My Bookish Ways

MBW Best Books of 2012 (& Giveaway)

The New Year is right around the corner, so of course, after much angst, I’ve got my Best of 2012 list (Fantasy/Scifi/Horror/UF) ready to go! Now, I know you’re seeing a lot of Top Tens, but I read quite a lot this year and it was impossible to narrow it down that much, so I’m giving you my Top 20 (in no particular order).

***AS A BONUS, I’m offering any book on this list to 2 winners! It’s open INTERNATIONALLY (anywhere The Book Depository ships), and all I’m asking is that you leave a comment telling me what YOUR favorite book of 2012 (this is a must-books published any time count, as long as you read it in 2012!! -by popular demand). Also, don’t forget to fill in the Rafflecopter form, and if you win, you can tell me your prize pick when I contact you!

Synopsis: In West Akron, Ohio, there lived an elderly recluse who always wore mittens, even in July. He had no friends and no family, and was known only as the Man from Primrose Lane. And on a summer day, someone murdered him. Fast-forward four years. David Neff, the bestselling author of a true-crime book about an Ohio serial killer, is broken by his wife’s inexplicable suicide. When an unexpected visit from an old friend introduces him to the strange mystery of “the man with a thousand mittens,” David decides to investigate. But the closer he gets to uncovering the man’s true identity, the more he begins to understand the reality-altering power of his own obsessions—and how they may be connected to the deaths of the old hermit and David’s beloved wife. Deviously plotted and full of dark wit, James Renner’s The Man from Primrose Lane is an audacious page-turner unlike anything you’ve ever read.

MBW-“The Man From Primrose Lane is a genre defying, horrifying, and rewarding read that will surprise you at nearly every turn. James Renner’s imagination is a vast, strange, wonderful, terrifying thing and we’re very lucky he’s willing to share it with us.”

THE BROKEN ONES by Stephen M. Irwin
Synopsis: Without warning, a boy in the middle of a city intersection sends Detective Oscar Mariani’s car careening into a busy sidewalk. The scene is bedlam as every person becomes visited by something no one else can see. We are all haunted. Usually, the apparition is someone known: a lost relative, a lover, an enemy. But not always. For Oscar Mariani, the only secret that matters is the unknown ghost who now shares his every waking moment . . . and why.

The worldwide aftershock of what becomes known as “Gray Wednesday” is immediate and catastrophic, leaving governments barely functioning and economies devastated . . . but some things don’t change. When Detective Mariani discovers the grisly remains of an anonymous murder victim in the city sewage system, his investigation will pit him against a corrupt police department and a murky cabal conspiring for power in the new world order.

MBW-“To pigeonhole The Broken Ones into one genre would be very inaccurate. It’s a combination of supernatural thriller, police procedural, horror, and dystopian…and it works. Oh boy, does it work! Stephen M. Irwin puts his characters through the emotional and physical ringers, and doesn’t spare his reader either. I felt wrung out when I finished this novel, but in the best way, the way you feel like when you’ve finished a wonderful book, and discovered a new to you author that has just blown you away. I can’t help but hope there will be more of Oscar Mariani in future books, but if not, that’ s ok too, because The Broken Ones is a gem and stands perfectly on its own. Very, very highly recommended.”

Synopsis: What’s the point in solving murders if we’re all going to die soon, anyway?

Detective Hank Palace has faced this question ever since asteroid 2011GV1 hovered into view. There’s no chance left. No hope. Just six precious months until impact.

The Last Policeman presents a fascinating portrait of a pre-apocalyptic United States. The economy spirals downward while crops rot in the fields. Churches and synagogues are packed. People all over the world are walking off the job—but not Hank Palace. He’s investigating a death by hanging in a city that sees a dozen suicides every week—except this one feels suspicious, and Palace is the only cop who cares.

The first in a trilogy, The Last Policeman offers a mystery set on the brink of an apocalypse. As Palace’s investigation plays out under the shadow of 2011GV1, we’re confronted by hard questions way beyond “whodunit.” What basis does civilization rest upon? What is life worth? What would any of us do, what would we really do, if our days were numbered?

MBW-“Ben Winters’ writing is nuanced, lovely, sometimes poignant, and a pure pleasure to read. I hope that The Last Policeman gets the attention that it deserves, because it’s a hell of a book and about as close to perfect as it gets for me. I hear that it will be a trilogy, and I can’t wait for the next one!”

THIS DARK EARTH by John Hornor Jacobs
Synopsis:The land is contaminated, electronics are defunct, the ravenous undead remain, and life has fallen into a nasty and brutish state of nature.

Welcome to Bridge City, in what was once Arkansas: part medieval fortress, part Western outpost, and the precarious last stand for civilization. A ten-year-old prodigy when the world ended, Gus is now a battle-hardened young man. He designed Bridge City to protect the living few from the shamblers eternally at the gates. Now he’s being groomed by his physician mother, Lucy, and the gentle giant Knock-Out to become the next leader of men. But an army of slavers is on its way, and the war they’ll wage for the city’s resources could mean the end of mankind as we know it.

Can Gus become humanity’s savior? And if so, will it mean becoming a dictator, a martyr . . . or maybe something far worse than even the zombies that plague the land?

MBW-“Relentlessly paced, This Dark Earth takes you on a trip through hell and back, and you’ll be better for the journey. If you were wondering if John Hornor Jacobs could capture lightning in a bottle twice (after Southern Gods), no need to wonder anymore. He did.”

WHITE HORSE by Alex Adams

Thirty-year-old Zoe leads an ordinary life until the end of the world arrives. She is cleaning cages and floors at Pope Pharmaceuticals when the president of the United States announces that human beings are no longer a viable species. When Zoe realizes that everyone she loves is disappearing, she starts running. Scared and alone in a shockingly changed world, she embarks on a remarkable journey of survival and redemption. Along the way, Zoe comes to see that humans are defined not by their genetic code, but rather by their actions and choices. White Horse offers hope for a broken world, where love can lead to the most unexpected places.

MBW-“White Horse moved me on many levels, and is frankly one of the best books that I’ve read this year. Read it, love it, then make it your mission to immediately hug everyone that will hold still, and cherish the ones you love.”

THE TROUPE by Robert Jackson Bennett
Synopsis: Vaudeville: mad, mercenary, dreamy, and absurd, a world of clashing cultures and ferocious showmanship and wickedly delightful deceptions.

But sixteen-year-old pianist George Carole has joined vaudeville for one reason only: to find the man he suspects to be his father, the great Heironomo Silenus. Yet as he chases down his father’s troupe, he begins to understand that their performances are strange even for vaudeville: for wherever they happen to tour, the very nature of the world seems to change.

Because there is a secret within Silenus’s show so ancient and dangerous that it has won him many powerful enemies. And it’s not until after he joins them that George realizes the troupe is not simply touring: they are running for their lives.

And soon…he is as well.

MBW-“Haunting, terrifying, and achingly beautiful, The Troupe is a book to be savored, and it will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading. Very highly recommended.”

THE WRONG GOODBYE (The Collector #2) by Chris F. Holm
Synopsis- Meet Sam Thornton, Collector of Souls.

Because of his efforts to avert the Apocalypse, Sam Thornton has been given a second chance – provided he can stick to the straight and narrow.

Which sounds all well and good, but when the soul Sam’s sent to collect goes missing, Sam finds himself off the straight-and-narrow pretty quick.

MBW-“This series is urban fantasy at its best with subtle noir undertones and the combo just works. Also, if you’re a fan of the classics in hardboiled noir, the title is especially awesome.”

CITY OF THE LOST by Stephen Blackmoore
Synopsis-Joe Sunday has been a Los Angeles low-life for years, but his life gets a whole lot lower when he is killed by the rival of his crime boss-only to return as a zombie. His only hope is to find and steal a talisman that he learns can grant immortality. But, unfortunately for Joe, every other undead thug and crime boss in Los Angeles is looking for the same thing.

MBW-“If you love the novels of Richard Kadray (Sandman Slim), Hank Schwaeble (Jake Hatcher series), and Steve Niles’ Cal McDonald series, then you’ll LOVE City of the Lost. What a way to start out the new year! This is a 2012 debut you won’t want to miss!”

CANNIBAL REIGN by Thomas Koloniar
Synopsis-First the asteroid would come, slamming into the earth just north of the Montana border, followed by earthquakes, tsunamis, and unending night.

And after that . . . Hell.

Astronomer Marty Chittenden is the first to recognize the approaching doom—a discovery that makes him a marked man.

Green Beret Jack Forrest knows the catastrophe is inevitable, and begins stockpiling an abandoned missile silo with supplies while gathering together a small community of men, women, and children he prays can survive the apocalypse.

Then disaster strikes. In an instant the world they know ends forever, transformed into a nightmare realm of eternal darkness. Soon the few remaining humans are transformed as well, becoming savage things—raping, pillaging, and devouring their own.

And the time is approaching when Forrest and his people will have to leave their underground “Noah’s Ark” to face a shattered world and the unspeakable terrors that dwell there—in desperate pursuit of one slim hope of survival . . . called Hawaii.

MBW-“Cannibal Reign is a scary, nonstop thrill ride into the dark hearts of man, shot through with the souls of those that refuse to surrender to the dark. I loved this book, and fans of post apocalyptic fiction and thrillers should not miss it!”

BREED by Chase Novak
Synopsis-Alex and Leslie Twisden lead charmed lives-fabulous jobs, a luxurious town house on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, a passionate marriage. What they don’t have is a child, and as they try one infertility treatment after the next, yearning turns into obsession. As a last-ditch attempt to make their dream of parenthood come true, Alex and Leslie travel deep into Slovenia, where they submit to a painful and terrifying procedure that finally gives them what they so fervently desire . . . but with awful consequences.

Ten years later, cosseted and adored but living in a house of secrets, the twins Adam and Alice find themselves locked into their rooms every night, with sounds coming from their parents’ bedroom getting progressively louder, more violent, and more disturbing.

Driven to a desperate search for answers, Adam and Alice set out on a quest to learn the true nature of the man and woman who raised them. Their discovery will upend everything they thought they knew about their parents and will reveal a threat so horrible that it must be escaped, at any cost.

MBW-“At first blush, Breed is pure horror, but it’s the author’s wry observations on elitist society and also Alex and Leslie’s slow loss of humanity that elevates this to something much more. By turns very scary, and heart wrenching, Breed will take you for a ride you’ll never forget, all the way to its shocking conclusion.”

Synopsis-“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.

What do the Fallen want from her? How does Mallory know so much about her past? What is it the angels are hiding – and can she trust either side?

Caught between the power plays of the angels and Lucifer himself, it isn’t just hell’s demons that Alice will have to defeat…

MBW-“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.”

HIDDEN THINGS by Doyce Testerman
Synopsis-Watch out for the hidden things . . . That’s the last thing Calliope Jenkins’s best friend says to her before ending a two a.m. phone call from Iowa, where he’s working a case she knows little about. Seven hours later, she gets a visit from the police. Josh has been found dead, and foul play is suspected. Calliope is stunned. Especially since Josh left a message on her phone an hour after his body was found. Spurred by grief and suspicion, Calli heads to Iowa herself, accompanied by a stranger who claims to know something about what happened to Josh and who can— maybe—help her get him back. But the road home is not quite the straight shot she imagined . . .

MBW-“Testerman writes with a fluid, sure hand, and your brain will rebel at the thought that this book is a first novel. What a gem of a debut!”

MOCKINGBIRD (Miriam Black #2) by Chuck Wendig
Synopsis-Miriam is trying. Really, she is.

But this whole “settling down thing” that Louis has going for her just isn’t working out. She lives on Long Beach Island all year around. Her home is a run-down double-wide trailer. She works at a grocery store as a check-out girl. And her relationship with Louis–who’s on the road half the time in his truck–is subject to the piss and vinegar Miriam brings to everything she does.

It just isn’t going well. Still, she’s keeping her psychic ability–to see when and how someone is going to die just by touching them–in check. But even that feels wrong somehow. Like she’s keeping a tornado stoppered up in a tiny bottle.

Then comes one bad day that turns it all on her ear.

MBW-“Chuck Wendig’s mind is a terrifying, twisted, fascinating thing, and thank goodness he puts this stuff down on paper for the rest of us. Darker than dark, Mockingbird will take you on a journey you won’t soon forget, so fortify your stomach and settle in, because you’re going to want to read this one in one sitting. “

Synopsis-A 300 year-old story collector enlists the help of the computer hacker next door to save her dying sister. A half-resurrected cleanup man for Death s sprawling bureaucracy faces a phantom pachyderm, doll-collecting sorceresses and his own ghoulish bosses. Gordo, the old Cubano that watches over the graveyards and sleeping children of Brooklyn, stirs and lights another Malagueña. Down the midnight streets of New York, a whole invisible universe churns to life in Daniel José Older s debut collection of ghost noir.

MBW-“Salsa Nocturna broke my heart, captivated me, and elated me in equal turns and my only complaint is that it ended. You’ll savor every word, then you’ll most likely read it again, because it’s flawless. Put this one on your holiday list and buy copies for your friends.”

HORIZON (Aftertime #3) by Sophie Littlefield
Synopsis-Cass Dollar is a survivor. She’s overcome the meltdown of civilization, humans turned mindless cannibals, and the many evils of man.

But from beneath the devastated California landscape emerges a tendril of hope. A mysterious traveler arrives at New Eden with knowledge of a passageway North—a final escape from the increasingly cunning Beaters. Clutching this dream, Cass and many others decamp and follow him into the unknown.

Journeying down valleys and over barren hills, Cass remains torn between two men. One—her beloved Smoke—is not so innocent as he once was. The other keeps a primal hold on her that feels like Fate itself. And beneath it all, Cass must confront the worst of what’s inside her—dark memories from when she was a Beater herself. But she, and all of the other survivors, will fight to the death for the promise of a new horizon….

MBW-“Ms. Littlefield’s writing is as taut, raw, and soul wrenching as always, and she doesn’t flinch from hard truths. She also doesn’t skimp on the action (and yes, that definitely means zombies), and keeps the tension ratcheted up to a deafening scale.”

BLUE-BLOODED VAMP (Sabina Kane #5) by Jaye Wells
Synopsis-The epic conclusion to the amazing Sabina Kane urban fantasy series by USA Today bestseller Jaye Wells.

Sabina Kane is on the hunt. Her prey: Cain, the father of the vampire race and the one who murdered her family and her friends. Unfortunately, Cain is hunting Sabina, too.

The one man who holds the key to defeating Cain is, of course, Abel. A mage with secrets to spare and, hopefully, the power to match it. Unfortunately, for Sabina, he’s in Rome and may not want to be found.

Sabina sets out for Italy with her friends, Giguhl and Adam Lazarus, to track down the only man who can get her the revenge she hungers for. But will he help her or oppose her? And just who is Abel, really? Worst of all, when Sabina figures out the goddess Lilith has a plan for her-she realizes this trip is getting deadlier by the minute. As they say: when in Rome-SURVIVE.

MBW-“As usual, the action is nonstop and Ms. Wells does a wonderful job of juggling lots of details without ever getting confusing. She’s an ace at it, and you won’t want to put this one down. I promise. Also, be prepared for a trip to the Underworld that you won’t soon forget, and the Best. Ending. Ever. It was totally awesome, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll close the book with a big goofy grin on your face. There may even be a couple of tears in the mix. Don’t say I didn’t warn you! Snap this one up, pronto.”

SHADOW OPS: CONTROL POINT by Myke Cole (review to come)
Synopsis-Army Officer. Fugitive. Sorcerer.

Across the country and in every nation, people are waking up with magical talents. Untrained and panicked, they summon storms, raise the dead, and set everything they touch ablaze.
Army officer Oscar Britton sees the worst of it. A lieutenant attached to the military’s Supernatural Operations Corps, his mission is to bring order to a world gone mad. Then he abruptly manifests a rare and prohibited magical power, transforming him overnight from government agent to public enemy number one.

The SOC knows how to handle this kind of situation: hunt him down–and take him out. Driven into an underground shadow world, Britton is about to learn that magic has changed all the rules he’s ever known, and that his life isn’t the only thing he’s fighting for.

Synopsis-The outbreak tore the U.S. in two. The east remains a safe haven. The west has become a ravaged wilderness. They call it the Evacuated States. It is here that Henry Marco makes his living. Hired by grieving relatives, he tracks down the dead and delivers peace.

Now Homeland Security wants Marco for a mission unlike any other. He must return to California, where the apocalypse began. Where a secret is hidden. And where his own tragic past waits to punish him again.

But in the wastelands of America, you never know who – or what – is watching you.

MBW-“I had absolutely no trouble getting into, and staying immersed in, The Return Man. There is a ton of carnage in this, seriously, the sheer number of zombies that Marco and Wu have to wade through is staggering, and when it comes to zombie killin’, the author doesn’t leave much to the imagination. I enjoyed every terrifying bit of this book, and if you love zombies, good writing, and great storytelling, I think you will too!”

SPELLCROSSED by Barbara Ashford

But when Maggie Graham freed Rowan Mackenzie to return to Faerie, she took the first step toward her new life as director of the Crossroads Theatre. A hectic new season of summer stock leaves her little time to moon over the past. She has to balance the demands of her interfering board president and a company of actors that includes bewildered amateurs, disdainful professionals, a horde of children, and an arthritic dog. And while Maggie yearns to give others the kind of healing she found at the Crossroads, even she recognizes that magic must take a back seat to ticket sales.

But magic is hard to banish from the old white barn. Memories lurk like ghosts in the shadowy wings and the unexpected is as time-honored a tradition as the curtain call. And when the tangled spells of Maggie’s past turn her life upside down, it will take more than faery magic to ensure the happy-ever-after ending she longs for….

MBW-“From an utterly charming production of Annie (including an aging Sandy and a gaggle of orphans) to the ethereal Into the Woods, Faerie magic and the magic of musical theatre intertwine seamlessly to create a read worth savoring, and it’s a summer stock season that you won’t soon forget.”

TRICKED and TRAPPED by Kevin Hearne
I really couldn’t decide which one I liked better, and they were both out in 2012, so they get a tie here! I adore this series!

TRICKED synopsis-
Druid Atticus O’Sullivan hasn’t stayed alive for more than two millennia without a fair bit of Celtic cunning. So when vengeful thunder gods come Norse by Southwest looking for payback, Atticus, with a little help from the Navajo trickster god Coyote, lets them think that they’ve chopped up his body in the Arizona desert.
But the mischievous Coyote is not above a little sleight of paw, and Atticus soon finds that he’s been duped into battling bloodthirsty desert shapeshifters called skinwalkers. Just when the Druid thinks he’s got a handle on all the duplicity, betrayal comes from an unlikely source. If Atticus survives this time, he vows he won’t be fooled again. Famous last words.

TRAPPED synopsis-
After twelve years of secret training, Atticus O’Sullivan is finally ready to bind his apprentice, Granuaile, to the earth and double the number of Druids in the world. But on the eve of the ritual, the world that thought he was dead abruptly discovers that he’s still alive, and they would much rather he return to the grave.

Having no other choice, Atticus, his trusted Irish wolfhound, Oberon, and Granuaile travel to the base of Mount Olympus, where the Roman god Bacchus is anxious to take his sworn revenge—but he’ll have to get in line behind an ancient vampire, a band of dark elves, and an old god of mischief, who all seem to have KILL THE DRUID at the top of their to-do lists.

BLACKOUT (Newsflesh #3) by Mira Grant-“I promise you’ll be up late with Blackout, and you’ll love the explosive and satisfying ending. This superb series is absolutely not to be missed!”
SEALED WITH A CURSE by Cecy Robson-“This is an exciting and refreshing debut and I can’t wait to see what’s next for this series!”
MONSTER by Dave Zeltserman-If you’re a fan of Frankenstein and the mythos that surrounds it, and love literary horror, this one’s for you. Highly recommended!”

Now, I’m pretty sure that I’ll read some 2012 releases in the near future that should have gone on this list (I suspect Ashes of Honor by Seanan McGuire will be one of them), and if that’s the case, I’ll do a spotlight post in January, but for now, you’ve got 23 to add to your wishlist! Enjoy!

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Interview: Diana Pharaoh Francis, author of Blood Winter

Please welcome Diana Pharaoh Francis to the blog today! Diana is the author of the Horngate Witches series, and the newest book in the series, BLOOD WINTER, will be out on Dec. 26th. Diana was kind enough to answer a few questions about the series, and about herself as well!

Will you tell us a little about your background? Did you always want to be a writer?
I was always a storyteller and an avid reader, but not a writer. I grew up on a cattle ranch and made up complex, epic stories that my friends and I acted out, usually on horseback. I read everything I could get my hands on. I don’t want to even tell you how young I was when I read Pet Cemetary and Suffer the Children. It wasn’t until I took a creative writing course in college that it really occurred to me I could write. Only then, I just figured maybe short stories. My poetry teacher hated my poetry, no doubt rightly so. And then one day while reading, I thought, I could do this. Couldn’t I? I mean, why couldn’t I? Someone has to write novels—why not me? And then I dug in.

What inspired the Horngate Witches series?
I wanted to write a contemporary fantasy. I wanted to write mythology and witches, but I wanted to bring my epic fantasy background to it, with grand battles and world changing events.

Your brand new Horngate Witches book, Blood Winter, is out this month, and it’s number four in the series! When you started the series, did you already have in mind how many you wanted to write?
Oh no. I didn’t at all. I just had this one idea for the first book. But then as I wrote and as the world developed and I met more characters, I realized where the stories were going. This fourth book wraps a up the series well. It completes things in a way that is really satisfying, especially when it comes to the characters and their relationships. It leaves me room to start up other stories and explore more of the world, but it’s a good, finished ending.

What kind of research do you do for the series?
All kinds. I investigate mythology, survival, cooking, cars, locations . . . really there’s no limit. I read stuff about magic and witches, about Egyptian gypsies, food—really there’s no limit to what I need to look up. It’s always unexpected. I’ll be writing along and think I’m going to write a simple scene, and the next thing I know, I’m searching out some esoteric information that is vital for making the scene work. I like to make things as realistic as possible.

Most people assume an author’s favorite character to write is their main character. Is this the case for you?
I love writing Max and Alexander, but I also love the other characters I write. Magpie is delicious. Oh, and Tutresiel. He’s an angel and he’s got a bad attitude. And in this book, I had so much fun writing . . . Oh, sorry. Can’t reveal that. But I had so much fun with one character. That’s the nice thing. When you have an ensemble cast, you never get bored.

What are some of your biggest literary influences?
I have so many. But Jane Austen and Charles Dickens are two. And writers like Tad Williams, Guy Gavriel Kay, Ilona Andrews, Elizabeth Moon . . . So many more than I can possibly mention.

If you could read one book again for the first time, which one would it be?
Whew. What a lovely thought. I would say . . . Tigana. I love that novel and it’s so rich and amazing that opening up for the first time again would be tremendous.

What are you reading now?
I’m reading Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates. It’s a dark book about a serial killer who wants the perfect zombie, so he sets out to make one. It’s very disturbing. It was loaned to me by a friend who’s a psychology professor and teaches a serial killer class. I did some research on psychopaths for a character in Blood Winter and he just passed along some more books. This one was on top.

When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
Sleeping. No, but seriously. I like to walk and crochet. I like to geocache and take the doggies (corgis) for a ramble. And play with the kids. I also like to cook and of course read. There’s never enough time in the day for everything.

What’s next for you in 2013?
Well, I’m working on selling my house and moving. I’m hoping the sale happens soon. I’m also working on some new projects that I’m pretty excited about and hopefully I’ll get published. I’m also working on finishing out my Crosspointe Chronicles series.
Keep up with Diana: Website | Twitter

Max always does her job, no matter how brutal and bloody. That’s how it’s been ever since she was enslaved by a witch, turned into a supernatural warrior, and assigned to protect the coven of Horngate. But her job just got harder. . . .

Waves of wild magic have returned much of the world to a time when fairy tales were real and danger now lurks behind every tree and bush. As winter descends and food, heat, and water are harder to come by, many have turned to Benjamin Sterling for protection. Leader of the Earth’s Last Stand cult, Sterling claims to be the Hand of God, but his power and charisma secretly come from a dark and terrible source. With devout followers eager to do his sadistic bidding, he has his eyes on Horngate and its magical inhabitants. To save those she loves, Max will knowingly walk into a trap. But when the cult strips Max’s soul bare for all to see, will even Alexander—her lover and her strength—remain? And if she were to lose him, what does it matter if she gains the whole world. . . .

Seed by Ania Ahlborn

Their little house in Georgia is crumbling around them, and they’re in desperate need of a new car, but for the most part, family life for Jack Winter and his wife, Aimee, is happy. They have two beautiful little girls, Abby and Charlie, and even if there’s a bit of tension when Jack goes to New Orleans to play gigs with his band, they’ve always gotten through it. Does it really matter that Jack can’t really remember his childhood before the day he ran away from home? Well, it might, because a darkness seems to be seeping into their happy little home. Things seem to start after Jack sees a pair of eyes in the road when driving with his family late at night, and crashes the car. Everyone seems fine, but as you soon see, nothing is really fine at all. They begin to hear a strange scratching in the walls, and their youngest, Charlie, begins seeing things in the room she shares with her sister. When Charlie gets very sick, things abruptly get worse. After a few days, Charlie seems to be feeling better, but she’s not the same little girl that Jack immediately fell in love with when she was born. As events escalate, Aimee becomes increasingly more afraid of her 6 year old, and Jack thinks he might know what’s terrorizing his family, because it’s an evil that has been with him all of his life, and he fears it has come for him again. Eventually Jack has to face his past if he has any hope of saving his family, and that means going back to the home he ran away from so long ago.

I haven’t read any really good horror in a little while, so Seed was quite the experience. I tend to like subtle horror more than more in your face fare (although I enjoy that too!), and the author has a knack for creeping, subtle scares that will cause you to pause every now and then, just to take it all in before continuing. You’ll certainly think of Bad Seed a few times when reading Seed, because Charlie’s behavior is insidious and terrifying, just like the evil that stalks the Winters. She’s just a little girl, but you’ll forget that at times, trust me. Seed is a wonderful study of a family falling apart in the face of a pretty nasty baddie and even though there’s not a lot of gore in this one, Ahlborn doesn’t really pull any punches, so I wouldn’t recommend Seed for the faint of heart. Seed has some of the most downright creepy scenes that I’ve read in a while, and I admit to having to resist keeping a light on at night for a few nights after reading it. If you enjoyed the movie Poltergeist, you’ll most certainly enjoy Seed (the author even references the movie in the book.) The tension is constant and it’s a very quick read, so you’ll surely fly through it like I did! Highly recommended, and a wonderful debut from a rising talent!

Giveaway: Sealed With a Curse by Cecy Robson

As you may already know, I LOVED Sealed With a Curse by Cecy Robson, and she was kind enough to offer a copy of the book for giveaway, so check out the details below and good luck!

Celia Wird and her three sisters are just like other 20-something girls—with one tiny exception: they’re products of a backfired curse that has given each of them unique powers that make them, well, weird…

The Wird sisters are content to avoid the local vampires, werebeasts, and witches of the Lake Tahoe region—until one of them blows up a vampire in self-defense. Everyone knows vampires aren’t aggressive, and killing one is punishable by death. But soon more bloodlust-fueled attacks occur, and the community wonders: are the vampires of Tahoe cursed with a plague?

Celia reluctantly agrees to help Misha, the handsome leader of an infected vampire family. But Aric, the head of the werewolf pack determined to destroy Misha’s family to keep the region safe, warns Celia to stay out of the fight. Caught between two hot alphas, Celia must find a way to please everyone, save everyone, and oh yeah, not lose her heart to the wrong guy—or die a miserable death. Because now that the evil behind the plague knows who Celia is, it’s coming for her and her sisters. This Wird girl has never had it so tough.

Celia and her 3 sisters find themselves in vampire court and Celia is terrified at what might happen. Misha Aleksandr has requested the presence of the Wird sisters after charging them with the murder of one of his family members. Today is their lucky day however, since evidence proves the dead vamp in question had a virus that caused uncontrollable bloodlust, and it seems to be spreading. People are dying at an alarming rate as the vampire virus spreads and infected vamps go on the rampage. In desperation, Misha Aleksandr appeals to the sisters to help him fight whoever is spreading the infection and weakening his power. Taran, Emme, and Shayna are horrified at the deaths, but they also don’t want to get involved. Celia sees it a bit differently and decides they should help the Master vamp fight the rival master that is causing the carnage. Not only does Misha want the sisters’ help, but he seems to have a bit of a thing for Celia, much to her chagrin, since she has her eye on a werewolf hottie, Aric, who also gets involved in the fight. So much for the Wird sisters laying low in lovely Lake Tahoe, huh?

The Wird sisters aren’t your usual supes. As the result of a childhood curse, they each have very unique powers, but consider themselves very much outside the supernatural community. All they want to do is carry out their day jobs as nurses and live in peace in gorgeous Lake Tahoe. However, Misha and the rampaging vampires don’t plan to let the sisters off so easy, and Celia’s interest in the gorgeous Aric definitely throws a huge wrench into things.

Sealed With a Curse has just about everything I want in a really good urban fantasy. Strong lead characters? Check. A sexy romance brewing on the side? Check. Vamps, weres, witches, and more? Check!! The story is told in Celia’s voice, and what I simultaneously love and hate about her is her vulnerability. Most men are very intimidated by her tigress (yep, Celia can change into a tigress, among other things), so she’s closed herself off to men, and yet she’s so very lonely and insecure. She berates herself more than once, and if you’ve ever wanted to hug a character from a book, you’ll want to hug Celia and shake her until she stops doubting herself. It’s also important to point out that while the romance element is strong in this book (lots of hotties running around, trust me), I swear there are kick ass fights every 3 or 4 pages. The author just doesn’t let up, and if you think you’ll be reading about the same old supernaturals, think again. The baddies are really, really bad, and the author never shies away from the ick factor. Cecy Robson has a very, very fertile imagination when it comes to the scaries, and she’s not afraid to use it. Celia and her sisters are a great fighting team and if you like books with plenty of girl power, you’ll love this one. I also really enjoyed Celia’s sense of humor and the “triangle” between her, Aric, and Misha. I swear this book has some of the funniest one-liners in urban fantasy. These nurses are good at their jobs, but don’t mess with them. Seriously. If you mess with one, you mess with all four, and the person/creature doing the messing is probably going to get the bad end of the stick (or blade, or claw…you get the picture.)

So, can the girls track down the source of the vampire infection and take care of business? Will Celia find the love she deserves? Will these poor girls ever get some much deserved peace? Probably not, well, at least the peace part. But that’s good for us, because that means there will be plenty of adventures with the Wird girls to come. I really enjoyed the prequel novella and was hoping Sealed With a Curse would live up to my expectations. It did. This is an exciting and refreshing debut and I can’t wait to see what’s next for this series!

1. You MUST fill out the form below
2. Giveaway is for 1 copy of SEALED WITH A CURSE by Cecy Robson to 1 winner.
3. Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY
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 12/31/12
6. Giveaway book courtesy of the author
7. Please see my Giveaway Policy.

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Interview: Ramez Naam, author of Nexus

Please welcome author and scientist Ramez Naam to the blog! Ramez’s first novel, Nexus, just came out TODAY from Angry Robot Books, and he was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer a few of my questions!

Your new book, Nexus, is out this month! How did you celebrate when you found out it would be published?
It’s probably a sign of the times, but when I first found out that we had an offer on the book, my instinct was to tweet about it! Of course, my agent (the wonderful Lucienne Diver) very sensibly suggested that I wait until we’d actually negotiated the contract and signed it. :)

After that, it was off with my girlfriend to our favorite restaurant.

Will you tell us a bit about it, and what inspired you to write it?
Nexus is about a drug (also called Nexus) that can link minds. It’s really a nanotechnology packaged as what seems to be a recreational drug. In this near future world, there have been all sorts of abuses of advanced nano- and bio- technologies – bio-terror, mind control, attempts to create ‘master races’, and so on – so this technology is completely illegal.

My protagonist and his friends are graduate students in San Francisco. Even though Nexus is illegal, they’re fascinated by it, and they’re working to make better versions that can link minds over longer ranges, can send more information, can even run software on the nanobots inside the human brain. When Kade, my protagonist, is busted doing this, he’s blackmailed into spying for the US government. He’s sent to Thailand to work his way into the confidence of a Chinese scientist, who might or might not be militarizing Nexus, turning it into a technology for mind control and political assassination.

Then the bullets start flying, and Kade finds out he’s in way over his head.

It’s definitely a thriller, of the near future variety, but underneath that it’s also an examination of civil liberties, the war on drugs, and the war on terror. In the novel we’ve created this immense security apparatus to guard against the mis-use of advanced technologies, not unlike the Department of Homeland Security today. And, just like today, we see that security apparatus cutting into people’s freedoms and civil liberties. It’s driven by a good motivation – make us all safer. But has it gone too far? How do we reduce the risk of technologies while also allowing for the positive uses? That’s the question I ask underneath the surface of the action thriller.

What are some of your biggest literary influences?
There are so many! Nexus is influenced by the science fiction of John Barnes, Neal Stephenson, and William Gibson.

Another sci-fi influence is Ian McDonald, who sets much of his fiction in other countries – India, Turkey, Brazil – showing a slice of culture that’s different from our own, but not that far in the future. I tried to do that in Nexus, with much of the book set in Bangkok and other parts of Thailand.

To be honest, though, Nexus borrows as much from thrillers and spy novels. There’s an amazing pacing to Tom Clancy’s early thrillers that I loved and tried to mimic. And Robert Ludlum’s spy thrillers – specifically his Jason Bourne books – are another impact.

I wanted Nexus to be important, to shed light on some issues in both science and civil liberties. But to succeed at that it had to be compelling readable above all.

If someone were dipping their toe in sci-fi, where would you suggest they start (besides with Nexus, of course!)?
It really depends on the person. I’ve had recent success with Ian McDonald’s The Dervish House. It’s science fiction, but extremely near future. The setting in Istanbul is lush and beautiful, and the fact that you’re immersed in a different culture is part of the beauty of the book. Science fiction is often making up future cultures, of course, but it turns out our world is full of real cultures that most of us have never experienced, and which are far more nuanced and alien than many of the ones made up in sci-fi.

If you could read one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
Probably Hyperion by Dan Simmons. It’s hard core science fiction, but it’s also deeply poetic and literary. In structure it’s modeled after Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. A group of pilgrims traveling together tell each other their stories. In telling those six stories, Simmons builds compelling characters and narrative, and he also paints a picture of this vast sprawling future and a deep mystery that’s brought all of them together – for different reasons, of course. He weaves in poetry, art, the somewhat heretical Catholic futurism of Teilhard de Chardin, and superhuman AIs. It’s an amazing book.

You’re a computer scientist by day, which probably keeps you pretty busy! How do you balance writing with a full work schedule?
I’m writing full time now! But it’s definitely been a challenge in those periods where I’ve balanced a day job. The only thing you can do is rigorously set aside hours where you have to write, preferably first thing in the morning, before work takes over your brain.

You have a background in science, and I want to ask about your 2005 book, More Than Human (2005 HG Wells Award Winner!), but honestly don’t know where to start! Can you tell us in layman’s terms what it is about?
It’s sort of a non-fiction book about a particular theme in science fiction – upgrading ourselves. It’s a look at real scientific research being done in genetic engineering, in making people smarter, stronger, and longer lived, and in wiring our brains to computers. All of that work is being done for medical reasons – to cure genetic diseases, to stave off Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases, to help people who’ve been paralyzed or rendered blind by an injury. But the research also points the way to augmenting people.

So the book is about two thirds popular science, describing what’s happening in the lab and what it could lead to. And the other third, woven throughout it, is the questions the science brings up. Should we do this? Is it safe? Who’ll be able to afford it? Will it widen the gaps in society? Will it destroy our human nature?

In a lot of ways, those are the very same questions I tackle in Nexus.

When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
I love to read, of course, and as a writer I think you’re always behind in your reading. I know so many other writers now! I want to read all their books, but there aren’t enough hours in the day.

I live in Seattle, where we’re surrounded by old growth forests, lakes, rivers, and mountains, so I get outside as much as I can. I love to hike and kayak in the summer, and snowboard in the winter.

What’s next for you? I hear you have some books coming up in 2013!
I do! The sequel to Nexus is almost done. It’s called Crux and it comes out in September. You can read Nexus entirely on its own – it has a story arc that starts and ends. But it also opens the door for more stories in that world, and that’s what Crux is.

In between those two novels, I have a non-fiction book coming out. It’s called The Infinite Resource: The Power of Ideas on a Finite Planet. It’s essentially about the race between innovation and overconsumption. We’re damaging our planet, but at the same time we’re making incredible strides in things like solar energy that could turn that around. How do we make sure innovation wins? That’s the topic of the book.
Keep up with Ramez: Website | Twitter

About NEXUS:
Mankind gets an upgrade

In the near future, the experimental nano-drug Nexus can link human together, mind to mind. There are some who want to improve it. There are some who want to eradicate it. And there are others who just want to exploit it.

When a young scientist is caught improving Nexus, he’s thrust over his head into a world of danger and international espionage – for there is far more at stake than anyone realizes.

From the halls of academe to the halls of power, from the headquarters of an elite US agency in Washington DC to a secret lab beneath a top university in Shanghai, from the underground parties of San Francisco to the illegal biotech markets of Bangkok, from an international neuroscience conference to a remote monastery in the mountains of Thailand – Nexus is a thrill ride through a future on the brink of explosion.

Holiday Giveaway: 2 Copies of A Blood Seduction by Pamela Palmer

The holidays are coming so fast and I don’t know about you, but my head is spinning. In keeping with the head spinning excitement of this time of year, I’ll be doing giveaways from now through the new year so be sure to keep your eyes peeled! How ’bout we kick ‘em off with 2 copies of Pamela Palmer’s A BLOOD SEDUCTION (thanks kindly to Avon Books.) Check out the book and giveaway details, and good luck!

Quinn Lennox is searching for a missing friend when she stumbles into a dark otherworld that only she can see—and finds herself at the mercy of Arturo Mazza, a dangerously handsome vampire whose wicked kiss will save her, enslave her, bewitch her, and betray her. What Arturo can’t do is forget about her—any more than Quinn can control her own feelings for him. Neither one can let desire get in the way of their mission—his to save his people, hers to save herself. But there is no escape from desire in a city built for seduction, where passion flows hot and blood-red . . .

1. You MUST fill out the form below
2. Giveaway is for 2 copies of A BLOOD SEDUCTION by Pamela Palmer to 2 winners.
3. Giveaway is open to US addresses only
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 12/22/12
6. Giveaway books courtesy of Avon Books
7. Please see my Giveaway Policy.

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Interview: Mandy Hager, author of The Crossing

I’m thrilled to have author Mandy Hager on the blog today! She’s the author of the award winning The Crossing, which will see its US release in January and has been described as “1984 for teenagers.” It’s also on my Must Read Titles of January 2013 list. Mandy was kind enough to answer a few of my questions, so please give her a warm welcome!

What inspired you to write Blood of the Lamb trilogy? Will you tell us a bit about it?
The Crossing is set on a small Pacific island, 5-6 generations after global devastation brought on by massive solar flares, the effects of which mirror the apocalyptic events in Revelations.

At the time of the so-called ‘Tribulation’ a cruise ship full of rich tourists founders on the reef of this small island. At first the ship is seen as a sanctuary – a life-saver – the resources used to help the sick and maimed. But, over time, the Captain and his white elite set themselves up as living gods – with the cruise ship, Star of the Sea, their Holy City – linked to the island by a bamboo causeway. Essentially they’re a cargo cult, using Christian texts to manipulate and subjugate the faithful population – especially for one particular need – the need for blood to stave off the effects of a leukemia-type disease brought on by the fall-out of the solar flares.

Each year, in a ceremony called The Judgement, toddlers are crudely tested to check their blood type, and those girls identified as blood-type O – which makes them universal donors – are labeled Blessed Sisters – The Chosen – taken from their families and raised on a small atoll off the main island to believe that when they hit puberty they will Cross to the Holy City to serve the Apostles of the Lamb – with ‘readiness and joy’.
entered around 15 year old Blessed Sister Maryam – late to get her bloods and impatient to fulfill her sacred destiny – the trilogy follows her journey as she Crosses from child to adult – from her safe, secure atoll home to the Apostle’s lair… where, she quickly discovers, her life is in danger and nothing is as it seems…

The whole trilogy is written from a place of anger and deep frustration – purposefully speaking to young people in the hope that through a story that engages their emotions, they will think harder about the issues raised.

At its heart it is political – a reflection on the way a few very powerful (mostly white) men hold the balance of power all around the world and maintain it through intimidation, incarceration and fear.

It looks at how power and control is asserted over women, over indigenous cultures, over the dispossessed, and over faithful populations. And it’s a challenge to those who call themselves ‘religious’ (in any faith) to live up to the basic tenets of their fundamental beliefs – those being love, acceptance, compassion, generosity and fairness for all.

Most of your work is known for having a message. What’s one of the things you’d like readers to take away from The Crossing, the first book in your Blood of the Lamb trilogy?
It’s a call to action – to empowerment – a call to stand up for what is right – for human rights. And for tolerance of others’ differences. It’s also an argument in favor of acting from a place of love.

You started your professional career as a teacher. Has teaching influenced your writing quite a bit?
When I trained to be a teacher, way back in the early ‘80s, I met three remarkable human beings there, whose influence cemented everything I had fermenting inside.

The first was my science tutor – a wonderful woman who was a survivor of Auschwitz – I saw the number tattooed on her wrist. This tiny woman had such spirit – she wasn’t cowed by her experiences – merely made stronger and more determined to make the rest of her life count. As the child of an Austrian refugee, it made me incredibly grateful that my father had managed to escape Hitler’s holocaust, and had chosen to raise his children in a country that was so settled, safe and beautiful. As a result, I have tried to make my own life count towards the greater good.

The second influential person at that time was my English tutor – arch-story-teller Jack Lasenby, who is now one of New Zealand’s foremost writers for young people. Jack re-awoke my love of story-telling, and introduced me to the power of myth.

The third was another English tutor, and in her class I met with a new and dynamic genre of fiction – the YA novel. The beginning of the 80’s was an exciting time for YA readers. A whole new and elevated class of books for young people emerged – books that dared to talk about life as it really was – and books that took me to new worlds, for the purpose of making me reflect back on my own. S E Hinton, Paul Zindel, John Christopher, Joan Aitken… for one whole year (while undertaking a specialized research project) I immersed myself in YA fiction of such high quality I was hooked for life.

The other main way teaching has influenced my writing is not in the themes or ideas so much as in my practice as a writer. A teacher needs to plan, be organized, and to work towards particular learning outcomes. As a writer I do the same. I always know what the thematic message of a book will be, and spend quite a lot of time researching and planning (structurally and character-wise) before I ever start writing.

These days I teach novel writing for a Creative Writing Degree, and am extremely grateful to have practical teaching skills to draw on.

What are some of your biggest literary influences?
I always find this such a hard question to answer! I’ve been a big reader since I was young – in a totally indiscriminate way! Early on, of course, there was Dr Seuss –his humanity and moral lessons were a huge influence on us all and I still know many of the lines off by heart! The same goes for the stories of Oscar Wilde (i.e. The Happy Prince) and Hans Christian Andersen (i.e. The Little Match Girl) – morality tales with heart. As I grew older I devoured novels, often holding on to the essence of the story but not the title or writer. I read a lot of science fiction as a teenager, liking the way it could reflect on the weaknesses and strengths of human existence by placing the reader in an unfamiliar world, to view behavior as an outsider. In the last few years I’ve become a Charles Dickens groupie! I love his passion for social causes, his ability to nail a unique, unforgettable character in one or two lines, and his razor-sharp wit. These days I also read a lot of non-fiction by writers such as Robert Wright and Joseph Campbell. I’m a big Barbara Kingsolver and Margaret Atwood fan too!

If you could read one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
Hmm – another hard one! Perhaps George Orwell’s ‘1984’. I can still remember the shock and horror when I first read it in my teens, and how it fired up all my social and political inclinations. I love his passion and imagination, and would find it fascinating to re-read it with an analytical writer’s eye – in fact, thanks, I think I will! (And I recommend, for those writers who haven’t already read it, to search out Orwell’s essay ‘Why I Write.’)

What are you reading now?
I’m reading Rick Gekoski’s ‘Outside of a Dog – a bibliomemoir’. It’s fascinating. He tells his life story through the books that influenced him at the time. And I’ve just finished a fabulous book called ‘The Storytelling Animal’, by Jonathan Gottschall, which explores how human beings are hardwired for story.

When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
I live on an acre of land, with fruit trees and a vegetable garden. It’s always a great joy to get outside and work in the garden, after all the hours I spend locked away in my writing room! I also love nothing better than getting together with friends and family – and I love cooking for them. Baking is my stress relief – something constructive to do that doesn’t require any thinking when my brain is tired!

I’ve never visited New Zealand and have experienced its beauty only through film and photographs. If someone were to visit you there for the first time, where would you take them?
We’re spoilt for choice here (she says proudly!) Top of my list would be to take visitors down to our South Island, which is truly awe-inspiring. Within the same day you can find pristine coves with gemstone beaches, thick ancient rainforests, spectacular mountains, and crystal clear lakes. Beautiful.

The New Year is right around the corner! What’s next for you?
Next year is shaping up to be very busy! As well as my teaching I will be working on a new book (which is currently in the early planning stages) as well as putting time into an organization I am involved with who work with youth at risk. I’m also helping with a political campaign that we’re hoping to fire up next year (which is, essentially, about trying to move our government to more climate/human friendly policies), and am very tempted by an offer from a friend to spend three weeks in her castle in southern France! I also do school visits as a writer and the odd speaking engagement… I reckon that’s probably enough to be going on with for now!
Keep up with Mandy: Website | Twitter

Book News (and other fun stuff): December 14th, 2012

Here’s my roundup of book news (and other fun stuff) around the web for the week! Sometimes I add stuff throughout the day on Friday, so be sure you check back over the weekend too!

Also, don’t miss my list of gift ideas for book lovers at the bottom of the post. I’ll try to offer up new ideas every week until the end of December.

Interviews, articles, and more:

Excerpts and such:

Fun stuff (some book-related, some not):

Gift Ideas for Book Lovers (and beyond!)!!

A very special carnival is coming to town in 2013…

I don’t normally do these types of announcement posts (only because in any given month, there are sooo many great releases!), but for me, this one is special. The CARNIEPUNK anthology is due in July 2013 from Pocket and it features a plethora of awesome authors, so wanted to give you the scoop (and share the gorgeous cover!) Thanks to Pocket for sharing all of the info with me!

So, step right up and take a gander at this awesome anthology, check out the author list and info, and hey, might as well preorder a copy too!

CARNIEPUNK cover artist:

Tony Mauro graduated from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and created the “When Darkness Falls” Vampire Series before going on to design movie posters for every major Hollywood studio and book covers for major publishing houses.


Rachel Caine is the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of the Morganville Vampires series, the Weather Warden series, the Outcast Season series, and the new Revivalist series. and @RachelCaine

Delilah S. Dawson is an artist and an associate editor on She lives with her family in Atlanta, where she is currently writing the next Blud novel. and @DelilahSDawson

Jennifer Estep is the New York Times bestselling author of the Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series for Pocket Books and also writes the Mythos Academy young adult series. and @Jennifer_Estep

Kelly Gay is the author of an urban fantasy series featuring Charlie Madigan. A two-time RITA Award finalist, she resides in North Carolina. and @KellyHGay

Kevin Hearne is the New York Times bestselling author of the Iron Druid Chronicles. He’s a middle-aged nerd who still enjoys his comic books and old-school heavy metal. and @KevinHearne

Mark Henry is an adult urban fantasist, comedic horror writer and unrepentant smart-ass. His work has been translated into garbled slurs by notable alcoholics. He lives on the fringe of Seattle society with his saintly wife and assorted hairy monsters. and @Mark_Henry

Hillary Jacques is an up-late, Alaska-based author of speculative fiction. Her romantic urban fantasy Night Runner series is published under pen name Regan Summers. and @HillaryJacques

Jackie Kessler writes about demons, angels, superheroes, supervillains, and, in her semi-secret identity as a YA author, Riders of the Apocalypse. She lives near Albany, NY, with her Loving Husband and Precious Little Tax Deductions. and @JackieKessler

Seanan McGuire is the New York Times bestselling author of the InCryptid series and the October Daye series, which earned her the John W Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2010. The Newsflesh trilogy, published under the pseudonym Mira Grant, earned her the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2011. and @SeananMcGuire

Kelly Meding was born and raised in Southern Delaware and discovered Freddy Krueger at a very young age, and has since had a lifelong obsession with horror, science fiction, and fantasy. She writes the Dreg City urban fantasy series and the superhero-based MetaWars series. and @KellyMeding

Allison Pang, a biologist in a former life, spends her days in northern Virginia working as a cube grunt and her nights waiting on her kids and cats, punctuated by an occasional husbandly serenade. Sometimes she even manages to write. Mostly she just makes it up as she goes. She loves Hello Kitty, sparkly shoes, and gorgeous violinists. and @Allison_Pang

Nicole D. Peeler resides outside Pittsburgh to teach in Seton Hill’s MFA in Popular Fiction. When she’s not in the classroom infecting young minds with her madness, she’s writing manga and the Jane True urban fantasy series. and @NicolePeeler

Rob Thurman is the New York Times bestselling author of the supernatural thriller All Seeing Eye, the gritty urban fantasy Cal Leandros series, the Trickster Novels, and standalone thriller-suspense novels. and @Rob_Thurman

Jaye Wells is a USA Today-bestselling author of urban fantasy novels about magical vampires and junky wizards. She loves to travel, drink bourbon and do things that scare her. Jaye lives in Texas. and @JayeWells

The Colony by AJ Colucci

New York City seems to have a big problem. A genetically modified ant colony has been unleashed and people are being devoured by the nearly indestructible insects. At first it’s just a few isolated deaths, but the ants are spreading, and if something isn’t done, New York City will cease to exist. This is where Paul O’Keefe and Kendra Hart come in. Paul is a famous scientist and somewhat of a rockstar in his field, and his specialty is ants. He’s particularly interested in how ants can help us improve society. Kendra is Paul’s ex-wife, and she specializes in ants too, but the source of their divorce is the very different directions that they each took their careers. Paul began focusing on money more than research, where Kendra prefers to be out in the field, researching the ants at their levels, getting her hands dirty. When the problem gets too big to handle, Kendra and Paul are thrown together to help save the city. It doesn’t help that Kendra is still attracted to her ex, and it seems Paul holds plenty of regret about the divorce as well.

As the colony spreads and more people die, the city becomes a wasteland of death and crime and people are fleeing the city in droves. As Kendra and Paul settle into the underground bunker designed to protect VIPs in the most extreme circumstances, it’s immediately obvious that there is tension between the military in charge of the operation and the mayor who’s out to save his city. Kendra thinks she may have a solution, but it will involve finding a queen, and she and Paul are the only ones qualified to go on the dangerous mission. When they venture outside, through a devastated city with danger around every corner, you won’t be able to turn the pages fast enough. The author has a knack for setting up terrifying and tense scenes and plays wonderfully on our natural fear of bugs. Who doesn’t shiver when they think of ants crawling all over their body? I actually enjoyed learning about ants and how they work, and it’s obvious the author did her research. The science is fascinating, and the ants are too! AJ Colucci has crafted a pretty terrific thriller, and I’ll look forward to her next book!

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