My Bookish Ways

The Demands (Tom Thorne #9) by Mark Billingham

The Demands (Tom Thorne #9) by Mark Billingham
Little, Brown/June 2012
Suspense/Police Procedural/Mystery
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!

Purchase The Demands: Amazon | Barnes and Noble
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The Last Kind Words by Tom Piccirilli

The Last Kind Words by Tom Piccirilli
Random House/June, 2012

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

Fair Coin by EC Myers
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 dis¬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!

Purchase Fair Coin: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

Interview: Lou Morgan, author of Blood and Feathers

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?

Why angels?
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.

Early Review: Blood and Feathers by Lou Morgan

Blood and Feathers by Lou Morgan
Solaris/July 31st, 2012

“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.

When Alice comes home to find two strange men in the house with her father, she doesn’t know what to think. When a pair of hands reach down from the ceiling and snap her father’s neck, all hell breaks loose. Something is coming. Something big. And it wants Alice. Luckily, she’s got Gwyn and Mallory on her side. They insist she’s in danger and can trust them, and when she sees the spread of their wings, a new reality comes crashing down on her. There’s a war brewing in the realm of the angels, and the Morningstar is at the center of it. Turns out Alice is a half-born (half angel, half human), which makes her a hot commodity (in more ways than one) to the Fallen. Gwyn is an Earthbound, which means his wings have been clipped and he’s been exiled to Earth to carry out his sentence. His crimes aren’t detailed at first, but suffice it to say he made a few bad decisions. Mallory is a Descended, which any angel that comes to Earth is called. Gwyn is assigned to watch over Mallory, much to Mallory’s chagrin, and Mallory is in charge of Alice. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that Alice will need all the help she can get, and with a team of angels in her corner, what can possibly go wrong?

For years, the Fallen have been opening hellmouths and taking thousands of people, whole families, down into the depths of hell. This overabundance of souls has tipped the balance in hell’s favor, and it’s all about balance. Alice is the key to restoring balance and Mallory, Gwyn, and Co. must train her to use her powers as a half-born in order to stop the hellmouth machine and bring order back. Little does Alice know, there’s more at work here, and revelations about her mother, Lucifer, and the rest of the angels will soon come to light, and it will change the stakes. Alice won’t be going to Wonderland. Instead, she’ll be descending into the freezing depths of hell alone. A clash of fire and ice is coming, and a war will be waged at the bone gates of hell, while Alice struggles to come to terms with her power, and her destiny.

I’ll be the first to admit that so far, with the recent popularity of angel themed books, I haven’t been all that impressed with some of the offerings, but I loved this book. Mallory is a slovenly, hard drinking, gun toting, smart mouthed angel with plenty of attitude, and I loved him. Vin, her angelic bodyguard, follows a close second, and Alice is a strong, brave heroine who’s had to deal with plenty of backlash in her life because of her otherness, and has always blamed herself for her mother’s abandonment. Can you imagine the news that you will have to go to hell and use your newfound powers to restore the balance in order to save humanity? If you’re a fan of Mike Shevdon’s Courts of  the Feyre series, you’ll find much to love in this wonderful debut. Lou Morgan has a gift for visuals, and the final battle with the Fallen is something to behold. She expertly weaves fantasy and horror elements into a creepy, exciting, roller coaster ride of a book. Lou Morgan’s angels aren’t warm, fluffy, and halo’d, either. They’re fiercely beautiful warriors, and distinctly “other.” The angel mythos is fascinating and rich, and the author has laid the groundwork for what promises to be an explosive sequel. Luckily, Blood and Feathers: Rebellion is out in 2013, and I’ll be the first in line for it!

Pre-Order Blood and Feathers: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

Early Review: Devil’s Wake by Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes

Devil’s Wake by Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes
Atria/July 31st, 2012

What happens when an unprecedented infection sweeps the world, leaving the earth on the brink of the Apocalypse?
But this infection goes far beyond disease. Beyond even the nightmare images of walking dead or flesh-eating ghouls. The infected are turning into creatures unlike anything ever dreamed of . . . more complex, more mysterious, and more deadly.
Trapped in the northwestern United States as winter begins to fall, Terry and Kendra have only one choice: they and their friends must cross a thousand miles of no-man’s-land in a rickety school bus, battling ravenous hordes, human raiders, and their own fears.
In the midst of apocalypse, they find something no one could have anticipated . . . love.

I’m always willing to read a book in the interest of important zombie research, so Devil’s Wake was definitely on my radar. Devil’s Wake follows two teenagers, Kendra, a girl left adrift on her own, and Terry, one of a group of kids that make up the Red Meadows Five, serving their time as camp counselors instead of in the Washington juvenile justice system. After their bosses, Vern and his wife Molly are attacked, turning Vern into a zombie, the group decides to hit the road in a big navy blue school bus called Blue Beauty. Eventually, the little group crosses paths with Kendra, and she joins them, hoping to make it somewhere safe.

Safety is relative in this new world of constant danger, death, and loss, and our group has quite a haul ahead of them. Terry eventually emerges as the de facto leader of the group, although the physically larger Piranha seems to give him a run for his money a few times. Kendra is drawn to Terry, and although she comes off as quite dependent at first, she eventually holds her own. The group has heard rumors about an island called Devil’s Wake, that may be a safe haven, but they have to make it there first, and that means battling through groups of freaks (aka zombies), as well as human menaces. Constant vigilance is necessary, and I can’t imagine being a teenager in this situation, without any help other than fellow teens. I appreciate that they made quite a few mistakes, but also proved quite self-sufficient and streetwise, and the group dynamic is relatively conflict free. There are no descents into Lord of the Flies territory here, and I enjoyed the cautious optimism of these teens thrust into an indescribably horrible situation. The zombies are a little different in Devil’s Wake, though. Some zombies seem to retain shadows of their old selves, and can utter simple sentences, which ups the creep factor quite a bit. Also, Kendra has had dreams, even before the outbreak, that signaled something bad to come, so I’m curious to see if that will be explored further. The author are old pros, and it shows in the writing. We never really get to know any character too in depth, although of course we get to know Terry and Kendra a little bit better than the rest. While there is plenty of zombie action, the gore is never over the top, so this book could appeal to older teens as well as zombie aficionados. While no new ground is broken here, it’s an entertaining entry in the zombie pantheon,  and the ending leaves things open for another book,  strongly hinting at a burdgeoning romance between Terry and Kendra. I’ll be interested to see where the authors take this group of teens, and plan on picking up book 2 when it comes out!

Pre-Order Devil’s Wake: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound


1. You MUST fill out the form below (lots of chances for extra entries)
2. Giveaway is for 2 copies of Devil’s Wake by Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes to 2 winners.
3. Giveaway is open to US  addresses only (no PO boxes).
4. Must include a valid email address with your entry (no need to leave it in the comments, just include it when you fill out the rafflecopter form)
5. You must enter on or before 7/31/12
6. Giveaway books courtesy of Atria
7. Please see my Giveaway Policy.

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Interview: RL Naquin, author of Monster in My Closet

Please welcome RL Naquin to the blog today. Rachel is the author of the upcoming urban fantasy, Monster in My Closet (my review), and was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about her book, what makes her squee with fangirl joy, and her favorite curse word!

Rachel, your first book, Monster In My Closet, is out at the end of the month! Have you always hoped to be a writer? Can you tell us a bit about your journey?
I always imagined it, yes. It took me well into adulthood to follow through with the dream, though. I started stories, got halfway through, then set them aside. Being a writer isn’t a sensible goal. Success is highly unlikely, the pay is lousy, and you’re baring your soul to the world, where everyone can examine and judge its contents. The problem was, I wasn’t actually much good at any of the “sensible” vocations. Well, except customer service. I’m extremely helpful.

Once I decided it was time to get over myself and either make a real effort to write something worth publishing or shut up and stop talking about it, I sent out some short stories I’d written for a creative writing class a few years before. More were accepted than rejected. I couldn’t believe it. Maybe, just maybe, I could do this thing. So, I wrote Monster in My Closet, sent it to some agents, and got some requests for partials and fulls. Ultimately, no bites. I gave up and put it away. A week later, I woke up with the absolute certainty that I needed to submit it to Carina Press. That very day. So I did. Four months later, Angela James, their executive editor, called me with an offer.

Will you tell us a bit about Monster In My Closet?
It’s an urban fantasy about an empathic wedding planner—she can feel other people’s emotions. That skill’s made her the go-to girl for every troubled person she’s ever come across. Now, it’s spread to the supernatural world, and monsters, mythical creatures, and urban legends come to her for help, too. While she’s trying to adjust to this, she walks into an incubus on the street and he gets a taste of her emotional storehouse, so he stalks her and feeds off of the women she helps. It’s light and dark mixed with fun and icky. And very little of it is what you normally would expect in an urban fantasy.

What do you love most about writing urban fantasy?
I love the possibilities. I love the idea that in our everyday lives we might be surrounded by all kinds of supernatural strangeness that we don’t know about. Writing urban fantasy gives me license to make up the most outrageous scenario and plop someone like you or me right into the middle of it.

What are a few of your favorite authors or books?
This is always such a hard question, because a real list would be enormous. Patricia McKillip, Robin McKinley, Neil Gaiman (his Sandman graphic novels as well as his books), Orson Scott Card, and Douglas Adams.

Is there anyone that would bring out a fangirl squee if you were to meet them?
Pretty standard geekgirl list: David Tennant, Neil Gaiman, Joss Whedon, Nathan Fillian. But honestly, my heart has belonged to Han Solo/Indiana Jones for most of my life, so I’d probably make a total and complete ass out of myself if I met Harrison Ford. There might be tears. Fainting. Embarrassing loss of control over simple bodily functions.

What’s one of your favorite lines from a book (or movie)?
“Nothing is hopeless; we must hope for everything.”
- Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time

What’s on your nightstand right now?
My Kindle is crammed full of books I want to read once I get through the release-month crazies. Jeffe Kennedy’s Rogue’s Pawn and Michael R. Underwood’s Geekomancy are the last two I bought. Next month, I’m going to read so much.

When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
Reading, playing video games, going to the zoo when it’s not 106 degrees outside. I like to watch really bad made-for-Syfy movies to see how long I can make it before I give up and change the channel. I like to challenge my family to play Disney Trivia and then kick their butts at it. I also like to take our imaginary dog, Waffles, for a walk. He needs the exercise.

It says in your bio that you spent six years in England! What were some of your favorite places to visit while you were there?
I loved everything there. I saw Stonehenge several times. London was so much fun, just to ride the Tube, get off anywhere, and walk around without a real tourist agenda. I loved the fish and chip shops. Sigh. Two words for you: battered sausages. For several months of my stay, I lived in a hotel above a pub. I like cider. I like cider very much. And stumbling downstairs with a hangover and being served breakfast in a window seat looking out at a 400-year-old church? Incredible.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects or events (or, you know, fave curse word, guilty pleasure, anything at all!)?
The second Monster Haven story, Pooka in My Pantry comes out in March of next year. I’m working on book three right now. Zoey’s adventures have a long way to go before she can rest and/or settle down with Riley, the hot guy disguised as a paramedic.

My favorite curse word is assclown. Or maybe asshat. I think it’s a draw. They both make me giggle. I guess my guilty pleasure is LOLcats, but my true weakness is animals dressed in people clothes. Always funny. Always.
Thanks so much for having me, Kristin! I’ve had a wonderful time, and the cupcakes you set out were delicious!
Keep up with Rachel: Website | Twitter
Pre-order Monster in My Closet: Kindle | Nook

About Monster in My Closet
I stopped believing in monsters long ago. But I knew I wasn’t imagining things when I found one in my kitchen baking muffins. I’d seen him before: lurking in my closet, scaring the crap out of my five-year-old self. Turns out that was a misunderstanding, and now Maurice needs a place to stay. How could I say no?

After all, I’ve always been a magnet for the emotionally needy, and not just in my work as a wedding planner. Being able to sense the feelings of others can be a major pain. Don’t get me wrong, I like helping people—and non-people. But this ability has turned me into a gourmet feast for an incubus, a demon that feeds off emotional energy. Now, brides are dropping dead all over town, and my home has become a safe house for the supernatural. I must learn to focus my powers and defeat the demon before he snacks on another innocent woman and comes looking for the main course…

Early Review: Monster in My Closet by RL Naquin

Monster in My Closet (Monster Haven #1) by RL Naquin
Carina Press/July 30th, 2012
Urban Fantasy
Monster Haven series

I stopped believing in monsters long ago. But I knew I wasn’t imagining things when I found one in my kitchen baking muffins. I’d seen him before: lurking in my closet, scaring the crap out of my five-year-old self. Turns out that was a misunderstanding, and now Maurice needs a place to stay. How could I say no?

After all, I’ve always been a magnet for the emotionally needy, and not just in my work as a wedding planner. Being able to sense the feelings of others can be a major pain. Don’t get me wrong, I like helping people—and non-people. But this ability has turned me into a gourmet feast for an incubus, a demon that feeds off emotional energy. Now, brides are dropping dead all over town, and my home has become a safe house for the supernatural. I must learn to focus my powers and defeat the demon before he snacks on another innocent woman and comes looking for the main course…

Zoey is half owner of a bridal consulting firm, Happily Ever After, with her best friend Sara. She’s also an empath, although until recently, has always thought she was just particularly sensitive to others’ feelings. When she gets up one morning and there is a monster at her kitchen table, humming to himself, reading the paper and sipping coffee, her world is turned upside down, very suddenly. The monster’s name is Maurice, and did I happen to mention he makes a mean muffin? Well, he does, and his wife has kicked him out, so he needs a place to stay. Soon, a fairy ring is being built around Zoey’s house, there’s a family of brownies taking up resident in her closet, and an incubus named Sebastian that’s out to get her. It’s a lot to take in, but when people start dying, Zoey knows she must do something before the body count gets even higher.

I enjoyed Monster in My Closet so much, and Zoey is my kind of heroine. She’s instantly likeable, has a penchant for loud outfits, and adapts to her situation pretty quickly, considering how fast things begin to happen. I appreciated that once her initial surprise passes, she goes with the flow and does her best to learn about her new friends. And what friends! They call themselves the Hidden, and pretty much encompass any being that humanity doesn’t know about. They prefer to keep it that way, but Zoey is a special case. Turns out her mom, who disappeared when she was just a girl, helped out the Hidden, so it kind of runs in the family. So, we have an empath that’s slowly learning how to keep from being emotionally bombarded, a house full of the Hidden, a skunk ape for a bodyguard, a fox named Milo, and a sex demon that’s determined to make Zoey one of his conquests. Then there’s the hunky paramedic, who may be a little more than he seems, and is certainly interested in getting to know Zoey better. Zoey will have to gather her friends, and her power, to fight a force that’s determined to steal her soul, and the souls of those she loves. Although things wrap up nicely, there’s plenty of material for the next book, and of course, the mystery of her mother’s disappearance still hasn’t been solved. Fans of Molly Harper’s novels will be delighted and it’s sure to appeal to urban fantasy fans that like their creatures charming as well as their heroines. I can’t wait to read more about Zoey and her fascinating friends!

Pre-Order Monster in My Closet: Nook | Kindle

Suzy’s Case by Andy Siegel

Suzy’s Case by Andy Siegel
Scribner/July 10th, 2012
Suspense/Legal Thriller

When Henry Benson, a high-profile criminal lawyer known for his unsavory clients, recruits Tug to take over a long-pending multimillion-dollar lawsuit representing a tragically brain-damaged child, his instructions are clear: get us out of it; there is no case.
Yet the moment Tug meets the disabled but gallant little Suzy Williams and June, her beautiful, resourceful mother, all bets are off.
With an offbeat, self-mocking style, Tug Wyler’s a far cry from your ordinary lawyer. Unswerving in his dedication to his mostly disadvantaged clients, he understands only too well how badly they need him with the system stacked against them. Tug is honest about his own shortcomings, many of them of the profoundly politically incorrect variety, and his personal catchphrase, handy in all situations, is “At least I admit it.”
When his passionate commitment to Suzy’s case thrusts him into a surreal, often violent sideshow, the ensuing danger only sharpens his obsession with learning what really happened to Suzy. Blending razor-sharp intuition, intellectual toughness, and endlessly creative legal brinkmanship, Tug determinedly works his way through a maze of well-kept secrets—encountering a cast of memorably eccentric characters along the way—to get to the truth.

Tug Wyler is a personal injury lawyer who has taken on cases for a high powered criminal attorney, Henry Benson. The problem is, part of the deal with taking these cases, is they’re sight unseen and more often than not put Tug in unenviable positions with his client. Usually these cases involve felons trying to commit insurance fraud, and Tug would rather get reprimanded by the Office of Professional Conduct than represent this kind of client. However, when Benson hands him Suzy Williams’ file, he has no idea that this will be a very different kind of case, one that he’ll want to see through, even if it destroys his career.

Suzy’s Case begins with the incident in the hospital that supposedly led to Suzy’s current condition, six years later. Suzy Williams has sickle cell anemia, which, through complications, has led to her current condition, which is severe cerebral palsy and spastic quadriplegia. Also, her intellectual development has been compromised, and she only functions at a 2 year old level. The intro read a bit awkwardly to me, but once we got past that and onto Tug’s narrative, I was pretty much hooked right away. In all fairness, this was probably due to the Caribbean nurse’s patois, which took some getting used to (so, a small thing, really). Tug Wyler is middle aged, married with three kids, has a beautiful receptionist that’s been with him for 10 years (and takes none of his crap), and has an eye for the ladies (which he’ll never act on, but flirting is certainly not out of the question.) He’s also smart-mouthed, rather obnoxious, and funny as hell. You’d think someone like Tug would be the absolute wrong person to handle a case like Suzy’s, but you’d be wrong. Aside from the smart mouth, Tug’s also sharp as a tack, and there’s a heart of gold lurking underneath the obnoxious exterior. Benson claims that Suzy and her mom June have no case, but Tug believes otherwise, and against all of his better instincts, decides to fight it out as far as he can. One of the best moments, and most heartbreaking, is when he goes to the independent exam of Suzy by the doctor hired by the hospital, and Suzy won’t open her arms because her scar embarrasses her. Tug makes a connection with her, and really sees this beautiful, damaged little girl for the first time: not as a paycheck, but as a person. He’s really sort of built a bit of a wall around him because of what he does and doesn’t allow himself to get emotionally involved, and that wall comes down for just a little bit. The author knows his stuff, because he’s a personal injury attorney himself, and he manages to detail the case and the ins and outs of medical litigation without talking down to his readers or getting bogged down in jargon, and it’s actually quite fascinating. He also has a gift for some of the funniest dialogue I’ve read in a long time, and there were quite a few laugh out loud moments for me. I was reminded at times of the Stephanie Plum series (which I love), and I can see myself getting as attached to Tug as I am to Stephanie. I mean, how can you not love a guy that gets a tingle in his nether regions when he’s getting close to a breakthrough on a case? There are lots of twists and turns in this one, plenty of thrills, and perfect for when you want something funny in between darker reads. This debut is pure fun and I’ll look forward to Tug’s next case!

For a list of Tug’s (hilarious) philosophical precepts, click HERE

Purchase Suzy’s Case: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

Interview (& Giveaway): Katherine Webb, author of The Unseen

I’d like to welcome Katherine Webb to the blog today! Katherine is the author of three novels, including the historical mystery,The Unseen, which recently came out in the states. She was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about the book, her writing, and even her love for the show “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives”!

Also, HarperCollins was kind enough to offer 2 copies of The Unseen for giveaway to 2 lucky winners, so be sure to check out the details at the end of the post!

Katherine, it says in your bio that you’ve always had a fascination with ruined castles and secrets of the past. Did this fascination lead you to want to be a writer? Have you always wanted to write?
I suppose it’s all linked, yes – when I was little and we went to look around ancient buildings my imagination would always get fired up, thinking of all the lives and events and stories that the place had witnessed… I didn’t know I wanted to be a novelist until I sat down one day after graduation and started to write my first book, but nobody in my family was very surprised. My mum tells me I stared writing stories pretty much as soon as I was able to write, and I remember later on in school being super happy whenever we were set a creative writing exercise…I don’t know why it took me so long to put two and two together!

Your novel, The Unseen, just became available in the states, and has been described as “an atmospheric page turner.” Can you tell us a bit about it?
The Unseen is set primarily in 1911, during a long, hot English summer, and tells a story of ambition, love, deception and desire… A naïve vicar and his wife, living quietly in a country parish, have their lives turned upside down by two new arrivals. First is the new maid, who’s been sent down from London after getting into trouble with the law for her political activism; then comes an enigmatic young spiritualist, who’s determined to cement his name in history by proving the existence of fairies in the meadows near the rectory… These disparate people are thrown together at the rectory, and the tension builds and builds until it ultimately bubbles over into violence…

What kinds of books keep you turning the pages? Any particular favorites (authors or books?)
I read all sorts of books – and for me the current the king of the page-turner has to be George R R Martin – I’m totally hooked on the A Song of Ice and Fire books! I love literary and historical books, mysteries, and any book which really lets you get under the skin of the characters. Some favourites include Rose Tremain, Kate Atkinson, Jim Crace, Sir Terry Pratchett, and Helen Dunmore. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres made me weep buckets, and I didn’t want The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney to ever end. I’ve recently read and loved Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child, and Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette.

What makes you put a book aside in frustration?
Almost nothing – I very rarely give up on a book, even if it takes me twice as long to read as a book normally would, because I can’t quite get on with it. Who can say what it is that makes a book work or not work for you, as a reader? It’s largely an intangible thing, I think, and no book can work for everybody. I’ve read terrible reviews on Amazon of books I’ve thought were completely fantastic. One author I just can’t get on with is Henry James. No idea why not – I enjoy classic literature, but I’ve picked up and abandoned The Wings of the Dove about three times!

Do you have any writing quirks?
Not many – I’m very methodical; I sit down at nine in the morning and try not to get up until I’ve written two thousand words. I type straight into my laptop, but I do have to have my notebook full of scribbled thoughts and ideas open next to me, even if I don’t even glance at it. I feel cut adrift without it!

What are a few things that inspire you the most?
I love the great outdoors, and the changing of the season. I love history – I suppose that’s the thing that inspires me the most. All those secrets and stories, just waiting to be discovered. Also people, and all the many, complicated and mysterious ways in which we interact!

Quick, what’s one thing that makes you laugh out loud?
Things are pretty serious around here at the moment (I’m in the thick of writing my new book), but I can usually count on my cats to give me a laugh – they wrestle and cavort on the lawn outside my window, and one of them usually ends up taking a pratfall off the wall or the garden bench. I love the way they then saunter off, noses in the air, as if salvaging wounded dignity…

I read that you like to cook. What is one of your favorite dishes?
I love cake in all its many forms, so I’m often baking. I make a truly fabulous fruit cake – it was my grandmother’s recipe and it’s called ‘Never Fail Fruit Cake’, for good reason. I also learnt how to make a great risotto while I was living in Venice; I cook a mean curry; and my ultimate comfort food recipe is a thick chicken soup with dumplings…I’m getting hungry now, typing this…

How else do you like to spend your free time?
I go horse riding, and I do volunteer work visiting elderly people in my area. I garden, I do DIY, I try to keep fit (necessary after all the cooking), and I read an awful lot.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects (or anything at all!)?
My next book to come out in the USA will be A Half Forgotten Song, released next year, which is a story about obsessive love, art and betrayal; set in England in the 1930s and the present day. Right now I’m working on a new book set in Bath in the 1820s. It tells the story of a mismatched group of people coming together to solve the mysterious disappearance of a young girl, twelve years earlier. It’s a love story, as well as a historical mystery. It doesn’t have a title yet – I’m waiting for a stroke of genius!

Here’s a random fact – I love ‘Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives’! I’d love to go on a road trip through the USA, eating at all the places Guy goes to on that show, especially the ones serving Mexican food and BBQ. The only trouble is, I’d be the size of a barn by the end of that holiday…
Keep up with Katherine: Facebook
Purchase The Unseen: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

1. You MUST fill out the form below (lots of chances for extra entries)
2. Giveaway is for 2 copies of The Unseen by Katherine Webb to 2 winners.
3. Giveaway is open to US  addresses only (no PO boxes).
4. Must include a valid email address with your entry (no need to leave it in the comments, just include it when you fill out the rafflecopter form)
5. You must enter on or before 7/28/12
6. Giveaway books courtesy of HarperCollins
7. Please see my Giveaway Policy.

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