Thursday, February 27, 2014

Giveaway: 2 Books (and Leap Into Books Hop)

House at the End of Hope Street PB

We have two books on offer for giveaway for US addresses. The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna Van Praag and Moth and Spark by Anne Leonard. And attached is the Leap Into Books Giveaway Hop.

The House at the End of Hope Street is magical realism and is about to be released in its paperback format and has a new cover for the edition. Anne Leornard’s romantic epic fantasy Moth and Spark has just been released. Both are from Penguin Books. You can read my reviews for Moth and Spark or The House at the End of Hope Street by linking on the title’s text.

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Now for a little more about the books and the Google forms you must complete to enter our contests.

The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna Van Praag

A magical debut about an enchanted house that offers refuge to women in their time of need

Distraught that her academic career has stalled, Alba is walking through her hometown of Cambridge, England, when she finds herself in front of a house she’s never seen before, 11 Hope Street. A beautiful older woman named Peggy greets her and invites her to stay, on the house’s usual conditions: she has ninety-nine nights to turn her life around. With nothing left to lose, Alba takes a chance and moves in.

She soon discovers that this is no ordinary house. Past residents have included Virginia Woolf and Dorothy Parker, who, after receiving the assistance they needed, hung around to help newcomers—literally, in talking portraits on the wall. As she escapes into this new world, Alba begins a journey that will heal her wounds—and maybe even save her life.
Filled with a colorful and unforgettable cast of literary figures, The House at the End of Hope Street is a charming, whimsical novel of hope and feminine wisdom that is sure to appeal to fans of Jasper Fforde and especially Sarah Addison Allen.

320 pages | 25 Mar 2014 | Penguin | 18 - AND UP


Moth and Spark - Anne Leonard

Moth and Spark by Anne Leonard

A prince with a quest. A commoner with mysterious powers. And dragons that demand to be freed—at any cost.

Prince Corin has been chosen to free the dragons from their bondage to the Empire, but dragons aren’t big on directions. They have given him some of their power, but none of their knowledge. No one, not the dragons nor their riders, is even sure what keeps the dragons in the Empire’s control. Tam, sensible daughter of a well-respected doctor, had no idea before she arrived in the capital that she is a Seer, gifted with visions. When the two run into each other (quite literally) in the library, sparks fly and Corin impulsively asks Tam to dinner. But it’s not all happily ever after. Never mind that the prince isn’t allowed to marry a commoner: war is coming to Caithen. Torn between Corin’s quest to free the dragons and his duty to his country, the lovers must both figure out how to master their powers in order to save Caithen. With a little help from a village of secret wizards and a rogue dragonrider, they just might pull it off.

384 pages | 20 Feb 2014 | Viking Adult | 18 - AND UP


These giveaways are part of the Leap Into Books Giveaway Hop from February 28th to March 7th. Hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and Jinky is Reading. (Badge to the left links to our host’s site.)

Now for the other blogs offering bookish giveaways that you can enter:

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Review: Moth and Spark by Anne Leonard

Moth and Spark - Anne Leonard

Review by Shellie for Moth and Spark by Anne Leonard.

Shellie’s quick take:  A detailed and romantic epic fantasy which features intelligent dragons and magic.

Shellie’s description:  In a place that feels almost medieval, Prince Corin, heir to the throne, and a beautiful commoner named Tam meet by chance in his castle’s library. She is at the capital city and in the castle in hopes of finding a husband. It is love at first sight. However, he cannot marry someone of such low standing so they try to keep their attraction secret - at first. They know that it is only a matter of time before the castle’s courtiers find out that they are together. Both fear that the court’s petty jealousies and deep rivalries will create problems for Tam, since it is the etiquette of the time that women remain chaste until married.

But there is trouble in the land. War is coming to the peaceful city of Caithen and both Tam and Corin will have a part to play if it is to remain peaceful. Corin must heed the call to free the dragons, which have been enslaved by an evil emperor, while Tam, who doesn’t realize her gifts, must help him. With loads of romance the drama unfolds – with the struggle against war and for the freedom of the dragons.

Shellie’s thoughts:  This is Anne Leonard’s debut novel, but it doesn’t show since it’s a readable story with excellent details. I was immersed in the story from the very first few pages. She’s included political intrigue, courtier back stabbing, violent darkness, human insight, detailed description of hair and dressing, and intelligent and beautiful dragons. All fun stuff in fantasy (especially for women).

Moth and Spark - UK Cover

The publisher has done a fabulous job on the gorgeous covers for both US and UK versions of the book. Onscreen it’s hard to see the iridescent details for the moths that are on the cover of the US version, but they are lovely.

My only complaint about the novel is that there is A LOT of “mushy” romance, especially in the last two thirds of the novel. There was, in fact, one love scene which made me roll my eyes and laugh (not a good thing); I will not share any details but it was that ridiculous. So I would recommend that a potential reader really love romance.

As for other recommendations, because the setting is so similar to a European medieval world, I think it would be a decent read for someone who loves historical romance; also perhaps for readers who are interested in trying out fantasy, since this story is very accessible; and for long-term fantasy fans who would like to read some lighter fantasy. I would say that it’s a book for women rather than men since there is so much romance and dress and hair style information in the story. I give this book a 3.5 stars.

Hardbound | 384 pages | 20 Feb 2014 | Viking Adult

Top cover picture is for the US hardbound edition and the lower cover picture is for the UK paperbound edition. We also have a terrific question and answer post from Anne Leonard courtesy of the publisher if you’re interested.

Anne Leonard lives in Northern California. She has degrees from St. John’s College, the University of Pittsburgh, Kent State University, and University of California-Hastings College of Law. MOTH AND SPARK is her first novel.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Q and A: Anne Leonard author of Moth and Spark

Anne Leonard credit Judith Love Pietromartire

In honor of Moth and Spark’s release day – today we have a question-and-answer post by the author, Anne Leonard. It’s courtesy of Viking Press.

I just finished reading Moth and Spark and think it’s a romance-oriented epic fantasy with magic and dragons. And the cover is gorgeous. A review is in the works.

Moth and Spark is your debut novel. Why did you set out to write a fantasy in your first go around? Are there particular aspects to the genre that you find inherently fascinating?

Moth and Spark is my debut, but not my first book – there’s a large manuscript stack of others. I’ve always written fantasy. It started because that was what I loved to read as a kid, and it continued because I like making up worlds and because I’m interested in the issues of societal power and justice that fantasy can engage with. Why do leaders make the choices that they do? What gets wars started? Does power corrupt? What about family dynamics in royal families? The unpublished book whose writing preceded Moth and Spark had a character trying to overcome his father’s legacy as a tyrant, and that’s certainly a question I want to explore more. Moth and Spark - Anne Leonard

You have, to put it simply, a lot of degrees—a BA, an MFA, a PhD, and a Law degree. How has your background in higher education informed your writing? Is there one degree that influenced the conception of Moth and Spark?   

None influenced the conception of Moth and Spark directly, but certainly my education played into my writing. My BA at St. John’s gave me a broad awareness of ideas and concepts about the world, both philosophical and scientific, and the lit Ph.D. built upon this with a narrower, deeper focus into how readers engage with stories. My MFA is in fiction, so I learned a lot of my craft there, and when I was revising Moth and Spark I kept remembering things I’d been told in workshops 20 years earlier. As for the law degree, one of the reasons I went to law school was that I realized my fantasy fiction was starting to have legal arguments about power and justice in it, and I decided that if that was what I was going to write, I should be paid accordingly. I started Moth and Spark the summer before law school, and then worked on it while in school and then in practice. I had to keep legal concepts from contaminating it (especially medieval property law). Reading cases is great for any writer, though, because they are stories of conflict and resolution laid bare.

Dragons play a large role in the book and, in many ways, have become a powerful symbol for the fantasy genre. What is it about dragons and other medieval creatures that appeal to you?

Well, everybody seems to love dragons! Sentient flying beasts that can breathe fire – how cool is that? I think the thing about dragons is that they seem more possible than other mythical creatures, such as hippogriffs, because we had the dinosaurs. When you go into a natural history museum and look at a T. rex skeleton, it’s scary and impressive and amazing, and it just seems like if that could exists dragons should too. (I suppose this thinking could apply to unicorns, but horses are just so ordinary and dinosaurs are not.) Also, dragons are bigger and smarter and more powerful than humans, but they have their dragonish ways that makes them different from humans, and it’s fun to play around with those differences.

From the visceral descriptions of Caithen to The Firekeepers, Seers, and the other magical characters inhabiting this book, the world you've created in Moth and Spark is lush with detail and wonderfully imaginative. How did you begin creating this world?

The book basically began as a book just for me – I’d thrown in the towel on trying to get published for a while and had decided to go to law school so I could make some money writing something more interesting than web copy. I realized I had this fantasy romance Cinderella-type story that had been trying so hard to get out that it was hijacking all my other fiction, so I should just write it. Therefore I went with a fairly traditional European style fantasy setting – the conventions were all part of the story. But I updated it to more or less the early 1800s, and then I pulled a lot of details from 19th century novels and other materials. Some stuff is based on Greek mythology and literature. Some is from my own observations. My hobby is photography, and I have an eye pretty well-trained to see details and notice patterns. I looked at pictures of things online when I wanted to describe something I didn’t know well, and I spent a fair amount of time on Wikipedia finding out about poisons and medicines and weaponry and horses and . . . The Internet definitely helped my research.

There are various magical powers or items in Moth and Spark that the characters wield or use. If you had to choose one magical power or item to have at your disposal, what would it be? 

For good or for evil? (Laughs maniacally.) The ability to cast illusions would be pretty great, and of course I’d like to play with fire, but I think the thing that I would really want is the ability to use visions to see the past. I’m a person who is more inclined toward finding things out than manipulating the world, so seeing the past, even just in snatches, would be amazing. This use of visions is more implied than spelled out in the book, because the characters are learning about it too, but that’s the underlying magic that could be tapped and used.

Name one fantasy writer and one non-fantasy writer that have influenced your own writing.

One fantasy writer is J.R.R. Tolkien, but not for the reasons most people have. When I go back to reread the Lord of the Rings, what I really pay attention to is his use of detail – it’s very plain language but extremely vivid, and I consciously used it as a model in writing this book. My favorite sentence in the Trilogy is this one from Fellowship: “The sky spoke of rain to come; but the light was broadening quickly, and the red flowers of the beans began to glow against the wet green leaves.” It’s so simple and vivid at the same time, and not bloated with adjectives at all. Without a really well-grounded normal world, strange and exotic things tend to just be confusing.

One non-fantasy writer would have to be W.B. Yeats, especially his earlier, more mythic poetry. Again, he is fabulous with detail and language. When I get stuck on something I’m writing, I pull out my Yeats and read through and usually it loosens a block. (I find that poetry does that generally, but Yeats is my favorite.) And there are some specific poems of his that I used for inspiration while writing Moth and Spark; one (“Byzantium”) is quoted at the beginning of the book.

Who would be in your dream book club?

This is actually a really tough question, because college and graduate school was like one long unending book club, and I’m not sure I want another one. But, dead people with whom it would be fun to talk books are E.B. White, Raymond Chandler, Mark Twain, George Eliot, and E. Nesbit. Among the living let’s have A.S. Byatt, Stephen King, Toni Morrison, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Mary Doria Russell.

What are you working on now?

I don’t like to talk too much about anything I am currently writing, because there’s always the chance it will wither on the vine, but I am working on what is technically a sequel to Moth and Spark. Moth and Spark is a standalone, and lots of people seem thrilled by that (editors, are you listening?), and ideally this other book would be a standalone too, though chronologically about 6 months after the events of Moth and Spark. It’s a very different, darker story and I’m experimenting some with structure, so it’s not a carbon-copy by any means. After that I want to do an SF dystopia about drought, which I got the idea for in a California Water Law class. As a writer, I don’t want to keep telling the same story – I want to stretch and write as many different stories and worlds as I can.

About Moth and Spark: A prince with a quest. A commoner with mysterious powers. And dragons that demand to be freed—at any cost.

Prince Corin has been chosen to free the dragons from their bondage to the Empire, but dragons aren’t big on directions. They have given him some of their power, but none of their knowledge. No one, not the dragons nor their riders, is even sure what keeps the dragons in the Empire’s control. Tam, sensible daughter of a well-respected doctor, had no idea before she arrived in the capital that she is a Seer, gifted with visions. When the two run into each other (quite literally) in the library, sparks fly and Corin impulsively asks Tam to dinner. But it’s not all happily ever after. Never mind that the prince isn’t allowed to marry a commoner: war is coming to Caithen. Torn between Corin’s quest to free the dragons and his duty to his country, the lovers must both figure out how to master their powers in order to save Caithen. With a little help from a village of secret wizards and a rogue dragonrider, they just might pull it off.

Hardbound | 384 pages | 20 Feb 2014 | Viking Adult

Anne Leonard lives in Northern California. She has degrees from St. John’s College, the University of Pittsburgh, Kent State University, and University of California-Hastings College of Law. MOTH AND SPARK is her first novel.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Review: Silver by Rhiannon Held

Silver - Rhiannon Held

Review by Shellie for Silver by Rhiannon Held.

Shellie’s quick take:  A nicely paced urban fantasy about werewolves. It includes a strong romantic element, a religion particular to werewolves and insanity.

Shellie’s description:  Andrew Dare is a werewolf with a horrific past. His life is spent finding and punishing other werewolves that break the social laws of the werewolves in Northern America. Essentially the second in command for a wolf-pack that resides on the Eastern side of the United States, it’s when he finds a lone female wandering in his pack’s territory that the story begins. She calls herself Silver since she has been injected with silver yet has miraculously survived – and from Andrew’s encounter with her it’s apparent she has gone mad. She rambles mindlessly to a phantom and has not eaten or bathed in some time. She refuses to let him help her. Eager to put this drama to rest, Andrew does his best to do the right thing and attempts to find out Silver’s story. It appears that the monster that’s injected her may also be tracking others. So the entire werewolf community may be at risk for an identical fate and Andrew decides he must find the killer before another werewolf is victimized.

In alternating story lines from both Silver and Andrew, the reader finds out the mystery of Silver’s torture and the identity of the monster that is stalking her. This is all told with an increasing emotional involvement between the two main characters.

Shellie’s thoughts:  Silver is a dark, emotional and thoughtful story. What I particularly liked is that there is no other magical system or paranormal creatures complicating things (in this first of three books anyway). And the werewolf mythology is based upon what most readers already believe about werewolves, making it so the reader can immediately jump into the action of the story.

Although at first the plot description may sound rather simple and perhaps familiar, Silver has great pacing, emotional and social depth, and compelling complications, so it pulls the reader along quickly. As the plot becomes increasingly involved and the relationship between the two main characters develops, the reader gets deeper insight into the characters’ inner workings. Also included are some added twists; the main character Silver is emotionally and physically damaged (essentially handicapped) and yet conversely is still a strong lead; she is experiencing hallucinations which have a life of their own and actually become a character; and the author brings in a spiritual/religious element (a religion that is specific to the werewolves) giving the story another dimension and adding to the complexity of the emotions.

On the negative side Silver does have an ending that is predictable and I did have slight trouble getting into the writing. It took me several chapters before becoming comfortable with Held’s style, which I would consider sparse and engaging.

Definitely for those who enjoy romance, books that include werewolves, fans of Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Norville series, and anyone who enjoys a good story. Silver is for readers who are looking for drama and emotions around the main characters rather than just an action-oriented story (although there is quite a lot of that). I give this debut novel 3.5 stars. It would have been 4 stars if not for my few quibbles. A promising debut, I will definitely be looking at the books the author writes in the future since I believe that she will only get better at her craft.

Tor Books | June 2012 | Trade Paperback | 320 pages

This is the first book in a three book series with the latest book to be released tomorrow. Silver is the first, Tarnished the second, and Reflected is the third. To read the publisher’s description for Silver please see our incoming books for June 2012. For more information about Tarnished and Reflected see our incoming books feature for February 13, 2014.

We have an interview with Rhiannon Held in honor of the release day of the third book in the series - Reflected. The interview has some interesting insight into the author’s process and more.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Interview: Rhiannon Held author of Reflected

Rhiannon Held

We have an interview with Rhiannon Held author of Silver, Tarnished and Reflected. Reflected was released today by Tor. Let’s welcome her.

Congratulations on your latest novel TARNISHED, which has just been released. The second in your Silver series, it’s about a werewolf named Silver who’s unable to shift due to being maliciously poisoned with a silver injection. It also features a strong romance element with her boyfriend and fellow werewolf, Andrew.

And my third book, Reflected, comes out February 18!

Your books are defined as urban fantasy as opposed to paranormal romance, even though there is a strong romance element to the books. Tell us your thoughts on the differences between the two sub-categories and how they manifest in SILVER, TARNISHED and REFLECTED.

Reflected final cover

As I conceptualize it, in paranormal romance, the external plot supports the romance. In urban fantasy, the romance supports some kind of other emotional arc for the character, driven by the external plot. So in a paranormal romance, needing to go goblin hunting might crystallize the leads’ feelings for each other, while in urban fantasy, feelings between the leads might complicate their intricate plan to take down the head goblin. And of course, it all gets mushy in the middle with books that have elements of both. Really, when I’m trying to define the two for people, I think of a lame joke my parents liked to use on me as a child. I loved ketchup, so when I'd loaded up my plate they’d ask me “Do you want any fries to go with that ketchup?” and smirk. Romance and external plot are like that—one’s what you’re eating, and the other is garnish. But neither is inherently more garnishy than the other, no matter what people who like to eat the other might say!

In my books, the romance definitely affects my characters’ emotional state as they try to deal with the external plot. I figure that’s something that will resonate with readers—rarely when you have to deal with something important in your life are you absolutely rested up, emotionally balanced, and raring to go. No, you’re probably short on sleep, and your sibling is going through a terrible divorce and calling you every day and your job wants you to work overtime…and then you have to solve the mystery of who’s sending the goblins to attack the city. Romance can be the same way. You really like the person, but you’re too busy to go on any dates, but you don’t want them to slip away…

In Silver, Andrew is focused on finding whoever injected Silver and thinks he doesn’t need the distraction of any feelings for her. Besides, she’s kind of crazy! So the romance complicates his emotional state and makes it even harder for him to find the attacker he’s searching for. In Tarnished, the romance element revolves around the Seattle alpha and his human girlfriend, which is a troubling thing for a werewolf to have. That’s another difference between urban fantasy and paranormal romance—the romantic element isn’t always between the protagonists in urban fantasy, since the romances of people around the protagonists can still cause them trouble! The Seattle alpha exasperates Andrew to no end with the bad choices he makes in the name of love. In Reflected, a younger pack member is the one endangering the pack with her bad romantic choices.

Silver - Rhiannon Held

Why did you choose to write within the subgenre of urban fantasy?

Urban fantasy lets a reader hit the ground running. As a reader, rather than a writer, I love that, so I write what I love. In traditional fantasy, a talented writer can smoothly work in all the many details of the world, but there’s still a whole, entirely new world to take in and understand before you can get to the plot. Some readers like the feeling of being immersed in another place, and want lots of world details. Me, I want to be thrust into the character’s emotional arc and zoom ahead. Having a world that is similar to ours saves time explaining, and allows fast zooming.

Urban fantasy also allows some nicely robust metaphors. When you’re using creatures and types of magic that the reader is already somewhat familiar with, their attention will go to whatever metaphor you’re building more easily. Maybe your vampires are a metaphor for the perils of addiction and drug use, so you give the readers some basic info about how they don’t mind crosses but they do burn in sunlight, and then start spending the bulk of your time describing their addictive behavior. If, on the other hand, you wanted your immortal race of kanistae in a traditional fantasy land to be a metaphor for addiction, you have to explain that they drink emotions. But only by touching people. And they have to feed every two weeks. And they have red eyes. And they usually hunt in packs of three. And they can only be killed by a spike through the eye. And…wait, what were you saying about addiction? The reader gets so focused on learning about their basic traits, they don’t think on a metaphorical level so quickly.

And I really love working with metaphor! So urban fantasy is ideal for me, because it offers a shorthand in common with the reader for me to use in building my metaphors.

Tarnished - Rhiannon Held

If you were going to “movie rate” your novels for sex, violence, and adult content, what would you label your books?

Silver and Tarnished are probably both PG-13, while Reflected has evolved to R. The first two books both have violence and sex that occur, but it’s not described in graphic detail. After all, both things have a strong impact on a character’s emotional arc, but unless it’s a really unusual kind of sex they’re having, for example, the reader knows enough to fill in the details from their own imagination. Sometimes that’s even better! If you tell a reader to imagine amazingly hot, passionate sex, they’ll imagine what’s hottest to them, which you, as the writer, could never have known. In Reflected, on the other hand, the sex is part of a process of two younger, inexperienced characters learning each other and themselves, so the actual details of how they do that—and sometimes fail at it!—is important to their emotional arcs.

I sometimes like to joke that all of my books are about mature themes…like forgiving yourself for a mistake you made twenty years ago. There are a lot of complex themes that you can’t, by definition, explore until a character is older, because there’s a huge difference between the guilt you feel when you’re 19 and you screwed up a year ago, and when you’re 40 and you screwed up 20 years ago. I’ve always felt that that kind of “I’ve picked myself up, I’ve kept on living my life, but trauma lingers, if ever so slightly” isn’t explored as much as “I’m young, the trauma is looming large, help, how do I deal with it!?” in fiction. But picking yourself up and learning to live a full life again is so much a part of being an adult that I really enjoy exploring it.

I imagine you get asked this continually, but it’s very intriguing for potential readers - you are an archaeologist by profession; tell us about how you use your professional background when writing your novels. 

I enjoy using my archaeology background in ways people don’t expect. When you talk about archaeology, most people focus on large sedentary (settled) societies with writing. It’s understandable—they are the ones that create impressive monuments and leave us tablets so we can read about those monuments. As an archaeologist working in North America, however, I deal much more with Native American cultures. Plenty of those were settled and building monuments as well, but many tribes were hunter-gatherers, who moved around a lot, had few possessions, and kept their history through oral traditions. Despite being less sexy for Hollywood archaeologists to investigate, hunter-gatherer cultures are incredibly intriguing, and follow a lifeway humans have used for the majority of the time they’ve been around. That’s what I based my werewolves’ culture on. A pack structure is similar to a tribal structure, with small bands of people who trade in vast networks with the tribes around them. My werewolves also rely on oral history rather than writing anything down, because writing anything down would expose them to danger if a human ever found and read it. So I focused on giving my werewolves the feel of a real culture that has been around for thousands of years, by creating their myths and culture and religion.

I also tapped into my background in evolutionary theory. My werewolves are a species, born rather than turned or cursed, so they’re subject to evolution. This allowed me to build them so they feel like a species you’d actually encounter. For example, imagine two werewolves were attacked by a mob with pitchforks on the night of the full moon. One has to shift involuntarily and the other can control herself just enough not to shift. The one who had to shift would be pitchforked to death, never have any kids, and her genes would die out. The other, who could control herself, would pass her genes on. So through evolutionary pressure, my werewolves don’t shift involuntarily at the full moon—though they really want to! Having werewolves be born rather than made means that they’re born into their culture and religion, as well, setting up the history and traditions I talked about above.

Tell us about your creative process. For example, do you dream your ideas or do your characters speak to you?


All right, I’ll answer the question properly…the trouble with tapping into your unconscious to the degree that either of those methods do—and conceptualizing your characters as speaking to you really is tapping into your unconscious by allowing them to break away from what your conscious mind would expect by saying “they” are talking, instead of you—is that your unconscious doesn’t always know how to make things interesting to other people. It is great at creating something that has gut-wrenching meaning to you, the writer, and if readers have similar unconscious needs and desires to you, hurray! You’ve lucked out. But if readers have completely different unconscious desires, your writing can end up seeming shallow or wish-fulfilling. The unconscious mind is great for the shivering, jumping spark of inspiration, but I always get my conscious mind involved to make sure I know what meaning is going into my stories, and to make sure that meaning will resonate widely, rather than resonating only with people who think exactly like me.

So my actual process is fairly simple. I daydream, and free-wheelingly imagine my characters in various situations. Once I feel like I have a book’s worth of imagined events, I sit down—sometimes with a brainstorming partner—and give events at least a basic structure. First X, so Y, then those cause Z. It’s not a hugely formal outline, but it keeps things in order, makes sure I don’t forget anything, and allows me to look at my daydreamed events with my trained writer’s eye. Does the protagonist have an arc? Is there tension throughout the story? That careful structuring is what makes it into a compelling novel, as opposed to a collection of cool scenes, or a list of events that happened. Good novel structure can happen by instinct, but you never want to count on that! After that’s all done, I settle in to writing the first draft. Each day, before I sit down to write, I make sure to imagine the scenes I’ll write that day in detail. It’s a lot like buffering streaming video when you have a slow connection. If you try to watch as it downloads, it stutters, so it’s better to buffer a big chunk while you wander off and do the dishes, and then come back. So I “buffer” a few scenes ahead, and then write them out all at once as I would watch the video all at once.

There are a lot of books about werewolves out there. What’s special about your Silver series that will make readers want to read them?

I consider my archaeology-informed worldbuilding to be one of the unusual things about the series. It makes the werewolves feel culturally rich and real, and it provides an opportunity for other metaphors. Werewolves as a metaphor for our instinctive or animal natures have been done to death. Instead, I use werewolves to provide a metaphor for the feeling of being a cultural immigrant or outsider, when you have to balance your traditions at home with the dominant culture that you have to swim in every day at work and school.

The other thing I do is reject the sort of odd creature the “kick-ass heroine” has grown into over time. In urban fantasy, we seem to have lost our way somewhat, and female strength for the kick-ass heroine has become only about kicking and punching things. What about all the other ways to be strong, male or female? Besides, so often the ass-kicking in urban fantasy is achieved through some kind of magical means. Her physical strength is greater because she’s half demon, or whatever. As a reader, I always feel like, “What does that have to do with me?” I can’t ever be a half demon. But I could totally secretly poison someone’s drink and then act all weepy, so when a character is strong in that manner, it really resonates with me. So I purposely made the character of Silver not physically strong at all. She can’t use one arm, where she was injected, and even in later books, she still sees the world differently because of the brain damage. But she’s strong, I hope in a way that anyone can identify with. We all have physical weaknesses of some kind or other, and we all see the world a little differently sometimes.

Rhiannon Held is also the author of Silver and its sequel, Tarnished. In her day job, she works as a professional archaeologist. Held lives near Seattle, Washington. For more information, please visit:

About REFLECTED: Rhiannon Held continues the secret lives of the werewolf packs that live and hunt alongside human society in Reflected, the third book of the series that began with her debut novel, Silver. Silver and her mate Andrew Dare are pack leaders of the entire North American werewolf population, and that makes the more traditional packs in Europe very nervous indeed. It’s getting hard to hide from human surveillance.

Tor Books | 2/18/2014 | Trade Paperback | 336 pages

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Incoming Books: February 13, 2014

Moth and Spark - Anne Leonard

It’s our Incoming Books feature for February 13, 2014.

Moth and Spark by Anne Leonard

A prince with a quest. A commoner with mysterious powers. And dragons that demand to be freed—at any cost.

Prince Corin has been chosen to free the dragons from their bondage to the Empire, but dragons aren’t big on directions. They have given him some of their power, but none of their knowledge. No one, not the dragons nor their riders, is even sure what keeps the dragons in the Empire’s control. Tam, sensible daughter of a well-respected doctor, had no idea before she arrived in the capital that she is a Seer, gifted with visions. When the two run into each other (quite literally) in the library, sparks fly and Corin impulsively asks Tam to dinner. But it’s not all happily ever after. Never mind that the prince isn’t allowed to marry a commoner: war is coming to Caithen. Torn between Corin’s quest to free the dragons and his duty to his country, the lovers must both figure out how to master their powers in order to save Caithen. With a little help from a village of secret wizards and a rogue dragonrider, they just might pull it off.

Hardbound | 384 pages | 20 Feb 2014 | Viking Adult

Immortal Muse - Stephen Leigh

Immortal Muse by Stephen Leigh

An immortal Muse whose very survival depends on the creativity she nurtures within her lovers… 
Another immortal who feeds not on artistry but on pain and torment... 
A chase through time, with two people bound together in enmity and fury…
Magic and science melded together into one, and an array of the famous and infamous, caught up unawares in an ages-long battle…

Immortal Muse is a tale that takes the reader on a fascinating journey from Paris of the late 1300s with the alchemists Perenelle and Nicolas Flamel, to contemporary New York City.  Along the way, there are interludes with Bernini in Rome in 1635; with Vivaldi in Venice of 1737; with Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier and Robespierre in the Paris of the French Revolution; with William Blake and John Polidori in 1814; with Gustav Klimt in fin de siècle Vienna; with Charlotte Salomon in WWII France.  And in modern-day New York, a complicated dance of love and violence finally brings a resolution to the centuries-old deadly feud.

Hardbound | 576 pages | 04 Mar 2014 | DAW

A Natural History of Dragon - Marie Brennan

A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan

Marie Brennan begins a thrilling new fantasy series in A Natural History of Dragons, combining adventure with the inquisitive spirit of the Victorian Age.

You, dear reader, continue at your own risk. It is not for the faint of heart—no more so than the study of dragons itself. But such study offers rewards beyond compare: to stand in a dragon’s presence, even for the briefest of moments—even at the risk of one’s life—is a delight that, once experienced, can never be forgotten. . . .

All the world, from Scirland to the farthest reaches of Eriga, know Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world’s preeminent dragon naturalist. She is the remarkable woman who brought the study of dragons out of the misty shadows of myth and misunderstanding into the clear light of modern science. But before she became the illustrious figure we know today, there was a bookish young woman whose passion for learning, natural history, and, yes, dragons defied the stifling conventions of her day.

Here at last, in her own words, is the true story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, her prospects, and her fragile flesh and bone to satisfy her scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love and happiness despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the perilous mountains of Vystrana, where she made the first of many historic discoveries that would change the world forever.

Tor Books | February 2014 | Trade Paperback | 352 pages

Tarnished - Rhiannon Held

Tarnished by Rhiannon Held

Andrew Dare has found his mate in Silver, but they haven’t found the pack they can call home. Some of his old friends think he should return and challenge Roanoke for leadership of all the werewolf packs on the East Coast. But Andrew has baggage—his violent history with the packs of Spain and the rumors of his lack of control. And then there’s Silver—the werewolf who has lost her wild self to a monster’s assault, and who can no longer shift forms. But perhaps together they can overcome all the doubters.

The second book in Rhiannon Held's wonderful urban fantasy series, Tarnished plunges readers into the world of the shape-shifter packs who live hidden among us.

Tor Fantasy | December 2013 | Mass Market Paperbound | 368 pages

Reflected final cover

Reflected by Rhiannon Held

Rhiannon Held continues the secret lives of the werewolf packs that live and hunt alongside human society in Reflected, the third book of the series that began with her debut novel, Silver. Silver and her mate Andrew Dare are pack leaders of the entire North American werewolf population, and that makes the more traditional packs in Europe very nervous indeed. It’s getting hard to hide from human surveillance.

Tor Books | 2/18/2014 | Trade Paperback | 336 pages


Rex Regis - L. E. Modesitt Jr.

Rex Regis (Imager Portfolio #8) by L. E. Modesitt Jr.

The saga of the Imager Quaeryt, Commander in the forces of Lord Bhayar, reaches a new climax as the great struggle to unify the continent of Lydar enters its final phase in L.E. Modesitt's Rex Regis, Book 8 in The Imager Portfolio.

Only the land of Khel remains uncommitted to Bhayar’s rule. Their decision could mean a lasting peace, or more conflict across an already war-ravaged realm.

While the conqueror of Bovaria awaits emissaries to arrive with news of Khel’s decision, other weighty matters occupy Bhayar, his sister Velora, and her husband Quaeryt—not the least of which is the fulfillment of Quaeryt's dream to create the world's first Imager academy, where the magical abilities of these powerful casters may be honed, managed, and put to the service of the common good.

But before that dream may be realized, or Khel’s fateful choice made known, the spectre of high treason threatens to unravel all that Quaeryt has achieved, catapulting him toward a fateful confrontation with Bhayar's most powerful military leaders.

Tor Books | January 2014 | Hardcover | 448 pages

Wicked After Midnight - Delilah S. Dawson

Wicked After Midnight by Delilah S. Dawson

An electrifying paranormal romance . . . with a twist!

Only rebellious Demi Ward could be bored with her life as a contortionist in Criminy Stain’s magical traveling circus. But being a cabaret star in the City of Light is dangerous . . . especially for an audacious Bludman.

After Demi’s best friend, Cherie, is brutally kidnapped en route to Paris by a roving band of masked slavers, passionate highwayman Vale Hildebrand shows up to save the day. With his help, Demi rises to the top of the cabaret scene as part of her plot to find Cherie—but what she really discovers is a taste for Vale’s kisses. Meanwhile, wealthy suitors vie for a night of her charms, crowding the glittering club where Demi commands the stage with a host of colorful daimons. She is soon seduced by a smoldering portrait artist whose ties to a secret society could be the break she and Vale need on their hunt. But—unlike the Paris that Demi read about in college on Earth—the Paris of Sang is full of depraved pleasures and deadly surprises. . . .

Pocket Books | Mass Market Paperback  448 pages |  January 2014

The Weight of Blood - Laura McHugh

The Weight of Blood by Laura McHush

For fans of Gillian Flynn, Scott Smith, and Daniel Woodrell comes a gripping, suspenseful novel about two mysterious disappearances a generation apart.

The town of Henbane sits deep in the Ozark Mountains. Folks there still whisper about Lucy Dane’s mother, a bewitching stranger who appeared long enough to marry Carl Dane and then vanished when Lucy was just a child. Now on the brink of adulthood, Lucy experiences another loss when her friend Cheri disappears and is then found murdered, her body placed on display for all to see. Lucy’s family has deep roots in the Ozarks, part of a community that is fiercely protective of its own. Yet despite her close ties to the land, and despite her family’s influence, Lucy—darkly beautiful as her mother was—is always thought of by those around her as her mother’s daughter. When Cheri disappears, Lucy is haunted by the two lost girls—the mother she never knew and the friend she couldn’t save—and sets out with the help of a local boy, Daniel, to uncover the mystery behind Cheri’s death.

What Lucy discovers is a secret that pervades the secluded Missouri hills, and beyond that horrific revelation is a more personal one concerning what happened to her mother more than a decade earlier.

The Weight of Blood is an urgent look at the dark side of a bucolic landscape beyond the arm of the law, where a person can easily disappear without a trace. Laura McHugh proves herself a masterly storyteller who has created a harsh and tangled terrain as alive and unforgettable as the characters who inhabit it. Her mesmerizing debut is a compelling exploration of the meaning of family: the sacrifices we make, the secrets we keep, and the lengths to which we will go to protect the ones we love.

Random House | ARC Edition | 320 pages | March 2014

Solsbury Hill - Susan M. Wyler

Solsbury Hill by Susan M. Wyler

The windswept moors of England, a grand rustic estate, and a love story of one woman caught between two men who love her powerfully—all inspired by Emily Bronte’s beloved classic, Wuthering Heights. Solsbury Hill brings the legend of Catherine and Heathcliff, and that of their mysterious creator herself, into a contemporary love story that unlocks the past.

When a surprise call from a dying aunt brings twenty-something New Yorker Eleanor Abbott to the Yorkshire moors, and the family estate she is about to inherit, she finds a world beyond anything she might have expected. Having left behind an American fiance, here Eleanor meets Meadowscarp MacLeod—a young man who challenges and changes her. Here too she encounters the presence of Bronte herself and discovers a family legacy they may share.

With winds powerful enough to carve stone and bend trees, the moors are another world where time and space work differently. Remanants of the past are just around a craggy, windswept corner. For Eleanor, this means ancestors and a devastating romantic history that bears on her own life, on the history of the novel Wuthering Heights, and on the destinies of all who live in its shadow.

ARC Edition | 304 pages | 01 Apr 2014 | Riverhead

The Sound of Broken Glass - Deborah Crombie

The Sound of Broken Glass by Deborah Crombie

In the past . . .  On a blisteringly hot August afternoon in Crystal Palace, once home to the tragically destroyed Great Exhibition, a solitary thirteen-year-old boy meets his next-door neighbor, a recently widowed young teacher hoping to make a new start in the tight-knit South London community. Drawn together by loneliness, the unlikely pair forms a deep connection that ends in a shattering act of betrayal.

In the present . . .  On a cold January morning in London, Detective Inspector Gemma James is back on the job now that her husband, Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid, is at home to care for their three-year-old foster daughter. Assigned to lead a Murder Investigation Team in South London, she's assisted by her trusted colleague, newly promoted Detective Sergeant Melody Talbot. Their first case: a crime scene at a seedy hotel in Crystal Palace. The victim: a well-respected barrister, found naked, trussed, and apparently strangled. Is it an unsavory accident or murder? In either case, he was not alone, and Gemma's team must find his companion—a search that takes them into unexpected corners and forces them to contemplate unsettling truths about the weaknesses and passions that lead to murder. Ultimately, they will begin to question everything they think they know about their world and those they trust most.

William Morrow | February 25, 2014 (first published 2/19/2013) | Trade Paperback | 384 pages

Watching the Dark - Peter Robinson

Watching the Dark by Peter Robinson

New York Times bestselling author Peter Robinson brings back Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks and his colleague DI Annie Cabbot in a case riddled with corruption

A decorated policeman is murdered on the tranquil grounds of the St. Peter's Police Treatment Centre, shot through the heart with a crossbow arrow, and compromising photographs are discovered in his room. Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks is well aware that he must handle the highly sensitive and dangerously explosive investigation with the utmost discretion. And as he digs deeper, he discovers that the murder may be linked to an unsolved missing persons case from six years earlier and the current crime may involve crooked cops.

2/25/2014 | William Morrow (Harper Collins) | Trade PB | Pages: 384

That Old Black Magic - Mary Jane Clark

That Old Black Magic by Mary Jane Clark

New York Times bestselling author Mary Jane Clark whips up a savory and suspenseful confection, filled with murder, mystery, history, and voodoo, in which Piper Donovan must unmask a devious killer striking in New Orleans's legendary French Quarter

That old black magic

Aspiring actress and wedding-cake decorator Piper Donovan has barely arrived in New Orleans to perfect her pastry skills at the renowned French Quarter bakery Boulangerie Bertrand when a ghastly murder rocks the magical city.

Intrigued by the case, Piper can't help but look for the "Hoodoo Killer" among the faces around her. Could it be the handsome guide eager to give her special private tours? Or the inscrutable jazz musician who plays on historic Royal Street? What about the ratings-starved radio talk-show host? Or even the amiable owner of the local Gris-Gris Bar?

Though Piper has a full plate decorating cakes for upcoming wedding celebrations, she's also landed an exciting but unnerving role in a movie being shot in the Big Easy. When the murderer strikes again, leaving macabre clues, she thinks she can unmask the killer. But Piper will have to conjure up some old black magic of her own if she hopes to live long enough to reveal the truth.

William Morrow | 1/21/2014 | Hardcover | Pages: 368

A Burnable Book - Bruce Holsinger

A Burnable Book by Bruce Holsinger

In Chaucer's London, betrayal, murder, and intrigue swirl around the existence of a prophetic book that foretells the deaths of England's kings

London, 1385. Surrounded by ruthless courtiers—including his powerful uncle, John of Gaunt, and Gaunt's artful mistress, Katherine Swynford—England's young king, Richard II, is in mortal peril. Songs are heard across London—catchy verses said to originate from an ancient book that prophesies the ends of England's kings—and among the book's predictions is Richard's assassination. Only a few powerful men know that the cryptic lines derive from a "burnable book," a seditious work that threatens the stability of the realm. To find the manuscript, wily bureaucrat Geoffrey Chaucer turns to fellow poet John Gower, a professional trader in information with connections high and low.

Gower discovers that the book and incriminating evidence about its author have fallen into the unwitting hands of innocents, who will be drawn into a conspiracy that reaches from the king's court to London's slums and stews—and potentially implicates Gower's own son. As the intrigue deepens, it becomes clear that John Gower, a man with secrets of his own, may hold the key to saving the king, and England itself.

Medieval scholar Bruce Holsinger draws on his vast knowledge of the period to add colorful, authentic detail—on everything from poetry and bookbinding to court intrigues and brothels—to this highly entertaining and brilliantly constructed literary mystery that brings medieval England gloriously to life.

William Morrow | 2/18/2014 | ARC | Pages: 464

Wild Fell - Michael Rowe

Wild Fell by Michael Rowe

The crumbling summerhouse called Wild Fell, soaring above the desolate shores of Blackmore Island, has weathered the violence of the seasons for more than a century. Built for his family by a 19th-century politician of impeccable rectitude, the house has kept its terrible secrets and its darkness sealed within its walls. For a hundred years, the townspeople of alvina have prayed that the darkness inside Wild Fell would stay there, locked away from the light.

Jameson Browning, a man well acquainted with suffering, has purchased Wild Fell with the intention of beginning a new life, of letting in the light. But what waits for him at the house is devoted to its darkness and guards it jealously. It has been waiting for Jameson his whole life . . . or even longer. and now, at long last, it has found him.

e-book | 300 pages | ChiZine Publications | November 15th 2013

Get Katja - Simon Logan

Get Katja by Simon Logan

Katja from Simon Logan’s award-winning Katja From the Punk Band is back. Free and on the mainland, she emerges from hiding, only to find herself hunted by transvestite debt collectors, a mad surgeon and his voyeuristic fetish nurse and a corrupt detective, all of whom will stop at nothing to claim her for their own. And behind this scramble lies a twisted mind, desperate for revenge. Replete with dark humour, chaotic storytelling, and a fast-paced industrial thriller setting, Get Katja is the latest novel from the author of Pretty Little Things to Fill Up The Void, Nothing Is Inflammable, and I-O.

e-book | 250 pages | ChiZine Publications | March 18, 2014  

Moa - Tricia Shui

Moa by Tricia Stewart Shiu

Hillary Hause is not a witch. But, everyone in her conservative small town thinks so. When she is given a trip to Hawaii for graduation, this energetic eighteen-year-old anticipates adventure but gets more than she bargained for when Moa, an ancient Hawaiian spirit, pays her an unexpected visit.

With the help of her older sister, Molly and her seven-year-old niece, Heidi, Hillary embarks on a journey in which she not only saves herself, her family and Moa, but also the Hawaiian Islands. In the end, she learns to accept herself and her spiritual gifts warts and all.

e-book | January 31, 2012 | 156 pages | Createspace

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

New Release and Event: Pillar to the Sky by William R. Forstchen

Pillar to the Sky - William R. Forstchen

Greenbelt, MD – Tor Books, an imprint of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC—the largest publisher of science fiction in the world—and the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, are excited to announce a special public speaking engagement for local high schools and universities with Goddard scientist Dr. John Panek and William Forstchen, the New York Times bestselling author of One Second After and the new release PILLAR TO THE SKY (February 11, 2014), on Wednesday, Feb. 19th, from 10:00-11:30 AM at Goddard’s Visitor Center.

Forstchen will be signing copies of PILLAR TO THE SKY after the presentation, and attendees will be invited to tour the center’s breathtaking “Science on a Sphere” room, which is a mesmerizing visualization system developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that uses computers and video projectors to display animated data of objects in the solar system on the outside of a suspended, 6-foot diameter, white sphere.

The event celebrates the partnership forged between Tor and NASA in releasing the new book, which is the first title in a thrilling new series of “NASA-Inspired Works of Fiction” that are intended to not only educate, but also encourage young adults to examine the rewarding careers that science and technology have to offer. With the enormous popularity of science fiction—countless people who work in the fields of science and technology credit science fiction as a significant inspiration for their career choice—the ultimate goal of the series is to raise awareness and inspire the study of the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), while educating the general public on the significant role NASA plays in everyday lives.

In PILLAR TO THE SKY, Forstchen rises to the challenge of creating answers to the very real problems of the 21st century—dwindling oil supplies, increasingly dangerous pollution levels—by building a space elevator that will give us nearly limitless access to space. Using a fast-paced storyline replete with action, adventure, danger, and intrigue, PILLAR TO THE SKY is a remarkable combination of exhilarating thriller and cutting-edge science that vividly illustrates the endless opportunities that a space elevator could create, as well as highlighting some of the invaluable projects NASA is working on.

PILLAR TO THE SKY deftly explores some of the benefits a space elevator could provide, including:

  • Limitless and pollution-free energy
  • A means to “export” dangerous pollutants and hazardous materials out of our environment
  • Low gravity environments that offer a return to mobility for the elderly and handicapped
  • Tourism and recreation

About the Author William R. Forstchen, Ph.D., is a professor of history at Montreat College in North Carolina. He received his doctorate from Purdue University and his areas of specialization include the history of technology. In addition to One Second After, Forstchen is co-author—along with Newt Gingrich—of a New York Times bestselling series of Civil War novels, including Grant Comes East and Day of Retreat. He currently resides in North Carolina.

About the Expert John Panek, Ph.D. is an Aerospace Engineer in the Mission Systems Engineering Branch at the Goddard Space Flight Center, currently working on the TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) mission. At NASA since 2000, Dr. Panek focuses primarily on space flight mission design and has participated in the formulation of over 40 mission and instrument concepts. Previously he helped design and build cryogenic instruments (XRS, EXACT) at GSFC, JPL, and Fermilab. Dr. Panek holds a Ph.D. from Florida State University and an M.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He lives in Bowie, MD, with his wife and two children.

About the Goddard Space Flight Center NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center is home to the nation's largest organization of combined scientists, engineers and technologists that build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study the Earth, the sun, our solar system, and the universe. Named for American rocketry pioneer Dr. Robert H. Goddard, the center was established in 1959 as NASA's first space flight complex. Goddard and its several facilities are critical in carrying out NASA's missions of space exploration and scientific discovery.

About the Book  From William Forstchen, the New York Times bestselling author of One Second After, comes Pillar to the Sky, a towering epic to rank with Douglas Preston’s Blasphemy and Michael Crichton’s Prey...

Pandemic drought, skyrocketing oil prices, dwindling energy supplies and wars of water scarcity threaten the planet. Only four people can prevent global chaos.

Gary Morgan—a brilliant, renegade scientist is pilloried by the scientific community for his belief in a space elevator: a pillar to the sky, which he believes will make space flight fast, simple and affordable.

Eva Morgan—a brilliant and beautiful scientist of Ukranian  descent, she has had a lifelong obsession to build a pillar to the sky, a vertiginous tower which would mine the power of the sun and supply humanity with cheap, limitless energy forever.

Erich Rothenberg—the ancient but revered rocket-scientist who labored with von Braun to create the first rockets and continued on to build those of today.  A legend, he has mentored Gary and Eva for two decades, nurturing and encouraging their transcendent vision.

Franklin Smith—the eccentric Silicon Valley billionaire who will champion their cause, wage war with Congress and government bureaucracy and most important, finance their herculean undertaking.

The Goddard Space Flight Center—the novel’s pre-eminent hero, it’s enormous army of scientists, engineers and astronauts will design, machine, and build the space elevator. They will fight endless battles and overcome countless obstacles every step of the way.
This journey to the stars will not be easy—a tumultuous struggle filled with violence and heroism, love and death, spellbinding beauty and heartbreaking betrayal.  The stakes could not be higher.  Humanity's salvation will hang in the balance.

Tor Books | February 2014 | Hardcover | 400 pages

Friday, February 7, 2014

Review: Glenn Hughes: The Autobiography with Joel McIver

Review by John for Glenn Hughes: The Autobiography - from Deep Purple to Black Country Communion by Glenn Hughes and Joel McIver

John’s quick take: The story of Hughes’ rise to fame, descent into total drug addiction and eventual recovery.

John’s description: Glen Hughes joined the English rock band Deep Purple when they were at their peak. He was a highly talented singer, songwriter and bassist and had previously spent six years in the band Trapeze, but as part of Deep Purple he immediately achieved worldwide fame. After two years Deep Purple split up and Hughes then went on to make a lot of music with a string of bands and as a solo artist, in addition to being a session musician on a long list of recordings by other artists.

The book tells the story of Hughes musical career and his relationships with many people in the music industry, both famous and not so famous. It also describes in some detail the lurid lifestyles led by many successful people in the industry. But the main focus on the book is on his introduction to drugs, his subsequent addiction, his chaotic descent into a personal (and professional) hell, and his eventual return to sobriety and relative normality. He pulls no punches in describing what it is like to be a drug addict and the impact it had on himself and all those around him.

The book is liberally laced with quotes from a great range of people who have come into contact with Hughes throughout his life and career.

John’s thoughts: I loved (and still do love) a lot Deep Purple’s music, so I was a very happy camper when Shellie presented me with this book. I read with great interest the content relating to music, musicians and bands. It was interesting to read about who he interacted with and to find out more about some key people in the music scene.

What wasn’t so interesting was the drug-related content. I soon tired of reading about drug dealers, users, addicts and the impact of addiction. It is obviously important content, and telling that story is no doubt one of the big reasons why Hughes created this book, but reading about someone totally screwing up their lives and often being a jerk while doing it just isn’t a lot of fun. Plaudits to Hughes for finally getting his act together, getting clean and recreating his life, and I admire his brutal honesty in telling the tale. I just lost a bit of interest half way through the book.

It didn’t help that the autobiography wasn’t very well put together. It jumped around a lot and contained loads of snippets that just seemed to be patched together. Things didn’t really flow smoothly.

I’d recommend this book for any big fans of Deep Purple or Hughes’ other music, and it would also be a good read for anyone wanting to learn more about the perils of drug use and the travails of an addict. Unfortunately it left me a little cold. I’d rate this book 2.5 stars.

Jawbone Press | November 2011 | 256 pages | Paperback

This book was given to John as a Christmas present which in no way influenced his review.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Review: Nightlife by Matthew Quinn Martin


Review by Shellie for Nightlife by Matthew Quinn Martin.

Shellie’s quick take: A fast-paced, action-packed horror story that has a monster akin to the scary vampires in The Passage. Also includes the iconic vampire allure found in Dracula but with its own special and disgusting twist.

Shellie’s description:  Set in a current-day New Harbor, Boston, a breeding horror lies under the town’s old buildings and inside their underground drainage system. These monsters are coming up and feeding on the citizens, unbeknownst to most of the population. But when feisty bartender Beth Becker’s best friend goes missing, and she finds out that it will take 72 hours for the local police to start looking for her, Beth decides to take matters into her own hands. She posts missing person flyers all over town – even in the dodgiest parts. That’s when she comes across the spray painted warnings on many of the cities walls, apparent alarms for the so called “Night Angels”. 

During a very close call with a belligerent and violent homeless man, she meets the loner who calls himself Jack – a tortured soul whose life consists only of hunting these monsters. And as things progress much mayhem and drama ensues, as well as a parallel conspiracy plot which may or may have not been further developed since the ARC (advanced read copy) of the book was released.

Shellie’s thoughts:  I found Nightlife to be an escapist horror read, with an easy-to-read writing style, great vocabulary and excellent pacing. It is genre horror, meaning it’s action oriented and plot driven, as opposed to literary horror which is not-so-much action packed and focused on the character development and mood of the story. Which is not to say that Nightlife does not have these elements; it’s just much lighter.

I would say that Nightlife is somewhat predictable, but even so it definitely will deliver the chills and heart-pounding experience that most horror readers expect and enjoy. The main characters are interesting and the book includes some snarky dialog, but I found myself being a a bit apprehensive about the book falling into several well-established clichés. I worried that everything was going to end with a romantic happily-ever-after climax, but I’m glad to say this is not what happened. This is the first book of a series; so who knows what may happen in the second book?

Nightlife is definitely a book for genre horror fans. I think that the writing and plot development is similar to that of Joe Hill’s, however I enjoyed Nightlife quite a bit more than the Joe Hill novel that I read. I’m rating this first novel by the author 3.5 stars. A heart-pounding thrilling debut and the beginning of an action based vampire-like series with a frightening monster.

Pocket Star |  384 pages | October 2013

For more information on Nightlife please see our Incoming Books feature for October 12, 2013.

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