Archive for October, 2011

Author: Dina James
Release Date: October 11, 2011
Formats: Trade Paperback, ebook
Pages: 228
ISBN #: 978-1606592762
FTC Disclaimer: ARC was received from publisher for the purpose of an honest review.

Vampires, and man-wolves, and hellhounds, oh MY!

Rebecca MacDonnell’s plate is full. On one hand, she leads a typical high school life, complete with snotty “it” girls, a bad boy hottie, and the day to day stresses of just trying to get by. On the other, she’s a caregiver for her “Nana”, who’s memory loss has progressed from simply misplacing keys, to leaving the stove on, or getting lost on walks. The last thing Rebecca expects is to find a classmate, bleeding and dying, being dragged through her door in the middle of the night by a master vampire, after being attacked by hellhounds, to seek the help of her Nana, their healer!

One of the things I really enjoyed with this book was the twist Dina created. Just when I “thought” I knew what I was getting into, I was wrong. Rebecca doesn’t discover a world of paranormal creatures who expect her to pick sides and fight their battles with them. She discovers her gifts, as the next in a line of ethereal healers. Her strength isn’t in fighting, but in staying impartial and offering aid to those who ARE fighting.

Had the hellhound who bit **** tonight been in need himself, we would not have denied him assistance. He would have been treated and sheltered just the same, right at the side of the one he harmed, with no further hostility between them.

So… could YOU do that?? Shelter and heal the good AND the not-so-good? That’s a decision Rebecca is forced to make. Her power will mature on her 17th birthday, if she can make it that long. It seems that having the benefit of their very own, captive, healer is the goal of quite a few unsavory ethereals. The days leading up to that occasion are filled with demons attacking from bathroom stalls and the introduction of one of my favorite side characters in recent memory, Billy. For those of you who are Southern Vampire Mystery fans, think Bubba, with more hair and the appetite of a small military battalion.

We’re getting our family bonding and learning from Nana, our fast-paced action and a lot of comic relief with Billy, so that leaves Syd, the master vampire. Yeah… he’s the dreamy one who warns Rebecca not to fall for him, and of course she does. He’s the master of his clan, but gets guilted and coerced into offering apprenticeship to Rebecca for her healer training. Syd is quick-witted and snarky, but genuinely wants the best for Rebecca. Being able to hear her thoughts is the catalyst for quite a bit of their fun banter.

The original,  short story version of this (what was roughly the first three chapters) is in The Eternal Kiss: 13 Tales of Blood and Desire. I was so excited when I realized it was being reworked and extended into a full novel. I really loved the characters, the storyline is different and fun to read, and the action/comedy/romance balance is just about perfect. I say just about, because I could always read more Syd, lol. Luckily, we’ll be getting more Syd, and the rest of the gang, in book 2 of the Stranger Things series, Time Heals. I have theories about this next book. When you all read All Wounds (and that should be soon, or… now, even) let me know, cause I NEED to share!!

Stop by Dina’s Q&A HERE to find out a little more about this new(ish) author, and win a copy of All Wounds!

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Q&A with Dina James

Posted October 21, 2011 By Jennifer

I’m so excited to have this chance to play a little with Dina James. Her first full length YA novel, All Wounds, was just released and I loved it. You can read my review HERE.

Here’s a little about this, self-proclaimed, “evil” author 🙂

1) When you write, do you prefer quiet, or do you listen to music? If you like music playing, what is your preferred genre? Do certain characters have their own personal “soundtrack”?

It really depends. Sometimes I want it quiet (especially during edits so I can think) and other times I listen to music based on the
scene I’m writing. My preferred genre of music is soundtracks/ambient music when I write, though I have been known to listen to Within Temptation and Evanescence. Certain characters do have their own soundtracks and they’re very particular about listening to “someone else’s music.”

2) Where do you write? In an office, at the dining room table, at a local coffeeshop? Do you prefer to write alone or with a group? If you write with a group, do you also read/critique each other’s work?

I have an office, AKA “my room.” I prefer to write alone and I’m not big on having people see my work in progress. I’m a big believer in the zero draft – that is, just getting the story out – and that draft is just for the writer. No one but the writer is supposed to see the zero. The first draft is the actual readable version that I let a select few people see and give me feedback on if something just isn’t working or I’m not sure about something that happened in the story.

3) How do you prepare for release day? Are you calm and focused, or do you get stressed? Do you like to make promotional appearances or stay at home to watch lists and numbers?

I thrive on stress. I work best under pressure, and as this is my first solo release day (all my previous work has been anthologies with other writers) I’m not sure how I’ll react. I do know I celebrate with a nice dinner/drinks. I do make a promotional appearance at my local bookstore, and usually do something fun for Halloween (because I’m a paranormal author and it just ties in well with the holiday) with a local business or group.

4) What was your favorite Halloween costume (or other costume party costume)?

I really enjoyed my Kaylee (ship’s mechanic on Firefly) costume I did for Dragon*Con one year. I’m a True Goth http://dinajames.com/goth.html and generally wear black/”costume-y” clothes, so it’s fun seeing people dress up as “me” for Halloween. I turned the tables on them a couple years ago and went dressed as a Mundane in a white skirt, top and long
brown wig I braided. The coworkers loved it.

5) If you could go anywhere on vacation (and not interfere with your deadlines), where would you go, and what 3 items (besides food and clothes) would you bring with you?

Greece is next up on my List Of Places To Visit. I would bring my laptop (to write), my camera and my Darth Vader plushie (he goes on all my trips).

6) What song best describes your life? If you can’t think of one, who would you want to write/perform a song just for you?

“When You’re Evil” by Voltaire.

7) If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would be it and what would you do all day?

Oh, that’s a hard one. I really want to say Billy the werewolf because he’s hilarious and fun and drives an old Mustang, and we’d
probably end up eating horrible fast food and hitting a classic car show. But, in fairness, it wouldn’t be a day, it would be a night with the beautiful and enigmatic Kyle. (Lost soul, thank you, not a “vampire.”) We’d just talk. He’s centuries old and has seen a lot of things and has an interesting perspective on humanity.

8) What world record would you love to set for the Guinness Book of World Records? (Remember, they take ALL KINDS of interesting talents into account. Some world records include *fastest 100m sprint, barefoot, on ice = 17.35 secs… *fastest pumpkin carving of a face = 24.03 secs… *longest distance pogo stick jumping = 23.11 miles)

Writer with the most completed knitting projects in a year – 157. (I can dream.)

9) If you could have one word removed from the English language, from all dictionaries and out of everyone’s vocabulary, what would it be, and why? If you could ADD one word, what would it be?

Hate me now. I would remove “Twilight,” because of that sparkly day-walking stalker wannabe-vamp book series by SMeyer I have no love for. I have no idea what word I would add. Probably something inappropriate for those under 18.

10) What is one thing about you that your friends know and you would love your readers to know as well. Or… if you’re in a giving mood… what is one story that your friends LOVE to talk you into telling that you don’t generally volunteer?

So, you’re asking me to be nice? You know that’s impossible, right? Instead of nice, I’ll be…let’s call it “indulgent.” I will indulge this question. One thing that my friends know that I would love (really?) my readers to know is that I’m a former military brat and therefore tend to use “yes, sir” and “no, ma’am” and so on when I’m talking to people, no matter how old they are. It surprises people who aren’t used to being around me, because it’s respectful and polite, and those are not generally words associated with me.

Because I’m evil.

Also, I’m originally from the southern US, and while I don’t have a Southern accent most times, there are certain words you can hear it in and certain instances. You can tell when I’ve just talked to my mother, because I lapse into my Southern. Also when I’m starting to get annoyed, am nervous, or tired, my diction slips. So that’s not a story my friends like me to tell, but they do love it when I start elongating my vowels and dropping the ends off words. I think they think it’s cute.

**Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, to Dina for putting aside her evilness long enough to play nice with us today. She’ll be stopping in from time to time to reply to comments or answer questions. And I have a question for YOU!! If given the choice in a paranormal world, would you be a fighter or a healer? Remember, there are some kickass heroes and heroines out there in the supernatural world… lots of glory to be won and good to be done. However, there’s a different kind of heroism in the act of healing. So… which would YOU be?? Leave your answer, along with your first name and email, in the comments. (And a quick “hi” to Dina :-). ) One random commenter will win their choice of ebook or trade paperback copy of ALL WOUNDS!! Contest ends at midnight, tonight, pacific time. GOOD LUCK!!!

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Review: Close Your Eyes by Amanda Eyre Ward

Posted October 17, 2011 By Jennifer

Author: Amanda Eyre Ward
Release Date: July 26, 2011
Formats: Hardcover, ebook, audio
Pages: 272
ISBN #: 978-0345494481
FTC Disclaimer: Finished copy was received from publisher for the purpose of an honest review.

My Thoughts:

Wow. This one was pretty heavy.

The book is divided into three sections, with chapters in each, switching between viewpoints. What started out as a fairly common “child crisis-angst” type novel pretty quickly turned into a murder mystery, family bonding, personal growth story. (Can you tell I’m having a hard time compartmentalizing it?)

I didn’t particularly like the main character. I don’t think she was really written to be likeable in the first place, but I could empathize with her enough to care what happened to her. It was also kind of refreshing to see a main character that was, bluntly, a quivering pile of neuroses.

The supporting characters really stole the show for me, though. Her boyfriend, brother, and a couple of other characters who (for the sake of not spoiling you) shall remain unnamed were really fun and broke up the unending misery of her narration.

I would definitely recommend this book as it was a quick read (less than 2 days) and the resolution was overall satisfying.

Oh, and there may have been a part where I cried. Possibly. 😉

 

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Picspiration for FROST by Wendy Delsol

Posted October 15, 2011 By Jennifer

Hi there! Today we have a special treat from an author who’s story I just love. Wendy Delsol writes the Stork Trilogy, a series that explores a young girl’s connection to an ancient Nordic mythology, and just how that fits into her uber-contemporary lifestyle. Add in a hottie boyfriend with a cool, cool ancestor, and it’s a fun, captivating story.

Some of the places in the second book in the series, FROST, are described in such detail that I could picture them in my head. But I was curious… how did Wendy see them? Have you ever wondered if YOUR idea of a person/place was what the author was intending? What were THEY imagining when writing particular scenes?? So… I asked, lol…

My friend Jennifer asked me about inspiration for some of the scenes I created for Frost, the Icelandic Festival in particular.

It’s worth mentioning here that I have never been to Iceland. I am not of Icelandic origin. Moreover, my festival town of Hafmeyjafjordur is fictional, and an invented word at that. It translates to Mermaid Fjord, in case you’re interested.

Years ago, when first taking writing classes, I was witness to an exchange between two students. The first had submitted pages for critique and had taken creative liberties with an actual town and physical location. Another student had censured the writer for inaccuracies and even sloppy research. At this point, the instructor intervened, reminding the entire class that fiction is just that. Once published, a novel’s copyright page will state: “This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or, if real, are used fictionally.” That confrontation and it’s ensuing discussion was my creative aha moment.

Thus, in creating the Icelandic sea-themed festival, one I named The Dance of the Selkies, much is of my own invention. I do, of course, use the web (thank you Google) to pull up photos of real Icelandic festivals, costumes, and physical descriptions of the architecture and landscapes.

Below are some of theactual images or a few that remind me of images I studied while writing thebook:

These two shots show the upphlutur, a traditional Icelandic costume. The two girls even physically remind me of Katla. She, of course, wears a silver tassel, one that sets her apart from the other festival-goers and is highly symbolic.

The above two photos were taken at a real Viking Festival in Iceland.

And this one reminds me of the scene I described where Katla looks at the jewelry being sold by a gypsy-garbed Jinky and ends up having her runes read.

And, finally, here’s an image of the real Akureyri, a town Katla visits. I used images of this idyllic village to describe my Hafmeyjafjordur, my Mermaid Fjord.

Creative license is one of the favorite aspects of my job. I purposely ground much of my characters’ day-to-day activities in real-life and believable surroundings. When exotic locations and/or fantasy elements are introduced, they feel special and authentic. I hope so, anyway.  At any rate, I loved creating Katla’s festival scenes. And one of these days, I hope to get to the real Iceland. Until then, Katla gets to do my traveling for me.

**Thank you, so much, to Wendy for putting together such a nice presentaton of her inspirations. Check out the first book in this wonderful story, STORK… and the second in the trilogy, FROST. You can read my review of FROST here. I cannot… cannot… CANNOT (oh, but I’ll have to) WAIT for the last part of this fun, fascinating tale. AAAANNNNDDDDD… Wendy has confirmed the title for book 3!!!!!!! The Stork Trilogy will be… STORK… FROST… TIDE! I can only imagine (cause she won’t tell me) what’s in store for our Kat & Jack in a book called TIDE!!

Now… a challenge for YOU… I wanna see some of YOUR picspirations. Find a picture that shows a scene you love from a book. (please keep it PG13 & under) Post the pic (or a link to the pic) and the scene/book/author you’re referring to below. You can also ask Wendy questions about HER pics, she’ll be popping in today to reply to comments and questions about pics, or whatever else you’d like to know. One person who either posts a pic or asks a question will win an autographed copy of FROST!!! Please remember to leave your first name and email in the comments so I can notify you if you win. Contest ends tomorrow night (Sun, 11:59pm, Pacific). I’m so excited to see what you all come up with!!!

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Review: Frost (Stork Trilogy, #2) by Wendy Delsol

Posted October 15, 2011 By Jennifer

Author: Wendy Delsol
Other Books In Series: Stork (2010), book 3 (2012)
Format: hardcover, audio, ebook
Pages: 376
Original Release Date: October 11, 2011
ISBN #: 9780763653866
FTC Disclaimer: Recieved ARC from publisher for the purpose of an honest review.

I have so many mixed feelings about this book!!! I absolutely LOVED Stork, the first book in this trilogy. I practically stalked Wendy for tidbits and hints about Frost from the moment I finished Stork until the moment her publisher sent me a copy. Then I read it so fast I thought maybe I had missed pieces!! So… in preparing to write this review, I read it again. Here’s what I ended up with…

The characters are fantastic!!! I love Katla, Jack, Fru Hulda, and all the others who fill in this story. They’re unique, and playful, and spunky and Wendy created them in such a way that I felt like I could sit on a porch with any of them and have a hot chocolate and a chat. (Well, maybe not Fru Grimilla, but that’s a whole other issue, lol.) Their interactions are fun and witty and full of family / highschool shenanigans. When you add in Kat’s ability to guide unborn souls as part of an ancient, Nordic collective of “storks”, and her boyfriend Jack’s inherited ability to manipulate weather, the two have got their hands full!

There is a little family drama, not so much as to weigh down the story, but enough to make us feel for the characters. Together, Kat and Jack are sweet and funny, and everything I look for in a YA romance. When Jack’s gift-gone-awry brings attention to their hometown, he gets wrapped up in the scientific hoopla, and I expected the tension to start. It did, and in a big way, especially when the lovely and I-so-know-you’re-evil-even-though-I-can’t-prove-it-yet Brigid comes to town. Add in some time apart that leads to Jack going missing during a snowstorm and we’ve got our catalyst for action. With a title like “Frost”, I thought we’d be getting to delve further into Jack’s powers, and we had the perfect set up.

What happens at this point is what gives me such a conflict of emotions.

There’s an interesting dynamic between the “normal life” Kat has surrounding her school play (The Snow Queen, *hint**hint*), and the “supernatural” crisis she finds herself dealing with. That’s all well and good (and I do mean that, I really loved the way the two come together), but in order to tell THAT story, I felt like we lost some of what made me such a fan to begin with. Yes, I know, a story’s got to grow and progress, but I feel like we abandoned much of Kat’s core identity in favor of learning so many new things. Again, I’m a little conflicted about this, because I really enjoyed all the Icelandic lore, and all the new characters that played such a big part in the book. There was excitement, lots of action, and I loved that Kat, with unexpected help, found and was able to use more of her natural power. But I missed her “stork” side. The Jacob storyline was touching, and I’m hoping we’ll see it serve some larger purpose in the last book, but it seemed such a small part of this one. Kat was just learning about her “stork” abilities in the first book, I would have loved to spend more time on that particular journey with her. On the flip side… had the focus changed to learning more about Jack’s powers, and how he handled them, I don’t think I would have felt so off track, because I half expected that to be what the storyline was about. Now… would I have traded all the new information Kat learns about herself in this story to get either of those plotlines? That’s a hard question to answer because I DID enjoy the new stuff. I just hate that we had to leave the old stuff behind to get to it.  (I’d maybe trade in a few of Kat’s inner commentaries, though. I love her wit, but it’s not necessary to have a giggle on every other page to showcase it.)

All in all, I did enjoy the book. Both times. What I’m really hoping is that Wendy takes all the information from these two books and creates a final book that totally blows me away. I know, that’s a big expectation, but I have every confidence that it can be done. This series is full of imagination and heart. It has all the pieces needed to transform classic tales into something new and amazing. There are some pretty big… and I mean HUGE, exciting obstacles coming up in book 3, so many ends to tie up. Jacob… Leira… Afi… the World Tribunal… Brigid… aaaahhhhh…

I feel more stalking coming on!

**Please check out my feature with Wendy that’s posting today as well. She shares examples of pics that inspired some of the beautiful scenes in Iceland that Katla gets to be a part of. The costumes, the festival, the village. Really fantastic images that are a lovely way to help imagine these things as you read. AAAANNNNDDDD… she reveals the title of the last book in the trilogy!! You can click here to go to the Picspiration for FROST feature with Wendy.**

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