of the past. But is that going to be enough to prevent another disaster just as the town is coming back to life?

From page one, the reader knows this story is going to be about bullying. As hard as it is to read about someone being bullied in school, it's even harder to read about someone being bullied at home. Your heart will break as you read how sweet and thoughtful Lars suffers through his mother's insults (and those of the people she brings home). However, seeing the Dalworths, especially River and Arielle, reach out inspires hope that Lars' situation will improve.

One of the things I love about Brodey's writing is that she shows the shades of all of her characters, whether they're "good" or "bad". Some of the characters do stupid things, but she gives all of them the capacity to dig deep and understand why so that both they and the readers understand. Still, as someone points out, it takes a lot more than logical understanding to prevent your insecurities from being your own worst enemies, and sometimes that process takes time. Arguably, one of the questions lingering over the series is whether people have enough time to "grow up" before they do something they'll regret.

The shocking revelation in this book helps shed some light on some of what happened in the first book. (Hint: if you liked Book Two and Six of the Harry Potter series, you'll definitely get a kick out of this one.) But ultimately, tragedy is a circumstance, and people still make choices. Brodey explains some of her characters' actions more deeply, but she doesn't excuse them.

I found myself tearing up at the end when we finally get to meet the "desert star", and I'm pretty sure other readers will too. Recommended for fans of young adult paranormal.


Why did you want to talk about bullying in this book?

Because sadly, bullying behavior is ubiquitous. It hasn’t stopped. And the Internet has opened up a whole new world for cowards who hurt others. People bully for more reasons than I could ever state here. As a matter of fact, I wrote out, then deleted, a lot of the reasons I believe people bully. I did so because there was no end to what I had to say and to the anger I feel when I think about it.

It is hard enough for anyone to endure bullying, but it can often turn deadly for children (and adults) who cannot take it anymore or who believe the world would be better off without them. Or bullying can drive people to commit heinous crimes. It was my hope with Desert Star to show the myriad effects of bullying and that some people survive the ugliness while others go in a very different direction.

It was also my intention to show the good in people. As my character River Dalworth says to Larsen Davis (who is being bullied), “it’s everyone’s nightmare when nobody stops bullying.” 

Some of the incidents were garden-variety high school cruelty, but some of them were pretty horrific. Have you had any involvement in something like that?

Most of what I wrote was based on things I have seen, experienced, been told by others, or have read in the news. Bullying is a central theme in my book because there can never be enough awareness, and I am passionate against cruelty to others.

There is one scene in the book where a very ugly note is taped to Larsen Davis’ locker. The words are terrible. Those were not my words. Let me explain.

When I was in college, I was in an elevator going up to the dorm with a gay male friend. Suddenly, he gasped in horror as he grabbed a bully’s note that had been taped to the elevator for all to see. The note in the book uses the words from many years ago—verbatim. I only changed the name. So, you can see, the ugliness of a bully’s words made a profound impression on me.

The adults seem to have their act together a little bit more this time around. In real life, how easy do you think it is for adults to learn from their mistakes?
I still make mistakes (and always will), but I avoid more than I make, thankfully. I know many people who have made lots of mistakes but have evolved into wonderful human beings. Then, there are people who are just too sick. I don’t know why, but they never mature and sometimes get worse.

As to whether or not it’s easy for a person to learn from his or her mistakes, I think that fully depends on each individual. If a person is unhappy with her or his behavior, I would say the effort to change might be much greater. Many people stay in denial and keep making the same mistakes until they want a different result. Some never get it at all. I write character-driven novels so showing the evolution of a person is important to me. But I always keep in mind that it’s a unique situation for every individual.

You shed some light on the behavior of someone from the first book. I admit; I was shocked. When you were writing the first book, did you have that back story in mind?

I had a couple ideas in mind. I wasn’t going to write about this character’s background in Mystical High because there was no place for it there. And I didn’t want to offer any quick explanations in MH because I felt as if that would be cheating the readers. It was important for me to tell a much bigger story in Desert Star. Isn’t that what a series is for? So, I mulled over my ideas and the one that was right for this book became clear.

You have a background in entertainment. Did any of your real-life experiences inform some of the LA characters? (In other words, any dirt you want to share?)

Well, I’m not going to name names, but … let’s put it this way — I’ve had lots of experience in the entertainment industry. Currently, I work now and then as a background actor in film and TV. But years ago, I worked at two Hollywood studios as an assistant for various senior executives. Not an enjoyable time in my life. And yes, IF I had any animus, it MIGHT be reflected in some of my characters. IF … yes, it would be! J

What can we look forward to for Book Three?

I'm notoriously tight-lipped about books in progress, but I can tell you that the final book will be the most romance-oriented book of the series.

Who's your favorite character in the series so far?

My favorite character has to be River. He made me laugh so many times. I enjoyed watching him grow into a young man without losing his quirkiness or sense of humor. He often embarrasses those he cares about with his candor and silliness, and he doesn't always taste his own medicine very well, but he is solid and ethical when it comes to standing up for what's right. And that's why he'll be a central character in the final book. I have to spend more time with him.
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Lisette Brodey was born and raised in Pennsylvania. After high school, she moved to New York City where she attended Pace University and studied drama. After ten years in New York, several of them working in the radio industry, she moved to Los Angeles, where she held various positions at Paramount Studios in Hollywood and CBS Studio Center in Studio City, CA.
Back on the East Coast, she worked for many years as a freelance writer, specializing in PR and the entertainment industry. In 2010, she returned permanently to the Los Angeles area. She is the author of five novels. Her first-published book, CROOKED MOON (General Fiction) was published in 2008. Her first-written, second-published book, SQUALOR, NEW MEXICO (General Fiction) was published in 2009. MOLLY HACKER IS TOO PICKY! (Women’s Fiction), was published December 1, 2011. In October 2013, Lisette’s fourth novel, MYSTICAL HIGH, book #1 in a YA paranormal trilogy, The Desert Series, was published. In January 2013, the author edited and published a book of her mother’s poetry (written 50 years earlier) called MY WAY TO ANYWHERE by Jean Lisette Brodey.

DESERT STAR, Book 2 in The Desert Series, was published November 2014.


Giveaway Details:

There is a tour wide giveaway. Prizes include the following:

  • $25 Amazon Gift Card
Giveaway is International
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