Wednesday, December 28, 2011

These Are a Few of My Favorite Reads

First, join me in two weeks, on Wednesday, Jan. 11, when Preternatura Book Club will be back! We'll be reading two chapters a week of the first book in Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson series, Moon Called. I hope you'll join in the read.

It's the end of the year, so that means it's time to look back. I think 2011 for me was kind of like a train. It started out really slow...nothing going on...then page proofs for Royal Street came in, then the cover, then more proofs, then more proofs, then ARCs. Revisions on River Road, book two in the Sentinels series. Drafting Elysian Fields, book three in the series. Full-time day job. Yikes!

There were also a couple of extra-secret surprises, which you can find out in mid-to-late January if you want to sign up to receive my newsletter and haven't already done so. Just click HERE and tell me you want it--I promise not to bombard your email inbox.

On a reading level, because I'm kind of obsessive about these things, I can tell you I read 92 novels this year--this is novels I actually finished. That doesn't count a half-dozen writing books and at least five or six reference books. So...can I pick my top 10? Nope, and here's why: In the interest of reviewing books for the blog as they came in my mailbox or Netgalley account, I neglected some of my favorite all-time series so I think a "top five" list would be skewed.

Instead, here's my five all-time favorite authors and/or series. And since I like to share my reads here on this blog, tell me which series you haven't read that you'd like to start....and I'll send you the first book in the series. How's that?

So, in absolutely no order:

Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson series
This series is smart, has very understated humor, and was the first urban fantasy series that ever made me cry. Just a really solid UF series.

JR Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series
Le sigh. Nobody, and I mean nobody, writes deep point of view like J.R. Ward, and this dark paranormal romance series makes my all-time fave list despite having a glossary in the front and strhange spellings.

Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series
Everytime I think this series just has to fizzle out, Jim Butcher throws in a monkey wrench and sends the series spinning in a new direction. A book from this series is the first UF I remember making me put the book down because I was laughing too hard to read. The scene involved Walmart and marbles.

Kim Harrison's Hollows series
Kim, Kim, Kim. I'm putting you here despite the Kisten episode. You know what I'm talking about. I still haven't gotten over it all these years later, so I guess you probably did the right thing from a storytelling standpoint. But still...the best ensemble cast in urban fantasy, although Ivy annoys me on occasion.

Simon R. Green's Nightside series
This series stumbles now and then, but I love it for the sheer fact that John Taylor and his companions in the Nightside--an alternative version of London--continually blow my mind. Green's mix of elements from sci fi, mythology, and sheer weirdness, plus his snarky British humor, are never, ever boring.

Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire series
I debated on this one because the last book or two have gotten a little weird for me, but I still love Sookie and Eric and Pam and the gang...and, no, "True Blood" doesn't follow the books except in a VERY nominal sense.

Jeaniene Frost's Night Huntress series
You guys are the ones who introduced me to Cat and Bones, and even though I'm not yet up to date on this series, I will be soon. It could well move up into my top group by this time next year. I'm excited about attending the Authors After Dark con next August, so I can go all fangirl with JF.

So, there you have it! Want to try a book in one of these seven series? Just tell me YOUR favorite book or series, and which one you'd like to try. As always +1 entry for comment, +1 for blog follow, +1 for Twitter follow @Suzanne_Johnson, and +1 for Tweet or Retweet.

I'll be taking off for the holiday again, but will be back on Monday, Jan. 2, with a HUGE Reader's Choice list. Y'all be good, now!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Double-Shot TBR Tuesday: New YA and Steampunk Releases

There’s YA and Steampunk on the menu today!

First, a little business. For those of you who are interested, in January I’m starting a newsletter to keep you up to date on my urban fantasy series that begins in April with Royal Street. If you’d like to get on my mailing list, email me at include the email address you’d like it sent to. I promise (really) not to bombard your email inbox—just want to be able to send you monthly updates on new books, upcoming appearances, special promotions, occasional swag opportunities, reviews of interest, and sneak peeks of new stories and chapters.

Tuesday is TBR day--where I share the love by passing along some books from my TBR pile. Today, I have a ‘double-shot’ of books from the folks at Pyr Books, who publish some of the most innovative books you’re going to find—including the two today.

First up is Planesrunner, the first in a new YA series by Irish science fiction author Ian McDonald that I guess you’d call “adventure fiction.”
THE OFFICIAL BLURB: When Everett Singh's scientist father is kidnapped from the streets of London, he leaves young Everett a mysterious app on his computer. Suddenly, this fourteen-year-old has become the owner of the most valuable object in the multiverse—the Infundibulum—the map of all the parallel earths, and there are dark forces in the Ten Known Worlds who will stop at nothing to get it. They've got power, authority, and the might of ten planets—some of them more technologically advanced than our Earth—at their fingertips. He's got wits, intelligence, and a knack for Indian cooking. To keep the Infundibulum safe, Everett must trick his way through the Heisenberg Gate his dad helped build and go on the run in a parallel Earth. But to rescue his Dad from Charlotte Villiers and the sinister Order, this Planesrunner's going to need friends. Friends like Captain Anastasia Sixsmyth, her adopted daughter Sen, and the crew of the airship Everness. Can they rescue Everett's father and get the Infundibulum to safety? First in the Everness series.
Can’t get enough of steampunk, or want to give it a try? Also up today is Andrew P. Mayer’s Hearts of Smoke and Steam.

THE OFFICIAL BLURB: Sir Dennis Darby has been murdered, the Automaton has been destroyed, and Sarah Stanton has turned her back on a life of privilege and comfort to try and find her way in the unforgiving streets of Victorian-era New York. But Lord Eschaton, the villain behind all these events, isn't finished with her. His plans to bring his apocalyptic vision of the future to the world are moving forward, but to complete his scheme he needs the clockwork heart that Sarah still holds.But she has her own plans for the Automaton's clockwork heart—Sarah is trying rebuild her mechanical friend, and when she is attacked by The Children of Eschaton, the man comes to her rescue may be the one to make her dreams come true. Emelio Armando is a genius inventor who had hoped to leave his troubles behind when he and his sister left Italy for a life of anonymity in the New World. Now he finds himself falling in love with the fallen society girl, but he is rapidly discovering just how powerful the forces of villainy aligned against her are, and that fulfilling her desires means opening the door to a world of danger that could destroy everything he has built.

THE GIVEAWAY: Want to win Planesrunnerand Hearts of Smoke and Steam? Have you read any of the new spate of YA sci-fi novels (Across the Universe, anyone)? What do you think? Four entries possible:  +1 for comment, +1 for blog follow, +1 for Twitter follow @Suzanne_Johnson, and +1 for Tweet or Retweet. Go!

Monday, December 26, 2011

New Releases Dec. 27-31, Reader's Choice Contest, Weekly Winners

Merry post-Christmas and pre-New Year’s…or something like that. We’re back for another short week on the blog, with a new Reader’s Choice contest and a medium-sized list of new releases—but this list has some awesome choices in urban fantasy, paranormal romance, YA, and science fiction. What to choose, what to choose... (And next week’s list…Ginormous!)

First, congrats to the winners from last week’s contests. If you see your name, please email me HERE and send me your snail-mail address if you prefer a print book or email/format if you prefer an ebook. (Some contests may specify one format or the other.)

Congrats to:
LESLEY D, who won Lev AC Rosen’s All Men of Genius. (print only)
FAIRY WHISPERS, who won the Reader’s Choice and chose Touch of Powerby Maria V. Snyder (choice of print or ebook)

Now, for this week’s list of new releases—comment to win your choice!

*Genre key (at the end of each listing): SF=science fiction; F=high/epic fantasy; UF=urban fantasy; H=horror; PNR=paranormal romance; YA=young adult; MG=middle grade; alt history=alternative history; dyst=dystopia; steampunk.

Every Other Day, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
(Dec. 27, Edgmont)
Every other day, Kali D'Angelo is a normal sixteen-year-old girl. She goes to public high school. She attends pep rallies. She's human. And then every day in between . . .She's something else entirely.  Though she still looks like herself, every twenty-four hours predatory instincts take over and Kali becomes a feared demon-hunter with the undeniable urge to hunt, trap, and kill zombies, hellhounds, and other supernatural creatures. Kali has no idea why she is the way she is, but she gives in to instinct anyway. Even though the government considers it environmental terrorism.  When Kali notices a mark on the lower back of a popular girl at school, she knows instantly that the girl is marked for death by one of these creatures. Kali has twenty-four hours to save her and, unfortunately, she'll have to do it as a human. With the help of a few new friends, Kali takes a risk that her human body might not survive. . .and learns the secrets of her mysterious condition in the process. UF-YA

Archon, by Sabrina Benulis
(Dec. 27, Harper Voyager)
Angela Mathers is plagued by visions of angels, supernatural creatures who haunt her thoughts by day and seduce her dreams by night. Newly released from a mental institution where she was locked away for two years, she hopes that her time at the Vatican’s university, the West Wood Academy, will give her a chance at a normal life. Unlike ordinary humans, Angela is a blood head — a freak, a monster, the possible fulfillment of a terrifying prophecy of overwhelming death and destruction. Only in Luz, the Vatican’s wondrous enclave, are blood heads accepted and encouraged to discover what kind of powers or special abilities they might possess. But within West Wood, a secret coven plots, and demons and angels roam the streets searching for the key to open Raziel’s book — a secret tome from a lost archangel. Some are determined to destroy Raziel, while others, like the beautiful Supernal Israfel, one of the highest of the high, wish to free him. And when the Archon — the human chosen to possess the spirit of a dead angel — rises as foretold, they will control the supernatural universe. Torn between mortal love and angelic obsession, Angela holds the key to Heaven and Hell — and both will stop at nothing to possess her. UF-YA

Empire State, by Adam Christopher
(Dec. 27, Angry Robot)
It was the last great science hero fight, but the energy blast ripped a hole in reality, and birthed the Empire State – a young, twisted parallel prohibition-era New York. When the rift starts to close, both worlds are threatened, and both must fight for the right to exist. SF

The Demon Lover, by Juliet Dark
(Dec. 27, Ballantine)
Since accepting a teaching position at remote Fairwick College in upstate New York, Callie McFay has experienced the same disturbingly erotic dream every night: A mist enters her bedroom, then takes the shape of a virile, seductive stranger who proceeds to ravish her in the most toe-curling, wholly satisfying ways possible. Perhaps these dreams are the result of writing her bestselling book, The Sex Lives of Demon Lovers. After all, Callie’s lifelong passion is the intersection of lurid fairy tales and Gothic literature—which is why she finds herself at Fairwick’s renowned folklore department, living in a once-stately Victorian house that, at first sight, seemed to call her name. But Callie soon realizes that her dreams are alarmingly real. She has a demon lover—an incubus—and he will seduce her, pleasure her, and eventually suck the very life from her. Then Callie makes another startling discovery: He’s not the only mythical creature in Fairwick. As the tenured witches of the college and the resident fairies in the surrounding woods prepare to cast out the incubus, Callie must accomplish something infinitely more difficult—banishing this demon lover from her heart. PNR

Spirit Bound, by Christine Feehan
(Dec. 27, Jove)
Lethal undercover agent Stefan Prakenskii knew a thousand ways to kills a man—and twice as many ways to pleasure a woman. That’s what made him look forward to his new mission: arrive in the coastal town of Sea Haven and insinuate himself in the life of an elusive beauty who had mysterious ties to his past, and a link to a dangerously seductive, and equally elusive master criminal who wanted only one thing: to possess her. Judith Henderson was an artist on the rise—an ethereal, and haunted woman whose own picture-perfect beauty stirred the souls of two men who have made her their obsession. For years she has been waiting for someone to come and unlock the passion and fire within her—waiting for the right man to surrender it to. But only one man can survive her secrets, and the shadow she has cast over both their lives. Second in the Sisters of the Heart series. PNR

Hell Train, by Christopher Fowler
(Dec. 27, Solaris)
Four passengers meet on a train journey through Eastern Europe during the First World War, and face a mystery that must be solved if they are to survive. As the ‘Arkangel’ races through the war-torn countryside, they must find out: What is in the casket that everyone is so afraid of? What is the tragic secret of the veiled Red Countess who travels with them? Why is their fellow passenger the army brigadier so feared by his own men? And what exactly is the devilish secret of the Arkangel itself? Bizarre creatures, satanic rites, terrified passengers and the romance of travelling by train, all in a classically styled horror novel. H

Shadow City, by Diana Pharaoh Francis
(Dec. 27, Pocket)
The world is falling apart. The magical apocalypse has come. Now is the time to guard the covenstead against both raiders and refugees. But Max has been stolen by a powerful demi-god who is determined to force her to find a way to use a magical power she never knew she had—even if it kills her. Meanwhile, back in Horngate, a Fury is birthing. When the creature breaks free of the fragile bonds that enclose her, her rage will scour the covenstead from the earth. Max finds herself in the Shadow City, a place of mysteries and magic, where she must battle for her freedom or become a slave to creatures of dreadful greed and power. Back in Horngate, Alexander must swallow his anger and pride if he hopes to defeat the Fury, a creature that no one has ever successfully fought before. In the end, it will be courage, friendship, faith and loyalty that win the day. Or else so one will live to see tomorrow. Third in the Horngate Witches series. UF

Bedeviled, by Sable Grace
(Dec. 27, Avon)
She has done the unthinkable—turned her best friend into a dark breed: part Vampyre, Lychen and Witch . . .Kyana thought only to save her friend’s life when she fed Haven her blood; instead, she created a monster. Now the woman she thought of as a sister is under the spell of an ancient, vengeful god, determined to set him free and wreak havoc on the mortal world . . . and only Kyana can stop her. But time is running out. In just seven days, Kyana’s Vampyre and Lychen abilities will be gone and she’ll be completely transformed into the Goddess of the Hunt—and her blood ties to Haven will be severed. By her side is Ryker—ally, demigod, lover— who will sacrifice everything to keep Kyana safe . . . even the attraction that burns between them. Together they have one chance to save Haven from herself . . . to save humanity from hell on earth. PNR

77 Shadow Street, by Dean Koontz
(Dec. 27, Bantam)
Enter the world of the Pendleton, a beautiful limestone Gilded Age palace that's been converted into a set of highly desirable condominiums. Its tenants feel lucky to live there. Yet luck and the Pendleton have little in common—its years have been colored by madness, kidnappings, murder, and strange, inexplicable accidents. But all of that is in a past mostly unfamiliar to the people of the Pendelton. To them, their building is a sanctuary....That is, until it turns on them. Shadows with no source begin to skitter across the walls, voices whisper in unknown languages, security cameras show impossible feeds, and a little boy starts talking to an imaginary playmate, who turns out to be all too real. These are only prelude to a terror that will soon fully engulf the tenants of Pendleton, in an unimaginable world from which there may be no escape. H

Ghoul Interrupted, by Victoria Laurie
(Dec. 27, Signet)
M.J. Holliday and her crew interrupt the frantic schedule of their reality TV show, Ghoul Getters, and hotfoot it to New Mexico, where a dreadful demon is waging tribal warfare. Same Whitefeather- M.J.'s spirit guide-urgently needs her help to stop this evil spirit from wiping out the descendants of his tribe. It doesn't take a psychic to predict that M.J.'s going to have a devil of a time making New Mexico a demon-free zone. The sixth Ghost Hunter mystery. UF

The Mortal Bone, by Marjorie M. Liu
(Dec. 27, Ace)
When the bond Maxine Kiss shares with the demons tattooed on her skin is deliberately severed, the demon hunter is left vulnerable and unprotected. For the first time in ten thousand years, the demons have a taste of freedom. And as the little demons grow more violent and unpredictable, Maxine starts to fear they will lose their minds without her. Reuniting won't be easy, since a greater temptation waits for these hellions: a chance to return to their lives as Reaper Kings, and unleash hell on Earth. Fourth in the Hunter Kiss series. PNR

Warrior’s Redemption, by Melissa Mayhue
(Dec. 27, Pocket Star)
Malcolm MacDowylt, laird of Clan MacGahan, is a man ruled by guilt. His wife’s death, his struggling clansmen, even his sister being held prisoner—all hangs on his shoulders. As a descendent of the Norse gods himself, he’s not surprised when his Faerie “mother-in-law” arrives determined to deliver justice for his treatment of her daughter. At least not until that justice appears in the form of a woman whose every look speaks to his very soul...A woman who claims to come from 700 years in the future. PNR

The Bitter Seed of Magic, by Suzanne McLeod
(Dec. 27, Ace)
For once, Genny's life seems quiet. Her sexy boss isn't pushing for a decision on their relationship, and the witches have declared that she is no longer a threat. But when a teenaged faeling is fished out of the River Thames and another disappears, Genny finds herself in a race to stop a curse from taking its next victim. Third in the Spellcrackers series. U.S. release. UF

Shadow Heir, by Richelle Mead
(Dec. 27, Zebra)
Shaman-for-hire Eugenie Markham strives to keep the mortal realm safe from trespassing entities. But as the Thorn Land's prophecy-haunted queen, there's no refuge for her and her soon-to-be-born-children when a mysterious blight begins to devastate the Otherworld. The spell-driven source of the blight isn't the only challenge to Eugenie's instincts. Fairy king Dorian is sacrificing everything to help, but Eugenie can't trust the synergy drawing them back together. The uneasy truce between her and her shape shifter ex-lover Kiyo is endangered by secrets he can't--or won't--reveal. And as a formidable force rises to also threaten the human world, Eugenie must use her own cursed fate as a weapon--and risk the ultimate sacrifice. Fourth in the Dark Swan series. UF

The Demi-Monde: Winter, by Rod Rees
(Dec. 27, William Morrow)
The Demi-Monde is the most advanced computer simulation ever devised. Created to prepare soldiers for the nightmarish reality of urban warfare, it is a virtual world locked in eternal civil war. Its thirty million digital inhabitants are ruled by duplicates of some of history's cruellest tyrants: Reinhard Heydrich, the architect of the Holocaust; Beria, Stalin's arch executioner; Torquemada, the pitiless Inquisitor General; Robespierre, the face of the Reign of Terror. But something has gone badly wrong inside the Demi-Monde, and the US President's daughter has become trapped in this terrible world. It falls to eighteen-year-old Ella Thomas to rescue her, yet once Ella has entered the Demi-Monde she finds that everything is not as it seems, that its cyber-walls are struggling to contain the evil within and that the Real World is in more danger than anyone realises. U.S. release. SF

Wicked Circle, by Linda Robertson
(Dec. 27, Pocket)
Persephone Alcmedi has helped her waerewolf lover Johnny unlock his powers. Now she must come to the aid of Menessos, the vampire overlord she has secretly marked. Beset by a trio of truth-seeking vampire sisters so dangerous their own kind keep them confined in stone, he now needs her more than ever...and she realizes her need for him. Seph has magical promises to fulfill for the waeres, multiple mundane family challenges to meet, vampire politics to confront, both the supernatural males in her life to balance, a dragon to deal with...and then a government investigator shows up to complicate matters. Fifth in the Persephone Alcmedi series. UF

Magic of the Moonlight, by Ellen Schreiber
(Dec. 27, Katherine Tegen)
Celeste has more to worry about than a secret romance with a hot guy from the wrong side of town. That guy, Brandon, is a werewolf. With gossip and hostility swirling at school, it’s time to find a cure for his nocturnal condition, and perhaps the one person who can help is his scientist father. But what if a “cure” makes things worse and Brandon becomes a werewolf full time? And with rumors circulating that there are werewolves in Legend’s Run, is it possible that there is another among their classmates? To keep Brandon’s secret safe, Celeste must hide her relationship with him from her best friends, but with the Moonlight Ball approaching, she must make a choice. Her dream is to go with her one true love—Brandon. But once the sun goes down, the clouds separate, and the full moon appears, could she really walk into the dance on the arm of a werewolf? Second in the Full Moon series. PNR-YA

Babylon Steel, by Gaie Sebold
(Dec. 27, Solaris)
Babylon Steel, ex-sword-for-hire, ex-other things, runs the best brothel in Scalentine; city of many portals, two moons, and a wide variety of races, were-creatures, and religions, not to mention the occasional insane warlock. She’s not having a good week. The Vessels of Purity are protesting against brothels, women in the trade are being attacked, it’s tax time, and there’s not enough money to pay the bill. So when the mysterious Darask Fain offers her a job finding a missing girl, Babylon decides to take it. But the missing girl is not what she seems, and neither is Darask Fain. In the meantime twomoon is approaching, and more than just a few night’s takings are at risk when Babylon’s hidden past reaches out to grab her by the throat. F

Switchblade Goddess, by Lucy A. Snyder
(Dec. 27, Del Rey)
When Jessie Shimmer traveled to a nightmare underworld to save her lover, Cooper Marron, she gained magical powers . . . which soon seemed more like curses. Her beloved familiar, the ferret Pal, became a monster. Her enemies multiplied like demons. Worst of all, she hasn’t found a moment of peace to be with the man she adores. Now a switchblade-wielding demigoddess commanding a private hell stocked with suffering innocents is after her. The blademistress’ vengeance sends Jessie and Pal on a dark journey through strange, perilous realms. Their quest for salvation will push her newfound abilities—and her relationship with Cooper—to the breaking point . . . and beyond. Third in the Jessie Shimmer series. UF

Angel Fire, by L.A. Weatherly
(Dec. 27, Candlewick)
Only Willow has the power to defeat the malevolent Church of Angels, and they will stop at nothing to destroy her. Willow isn’t alone, though. She has Alex by her side – a trained Angel Killer and her one true love. But nothing can change the fact that Willow’s a half-angel, and when Alex joins forces with a group of AKs, she’s treated with mistrust and suspicion. She’s never felt more alone…until she meets Seb. He’s been searching for Willow his whole life – because Seb is a half-angel too. Second in the series. PNR-YA

City of Light and Shadow, by Ian Whates
(Dec. 27, Angry Robot)
The monstrous Rust Warriors are back! In a land struggling to cope with the onset of the fatal bone flu, street-nick Tom and Kat - the leader of the Tattooed Men - must find a way to despatch both threats. Meanwhile, the Soul Thief is still at large, and still killing. Book three in the City of a Hundred Rows series. UF

Silver-Tongued Devil, by Jaye Wells
(Dec. 28, Orbit)
Life is looking up for Sabina Kane. Now that her scheming grandmother is dead, the threat of war has passed and the rulers of the dark races are about to sign a treaty to ensure ongoing peace. Her relationship with sexy mage Adam Lazarus is strong and all her friends are around her. Even her magic training is progressing further than she ever expected. The only two dark spots in her otherwise settled life are her guilt over her sister Maisie's fragile mental state and Sabina's own sinking sense that she's got unfinished business with Cain, the mysterious cult leader she let get away months earlier. When a string of murders rock the New York dark races community and threatens to stall the peace negotiations, Sabina finds herself helping to find the killer. Her investigation leads her down troubling paths that have her questioning everything - and everyone - she knows. And the closer she gets to the murderer, the more Sabina realises this is one foe she may not able to kill. Fourth in the Sabina Kane series. UF

Hidden, by Kelley Armstrong (Dec. 31, Subterranean)
Hiking through the snow, holiday baking and playing board games by the fire – what’s not to love about an old-fashioned family Christmas? Werewolves Elena Michaels and Clayton Danvers want to give their four-year-old twins, Kate and Logan, something their parents never had: a nice, normal holiday. No Pack responsibilities, no homicidal half-demons or power-hungry sorcerers to deal with – just the four of them, alone, at a chalet outside Ontario’s Algonquin Park. Then a strange werewolf shows up at their door…while the town is buzzing about a young man, back from college, found half-eaten in the woods. And there’s the missing little girl … With all the signs pointing to a rogue mutt with a taste for human flesh, Elena and Clay have no choice but to investigate. But are they the hunters – or the hunted? A special-edition novella in the Otherworld series. UF

As always, four entries possible and please include your e-mail: +1 for comment to tell me what book (any book) you want, +1 for blog follow, +1 for Twitter follow @Suzanne_Johnson, and +1 for a Tweet or RT about the contest. Now….go!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Going All Non-Politically Correct with Aaron Neville

Whatever your religion or culture, happy holidays to you.

But, as the title says, I'm going all non-politically correct today to wish you all a Merry Christmas with my favorite "reason for the season" song, by New Orleans' own Aaron Neville.

Preternatura is on hiatus until Monday, December 26, when I'll be back with a finished first draft of a novel and a big old honkin' end-of-the-year Reader's Choice award. Until then, Joyeux Noel, y'all.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

From the ROYAL STREET Photo Album: Christmas at Tujague's

Before I head to New Orleans, a quick note: Over at the Booksake blog, Jessica is featuring Royal Street as her Waiting on Wednesday feature. Thanks, Jessica!

Now....DJ, the wizard heroine of my upcoming Sentinels of New Orleans series, is quite talented when it comes to mixing potions and devising magical rituals. Cooking? Not so much.

So, DJ goes out for Christmas dinner every year--and where she goes is Tujague's, the second-oldest restaurant in New Orleans behind the venerable Antoine's. (It's pronounced "Two-Jacks," by the way, sort of a bastardization of "Two-Jags".) In a city teeming with really, really GOOD restaurants, there are pitifully few open on Christmas Day. But Tujague's is always open. The restaurant has operated continuously since 1856 from its spot on Decatur Street across from the French Market and the Cafe du Monde, initially catering to the tradespeople who worked the riverfront.

Tujague's was the ONLY place open the Christmas after Hurricane Katrina. So off to Tujague's we went for a late afternoon/early evening Christmas dinner. Oh, did I mention I also don't cook Christmas dinner? We waited for our table inside the old bar (above).

Once we arrived at our table in one of the tiny dining rooms (and I swear this is the exact table where we were seated), we enjoyed the fixed holiday menu of turkey, oyster dressing, and bread pudding. It was all kind of surreal that year. People at the tables started exchanging Katrina stories. "How'd you make out?" was the question on everyone's lips, and everyone had a story to share. It became like a big family, just us and all these other people we'd never met before or since, sharing a common sorrow, a common love of our city, a common joy at being home again. At some point, a guy at the table next to us pulled out a ukelele and began playing a funny song about evacuating, then he stopped and began singing this strangely beautiful unplugged ukelele version of "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans," and I swear everyone in that dining room was crying. It was a Christmas I'll never, ever forget.

So, in honor of Christmas at Tujagues in December 2005, here's Louis Armstrong doing the original--a song that also plays an important role for the characters in ROYAL STREET.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sharing the TBR: ALL MEN OF GENIUS by Lev AC Rosen

We start a new occasional feature at Preternatura today!

I’m on a heavy writing schedule between now and early spring, finishing up the third book in my upcoming Sentinels of New Orleans series (yeah, I know, crazy, right? I’m finishing book three and book one isn’t out until April!). So what I want to do is continue to share the love with some books from my TBR pile that I just don’t think I’m going to get to in a timely manner. So I’m giving them to you! Comment at the end to win the day’s featured book. And if you want to see how the new book is progressing I have a jarring blue progress bar over to the right and down a bit.

Today, I’m looking at All Men of Genius, a steampunk from debut author Lev AC Rosen that got great reviews, and looks like a fun read. I do love stories where the girls pretend to be guys so they can get somewhere in life…and then get in all kinds of “situations” because of it. The book was inspired by Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, which is...sort of mind-boggling, actually.
THE OFFICIAL BLURB: Inspired by two of the most beloved works by literary masters, All Men of Genius takes place in an alternate Steampunk Victorian London, where science makes the impossible possible. Violet Adams wants to attend Illyria College, a widely renowned school for the most brilliant up-and-coming scientific minds, founded by the late Duke Illyria, the greatest scientist of the Victorian Age. The school is run by his son, Ernest, who has held to his father’s policy that the small, exclusive college remain male-only. Violet sees her opportunity when her father departs for America. She disguises herself as her twin brother, Ashton, and gains entry. But keeping the secret of her sex won’t be easy, not with her friend Jack’s constant habit of pulling pranks, and especially not when the duke’s young ward, Cecily, starts to develop feelings for Violet’s alter ego, “Ashton.” Not to mention blackmail, mysterious killer automata, and the way Violet’s pulse quickens whenever the young duke, Ernest (who has a secret past of his own), speaks to her. She soon realizes that it’s not just keeping her secret until the end of the year faire she has to worry about: it’s surviving that long.
MY THOUGHTS: I like the steampunk genre as long as the character development keeps pace with the whirligigs and machinery—and from what I can tell, this one does a good job of it.
            The author has some links to reviews on his website, which you can find HERE.

THE GIVEAWAY: Want to win a hardcover copy of All Men of Genius? Have you tried reading steampunk, and what do you think about it? Four entries possible:  +1 for comment, +1 for blog follow, +1 for Twitter follow @Suzanne_Johnson, and +1 for Tweet or Retweet. Go!

Monday, December 19, 2011

New Releases Dec. 17-23 and Reader's Choice Contest

You’d think the week of Christmas would be the really slow release week, but we have a pretty decent list of new speculative fiction releases this week after last week’s drought. So…see what appeals to you—and one reader will win his or her choice. As always, international entries welcome.

*Genre key (at the end of each listing): SF=science fiction; F=high/epic fantasy; UF=urban fantasy; H=horror; PNR=paranormal romance; YA=young adult; MG=middle grade; alt history=alternative history; dyst=dystopia; steampunk.

Legacy, by Molly Cochran
(Dec. 20, Simon & Schuster)
When her widowed father dumps 16-year-old Katy Jessevar in a boarding school in Whitfield, Massachusetts, she has no idea that fate has just opened the door to both her future and her past. Nearly everyone in Whitfield is a witch, as is Katy herself, although she has struggled all her life to hide her unusual talents. Stuck at a boarding school where her fellow studens seem to despise her, Katy soon discovers that Whitfield is the place where her mother commited suicide under mysterious circumstances when Katy was just a small child. With dark forces converging on Whitfield, it’s up to Katy to unravel her family’s many secrets to save the boy she loves and the town itself from destruction. UF-YA

On a Dark Wing, by Jordan Dane
(Dec. 20, Harlequin Teen)
Five years ago Abbey Chandler cheated Death. She survived a horrific car accident, but her lucky break came at the expense of her mother’s life and changed everything. After she crossed paths with Death—by taking the hand of an ethereal boy made of clouds and sky—she would never be normal again. Now she’s the target of Death’s Ravens and an innocent boy’s life is on the line. When Nate Holden—Abbey’s secret crush—starts to climb Alaska’s Denali, the Angel of Death is with him because of her. Abbey finds out the hard way that Death never forgets. UF-YA

Blood Wolf, by Steve Feasey
(Dec. 20, Feiwel & Friends)
Trey Laporte believed he was the last werewolf. But he’s found his pack, and they’re more dangerous and wild than he'd ever guess. If they are monsters, does that make him one, too?  Back in London, Trey’s vampire guardian, Lucien, is battling his own darkness. Meanwhile, Lucien’s daughter, Alexis, is trying to hold off a Necrotroph that is after her father. U.S. release. UF-YA

Dragon Age: Asunder, by David Gaider
(Dec. 20, Tor)
Return to the dark fantasy world created for the award-winning, triple platinum game, Dragon Age™: Origins in this third tie-in novel! A mystical killer stalks the halls of the White Spire, the heart of templar power in the mighty Orlesian Empire. To prove his innocence, Rhys reluctantly embarks on a journey into the western wastelands that will not only reveal much more than he bargained for but change the fate of his fellow mages forever. F

Dragon Mound, by Richard A. Knaak
(Dec. 20, Sea Lion)
More than two centuries ago, the three kingdoms of Rundin, Wallmyre, and Tepis banded together at the urging of the wizard Paulo Centuros to combat the ambitions of the sorcerer-king, Novaris. Yet, although they were triumphant and the forces of the sorcerer-king were scattered, Novaris himself was not to be found. Uncertain as to whether their foe was dead, the wizard sent forth the knight Evan Wytherling on a quest to seek the truth about Novaris, no matter how long it took. Still alive despite the great passage of time and the dark forces he has confronted during his fruitless search, Evan returns to the scene of the climactic battle and discovers that the truth may have been under his nose all this time. However, in ferreting out the secrets of Novaris''s disappearance, Evan uncovers the sorcerer-king''s long-dreamt plot of vengeance...and the fact that not only is he key to them, but that the dead - even dragons - may not rest easy! F

Claim the Night, by Rachel Lee
(Dec. 20, Nocturne)
Jude Messenger felt the hunger deep inside him. From the moment he'd rescued Theresa Black from a late-night attack, he'd ached for things he knew he could never have. The touch of her skin. The taste of her blood. But if the vampire claimed her, one of them might not survive. So Jude did everything he could to make Terri stay away. But a demon stalked the sexy spitfire, and Jude had no choice but to protect a woman who created a longing inside him that could never be sated. PNR

Death and Resurrection, by R.A. MacAvoy
(Dec. 20, Prime)
The award-winning writer of Tea With the Black Dragon and other acclaimed novels returns to fantasy with the intriguing story of Chinese-American artist Ewen Young who gains the ability to travel between the worlds of life and death. This unasked-for skill irrevocably changes his life - as does meeting Nez Perce veterinarian Dr. Susan Sundown and her remarkable dog, Resurrection. After defeating a threat to his own family, Ewen and Susan confront great evils - both supernatural and human - as life and death begin to flow dangerously close together. UF

Enchanted Again, by Robin D. Owens
(Dec. 20, Luna)
Magic has a price—and for Amber Sarga it's days and years off her life. Each curse she breaks ages her—and the bigger the curse the bigger the cost, and not only to her. That's why she hides away and has vowed not to get involved again… That's why she hates looking in a mirror…And then an ill-fated stranger arrives. Rafe Davail doesn't believe in curses—not even knowing that in his family every first son dies young. Amber offers guidance but she won't break the curse. Still, as she grows closer to Rafe and discovers the secrets of their pasts, she wonders if for this time, this man, she should risk it all….

The Doctor and the Kid, by Mike Resnick
(Dec. 20, Pyr)
Doc Holliday needs to replenish his bankroll quickly and uses his skill as a shootist to turn bounty hunter. The biggest reward is for the death of Billy the Kid. Doc enlists the aid of both magic (Geronimo) and science (Thomas Edison). Steampunk

Touch of Power, by Maria V. Snyder
(Dec. 20, Mira)
Laying hands upon the injured and dying, Avry of Kazan assumes their wounds and diseases into herself. But rather than being honored for her skills, she is hunted. Healers like Avry are accused of spreading the plague that has decimated the Territories, leaving the survivors in a state of chaos. Stressed and tired from hiding, Avry is abducted by a band of rogues who, shockingly, value her gift above the golden bounty offered for her capture. Their leader, an enigmatic captor-protector with powers of his own, is unequivocal in his demands: Avry must heal a plague-stricken prince—leader of a campaign against her people. As they traverse the daunting Nine Mountains, beset by mercenaries and magical dangers, Avry must decide who is worth healing and what is worth dying for. Because the price of peace may well be her life. PNR

Count to a Trillion, by John C. Wright
(Dec. 20, Tor)
After the collapse of the world economy, a young boy grows up in what used to be Texas as a tough duellist for hire, the future equivalent of a hired gun. But even after the collapse, there is space travel, and he leaves Earth to have adventures in the really wide open spaces. While humanity, and Artificial Intelligence grow and change, he is catapulted into the more distant future and becomes a kind of superman. SF

Vampire Academy: The Ultimate Guide, by Michelle Rowen
and Richelle Mead(Dec. 22, Razorbill)
The official guide to the #1 international bestselling Vampire Academy series. Sink your teeth into the perfect holiday gift and must-have collector's item for every fan of Richelle Mead's totally addicting Vampire Academy series. Discover the history of St. Vladimir's Academy, explore the dark psychology behind Rose and Lissa's spirit bond, and find out even more illicit secrets about Moroi society. This ultimate guide will feature everything readers want and need to go even deeper into the world ofVampire AcademyFrostbiteShadow KissBlood PromiseSpirit Bound, and Last Sacrifice…every heartache, every betrayal, every sacrifice, and so much more! UF-YA

As always, four entries possible and please include your e-mail: +1 for comment to tell me what book (any book) you want, +1 for blog follow, +1 for Twitter follow @Suzanne_Johnson, and +1 for a Tweet or RT about the contest. Now….go!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

From the ROYAL STREET Playlist---And Did You Win a Contest This Week?

Happy Sunday!

Today, from my Royal Street playlist, I’d like to share a holiday song from New Orleans’ own Aaron Neville called “Louisiana Christmas Day.” So, here’s my Aaron Neville story. I had gone down to the French Quarter a number of years ago and had some time to kill, so I decided to walk over to the Tower Records store on Decatur Street (which “ain’t dere no more,” as the locals would say). It was raining. Just as I was walking in the door, this huge guy came barreling out and we had a major collision. We apologized, and I looked up and almost swallowed my tongue because, yep, it was Aaron Neville. That’s it, nothing more exciting than that, but it's my story--LOL.

Now, on to the business of the day. Did you win a prize last week? Here are our weekly winners.

Email me at with your snail-mail info if you see your name.

Congrats to VAN PHAM for winning the Zombie Repellent Soap.

Congrats to AMBER HUGHES for winning werewolf day—she picked the “animalistic” werewolf soap J

Congrats to JENNIFER C for winning Ellie James’ Shattered Dreams.

Congrats to STACIE D for winning this week’s Reader’s Choice: She chose Slade by Sarah McCarty.

That’s it for this week--check back tomorrow for a new Reader’s Choice contest!