Thursday, June 30, 2011

YA Review & Contest: ANGEL BURN by L.A. Weatherly

Ready for some YA? Today, I’m welcoming a guest reviewer, author Dawn Chartier, who’s sharing her thoughts about Angel Burn by L.A. Weatherly, which was released in late May by Candlewick Books. And, of course, check out the contest at the end!

ABOUT THE BOOK: Willow knows she’s different from other girls, and not just because she loves tinkering with cars. Willow has a gift. She can look into the future and know people’s dreams and hopes, their sorrows and regrets, just by touching them. She has no idea where this power comes from. But the assassin, Alex, does. Gorgeous, mysterious Alex knows more about Willow than Willow herself. He knows that her powers link to dark and dangerous forces, and that he’s one of the few humans left who can fight them. When Alex finds himself falling in love with his sworn enemy, he discovers that nothing is as it seems, least of all good and evil. In the first book in an action-packed, romantic trilogy, L..A. Weatherly sends readers on a thrill-ride of a road trip - and depicts the human race at the brink of a future as catastrophic as it is deceptively beautiful. They’re out for your soul . . . and they don’t have heaven in mind.

I haven’t read very many YA books to date, but I’m glad I got the chance to read Angel Burn. This book has a unique twist on angels, and it’s sort of creepy. (I like creepy!) Angels have come to earth to feed off of humans. They steal human’s energy, and leave them with suffering with diseases and illnesses. The humans have no clue what is happening, and they still worship the angels, instead of running for their lives.
            High school teenager Willow is half-angel and half-human, although she doesn’t know it until an angel assassin saves her life. (Yep, seventeen-year-old Alex was ordered to kill her, but he rescues her instead – gotta love that – plenty of conflict.) Alex realizes something is not right when he witnesses her angel form floating above her body. Normally, angels are either in their angel form or human form, not both. And the only method to kill angels is to shoot them directly through their halo. Guess what? Willow doesn’t have one.
            I enjoyed the twist on angels, (and yes, for those of us who like our angels good, they do have one good angel in the story too) and the love between Alex and Willow fit perfectly for these teens. A sweet romance blossoms, even though the world around them is being destroyed. I look forward to the next book in the series.  
            NOTE: The author uses first person narration for Willow, and third person narration for Alex and other characters. For me it worked fine, but I thought I’d give a heads-up so you won’t be surprised.

About Dawn Chartier: A native New Orleanian, Dawn Chartier divides her time between her work as a construction documents technologist and her “real” job, writing romantic fiction. Her paranormal romance Not An Angel was recently published by The Wild Rose Press.

Thanks, Dawn! 

Want to win a copy of Angel Burn? What’s your favorite book about angels? Call me a hopeless non-romantic, but I think my favorite is Angels of Light and Darkness, the second in Simon R. Green’s Nightside series. The angels in that book are dudes you really don’t want to mess with—kind of like the Biblical ones. If they feel the need to intervene in your business, you are gonna be really, really sorry.

You know the drill: +1 for comment, +1 for blog follow, +1 for Twitter follow @Suzanne_Johnson, and +1 for Tweet or Retweet. Play those harps!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Preternatura Book Club: DEAD WITCH WALKING, Chapters 17-18

Welcome to this week’s“meeting” of the Preternatura Book Club! A few weeks ago, commenters voted on which novel they’d like to tackle first, and the winner by a landslide was Kim Harrison’s Dead Witch Walking, the first in her Hollows series featuring witch Rachel Morgan. 

Here’s how it works. Each week, I’ll post a summary (spoiler alert!) on two chapters, and we’ll chat about them. Try to minimize spoilers beyond what’s happened in the book we’ve read so far. You can read along, read ahead, or just stop by and read the summaries. After the Book Club has been up a few days, I’ll move it to archives so you can still come back and read. There’s a “Book Club” tab above. So, let’s get started!

When we last left off, Rachel and Co. had survived a fairy attack, and Jenks was injured. Rachel was making plans to sneak back into the Trent Kalamack compound using the charm to turn herself into a mink, so she could steal evidence to prove he’s dealing Brimstone or even biodrugs. With this information, she hopes to pay off her contract with the I.S. so her ex-boss Denon will quit trying to kill her.

As Chapter 17 begins, Matalina—Mrs. Jenks—is browbeating her little man. She forbids him to go with Rachel back to the Kalamack estate. Rachel and Ivy are uncomfortable. As Rachel notes, she had not had “enough sleep to enjoy watching Jenks get henpecked.” Jenks is clearly not back to full-strength, but is fighting to go. It will be his only chance to get a good sniff of Trent Kalamack and figure out what he is (something no one else has been able to do, either). Initially, Rachel sides with Mrs. Jenks and says he can’t go—because this was a “witchocracy, not a democracy.”

We get a good look at Ivy’s obsessive-compulsive behavior in this chapter. Ivy’s a planner. Rachel realizes Ivy’s much more likely to be on board with an idea if she’s given some input. The plan is for Ivy to sign up for a tour of Trent’s gardens using a friend’s ID, disguise herself, go in with a big bag holding Rachel-the-mink, then leave said bag behind so Rachel can wait till dark and plunder through Trent’s office. Rachel offers to spell Ivy so she won’t be recognized but Ivy says she has her own disguise.

As they’re discussing this, Jenks is still begging and threatening and pleading to go, and they ignore him for a long time. Finally, Mrs. Jenks gives in and says he can go. When Ivy goes to make a phone call, Rachel asks Jenks if Ivy smells like she’s a practicing vampire again, and he says no. He’d followed her the night before, and she’d gone to a vamp bar but only drank orange juice.

Ivy comes out in her disguise—a skimpy, tight sundress, lots of makeup, big hat and sunglasses and purse. The dress, we learn, belonged to her mother before she went from living vampire to not-so-living vampire. Rachel gets all freaky because Ivy looks human, which makes Ivy go all vampy, and the two have another close call. Ivy tells Rachel to stop being afraid, and as Rachel calms herself down, Ivy relaxes as well. So we get a major step here in Rachel and Ivy learning how to coexist.

Chapter 18 is the chapter in which, on my first read of DWW, I really got hooked. Ivy’s plan goes perfectly. She gets inside with Rachel and Jenks in her bag (which smells like blood, apparently), leaves it under a bench, fakes an attack of low-blood sugar as a diversion, and leaves her bag behind. The conversation between Jenks and Rachel is really funny, because as a mink she can’t do anything except chitter and chirp, so it’s like they have separate, parallel conversations going on. Then, because Jenks is still not up to par, he’s forced to ride on mink-Rachel’s back like a cowboy, which he finds humiliating.

A detail we’ll see again in the series: Jenks dons a red hat so pixies who might live in Trent’s gardens will know he’s there in peace and not as an invader.

They find an outdoor office, and run into a bunch of “sticky silk,” a sticky kind of spiderweb material used to catch pixies—it’s how Jenks got caught before. Rachel gets it all over her and glues her mouth shut and glues her ears over her eyes, but Jenks finally frees her.

They discover Trent’s treasure trove of electronics, and Rachel accidentally starts a CD of her favorite artist, Takata, before finally getting it shut down.

Once Rachel and Jenks get inside, they run into Trent and his assistant Jonathan having a business conversation. Jenks is able to get his whiff of Trent, but still has no idea what he is, only that he sleeps at night and is not a witch, vampire or were. Since Jonathan smells like Trent, he thinks it has to be a spell to hide what they are.

They sneak into Trent’s office, and Rachel manages to get in the desk and snag a disk. Before they can escape, the overhead light comes on, and Trent enters the room. It’s clear he knows security has been breached (Rachel’s accident with the Takata CD), and he calls someone named Quen and tells him to loose the hounds. After a second, he cancels the order.

They hear Trent above them, sniffing, and suddenly he bends over, looks under the desk, and comes face to face with Rachel the mink. He knows it’s her and grabs her tail. When she turns and sinks her mink-teeth into his hand, he pulls her out by the tail and smacks her against the desk. She notes that his blood has a cinnamon taste. She squeaks for Jenks to escape and he manages to get out the door just as Rachel bites Trent on the thumb—he’s still holding her up by her tail. He slams her against the wall, and everything goes black.

LET’S CHAT! I absolutely LOVE the scene with Rachel getting caught by Trent (and it just gets better and better—can’t wait till next week’s chapters). I laughed and laughed. I mean, you know Rachel’s gonna survive somehow—it’s her series. But the genius of this and the next few chapters is awesome. What did you like? Any opinions on Trent Kalamack yet? How do you think Rachel’s going to get out of this one?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Review & Contest: THE VAMPIRE NARCISE by Colleen Gleason

Yeah, yeah. Let the powers-that-be tell us the vampire is dead (heh), that vampires are so yesterday. We love our fanged ones. So, meet Giordan Cale, my friends...

THE OFFICIAL BLURB: Skilled in the seduction of men, both mortal and immortal, Narcise Moldavi is the greatest weapon in her twisted brother's war among the Dracule. Until she falls for Giordan Cale. Her first searing encounter with Giordan seals their fierce connection for their eternal lives. But Giordan's vow to help Narcise escape her brother's rule is followed by a betrayal more agonizing than sunlight. Wounded but determined, Narcise ensnares vampire hunter Chas Woodmore in her quest for revenge and to reclaim her life. He wants her, worships her, will kill for her. And the Dracule never forget a wrong— nor do they forgive.

MY THOUGHTS: Colleen Gleason’s Regency Draculia series is one of my favorite vampire finds this year. The Vampire Voss started it out, followed by The Vampire Dimitri—twin stories told from the point of view of different heroes and heroines. With The Vampire Narcise, we still meet some of the characters from the earlier books, but Narcise follows a different path. It’s darker, grittier, probably because the heroine, Narcise Moldavi, is the much-brutalized sister of her evil brother Cezar. She’s no pampered Regency woman of the city, but the pimped-out victim-turned-warrior her brother created.
            Giordan Cale comes from an equally brutal background, a boy of the streets who also was sexually abused. Like Narcise, he has made a bargain with Lucifer for immortality, but he has the advantage of being male and thus dependent on no one besides himself. Yet he carries a rage and vulnerability within him.
            I enjoyed the first two books in this series as vampire romances set in the Regency period, laced with humor and manners with a dark undertone. But I enjoyed Narcise even more, as author Gleason explores the darker, more complex corners of human—and vampire—nature. Good series, great reads.
Want to win a copy of The Vampire Narcise? (Or, if you’re new to the series, you can choose The Vampire Voss, which was the first.) What do you like about vampires? Are you tired of them? That’s a NO from me—not tired. I think what I enjoy about them is exploring the whole juxtaposition of immortality and vulnerability. 

You know the drill: +1 for comment, +1 for blog follow, +1 for Twitter follow @Suzanne_Johnson, and +1 for Tweet or Retweet. Take a bite!

Monday, June 27, 2011

New Release June 26-30 & Reader's Choice Contest

 Think this week is heavy-duty--wait until next week! New, to help you out, is a designation at the end: SF for sci-fi, F for traditional/epic fantasy; UF for urban fantasy; PR for paranormal romance; YA for young-adult paranormal. As always, comment at the end and tell me which one you’re most anxious to read. If I pick your name, you’ll win it! Details at the end. Here we go....

Burn the Night, by Jocelynn Drake
(June 28, HarperCollins)
After eons in exile, the naturi have broken their chains and now roam the Earth bent on revenge. It is the sworn duty of Mira, the Fire Starter, to protect the Nightwalker race—though even she may be powerless to withstand the horrific onslaught. As Mira and her brave lover, the vampire slayer Danaus, stand ready to do battle, thousands of winged shapeshifters darken the skies. The war of ultimate extermination has begun, and the battleground is Mira’s home turf. Sixth and final book in the Dark Days series. UF

Crave the Moon, by Lori Handeland
(June 28, St. Martin’s)
Gina O’Neill will do anything to hold onto the ranch that has been in her family for generations. Enter Mateo Mecate, an archeologist who believes the ranch holds an important key to Aztec history. When Gina and Matt delve into the secrets of this ancient place, they awaken something unspeakably evil—an ancient shapeshifter with vengeance on its mind. PNR

Dark War, by Tim Waggoner
(June 28, Angry Robot)
Meet Matt Richter, zombie private investigator. From his arrival at Nekropolis, Matt has found himself embroiled in disputes with the city's vampire lords, shapeshifters, golems and other monstrosities. But nothing has prepared him for the Dark War. Third in the Nekropolis series. U.S. release. UF

Deeper Than Midnight, by Lara Adrian
(June 28, Dell)
At 18, Corinne Bishop’s world changed when she was stolen and held prisoner by the malevolent vampire Dragos. After years of captivity and torment, Corinne is finally rescued by the Order, a cadre of vampire warriors. Assigned to safeguard Corinne on her trip home is a golden-eyed Breed male called Hunter. Bonded to Corinne by their mutual desire, Hunter must decide how far he'll go to end Drago's reign of evil, even if it means shattering Corinne's heart. Ninth in the Midnight Breed series.

Dragon’s Time, by Anne McCaffrey
and Todd McCaffrey (June 28, Del Rey)
Even though Lorana cured the plague that was killing the dragons of Pern, there are no longer enough dragons available to fight the fall of deadly Thread. And as the situation grows more dire, a pregnant Lorana decides that she must take drastic steps. Back at Telgar Weyr, Weyrwoman Fiona, herself pregnant, and the harper Kindan must somehow keep morale from fading in the face of the steadily mounting losses of dragons and riders. But time weighs heavily against them, until Lorana finds a way to use time itself in their favor. Newest in the Dragonriders of Pern series. F

Eternity, by Heather Terrell
(June 28, HarperTeen)
As Ellie comes to grips with her destiny as the Elect One, her relationship with Michael grows tense. When she meets a mysterious boy names Rafe, things get even more complicated. Yet the time has come for the Elect One to stand against the fallen angels bent on destroying the world. As the end days approach, Ellie is faced with an epic decision. Who does her heart really belong to? Second in the Fallen Angel series. YA

Feast: Harvest of Dreams, by Merrie Destefano
(June 28, Harper Voyager)
Madeline MacFaddin spent blissful childhood summers in Ticonderoga Falls. And this is where she wants to be now that her adult life is falling apart. The dense surrounding forest holds many memories, and she's always believed there was something living in these wooded hills. But Maddie doesn't remember the dark parts—and knows nothing of the mountain legend that holds the area's terrified residents captive. UF

Fins are Forever, by Tera Lynn Childs
(June 28, Katherine Tegen)
On Lily Sanderson’s 18th birthday she’ll become just a girl—still a mer girl, true, but signing the renunciation paperwork will ink Princess Waterlily of Thalassinia out of existence. That leaves plain old Lily living on land, dating the boy she loves, and trying to master this being human thing. She’s almost content to give up her place in the royal succession. But can she find a way to reconcile her love, her duty, and her dreams? Second in the Fins series. YA

Green-Eyed Envy, by Kasey Mackenzie
(June 28, Ace)
Months have gone by since Marissa, a Fury, discovered some unwelcome truths about her past and managed to stop a supernatural war. Now the bodies of Bastai, shapeshifters also known as Cats, begin piling up in Boston's magical  underbelly. One common thread ties the victims together: all were old flames of FBI Agent Harper Cruz. And since Harper and Riss's lover Scott Murphy enjoyed a one-night stand, the Fury has twice the incentive to crack the case before the killer's gaze turns in Scott's direction. Second in the Shades of Fury series. UF

Kindling the Moon, by Jenn Bennett
(June 28, Pocket)
Being the spawn of two infamous occultists (and alleged murderers) isn’t easy, but freewheeling magician Arcadia “Cady” Bell knows how to make the best of a crummy situation. After hiding out for seven years, she’s carved an incognito niche for herself slinging drinks at the demon-friendly Tambuku Tiki Lounge. But she receives an ultimatum when unexpected surveillance footage of her notorious parents surfaces: either prove their innocence or surrender herself. First in a new series. UF

Kitty’s Big Trouble, by Carrie Vaughn
(June 28, Tor)
Kitty Norville’s recent run-in with werewolves traumatized by war has made her wonder how long the government has covertly used werewolves in combat. Have any famous names in history been supernatural? Then an interview with the right vampire puts her on the trail of Wyatt Earp, vampire hunter, and her investigations lead her to a clue about enigmatic vampire Roman and the mysterious Long Game. That, plus a call for help from a vampire ally, puts Kitty and her friends on the supernatural chessboard. And Kitty Norville is never content to be a pawn. Ninth in the Kitty Norville series. UF

Lord of Shadows, by Alix Rickloff
(June 28, Pocket)
It has been seven years since Lady Sabrina Douglas cloistered herself with the Sisters of High Danu, but the questions remain. She is Other—a mixture of Fey and mortal—quietly using her powers to heal. Until she saves a half-drowned man, his soldier’s body a roadmap of scars, his fathomless eyes filled with loneliness. A man with no memory, Daigh MacLir seeks his past, even as unknown threats fill him with monstrous rage and inhuman abilities. But as a desperate game of hunter and hunted is played out from ballrooms to bedrooms, what Daigh discovers is more chilling than anyone could possibly imagine. Second in the Heirs of Kilronan trilogy. PNR

Lure of the Wicked, by Karina Cooper
(June 28, Avon)
Naomi West was plucked from one prison and placed undercover in another: the gilded cage that is Timeless, New Seattle's premier spa and resort, where owner Phinneas Clarke—the most seductive man Naomi has ever met—may be hiding a killer. She's an agent of the Holy Order, trained to hunt the guilty and render justice. But while she's tracking down a rogue agent on a killing spree, Phin is determined to uncover her most damning—and dangerous—secrets. Whatever the cost. Second in the Dark Mission series. PNR

Mystical Warrior, by Janet Chapman
(June 28, Pocket)
Trace Huntsman’s peaceful life has headed to hell in a handbasket since Fiona Gregor moved into the vacant apartment above his house. Kidnapped centuries earlier and transformed into a red-tail hawk, Fiona is human once more and must learn how to be a modern woman. But damned if Trace is going to be the one to teach her. Fiona longs to overcome the painful memories of her tragic past—to let down her guard and become a mother again. But so far her handsome landlord is not exactly thrilled with the stray animals—and suitors—that keep following her home. Third in the Midnight Bay series. PNR

Raising Stony Mayhall, by Daryl Gregory
(June 28, Del Rey)
In 1968, after the first zombie outbreak, Wanda Mayhall and her three daughters discover the body of a teenage mother during a snowstorm. Wrapped in the woman’s arms is a dead baby. But then his eyes open and look up at Wanda—and he begins to move. The family hides Stony and is able to keep his existence secret for years. Until one terrifying night when Stony is forced to run and he learns he is not the only living dead boy in the world. UF

The Shadow Men, by Christopher Golden
and Tim Lebbon (June 28, Spectra)
Jim is happily married to Jenny, with whom he has a young daughter, Holly. Trix is Jenny’s best friend, practically a member of the family—although she has secretly been in love with Jenny for years. Then Jenny and Holly disappear—and leave behind a Boston in which they never existed. Only Jim and Trix remember them. Only Jim and Trix can bring them back. Fourth in the Hidden Cities series. UF

Spectyr, by Philippa Ballantine
(June 28, Ace)
Though one of the most powerful Deacons, Sorcha Faris has a tarnished reputation to overcome, which is why she jumps at the chance to investigate a string of murders in the exotic city of Orithal. But it is there that her lover, the shapeshifting rival to the throne, is targeted by a cruel and vengeful goddess, unwittingly unleashed by the Emperor's sister. Second in the Book of the Order series. F

Taken by Fire, by Sydney Croft
(June 28, Bantam)
A product of genetic manipulation, Melanie Milan shares a body with her malevolent sister, Phoebe. A sleek predator, Phoebe puts their body through the wicked underbelly of sex for thrills—when she’s not igniting her pyrokinetic skills for an evil organization bent on taking over the world. Melanie rarely gets out to play—much less fall in love. But that changes when rival ACRO agent Stryker Wills shows up, with a mission to terminate the woman who torched his partner. Sixth in the ACRO series. PNR

Naamah’s Blessing, by Jacqueline Carey
(June 29, Grand Central)
Returning to Terre d'Ange, Moirin finds the royal family broken. Wracked by unrelenting grief at the loss of his wife, Queen Jehanne, King Daniel is unable to rule. Prince Thierry, leading an expedition to explore the deadly jungles of Terra Nova, is halfway across the world. And three year old DesirĂ©e is a vision of her mother: tempestuous, intelligent, and fiery, but desperately lonely, and a vulnerable pawn in a game of shifting political allegiances. Newest in the Kushiel’s Legacy series. PNR

The Ascension, by Michael Carroll
(June 30, Philomel)
They thought him dead. After a battle of that magnitude, how could Krodin have possibly survived? But you can't underestimate a time-traveling supervillain. Young heroes Roz, Abbey, Paragon, and Lance find this out the hard way when, in the blink of an eye, the world changes. At first it's not all that noticeable. But something's not quite right. Maybe it’s the smell of ozone in the air or the people acting strangely, like drones. Or maybe it's the images of Krodin everywhere that confirms it: This is not their America. Follow-up to Super Human. YA

The Sunday Books, by Michael Moorcock,
Illustrations by Mervyn Peake (June 30, Overlook)
Every Sunday on the Isle of Sark, Mervyn Peake would tell his children stories about pirates, shipwrecks, and the Wild West. He illustrated his spontaneous stories with vivid drawings of the characters in his tales, but never set down words to go with them. Now, decades after Peake¹s death, fantasy writer Michael Moorcock has written verses to go with Peake¹s drawings. Overlook is publishing The Sunday Books to mark the centenary of Peake¹s birth, which will be commemorated on July 9, 2011. F
See anything you want? So…Reader’s choice―you tell me. Just a note: if you like a title but it isn’t the first in a series, you can always request the first in that series instead. (That’s for Reader’s Choice contests only.) As always, four entries possible and please include your e-mail: +1 for comment, +1 for blog follow, +1 for Twitter follow @Suzanne_Johnson, and +1 for a Tweet or RT about the contest. Now….go!