My Bookish Ways

Interview (& Giveaway): Carrie Vaughn, author of Kitty Steals the Show

I’m thrilled to have Carrie Vaughn on the blog again to talk about her new book, Kitty Steals the Show. She’s one of my fave writers, so won’t you give her a warm welcome? Also, check out the giveaway details at the end of the post, since there’s a copy of Kitty Steals the Show up for grabs!

Carrie, when you last visited the blog, Kitty’s Greatest Hits had just been released, and now Kitty’s 10th adventure, Kitty Steals the Show, just came out! Besides an obviously busy writing schedule, what have you been up to since then?
The busy writing schedule, pretty much? I’ve been working on the next Kitty books, going to my usual round of conventions. I spent some time in Croatia in March, which was fun. The usual shenanigans of house and dog and hobbies and travel and writing.

In Kitty Steals the Show, Kitty has been asked to be the keynote speaker for the First International Conference on Paranatural Studies. Can you give us a bit of a teaser of what Kitty is in for?
Trouble, of course! This book is my chance to show a little bit of what the supernatural community looks like in another country, and see a bit of the progress in people’s awareness of the supernatural. The conference was the next logical step in that process, and of course Kitty would be a big part of it.

When you started the series, did you have a specific number of books in mind that you wanted to write at first, or did you just plan to see where Kitty took you?
I didn’t have a specific number mainly because I had no idea if the series would be successful. I didn’t know the first book would sell, much less ten of them. I’ve had a couple of smaller arcs — the first four books, for example, are their own arc, and I planned it that way just in case the series ended then. But since then, I’ve really been writing them book by book, with the larger storyline of the Long Game and Roman in the background.

Besides Kitty, what’s one of your favorite characters to write?
Cormac is always intriguing, but I really like writing Rick, because he’s something of a calming influence and he’s got this long history that I love dropping hints about.

Would you ever consider giving one of the other characters their own book (*cough* Cormac:))?
Funny you should ask. . .the novella in Kitty’s Greatest Hits was something of a dry run for a possible Cormac novel, which I’m now starting to plan. So, yes. It’ll be like a buddy detective story, only one of the buddies is disembodied, you know?

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
The next two Kitty books are written, and I’m currently working on the sequel to my superhero novel, After the Golden Age.
Keep up with Carrie: Website

1. You MUST fill out the form below (lots of chances for extra entries)
2. Giveaway is for 1 copy of Kitty Steals the Show by Carrie Vaughn to 1 winner.
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 8/18/12
6. Giveaway book courtesy of Tor
7. Please see my Giveaway Policy.

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Port Mortuary (Scarpetta #18) by Patricia Cornwell

Port Mortuary (Scarpetta #18) by Patricia Cornwell
Penguin/October, 2010

Kay Scarpetta has spent nearly 6 months at Dover Air Force Base, helping to develop technology for cutting edge virtual autopsies, when she is unexpectedly called back to Boston’s Cambridge Forensic Center. A young man has been killed under mysterious circumstances, and Kay must find out why a simple stabbing seems to have caused so much internal damage. The strange doesn’t stop there, though. Her second in command, Jack Fielding, is missing, and his behavior has been even more erratic than usual, a little boy has been brutally murdered, and a college football star was also sadistically tortured and killed. Believe it or not, everything is connected, and Kay, her husband Benton, niece Lucy, and Pete Marino must get to the bottom of things before someone else dies.

I shamelessly admit to being a huge fan of this series, and there were a few recent books that I felt were misses more than hits. However, Ms. Cornwell seems to have returned to form somewhat in Port Mortuary. I prefer Scarpetta’s voice in these novels, and Port Mortuary delivers there, although my favorite ME is quite self-conscious and even more serious than usual. She’s never been what you would call light hearted, but she gets downright bitter at times. She’s usually too smart and self-possessed for that, but since this case is so personal, considering her history with Jack, I can understand it. Also, I admit that Pete Marino is probably one of the most insufferable, frustrating characters in this series, but he’s one of my favorites too. He’s deeply flawed, yet he’s a very good investigator, and he would lay down his life for Kay. Ms. Cornwell has a talent for bringing her characters to life, and Port Mortuary is no exception to that. She never fails to pull me into her narrative, with the fascinating technical aspects of forensic science, and I have to see what happens next. I’ll be moving right on to Red Mist, and I can’t wait for her new Scarpetta novel, The Bone Bed, out later this year!

Purchase Port Mortuary: Amazon |B&N | Indiebound

Freak by Jennifer Hillier

Freak by Jennifer Hillier
Gallery/August 7th, 2012
Kind thanks to Gallery for providing a review copy

Sitting alone in a maximum-security prison cell, Abby Maddox is a celebrity. Her claim to fame is the envy of every freak on the outside: she’s the former lover of Ethan Wolfe, the killer who left more than a dozen dead women in his wake and nearly added Puget Sound State professor Sheila Tao to the tally. Now Abby, serving a nine-year sentence for slashing a police officer’s throat in a moment of rage, has little human contact—save for the letters that pour in from demented fans, lunatics, and creeps. But a new wave of murders has given Abby a possible chance for a plea bargain—because this killer has been sending her love letters, and carving a message on the bodies of the victims: Free Abby Maddox.

Jerry Isaac will never forget the attack—or his attacker. The hideous scarring and tortured speech are daily reminders that the one-time Seattle PD officer, now a private investigator, is just lucky to be alive. Abby Maddox deserves to rot in jail—forever, as far as Jerry’s concerned. But she alone may possess crucial evidence—letters from this newest killer—that could crack open the disturbing case. With the help of Professor Sheila Tao, seasoned police detective Mike Torrance, and intuitive criminology student Danny Mercy, Jerry must coax the shattering truth from isolated, dangerous Abby Maddox. Can he put the pieces together before Abby’s number one fan takes another life in the name of a killer’s perverted idea of justice?

REVIEW (No spoilers for this one, but if you haven’t read Creep yet, here’s my review)
I adored Creep, the first novel featuring Jerry Isaac, Sheila Tao, and Abby Maddox, so was anxious to see where the author would take these characters in Freak. Abby is now in prison, charged with the murder of one of the girls in EthanWolfe’s basement of horror and assaulting retired police officer Jerry Isaac. Abby has absolutely no plan to go down for murder, however, and promises to help the police find a new killer in exchange for immunity and (hopefully) a short stretch in a minimum security prison. Someone is killing escorts and carving “Free Abby Maddox” into them with increased rage and intensity, and when they finally narrow their suspects down to a troubled man who seems more than happy to confess, it seems they have their killer. Not so fast…

Freak focuses mostly on Jerry Isaac and his search for the killer alongside his former partner Mike Torrance. Jerry also has a new assistant, the bright, sharp as a tack Danny Mercy, who was certainly a very interesting new addition to the cast of characters. Freak is more of a straightforward “catch the killer” type of story than Creep was. Creep was more psychological, and while that aspect is still here, most of the time is spent trying to stay ahead of the killings. We do, of course, get to see much more of Abby Maddox, and she’s about as creepy as they come: beautiful, extremely smart, and, of course, a master manipulator. That girl has more tentacles than an octopus, and she manages to extend them way beyond the walls of her prison. She’s the most intriguing character in the book, and getting to know her is a lesson in chilling. We’re used to men being the psychos, but in recent years, authors like Chelsea Cain and J.A. Konrath have given us some pretty formidable, and beautiful, psychos. They’re not sitting alone in squalor, wringing their hands, muttering to themselves. Not these ladies! They’re busy manipulating every last person they come in contact with, chewing them up, and spitting them out. Makes for a very fun read. However, I was hoping Sheila had grown a bit from the last novel, but she continues to make some decisions that don’t seem to be helping her cause (ie: keeping her teaching job, in spite of her sex addiction, and not letting Abby manipulate her). Conversely, it’s her vulnerability that makes her so likeable, at least for me. We’re pretty fragile things, after all, and her need for love and acceptance, especially for someone so lovely and accomplished, are what drives her much of the time, and granted, she’s still healing from the three week horror that she went through with Ethan Wolfe. Frankly, it’s probably a small miracle that she got through it with her mind intact. Most people wouldn’t. The author is very good at creating tension, and keeping it going until the end. If you like rockin’ thrillers that just won’t quit, with plenty of twists and turns, you’ll really enjoy Freak!

Purchase Freak: Amazon |B&N | Indiebound

Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake

Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake
Tor Teen/August 7th, 2012
YA Horror
Kind thanks to Tor Teen for providing a review copy

It’s been months since the ghost of Anna Korlov opened a door to Hell in her basement and disappeared into it, but ghost-hunter Cas Lowood can’t move on.

His friends remind him that Anna sacrificed herself so that Cas could live—not walk around half dead. He knows they’re right, but in Cas’s eyes, no living girl he meets can compare to the dead girl he fell in love with.

Now he’s seeing Anna everywhere: sometimes when he’s asleep and sometimes in waking nightmares. But something is very wrong…these aren’t just daydreams. Anna seems tortured, torn apart in new and ever more gruesome ways every time she appears.

Cas doesn’t know what happened to Anna when she disappeared into Hell, but he knows she doesn’t deserve whatever is happening to her now. Anna saved Cas more than once, and it’s time for him to return the favor.

REVIEW (This is the 2nd book of a series. If you haven’t read Anna Dressed in Blood, you can read my review here)
Cas is still reeling from the events of Anna Dressed in Blood, and the sacrifice that Anna made in order to save Cas and his friends. It’s the end of the school year, and he should be having fun with end of year events with his friends, but that’s kind of hard when he keeps seeing Anna everywhere he goes. Anna with blood running out of her mouth. Anna with cuts that open and close all over her body. The list goes on, and the visions don’t seem to be going away. If anything, they’re getting stronger, and he knows it’s not his imagination, because his ghost killing athame is responding every time he sees Anna. Cas becomes convinced that Anna is in some sort of hell, along with the Obeahman, and he must get her out. His best friend (and mind reader) Thomas, is firmly on his side, and willing to help, but Carmel seems to be drawing away, which worries Cas. He’s determined to save Anna at any cost though, even if it means going to Hell to do it. Turns out his athame may be connected to his friend Gideon, something called The Order of the Black Dagger, and may also be a doorway that can be used to get to Anna. It’s a very dangerous proposition, and Cas’ mom, in spite of her own knowledge of the arcane, is afraid he may be in over his head.

Cas decides to fly to London with Thomas and confront Gideon, the man he hasn’t seen since he was four, but who has been like a grandfather to him, about the picture that was sent from his address, but with different handwriting. Soon he finds out that there is indeed an Order of the Black Dagger, and they do not approve of Cas’s use of the athame. Gideon also has someone staying with him: a girl named Jestine who may have something to do with the Order, and who can definitely handle herself in a fight. Cas is still determined to save Anna, though, but at what cost? And they may just have to ask the Order for their help. What follows is a journey through the Scottish Highlands to the lair of the Order, but it’s not easy going. They’ll have to navigate a beautiful forest where people go to die (this scene will raise the little hairs on the back of your neck), and Cas still doesn’t know what price he’ll have to pay for the Order’s help.

I really enjoyed Girl of Nightmares, but it didn’t knock my socks off like Anna Dressed in Blood. However, this isn’t unusual in a second book of a series. This one had more subtle horror then the first, and that’s ok! Like I said, the trip through the forest was terrifying, and there’s a scene at the Tower of London that is deliciously creepy. That’s what the author is best at: providing deliciously creepy thrills, and that talent is on fine display here. Cas’s journey to save Anna is a fascinating one, and what makes it tragic is, in spite of his hopes, would he really be able to bring Anna back to the living world, and forge some sort of relationship? First and foremost is saving her from eternal torment, and Ms. Blake definitely brings the scary in the final scenes of the book. You’ll have a great time getting there, and my love of Cas and his friends certainly hasn’t waned. There is a bit of gore, so older teens would be fine with this one, and the crossover (adult) appeal is still huge. I was thrilled at the author’s choice to use London as her backdrop, and I’m very excited to see where the author takes the series after this!

Purchase Girl of Nightmares: Amazon |B&N | Indiebound

The Unseen by Katherine Webb

The Unseen by Katherine Webb
William Morrow/May, 2012
Kind thanks to William Morrow for providing a review copy

A vicar with a passion for nature, the Reverend Albert Canning leads a happy existence with his naive wife, Hester, in their sleepy Berkshire village in the year 1911. But as the English summer dawns, the Cannings’ lives are forever changed by two new arrivals: Cat, their new maid, a disaffected, free-spirited young woman sent down from London after entanglements with the law; and Robin Durrant, a leading expert in the occult, enticed by tales of elemental beings in the water meadows nearby.

Quickly finding a place for herself in the underbelly of local society, Cat secretly plots her escape. Meanwhile, Robin, a young man of considerable magnetic charm and beauty, soon becomes an object of fascination and desire. Sweltering in the oppressive summer heat, the peaceful rectory turns into a hotbed of dangerous ambition, forbidden love, and jealousy—a potent mixture of emotions that ultimately leads to murder.

The year is 1911, and young Cat Morley is to arrive soon at the peaceful house of Reverend Albert Canning and his wife Hester. Cat’s reputation precedes her, but Hester sees this as an opportunity to be charitable, since surely no one else will have her, and also pay her less than one normally would for her services. Hester sees herself as very much the proper vicar’s wife, but so far, her husband has not touched her in a “husbandly” way and her desire for intimacy with him, as well as for a child, has become a problem. Spending her days with feminine pursuits, she longs for the touch of a husband that turns away from her again and again. When Albert comes home one day, flushed and excited, thinking that he’s seen elementals, or nature spirits, his excitement is contagious, until “theosophist” Robin Durrant comes to stay with them, and throws the entire household into disarray. As it turns out, Albert has been neglecting his duties, not only as a husband and companion to Hester, but as a vicar, and Hester is increasingly alarmed that Mr. Durrant may be a negative influence.

Meanwhile, in 2011, a body is found, preserved, over 100 years old, with letters that seem to have been written by Hester Canning. Leah, a journalist, is asked by her former lover Ryan to decode the letters, find the story. So, she travels to Cold Ash Holt, and manages to meet Mark Canning, the Canning’s great grandson. He’s not eager to talk to her at all, but eventually agrees to an interview. Mark has been embroiled in some serious legal battles, and as curious as Leah is, her job is to research the story at hand, and hopefully Mark can shed some light on things. I really enjoyed these scenes with Mark as they tracked down the clues to the identity of the dead man, and especially loved how she delighted in exploring the Canning’s old house. In spite of this, I did find myself wanting to get back to Cat and her story, but it provided a really good parallel to the events of 1911, and also layered in some nice suspense.

Back in 1911, Cat is wild and damaged from her time in prison and when she meets a local man, George, she feels she might have met someone that could finally understand her, and spending time with him provides a much needed respite to her sweltering days of servitude. However, she’s increasingly concerned about her best friend Tess, left behind when she was released from the gaol. Evidently, Tess has been put into a workhouse, and Cat is determined to somehow get her out. United in the suffragette cause, Tess tired of it, even as Cat grew more and more enmeshed, and it’s because of the increasingly criminal activities of the women’s group that Cat and Tess got in trouble. Cat blames herself for Tess’s incarceration, and vows to make it up to her, somehow. My heart ached for Cat, and even for the naïve, sweet natured Hester, who married a man that was her best, childhood friend, but could never, truly be her lover, and is slowly wilting in the summer heat. I also felt so sorry for poor, confused, delusional Albert who spent most of the story with stars in his eyes for the beautiful, cunning, selfish Robin.

As for Robin Durrant… He is, frankly, a jerk; an insidious weasel that manages to insert himself in every aspect of the Canning’s lives. He’s conniving, underhanded, enamored of himself, and truly believes that others are put on the planet to do his bidding. He’s the houseguest that never leaves and devastates lives in the course of his stay. He sees the effect he has on Albert, and exploits that as much as he possibly can, while delighting in Hester’s discomfort and anguish. He doesn’t stop there, either. No one is really safe from his machinations, even Cat, and his insistence on “proving” that faeries are real, therefore indulging Albert’s fantasies of the existence of “elementals” is wreaking havoc on the household. He insists on setting up a darkroom in the family’s cold storage room, resulting in waste and food spoilage, but hey, developing pictures of so-called “faeries” is much more important than the family’s food stores, right? If this sounds familiar, it is. You’ll no doubt be reminded of the true story of the Cottingly Faeries: the 1917-1920 series of pictures taken by Elsie Wright and Francis Griffiths supposedly depicting the two girls with faeries. Many people believed in these photos for many, many years until Elsie and Francis finally confessed to them being faked, and Robin Durrant is, above anything else, a fake, and a charlatan. When Cat is drawn into Robin’s subterfuge, her desire to break free of a life of servitude is buried deeper and deeper in the lies that Robin creates, her own secrets, and liberty, threatened by a treacherous man determined to make a name for himself in an otherwise aimless life.

Katherine Webb’s writing is lovely and evocative, and she manages to set up a scene thoroughly without taking anything away from her characters. Cat’s pain is evident in everything she does. Raised in a household run by The Gentleman (you’ll figure out who he is soon enough), educated, taught to read, and indulged to a certain limit, she is still shown that she’ll never rise above her station as a servant. It’s like giving a bird wings, but not allowing it to fly. Even George’s love can’t dampen the fire within her. As Hester’s desperation grows, so does Cat’s, and Albert has lost his way so completely, Hester is not sure she’ll ever get him back. All of their secrets swirl together to create a miasma of misery, eventually coalescing into a finale that will shock, and devastate.

In The Unseen,the author has created a seemingly bucolic landscape in which to set the passions and pain of her characters, and it immediately pulled me in. The Unseen has all of the drama of a soap opera, played out against a time when a strong woman had no place in proper society and religious and spiritual ideas were in constant flux. Suspense readers with a love of history should enjoy this, and I also recommend it to anyone that loves a rich, wonderfully written, character driven novel. Highly recommended.

Purchase The Unseen: Amazon |B&N | Indiebound

Giveaway: The Real Werewives of Vampire County by Jess Haines, Angie Fox, Alexandra Ivy, and Tami Dane

I have one copy of The Real Werewives of Vampire County by Jess Haines, Angie Fox, Alexandra Ivy, and Tami Dane up for grabs, so check out the book and the giveaway details, and good luck!

About The Real Werewives of Vampire County:

Drama. Scandal. Secrets. And a whole lot of supernatural goings-on.

-I’m Pureblood Were, And Proud Of It. . .

“Where Darkness Lives” by Alexandra Ivy

No one’s more surprised than Sophia when she’s struck by an unfamiliar maternal urge to move near her daughters. But instead of being greeted by a welcome committee, she’s targeted by kidnappers. . .and saddled with a gorgeous bodyguard on a mission to protect—and seduce. . .

-I’m A Tomboy At Heart, But I Want A Man Who Makes Me Feel Like A Real Woman. . .

“Murder on Mysteria Lane” by Angie Fox

When a werewolf trophy wife is found dead in Vampire County, Heather McPhee goes undercover to investigate. Heather’s never been a mascara-and-manicures sort of girl, but she’s willing to learn. Especially with sexy vampire detective Lucien Mead posing as her husband. . .

-Who’s Afraid Of The Big, Bad Werewolves? Not Me, That’s For Sure. . .

“What’s Yours is Mine” by Jess Haines

Still Waters is like many other exclusive gated communities—except that it’s home to one of the largest werewolf packs in the state. But Tiffany Winters isn’t frightened of her big, bad new neighbors. In fact, she intends to take her place among the pack. . .

-This Is A Town Full Of Secrets. And I Intend To Uncover All Of Them. . .

“Werewolves in Chic Clothing” by Tami Dane

Ever since Christine Price moved in with her fiancé, Jonathan, and his twelve year-old son, she’s worked hard to fit in with a cadre of local women whose lives seem picture-perfect. Except no one in Jon’s upscale neighborhood is quite who they appear to be. Least of all Jon. . .

1. You MUST fill out the form below (lots of chances for extra entries)
2. Giveaway is for 1 copy of The Real Werewives of Vampire County to 1 winner.
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 8/13/12
6. Giveaway book courtesy of Kensington
7. Please see my Giveaway Policy.

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Time’s Last Gift by Philip Jose Farmer

Time’s Last Gift by Philip Jose Farmer
Titan/June, 2012 (Reprint)
Science Fiction
Kind thanks to Titan for providing a review copy
**Reviewed by Peter (husband and resident sci-fi reader)

Three men and a woman on board a timeship travel from 2070 AD to 12,000 BC – a journey that could never be repeated. For the passengers, all anthropologists, it was a once-in-a-million-lifetimes expedition… a chance to study primitive man as modern man never could. But none of them was prepared for what they would discover – or for the impact of their travels in a time that had yet to come…
A novel in the Wold Newton universe, in which characters such as Sherlock Holmes, Flash Gordon, Doc Savage, James Bond and Jack the Ripper are all mysteriously connected.

Though by no means a Philip Jose Farmer completist, I have read numerous works by Farmer and enjoy them more often than not. Farmer excels at universe/world generation, creating complex backdrops in which his characters enact his story. His characterization and interaction, in my opinion, were never as solid but were strong enough that I enjoyed the romps through the worlds he had created.

Time’s Last Gift begins with a team of four scientists traveling back in time to 12,000 BC. The team is made up of Gribardsub, the leader and doctor, von Billmann, a linguist and cultural anthropologist, and the Silversteins, a zoologist/geneticist and a physicist/geologist. They begin to study the tribe nearest their arrival point, though they more or less take over the tribe and make all the major decisions for them. The Silverstein’s marriage begins to break up and jealousy enters the mix as it becomes clear one of the team is not who (or maybe what) they claim to be.

Farmer follows the group as they trek around (literally) the Mediterranean Sea taking samples of native flora and fauna though the major emphasis appears to be on finding the pre-Indo-Hittite speakers. Through it all, the team must find a way to stay together and work as a team for the four years they will be in prehistory.

This is a time travel story only in the fact that people from one time travel to earlier era. The science behind the travel is very light and potential paradoxes are dismissed as impossible since whatever is done in the past has already happened and time has accounted for it. Instead this is a story more concerned with the interactions of the group and the uncovering of the one member’s secret.
Without the grand world scape upon which to act, the characters go from one conflict to the next with a decided lack of transition. There were also a few typos, which distracted me from the narrative a few times. However, if you’re a fan of Farmer’s work it shouldn’t be an issue.

This is a short, quick read and as such, it is worth the time I spent to read it. I’ve seen reviews from one star all the way to 5 stars. Both extremes are not justified:I would place it firmly in the middle and your personal tastes of Farmer’s work will determine which way the pendulum will swing.

Purchase Time’s Last Gift: Amazon |B&N | Indiebound

Off the Grid (Monkeewrench #6) by PJ Tracy

Off the Grid (Monkeewrench #6) by PJ Tracy
Putnam/August 2nd, 2012
Kind thanks to Putnam for providing a review copy

On a sailboat ten miles off the Florida Keys, Grace MacBride, partner in Monkeewrench Software, thwarts an assassination attempt on retired FBI agent John Smith. A few hours later, in Minneapolis, a fifteen-year-old girl is found in a vacant lot, her throat slashed.
Later that morning, two young men are found in their home a few blocks away, killed execution style. The next morning, three more men are found savagely murdered in the same neighborhood.
As Minneapolis homicide detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth struggle to link the crime scenes, they discover that there have been similar murders in other cities across the United States. Piece by piece, evidence accumulates, pointing to a suspect whose identity shocks them to the core, uncovering a motive that puts the entire Midwest on high alert and Monkeewrench in the direct line of fire. Before it’s all over, Grace and her partners, Annie, Roadrunner, and Harley Davidson, find themselves in the middle of a shocking collision of violence on a remote northern Minnesota Indian reservation, fighting for their lives.

When we last left the Monkeewrench crew, Grace McBride made the shocking decision to set sail with 20 years her senior FBI agent John Smith. After 3 months of sun in the Florida Keys, Grace finds herself facing down two men who have boarded the boat with the seemingly single motive of killing John. John has no idea why anyone would be gunning for him, so Grace contacts the team for help, as John goes off the grid. Meanwhile, Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth find themselves at a crime scene where the body of a young girl lies, her throat slashed. Soon, more bodies, and illegal weapons, are piling up, and there seems to be a connection. It will take the full resources of the police, the FBI, and Monkeewrench to figure this one out, but at what cost?

I admit, when I found out that Off the Grid was coming out, I had to stifle a fangirl squee. Ok, I may not have stifled it. It’s been 8 years since the wonderful Monkeewrench (book 1), and 2 years since the last book was out, so this one was very eagerly awaited. The authors are on their game, as usual, and Off the Grid is more than just a murder mystery. When Magozzi and Rolseth start putting the pieces together, and other crimes start popping up in other cities that are very similar to their cases, it’s obvious something very big is happening. They’re on the clock, and time is running out. So,the attack on John has brought Grace back to Minnesota and back into Magozzi’s life, a big group of baddies are after John, but nobody knows why, and it seems like something really big might be going down on Halloween, only a few days away. But what, and where? Off the Grid was a nonstop roller coaster ride from start to finish, and unlike previous books, the focus was more on Detectives Rolseth and Magozzi rather than the Monkeewrench crew, but that’s ok, because I loves me some Gino and Magozzi. I was hoping that we’d get some quality Grace and Magozzi time, but with everything going on, it just wasn’t to be. Maybe in the next book? Off the Grid was lots of fun and I couldn’t be happier to have the gang back! Can’t wait for the next one!

Purchase Off the Grid: Amazon |B&N | Indiebound

Interview: PJ Tracy, author of Off the Grid

I’m so excited to have mother/daughter team PJ Tracy (Traci Lambrecht and PJ Lambrecht) here on the blog today to talk about their brand new book, Off the Grid! The Monkeewrench team is back, and I couldn’t be more excited! Please welcome them to the blog!

Your eagerly awaited (and sixth) new Monkeewrench book, Off the Grid, just came out! When you started the series, did you have in mind how many books you’d like to write, or did you just decide to see where the gang took you?
Actually, Monkeewrench was written as a stand-alone. The possibility of a series wasn’t even on our radar. But our publishers were so enthusiastic about the cast of characters, they asked to see more of them, and we were thrilled to comply, because we’d become so attached to all of them. Now, six books into the series, we just roll with the gang – they take us to unexpected places every time, which is one of the greatest joys of writing. But series writing isn’t without its own set of challenges – once you establish characters, you have to find creative and realistic ways to keep them dynamic while staying true to their individual integrities.

Will you tell us a bit about Off the Grid?
It begins with two of our recurring characters thwarting an assassination attempt off the coast of Florida and discovering that one of them is inexplicably marked for death – why, or by whom is a baffling mystery, but they’d better figure it out quick! At the same time, homicide detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth are investigating a series of brutal, seemingly unrelated murders in Minneapolis. But as evidence accumulates, they discover several shocking links to their homicides, the assassination attempt on one of their friends, and the tragic kidnapping of five young girls. The stakes are already high, but they get raised in a big way when Gino and Magozzi realize that the crimes are all part of a much bigger plot with terrifying and far-reaching implications that must be stopped, even if it means war.

Many people assume that an author’s favorite character to write is the main character, but that’s not always the case! Which is your favorite character to write?
We have so many important players in our books, we’re not sure there even is a main character. And readers all have different impressions of who is central to the series, which is pretty cool. But at the end of the day, Magozzi and Gino are total candy to write for both of us.

I’ve heard that your collaboration sessions are…interesting, to say the least! Will you tell us a bit about your process?
It’s PJ and I hanging out together, laughing hysterically about 80% of the time. The other 20% is spent chuckling. Somehow, we manage to come up with a plot through all of this, and then its go-time. We get serious, and plunge ourselves into the work, at which point, we become extremely anti-social and difficult to live with. Well, I live alone, but sometimes I find myself difficult to live with!

What are some of your biggest literary influences?
T:Probably just about everything we’ve ever read. You learn just as much from reading a great book as you do from reading a bad book.

If you could read a book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
T:That’s a tough one – since I’m being asked a specific question, I would have to say Catcher in the Rye. It kind of blind-sided me, because it was a laugh out loud novel for me, as dark as it was, and before I’d read it, I’d never really laughed while reading. I guess it really played to my hereditary dark sense of humor.

PJ:Winter of Our Discontent – more dark humor. You can see that Traci and I are related.

When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
T:Free time is kind of an alien concept, but on those rare occasions when I’m not writing, or thinking about writing, I’m with friends and family, indulging my three favorite pastimes: entertaining, cooking, and drinking wine. In the summer, I love to garden. During Minnesota winters, I love not having to go outside if I don’t want to!

PJ:Watching Traci cook and drink wine and entertain.

If you could pack your bags and travel anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you go?
We would both stay put! We reached our travel saturation points a couple years ago, and now we’re both total homebodies.

Quick! What’s something that makes you laugh out loud?
T:Kittens. South Park. Life in general. It would probably be easier to list what doesn’t make me laugh out loud.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
We recently finished a Christmas novella entitled Return of the Magi. It’s dark, it’s light, it’s funny, and ultimately, it’s a story of redemption. We hope to see it published in 2013. We have also optioned the Return of the Magi screenplay, and the film and TV rights to the Monkeewrench series. And we’re currently working on the seventh Monkeewrench installment – you haven’t seen the end of the gang yet!
Keep up with PJ Tracy: Website | Facebook

The Prophet by Michael Koryta

The Prophet by Michael Koryta
Little, Brown/August 7th, 2012

Adam Austin hasn’t spoken to his brother in years. When they were teenagers, their sister was abducted and murdered, and their devastated family never recovered. Now Adam keeps to himself, scraping by as a bail bondsman, working so close to the town’s criminal fringes that he sometimes seems a part of them.
Kent Austin is the beloved coach of the local high school football team, a religious man and hero in the community. After years of near misses, Kent’s team has a shot at the state championship, a welcome point of pride in a town that has had its share of hardships.
Just before playoffs begin, the town and the team are thrown into shock when horrifically, impossibly, another teenage girl is found murdered. When details emerge that connect the crime to the Austin brothers, the two are forced to unite to stop a killer-and to confront their buried rage and grief before history repeats itself again.

When a young girl comes into Adam Austin’s bail bonds office, he has no concept of how young she really is. He thinks she’s college age, but she’s actually a high school girl that claims to have been in touch with her incarcerated father, and now he’s out, and she wants to visit him. The only problem is, she says, is that he won’t tell her exactly where he’s staying. In his letters, however, he mentions he’s staying in a rental home and names the property owner. All the girl wants is an address. Adam pushes back all of his misgivings about giving her the information, thinking she would be better off not making contact, and finds the address for her. When he hears she has been murdered, Adam takes it upon himself to find her killer, giving him the name of his sister”s killer so many years ago. See, Adam blames himself for his sister’s death, and he’s not going to let this guy get away. Not even if he has to make sure of that himself.

When The Prophet started, I thought I knew where it was going. As it peels back the layers of Kent and Adam’s lives and motivations, I really, really thought I knew what was going to happen. As it turns out, I didn’t. Seems pretty straightforward at first. Adam sends this girl to that house, where instead of reuniting with her father, she is killed. Adam feels responsible for her death, much like he still feels responsible for his sister’s death, when he was still in high school. Adam is the big brother, and he takes everything, and I mean everything, on his broad shoulders. He’s not about to let this one get away. Adam still lives in the house that they grew up in and has preserved their sister’s room down to every detail. He also talks to her on a regular basis as he sits in her room, watching the sun bounce off of the stain glass figures she so painstakingly created. Adam is most thoroughly haunted by his sister, and when details start coming to light about Kent, and his possible connection to the killer, Adam realizes there’s much more to this story, and Kent is equally determined to put things right.

On the surface, The Prophet is a thriller, but at its heart, it’s a story about revenge, redemption, and the power of love and family. The twists and turns will keep you turning the pages, but the love between these brothers will break your heart. Also, if you’re a football fan, you’re in for a treat, because there are plenty of passages detailing the exploits of the high school team that Kent coaches, and even if you don’t give a wit about football, you’ll find yourself sucked in to the drama, because it’s that drama that drives Kent, and the urgency of the writing during these passages is addicting and impossible to ignore. The Prophet is a barnburner of a novel, cutting a swath through families and lives with a razor sharp quickness. It will suck you in, chew you up, and spit you out, and you’ll love every minute of it. Michael Koryta is hugely talented writer, and The Prophet is not to be missed!

Purchase The Prophet: Amazon |B&N | Indiebound

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