My Bookish Ways

Sherlock Holmes: The Army of Dr. Moreau by Guy Adams

Sherlock Holmes: The Army of Dr. Moreau by Guy Adams
Titan/August 2012
Kind thanks to Titan for providing a review copy

Following the trail of several corpses seemingly killed by wild animals, Holmes and Watson stumble upon the experiments of Doctor Moreau.
Moreau, through vivisection and crude genetic engineering is creating animal hybrids, determined to prove the evolutionary theories of Charles Darwin. In his laboratory, hidden among the opium dens of Rotherhithe, Moreau is building an army of ‘beast men’. Tired of having his work ignored — or reviled — by the British scientific community, Moreau is willing to make the world pay attention using his creatures as a force to gain control of the government.

Corpses are turning up in Rotherhithe, by all appearances the victims of animal attacks. However, the attacks are not attacks any animal that should be roaming around London (for example, a blacktip shark, common to the coasts of Australia), and one of the victim’s hands and feet were chained, which, of course speaks of human involvement. When Mycroft Holmes pays a visit to his brother Sherlock, and Dr. Watson, with a request for help looking into the mystery surrounding the nefarious Dr. Moreau and the events that took place on a South Pacific island, the detective is certainly intrigued. Dr. Moreau is supposedly dead, and the only man that survived the attacks on the island that resulted in his death has committed suicide by swallowing acid, so he’s definitely not talking. These deaths definitely seem connected to Dr. Moreau’s wicked experiments in altering humans and animals, but how? You can bet Holmes and Watson will soon find out!

This is my first of Titan’s series of new books about the escapades of Holmes and Watson, and I loved it! Told mostly from Watson’s point of view, it follows the dynamic duo as they attempt to infiltrate the lair of a man performing diabolical experiments in order to build his own army. The banter between Holmes and Watson is laugh out loud funny, and the author’s style stays quite true to their original exploits. Their investigation eventually takes them deep into the underground of London where they’re confronted with plenty of man-made beastly creatures. Things never get very deep, and some silliness does ensue, but who cares when a book is this entertaining? The writing is crisp, the dialogue sharp, and the pace unrelenting. If you love old fashioned adventure, and of course, Sherlock Holmes, I think you’ll find much to love about this one.

Purchase Sherlock Holmes:The Army of Dr. Moreau : Amazon |B&N | Indiebound

Interview (& Giveaway): Tad Williams, author of The Dirty Streets of Heaven

I’m beyond thrilled to have the wonderful Tad Williams on the blog today. Tad is the author of a ridiculous number of books (at least 18!!), and his newest book, The Dirty Streets of Heaven, just came out! He kindly answered a few of my questions, and not only proved that he’s still one of the most talented guys in the biz, but also one of the nicest, and he has good taste too (see Adventure Time). The lovely folks at DAW have offered up a copy of The Dirty Streets of Heaven for one lucky winner, so be sure to check out the details below the post.


Portrait by Nina Katz

Tad, I remember reading Tailchaser’s Song when I was a teenager and absolutely loving it. Since then, you’ve published many more novels and short stories. Did you always want to be a writer? Will you tell us a bit about your journey?
I came a bit late to writing, mostly because I was involved in a lot of collaborative creative stuff when I was younger — playing in a band, theater, radio — and the quieter things like art and writing sort of took a back seat. Then, in my mid-twenties, I became more interested in things I could do in my own time, because I was working two jobs while trying to get lift-off on one of my creative interests. Also, about then I moved in with my ex-wife, who had cats, and that spawned the thinking (and, frankly, the incomprehension of how cats could get such a sweet deal for very little effort) that led to Tailchaser’s Song. Once I was offered money to write more books (the Dragonbone Chair series) that became my professional focus. But I could just as easily have been an aging rocker, probably playing county fairs these days.

The first book in your Bobby Dollar series, The Dirty Streets of Heaven, just came out. Will you tell us a bit about it and its hero?
Bobby, also known as Doloriel, is an earthbound angel. At first it’s just business as usual, helping defend the souls of the recently deceased in judgement, but then strange things begin to happen and Bobby finds himself no longer in just a Cold War with Hell, but something bigger and more dangerous and much more mysterious. Bobby tells the story himself, and (I like to think) he’s entertainingly funny while going through some pretty dark, scary experiences.

What do you love most about writing fantasy?
The freedom within classical form. It’s a bit like ballet — you have to know your basics, but if you satisfy those, the sky’s the limit. I also love the scope it gives me to imagine crazy, silly, or terrifying things. And I love worldbuilding. In fact, I’m sure that’s a big part of what attracted me to fantasy in the first place, that idea of Tolkienian secondary reality, making something that seems real, and (even better) people wish WAS real.

What are some of your biggest literary influences?
In no particular order, Tolkien, Vonnegut, Pynchon, Ruth Rendell, Barbara Tuchman, Harlan Ellison, Hunter S. Thompson, Ray Bradbury, Alice (Tiptree) Sheldon, Philip K. Dick, Michael Moorcock, Fritz Leiber, Ursula Le Guin, Theodore Sturgeon, Roger Zelazny, Dickens, Austen, T. S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, W. B. Yeats, and Borges. Patrick O’Brien. Roald Dahl. I could go on for days. Dr. Seuss. Kenneth Grahame. E. Nesbit. Stop me before I name more!

If you could read one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
Wow, tough one. The biggest single influence on me was reading the Lord of the Rings when I was about eleven, so probably repeating that amazing, immersive experience would be the most tempting. On the other hand, the first time I read The Martian Chronicles was also a revelation. However, there is an even stronger (and more sentimental) part of me that might like to have the Milne books (poetry and Winnie the Pooh) read for me again, as in my childhood. I learned sarcasm from Eeyore, and that’s at least as important as any other first.

When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
Small free time, reading and hanging with our kids and dogs and watching Adventure Time. Big free time, playing basketball, playing music, going on family driving trips to weird places. Talking crap and laughing with other writers is a big one, too.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
I’m finishing the second Bobby Dollar book, Happy Hour in Hell, and working on a bunch of other projects. Tailchaser’s Song is becoming an animated movie, and the Otherland MMORPG will go online very soon. And please don’t anybody give my family more pets. I have a nearly full-time job as zookeeper as it is.
Keep up with Tad: Website | Twitter

1. You MUST fill out the form below (lots of chances for extra entries)
2. Giveaway is for 1 copy of The Dirty Streets of Heaven by Tad Williams to 1 winner.
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 9/27/12
6. Giveaway book courtesy of DAW.
7. Please see my Giveaway Policy.

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Giveaway: The Hunchback Assignments Series by Arthur Slade (4 Books!)

To celebrate the Tuesday (Sept. 11th) release of the 4th and final novel in the Hunchback Assignment series, Island of Doom, by Arthur Slade, the author has kindly offered up a SIGNED set of all 4 books for giveaway: The Hunchback Assignments, The Dark Deeps, Empire of Ruins, and of course, Island of Doom. This giveaway is international too, so check out the deets, and good luck!


About Island of Doom:
After previous assignments in London, the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, and the Australian rain forest, this final adventure in the Hunchback Assignments series finds our hero, shape-shifting, masked spy Modo, on his most personal quest. Along with fellow spy Octavia Milkweed, they search for Modo’s biological parents. But when the Clockwork Guild find Modo’s parents first, Octavia and Modo chase them across Europe and North America to the Island of Doom. Joined by memorable characters from the first three books—some lovable, and some who are terrifying and evil—Modo and Octavia dash towards a thrilling conclusion.


1. You MUST fill out the form below (lots of chances for extra entries)
2. Giveaway is for all 4 books in the Hunchback Assignments series by Arthur Slade (signed) 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 9/27/12
6. Giveaway books courtesy of Arthur Slade.
7. Please see my Giveaway Policy.

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Death Benefits (Digital Short) by Nelson DeMille

Death Benefits by Nelson DeMille
Grand Central Publishing/Aug. 1st, 2011
Kind thanks to the Grand Central Publishing and NetGalley for providing a review copy

Bestselling author Jack Henry is suddenly on the brink of bankruptcy. With bills mounting and the IRS calling, he realizes that he has a major problem on his hands. But who is to blame for his declining fortunes? Certainly not Jack himself. The fault, he determines, lies with his agent, Stan Wycoff – who takes 15% of everything Jack makes for doing absolutely nothing.

Jack needs a way out of his dire financial predicament – and fast. And then he remembers that both he and his agent have substantial life insurance policies on one another. If Stan were to die unexpectedly, Jack would cash in…

But can a famous crime writer commit the perfect crime?

The Panther, Nelson DeMille’s newest John Corey book, will be out soon, so to tide us over until then, the author gave us this fun little digital tidbit. Former bestselling author Jack Henry finds himself going over his finances and soon realizes he’s, er, dead broke. His books aren’t quite selling like they used to, and his writing is in a slump. Then he comes across the bill for a premium on a life insurance policy that he took out on his agent, Stan, about 10 years ago, at the same time Stan took one out on him. He remembers how they jokingly pretended to push each other into traffic after getting the policies. Suddenly, with financial ruin on the horizon, and of course, no more access to the comforts he deems so important, he begins hatching a plan to take care of Stan and collect 5 million dollars. After all, Stan isn’t doing his career any good and he could really use the money. He begins to plan murder, drawing on his research for past crime novels (cleverly pulling on advice that homicide detective John Corey gave him).

Death Benefits is a quick, satisfying little read, and of course has the sly humor that I love about Mr. DeMille’s work. Jack is a self-satisfied, spoiled jerk who wildly overestimates himself, and of course, we all know what happens when you do that, right? A quick, fun, deadly delight!

Purchase Death Benefits: Amazon |B&N

Full Blooded (Jessica McClain #1) by Amanda Carlson

Full Blooded (Jessica McClain #1) by Amanda Carlson
Orbit/Sept. 11th, 2011
Urban Fantasy
Kind thanks to the author and Orbit for providing a review copy

It’s not easy being a girl. It’s even harder when you’re the only girl in a family of werewolves. But it’s next to impossible when your very existence spells out the doom of your race… Meet Jessica McClain — she just became part of the pack.

Jessica McClain has been living on her own, away from her father’s pack, for a while now. Doing PI work with her best friend is interesting and pays the bills. Things seem to be going pretty good, until the night she finally turns wolf, destroys her apartment, and attacks a human (luckily not killing him). Now, Jessica is the only female werewolf in the world, and the Cain Myth isn’t helping. An anonymous note sent to her father’s compound one month after Jessica’s birth, claims that she is the Daughter of Cain, the embodiment of evil, and unfortunately, some of the wolves in her father’s pack actually believe the nonsense. Because of this, her new ability to shift will have to be kept secret from all but a few, and that’s much easier said than done. It also doesn’t help that she has a tenacious cop, Ray Hart, after her who is determined to put her away for something, anything, and won’t stop until he does. He smells a rat with the story concocted explaining away the mess in her apartment and is, er, dogging Jessica’s every move. Damage control must be done, and soon, or all hell will break loose.

Full Blooded begins with Jessica making her first change, and boy, is it a doozy! Her father is the Alpha of one of the largest packs in the world, and the presence of a female werewolf sends everyone into a frenzy (in more ways than one). Even her father is not quite sure how things should be handled. He’ll need to figure it out soon, because not only is a lone female the problem, but dissent is brewing within the ranks, and a larger threat is looming. The author spends much of the first half or so of the book with Jessica getting used to her new powers and learning her new place in the world, but when the second half of the book hits, watch out! Amanda Carlson brings a whole new snarling, furry, bristling chunk of awesome. Jessica isn’t only the only female werewolf, she’s much more, but telling you that secret would ruin much of the fun. Suffice it to say that she’s pretty badass and not afraid to show it. In fact, it’s her stubbornness (and courage) that actually almost gets her in quite a bit of trouble a few times. It’s this stubbornness that makes her so likeable though. Sometimes she doesn’t know when to shut her mouth, and I can certainly relate to that :-D Not only does Full Blooded bring on the supernatural kickass that one would expect, it also brings on the sexy. Seriously, there’s a scene in her that will scorch your knickers, promise. Then there’s Roarke, the mysterious mercenary that’s after Jessica for his own reasons, and brace yourself for some of the scariest vamps I’ve read about in a long time. Inevitable comparisons to Kelley Armstrong’s werewolf series will happen, and that’s a good thing, but Amanda CarIson creates a world and werewolf mythos that’s all her own. I had so much fun with this book and it’s been a while since a debut novel has had me this riveted. Luckily, the next book, Hot Blooded, will be out early next year. Trust me, urban fantasy fans, you’ll want to put Ms. Carlson on your autobuy!

Purchase Full Blooded: Amazon |B&N | Indiebound

Interview (& Giveaway): Amanda Carlson, author of Full Blooded

The lovely Amanda Carlson is joining us today as part of her blog tour for Full Blooded (read my review), and I couldn’t be more excited! Please welcome her to the blog! Also, there’s a giveaway for a copy of Full Blooded at the bottom of the post (and it’s international), so check out the deets, and good luck!

Amanda, welcome back to the blog! What have you been up to since the last time we talked? I assume you’ve been busy promoting Full Blooded, yes?
Thanks for having me back. It’s great to be here! I’ve been very busy networking, getting my name and book information out. As a new author, it’s crucial. It’s been a lot of work, but I’m enjoying it. I love chatting, if you haven’t noticed.

What would be your elevator pitch for Full Blooded?
“You have to read this book. It’s full of everything you’d want in an urban fantasy series: action, adventure, sex and great mythological mayhem.” Then I’d vomit from the stress of pitching in the elevator.

If Full Blooded was adapted for the big screen, who would you cast as Jessica (and Ty, and James…)?
I’ve only been asked this one other time, but my answer is still the same: I have no idea. When I write my characters they are such an amalgamation in my mind, it would be so hard to pick the *right* person to encompass all their attributes. I don’t ever picture one clear face in my mind when I write. It’s more like a fun dream state where my characters encompass personality, voice, snark and action all at one time. But I DO have a wicked crush on Tom Hardy.

If we beefed him up, dyed his hair blonde and made him look more like Thor, we *may* have a Rourke. Possibly.

Most folks assume that the main character is the most fun to write for an author. Is that true for you, or do you have a different fave?
Jessica is so much fun to write, it’s true, but I actually enjoy writing everyone. I love changing it up and getting the fun banter going. Danny is really fun to write. I love his accent. And I love Marcy’s zestiness. It’s all awesome, and definitely never boring.

What’s one of your favorite werewolf books or films?
I loved Van Helsing when it came out. I have no idea if it’s held up over time. It’s not a full werewolf movie. I remember seeing American Werewolf in London and being totally freaked out at the time. It might be time to re-rent. I loved the first Underworld movie, Kate Beckinsale is awesome. I was really excited a few years ago for The Wolfman with Benicio Del Toro, but it was a bit of a letdown. I guess the answer is: there are no great “urban fantasy” werewolf movies out there. I think it’s time they make one, don’t you?

What’s next for you?
HOT BLOODED releases in April 2013 and I’m finishing up COLD BLOODED right now. It’s due to hit shelves fall of 2013. I’m having such a blast writing this series. I hope I get to do it for a long time.

Thanks for hosting me, Kristin!! I had fun as usual. For anyone reading, I hope you enjoy the series.
Keep up with Amanda: Website | Twitter

1. You MUST fill out the form below (lots of chances for extra entries)
2. Giveaway is for 1 copy of Full Blooded by Amanda Carlson to 1 winner.
3. Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY (or wherever The Book Depository ships)
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 9/26/12
6. Giveaway book courtesy of the author.
7. Please see my Giveaway Policy.

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Interview: Scott K. Andrews, author of School’s Out Forever

Finally! School’s Out Forever, the omnibus of three books of zombie awesome (The Afterblight Chronicles) by Scott K. Andrews will be available in the US on Sept. 18th (from Abaddon Books), and Scott was kind enough to answer a few of my questions. Please welcome him to the blog!

Scott, in your bio it says you didn’t start writing until age 30. Had you always hoped to be writer? Will you tell us a bit about your journey?
I pitched my first novel when I was 20 – a Doctor Who book for Virgin in the early days of the New Adventures. It got rejected but I got a very encouraging rejection letter, encouraging me to try again. So I tried again. And again. And again.

While that was ongoing I tried to break into comic book writing. That went a bit better – I got two commissions, both finished and paid for but only one got published. But then that fizzled, and I eventually also gave up on the Doctor Who pitches as well due to my having lost all feeling in my head from banging it against a brick wall for nearly a decade.

Then a period as an entertainment journalist, during which I toyed with various novel ideas, all of which were horribly derivative and lurk in my bottom drawer. Eventually , when I was 30, I kind of stumbled into a job doing an episode guide book to Dawson’s Creek (!). I took the opportunity to prove I could deliver a useable manuscript on deadline, which led to a second episode guide book.

Then a friend commissioned a short story from me for a Doctor Who anthology and mentioned the Abaddon open pitch process at the same time. The rest is history.

School’s Out Forever, the omnibus containing your St. Mark’s Trilogy books (The Afterblight Chronicles) will be out in the US on Sept. 18 (yayyy!!) Will you tell us a little about it?
It tells the tale of two people – a boy and a young woman – who survive a viral apocalypse and try to build something good in the ruins with the help of their friends, and of all the various nutters and despots who they have to bring down in order to do that. It’s relentlessly thrilling, occasionally shocking and hopefully a little bit thought provoking too.

Which character in the trilogy was your favorite to write, and why?
Matron, without a doubt. She started out as a secondary character but soon came to dominate the series. I loved her determination, humanity, ruthlessness and just her general attitude to authority. I never had to ‘find’ her voice, she just appeared fully formed. I didn’t even realise she was the hero of the first book until I’d finished writing it, so completely did she sneak up on me.

But most people’s favourite character in the trilogy is Rowles, my 11 year-old sociopathic killing machine. For some reason he really struck a chord!

What do you love most about horror?
I’m not a dyed-in-the-wool horror fan, but I love a good horror movie as much as the next geek. I suppose what I look for in a good horror story is that cathartic thing of having my deepest fears given metaphorical substance so I can see them beaten to a pulp, the kind of thing Buffy used to do so brilliantly. I also find horror-comedies make me laugh more reliably than any other kind of comedy – I’d always rather watch Shaun than Dawn.

What are some of your biggest literary influences?
John Wyndham’s very English view of the apocalypse informed the St Mark’s trilogy hugely. Iain Banks for his plotting; Christopher Fowler for his macabre sense of the absurd; Douglas Coupland for his deeply humane characters. And, not strictly literary but probably my biggest influence – Joss Whedon’s approach to character and story is constantly inspiring and makes me strive to be better all the time.

What do you find truly frightening?
Untrammeled power and the people who seek to wield it. Dictators, repressive regimes, the threat of having my freedom taken away by someone who will lock me up and torture me if I voice a dissenting opinion. These things are the reality of many people’s daily lives and I give thanks every day that I’m lucky enough to be who and where I am and to enjoy the life I do. But the threat of losing that liberty to bullies with guns keeps me awake at night.

In your own reading, what makes you want to set aside a book in frustration?
Pretension. The kind of book that abandons character and plot in favour of the pointless, soulless quest for the stylistically perfect sentence. Boring.

If you could read one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
Iain Banks’ The Crow Road.

When you manage to carve out some free time, how do you like to spend it?
Reading, binging on TV and films, spending time with the kids. But most of all catching up on my sleep!

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
I have a new novel underway, even thought there’s no deal signed yet. So there should be the first book of a new trilogy from me hitting bookshelves some time in 2013.

Also, the film of the first St Mark’s book – School’s Out – should be going before the cameras next summer, so keep your eyes out for announcements about casting as the summer draws closer – exciting!
Keep up with Scott: Website | Facebook
Pre-Order School’s Out Forever: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound
Add to Goodreads

About School’s Out Forever:
“After the world died we all sort of drifted back to school. After all, where else was there for us to go?”

Lee Keegan’s fifteen. If most of the population of the world hadn’t just died choking on their own blood, he might be worrying about acne, body odour and girls. As it is, he and the young Matron of his boarding school, Jane Crowther, have to try and protect their charges from cannibalistic gangs, religious fanatics, a bullying prefect experimenting with crucifixion and even the surviving might of the US Army.

Welcome to St. Mark’s School for Boys and Girls…

Faithful Place by Tana French

Faithful Place (Dublin Murder Squad #3) by Tana French
Penguin/Viking/July 2010

Tana French’s In the Woods and The Likeness captivated readers by introducing them to her unique, character-driven style. Her singular skill at creating richly drawn, complex worlds makes her novels not mere whodunits but brilliant and satisfying novels about memory, identity, loss, and what defines us as humans. With Faithful Place, the highly praised third novel about the Dublin Murder squad, French takes readers into the mind of Frank Mackey, the hotheaded mastermind of The Likeness, as he wrestles with his own past and the family, the lover, and the neighborhood he thought he’d left behind for good

It was 1985 and Rosie Daly and Francis Mackey were in love. Eager to escape his deeply dysfunctional family, Frank makes plans with Rosie to head off to England for a new start. Rosie never shows up at their meeting place, though, and Frank is heartbroken. Still determined to get away, Frank spends time at friends and eventually joins the police. 22 years later, Frank is now a detective in the Dublin Undercover squad, and he’s about to get a phone call that will change everything. Rosie’s suitcase has been found in the derelict house that they were supposed to meet at on that fateful night, and Frank begins to suspect the worst. Did Rosie ever make it to England, or did she even make it out of Faithful Place. One thing is certain: Frank will get to the bottom of it, even if it means going back home and facing his family one last time.

Faithful Place, the third book in Tana French’s Dublin series, is told in Frank Mackey’s voice and isn’t a straightforward mystery, as such, but French’s novels never are strictly about the whodunit. Her talent lies in taking a reader into the hearts and minds of her characters with lyrical and razor sharp precision, and each book just gets better. Faithful Place in 1985 is a living, seething thing, and the people that populate it are fully fleshed out, especially Frank’s family. Jackie, Frank’s youngest sister, is the only sibling he’s consistently kept in touch with since leaving home, and seeing the rest of the family is the last thing he wants to do, but Rosie’s mystery trumps all, and he’s soon back in the thick of it. An alcoholic, abusive father and sharp tongued mother are just the beginning. Secrets and little intrigues are the lifeblood of Faithful Place and the families that reside there, and diving back into those murky waters is a dangerous proposition. Tragic and riveting, Faithful Place is rich in atmosphere and provides a heady slice-of-life of Dublin in the 80s and the present. The question of what happened to Rosie will draw you in, but it’s the intricate tapestry of familial drama that will keep you turning the pages. French’s writing is nothing short of perfect and is the standard that suspense authors of this ilk should strive for. Like many of the great, classic mystery writers, it’s the journey to find out the truth that’s spotlighted here and all of her characters ring achingly true. Fans of mystery and suspense shouldn’t miss this latest book by one of the biggest talents in the genre!

Purchase Faithful Place: Amazon |B&N | Indiebound

Giveaway: Shelter and Seconds Away by Harlan Coben

Seconds Away, by Harlan Coben is out on the 18th, so what better way to celebrate than with a giveaway! Courtesy of Penguin Young Readers, I’ve got a copy of Seconds Away, the first book of the series, Shelter, and a Mickey Bolitar tote bag up for grabs, all for one lucky winner. Check out the books and the giveaway details, and good luck!

About Shelter:
Mickey Bolitar’s year can’t get much worse. After witnessing his father’s death and sending his mom to rehab, he’s forced to live with his estranged uncle Myron and switch high schools. Fortunately, he’s met a great girl, Ashley, and it seems like things might finally be improving. But then Ashley vanishes. Mickey follows Ashley’s trail into a seedy underworld that reveals that Ashley isn’t who she claimed to be. And neither was Mickey’s father. Soon Mickey learns about a conspiracy so shocking that it leaves him questioning everything about the life he thought he knew.

About Seconds Away:
When tragedy strikes close to home, Mickey Bolitar and his loyal new friends—sharp-witted Ema and the adorkably charming Spoon—find themselves at the center of a terrifying mystery involving the shooting of their friend Rachel. Now, not only does Mickey have to continue his quest to uncover the truth about the Abeona Shelter, the Butcher of Lodz and the mysterious death of his father, he needs to figure out who shot Rachel—no matter what it takes.

Mickey has always been ready to sacrifice everything to help the people he loves. But with danger just seconds away, how can he protect them when he’s not even sure who—or what—he’s protecting them from?

1. You MUST fill out the form below (lots of chances for extra entries)
2. Giveaway is for 1 copy each of Shelter and Seconds Away by Harlan Coben + Totebag to 1 winner.
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 9/21/12
6. Giveaway books courtesy of Penguin Young Readers
7. Please see my Giveaway Policy.

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The Broken Ones by Stephen M. Irwin

The Broken Ones by Stephen M. Irwin
Doubleday/August 7th, 2012
Kind thanks to Doubleday for providing a review copy

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.

Oscar Mariani is an investigator with the “Barelies”. Let me explain: the Nine-Ten Investigation Unit was created 3 years ago (after Gray Wendesday), and it sounded enough like “nineteen” that it became the Barely Legals, shortened to the “Barelies”. Oscar continually has to endure the indignity of being part of an investigation unit that isn’t taken seriously, and also the ghost of a little boy that’s been haunting him since Gray Wednesday. Gray Wednesday left the world in shambles and in its wake, also left everyone with a ghost of their own.

Oscar and his partner Neve find the body of a young girl in the sewer system, laid open by an enormous industrial auger. The mutilation wasn’t enough to cover a symbol carved into the girl’s stomach. This case should have been passed to the Homicide unit, but Mariani decides to investigate it himself. Neve isn’t so enthusiastic, and isn’t afraid to show it. She soon puts in for a transfer, but it’s clear that she’s conflicted. As Oscar follows the clues, he begins to uncover something that can only be described as pure evil. At continuous risk of losing his job, the case will take him first to a home for disabled children, the Heights, a sparkling walled enclave where the elite dwell, and finally into an occult underground that will take him nearly beyond his emotional and physical endurance.

To say that I loved this book would be an understatement. Oscar Mariani is my favorite kind of protagonist: wounded, deeply moral, and determined to see things put right. When Gray Wednesday hit, his ghost appeared in front of him while driving on a busy street, and in trying to avoid what he thought was a real person in front of him, he swerved to avoid him, and struck a young girl. The pain that he carries with him because of this, and its aftermath, is palpable on nearly every page. The author set his story against a future Australia that is broken, dark, and bereft of hope, to nearly all except for the very wealthy. Power is spotty, government support is very limited, and struggling to get by is an understatement.

“The roads were empty of traffic, but not empty of cars: both sides were lined with vehicles, some of the festooned with faded bouquets of parking tickets. Most had smashed windows, a few were no more than burned shells, all of them had been stripped of wheels, seats, mirrors-anything that could be removed in hasted and peddled. Sump boxes were cracked open and their oil drained for use in lamps. Driving was a luxury few outside of the Heights could afford. Half the cars in the city-half the cars around the world, Oscar supposed-had been dented or crashed on Gray Wednesday. His own car had gained a dent on the front. Oscar drew down another shutter on that memory.”

Amidst the ruin, Oscar is a beacon, whether he wants to be or not. His quest (and it is a quest) to see things right is fraught with danger and figuring out who can be trusted is no small task. A complicated relationship with his adoptive, ex-cop father is a fulcrum on which he swings, and we’re given small glimpses into that relationship throughout the story. The Broken Ones is not for the faint of heart, however. There’s nothing gratuitous here, but the author absolutely does not pull punches, and there were a few times that I had to look away and catch my breath. The language he uses is just beautiful, even when describing the most gruesome scenes:

“This curtain was woven with the bones and skulls of ten thousand people. Femurs and rib bones were the weft, and humeri and ulnae the warp. Skulls were ivory sequins. This awful drapery was the source of the sick, eldritch light-and behind it was a yawning darkness more terrible than the narrow, blind confusion he’d left behind. He knew he had to go. Then the curtain rippled. The bilious light shimmered, and he heard an unmusical tinkle, the discord of a thousand untuned pianos as bone ticked against bone. Something was on the other side. Something huge. It was coming.”

There is one particular scene in The Broken Ones that absolutely terrified me. I’m talking about “watching-the-scariest-movie” muscle clenching horror. I held my breath for two whole pages. It’s been a long time since a book has had that effect on me, and frankly, it was awesome. 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.

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