I’m so excited to have mother/daughter team PJ Tracy (Traci Lambrecht and PJ Lambrecht) here on the blog today to talk about their brand new book, Off the Grid! The Monkeewrench team is back, and I couldn’t be more excited! Please welcome them to the blog!
Your eagerly awaited (and sixth) new Monkeewrench book, Off the Grid, just came out! When you started the series, did you have in mind how many books you’d like to write, or did you just decide to see where the gang took you?
Actually, Monkeewrench was written as a stand-alone. The possibility of a series wasn’t even on our radar. But our publishers were so enthusiastic about the cast of characters, they asked to see more of them, and we were thrilled to comply, because we’d become so attached to all of them. Now, six books into the series, we just roll with the gang – they take us to unexpected places every time, which is one of the greatest joys of writing. But series writing isn’t without its own set of challenges – once you establish characters, you have to find creative and realistic ways to keep them dynamic while staying true to their individual integrities.
Will you tell us a bit about Off the Grid?
It begins with two of our recurring characters thwarting an assassination attempt off the coast of Florida and discovering that one of them is inexplicably marked for death – why, or by whom is a baffling mystery, but they’d better figure it out quick! At the same time, homicide detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth are investigating a series of brutal, seemingly unrelated murders in Minneapolis. But as evidence accumulates, they discover several shocking links to their homicides, the assassination attempt on one of their friends, and the tragic kidnapping of five young girls. The stakes are already high, but they get raised in a big way when Gino and Magozzi realize that the crimes are all part of a much bigger plot with terrifying and far-reaching implications that must be stopped, even if it means war.
Many people assume that an author’s favorite character to write is the main character, but that’s not always the case! Which is your favorite character to write?
We have so many important players in our books, we’re not sure there even is a main character. And readers all have different impressions of who is central to the series, which is pretty cool. But at the end of the day, Magozzi and Gino are total candy to write for both of us.
I’ve heard that your collaboration sessions are…interesting, to say the least! Will you tell us a bit about your process?
It’s PJ and I hanging out together, laughing hysterically about 80% of the time. The other 20% is spent chuckling. Somehow, we manage to come up with a plot through all of this, and then its go-time. We get serious, and plunge ourselves into the work, at which point, we become extremely anti-social and difficult to live with. Well, I live alone, but sometimes I find myself difficult to live with!
What are some of your biggest literary influences?
T:Probably just about everything we’ve ever read. You learn just as much from reading a great book as you do from reading a bad book.
If you could read a book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
T:That’s a tough one – since I’m being asked a specific question, I would have to say Catcher in the Rye. It kind of blind-sided me, because it was a laugh out loud novel for me, as dark as it was, and before I’d read it, I’d never really laughed while reading. I guess it really played to my hereditary dark sense of humor.
PJ:Winter of Our Discontent – more dark humor. You can see that Traci and I are related.
When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
T:Free time is kind of an alien concept, but on those rare occasions when I’m not writing, or thinking about writing, I’m with friends and family, indulging my three favorite pastimes: entertaining, cooking, and drinking wine. In the summer, I love to garden. During Minnesota winters, I love not having to go outside if I don’t want to!
PJ:Watching Traci cook and drink wine and entertain.
If you could pack your bags and travel anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you go?
We would both stay put! We reached our travel saturation points a couple years ago, and now we’re both total homebodies.
Quick! What’s something that makes you laugh out loud?
T:Kittens. South Park. Life in general. It would probably be easier to list what doesn’t make me laugh out loud.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
We recently finished a Christmas novella entitled Return of the Magi. It’s dark, it’s light, it’s funny, and ultimately, it’s a story of redemption. We hope to see it published in 2013. We have also optioned the Return of the Magi screenplay, and the film and TV rights to the Monkeewrench series. And we’re currently working on the seventh Monkeewrench installment – you haven’t seen the end of the gang yet!
Keep up with PJ Tracy: Website | Facebook
The Prophet by Michael Koryta
Publisher: Little, Brown/August 7th, 2012
When a young girl comes into Adam Austin’s bail bonds office, he has no concept of how young she really is. He thinks she’s college age, but she’s actually a high school girl that claims to have been in touch with her incarcerated father, and now he’s out, and she wants to visit him. The only problem is, she says, is that he won’t tell her exactly where he’s staying. In his letters, however, he mentions he’s staying in a rental home and names the property owner. All the girl wants is an address. Adam pushes back all of his misgivings about giving her the information, thinking she would be better off not making contact, and finds the address for her. When he hears she has been murdered, Adam takes it upon himself to find her killer, giving him the name of his sister”s killer so many years ago. See, Adam blames himself for his sister’s death, and he’s not going to let this guy get away. Not even if he has to make sure of that himself.
When The Prophet started, I thought I knew where it was going. As it peels back the layers of Kent and Adam’s lives and motivations, I really, really thought I knew what was going to happen. As it turns out, I didn’t. Seems pretty straightforward at first. Adam sends this girl to that house, where instead of reuniting with her father, she is killed. Adam feels responsible for her death, much like he still feels responsible for his sister’s death, when he was still in high school. Adam is the big brother, and he takes everything, and I mean everything, on his broad shoulders. He’s not about to let this one get away. Adam still lives in the house that they grew up in and has preserved their sister’s room down to every detail. He also talks to her on a regular basis as he sits in her room, watching the sun bounce off of the stain glass figures she so painstakingly created. Adam is most thoroughly haunted by his sister, and when details start coming to light about Kent, and his possible connection to the killer, Adam realizes there’s much more to this story, and Kent is equally determined to put things right.
On the surface, The Prophet is a thriller, but at its heart, it’s a story about revenge, redemption, and the power of love and family. The twists and turns will keep you turning the pages, but the love between these brothers will break your heart. Also, if you’re a football fan, you’re in for a treat, because there are plenty of passages detailing the exploits of the high school team that Kent coaches, and even if you don’t give a wit about football, you’ll find yourself sucked in to the drama, because it’s that drama that drives Kent, and the urgency of the writing during these passages is addicting and impossible to ignore. The Prophet is a barnburner of a novel, cutting a swath through families and lives with a razor sharp quickness. It will suck you in, chew you up, and spit you out, and you’ll love every minute of it. Michael Koryta is hugely talented writer, and The Prophet is not to be missed!
I’m thrilled to have Andy Siegel on the blog today! Andy is the author of the brand new legal thriller, Suzy’s Case (my review), and was kind enough to answer a few of my questions, so please welcome him to the blog!
Andy, you’re a successful medical malpractice lawyer! What made you decide to take the plunge and write a novel?
Someone said I should write a book — so I did. It just happened. Tug Wyler simply popped into my head. Or maybe he quietly had been there all along.
Suzy’s Case is about a little girl horribly affected by a medical mistake, something that could have been easily avoided. You managed to balance something very dark with Tug’s ability to not take himself too seriously. Other than the obvious similarities (career, kids), are you and Tug alike in personality?
In certain ways, the answer is yes. Tug Wyler and I are alike. But I live in the real world, so I’m unable to follow Tug’s antic ways as he goes about satisfying his sense of justice. What keeps him tunneling deeper and deeper into the circumstances is his compulsion, like mine, to make the system work for the injured victim.
Was it tough balancing the demands of your practice (and family, etc) while writing Suzy’s Case, and how did you do it?
I am a lawyer. The name of my law firm in New York City is Siegel & Coonerty. I represent people who have sustained serious personal injuries. Many are victims of traumatic brain injury (TBI). So, the demands of my practice and the interests of my client’s, come first. Regarding my home life, I don’t require much sleep, so the balance was quite easy.
What are some of your favorite authors or novels? Is there anyone in particular that’s influenced you the most?
I can’t honestly say that any particular author influenced me. I’m just kind of raw — a barbarian with a pen.
I like books from the 1970s such at Fletch by Gregory McDonald or The Hot Rock by Donald Westlake. They’re incredibly clever. I find it entertaining to see how the stories unfold in the absence of technology. The characters have to do things the old-fashioned way, using their intuition, logic and intelligence.
If you could read one book again for the first time, which one would it be?
What’s one of your favorite lines from a book or movie?
“Zed’s dead, baby. Zed’s dead.”
When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
With my dog, Otis.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
If people read and embrace Suzy’s Case the way you did, I imagine Tug Wyler will have other cases to solve. Spread the word, Kristin. Spread the word.
Keep up with Andy: Website
Click here for some of Andy’s links as well as some causes that are close to his heart.
Here are the new releases for August! However, this is by no means a comprehensive list (just ones that I especially have my eye on.) If you have any new releases that I didn’t include, and that you’d like to direct me to, please list them in the comments. Thanks!
August 7th, 2012:
Dark Souls by Paula Morris (YA Fantasy/Aug. 1st)
The Jess Haines Bundle (H&W Investigations Books 1-4/Kindle/$9.99) by Jess Haines (UF) |Aug.1st
Death Benefits (novella) by Nelson DeMille (Thriller/Aug. 1st)
The Far West by Patricia Wrede (YA Fantasy/Aug. 1st)
Off the Grid by PJ Tracy (Thriller/Aug. 2nd) | REVIEW
Monster by Dave Zeltserman (Horror/Thriller/Aug. 2nd)
Survive by Alex Morel (YA Thriller/Aug. 2nd)
Beneath the Bones by Tim Waggoner (Horror reprint/ebook)
The Iron Wyrm Affair by Lilith Saintcrow (Steampunk)
Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake (YA Horror) | REVIEW
Seawitch (Greywalker #7) by Kat Richardson (UF)
Widow’s Might by Sandra Brannan (Suspense)
Blood and Silver by James R. Tuck (UF)
Precinct 13 by Tate Halloway (UF)
Shadowlands by Violette Malan (Fantasy)
Glitch by Heather Anastasiu (YA Scifi)
Two Week’s Notice by Rachel Caine (UF)
The Constantine Affliction by T. Aaron Peyton (Steampunk)
Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines (Fantasy)
The Twenty-Year Death by Ariel S. Winter (Mystery/Noir)
The Clockwork Rocket by Greg Egan (Scifi)
King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence (Fantasy)
Bruja Brouhaha by Rochelle Staab (Mystery)
Silver: Return to Treasure Island by Andrew Motion (Fantasy)
Biting Cold (Chicagoland Vampires #6) by Chloe Neill (UF)
The Dog Stars by Peter Heller (Fantasy)
Identity by Mark Hosack (Thriller)
The Prophet by Michael Koryta (Thriller) | REVIEW
Kill You Twice by Chelsea Cain (Thriller)
Freak by Jennifer Hillier (Thriller) | REVIEW
Blood, Bath, and Beyond by Michelle Rowan (Mystery)
The Grass King’s Concubine by Keri Sperring (Fantasy)
The Dead Do Not Improve by Jay Caspian Kang (Suspense)
Far North by Michael Ridpath (Thriller)
I Ate the Sheriff (Mallory Caine Zombie at Law) by K. Bennett (Supernatural Thriller)
The Army of Dr. Moreau by Guy Adams (Fantasy/Horror)
Trucker Ghost Stories by Annie Wilder (Mystery)
A Wolf at the Door by KA Stewart (Fantasy)
Innocent Darkness by Suzanne Lazear (YA Steampunk)
Bad Little Falls by Paul Doiron (Suspense)
The Viper by Hakan Ostlundh (Suspense)
Ghost Hero by SJ Rozan (Suspense)
The Broken Ones by Stephen M. Irwin (Sci-fi Thriller)
Sentinel (Spycatcher) by Matthew Dunn (Thriller)
August 14th, 2012:
Romeo Spikes by Joanne Reay (Fantasy) | REVIEW
The Outlaw Among Us by Nathan Dodge (Suspense)
Shake Off by Mischa Hiller (Suspense)
The Unnaturalists by Tiffany Trent (YA Steampunk)
The Kill Order by James Dashner (YA Dystopia)
Yesterday’s Hero by Jonathan Wood(Fantasy)
Swallowing a Donkey’s Eye by Paul Tremblay (Sci-fi)
Bullettime by Nick Mamatas (Sci-fi/Aug. 15th)
The Rising by Will Hill (YA Horror/Aug. 16th)
August 21st, 2012:
Hidden Things by Doyce Testerman (Fantasy/UF) | REVIEW
The Raft by SA Bodeen (YA Suspense)
A Guile of Dragons by James Enge (Fantasy)
Black Bottle by Anthony Huso (Fantasy)
The Survivor by Greg Hurwitz (Thriller)
The Devil in Silver by Victor LaValle (Horror)
The Laughterhouse by Paul Cleave (Thriller)
Port Vila Blues by Gary Disher (Suspense)
Blood Line by Linda La Plante (Suspense)
Kill Decision by Daniel Suarez (Thriller/July 19th)
The Survivor by Gregg Hurwitz (Thriller)
Ghost Key by Trish J. MacGregor (Supernatural Thriller)
Widow’s Web (Elemental Assassin) by Jennifer Estep (UF)
Split at the Seams by Yolanda Stefsos (Paranormal)
The Unincorporated Future by Dani Kollin and Eytan Kollin (Sci-fi)
Don’t Ever Get Old by Daniel Freedman (Mystery/Aug. 22nd)
Caravan of Thieves by David Rich (Thriller/Aug. 23rd)
Reaper by KD McEntire (YA Fantasy/Aug. 24th)
A Guile of Dragons by James Enge (Fantasy/Aug. 24th)
August 28th, 2012:
Soul Trade (Black London) by Caitlin Kittredge (UF)
Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig (UF) | REVIEW
Death Warmed Over by Kevin J. Anderson (UF)
Ghost of a Dream by Simon R. Green (UF)
The Demoness of Waking Dream by Stephanie Chong (Paranormal)
The Iron Legends (short stories) by Julie Kagawa (YA Fantasy)
Wrayth by Philippa Ballantine (Fantasy)
The Uninvited by Heather Graham (Thriller)
Haunted by Jeanne C. Stine (UF)
Bones Are Forever by Kathy Reichs (Thriller)
Chosen by Sable Grace (Paranormal)
The Facility by Simon Lelic (Thriller)
Taken by Benedict Jacka (UF)
Immortally Yours by Angie Fox (Paranormal)
Enshadowed by Kelly Creagh (YA Fantasy)
Endgame by Anne Aguirre (Scifi)
Beyond Here Lies Nothing by Gary McMahon (Horror)
Seven Wonders by Adam Christopher (Fantasy)
Swallowing a Donkey’s Eye by Paul Tremblay (Fantasy/Aug. 30th)
Birthdays for the Dead by Stuart McBride (Thriller/Aug. 30th)
Legion by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy/Aug. 30th)
What new books are you jonesin’ for this month?
The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends/Nov. 2010
Sixteen-year-old Jack gets drunk and is in the wrong place at the wrong time. He is kidnapped. He escapes, narrowly. The only person he tells is his best friend, Conner. When they arrive in London as planned for summer break, a stranger hands Jack a pair of glasses. Through the lenses, he sees another world called Marbury.
There is war in Marbury. It is a desolate and murderous place where Jack is responsible for the survival of two younger boys. Conner is there, too. But he’s trying to kill them.
Meanwhile, Jack is falling in love with an English girl, and afraid he’s losing his mind.
Conner tells Jack it’s going to be okay.
But it’s not.
16 year old Jack was born on the floor of his grandparent’s house to a 17 year old mother that he’s barely seen or talked to since, except for grindingly awkward twice yearly phone conversations. Days away from a trip to England, along with the possibility of attending a boarding school called St. Atticus for his junior year, he attends a party at his best friend Connor’s and after getting quite drunk, attempts to walk home by himself. It’s then that he falls asleep on a park bench and is kidnapped by a doctor that offers him a ride home. Luckily, the creepy time spent with the doctor is fairly brief, and Jack manages to escape. He decides not to tell the police, only Connor, and Connor decides to make the doc pay, which they certainly do. So, it’s off to London and in the first few days of waiting for Connor to arrive, Jack is followed by a man with the strangest glasses, which soon fall into his hands. Of course, inevitably, he puts on the glasses, and is soon sucked into the world of Marbury.
Ahhh, Marbury… Marbury is a blasted wasteland where humans are few and far between and violence is not the exception. The boys are being followed by cannibals and droves of large black bugs called harvesters. Strangely, Jack knows who everyone else is in Marbury. It’s like he’s always been there. He immediately meets half-brothers Ben and Griffin and gets on to his now full-time job of survival. Meanwhile, back in London, life goes on. And therein lies the problem with Marbury. The first time Jack visits, no time has passed it the real world, but this begins to change, and as a result, while Jack is in Marbury, it’s evidently business as usual with Connor, but Jack can rarely remember things that have happened in the real world. To complicate things further, he meets a girl named Nickie who he just might be falling in love with.
Just like Jack is sucked into Marbury, I was sucked into Jack’s world. Poor Jack. He’s still haunted by his kidnapping (which may or may not tie into current events), and can’t understand why Marbury is such a pull for him. Even worse, he’s seen Connor on the other side, and he’s not the Connor he knows and loves. If you enjoy trips down the proverbial (and super scary) rabbit hole, you’ll thoroughly enjoy this one, although Marbury certainly is no Wonderland. Ghosts, cannibals, and constant danger are Marbury’s hallmarks, and the author doesn’t hold your hand, or pull any punches. Trust me on this one. There’s some gruesome stuff here, but it’s never gratuitous, and it’s always terrifying. Here’s how Jack describes Marbury:
“I was thinking, What if the world was like that? What if we only saw one surface of it, the outside, but there was all kinds of other stuff going on, too? All the time. Underneath. But we just don’t see it, even if we’re part of it? Even if we’re in it? And what if you had a chance to see a different layer, like flipping a channel or something? Would you want to look? Even if what you saw looked like hell? Or worse?”
Even though this is technically a YA novel, the only real thing that distinguished it from a non-YA is the age of the protagonists (I’d recommend this for older teens). I only had one quibble, and it’s the speed in which Jack falls for Nickie, but then kept reminding myself that that’s pretty much how things were as a teen, so it is what it is. Andrew Smith’s writing is tight and sure and he captures Jacks self-conscious angst perfectly. I couldn’t help but fall in love with Jack, and watching him slowly fold in on himself in fear is painful. It also hit me in a soft spot as the mom of a boy. I think my son got an extra helping of hugs while I read this book. If you love your modern fantasy with a healthy dose of horror, you’ll eat this one up in one sitting. I did.
Whispers Under Ground
Publisher: DelRey/July 31st, 2012
Peter Grant and Lesley May go to the home of 13 year old relative, Abigail, who claims to have a ghost that she’d like Peter to look at. The problem is, this ghost is underground, on the tracks, and technically, Peter and Lesley should be calling the British Transport Police and have them send a safety qualified search team. Ghosts are interesting, and all well and good, but unfortunately, there are darker things at work. Peter is called to a murder scene the next day in the Underground, where a man was apparently stabbed with a shard of pottery. Turns out he’s also an American. Peter and Leslie soon learn that the victim’s father is a senator, marking this case top priority. When Peter detects vestigium (a sense of magic, like smells, or sometimes music) on a bowl belonging to the victim, it’s time to follow the magical clues, hopefully directly to the killer.
If you’ve kept up with this superb series, you already know what a rich environment the author has created in which to set Peter’s rather odd cases against, and Whispers Under Ground is no exception. Ben Aaronovitch’s London is chock full of the magical and the mystical, in many different forms, and there’s no shortage of ghosts or the occasional river god or goddess, of whom Peter has more than a casual acquaintance with. Whispers Under Ground has the feel of a more traditional procedural than the other books…until Peter, Nightingale, and Lesley head into the London Underground. This is most definitely not your average murder, but if anyone can solve it, Peter can. I adore Peter Grant. There’s nothing stuffy, uptight, or staid about him, rather, he’s the kind of guy you’d want to hang out with on a Saturday night, with a pint in your hand and some jazz in the background. His dry snark is never forced and always funny, and we also learn a couple of new things about our hero. Three books in, and for me, this series is still going strong. Ben Aaronovitch is my go to guy to get my fix of British procedural with a general helping of the supernatural. This is a fascinating and unique series, and not to be missed by mystery and urban fantasy fans!
The Demands (Tom Thorne #9) by Mark Billingham
Publisher: Little, Brown/June 2012
Tom Thorne Series
UK Title: Good As Dead
The Crime The customers in a London convenience store are taken captive. Among them is young mother, Detective Helen Weeks. She is told her life depends on the co-operation of one of her colleagues – detective Tom Thorne.
The Demand Akhtar is desperate to know what really happened to his beloved son, who died a year before in prison. He is convinced the death was not an accident and forces the one man who knows more about the case than any other, Thorne, to re-investigate.
The Twist What Thorne discovers will upend everything he thought he knew about the fate of those he’s put away…but will it be enough to fulfill the wishes of a grieving and potentially violent father?
Detective Helen Weeks walks into the convenience store she’s been coming to for ages, her mind on her 1 year old son, and the workday ahead, when she’s abruptly taken hostage, along with another customer, by the convenience store owner, Akhtar. This is a man she’s talked to every day for months, exchanging pleasantries, and Helen is baffled as to why he’d want to hold two people at gunpoint. He doesn’t want money. He doesn’t want fame. He wants to speak with Tom Thorne, and until he does, Helen and her fellow captive have no chance at freedom. See, a year earlier, Akhtar’s son was attacked by a group of boys with knifes. He turned the tables, and stabbed one of his attackers to death. Given a sentence above and beyond what anyone expected, he supposedly killed himself while in the infirmary 8 weeks earlier. Akhtar knows his son didn’t kill himself, and wants Tom Thorne to find out who did. Until then, Helen Weeks will be his hostage. At first Tom thinks it’s certainly a suicide, but as he digs deeper, he realizes it’s so much more, and time is of the essence.
It’s no secret Tom Thorne is one of my fave detectives, and he’s back in fine form in The Demands. It’s a powder keg waiting to burst inside that convenience store and Mark Billingham has a talent for garnering sympathy for people doing terrible things, as in the case of Javed Akhtar. His son is dead and determined to be a suicide, but he knows it’s not true. Obviously, holding two people hostage is not the way to go about things, but he feels he’s done everything right throughout his life, been an honest man, and that the justice system that he once believed in has failed him. He’s desperate, and his grief and terror over his own actions is constantly on display. Helen Weeks is fighting her own demons as well, still mourning the death of her son’s father, and fellow cop, Paul. All she can think about is getting home to her son, and will do anything to do so, even if it means keeping secrets that will come back to bite her. The body count is piling up as Tom sniffs around, but his willingness to color outside the lines serves him particularly well in this case. Sadly, he uncovers something far more tragic than a random attack and killing in self defense, and it involves some pretty powerful folks, but that never stopped Tom before, so why should this be different? The clock was ticking here, and it gave an immediacy to the events that really kept me turning the pages. I just had to know what happened next. Fine writing and explosive revelations rounded out another great entry into the Thorne series, and The Demands actually ends on a bit of a high note for our hero. I can’t wait until the next book!
Raised to pick a pocket before he could walk, Terry Rand cut free from his family after his older brother, Collie, went on a senseless killing spree that left eight dead. Five years later, only days before his scheduled execution, Collie contacts Terry and asks him to return home. Collie claims he wasn’t responsible for one of the murders—and insists that the real killer is still on the loose.
Dogged by his own demons, Terry is swept back into the schemes and scams of his family: His father, Pinsch, a retired cat burglar, brokenhearted because of his two sons. His card-sharp uncles, Mal and Grey, who’ve incurred the anger of the local mob. His grandfather, Shep, whose mind is failing but whose fingers can still slip out a wallet from across the room. His teenage sister, Dale, who’s flirting dangerously with the lure of the family business. And Kimmie, the woman Terry abandoned, who’s now raising a child with Terry’s former best friend.
Terry pieces together the day his brother turned rabid, delving into a blood history that reveals the Rand family tree is rotten to the roots, and the secrets his ancestors buried are now coming furious and vengeful to the surface.
Terry Rand hasn’t seen his family for 5 years, but the impending execution of his brother Collie has brought him home. He thought that living under an assumed name and losing himself in the labor of tending to a sprawling ranch would give him the peace he desperately wanted, but he was so wrong. His family is shattered after the killing spree perpetrated by his brother that left eight dead, including a family of 5 and a little girl. After all, the Rands aren’t killers, they’re thieves, and the why of Collie’s rampage is still a mystery, and Collie certainly isn’t shedding any light on it himself. He didn’t call Terry back to tell him why he killed eight people, though. In fact, he claims that the young woman that was strangled and attributed to him wasn’t actually his doing, and he wants Terry to find out who it was, before anyone else dies. What made Collie go so deep down into the underneath, and can Terry find out without destroying his family any further?
Terry’s homecoming has stirred up all kinds of new trouble, not to mention the trouble that had already infiltrated his family. His grandfather is sinking further and further into Alzheimers (and possibly his uncles), his 15 yr old sister is dating a much older guy (who “smelled of oil, acne ointment, and second-rate pot”) that his parents strongly disapprove of, and the only woman he’s ever loved is now married to his former best friend. Then there’s the other crime family that’s got their eyes and ears on him, and they’re not a peace loving clan like the Rands. There’s also a nosy cop (and family friend) sniffing around, looking for his own particular brand of trouble. Things are slowly crumbling, amidst this eccentric family, and Collie seems to be at the center, but there are plenty of skeletons in this family’s rather deep closets. When the body count starts to rise again, and is unmistakably connected to the girl that Collie claims he didn’t kill
This isn’t just a murder mystery, it’s a book about a brother’s love, a son’s love for his family, and the ties that bind us together. The gritty, nourish undertones only serve to highlight the prose that always hovers right at the edge of desperation, as Terry’s voice carries us through his own self discovery, and his struggle to understand his relationship with his brother and how things could have gone so, so wrong in one long, dark night. Terry is terrified of someday becoming his brother, or succumbing to the disease that seems to be eating his family from the inside out, and his search for answers is eating him alive. Throughout this book, I kept hoping that Collie was innocent, that he didn’t cold bloodedly kill eight people, but he did. All except for one. The race for the true killer is only one of the reasons you’ll be up late reading this. Terry Rand and his dysfunctional family are nothing short of fascinating, yet for all of the dysfunction, their love for each other is fierce and true, and the explosive climax will test that love to the limits. The Last Kind Words will keep you up late, horrify you, and break your heart, and you’ll still want more. Don’t miss this one!
Fair Coin by EC Myers
Publisher: PYR/March, 2012
Sixteen-year-old Ephraim Scott is horrified when he comes home from school and finds his mother unconscious at the kitchen table, clutching a bottle of pills. The reason for her suicide attempt is even more disÂ¬turbing: she thought she’d identified Ephraim’s body at the hospital that day.
Among his dead double’s belongings, Ephraim finds a strange coin–a coin that grants wishes when he flips it. With a flick of his thumb, he can turn his alcoholic mother into a model parent and catch the eye of the girl he’s liked since second grade. But the coin doesn’t always change things for the better. And a bad flip can destroy other people’s lives as easily as it rebuilds his own.
The coin could give Ephraim everything he’s ever wanted–if he learns to control its power before his luck runs out.
Ephraim Scott’s life could be better. He comes home to find his mother unconscious with pills all over the floor, and realizes that she thinks he’s dead. A trip to the hospital confirms that a boy his age has indeed been killed in a bus accident; a boy that happens to look just like him, and has a library card with his name on it. Ok, maybe the library made a mistake, and hasn’t it been said that everyone has a twin somewhere? Ephraim could live with these explanations, until he finds the coin, and the note telling him to flip it and make a wish. What can possibly go wrong, right?
The ways that things can go wrong are pretty much endless in Fair Coin, author EC Myers’s debut novel. At first, after Eph makes a wish on the coin, things seem to be better. He wishes that his mother wasn’t so messed up, and waking up to the smell of bacon and coffee, his mom in the kitchen getting ready for her office job (instead of a job at the local ShopRite), is most certainly a step in the right direction. Then there’s the girl he’s crazy about, the geeky cool Jena. Maybe wishing she’d like him would help steer things in the right direction, yes? When things start changing for the worst, namely some alarming (and violent) changes in his best friend Nathan, Ephraim decides to get rid of the coin, with disastrous results.
I liked Eph. Really, I did. In spite of him being a pretty horny teen (a nice pair of, um, lungs, could distract him like you wouldn’t believe), he really did try to do the right thing, even when things started going to hell. And boy did they. Let’s put it this way, the coin is no monkey’s paw (you know, magic talisman, three wishes?), although it may remind you of one. Actually, the coin is part of something much bigger, and much more complex than Eph could have imagined. Ultimately, he learns that every time he uses the coin, he’s transported into a parallel universe. Yep, we’re talking multiworlds and quantum physics (and doppelgangers!). I love stories like this that deal in some pretty fascinating science, while throwing in a ton of adventure. Things move very, very fast, and once Eph and the gang start hopping all over the place (parallel universes!), it can be a bit difficult to keep up with. I did find that, instead of stopping to try to collate everything , just go with the flow of the story. Seriously, it totally works. It really gives you no chance to catch your breath, and even though Eph is the main character, that Jena is a scene eater, and she doesn’t take Eph’s crap. Kudos to strong female characters! But I digress… A truly scary, psychotic villain rounds out the cast of characters and this is one ride you won’t soon forget. Things never get too deep with the characters, but if you’re looking for a fun, nonstop read, you’ll enjoy this. Good thing Quantum Coin, the 2nd in the series, comes out in October, because if this crackling debut is any indication, it’s gonna be a humdinger of a sequel!
I’m ecstatic to have the wonderful Lou Morgan on the blog today! Her first novel, Blood and Feathers, is out on the 31st, and she was kind enough to answer a few of my questions for me, so please give her a warm welcome!
Lou, your first novel, Blood and Feathers, will be out in about a week! Have you always wanted to be a writer? What made you finally take the plunge and write a novel?
I’ve been writing for years, one way and another, although it’s mostly been short stories. I was actually convinced that “Blood and Feathers” was three separate stories – none of which entirely seemed to work – to begin with, and it drove me absolutely crazy. It was only when I realised that these three things floating round in my head were actually one big thing that it all made sense.
Will you tell us a bit about Blood and Feathers?
I’d love to. The book starts with Alice. She’s not having a great day: she’s got caught in the rain, missed her bus… the kind of day we’ve all had where you can’t wait to get home and shut the door on the world. But when she does get home, she finds two men who claim to be angels waiting for her, and who tell her that everything about her life is a lie. And there’s Mallory, a disgraced angel with what we’ll call… “issues” and who’s far too dependent on both his hip-flask and his handgun, who takes her under his wing. Literally. As Alice tries to figure out her own history, she’s drawn into the war between the angels and the Fallen and is soon on the run – but when both sides seem to have a vested interest in her, who can she trust? And if the angels are so keen on protecting her, why do they want to send her to hell?
My background is in medieval literature and I’ve always been interested in the period: I love medieval art and architecture, and so much of that features angels in one form or another. I’m fascinated by the early depictions of angels because so often they’re in armour. We tend to think of them as being protectors and guardians, but to a medieval mind they’re warriors and I wondered how that would translate to the modern world. I was lucky enough to study texts like “Paradise Lost”, “The Screwtape Letters” and “Dr Faustus” at school and university, too, and I think books like that, talking about free will and good and evil and loss and hope… the big ideas… leave a mark.
Plus, y’know, angels are cool.
What do you love most about writing fantasy?
Fantasy is freedom; writing it means you have a whole new set of tools you can use to tell a story. “Blood and Feathers” is a book about angels and demons and battles… but it’s also about a young woman who’s never got over the death of her mother, and how that affects her identity – and fantasy allows you as a writer to address that in a different way to a literary novel, for instance.
One of the other wonderful things about writing fantasy is the community around you – both of writers and readers. It’s a tremendously supportive place, and I love being a part of it on both levels.
What are some of your biggest literary influences?
The short answer is “everything!” But there’s obviously a few influences I’m very aware of: the most important being Michael Marshall Smith for the strength of voice in his writing. Neil Gaiman, because “Sandman” is just such an extraordinary piece of work. And weirdly, or maybe not so weirdly, given I’m of the Buffy generation, Joss Whedon. I know that’s cheating a bit, but he’s still a writer, after all. He’s not afraid to explore quite dark themes and ideas but with humour, and he’s so good at voices: again, there’s the sense of his own in the background, but his characters are so strong. And as we all know, he’s absolutely merciless with them.
If you could read one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
Georges Perec’s “Life: A User’s Manual”. It’s an extraordinary book set in an apartment building in Paris, and it tells the story of the building and its inhabitants, moving around the different rooms one at a time. It’s a book where the structure is as important as the story and there’s a running theme of puzzles and jigsaws. I was bewildered by it the first time I read it, but in the best possible way, and it’s become one of my favourite books.
Have you ever bought a book just for the cover alone?
Twice that I can remember. Once was the Flamingo edition of Thomas Wharton’s “Salamander”, which was a gorgeous blue and gold illustration of a ship on the sea, and a sky full of stars. I think it’s actually a detail from a 16th Century manuscript combined with another image by the designer.
The other time was the Subterranean Press collector’s edition of “The Club Dumas” by Arturo Perez Reverte. It’s one of my favourite books anyway, but this particular edition has a cover and illustrations by my friend Vincent Chong, who’s an amazing artist.
I also have a real weakness for children’s books with beautiful illustrations. I buy a lot for my little boy (who’s four) but half the time they’re just as much for me as they are for him!
What’s one of your favorite lines from a book?
Oh, that’s hard. There’s so many! One that struck me recently was in Stephen King’s The Gunslinger, because I’ve only just discovered the Dark Tower series. There’s a line towards the beginning of the “Way Station” section, when Roland is remembering his mother singing: “She did not sing it at bedtimes because all small boys born to the High Speech must face the dark alone,” It’s a powerful idea, so simply put, and it tells you so much about Roland and his world right from the start.
Quite possibly my favourite line of all time, though, is one of Shakespeare’s: “Presume not that I am the thing I was.” It’s from 2 Henry IV, right at the end of the play, when Falstaff approaches the newly-crowned Henry V. Falstaff and the (now) king, the then-Prince Hal, have history, and Harry dismisses him. We’ve seen Hal transform through the two plays, and this line in particular has incredible resonance.
What makes you put a book aside in frustration?
I’m a lot less patient than I used to be, I think, but I still try not to give up on books. If I can’t find a character I can actually invest in or at least care about, you might lose my attention. Lots of grammatical errors will make me grumpy, too, but beyond that I think a lot of it comes down to personal taste, and a book I couldn’t finish might be someone else’s favourite.
When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
Free time. Umm. I wish I could say I do something terribly intelligent. I love archery, and shoot both recurve and longbow – although nowhere near as often as I’d like to, and it’s been a little while now. It’s the usual things, really – I like reading, and I like comics and films (especially anything of Christopher Nolan’s) and basically just hanging out with my family and friends.
I have to ask, how does one possibly prepare for a mutant squid attack?
Carefully. With lots of knives, a rocket launcher and a very big boat. Honestly, my friends have got so much mileage out of my fear of squid and octopi that it’s become a running joke. I’m forever being given things with tentacles on. It is, I grant you, an utterly ridiculous thing to be afraid of, so it’s probably entirely my own fault!
If someone were to visit you from across the pond for the first time, where would you take them?
Depends where they wanted to go. My natural inclination is always towards castles and cathedrals – but that’s because I’ll take any excuse to go and nose around a castle. I suspect I have some kind of “lost princess” complex. I spent thirteen years living in London, though, and it always amazes me how many of the really interesting bits of the city get ignored by visitors. I love the utterly mad alleyways that run through the City of London – more and more of which are disappearing as new buildings go up – but they’re often still following the medieval street layout, sometimes even Roman.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
Apart from “Blood and Feathers”, I’ve got a few short stories I’m really proud of coming out over the next few months. One’s in the Solaris Books “Magic” anthology, which is very exciting because the other people involved in that are incredible – Audrey Niffenegger is one of them, as well as Robert Shearman and Will Hill. I’ve also got a slightly creepy story in a circus anthology being published by PS Publishing later this year.
There’s a few other things too, which I can’t talk about yet Because I Am Mysterious… and of course, right now I’m working on the follow-up to “Blood and Feathers”, which will be out in August 2013 and is called “Blood and Feathers: Rebellion”. So you’ve not seen the last of the angels just yet…
Keep up with Lou: Website | Twitter | Solaris Author Page | Goodreads
Read my review of Blood and Feathers
About Blood and Feathers:
“What’s the first thing you think of when I say ‘angel’?” asked Mallory. Alice shrugged. “I don’t know… guns?”
Alice isn’t having the best of days. She was late for work, she missed her bus, and now she’s getting rained on. What she doesn’t know is that her day’s about to get worse: the epic, grand-scale kind of worse that comes from the arrival of two angels who claim everything about her life is a lie.
The war between the angels and the Fallen is escalating; the age-old balance is tipping, and innocent civilians are getting caught in the cross-fire. If the balance is to be restored, the angels must act – or risk the Fallen taking control. Forever.
That’s where Alice comes in. Hunted by the Fallen and guided by Mallory – a disgraced angel with a drinking problem and a whole load of secrets – Alice will learn the truth about her own history… and why the angels want to send her to hell.