Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Release Day Launch: Big Easy Temptation by Shayla Black & Lexi Blake


bigeasyThe New York Times bestselling authors of the Masters of Ménage series present the third scintillating novel featuring the privileged, wealthy, wild men of Creighton Academy—the Perfect Gentlemen.

Years ago, Naval officer Dax Spencer and NCIS agent Holland Kirk indulged in a steamy affair—until she betrayed him in the wake of his father’s death. Dax tried to put her behind him with a payback of his own. But he never forgot Holland…

Now, as Dax and his fellow Perfect Gentlemen unravel a web of lies, he discovers his family’s tragedy is part of a much larger conspiracy. Soon, all clues point him back to New Orleans…where Holland waits, protecting her deadly secret and holding a torch for the only man she’s ever loved.

Once reunited, they can’t fight the passion flaring hot and wild. But something sinister lurks around every corner, from the elegance of the Garden district to the beauty of the bayou. Dax and Holland may find their way back to each other—if they survive...

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She emerged from the bathroom as he approached. Her eyes widened when she caught sight of him, but she settled back into her calm and collected persona. “Are you ready to go?”

So polite. He wanted to get past that genteel surface and find the passionate woman he knew lay underneath. “I’m ready for a lot of things, Holland. Most of all, I’m ready to finish what we started all those years ago.”

She backed up, her body hitting the wall behind her. “What are you talking about?”

Oh, she knew exactly what he was talking about, but he could make it clear to her. “I never got to finish that kiss. My father interrupted us.”

Holland shook her head, but she was looking at his mouth. Her breath had gone shallow. “We finished. And I walked away.”

He moved closer, crowding her. “I definitely didn’t get my fill, sweetheart. Maybe if I had, you wouldn’t have left. I think it’s time we fixed that problem.”

Dax leaned in slowly, giving her the opportunity to protest. He’d never force her . . . but persuasion was something else entirely.

“Tell me you don’t want me to kiss you right here, right now.”

“You know I can’t,” she whispered.

That was what he wanted to hear. He braced his hand against the wall above her head and hovered close, breathing in her scent. She smelled like ripe peaches and something so her. It thrilled his senses.

Slowly, he reached for the soft skin of her face and cupped it. “I never stopped thinking about you. Not once, Holland. I don’t think I’m capable of forgetting you.”

“This is a mistake.” She breathed the words onto his lips, their mouths drawing ever closer. “It can’t end well.”

He closed the remaining distance between them and brushed his lips over hers, giving her a taste of what was to come. “It can if we make it. We choose our fates.”

He would make his marriage work. Together, they would have children who always felt loved and never worried that their parents didn’t put them and each other first.

Dax deepened the kiss, sliding his tongue over her plump bottom lip and thrilling when she shuddered. Her trembling hands skated up his torso as she pressed their bodies closer and kissed him harder. Then she opened her mouth and he felt the slide of her tongue against his.

Pure fire threatened to consume him. Usually, he took his time and worked up to sex, but the feel of this woman in his arms made him rough and ready in a heartbeat. He wanted to shove her against the wall and thrust his cock deep. Take her. His whole being screamed out to claim her once and for all.

He pinned her to the wall, covering her body with his as he prolonged the kiss. With greedy palms, he hugged her curves, then settled on her waist and pulled her hard against him. He hated the clothing between them, wanted nothing more than to feel her silky flesh.

“Dax, we shouldn’t,” she breathed against his mouth.

“Stop thinking. Feel. Feel how much I want you, Holland.” He pressed his pelvis against hers. It wasn’t a gentlemanly thing to do, but he couldn’t be polite with her. She brought out the caveman in him. He wanted to mark her, to let everyone else know this one woman was his.

He silenced her with his kiss, delving deep again. Her fingers clung to his shoulders as her body molded to his, fitting together. Chest to chest. Belly to belly. His erection nestled against her pussy.

Could he take her in the bathroom? He had a condom. All he needed was a few minutes of privacy to ease the ache they were both suffering. But as much as he wanted her, Dax couldn’t fathom that his first time with Holland would be in a public john. She deserved better. So did they.

As he forced himself to ease back, an unfamiliar voice drifted down the hall. “If you’ll come this way, we’ll take a peek into the private dining room.”

Holland gasped at the intrusion and shoved at him. Dax stared at her flushed cheeks and swollen lips, a ribbon of satisfaction winding through him.

“As you can plainly see, Antoine’s is noted for its romantic environment. Like everything here in New Orleans, we keep it spicy,” the male voice said again.

Dax grimaced when he noticed a group of tourists taking one of the food and wine tours conducted daily throughout the city. As the group passed, Holland looked even more flustered. Obviously, she hadn’t been caught in many compromising positions before. Luckily he had.

Dax stepped in front of her and nodded to the guide as he walked past.

“Y’all have a nice night in the Quarter,” he said with a smile.

ShaylaBlack highresShayla Black is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than forty novels. For over fifteen years, she’s written contemporary, erotic, paranormal, and historical romances via traditional, independent, foreign, and audio publishers. Her books have sold well over a million copies and been published in a dozen languages. 

Raised an only child, Shayla occupied herself with lots of daydreaming, much to the chagrin of her teachers. In college, she found her love for reading and realized that she could have a career publishing the stories spinning in her imagination. Though she graduated with a degree in Marketing/Advertising and embarked on a stint in corporate America to pay the bills, her heart has always been with her characters. She’s thrilled that she’s been living her dream as a full-time author for the past seven years. 

Shayla currently lives in North Texas with her wonderfully supportive husband, her teenage daughter, and a very spoiled cat. In her “free” time, she enjoys reality TV, reading, and listening to an eclectic blend of music.  

Lexi_Blake NY Times and USA Today bestselling author Lexi Blake lives in North Texas with her husband, three kids, and the laziest rescue dog in the world. She began writing at a young age, concentrating on plays and journalism. It wasn't until she started writing romance and urban fantasy that she found the stories of her heart. She likes to find humor in the strangest places and believes in happy endings no matter how odd the couple, threesome, or foursome may seem. 

Her first novel, Their Virgin Captive: Masters of Ménage, Book 1, was a collaboration with New York Times bestselling author Shayla Black. There are six more books available in the series: Their Virgin's Secret, Their Virgin Concubine, Their Virgin Princess, Their Virgin Hostage, Their Virgin Secretary, and Their Virgin Mistress. 

In addition to the Masters of Ménage series, she is the author of the Masters and Mercenaries series. The first nine novels, The Dom Who Loved Me, The Men with the Golden Cuffs, A Dom is Forever, On Her Master's Secret Service, Love and Let Die, Dungeon Royale, A View to a Thrill, You Only Love Twice, and Master No are available now, along with the novellas Sanctum, Unconditional, Dungeon Games, Cherished, Luscious, Adored, and Just One Taste. The tenth novel, From Sanctum with Love, is coming February 23, 2016, along with a new novella, Devoted, on April 12, 2016. 

In 2013, Lexi also began releasing her urban fantasy series, Thieves. The full series, Steal the Light, Steal the Day, Steal the Moon, Steal the Sun, and Steal the Night, are available now on Amazon. The first two books in a spin-off of the series, Ripper and Addict, were released in 2015. Look for Sleeper, the next book in the spin-off series, to be released in Fall of 2016. 

Lexi again collaborated with Shayla Black in a new series The Perfect Gentlemen. The first book, Scandal Never Sleeps, is now available. Book two, Seduction in Session, will release on January 5, 2016, followed by book three, Big Easy Temptation, on May 3, 2016. 

Sign up for Lexi's FREE newsletter at http://lexiblake.net

For more information about her books, her appearances and her wacky life visit her Facebook page (http://goo.gl/q2IHnJ) or her website (http://www.lexiblake.net). 



Book Blitz + Giveaway: Tone Deaf by Olivia Rivers

Tone Deaf
Author: Olivia Rivers
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Release Date: May 3, 2016
Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Summary from Goodreads:

His world is music. Her world is silent.
Ali Collins was a child prodigy destined to become one of the greatest musicians of the twenty-first century—until she was diagnosed with a life-changing brain tumor. Now, at seventeen, Ali lives in a soundless world where she gets by with American Sign Language and lip-reading. She’s a constant disappointment to her father, a retired cop fighting his own demons, and the bruises are getting harder to hide.

When Ali accidentally wins a backstage tour with the chart-topping band Tone Deaf, she’s swept back into the world of music. Jace Beckett, the nineteen-year-old lead singer of the band, has a reputation. He’s a jerk and a player, and Ali wants nothing to do with him. But there’s more to Jace than the tabloids let on. When Jace notices Ali’s bruises and offers to help her escape to New York, Ali can’t turn down the chance at freedom and a fresh start. Soon she’s traveling cross-country, hidden away in Jace’s RV as the band finishes their nationwide tour. With the help of Jace, Ali sets out to reboot her life and rediscover the music she once loved.

Advanced Praise:

“A smart, sexy, and fast-paced story with a swoon-worthy love interest. Tone Deaf will be music to your ears.” —Jessica Taylor, author of Wandering Wild

“Much like its hero, Tone Deaf’s flashy, rock-star exterior surrounds a sweet, vulnerable soul that made it impossible to put down. It is equal parts fun and touching, with a dash of humor and lot of heart. The friendships, as well as the romance, have intense, believable chemistry, and with a giant pitbull named Cuddles thrown in the mix, I was in love!” —Laura Lee Anderson, author of Song of Summer

“Olivia Rivers has hit all the right notes with Tone Deaf.” —A. R. Kahler, author of Pale Queen Rising and Shades of Darkness

“The portrayal of Ali as Deaf is authentic and modern. She loves rock concerts for the vibrations and sensory pull of the crowd. She prefers to sign but exasperatedly reads the lips of people who talk fast or turn away as they talk. As Ali, Jace, and the band tour amid Amber alerts, surprising emotional connections are painfully forged and will resonate with young survivors of abuse, especially as Ali takes small steps toward recovery. VERDICT This gripping tale of survival has great appeal due to the parallel boy/girl narrative structure, the portrayal of a Deaf character at home in the realm of music and songwriting, and the overall pop culture tenor.” –School Library Journal

Buy Links:
Olivia Rivers is a hybrid author of Young Adult fiction. Her works include the independently published “Tortured Elements” and “Duplicity” series, along with the traditionally published novel “Tone Deaf” (Skyhorse 2016.) As a certified geek, she enjoys experimenting with new publishing technologies, and her online serials have received over 1,000,000 hits on Wattpad.com. When Olivia isn’t working as a writer, she’s a typical teen attending college in Northern California. Olivia is represented by Laurie McLean of Fuse Literary, and nothing thrills her more than hearing from readers.

Release Day Blitz + Giveaway: 27 Days to Midnight by Kristine Kruppa

27 Days to Midnight
Author: Kristine Kruppa
Genre: YA Steampunk Adventure
Release Date: May 3, 2016
Publisher: Giant Squid Books 

Summary from Goodreads:

Everyone in Dahlia's world knows when they're going to die. Except her.

Her father has never shown her the pocket watch counting down the days she has left to live. When he sacrifices himself to save her from her scheduled death, Dahlia abandons her comfortable home and sets off after his murderer to uncover the secrets her father died to protect…and the time research that could bring him back to life.

Then she meets Farren Reed. She should hate him. He’s an enemy soldier, a cowardly deserter, and the most insufferable man Dahlia’s ever met. Still, she needs all the help she can get, and Farren is the only chance she has to find the man who murdered her father. But Farren has only twenty-seven days left on his watch.

In that time, Dahlia must recover her father’s time research, foil a psychotic general’s plot, and learn to survive in a world that will never be the same. But the research holds secrets more dangerous than she had ever imagined. She will have to choose what is most important: revenge, Farren's life, or her own. And time is running out.

Kristine Kruppa is a mechanical engineer, writer, and world traveler. Her days are spent designing cool new car parts, but her evenings are filled with writing and cats. She has traveled solo to seventeen countries on five continents. Her other hobbies include hunting for the perfect cup of coffee, exploring used book stores, and accidentally climbing mountains. To keep up with her adventures, follow Kristine on Twitter @kskruppa.

(Author photo credit: Sunny Wong)
Author Links:

Release Day Celebration + Giveaway: The Paladins by Julie Reece

  Happy Release Day to
The Paladins (The Artisans #2) by Julie Reece!
Join us in celebrating this new release from Month9Books!
Enter the giveaway found at the end of the post.

Happy Book Birthday, Julie!
The Paladins Cover
  The Paladins (The Artisans #2)
Author: Julie Reece
Publication Date: May 3, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books


The Artisan curse is broken. Souls trapped in a mysterious otherworld called The Void are finally released. Now, Raven Weathersby, Gideon Maddox, and Cole Wynter can finally move on with their lives...or so they thought. If the ancient magic is truly dead, then why are mystical fires plaguing Gideon at every turn? What accounts for Raven’s frightening visions of her dead mother? And who is the beautiful, tortured girl haunting Cole’s dreams?

Last year, a group of lonely teens sacrificed secrets, battled the supernatural, and faced their own demons to set one another free. Yet six months later, the heart of evil still beats within The Void. And the trio is forced to face the horrific truth: that their only way out is to go back in.

The Paladins completes this eerie YA Southern Gothic where loyalties are tested, love is challenged, and evil seeks them on the ultimate battlegrounds—in their minds, their souls, and their hearts.

add to goodreads

Gideon’s arms slide around my waist as I stand at the kitchen sink with my snack. I’m trying to work up the courage to tell him what happened in my room this morning. All day I’ve avoided delivering the news that may derail our careful plans for fall semester.

Warm breath lingers on the back of my head sending delicious chills though my body. His fingers gently brush the skin on my stomach beneath my blouse, and I fight the urge to turn and leap into his arms. The guy emits more dangerous energy than a leaky power plant. Still, I hold back.

I was the one who wanted to go slowly. Like, first gear slow. Maybe just idle. Call me old fashioned, but I always dreamed that my first time sleeping with a guy would be with my husband on our honeymoon. I still want that, and him, but I just turned eighteen.

The muscles under his golden skin flex as his arms tighten around me. How does he make me feel safe and nervous at the same time? His nose parts the hair above my ear. Steady breaths, finally drive me to place my cookie on the counter and face him. My hands slide around his neck, fingers playing with the silky curls at his nape. I love the spicy scent of black licorice that’s distinctly his.

He lowers his head, nose rubbing mine before he lets his lips drift over my mouth. Whisper soft, his hesitant touch is an excruciating tease. Always, there’s curiosity and the promise of more to come.

My fingers untangle at his neck and drop to the bulge in his biceps. I can’t help enjoying the way they bunch when he holds me. My legs lose strength, knees weaken. There’s every possibility the boy will kiss me into unconsciousness. Can that happen? He must know because he holds me so close I hardly have the air to speak.
The Artisans


They say death can be beautiful. But after the death of her mother, seventeen-year-old Raven Weathersby gives up her dream of becoming a fashion designer, barely surviving life in the South Carolina lowlands.

To make ends meet, Raven works after school as a seamstress creating stunning works of fashion that often rival the great names of the day.

Instead of making things easier on the high school senior, her stepdad's drinking leads to a run in with the highly reclusive heir to the Maddox family fortune, Gideon Maddox.

But Raven's stepdad's drying out and in no condition to attend the meeting with Maddox. So Raven volunteers to take his place and offers to repay the debt in order to keep the only father she's ever known out of jail, or worse.

Gideon Maddox agrees, outlining an outrageous demand: Raven must live in his home for a year while she designs for Maddox Industries' clothing line, signing over her creative rights.

Her handsome young captor is arrogant and infuriating to the nth degree, and Raven can't imagine working for him, let alone sharing the same space for more than five minutes.

But nothing is ever as it seems. Is Gideon Maddox the monster the world believes him to be? And can he stand to let the young seamstress see him as he really is?

add to goodreads

Born in Ohio, I lived next to my grandfather’s horse farm until the fourth grade. Summers were about riding, fishing and make-believe, while winter brought sledding and ice-skating on frozen ponds. Most of life was magical, but not all.

I struggled with multiple learning disabilities, did not excel in school. I spent much of my time looking out windows and daydreaming. In the fourth grade (with the help of one very nice teacher) I fought dyslexia for my right to read, like a prince fights a dragon in order to free the princess locked in a tower, and I won.

Afterwards, I read like a fiend. I invented stories where I could be the princess… or a gifted heroine from another world who kicked bad guy butt to win the heart of a charismatic hero. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that? Later, I moved to Florida where I continued to fantasize about superpowers and monsters, fabricating stories (my mother called it lying) and sharing them with my friends.

Then I thought I’d write one down…

Hooked, I’ve been writing ever since. I write historical, contemporary, urban fantasy, adventure, and young adult romances. I love strong heroines, sweeping tales of mystery and epic adventure… which must include a really hot guy. My writing is proof you can work hard to overcome any obstacle. Don’t give up. I say, if you write, write on!

Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win!


Monday, May 2, 2016

Surviving High School Blog Tour: Excerpt + Giveaway

Welcome to my stop on the SURVIVING HIGH SCHOOL tour! Today I have a great excerpt from the book to share with you - and don't forget to enter the giveaway! To follow the rest of the tour, click on the banner above.

Surviving High School
Author: Lele Pons & Melissa de la Cruz
Genre: YA Contemporary
Release Date: April 5, 2016
Publisher: Gallery Books 


Vine superstar Lele Pons—“one of the coolest girls on the web” (Teen Vogue)—teams up with #1 New York Times bestselling author Melissa de la Cruz (The Isle of the Lost) in this lovable debut novel about the wilds and wonders of high school that’s as laugh-out-loud addictive as Lele’s popular videos.

Ten million followers and I still sit alone at lunch. Lele is a bulls-eye target at her new school in Miami until, overnight, her digital fame catapults the girl with cheerleader looks, a seriously silly personality, and a self-deprecating funny bone into the popular crowd. Now she’s facing a whole new set of challenges—the relentless drama, the ruthless cliques, the unexpected internet celebrity—all while trying to keep her grades up and make her parents proud.

Filled with the zany enthusiasm that has made Lele into Vine’s most viewed star, this charming novel is proof that high school is a trip. From crushing your crushes (what’s up with that hot transfer student Alexei??) to throwing Insta-fake parties with your BFFs and moaning over homework (GAH) with your frenemies, high school is a rollercoaster of exhilarating highs and totally embarrassing lows. Leave it to Lele to reassure us that falling flat on your face is definitely not the end of the world. Fans of Mean Girls will love this fun and heartwarming fish-out-of-water story.



Aaar, That’s Quite a Black Eye, Matey
The first thing you need to know about me is that I wasn’t always the gorgeous, sexy, cool, breezy blonde you know today. I know, I know, it’s shocking. The truth is, it wasn’t so long ago that I was an awkward outcast wearing braces and last season’s clothes two sizes too big. “No!” I can hear you disagreeing. “Lele has always been perfect.” Well, you’re right, I have always been perfect, but that’s an- other story for another time. Let me take you back to the dark days so you can see that once upon a time my struggle was deep and my struggle was real:
I’m sixteen and it’s my first day at Miami High. The hallways are long and the student body is . . . intimidating. See, my last school (St. Anne’s School for Girls) was small—you might even say cozy, intimate. Oh, right, and Catholic. I come from a small Catholic school and a sheltered Catholic family; until today all I’ve known are the sweet, familiar faces of the same twenty kids I grew up with, plus everything that’s ever happened on the Disney Channel (#TBT Zenon: The Zequel #NeverForget).
My parents, Anna and Luis Pons, decided, abruptly and unjustly, that I should move to a bigger school so I could meet more people, broaden my horizons, blah blah blah, before I go to college. Didn’t anyone tell them you can get into college from any old high school just as long as you have a dope internet presence? Welcome to the twenty-first century, Mom and Dad, please take a seat.
Okay, I didn’t mean that, sometimes I let sassiness get the better of me. Obviously college is a good and important thing—but is it for me? I’m super eager to become an actress and would get so impatient having to put that off for an extra four years, so I don’t know. I’m ready to put on a show for the world; I’m ready to seize life by the horns and make jazz hands.
Anyway, I’m a good Catholic girl and I respect my parents’ wishes (look, I do my best, okay?), which is how I got here, day one at Miami High, epicenter of pretty girls and some of the most unrealistically good-looking guys you will ever see.
I wake up late (typical) and fail to get my first-day outfit down the way I had envisioned. The frilly white blouse, black pants, and knee-high boots that Rihanna had pulled off so effortlessly have me looking less like a pop star and more like a pirate. But I figure, hey, YOLO, right? And head out to Hot-Guy High in disguise as Captain Jack Sparrow. (I know YOLO is dated, but come on, you only live once! Heh.)
First things first: my schedule. A lady who looks like an old potato with glasses and unevenly applied lipstick hands it to me at the front desk.
“Welcome to Miami High,” she says, like she’d rather kill herself than even open her mouth to speak these words. She smells like strawberry candy and cloves, and it’s a little too much to handle first thing in the morning to be quite honest. Anyway, here it is, my educational fate for the next ten months:
1st period: English
2nd period: World History 3rd period: Calculus
4th period: Gym
5th period: Marine Biology 6th period: Spanish
Right away, I stand out like a sore thumb. And yes, I get the looks. You know what I’m talking about: those evil stares kids love to give that say “Ew, who the F is she?” In first period, English, a boy with spiky blue hair throws a crumpled ball of paper that bounces off my head. During second period, world history, a kid with a backward baseball cap calls out, “Hey, why do you talk so weird?” When I explain to him that I have a Venezuelan accent, he calls back, “I dunno, it sounds like you just don’t know how to talk.”
“You mean speak,” I say.
“You mean to tell me that I don’t know how to speak. Grammatically, I mean. It’s speak, not talk. In this context.”
“Oh my God, what a freak,” the boy mutters to a cluster of equally jaded, pimple-faced boys who laugh and nod their heads.
In third period, calculus, a redheaded girl with glasses approaches me to say, “Everyone here dresses kind of more . . . subtle. Just so you know. For tomorrow.” Then she scuttles away to join her gaggle. Everyone has a gaggle. Except me. Lele Pons, lost and friendless, small fish in a big pond. Sigh. Here we go, junior year, I think to my- self, then drown my woes in an ice-cold Pepsi.
After third period comes lunch. Now, reader, I don’t know how long it’s been since the last time you were in a public school cafeteria, but let me tell you: it is one of the single most frightening places in the world. Literally, high school cafeterias deserve their own season of American Horror Story. Reader, please let me have the honor of describing the diverse array of atrocities within the Miami High cafeteria:
--Lunch ladies: Mean, scowling women who seem to hate their lives and hate us just for being who we are. One with a name tag that reads “Iris” yells at me for not having my money ready in time. Then yells at me more for not having my money transferred onto a One Card (which apparently is like a debit card specifically for gross high school cafeterias?)
--Hairnets: The lunch ladies wear hairnets that get sweaty and oily and make me think of nets used to catch fish—I can’t look at their heads without imagining fish out of water flap- ping around desperately for their lives. Appetite = gone.
--Inedible food: This food is practically criminal. I honestly, honestly don’t know what it is. It looks like a mound of Styrofoam covered in gravy and topped with cubes of something that could or could not be chicken. It comes with a side of “tangerines” that are actually just shreds of tangerine floating in corn syrup.
--Atmosphere: It smells bad; it’s loud; there isn’t a fair amount of oxygen to go around.
--High school kids: Never will you see as many high school kids packed into one place as in a cafeteria. If you’ve seen Mean Girls, then you know about the clique labels (sexually active band geeks, preps, girls who eat their feelings, hot Asians, etc.), but at Miami High there’s none of this. At Miami High, nothing is simple. Everyone is clumped together, each clique infringing on the personal space of the one next to it, so that you can’t tell where the jocks end and the nerds begin. School administrations won’t ever be able to abolish cliques, but they can force them to sit together, and this nightmare is the result. Unlike in Mean Girls and also Every High School Movie Ever Made Ever, where the main character and often new girl doesn’t know where to sit because none of the cliques will welcome her, I don’t know where to sit because there are literally no places to sit. Even if a clique were to welcome me, I would have to sit on someone’s lap. Dear God, this place is a zoo.
With nowhere to sit and no desire to eat my food, I toss my cardboard tray in the trash and hurry outside to get some air before I have a panic attack or accidentally stab someone out of fear and confusion. I sit down outside with my back against the wall and count down the minutes until this weirdness is over. But of course a watched pot never boils, and there’s no rest for the weary. A very professional woman in a blue blazer and patent-leather heels and a Hillary Clinton–type haircut clicks by clutching a walkie-talkie like she’s headed to diffuse a bomb. When she sees me, she comes to a startling halt.
“Excuse me, why are we outside?” She sounds vengeful and thirsty, like she wants to suck my blood.
“Ermm . . . I don’t know why you are. I am outside because I couldn’t breathe in there.”
“That doesn’t matter; you know the rules. No students allowed outside the cafeteria during lunch hour.”
“Oh, see, this is my first day. I didn’t know.”
“Well, now you know. Get back in there so I don’t have to write you up.”
“Write me up? Like in jail? I really don’t want to go back in.”
“Listen, I don’t know how they did things at your old school, but we don’t make exceptions for Miami High students. If I treated you like a princess, I’d have to treat everyone like a princess. You’re just going to have to eat inside like everyone else.”
“Because I want fresh air I’m asking to be treated like a princess?”
“Please don’t take an attitude with me, I haven’t written up anyone today and I don’t want to start now.”
“Good Lord.” I’m practically laughing at this point, the absurdity of this woman and the situation is too much to handle. “I guess I’ll have to start a rebellion.”
“No need to be so dramatic. Stop by the main desk after school to pick up an off-campus form. Have your parents sign it and you’ll receive off-campus privileges during lunch. You don’t have to eat in the cafeteria, but you can’t be on campus. It’s for safety reasons.”
Thank you. I’m so glad I didn’t have to turn this into something dramatic.”
She huffs and clicks away, her head leading her body so that she was practically a diagonal line. Gotta admire that delusional determination.
The bell rings and I’ve never been so excited to get back to class. I notice a kind-looking African American girl walking back on campus with impeccably braided hair and indisputably nerdy glasses.
“Hey,” I call to her, “do you go off campus for lunch?”
“Oh, yeah, there’s no way I could survive going in there every day.” She gestures to the cafeteria.
“It’s disgusting, right? I thought maybe it was just my imagination.”
“No, girl, you’re right on track.”
“For the first time in my life, maybe. I’m Lele Pons.”
“I’m Darcy Smith. Nice to meet you. Make sure you get an off- campus pass ASAP, you seem nice and I would hate to lose you to that place.”
Note to self: get an off-campus pass or perish. Note to self: I don’t like this school.
 Note to self: But I sort of like Darcy.
Fourth period is gym. Coach Washington is this boxy-shaped woman with a bowl haircut and two silver teeth. Oh, and she’s missing the pinkie finger on her left hand. She passes out these ugly neon uniforms and then marches us to the locker room where we are actually supposed to get naked in front of each other. Ew. Being a Catholic, I’m modest, and I try to be as discreet as possible—I don’t even know these girls’ names yet, and I don’t want their very first impression of me to be this beige Nike sports bra. But it’s too late. A slender-though-curvy brunette with big, bright brown-green eyes and fluttery eyelashes spots me in the crowd and, sensing my weakness, pounces.
“Hey, new girl.” She smirks. “I think my grandma has that same bra.”
“Congratulations on knowing so much about your grandma’s underwear,” I say right back, without thinking. The room goes silent and Bright Eyes raises her eyebrows at me in a way that, I have to admit, freaks me out a little. Have I messed with the wrong chica? She shuts her locker door slowly and deliberately, as if sending me some kind of warning sign, then flips her hair and turns to leave. “Yo’ mama wore this bra last night,” I mutter to myself and whoever is still listening. Great one, Lele, great one.
Out on the field, Coach Washington takes roll and I learn that Bright Eyes actually goes by the name Yvette Amparo. Washington pronounces my name like “Lee Lee” and I just absolutely have to correct her. That’s the second thing you need to know about me: I can really lose it when bitches call me Lee Lee. Some dimwits even call me Ley Ley or Lilly. Does nobody know how to read? It’s Lele . . . like, Leh Leh, or like “you can stand under my umbrella ella ella eh eh eh,” except if you add some L’s: “You can stand under my umbrella ella ella Lele Lele.” That’s how you can remember it whenever you’re struggling. Leh, like heh. I try to explain this all to Coach Washington, but she loses patience quickly and moves on.
I gotta tell you, tackle football seems a little intense for a first- day sport. Couldn’t we just stick to something safe, like jumping jacks? Apparently not. Apparently gym teachers in large public schools enjoy torturing their students. As soon as Coach Washington puts Yvette and me on opposite teams, I know I’m going to have to take her down. That’s the third thing you need to know about me: I’m a physical person. I’m not saying I’m not smart, I’m just saying I prefer to use my body to work out issues. You know, go on a run, have a solo dance party, punch someone if necessary. I’ve seen the way boys resolve their discrepancies: a little roughhousing and it’s all in the past. They’re like lions in the wild. But us girls, for whatever reason, we’re expected to talk it out like little ladies. Gah!
Anyway, so we get out on the field and I’m all in. Suddenly it’s like if I don’t win this game for my team, I will have officially failed my first day. If I win, however, I’ll be my own personal hero and will triumph over the brutal awkwardness leading up to this moment. As soon as Washington blows her whistle I’m running and jumping and diving and clawing my way through the field with so much enthusiasm that I forget I don’t actually know the first thing about tackle football. Oops. Through my veil of adrenaline I can see someone toss Yvette the ball, and I go for it. Maybe I shouldn’t, maybe it’s wrong, but I throw my body on top of her, tackling poor skinny Yvette to the ground. But she doesn’t go down easily. She puts up a fight, thrashing her head all around until CLONK, her skull knocks into my face with the weight of a bowling ball. I bite my lip, trying not to scream. Stars spin around my head cartoon-style and Coach is blowing on that stupid, shrill whistle.
“Okay, okay, time out. What’s going on here?” she says, ramming her hands together perpendicularly in the “time out” gesture.
Lee Lee attacked me.” Ugh.
“I didn’t attack you; I tackled you. Like how you do sometimes in tackle football. Which we are currently playing.” I put my hand to my right eye, which already feels bruised. Yvette gets all huffy and Coach makes me sit down, and then I get huffy all by myself in a corner, mad at Yvette and Coach Washington and the kid who threw a paper ball at my head earlier and my stupid parents for making me come to this evil, awful place.
By the time I’m changed back into my regular (a.k.a. pirate) clothes, my right eye is completely swollen shut. Bitch gave me a black eye!
“You know you look like a pirate, right?” Yvette snarls, sauntering out of the gym.
“Arrrrr!” I holler after her. I want to make her walk the plank.
At home my parents ask me that awful question every kid dreads hearing, the question that sounds like nails on a chalkboard: “How was your day?”
“Fine,” I say. Then I change my mind, suddenly inhabited by the spirit of honesty. “Actually, it was terrible. The place is ginormous and everyone thinks they’re so cool.”
“Oh, Lele”—my mom says my name perfectly, always a comfort, albeit slight—“I’m sure none of them are as cool as you.”
“Thanks, Mom, I’ll make sure to tell them my mom thinks I’m super cool.”
I go to my room and collapse onto my bed, groan into the pillow, kick my feet a little bit for dramatic effect. After my self-pity party I decide I’ve suffered enough for one day. It’s time to shake it off like Taylor Swift, time to let it go like Elsa.
It’s time to go to my happy place: Vine. In Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Audrey Hepburn says that nothing very bad can happen at Tiffany’s, and that’s exactly how I feel about Vine. Nothing very bad can happen on Vine, at least not to me. Vine is the one place I feel untouchable. I sign into my account and type in the title of tonight’s Vine: “The Advantages of Being a Boy.”

Lele Pons was born in Caracas, Venezuela and moved with her family to Miami when she was five years old. She got her start when she created a page on the video-sharing app Vine in December 2013. Originally intended as a fun outlet to showcase her creativity, her vines evolved into comedic sketches and pulling practical jokes on family and friends. Her following grew from five thousand local followers to more than ten million by November 2015. 

Today she is one of the most recognizable names on social media, and has been featured in Vanity Fair, The New York Times, Teen Vogue, Time, and more. Lele has been nominated for three Teen Choice Awards, a People’s Choice Award, and a Streamy Award. In 2015, she was invited to the White House by First Lady Michelle Obama to help launch her campaign for disadvantaged kids to go to college. Lele graduated from high school in 2015 and currently resides in Los Angeles, CA.

Melissa de la Cruz is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of books for readers of all ages, including the Witches of East End, Blue Bloods, and Descendants series. 

 Tour Wide Giveaway: (2) Print copies of Surviving High School - Open to US only!