My Bookish Ways

Early Review: Tarnished (St. Croix Chronicles #1) by Karina Cooper

Tarnished (St. Croix Chronicles #1) by Karina Cooper
Publisher:
HarperCollins/June 26th, 2012
Steampunk/Paranormal
Kind thanks to HarperCollins for providing a review copy
4/5

My name is Cherry St. Croix. Society would claim that I am a well-heeled miss with an unfortunate familial reputation. They’ve no idea of the truth of it. In my secret world, I hunt down vagrants, thieves . . . and now, a murderer. For a monster stalks London’s streets, leaving a trail of mystery and murder below the fog.

Eager for coin to fuel my infatuations, I must decide where my attentions will turn: to my daylight world, where my scientific mind sets me apart from respectable Society, or to the compelling domain of London below. Each has a man who has claimed my time as his—for good or for ill. Though as the corpses pile, and the treacherous waters of Society gossip churn, I am learning that each also has its dangers. One choice will see me cast from polite company . . . the other might just see me dead.

REVIEW
I’m a huge fan of Karina Cooper’s, so when news came that she would be starting a brand new Victorian London/steampunk/paranormal series, I was so there! Cherry St. Croix is the daughter of a genius, considered by many to be a madman, and stands to soon inherit the estate and holdings left to her by her late father. Not quite part of the peerage, yet still considered within polite society, Cherry is no lady, and I mean that in the best possible way. By day, Cherry does what polite society ladies do (sorta), entertaining visitors, spending time with her friend and caretaker Franny (while exasperating her at every possible turn), and reluctantly attending society balls. By night, Cherry ventures beneath the drift, where the Midnight Menagerie dwells and the toxic fog gathers, to work as a collector, capturing bounties for the enigmatic Micajeh Hawke. When news that a brutal killer is targeting the “sweets” that work the streets, women that Cherry considers friends, reaches her, she knows that she must find this man and put him out of commission, even if the cost proves higher than she ever imagined.

Just like with her Dark Mission novels, Ms. Cooper has created an imaginative, rich environment for her characters to play in, but this time it’s in an alternate Victorian London. Fully realized are the teeming streets, bustling humanity, and grit of London below, and I was happy to follow Cherry along on her escapades. Cherry is easy to like, and her weaknesses only enhance her character, making her someone to identify with and root for. Tarnished definitely spent some time setting the stage for books to come, and steampunk fans will love it. With nods to Jack the Ripper and Frankenstein, Tarnished takes you on a rollicking ride with characters you’ll want to see more of. Add in a dash of romance, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for steampunk adventure. Can’t wait for more books in this series!

Pre-order Tarnished: Amazon | B&N

The Drop (Harry Bosch #17) by Michael Connelly

The Drop (Harry Bosch #17) by Michael Connolly
Publisher:
Grand Central Publishing/Nov. 2011
Thriller/Mystery/Crime
4/5

Harry Bosch has been given three years before he must retire from the LAPD, and he wants cases more fiercely than ever. In one morning, he gets two.

DNA from a 1989 rape and murder matches a 29-year-old convicted rapist. Was he an eight-year-old killer or has something gone terribly wrong in the new Regional Crime Lab? The latter possibility could compromise all of the lab’s DNA cases currently in court.

Then Bosch and his partner are called to a death scene fraught with internal politics. Councilman Irvin Irving’s son jumped or was pushed from a window at the Chateau Marmont. Irving, Bosch’s longtime nemesis, has demanded that Harry handle the investigation.

Relentlessly pursuing both cases, Bosch makes two chilling discoveries: a killer operating unknown in the city for as many as three decades, and a political conspiracy that goes back into the dark history of the police department.

REVIEW
A seedy Las Vegas motel room. A councilman’s son has jumped to his death from a balcony at L.A.’s Chateau Marmont. Or has he? That’s what Harry Bosch and his partner are tasked with finding out. Normally Harry is closing cases in the Open and Unsolved unit, so when Harry is requested by the councilman (and bitter rival) himself, Irvin Irving, he’s shocked and immediately suspicious of Irving’s motives. Sniffing out “high jingo” (political hoops and motivations) almost immediately, Harry is determined to get to the truth of the matter. Added to his worries are DNA results on a 20 year old case that put an eight year old at the scene of the crime. An eight year old who grew up to be a convicted rapist…

The Drop is the 17th (the 15th just featuring Harry) novel in the Harry Bosch series, and it’s no less fascinating than its predecessors. Harry is as determined and stalwart as usual, although an attraction to a therapist provides a bit of distraction from his worries, and some hope for Harry in the romance department. I always root for Harry to find someone, and he’s been more unlucky than not. Since the mother of his 15 year old daughter, Maddie, was killed, he hasn’t really given much thought to romance, so it’s time that he got back in the game. Maddie is even orchestrating ways for her dad to spend time with the new woman, much to Harry’s amusement. Speaking of Maddie, she’s a delight, and has expressed her interest in becoming a cop, just like her dad. Maybe there will be a Maddie spin-off in the works? Here’s hoping, but I digress… Harry’s got plenty on his plate, and his simpering partner, Detective Chu, had me wishing Harry would give him a good slap. Seriously, the man got on my nerves. The challenges of the two cases at hand have Harry seriously considering retirement, but a twist puts him back on track. The political ins and outs of the George Irving case are fascinating, the cold case is heartbreaking, and as usual with this series, I was riveted. After 17 books, I’m still wild about Harry, and would recommend this series to any mystery/crime lover.

Purchase The Drop: Amazon | B&N

Early Review: The Taken (Celestial Blues #1) by Vicki Pettersson

The Taken (Celestial Blues #1) by Vicki Pettersson
Publisher:
Harper Voyager/June 12th, 2012
Urban Fantasy
Kind thanks to Harper Voyager for providing a review copy
4/5

Griffin Shaw used to be a PI, but that was back when gumshoes hoofed the streets . . . and he was still alive. Fifty years later, he’s an angel, but that doesn’t make him a saint. One small mistake has altered fate, and now he’s been dumped back onto the mortal mudflat to collect another soul—Katherine “Kit” Craig, a journalist whose latest investigation is about to get her clipped.

Bucking heavenly orders, Grif refuses to let the sable-haired siren come to harm. Besides, protecting her offers a chance to solve the mystery of his own unsolved murder—and dole out some overdue payback for the death of his beloved wife, Evie.

Joining forces, Kit and Grif’s search for answers leads beyond the blinding lights of the Strip into the dark heart of an evil conspiracy.

But a ruthless killer determined to destroy them isn’t Grif’s biggest threat. His growing attraction to Kit could cost them both their lives, along with the answer to the haunting question of his long afterlife . . .

REVIEW
A seedy Las Vegas motel room. A dead hooker (or is she?) A lesser angel (and former PI) named Grif here for another Take. A nosy girl reporter out for vengeance. Sounds good so far, right? Oh, it totally is. When Griffin Shaw comes to collect this Take, he has no idea that it will set him on a course that will force him to examine his former life, and unlife. After a small act of kindness angers his bosses, he’s forced back into a flesh suit to investigate the beautiful Kit Craig. There’s a bit of a hitch, though. Kit is scheduled to die in only a few hours, and he’s not supposed to interfere with that. What’s a PI angel to do?

I’m a huge fan of Vicki Pettersson’s and was sorry to see her Signs of the Zodiac series end, so when I found out she was starting a new series, I couldn’t wait to dive in. In The Taken, the author has taken the angel mythos and spun it around a bit, to create her own cool-as-hell style. Kit is a delightful heroine: she’s a glass-half-full kind of gal, and compliments Grif’s gruffness perfectly. She’s a go getter, and when her longtime friend is taken from her, instead of succumbing to grief, she gets down to the business of finding her killer, at the risk of her own life. Grif finds himself simultaneously annoyed and charmed by this talkative, inquisitive woman with rockabilly style,and Kit is undeniably attracted to the enigmatic (and stylish) Grif. Grif is still hung up on his wife’s murder, fifty years ago, and hopes to find out the truth behind her death, and his, but this case is darker and more vast then even he could have imagined. Ms. Pettersson has never shied away from the darkness, and it’s in full force here. Ms. Pettersson’s ability to capture the seedy side of Vegas while never leaving her love of the city behind is always a pleasure, and she uses the city she loves to full advantage.

The Taken is a slow build, but as soon as it hits its stride, you won’t be able to put it down, and you’ll be rewarded in spades. Angels, ghosts, mobsters, romance, rockabilly,and a cabal of corruption come together explosively in a Vegas noir confection you won’t want to put down. Seriously, watch out, or you’ll get a paper cut turning those pages so fast.

Pre-order The Taken: Amazon | B&N

Blue-Blooded Vamp (Sabina Kane #5) by Jaye Wells

Blue-Blooded Vamp (Sabina Kane #5) by Jaye Wells
Publisher:
Orbit/June 1st, 2012
Urban Fantasy
Kind thanks to Orbit for providing a review copy
5/5

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

REVIEW (This is the 5th and final book in the series, so if you’re not caught up, there may be spoilers. It assumes you’ve read the first 4)
With every book in the Sabina Kane series I’ve thought “wow, Jaye Wells brought the awesome with this one”. I’d think the next one couldn’t possibly be better. Every time, I was wrong. Blue-Blooded Vamp is the last installment in the series, and while I was sad to see it end, boy, what an ending! I’ll get to that, but first… BBV picks up pretty much right after the events of Silver Tongued Devil, and our girl and her mage hottie Adam are in New Orleans to meet with Erron Zorn. They’re going to need his help to find the mysterious Abel, because he’s the only one that can help them kill Cain. To refresh your memory (you may want to cover your eyes here if you haven’t read Silver Tongued Devil), Cain is the big bad nasty (and co-creator of the vamp race along with the lovely Lilith) who made Sabina’s twin sister Maisie his killing puppet before causing her death (among many, many others.) He desperately wants to reunite with Lilith, but doing so would cause the destruction of the dark races. Sabina and the gang can’t let that happen, of course, but getting to Cain will be tough, and Sabina is going to need every bit of help she can get.

Sabina has come a long way since Red-Headed Stepchild. She’s gone from cold blooded vamp assassin for her (not so warm and fuzzy) grandmother who didn’t really know her place in the world, and carried more than a little bit of self-loathing, to a (even more) kickass magevamp who has found a reason to live, surrounded in the love of her friends and family (especially Adam.) It’s been a wild and crazy ride for Sabina, but this was in the wildest yet. Not only does she have to deal with Cane, but she’ll find out the real identity of Abel, and it’s a doozy. Then there’s that deal she made with Asclepius… He’s calling in the favor, and it causes a conflict of interest, to say the least. Oh, and did I mention that drama with Persephone (supposed new head of the vamps), is blowing back on our gang, as well? Sabina and the crew take a trip to Italy to see this one through, and unfortunately, there’s not much time for sight seeing. Your favorite dirty demon Giguhl is along for the ride, and prepare for more than a few gems like this:

“Bael’s balls, it suddenly feels like Cupid farted up in here.”

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.

Purchase Blue-Blooded Vamp: Amazon | B&N

Interview: JR Angelella, author of Zombie!

I’m so thrilled to have author JR Angelella on the blog today! Ross is the author of the brand new Zombie, just out from Soho Press, and was kind enough to answer a few of my questions. Please welcome him to the blog!

Photo by Kate Angelella

JR, you have a BA in English, an MFA in Creative Writing, have numerous short stories to your credit, and Zombie, your first novel, just came out! How did you celebrate when you found out Zombie would be published?
Surprisingly, I didn’t. I celebrated when I signed with my agent, but not when I sold the book. It was a very strange time in my life when I received word that Soho Press was buying my novel. I had a lot of heavy stuff going on, even just on the day that it actually sold, and you don’t ever fantasize about selling your book in the midst of family dying, loved ones losing their jobs, having to fire people from your day job, living above a psycho downstairs neighbor who constantly tries to get you to fight him, or suffering from an intense sleepwalking affliction where you wake up in Coney Island in the middle of the night, standing outside of the Cyclone, and not being able to remember how you got there. So when I got the call from my agent, I was just happy there was good news on the other end of the line because there had been bad news for so long. I was thrilled that ZOMBIE had found a good home and couldn’t wait to dive back in to a revision. I, sadly, think I do my best work when the world around me feels like it’s coming unhinged, so it was great timing in that sense.

Can you tell us a bit about Zombie and Jeremy Barker?
Zombie is just your average zombie, non-zombie, coming-of-age, horror, Catholic school, torture porn, family drama, love story narrative. That about sums it up, I think. It’s definitely about zombies, but also not really. Jeremy Barker is a 14 year old kid forced to grow up way too fast, but somehow also remains the world’s biggest spaz. He obsesses about his obsessions that include: women’s magazines, sex, zombie movies, sex, seeing his next door neighbor Tricia, zombie survival codes, where his father disappears to at night, sex, his philandering pill addicted mother and her lover Zeke, a girl named Aimee, sex, sex and sex. The book is really just about sex. And zombies. But not really.

It’s also about how people who wear plaid look like optical illusions. It’s my treatise on anti-plaidism. (My best friend, Chad, is a chronic offender of the plaid persuasion, so I feel validated in speaking out against it.)Oh, and there’s a healthy dose of horror at the end where all of these . . . well . . . I can’t tell you what happens at the end. Let’s just say that you might need a hand getting through it.

Why did you decide to write from a 14 year old point of view?
Originally, I had planned on writing this sprawling narrative from three points-of-view that spanned close to a decade and encapsulated an entire family’s slow disintegration into madness. The problem was that I had no idea how to write a novel at all. I had written a novel prior to beginning this project (which was an utter mess and can’t even really be considered a novel) so while I had the experience of writing a novel and had a few unpublished short stories under my belt; I had no real writing confidence. I had no publications, a God-awful collection of pages that I referred to as a novel, and then this epic story of depression and despair about the Barker family. My wife was beginning her journey as a writer as well and we would trade pages at the end of each night to read what the other had written. Her pages were gorgeous and damn near flawless every night, it was agrivating, while mine were a series of baggy and formless words that amounted to nothing. I was getting frustrated with the structure of the novel, as I couldn’t figure out how to arrange the scenes or set the pacing. My wife came to my rescue (the first of many times!) and asked me to print out everything I had written, which I did, and after she finished reading the first 50 pages or so she encouraged me to write the book from Jeremy’s perspective. She said that his voice was the most engaging and real and funny and aesthetically different than the other two. That was enough or me really. I trust her implicitly when it comes to feedback. And I’m glad I did.

Even though “zombies” are used more as a metaphor in Zombie, why do you think they’re are so popular lately?
There are a lot of theories and ideas about this, and certainly more fully-developed and focused than my own baggy-ideas, but I think that whenever we (either we as a country or individuals) suffer through a difficult time (be it war, economic hardships, divorce, depression, politic unrest) we turn toward varying modes of escapism. Zombies have this intrinsic quality where they represent a dead or dying self, something that reanimated and yet is void of mind and spirit—a demon version of ourselves. They are dead shells of us. I looked at all of the different ways in which zombies have been used in films, and even still in Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead comic series that I am reading now. (It’s addictive!) Their popularity stems, I think, from being able to maintain the same level of horror and fear with the zombie familiarity that we love as a society to counterbalance our suffering, and yet still be able to project a real commentary into the narrative—be it representative of famine, war, disease, financial, consumerism, or ecological. Then again, I think it was George Romero who said—and I am paraphrasing here—sometimes a zombie is just a zombie.

What are some of your favorite zombie novels and/or movies?
I watched so many zombie movies before I began work on weaving in the zombie genetics. I was never a fan boy of the genre, but really became one through all of my research. There is no way I watched them all, but I saw a fair amount. My wife has been a good sport about it and even still will buy me zombie related items. (For Christmas she gave me a zombie ornament, and a few months ago she bought me a zombie cell phone case.) I really liked Dead Snow. It’s a total gore fest, but funny and bizarre as it has to do with zombie nazi’s attacking a group of medical students on holiday.

I also was a fan of Deadgirl, although I always give fair warning about this movie. I wanted to try and work it into the novel, but it never really felt organic. It’s a very interesting take on the whole high school, troubled teen, coming-of-age trope, but definitely handles some disturbing and dark behavior that isn’t for everyone. It was an unsettling film to muscle through, but absolutely made an impression and has stuck with me. I come across it sometimes on cable and can only watch a few minutes before changing the channel. Finally, I guess my favorite zombie, non-zombie movie of all time is Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. I borrowed heavily from this film for my novel and if anyone is as big a movie nerd as me, they’ll be able to see the resemblance.

What are some of your biggest literary influences?
The writers I keep going back to are: Chuck Palahniuk, Will Christopher Baer, A. M. Homes, Bret Easton Ellis, Leonard Michaels, Lydia Davis, Tony Hoagland, Edgar Allen Poe, Cormac McCarthy, A. R. Ammons, and more recently John Waters, who people mistaken as solely a filmmaker when his journalism and non-fiction are equal parts hilarious and hideous—good stuff.

If you could read one book again for the first time, which one would it be?
Oh, good question. Sorry, but I can’t pick just one. Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, for sure. Then there’s Pete Dexter’s Paris Trout—such a good, goddamn book. Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club. Cormac McCarthy’s The Road—which is only the second book to ever make me cry. This begs the question: well, Ross, what was the first book to make you cry? That would be A. M. Homes’ Music for Torching. When I finished reading that book, I put it in the freezer for a week—I couldn’t take seeing it in the house, it hurt so bad in the best possible way.

What’s one of your favorite lines from a book?
“There is always something for which there is no accounting. Take, for example, the whole world.” – Leonard Michaels, “Of Mystery There Is No End”

What are you reading now?
Right now I am reading Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead series and I’m on book 9, I think. It’s so addictive, I can’t put it down. I’m also reading L. J. Smith’s The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening (book 1). I am also re-reading Matthew Zapruder’s poetry collection Come On All You Ghosts, that I read for the first time while writing Zombie and felt compelled to re-read now that the book is finished.

When you’re not teaching or writing, how do you like to spend your free time?
It doesn’t feel like I have any free time, really. When I’m not working my day job, or writing, or reading, or teaching, I am most certainly kicking it with my wife. I am a TV show junkie—good and bad; high-brow and low, I don’t discriminate. I am rooting for my Baltimore Orioles, who are killing it this year! (In Bawlmer, we say, “Dem O’s are back, hon!”) I am also pretty obsessive with music, so Spotify certainly helps feed that demon. If you ever see me, I will most certainly be wearing headphones, so if I don’t reciprocate a hello chances are I didn’t hear you, and more than that I had no idea you were even there.

Is there any advice you would give to struggling writers?
There was a struggling writer who contacted me via twitter a few weeks back who had growing frustration with his stories being roundly rejected. I sympathized with him. I have been there. I am still there in a lot of ways. So I told him what I tell my students in the first day of class: Fearlessness first, then patience. Be fearless with your content, with your routine, take risks in your work. Put another way, develop your literary swagger. Then send out your stories. Send them out in droves and sit back and wait—be patient.

Publishing is a slow process. If you have been fearless in your work, someone somewhere will see that and accept you for it, so patience is key. Once you have completed this cycle—whether your story was rejected or accepted—be aggressive about it and do it again. I told this struggling writer all of this, and a month later he hit me back with news that he had a story accepted. He thanked me, but I had to remind him that I had nothing to do with it. He was the one who did all of the heavy lifting, all I did was come in at the end and tell him to lift once I counted to three.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
As far as projects, my wife and I working on a supernatural, Southern Gothic YA series together that has been a lot of fun—both splashing around in the content as well as working with Kate, who thinks and writes and creates very differently than me, which is what makes our collaboration on this project so special and exciting.
Keep up with JR: Website | Twitter
Snag a copy of Zombie: Amazon | B&N

About Zombie:
Fourteen-year-old Jeremy Barker attends an all-boys Catholic high school where roving gangs of bullies make his days a living hell. His mother in an absentee pillhead, his older brother a self-diagnosed sex-addict, and his father disappears night after night withour explanation. jeremy navigates it all with a code cobbled together from the zombie movies he’s obsessed with: NIght of the Living Dead, 28 Days Later, Planet Terror, Zombieland, and Dawn of the Dead among others.

The code is put tp the test when he discovers in his father’s closet a bizarre homemade video of a man strapped to a bed, being prepped for some sort of surgical procedure. As Jeremy attempts to trace the origin of the video, this remarkable debut moves from its sharp, precocious beginnnings to a climax of almost unthinkable violence, testin hi, and the reader, to the core.

Kop Killer by Warren Hammond

Kop Killer by Warren Hammond
Publisher:
Tor/June 5th, 2012
Sci fi/Noir
Kind thanks to TOR for providing a review copy
4.5/5

Juno Mozambe once had a life. That was when he was a dirty cop, married to a woman who suffered such profound abuse that she murdered her vile, drug kingpin father. Juno loved his wife and did his best to help her survive her guilt, her drug habit, and her desire to end her life on the dead-end planet of Lagarto.When she died, however, Juno’s life went downhill. And then his first partner, the corrupt chief of the Koba Office of Police, was murdered. The man responsible, Emil Mota, is using the KOP for his personal gain. Juno has been laying low, but now he’s ready to do whatever it takes to take down the bastard.

Rather than working from inside the system, he’s decided that the only way to take down the KOP is to create an independent base of power. So he gets involved with a team of dirty cops and starts working as a rent-a-thug for a whorehouse that needs protection.

Juno’s last partner knows that his risky plan has a purpose, but she’s that rarest of creatures on the hothouse planet of Lagarto: an honest cop. She can’t help him.

When Juno discovers a series of profoundly twisted murders, he faces a bleak possibility: in his desperate quest for vengeance against the man who targeted him for death, Juno may have placed himself beyond any hope of redemption….


REVIEW

Juno Mozambe is gonna take KOP (Koba Office of Police) back, and the first step is taking over protection of a brothel that Emil Mota (Juno’s arch enemy) has already claimed. With a motley crew of dirty cops, and an ex-prostitute/bodyguard named Maria, Juno takes a stand against the nightly riots that accompany rolling blackouts that plunge the city of Koba into darkness. When Muto gets wind of this, he’s not amused, and Juno’s intimidation tactics aren’t working against him anymore. When the men of Juno’s crew begin turning up slaughtered in the most brutal ways, Juno knows he’s up against someone, and something, bigger than Muto. Along with his former partner (and honest cop) Maggie, he vows to get to the bottom of it, before another man dies, and KOP is corrupt for good.

There were a few times when I thought I knew where Kop Killer was going. I so didn’t. Really didn’t. Kop Killer is the third in a series featuring Juno Mozambe, but if you haven’t read the first two, that’s ok, because the author does a great job on catching you up on events without info dump, although you might miss out on some of the emotional resonance gained from reading the first two. Kop Killer is a wonderful mashup of police procedural, (very) dark noir, and some of the creepiest sci fi you’ll ever read. There’s humor here too, of the blackest kind, and you may find your mouth twisting into a slow, grim smile, since it kind of creeps up on you. Koba is a humid, sticky, fly and lizard ridden, leafy green mess of a city and it’s such a part of the narrative, it’s almost its own character. As Juno gets deeper into the gruesome murderers that seem to stick to him like flies (couldn’t help it), even the jaded ex-cop can’t believe how depraved this killer is. We’re talking shape shifters (not what you thinks), a creepy doctor performing the most awful of experiments (just…ugh), and a group of cops so corrupt your mind will spin. I love my gray heroes, and Juno fits firmly in with the best of them. His heart is in the right place, even as things fall to pieces around him, and he’s fiercely loyal. It will certainly take someone like Juno to bring down KOP and make things better for the people of Koba, and I promise you’ll enjoy this dark and scary ride!

Purchase Kop Killer

Interview (& Giveaway): Warren Hammond, author of Kop Killer

Please welcome Warren Hammond to the blog! Warren is the author of Kop, Ex-Kop, and, out today, Kop Killer. He was kind enough to answer a few of my questions and there’s also a giveaway of Kop Killer (and it’s international!!), so be sure to check out the details at the bottom of the post.

Warren, the 3rd book of your scifi/noir series, Kop Killer, is out today! Did you always want to be a writer? Can you tell us a bit about your journey?
I didn’t grow up wanting to be a writer, but caught the bug when I was in my early twenties. I wrote six chapters of a failed novel and gave up when I realized I had no clue where the story was going. I didn’t try again until my thirties when I started writing KOP. This time, I had the good sense to wait until I’d developed a story with a beginning, middle, and end before writing a single word.

I spent about a year and a half writing KOP and put in another six months trying to sell it. My agent did the heavy lifting by landing a two book deal with Tor Books that we’ve since renewed for a third. All in all, I was very lucky to make it through the publication process so smoothly.

How did you celebrate when you found out you’d sold your first book?
I took my beta readers out for dinner. They’d been kind enough to read KOP and offer their opinions, so I treated them to an Italian feast.

When you started the Kop series, did you have a certain number of books in mind for the series, or did you plan to just see where Juno took you?
I had what I thought was a brilliant plan. I’d write three novels, each told from the perspective of a different character. So KOP would be Juno’s book, and the second book would star a new protagonist with Juno being a minor character. Then I’d switch heroes again for the final book. Genius!

When I shared this with my agent, he quickly set me straight. “You can’t change detectives in a mystery series,” he said. “Your readers will want more Juno, and you better give it to them.” He didn’t call me an idiot, but that word probably wasn’t far from his lips.

Seeing the wisdom in his words, I decided to tell the entire series from Juno’s eyes. Seeing how Juno has developed in the next two books, I couldn’t be happier. He’s a complex guy who is still finding ways to surprise me. Right now, I don’t have a particular number of books in mind, but I do know how the series will end. Whether that ending will come in the next book or ten books from now, I don’t know.

The Kop novels are a wonderful mix of scifi and noir. What are some of your favorite novels or authors (in either genre)?
In science fiction, Frank Herbert’s Dune is a favorite. I also feel partial to Frederick Pohl’s Gateway. But truth be told, I actually take most of my inspiration from noir writers like James M. Cain, James Ellroy, Dashiell Hammett, Jim Thompson, and Raymond Chandler.

I love all kinds of stories, but noir sings to me like no other. It’s moody and atmospheric. Mean and nasty. The characters are dark and twisted, and the prose is lean but deadly. When I started reading the Maltese Falcon, I knew that was what I wanted to write.

What are you reading now?
Nothing at the moment. I’m too busy writing to read! But at the front of my queue is Jason Heller’s Taft 2012 and The Adjustment by Scott Phillips.

I read that you and your wife love to travel! What’s your favorite destination so far, and why?
We do love to travel, but I can’t pick a favorite destination. Everywhere I’ve been has something special to offer.

Lagarto, the world I created for the KOP novels is really an amalgam of all the places I’ve been. The canals were inspired by the waterways of Bangkok. The jungles were based on the Peruvian rainforest. Lagarto is infested with lizards because I fell in love with the iguanas of the Galapagos. The planet’s history was inspired by the collapsed rubber trade of central Africa, and much of Lagartan culture comes from what I saw in the Yucatan.

In so many ways, Lagarto is my version of a reinvented travel log.

What would be your first choice for your next destination?
Egypt and Croatia are currently leading the pack.

Other than travel, how do you like to spend your free time?
I’m a big sports fan. I enjoy watching all the major sports except golf. Sorry, too slow for me. Lately, I’ve been getting into rugby. We have a great stadium in Denver with matches most every weekend, and after watching six or seven games from the stands, I feel like I’m finally starting to understand the rules.

I’m also a music junkie addicted to blues, reggae and surf. The Doors and Junior Kimbrough are especially good for putting me in a noir mood.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
Currently, I’m working on a novel titled Tides. It’s a spy novel set on an ocean world inside a vast empire. I’ve written close to 60,000 words so far, and I have high hopes I’ll be able to finish it before the end of the year.
Keep up with Warren: Website | Twitter | Goodreads
Read my review of Kop Killer

**GIVEAWAY DETAILS** 
**GIVEAWAY WINNER HAS BEEN NOTIFIED! THANKS SO MUCH TO EVERYONE THAT ENTERED!**
1. You MUST fill out the form below (lots of chances for extra entries!)
2. Giveaway is for 1 copy of Kop Killer by Warren Hammond to 1 winner.
3. Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY (if you live on Earth, you’re in)
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 6/19/12
6. Giveaway book courtesy of Tor
7. Please see my Giveaway Policy.

read more

Guest Post (& Giveaway): Lisa Kessler, author of Night Walker

I’m so happy to welcome Lisa Kessler back to the blog! She’s here with some wonderful news about her paranormal romance, Night Walker, as well as a giveaway (it’s international!!), so be sure to check out the details at the bottom of the post! Over to Lisa!

Hi everyone –

Big thank you to Kristin for letting me have a spot on her beautiful blog!  I met Kristin when my paranormal romance novel, Night Walker, debuted last August.

Lots of good things have happened since then, and it’s exciting to come back to share it with you! Since August, my publisher signed a deal with one of the largest book distributors in the country and Barnes & Noble selected Night Walker for their stores! Woot!

Then last week I got the news that Walmart has selected Night Walker to be one of the titles in their Summer Beach Read Promo!!! YAY!!! So the Night Walker cover will be all over the Walmart site from June 26th – July 3rd for the promo! It’s been a dream come true to see Night Walker reaching readers and receiving emails from people touched by Calisto’s story…

And I can’t help but think these new opportunities might not have come about without the awesome support of book bloggers like Kristin. When my first book came out from my brand new publisher, book bloggers jumped on board to help spread the word to readers, and that support has carried Night Walker forward rapidly in a short amount of time!

So what better way to celebrate than to give you a little sneak peek into the book, and then give one commenter a signed paperback!!! WOOT!!! 

Excerpt:
“Walk with me?” His low voice stripped away a layer of her
resolve.

Kate nodded, following him down the steps to the sand below,
only stopping for a moment to leave her shoes on the landing. They
walked across the cool beach without saying a word, hand in hand,
and Kate watched the haze float in atop the salt water. It was eerie
and beautiful all in the same moment.

“You are shivering.”

Calisto’s voice added to the tremors that pulsed through her body.
Why did he have to be so perfect? He looked at her like she was the
only woman in the world.

“Am I?”

He smiled, raising their joined hands to place a tender kiss on her
knuckle, and then tugged off his coat and draped it over her shoulders.
“Is that better?”

Kate nodded, no longer able to speak. His masculine scent
surrounded her, and before she could stop herself, she pulled his coat
so tight, the cold lining spread gooseflesh across her skin.

He slid the backs of his cool fingers down her cheek, his lips
hinting at a smile. “Good.”

Kate tilted her chin up. When he bent and brushed his lips against
hers, her breath caught. Her pulse raced and electricity shot through
her veins. Her skin warmed. Had she ever wanted anyone this badly?

She brought her hand to his chest. His chiseled muscles
responded to her touch, and a moan escaped her as he clutched her
tighter. Calisto’s fingers slid through her hair, and her lips parted, her
tongue tasting him, tangling with his until her knees buckled.

Dear God, this man could kiss.

Thanks for celebrating Night Walker’s re-release in mass-market paperback with me!

Keep up with Lisa: Website | Twitter 

So how do you discover new authors and new series; book stores, book bloggers, goodreads, or? I’d love to hear! 
-Lisa

**GIVEAWAY DETAILS** 
1. You MUST leave a comment answering Lisa’s question above (in bold).
2. Giveaway is for 1 copy of Night Walker by Lisa Kessler to 1 winner (see book details below)
3. Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY (if you live on Earth, you can enter;)
4. Must include a valid email address with your entry (no need to put it in the body of your answer if you include it in the comment form-but if you do, format it like this: youremailaddress (at) yahoo (dot) com
5. You must enter on or before 6/16/12
6. Giveaway book courtesy of Lisa Kessler
7. Please see my Giveaway Policy. (Has been updated as of 6/3/12)

About Night Walker:

He gave up his soul for a second chance to love her…

Two and a half centuries ago, Calisto Terana lost everything when a zealous priest murdered the woman he loved. Now, desperate for another chance to love her, he wants redemption for the mistake that cost her life.

She’s haunted by dreams of her own death…

After catching her fiance with another woman, Kate Bradley returns to San Diego to clear her head. The last thing she needs is romance, but after meeting Calisto she’s drawn to him in ways she doesn’t understand.

They’ve waited in the shadows for centuries…

Calisto has no doubt Kate is the reincarnation of his lost love, but the Fraternidad Del Fuego Santo has a new watcher with dark ambitions of his own. As old enemies reemerge and a new threat arises, the betrayal that enslaved Calisto to the night might destroy the only woman he’s ever loved again.

Early Review: Spellcrossed by Barbara Ashford

Spellcrossed by Barbara Ashford
Publisher:
DAW/June 5th, 2012
Fantasy
Kind thanks to DAW for providing a review copy
5/5

IT’S NOT EASY LOSING THE MAGIC IN YOUR LIFE…

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….


REVIEW

Hand me a book by Barbara Ashford, and the world around me just falls away. Seriously, things get neglected…laundry, dishes, etc, you get the idea. Spellcast had me spellbound, and Spellcrossed was no different. The ending of Spellcrossed was very bittersweet so I was anxious to dive back into the wonderful world of musical theatre and Faerie magic. Maggie Graham has settled in as director of the Crossroads Theatre. Well, as much as you can “settle in” with this bunch. The Crossroads gang keeps her on her toes constantly, and she misses Rowan so badly it hurts. The theatre is doing well, although getting used to not having the helping hand of Rowan’s magic is sorely missed. Little does Maggie know, the routine she’s worked so hard to settle into, is about to be upturned in spectacular (and of course, magical) ways.

Told in Maggie’s witty voice, Spellcrossed wraps you in warmth like a favorite blanket. Think you have absolutely no interest in musical theatre? I certainly didn’t think I did, but this series changed my mind. Ms. Ashford is a thespian herself, so the lady knows of what she speaks, and it shows! Her talent lies in not only making Maggie a fully developed character, but also giving each person in the supporting cast completely realized roles as well. She’s also very adept at creating tension and holding it without losing her readers, and manages to make the ins and outs of putting together a musical stage show utterly fascinating. Lots of loose ends from Spellcast are tied up in Spellcrossed, but to give those away would be, well, letting the magic out of the bag! Speaking of magic, the love between Maggie and her theatre family is gently and sweetly woven throughout each production of the Crossroads theatre, and is the “magic” that she has to offer the cast in Rowan’s absence. 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. I can’t recommend this series highly enough!

Guest Post: A Bad Day for Voodoo by Jeff Strand

A Bad Day For Voodoo
by Jeff Strand

I’m Tyler Churchill. Not too long ago I had this insane adventure, with car chases and body parts coming off and everything, which I wrote about in the book A Bad Day For Voodoo. It’s not my job to say that it’s the best book ever written, but I will say that if you don’t read it, the following conversation will definitely take place:
[You're walking down the sidewalk, whistling the merry tune of your choice. Up ahead you see a friend.]
YOU: Hi, friend!
YOUR FRIEND: Hi, you! Crazy party last night, huh? I’ve never seen anybody eat that many pretzels without getting a drink of water!
YOU: And who brought the rhinoceros? I kept thinking “Whoa, somebody is gonna get tusked!” but nobody did, which is good because it would have been funny at the moment of impact, but not so funny once we got into the screaming and bleeding and ambulances.
YOUR FRIEND: Were you there for the ritual?
YOU: What ritual?
YOUR FRIEND: You’ll find out. [His or her expression darkens, and he/she gives you a wicked smile.] Oh, yes, you’ll find out.
YOU: Seriously, what ritual? There was a ritual? Where was I?
YOUR FRIEND: When the time is right, all will be revealed.
YOU: C’mon, tell me what the ritual was! You can’t just throw something like that out into the conversation and then not give answers! Tell me! I need resolution! Resolution!
YOUR FRIEND: I was just kidding. We were all sitting around playing Words With Friends on our phones. Somebody played “rhinoceros” on a triple-word score, which was pretty ironic. Actually, I played “rhino” first and they added “ceros.” So what did you think of A Bad Day For Voodoo?
YOU: That new book? I didn’t read it.
[Several onlookers gasp.]
YOUR FRIEND: Excuse me?
YOU: I said I haven’t read it.
YOUR FRIEND: You…you…you haven’t read A Bad Day For Voodoo?
YOU: No. That’s okay, isn’t it?
YOUR FRIEND: Okay? Okay? Don’t you understand what this means? It means that you’re not cool!
YOU: But that’s not possible! I do cool things all the time!
YOUR FRIEND: It doesn’t matter! This is the book that will define our generation! If you’re ever on a game show and the host says “For twenty thousand dollars, please give us the definition of your generation,” you could hold up A Bad Day For Voodoo and win the twenty thousand dollars!
YOU: But…but…but…but…but…but…but…I thought it was just a silly book!
[Your friend shakes his or her head and sighs.]
YOUR FRIEND: No. It is not.
SOME GUY WHO ALSO HAPPENS TO BE IN THE AREA AND IS EAVESDROPPING ON THE CONVERSATION: You really haven’t read A Bad Day For Voodoo? Wow. I heard that those people existed, but I never thought I’d see one outside of a zoo.
YOU: You don’t have to be a jerk about it.
YOUR FRIEND: Yes, he does.
YOU: Oh.
YOUR FRIEND: I never knew you were so uncool. It’s like our whole friendship was a lie.
YOU: You’re making too big of a deal out of this.
YOUR FRIEND: Do you see all of those weird-looking colorful waves that are coming out of people’s eyes?
YOU: Ack! Yes! What are those?
YOUR FRIEND: Those are waves of judgment. Everybody is judging you. This will follow you around for the rest of your life.
YOU: No! I don’t believe you!
[You get hit by a car.]
YOU: Ow! Ow!
YOUR FRIEND: That’s what happens when you don’t read A Bad Day For Voodoo. Bad luck follows you everywhere. Watch out for that circular saw blade.
YOU [quickly ducking]: Aaah! That circular saw blade almost took my head off!
YOUR FRIEND: And you’ll need your head to read A Bad Day For Voodoo! Do you understand now?
[A monkey jumps out of a tree and starts punching you in the neck.]
YOU: I understand! I understand!
YOUR FRIEND: Your coolness meter is running out quickly, but there is still time to replenish it! Run to a bookstore or an internet and buy A Bad Day For Voodoo! Hurry, before it’s too–
[The earth begins to crumble around your feet.]
YOUR FRIEND: Oh no! It’s too late! The world needed your coolness! It’s the only thing that kept us from being all dystopian and stuff!
[Zombies--fast or slow, your choice--show up and start eating people.]
PEOPLE CURRENTLY BEING EATEN [in unison]: Nooooooo!
YOU: What have I done? What have I–
[Suddenly you wake up screaming.]
YOU: It was all a dream! Only a terrible, terrible dream! In fact, the book A Bad Day For Voodoo doesn’t even really exist!
SOMEBODY (YOU’RE NOT SURE WHO): Yes, it does. It’s just not out yet. But it will be in June 2012. And you’d better buy it, or the next time you wake up screaming, Effie Trinket will be drawing your name for tribute.
YOU: Then I shall mark my calendar, or better yet, pre-order a copy of A Bad Day For Voodoo right now!

See? You may think I made all of that up, but I assure you that my only concern is for the safety of the world. And even if you don’t care about the world, you should read about the time that my history teacher Mr. Click falsely accused me of cheating on a test, and my friend Adam got a voodoo doll of him, and I jabbed it with a pin during class, and things went wrong, wrong, wrong!

My girlfriend Kelley, who is smarter than both of us combined, also got caught up in the whole thing, and you will not believe the kind of stuff that happened. It’s crazy! I mean, we ran into this one family who…well, you don’t want spoilers, but it was one messed-up family.

Oh, the book is my completely true story, but the publisher put the name “Jeff Strand” on the cover, because of some sort of ransom demand. Just ignore that.

Okay, so, you know what to do, right? Awesome. See you in June.

Thanks so much to Sourcebooks Fire and Jeff Strand! Be sure to keep an eye out for Part 2 of the tour!

About A Bad Day for Voodoo:
When your best friend is just a tiny bit psychotic, you should never actually believe him when he says, “Trust me. This is gonna be awesome.”
Of course, you probably wouldn’t believe a voodoo doll could work either. Or that it could cause someone’s leg to blow clean off with one quick prick. But I’ve seen it. It can happen.And when there’s suddenly a doll of YOU floating around out there—a doll that could be snatched by a Rottweiler and torn to shreds, or a gang of thugs ready to torch it, or any random family of cannibals (really, do you need the danger here spelled out for you?)—well, you know that’s just gonna be a really bad day …
“Jeff Strand is hilariously funny and truly deranged.” —Christopher Golden, author of When Rose Wakes
Purchase A Bad Day for Voodoo: Amazon | B&N

About Jeff Strand:
JEFF STRAND lives in Tampa, Florida, and doesn’t believe in voodoo. But he still thinks you should carry a doll around, go up to people you don’t like, and chuckle while you jab it with pins, just to make them squirm. Poke around his gleefully macabre website at JeffStrand.com.

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