Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Author Q&A and Giveaway: FEVER by Joan Swan

Ready for a hot new paranormal romance? Joan Swan is one of my fellow 2012 debut authors, and it was great fun to read her SERIOUSLY suspenseful novel, Fever, out this week from Kensington. Want a copy? Read on!

(Note: for this week only, the Preternatura Book Club is running on Thursday!)
THE OFFICIAL BLURB: When Dr. Alyssa Foster is taken hostage by a prison inmate, she knows she's in deep trouble. Not just because Teague Creek is desperate for freedom, but because the moment his fingers brush against her skin, Alyssa feels a razor-sharp pang of need. … A man with a life sentence has nothing to lose. At least Teague doesn't, until his escape plan develops a fatal flaw: Alyssa. On the run from both the law and deadly undercover operatives, he can only give her lies, but every heated kiss tells him the fire between them could be just as devastating as the flames that changed him forever.
MY THOUGHTS: I loved the hard edges of Fever—the opening scene takes place in a prison, and Swan does a great job of slowly unraveling the mystery behind Teague Creek, what he’s up to, what he’s running from—and what, exactly, his powers are and how he got them. That doesn’t mean the book is slow; while those things are unfolding, we have a tense, page-turning story of mistaken identity, reluctant attraction, and danger. Alyssa is a strong heroine, with a logical mind that feels realistic for a physician (and Swan herself works in the medical field), while Teague is hot (in more ways than one) and full of mysteries. The paranormal element to the story is subtle, giving the book a romantic-suspense-with-paranormal-elements feel.

Now, I'd like to welcome author Joan Swan to the blog!

Give us the “elevator pitch” for Fever:

A man with unnatural powers is wrongfully convicted of murder and imprisoned for life.  He escapes by abducting an innocent woman with plans to trade her for the one person he wants most, only to find out she’s not who he expected.  And as trust and attraction build between them, the police close in.  But the cops aren’t the only ones chasing him.  The black ops members who put him in prison to begin with have discovered he’s escaped and if they reach him before the cops do, they’ll silence him permanently. And they won’t leave any witnesses.
It’s 45 second pitch – trust me, I’ve practiced it far too many times not to know :-)

What's your favorite scene:
I love pivotal scenes – usually concerning the internal landscape of a character: a personal epiphany, a moment of crisis when the character’s true essence or vulnerability shows or that second the character pushes themselves past a fear and acts.

In Fever, I love the scene when Alyssa is tired of Teague’s repeated rejection of her physically when they both know he wants her.  She finds a bag of condoms in the medicine cabinet, ones Teague had been given in a getaway kit supplied by accomplices and carries them into the bedroom where Teague is not yet sleeping. 

Indecision zinged around her chest like a firefly trapped in a jar.  She pulled in a slow breath then blew it out.
“Wrong room, Lys.”  His voice came out low and languid and lusty, giving her firefly a shot of adrenaline.  But his eyes stayed closed, his body still.
“I…don’t think so.”  She garnered another ounce of confidence and walked toward the bed.
“I don’t want to talk anymore, Alyssa.” 
He didn’t move even a millimeter, but his lids cracked, and he tracked her with his eyes.  The heat there, the longing, gave her the final flash of confidence she needed to make her move.
“Neither do I.”  She dropped the condoms on his chest.  Watched as they scattered over muscle.  Teague’s gaze darted to the little packages and held.  “I had something else in mind.”

I think that is fun and gutsy. She has to push past her fear of making a mistake, of being rejected yet again and trust what she believes in her heart.

Hardest scene to write:
The ending scene of Fever was the hardest.  I rewrote the second half of Fever after it sold and in the end, my editor wanted the book to immediately end after the climax – no last scene for resolution where I could tie up the loose ends comfortably.

Since my last scene is a volatile race to survive catastrophe combined with a face to face confrontation with all the strongest forces in the book…simply tying everything off in a bow was not at all easy.  But I managed it and in the end, it was a fabulous ending.

What’s on your nightstand or top of your TBR pile:
Two of my friends new and upcoming releases are next on my TBR piles – Kristina McMorris’ Bridge of Scarlett Leaves and, oh, look, your Royal Street!  Can’t wait!  For my drive to work, I’ve got Darynda Jones’ Thrid Grave Dead Aheadon my audiobook list.

Favorite book when you were a child:
Where the Red Fern Grows and all of the Nancy Drew Mysteries series.

Book you've faked reading:
Most of my educational texts and every assigned Shakespeare.

Book you're an evangelist for:
Dean Koontz’s What the Night Knows – fabulous novel for stellar craft in action.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Hot Rain by Kat Martin

Favorite book about books or writing:
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamont

Thanks, Joan!

Author Bio:  Joan Swan is a triple RWA® Golden Heart finalist and writes sexy romantic suspense with a paranormal twist.  Her debut novel with Kensington Brava, FEVER, releases February 28, 2012.  Her second novel, BLAZE, follows in October, 2012. In her day job, she works as a sonographer for one of the top ten medical facilities in the nation and lives on the California central coast in beautiful wine country with her husband and two daughters.

Buy links:  AmazonBarnes & Noble | Booksamillion

Author links:  Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

THE GIVEAWAY: Want to win Fever? Do you like the combination of romantic suspense and paranormal? Is it something you’ve read before? Four entries possible:  +1 for comment, +1 for blog follow, +1 for Twitter follow @Suzanne_Johnson, and +1 for Tweet or Retweet. Also, all commenters are eligible for Joan's blog tour grand prize of either a Color Nook or a Kindle Fire! To enter that contest, go to Joan's Website. Go!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Review and Giveaway: ARCTIC RISING, by Tobias Buckell

Today it's all about ice and heat, with Tobias Buckell’s scary-because-it-could-happen story of global warming and nuclear terrorism run amok. I love a good futuristic disaster tale, as long as it doesn’t preach at me, and Buckell knows how to tell a good story without being heavy-handed. Want a copy? Read on!
THE OFFICIAL BLURB: Global warming has transformed the Earth, and it's about to get even hotter. The Arctic Ice Cap has all but melted, and the international community is racing desperately to claim the massive amounts of oil beneath the newly accessible ocean. Enter the Gaia Corporation. Its two founders have come up with a plan to roll back global warming. Thousands of tiny mirrors floating in the air can create a giant sunshade, capable of redirecting heat and cooling the earth's surface. They plan to terraform Earth to save it from itself—but in doing so, they have created a superweapon the likes of which the world has never seen. Anika Duncan is an airship pilot for the underfunded United Nations Polar Guard. She’s intent on capturing a smuggled nuclear weapon that has made it into the Polar Circle and bringing the smugglers to justice. Anika finds herself caught up in a plot by a cabal of military agencies and corporations who want Gaia Corporation stopped. But when Gaia Corp loses control of their superweapon, it will be Anika who has to decide the future of the world. The nuclear weapon she has risked her life to find is the only thing that can stop the floating sunshade after it falls into the wrong hands
MY THOUGHTS: Arctic Rising gets off to a fast start, as United Nations Polar Guard Anika Duncan, on dull security duty, finds herself doing a routine check of what at first looks like a normal ship transversing the area between the Arctic Circle and Canada--now melted. Only it's not a normal crossing at all, as she realizes when the crew of the ship pulls out an RPG and aims it at her slow-moving surveillance aircraft. From there on, the book rolls out like a good thriller with some hard-science overtones. In other words, it's a good read and doesn't get so caught up in the "sci" part of the sci-fi that the "fi" gets lost. There's a bit of heavy world building in the first two chapters, but then it starts rolling like a train headed downhill, and you might as well strap yourself in for the ride. And I loved that it had a woman in the hero role--smart and strong without just being a guy in a dress. Well played.

THE GIVEAWAY: Want to win Arctic Rising? Have you read a good book about environmental disaster? Four entries possible:  +1 for comment, +1 for blog follow, +1 for Twitter follow @Suzanne_Johnson, and +1 for Tweet or Retweet. Go!

Monday, February 27, 2012

New Releases Feb. 25-March 2 and Reader's Choice Contest

 If it’s Monday, it must be time to look at the new releases in speculative fiction this week—and you get to pick which one you’d like to win! Last week was kind of slow so I included part of the bounty that’s coming out this week, but if you win this week you can choose ANY of this week’s releases, even if they ran on last week’s Monday blog. Which means there is a crazy, insane, nutso list of books to pick from this week! And I'm such a sucker for disaster books--Must. Read. Carpathia.

What do you want to read? Leave a comment and tell me, and I’ll draw one name to win his or her choice. International, as always. And if the book is in a series you haven’t started, you can always pick the first one in the series instead.

Carried over from last week’s Reader’s Choice list: The Troupe, by Robert Jackson Bennett; A Good and Useful Hurt, by Aric Davis; Fever, by Lauren DeStefano;  A  Perfect Blood, by Kim Harrison; Tempted by Blood, by Laurie London; Faery Tales and Nightmares, by Melissa Marr; Echoes of Betrayal, by Elizabeth Moon; Raven Calls, by C.E. Murphy; The Catastrophic History of You and Me, by Jess Rothenberg; Ad Eternum, by Elizabeth Bear; How to Be Death, by Amber Benson; The Ruined City, by Paula Brandon; Arctic Rising, by Tobias Buckell; Timeless, by Gail Carriger; Songs of the Earth, by Elspeth Cooper; Singularity, by Ian Douglas; The Kingdom of Dust, by Amanda Downum; The Scar, by Sergey and Marina Dyachenko; and By a Thread, by Jennifer Estep.

Whew! Choose from one of those, or one of these, also coming out this week:

Carpathia, by Matt Forbeck (Feb. 28, Angry Robot)
What really happened to the survivors of the Titanic? When they are picked up by the passenger steamship Carpathia, they thought their problems were over. But something’s sleeping in the darkest recesses of the ship. Something old. Something hungry.

Jane Vows Vengeance, by Michael Thomas Ford (Feb. 28, Ballantine)
How will Jane Austen break the news to her fiancé that she’s not only undead, but also a two-hundred-plus-year-old literary icon? In sleepy upstate New York, Jane’s wedding preparations have taken on a bloodsucking intensity. So when Walter suggests they ditch it all and combine their marriage and honeymoon with a house tour of Europe, Jane jumps at the chance to flee Lord Byron and the lingering threat of Charlotte Brontë. But to Jane’s chagrin, more than one secret from her past is about to resurface. Third in the Jane Fairfax series.

The Sea Wolves, by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon (Feb. 28, HarperCollins)
The world knows Jack London as a writer who lived his own real-life adventures. But there are some parts of his life that have remained hidden for many years, things even he couldn’t set down in writing. Terrifying, mysterious, bizarre, and magical—these are the Secret Journeys of Jack London. Clinging to life after he is captured in an attack by savage pirates, Jack is unprepared for what he faces at the hands of the crew and their charismatic, murderous captain, Ghost. For these mariners are not mortal men but hungry beasts chasing gold and death across the North Pacific. Jack’s only hope lies with Sabine—a sad, sultry captive of Ghost’s insatiable hunger. Second in the Secret Journals of Jack London.

Unafraid, by Michael Griffo (Feb. 28, Kensington)
The boarding school known as Archangel Academy possesses a legacy of secrets known only to a privileged few. For in this peaceful, charming part of England lives a population of vampires at war with one another—and Michael Howard is caught in the middle. When Michael left his small Nebraska hometown to enroll at Archangel Academy, he couldn't have imagined how much the experience would change him. Once mortal, Michael is now a vampire with a destiny that was foretold long ago, and a group of friends with their own mysterious abilities. But there are enemies too, some of them hiding in plain sight. Third in the Archangel Academy series.

Just as Jane Jameson’s unlife seems to be stabilizing, fate sinks its fangs firmly into her butt. Despite her near-phobia of all things marital, her no-frills nighttime nuptials to her sexy boyfriend Gabriel are coming along smoothly. But the road to wedded bliss gets bumpy when a teenage acquaintance is fatally wounded in front of Jane’s shop and she turns him to save his life. The Council pronounces Jane responsible for the newborn vamp until he can control his thirst. Jane’s kitchen at River Oaks barely holds enough Faux Type O to satiate the cute teen’s appetite and maintain Gabriel’s jealous streak at a slow simmer. Fourth in the Jane Jameson series.

Black Howl, by Christina Henry (Feb. 28, Ace)
Agent of Death Madeline Black is finding out that some of the spirits of Chicago aren’t ready to cross over. Ghosts are walking the streets, and Madeline’s exasperating boss wants her to figure out why. And while work is bad enough, Maddy has a plethora of personal problems, too. Now that Gabriel has been assigned as her thrall, their relationship has hit an impasse. At least her sleazy ex-fiancé Nathaniel is out of the picture—or so she thinks. Third in the Madeline Black series.

Dead Harvest, by Chris F. Holm (Feb. 28, Angry Robot)
Meet Sam Thornton. He collects souls. Sam’s job is to collect the souls of the damned, and ensure they are dispatched to the appropriate destination. But when he’s sent to collect the soul of a young woman he believes to be innocent of the horrific crime that’s doomed her to Hell, he says something no Collector has ever said before. “No.”

Fated, by Benedict Jacka (Feb. 28, Ace)
Alex Verus is part of a world hidden in plain sight, running a magic shop in London. And while Alex’s own powers aren’t as showy as some mages, he does have the advantage of foreseeing the possible future—allowing him to pull off operations that have a million-to-one-chance of success. But when Alex is approached by multiple factions to crack open a relic from a long-ago mage war, he knows that whatever’s inside must be beyond powerful. And thanks to his abilities, Alex can predict that by taking the job, his odds of survival are about to go from slim to none. First in the Alex Verus series. 

Allegiance, by Cayla Kluver (Feb. 28, Harlequin)
Bound to a man she cannot love, Queen Alera of Hytanica must forget Narian, the young man who holds her heart. For Narian is destined to conquer Hytanica at the behest of his master, the powerful magic-user known as the Overlord. Alera doesn’t truly believe Narian will fight against Hytanica—until Cokyrian troops attack with Narian commanding the charge. Faced with the greatest betrayal a heart can know, Alera must set aside personal feelings and lead her kingdom through its darkest time.

Exogene, by T.C. McCarthy (Feb. 28, Orbit)
Catherine is a soldier. Fast, strong, lethal, she is the ultimate in military technology. She’s a monster in the body of an eighteen-year-old girl. Bred by scientists, grown in vats, indoctrinated by the government, she and her sisters will win this war, no matter the cost. And the costs are high. Their life span is short; as they age they become unstable and undergo a process called the spoiling. On their eighteenth birthday they are discharged. Lined up and shot like cattle.But the truth is, Catherine and her sisters may not be strictly human, but they’re not animals. They can twist their genomes and indoctrinate them to follow the principles of Faith and Death, but they can’t shut off the part of them that wants more than war. Second in the Subterrene War series.

Darkening Skies, by Juliet E. McKenna (Feb. 28, Solaris)
Captain Corrain is hailed as a hero but he knows all such praise would turn to anger if certain people knew what had really happened. The wizard who supposedly saved him and his comrades has merely claimed the island of the corsairs for his own. No one knows what this enigmatic newcomer intends to do next. Corrain has good reason to fear the worst, as he confides in Lady Zurenne of Halferan. He knows he can trust her now that still more perilous secrets bind the two of them together. This disastrous turn of events cannot be concealed from Hadrumal’s powerful mages. The Chief Mage Planir’s leadership is now openly questioned. Surely he will enforce his authority by crushing this upstart? But the Aldabreshin warlords act first. Second in the Hadrumal Crisis series.

Forgiven, by Jana Oliver (Feb. 28, St. Martin’s Griffin)
The days are growing darker for seventeen-year-old demon trapper Riley Blackthorne. With her father’s reanimated body back safely, Beck barely speaking to her because of a certain hunky Fallen angel, and a freshly-made deal with Lucifer, she has enough on her hands to last a normal teenage lifetime. Though she bargained with Heaven to save his life, her ex-boyfriend Simon has told the Vatican’s Demon Hunters that she’s working with Hell. So now she’s in hiding, at the top of everyone’s most-wanted list.But it’s becoming clear that this is bigger than Riley, and rapidly getting out of control:  something sinister is happening in Atlanta… or someone. Third in the Demon Trappers series.

A Sliver of Shadow, by Allison Pang (Feb. 28, Pocket)
Just when her new life as a TouchStone—a mortal bound to help OtherFolk cross between Faery and human worlds—seems to be settling down, Abby Sinclair is left in charge when the Protectorate, Moira, leaves for the Faery Court. And when the Protectorate’s away…let’s just say things spiral out of control when a spell on Abby backfires and the Faery Queen declares the Doors between their worlds officially closed. The results are disastrous for both sides: OtherFolk trapped in the mortal world are beginning to fade, while Faerie is on the brink of war with the daemons of Hell. Second in the Abby Sinclair series.

Living Proof, by Kira Peikoff (Feb. 28, Tor)
In 2027, destroying an embryo is considered first-degree murder. Fertility clinics still exist, giving hope and new life to thousands of infertile families, but they have to pass rigorous inspections by the United States Department of Embryo Preservation. Fail an inspection, and you will be prosecuted. Brilliant young doctor Arianna Drake seems to be thriving in the spotlight: her small clinic surpasses every government requirement, and its popularity has spiked—a sudden, rapid growth that leaves the DEP chief mystified. When he discovers Arianna’s radical past as a supporter of an infamous scientist, he sends undercover agent Trent Rowe to investigate her for possible illegal activity. The secret he finally uncovers will deeply move him—and jeopardize them both.

Touchstone, by Melanie Rawn (Feb. 28, Tor)
Cayden Silversun is part Elven, part Fae, part human Wizard—and all rebel. His aristocratic mother would have him follow his father to the Royal Court, to make a high society living off the scraps of kings. But Cade lives and breathes for the theater, and he’s good—very, very good. With his company, he’ll enter the highest reaches of society and power, as an honored artist—or die trying.

Possessed by the demon of Promiscuity, immortal warrior Paris is irresistibly seductive—but his potent allure comes at a terrible price. Every night he must bed someone new, or weaken and die. And the woman he craves above all others is the one woman he’d thought was forever beyond his reach—until now. Newly possessed by the demon of Wrath, Sienna Blackstone is racked by a ruthless need to punish those around her. Yet in Paris’s arms, the vulnerable beauty finds soul-searing passion and incredible peace. Until a blood feud between ancient enemies heats up.  Will the battle against gods, angels and creatures of the night bind them eternally—or tear them apart? Ninth in the Lords of the Underworld series.

Fugitives, by Alexander Gordon Smith (Feb. 28, Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
I am no longer trapped in the darkness. But the darkness is still trapped inside me. We did it. We cracked the gates, escaped from Furnace. We’re out, but we’re not free. Not yet. Now the whole city is in lockdown—the roads sealed, the police scouring every building. Fourth in the Escape from Furnace series.

Partials, by Dan Wells (Feb. 28, Balzer + Bray)
The human race is all but extinct after a war with Partials—engineered organic beings identical to humans—has decimated the population. Reduced to tens of thousands by RM, a weaponized virus to which only a fraction of humanity is immune, the survivors in North America have huddled together on Long Island while the Partials have mysteriously retreated. The threat of the Partials is still imminent, but worse, no baby has been born immune to RM in more than a decade. Our time is running out. Kira, a sixteen-year-old medic in training, is on the front lines of this battle, seeing RM ravage the community while mandatory pregnancy laws threaten to launch what’s left of humanity into civil war, and she’s not content to stand by and watch. But as she makes a desperate decision to save the last of her race, she will discover that the survival of humans and Partials alike rests in her attempts to uncover the connections between them.

Darkness Bound, by Stella Cameron (March 1, Forever)
After her husband’s death, Leigh Kelly arrives on Whidbey Island determined to start over. Yet women have been disappearing, and Leigh thinks she’s being watched, especially at night. Soon, she’s experiencing visions she can’t explain and fighting her attraction to a handsome stranger who seems to know her most intimate desires…As the leader of the Team, a pack of werehounds forced to hide their existence, former special ops soldier Niles Latimer is desperate to prove a man’s heart beats inside his predator’s body. And Leigh may be the one woman who can help him. But something evil is waiting in the woods—and the hunt has begun. First in the Chimney Road series.

Masters of the Veil, by Daniel A. Cohen (March 1, Spencer Hill)
Life can’t get much better for Sam Lock. Every guy at Stanton High School wishes he were Sam. That is, until his championship football game, when Sam accidentally links with an ancient source of energy known as the Veil and reveals his potential to become a powerful sorcerer. Sam is whisked off to Atlas Crown, a community of sorcerers who utilize the Veil as a part of everyday life. Once there, he trains beside a mute boy who speaks through music, an eternal sage who’s the eyes and ears of the Veil, and a beautiful girl who’s pretty sure Sam’s an idiot. As it becomes clear Sam’s meant for power magicthe most feared and misunderstood form of sorcerypeople beyond Atlas Crown learn of his dangerous potential. Young Adult.

Perception(Clarity, Book 2), by Kim Harrington (March 1, Scholastic)
Everybody knows about Clarity Fern. She’s the psychic girl, the one who can place her hands on something and see hidden visions from the past. Only Clare would rather not be a celebrity. She prefers hanging back, observing. Her gift is not a game to her. But then someone starts playing with her headand heart. Messages from a secret admirer crop up everywhere Clare turns. Could they be from Gabriel, the boy who gets Clare’s pulse racing? Or from Justin, Clare’s hopeful ex-boyfriend? Clare needs to solve this mystery soonthe messages are becoming sinister, and a girl in town has suddenly disappeared. Young Adult.

Lucy (Daughters of the Sea, Book 3), by Kathryn Lasky (March 1, Scholastic)
Lucy’s family is excited to spend the summer in Bar Harbor, Maine. Her minister father is pleased to preside over such a prestigious congregation, and his social-climbing wife is ecstatic at the chance to find a rich husband for her daughter. Yet Lucy wants nothing to do with the Bar Harbor social scene; she’s simply excited to spend the summer by the sea, watching the waves from her favorite spot on the cliff. Despite having never gone swimming, Lucy feels an intense connection to the ocean, and meets a handsome shipbuilder who shows her a world she’s never known, yet somehow always longed for. Young Adult.

Fever, by Joan Swan (March 1, Brava)
When Dr. Alyssa Foster is taken hostage by a prison inmate, she knows she’s in deep trouble. Not just because Teague Creek is desperate for freedom, but because the moment his fingers brush against her skin, Alyssa feels a razor-sharp pang of need. A man with a life sentence has nothing to lose. At least Teague doesn’t, until his escape plan develops a fatal flaw: Alyssa. On the run from both the law and deadly undercover operatives, he can only give her lies, but every heated kiss tells him the fire between them could be just as devastating as the flames that changed him forever.

Decisions, decisions! As always, four entries possible: +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. This contest is international. All Preternatura contests end at midnight CDT U.S., and winners are announced on Sunday’s blog. It’s the responsibility of the winner to contact me with their mailing info. Unclaimed books will go into a general giveaway pile.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Did You Win a Book This Week?

Already Sunday again! I've been busy wrapping up the third book in the Sentinels of New Orleans series (seems weird to be finishing book three before Royal Street's means I have lots of secrets!), and will be sending that off to my super-editors on Monday.

Some things coming up on the blog this week: I'll have a big Reader's Choice tomorrow. On Tuesday, I'll be reviewing a new paranormal romance by my fellow 2012 debut author Joan Swan, called Fever (and, yep, it's more ways than one), with a giveaway. On Wednesday, instead of the book club, I'll be reviewing and giving away a new dystopian SF from Tobias Buckell, Arctic Rising (fever...then ice). Book club moves to Thursday for this week only...And on Friday, I'll have a big grab-bag of recent SF and Fantasy releases. So be sure to check back!

ALSO COMING UP...a couple of special things...

I'll be taking Preternatura on the road for chunks of April and May as I travel around talking up Royal Street. (Am I coming anywhere near you? My book tour schedule is here.) I'll have photos from my travels...and will feature giveaways from the places I go. So there's no telling what I'll come up with!

Also beginning in April, I'll be featuring Royal Street "Easter Eggs" both on the blog and my main website. I'll go through Royal Street chapter by chapter, providing photos, music, and background info on places, people, and events in the book...don't worry--no spoilers! It should be fun, though.

And now...for this week's winners. If you see your name, please email me HERE and send your snail-mail address.

The winner of Robin Hobb's City of Dragons is RACHEL V.

The winner of Kim Harrison's A Perfect Blood is TED.

The winner of the week's Reader's Choice award was JEN M....Jen, you had a couple of options you wanted, so email me your preference!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

From the ROYAL STREET Photo Album: St. Louis Cemetery No. 1

Don't forget--there's still time to enter this week's contests. To enter for a copy of Robin Hobb's City of Dragons, click HERE. To win Kim Harrison's A Perfect Blood, click HERE. To win this week's Reader's Choice contest, click HERE.

Today, I'm sharing some images from one of the unique things about New Orleans/SE Louisiana: the cemeteries, or cities of the dead. Common legend dictates that the ground is so low and soft in the city, and the water table so high, that burying folks below grounds doesn't quite work--a big rain, and granny's remains could easily be floating down the street. Not a good thing.

As I understand it, that's partially true, and it's partially just that the practice of 18th-century French and Spanish people who lived in the city was to bury people in vaults.

For whatever combination of reasons, in the older parts of the city, especially, people are buried aboveground. The oldest cemetery in the city--which is the site of a major scene in Royal Street--is St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 (yes, there's also a No. 2, which is almost as old). St. Louis No. 1 dates from the 1700s. You can see from the photo above how close it is to downtown NOLA.

There are a couple of tombs for people who play a role in Royal Street. The first is that of voodoo priestess Marie Laveau. As you can see, people still feel the need to leave their calling cards (or graffiti) on her tombstone.

And here is the tomb of Dominique You. "Captain Dominique" was the trusted lieutenant and reported half-brother of the pirate Jean Lafitte, and he makes a couple of major appearances in Royal Street (Jean is a series regular). After the Battle of New Orleans in 1814, President James Madison pardoned Jean Lafitte, his brother Pierre, half-brother Dominique You and the rest of Jean's pirate hordes as a reward for helping the American's save New Orleans from the British. Jean wasn't a guy to settle down to a life of respectability, however, and went back to pirating. No one is sure where he's buried--or if he died at sea in battle. But Dominique took his pardon and became a respected man in the city...thus, his tomb.

The cities of the dead are kind of creepy, yes? St. Louis No. 1 made a great spot to set a scene in the novel.

Friday, February 24, 2012

AAD Tour Tickets Available Tomorrow

Going to Authors After Dark this year? I'll be taking a very small (as in four people) group on a driving tour to the post-Katrina spots featured in Royal Street and treating participants to lunch at DJ's favorite neighborhood restaurant, Franky and Johnny's, located at Arabella and Tchoupitoulas! I'll do a second tour for four additional people if there's enough interest.

Tickets for my tour become available tomorrow (Saturday, Feb. 25) at noon. First come, first served. No cost to anyone registered for AAD. Follow the links on your AAD email!

Feature Friday: W1n Robin Hobbs' CITY OF DRAGONS

Today's featured book is CITY OF DRAGONS, a new fantasy novel from author Robin Hobb. I said once I shied away from books with dragons in them…unless they’re hot guys who shift into dragons, which is, well, hot. But, okay, the Rain Wild Chronicles series sounds interesting. See what you think, and comment to be entered to win a copy!

ABOUT THE BOOK: The dragons and their keepers have reached Kelsingra, the mythic city of Elderling lore. But between the creatures and their ultimate goal lie almost insurmountable obstacles, including the dragsons’ own stunted, flightless forms, their keepers’ desperation, the acidic, poisoned waters of the Rain Wilds River, and the evil forces that would like nothing more than to butcher the fabulous beasts for ill-gotten reward. The Rain Wilds provides a dramatic backdrop to the intrigue and danger that surround the dragons and their keepers—and the ruins of Kelsingra provide a rich canvas for Hobb’s intricate tale. For as the stones of the city sing to the keepers, luring them to lose themselves in the memories of richer, more magical days of yore, downriver, in the seething city of Bingtown, wicked plans fester, ensnaring characters familiar to readers of Hobb’s Liveship Traders trilogy.

Want to win a copy of City of Dragons? Just tell me your favorite dragon story or, if you don’t have one, what you most like about fantasy fiction? You know the drill, my fire-breathing friends: one entry for comment, a second for blog follow, third for Twitter follow @Suzanne_Johnson, and a fourth for a tweet or retweet.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Review & G1veaway: A PERFECT BLOOD by Kim Harrison

So a lot of you have probably already gotten this book in your hot little hands (I’m looking at you, Roger :-)), but if you haven’t and would like to win a copy of Book 10 in Kim Harrison’s Hollows series, read on.
THE OFFICIAL BLURB: Ritually murdered corpses are appearing across Cincinnati, terrifying amalgams of human and other. Pulled in to help investigate by the FIB, former witch turned day-walking demon Rachel Morgan soon realizes a horrifying truth--a would-be creator is determined to make his (or her) own demons. But it can't be done without Rachel's blood.
MY THOUGHTS: Well, I’m a big fan of this series, right? So it’s hard for me to be too objective. I have a fuller review running over at, but for this site, let me say that while I loved the book—loved loved loved—it also made me kind of sad. Without spoilers, I feel Kim Harrison is adeptly continuing the process of bringing the series to a gradual close. She’s said in interviews that she anticipates the series ending with book twelve. Then again, Charlaine Harris changed her mind about when the Sookie series would end, so Kim might as well? Wishful thinking?
We saw a little resolution get underway in last year’s Pale Demon, but where Pale Demon had so much of the over-the-top humor we expect from Rachel and the gang, A Perfect Blood is darker, the stakes higher. Oh, Jenks is still funny, Rachel still gets in ridiculous situations (the opening where she’s at the DMV is hilarious—she’s trying to get her driver’s license reinstated and the DMV folks keep telling her she’s legally dead), and Trent’s still intriguing and morally ambiguous. But I do get a sense of things building to a big wrapup.

THE GIVEAWAY: Want to win A Perfect Blood? If you’ve already devoured it, what do you think (no spoilers, please)? If you haven’t read it yet, what do you think Rachel’s happy ending will be by the time the series is over—will she end up with Trent? Will Kisten come back (Kim says no, but she could always change her mind). Will she end up in the ever-after with Al? I'm guessing she'll end up with Trent--which in itself would make a hilarious spinoff series. Four entries possible:  +1 for comment, +1 for blog follow, +1 for Twitter follow @Suzanne_Johnson, and +1 for Tweet or Retweet. Go!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Preternatura Book Club: Moon Called by Patricia Briggs, Chapter 9

First off, there's an awesome review of Royal Street today over at today's Fangs, Wands & Fairy Dust blog. Stop by if you get a chance, and many thanks to Stephanie!


Welcome to this week’s “meeting” of the Preternatura Book Club! Today, we’re looking at Chapter 9 of the first book in Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series, Moon Called.

When we last left Mercy, she and Samuel had taken the injured alpha Adam to his third-in-command, Warren—the only one they trust to protect him since the pack is suspect. Warren is gay, and pack law forbids him from telling his significant other Kyle what he is. So Mercy breaks about a dozen rules, follows Kyle, and tells him.

MOON CALLED, Chapter 9

Mercy returns to Warren’s house to find Samuel and Warren posturing like dominant wolves will do. As soon as she walks in, Warren can tell by her smell that she’s been with Kyle—and that she told him. Warren chastises her—not only is he afraid he’ll lose Kyle, but he’s also afraid she’s endangered his life.

Adam’s barely walking but he can hear everything, of course (duh, werewolves)—he tells Warren it’s okay. Since Warren didn’t tell Kyle, and Mercy’s not pack, the only problem will come if Kyle tells anyone. Mercy can’t guarantee Warren that Kyle will accept what he is but she’s confident he won’t tell.

Mercy’s pretty horrified to realize Adam knew this is exactly how it was going to play out and she’d been played. So she decides to paint graffiti on the old VW Rabbit she keeps on blocks in sight of Adam’s house.

Next, Mercy and Samuel head out to meet Zee and the person who says she might know something about the pack who took Jesse.  They head to Mike’s, and we get a little feel for the fae and how manipulative they can be. The woman, who turns out to be a troll who works at a bank, says the vampires have received a big deposit outside their normal pattern. Apparently, when a new group moves into an area, they pay the vampires to leave them alone. (Mercy fixes their cars since she can’t afford their price.) Up to this point, Zee has been kind of a minor figure, but Samuel has heard of him—he’s apparently a famous, and very old, member of the fae. Mercy makes plans to look him up on the Internet since he won’t tell her anything.

Mercy calls Stefan, her vampire friend, and he asks her if she officially wants him to make an inquiry. She can tell by his formal language that this means more in the vampire world than a simple favor. But she tells him yes. When Stefan calls back, she can tell he’s not alone—he’s with his vampire seethe’s mistress, and she insists on meeting with Mercy. Stefan’s obviously under some duress but we don’t know much.

We don’t know much about the vampires yet—except objects of faith do repel them, and Samuel has very little experience with them.

So, that’s it for this week. This time through, I’m a little bothered by how Jesse’s kidnapping doesn’t feel urgent enough yet. Anyone else feel this? I know they’re taking the steps to find her, but I’m not sure it feels desperate enough.

I am remembering one thing I really love about this series, which is how consistent Patricia Briggs is with the worldbuilding and the behavior of the wolves. They aren’t just guys who turn furry once a month or so, but carry the pack dynamic into the core of their behavior. She also eases us into the other species like the fae and vamps, which is probably why the story feels slow to start.