Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wishlist | Time Snatchers and Seeds of Rebellion

I have two wishlist books I want to share this week!

Time Snatchers by Richard Ungar
Publication Date: March 15, 2012

A thrilling middle-grade sci-fi

Caleb's blinders are off. The small group of orphans who were also "adopted" by Uncle used to feel like family, but the competition to be the top time snatcher and the punishment for failure has gotten fierce. Time traveling to steal valuable objects can be a thrill, but with bully Frank trying to steal his snatches, his partner Abbie falling for Frank's slimy charms, and Uncle's plans to kidnap innocent kids to grow his business, Caleb starts thinking about getting out. But Uncle's reach extends to any country in any time period, and runaways get the harshest punishment of all.

Caleb can steal just about anything from the past, but can he steal a family for the future?

Time Snatchers sounds so great. I love middle grade books like that! Kidnapped orphans, time travel, competitions that end in punishment. OK, that sounds kind of horrible... I really want to read it!

While I'm on a middle grade kick - did you guys read the first Beyonders book by Brandon Mull last year? A World Without Heroes was a really fun and humorous adventure story. I can't wait to get my hands on book 2 - Seeds of Rebellion!

Seeds of Rebellion by Brandon Mull
Publication Date: March 13, 2012

The second epic installment of Brandon Mull’s #1 New York Times bestselling fantasy series!

After the cliffhanger ending of A World Without Heroes, Jason is back in the world he’s always known—yet for all his efforts to get home, he finds himself itching to return to Lyrian. Jason knows that the shocking truth he learned from Maldor is precious information that all of his friends in Lyrian, including Rachel, need if they have any hope of surviving and defeating the evil emperor.

Meanwhile, Rachel and the others have discovered new enemies—as well as new abilities that could turn the tide of the entire quest. And as soon as Jason succeeds in crossing over to Lyrian, he’s in more danger than ever. Once the group reunites, they strive to convince their most-needed ally to join the war and form a rebellion strong enough to triumph over Maldor. At the center of it all, Jason and Rachel realize what roles they’re meant to play—and the answers are as surprising as they are gripping.

Time Snatchers and Seeds of Rebellion come out the same week in March. I'll probably be giddy from fun fantasy overload!

What's on your wishlist this week?

This post is being shared as part of Breaking the Spine's "Waiting on" Wednesday.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Read-along | Feed by Mira Grant Part II

For the month of February, Grace over at Feeding My Book Addiction hosted a read-along of Mira Grant's Feed.

The year was 2014. We had cured cancer. We had beat the common cold. But in doing so we created something new, something terrible that no one could stop. The infection spread, virus blocks taking over bodies and minds with one, unstoppable command: FEED.


NOW, twenty years after the Rising, Georgia and Shaun Mason are on the trail of the biggest story of their lives-the dark conspiracy behind the infected. The truth will out, even if it kills them.

If you haven't read Feed, you can find my review here. Please be aware this post will contain spoilers. If you have already read Feed, please share your thoughts in the comments!

Read-along Discussion

I can't believe I wound up really disliking Feed. I was so optimistic and set to love it. I guess I had high expectations and assumed the first half was building to something. I thought once we were past the setup and the info dumps, we would get out to the Ryman farm and be all set up for things to really start happening. I found out pretty quickly I was going to be disappointed.

My biggest problem was not liking George or Shaun or the awful dialogue. When George said "I hired her..." I wanted to either quit or cry.

I'm really hoping I will make the rounds and find that everyone enjoyed it! I'm dying to know what you guys thought about George's death. I kept trying to figure out how she could come back to life after that. It was pretty shocking.

Even though I didn't like Feed, I'm really glad we picked it this month because I was really wanting to read it.

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Book Review | Feed by Mira Grant

Feed is the first book of the Newsflesh trilogy by Mira Grant.

Book Description

The year was 2014. We had cured cancer. We had beat the common cold. But in doing so we created something new, something terrible that no one could stop. The infection spread, virus blocks taking over bodies and minds with one, unstoppable command: FEED.

NOW, twenty years after the Rising, Georgia and Shaun Mason are on the trail of the biggest story of their lives-the dark conspiracy behind the infected. The truth will out, even if it kills them.

I went into Feed expecting it to be awesome, and I was completely disappointed. I did enjoy the pop culture zombie references and the science behind the zombies, but these small pleasures were not enough to carry me 400 more pages.

Given the cover, the title, and the reviews I've read, I expected a lot more zombie out of this zombie book. Feed is actually a YA political thriller with a zombie apocalypse backdrop. The lack of zombie wasn't really the problem, though. Sophie Littlefield's Aftertime series had a serious lack of zombie for a zombie series, but there was plenty to love. I struggled to find much to love with Feed.

George and Shaun are "newsies" - bloggers who have been selected to cover Senator Ryman's campaign. They are also non-biological adopted siblings. Even though they aren't blood related, they grew up together very much as brother and sister. Their relationship in Feed was not one that I enjoyed.

Unfortunately, I didn't feel like I got to know any of the characters other than George and Shaun, and I just didn't like them very much. The Hollywood one-liners were too much to bear. If I hadn't been reading Feed for a read-along, I would have abandoned it at 65%.

There is a unique twist toward the end of the book. If my heart hadn't already abandoned Feed, I may have had a reaction to it - good or bad.

I encourage you to seek out other reviews. A lot of people loved Feed, and their reasons may resonate with you. I, unfortunately, cannot recommend Feed to anyone.

2/10: Not recommended

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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Notable New Book Releases | Feb. 19 - Feb. 25

Before I get to this week's new releases, I want to point out that Lee Thompson's Collected Songs of Sonnelion is being serialized on Darkfuse's website. The first chapter was posted this week. It's going to be awesome so I hope you guys read it with me.

These are the new releases that caught my eye this week. What did I miss? Be sure to let me know what books you were excited about this week.

Fever (Chemical Garden #2) by Lauren DeStefano
Publication Date: February 21, 2012

[I'm looking forward to picking up where Wither (Chemical Garden #1) left off.]

Rhine and Gabriel may have escaped the beautiful prison of Wither’s mansion, but they are far from escaping danger. First they’re chased for stealing a getaway boat, and then the fleeing pair ends up in the eerie den of Madame, an old woman who collects girls and sells them to the highest bidders. Worst of all, Vaughn, Rhine’s sinister father-in-law, seems to be on her trail every step of the way. Rhine remains determined to get to her brother in Manhattan—but the road they are on is long and perilous.

Now that Rhine has finally regained her freedom, what lengths will she need to go to in order to keep it?



WOOD by Robert Dunbar
Publication Date: February 22, 2012

[A new novella from Robert Dunbar.]

"Blessed is the creature that knows its purpose."

Woods surround a blighted section of a nameless city, and at night something creeps forth into the streets, something that preys upon humans ... and may ultimately replace them.

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Book Review | Southern Gods by John Hornor Jacobs

Southern Gods is the debut novel of John Hornor Jacobs.

Book Description

Recent World War II veteran Bull Ingram is working as muscle when a Memphis DJ hires him to find Ramblin' John Hastur. The mysterious blues man's dark, driving music - broadcast at ever-shifting frequencies by a phantom radio station - is said to make living men insane and dead men rise. Disturbed and enraged by the bootleg recording the DJ plays for him, Ingram follows Hastur's trail into the strange, uncivilized backwoods of Arkansas, where he hears rumors the musician has sold his soul to the Devil. But as Ingram closes in on Hastur and those who have crossed his path, he'll learn there are forces much more malevolent than the Devil and reckonings more painful than Hell... In a masterful debut of Lovecraftian horror and Southern gothic menace, John Hornor Jacobs reveals the fragility of free will, the dangerous power of sacrifice, and the insidious strength of blood.

I wasn't sure at first how much I was going to like Southern Gods. It started out with a great, atmospheric prologue which should have been a good thing, but prologues always send off warning signals to me that the book is going to need a lot of help hooking me. Then, as I expected, it had a slow start. I didn't have a lot of confidence that the book was going to be extraordinary, but I was wrong. Really wrong.

I loved Southern Gods.

In the end, the build up became one of my favorite things about Southern Gods. It was like a huge crescendo. It started out small and just got bigger and better until it was downright awesome. I even grew to love the prologue which is rare for me.

There are two separate story lines going on in the first half of Southern Gods. In one, Bull Ingram is hired to find a missing person, and he gets tangled up in an investigation of a really creepy blues man and a radio station that changes frequencies and plays the devil's music. In the other, Sarah and her daughter have returned to her family's home where Sarah discovers there are evils she never knew existed. Once these two story lines converge, Southern Gods moves from creepy to scary to terrifying. I'm glad I wasn't reading it in public because you could visibly see the horror on my face.

If you love a well developed horror story, you will love Southern Gods. It was so unique and so surprising. I am now a big fan of John Hornor Jacobs. I cannot wait to get my hands on his next book.

9/10: Highly Recommended

There are a lot of Lovecraft references in Southern Gods. I think it might finally be time for me to start reading Lovecraft. Over the years, I've learned to spot most anything Lovecraftian, but I have yet to experience where it all originated. Are you a fan of Lovecraft? Let me hear from you!

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wishlist | Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

I know, right? We have less than a week for Pandemonium to come out. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next.

Pandemonium (Delirium #2) by Lauren Oliver

Book Description

I’m pushing aside the memory of my nightmare,
pushing aside thoughts of Alex,
pushing aside thoughts of Hana and my old school,
push,
push,
push,
like Raven taught me to do.
The old life is dead.
But the old Lena is dead too.
I buried her.
I left her beyond a fence,
behind a wall of smoke and flame.

I gather we are going to get hit with another Lauren Oliver cliffhanger! Yes, I'm still insisting the end of Delirium was a cliffhanger! Don't burst my bubble. :)

Are you excited about Pandemonium?

This post is being shared as part of Breaking the Spine's "Waiting on" Wednesday.

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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Notable New Book Releases | Feb. 12 - Feb. 18

These are the new releases that caught my eye this week. What did I miss? Be sure to let me know what books you were excited about this week!

The Vanishing Game by Kate Kae Myers
Publication Date: February 14, 2012

[You know I cannot pass up a scary house.]

Jocelyn's twin brother Jack was the only family she had growing up in a world of foster homes-and now he's dead, and she has nothing. Then she gets a cryptic letter from "Jason December"-the code name her brother used to use when they were children at Seale House, a terrifying foster home that they believed had dark powers. Only one other person knows about Jason December: Noah, Jocelyn's childhood crush and their only real friend among the troubled children at Seale House.

But when Jocelyn returns to Seale House and the city where she last saw Noah, she gets more than she bargained for. Turns out the house's powers weren't just a figment of a childish imagination. And someone is following Jocelyn. Is Jack still alive? And if he is, what kind of trouble is he in? The answer is revealed in a shocking twist that turns this story on its head and will send readers straight back to page 1 to read the book in a whole new light.



The Wolf Gift by Anne Rice
Publication Date: February 14, 2012

[It's been a long time since I've read Anne Rice. I'd like to read this one.]

The time is the present.

The place, the rugged coast of Northern California. A bluff high above the Pacific. A grand mansion full of beauty and tantalizing history set against a towering redwood forest.

A young reporter on assignment from the San Francisco Observer . . . An older woman welcoming him into her magnificent family home that he has been sent to write about and that she must sell with some urgency . . . A chance encounter between two unlikely people . . . An idyllic night—shattered by horrific unimaginable violence, the young man inexplicably attacked—bitten—by a beast he cannot see in the rural darkness . . . A violent episode that sets in motion a terrifying yet seductive transformation, as the young man, caught between ecstasy and horror, between embracing who he is evolving into and fearing what he will become, soon experiences the thrill of the wolf gift.

As he resists the paradoxical pleasure and enthrallment of his wolfen savagery and delights in the power and (surprising) capacity for good, he is caught up in a strange and dangerous rescue and is desperately hunted as “the Man Wolf” by authorities, the media, and scientists (evidence of DNA threatens to reveal his dual existence) . . . As a new and profound love enfolds him, questions emerge that propel him deeper into his mysterious new world: questions of why and how he has been given this gift; of its true nature and the curious but satisfying pull towards goodness; of the profound realization that there may be others like him who are watching—guardian creatures who have existed throughout time who possess ancient secrets and alchemical knowledge. And throughout it all, the search for salvation for a soul tormented by a new realm of temptations, and the fraught, exhilarating journey, still to come, of being and becoming, fully, both wolf and man.



Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen
Publication Date: February 14, 2012

[I love this premise! Scarlet could be awesome.]

Many readers know the tale of Robin Hood, but they will be swept away by this new version full of action, secrets, and romance.

Posing as one of Robin Hood’s thieves to avoid the wrath of the evil Thief Taker Lord Gisbourne, Scarlet has kept her identity secret from all of Nottinghamshire. Only the Hood and his band know the truth: the agile thief posing as a whip of a boy is actually a fearless young woman with a secret past. Helping the people of Nottingham outwit the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham could cost Scarlet her life as Gisbourne closes in. It’s only her fierce loyalty to Robin—whose quick smiles and sharp temper have the rare power to unsettle her—that keeps Scarlet going and makes this fight worth dying for.

Did you grab any I spoke with a friend of mine about Anne Rice for so long this week, it made me really want to read this new one.

Did you pick up any new releases this week?

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Friday, February 17, 2012

Review | Temporary Monsters by Ian Rogers

Temporary Monsters is the first novella in the Felix Renn series of chapbooks by Ian Rogers. Take a quick look at the whole series:


I'm not an Urban Fantasy reader, but I am obsessed with black-eyed kids. Black-eyed kid stories are among my most favorite creepy stories ever.

I knew this series would be a must read for me.

Temporary Monsters by Ian Rogers

Book Description
Felix Renn is a private investigator in a supernatural world, an alternate reality where a dark dimension called The Black Lands co-exists alongside our own. Travelling to and from The Black Lands is dangerous - and illegal - but that doesn't stop some of the creatures that reside there from crossing over into our world from time to time. After a man goes berserk in a posh Toronto restaurant, Felix suddenly finds himself torn between both worlds as he is drawn into a deadly game of movies, murder, and monsters.

I'll admit I was a little nervous about reading Temporary Monsters. I'm like a coffee drinker who only takes her coffee black. I like my vampires one way. I needn't have worried, though. Temporary Monsters had something special to offer. I wasn't actually planning to read Temporary Monsters yet when I first started reading it. I was just planning to open the cover and check it out a little, but I couldn't stop once I started. I got hooked and wound up appreciating the origins of Ian Roger's monsters.

If you're an Urban Fantasy fan, I'm sure you will dig Temporary Monsters. It has some pretty unique happenings surrounding the vamps and weres and ...more. I can't wait to find out more about The Black Lands and the people who have access to it. If you've been wanting to try Urban Fantasy, I can tell you from experience this is a great place to start.

I'm trying not to crack the cover on The Ash Angels yet in case I can't put it down either.

7/10: Recommended Read

Are you a fan of Urban Fantasy? What would you recommend to beginner UF readers like me?

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Guest Post | Character in Crime Fiction by C.E. Lawrence

I'm very excited to welcome C.E. Lawrence to Book Den today!

“CHARACTER IS DESTINY”
- Heraclitus

If you have been writing for a while, or if you have consulted any books on writing, or taken a class of some kind, you have probably heard this advice: be sure to make your characters “larger than life.”

Fine, you say, chewing on the stub of your pencil until your gums bleed, but just what the hell does that mean? What is “larger than life” – apart from Paul Bunyan and his blue ox Babe, or the giants in Harry Potter, how can someone be “larger than life?”

I’ve always thought that was an unfortunate phrase, a rather clumsy way of trying to convey a complicated and specific notion of what a fictional character should be. What I take it to mean is that fictional characters should be more condensed, more vivid, and more intense than people in real life. Or, to put it another way, many people seem to drift through life in black and white. And then, every once in a while, we meet someone who seems so alive, so full of vitality and force of personality it’s as though they walked right out of the pages of a book. That’s what I think is meant by “larger than life.”

Fictional characters need to be drawn in vivid shades of Technicolor. Even a weary, depressed alcoholic like Sam Spade is a vivid, alive presence on the page – he may be jaded and damaged, but he talks in snappy, pointed dialogue, his observations about life are intelligent and thoughtful, and he has a wry sense of humor about himself. In fiction, you turn your characters’ weaknesses in to assets: sure, everybody is damaged, everybody is struggling, but fictional characters struggle with a little more presence of mind than their real life counterparts. Here’s Sam Spade talking with a copper pal:
“You’ll tell it to me or you’ll tell it in court,” Dundy said hotly. “This is murder and don’t you forget it.”
“Maybe. And here’s something for you not to forget, sweetheart. I’ll tell it or not as I damned please. It’s a long while since I burst out crying because policemen didn’t like me.”
Take that, copper. Oh, yeah.

Too Revealing – Or Not Enough?

One of the questions a writer faces – especially in mystery and crime fiction – is how much to reveal to the reader, and how to reveal it. It’s obvious why this is true about plot, but it is also true about character. Another phrase you may butt up against in discussions on the craft of writing is “fully rounded characters.”

What does this mean? You often see nifty little checklists in books on writing about the things you should know about your characters – I’m always astonished at how complete these lists are. Are they a cat person or a dog person? Do they use Dove or Ivory soap? Do they like baths or showers? Do your really need to know every little thing about your characters, what kind of cologne they wear, what their favorite color is, boxers or briefs?

And then do you have to dutifully reveal that information to your reader?

In a word, no.

Like everything else in writing, you must choose what to reveal to your reader. If it’s pertinent to know what college someone graduated from, for example, then by all means mention it. If it’s not germane to the story you’re telling, leave it out. Your job is not to give a resume for each of your character – nor is it your job to know every little thing about your characters, any more than you know every little thing about the people in your life. Give yourself time to get to know your characters, the same way you might get to know a friend. Take them out to dinner, watch what they order. Go for a walk, see what they enjoy about architecture, or nature. Go to a concert, a play, or a museum – see what kind of paintings or music they prefer. In other words, treat them the same way you’d treat anyone else you don’t know very well – rather than imposing your tastes on them, let them tell you what they like.

Character Is As Character Does

It was eleven-thirty on a Friday, the night her father got paid, the worst day of the week. And now there came the sound she dreaded, the sharp closing of the front door. He came blundering in and she saw her mother move in front of the armchair, which Rhoda knew would awaken his fury. It was to be her father's chair. He had chosen it and paid for it, and it had been delivered that morning. Only after the van had left had her mother discovered it was the wrong colour. It would have to be changed, but there had been no time before the shop closed. She knew that her mother's querulous, apologetic, half-whining voice would enrage him, that her own sullen presence would help neither of them, but she couldn't go up to bed. The noise of what would happen beneath her room would be more terrifying than to be part of it. And now the room was full of him, his blundering body, the stink of him. Hearing his bellow of outrage, his ranting, she felt a sudden spurt of fury, and with it came courage. She heard herself saying, "It isn't Mother's fault. The chair was wrapped up when the man left it. She couldn't see it was the wrong colour. They'll have to change it."

And then he turned on her. She couldn't recall the words. Perhaps at the time there had been no words, or she hadn't heard them. There was only the crack of the smashed bottle, like a pistol shot, the stink of whisky, a moment of searing pain which passed almost as soon as she felt it and the warm blood flowing from her cheek, dripping onto the seat of the chair, her mother's anguished cry. "Oh God, look what you've done, Rhoda. The blood! They'll never take it back now. They'll never change it."

P.D. James, The Private Patient
Nowhere does P.D. James show herself as master of the form than in her characters. At no point does she say “The father is a mean drunk,” or “the mother is a downtrodden mouse of a woman,” and yet in her vivid showing of these people’s actions and reactions, the point comes across like a pistol shot. The father is violent, blundering and smelly, the mother is meek and apologetic, and the daughter, caught between them, tries to defend her mother to him – only to have her mother cave into her fear once again.

You might find you’re surprised by some of the things you discover about them. And there is no greater joy in writing than that sudden, surprising discovery, as the veil lifts and you see your character standing before you. In fact, it can be downright spooky.

Often our best characters come from a place so deep within us, a force so universal, that it feels spooky, uncontrolled, eerie. Let it happen – if you have an experience like that, consider yourself lucky.

More often, I suppose, characters are a hodgepodge of traits from people we know or have seen – or even other fictional characters. We imbue them with life by giving them the inner life of our own unconscious or conscious mind.

In playwriting and screenwriting, there are three basic ways of revealing character: what a character says about himself, what others say about him, and what he does. In prose fiction, you have the added element of narrative: you can tell your readers what you think about your characters. But don’t make the mistake of doing this too often – it’s the least dramatic way of revealing character.

Come Here, Watson, I Need You

I mentioned before that Conan Doyle did several innovative things in his Sherlock Holmes stories. One of his most enduring contributions was the creation of Dr. John Watson, the ever faithful and long suffering narrator of most of the Holmes canon. Watson is the perfect compliment to the neurotic, brilliant Holmes. Steady, kind, level-headed, he is the ideal companion for the difficult, moody detective. He is not Holmes’ intellectual equal – few men are – but he is a wonderful sounding board; he may not be able to arrive at Holmes’ lightning quick conclusions, but he understands the reasoning once it is presented. And, most importantly for structural purposes, he can relate Holmes’ activities to the reader.

In fact, in mystery fiction we speak of “the Watson” character – usually a first person narrator – someone close to the detective but not with him at every moment, who relates the tale to the reader as it progresses. Archie in the Nero Wolfe stories is such a character. He does virtually all of the “heavy lifting,” running around town chasing down clues, suspects, and witnesses, while Wolfe lumbers around his apartment tending to his orchids and dining on gourmet delicacies provided by his Fritz, private chef – but, in the end, it is Wolfe who puts together the pieces of the puzzle and solves the crime. It may seem a bit unfair that the final glory goes to his corpulent employer, but Archie doesn’t have it so bad – after all, he gets to hang out in speakeasies, drink bootleg whisky, and woo willing damsels while on his various errands.

The Watson character serves as the ears and eyes of the reader. He is never so close to the action as to spoil the surprise – while the detective is off solving the case, Watson may be following a false lead, or chasing down a clue, or even trying to locate the detective, who has mysteriously slipped off somewhere. He may be in on every step of the case, watching the detective work, but from a distance: the great thing about the Watson character is that he doesn’t always know what the detective knows, doesn’t see what he sees.

The Watson character tends to be more “normal,” or average, than the detective, who is likely to be brilliant but troubled, a gifted bundle of neuroses – like Sherlock Holmes or Nero Wolfe – or Adrian Monk and Greg House. (Though regarding “normal” people, I like Joe Ancis’s comment: “The only normal people are the ones you don't know very well.”)

Mystery fiction abounds with variations on the Watson character. Inspector Morse has his Sergeant Lewis, and Hercule Poirot has his Captain Hastings. In these examples and others, the Watson is not the narrator of the action, but is the man (or woman) of action, whereas the detective is more cerebral (though in the Doyle canon, Holmes himself is very athletic, with expertise in several martial arts.)

When I wrote my Claire Rawlings mysteries, I made Claire herself the Watson character. She’s not a woman of overwhelming intellect, nor is she an especially forceful personality. I left those qualities for the detective in the series – a twelve year old girl with a genius IQ and a personality like a Brillo pad. Abrasive, neurotic and troubled, Meredith Lawrence needs the steadying influence of someone like Claire – just as Claire is drawn to the girl’s energy and brilliance.

The Watson, then, can serve as a balancing, complementary character to the detective. And in general, when creating characters, you want to make them as different from each other as possible. This is sometimes called the orchestration of characters. Just as a composer writes different parts for the oboe and say, the violin, the fiction writer covers different spectrums of behavior and character traits with each character. The spectrum of human behavior, tastes and traits is wide, and so creating two characters who are similar is not only a waste of space, but a lost opportunity.

In fiction, opposites attract. Complementary characters make good stories. This is so well known to some writers that it has become, once again, nearly a cliché. If the heroine is a good girl, her best friend will be a bad girl. If the hero is shy and serious, his sidekick is a sociable goofball, and so on. You can find endless variety in this basic idea – as endless as the permutations of personalities. The pattern is an old one, but if you write with truth and imagination, it will not come across as a cliché.

Heels and Villains

Of course, every Holmes must have his Moriarty. It goes without saying that in crime fiction, without a criminal, there is no story. You can put as much energy and ingenuity into the creation of your villain – and have as much fun – as in creating your detective, your Watson, or your love interest (more about that later).

As I said earlier, of the seventy-two stories and novels that comprise the Holmes canon, Professor Moriarty only appears in two. And yet he is as famous as the great detective himself. That is because he is the ultimate arch-villain, as brilliant as he is ruthless – or, as Holmes puts it, “the Napoleon of crime.” He is the archetype for an effective fictional villain, because his powers are equal to Holmes’ own equally impressive abilities.

When you set out to create your antagonist – whether it’s a super virus or a super villain – remember that in that character lies the engine of the story. It is the action of the antagonist that drives the hero to greater and greater effort and peril; without a cunning and dangerous antagonist, your hero will sit at home with his feet up, sipping Jack Daniels and watching reruns of Star Trek. That is why it is so important to make your protagonist dangerous. And, of course, the more people he/she/it can put in peril, the more exciting your story will potentially be. In the case of Professor Moriarty, of course, it is his ruthlessness combined with his immense intellectual ability – but you could just as easily create a criminal who is so desperate he will stop at nothing, or who is exceptionally violent, or driven – the choice is yours.

And, of course, in the case of a medical thriller, the antagonist might be a bacteria or a disease, so do your research and choose (or make up) something really scary. If the antagonist is a person or persons, think driven and obsessed – in other words, nearly unstoppable – nearly. One of the reasons serial killers are so fascinating is that they are both driven and obsessed. They aren’t really in control of their behavior – once they start killing, they can’t stop. The forensic psychological literature is full of case studies on serial killers, and though the mechanism isn’t fully understood, what is known is that their behavior is so driven they will risk almost anything to kill again and again.

The Heels Have It

Another thing you can do to raise the stakes and made your hero’s task more daunting is to give him an Achilles heel. You remember the story of Achilles, right? In the Trojan Wars he was the great warrior who no weapon could harm – except for his heel. His mother dipped him in the river Styx when he was born – and the water’s magic powers made him invincible. But she held him by the heel, so that one part of his body was vulnerable (I never understood why she didn’t just give that foot a quick dip when she was done, but maybe double-dipping was frowned by the gods, just like in that Seinfeld episode.)

In any case, the Greek myth of Achilles has tremendous resonance, and the metaphor is a powerful one. Everyone has a weakness; you just have to find out what it is. In creating your hero, that weakness could be anything: a loss in his life (P.D. James’ Inspector Dalgleish lost his family), an addiction (Larry Block’s Matt Scudder is an alcoholic), or even something as silly as vanity (Hercule Poirot). In my thriller, Silent Screams, I give my protagonist Lee Campbell a double whammy: his sister has been murdered, and he suffers from depression.

The archetype of the Wounded Hero is one we see throughout world literature, from Cervantes to Hemingway (Jake, the hero of The Sun Also Rises has a literal wound, making it both metaphorical and concrete). If the protagonist’s weakness, or wound, is part of what drives them, so much the better. Lee Campbell is ever in search of his sister’s killer; it’s the reason he became a forensic psychologist. Sherlock Holmes is ever in search of escape from the tedium and ennui of daily life; hence, he chases dangerous criminals. Oh, and yes – he’s a cocaine addict.

Of course, don’t just pull a weakness out of a hat – make it something you can write about either from personal experience, or be willing to do the necessary research. For example, we have all come across addicts in our lives, but Larry Block actually is an alcoholic, so he can write about it from personal experience, from the inside, as it were (I’m not spilling any secrets here – he’s made it quite public and has no qualms about discussing his addiction).

Another reason for creating a protagonist who is compromised in some way is that vulnerability makes people interesting. It adds another dimension to their character; it also gives the reader something to identify with. Even though fictional characters speak in snappier dialogue than real life, and have more exciting lives, on some level readers need to think of your protagonist as just like them. The process of identifying with a fictional character is tricky: on the one hand, readers like a protagonist they can admire, but on the other hand, if you make them too perfect, they will come across as unbelievable or unsympathetic. Your readers don’t have to fall in love with your protagonist, but they do need to empathize (of course, ideally you want your readers to fall head over heels in love with all of your characters).

Dames and Bad Girls

Whether your protagonist is a man or woman, you may choose to give him or her a love interest. This character can serve as a Watson – as in Laurie King’s The Bee Keeper’s Apprentice, in which a young Mary Watson signs on as an assistant to the aging Sherlock Holmes – becoming his love interest as well as his “Watson.” More often, though, the love interest is part of a subplot – and, in a novel, you will need one or more subplots. The love interest can be integral to the action of the main plot or separate from it. In Silent Screams, Lee Campbell’s love interest is a forensic anthropologist, so she becomes part of the main story line, as well as a romance subplot.

In classic noir detective stories, of course, there is the Bad Girl archetype – the dame the private dick can’t help falling for, but who screws him up in the end. Brigid O'Shaughnessy in The Maltese Falcon is the probably the prototype for this kind of Bad Girl. She’s sophisticated, intelligent and lovely, but in the end she’s no good. Part of her fascination lies in the fact that Sam Spade suspects she can’t be trusted – and yet he can’t help himself. The classic setup, of course, is the beautiful woman who comes to the detective for help – and turns out to be more trouble herself than he imagined. It can be a handy way to keep turning the plot: is she bad or isn’t she? In The Big Sleep, for example, Chandler turns the story again and again on the question of whether the Vivien Sternwood is trustworthy or not. In any case, there are plenty of bad guys who Marlowe knows are trouble, like hit man Canino. Of him Marlowe says:
"You know what Canino will do? Beat my teeth out and kick me in the stomach for mumbling."
How you choose to handle your love interest, if you have one, is up to you. A fun way to turn the noir cliché on its ear, for example, would be to have a handsome man come into the office of a private investigator who happens to be a woman – and have her fall for him. (When you put a spin on an old formula and it works, it’s called an homage. When it fails, it’s called a cliché.) The possible twists and permutations are endless. Patricia Cornwell, who is a lesbian, has one of her main characters have a love interest who is another woman – though her protagonist, Kay Scarpetta, is straight.

Gay or straight, love struck or not, your protagonist is the one your readers will be asked to care the most about, so give them somebody to care about, someone they can admire but identify with.

And then put them through hell. Make them suffer, make them squirm – don’t worry; they’ll respect you in the morning.


C. E. LAWRENCE (aka CAROLE BUGGE) has eight published novels, six novellas and a dozen or so short stories and poems. Her work has received glowing reviews from such publications as Kirkus, The Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, The Boston Herald, Ellery Queen, and others. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines.

Her plays and musicals have been presented in New York City at The Players Club, Manhattan Punchline, Pulse Theatre, The Van Dam Street Playhouse, Love Creek, Playwrights Horizons, HERE, the Episcopal Actors’ Guild, the Jan Hus Theatre, Lakota Theatre, The Open Book, The 78th Street Theatre, Genesius Guild, the 14th Street Y, and Shotgun Productions, as well as the Alleyway Theatre in Buffalo, The Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor, Actors and Writers in Olivebridge, and the Byrdcliffe Theatre in Woodstock, New York.

She holds a B.A. with honors in English, with a second major in German from Duke University. She teaches creative writing at NYU and Gotham Writers Workshop.

Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and experience with us, C.E.!

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wishlist | PODs by Michelle K. Pickett

I'm going to obsess about this book for the next year and a half!

PODs by Michelle K. Pickett

Seventeen-year-old Eva is a chosen one. Chosen to live, while others meet a swift and painful death from an incurable virus so lethal, a person is dead within days of symptoms emerging. In the POD system, a series of underground habitats built by the government, she waits with the other chosen for the deadly virus to claim those above. Separated from family and friends, it’s in the PODs she meets David. And while true love might not conquer all, it’s a balm for the broken soul.

After a year, scientists believe the population has died, and without living hosts, so has the virus. That’s the theory, anyway. But when the PODs are opened, survivors find the surface holds a vicious secret. The virus mutated, infecting those left top-side and creating... monsters.

Eva and David hide from the infected in the abandoned PODs. Together they try to build a life--a new beginning. But the infected follow and are relentless in their attacks. Leaving Eva and David to fight for survival, and pray for a cure.

My poor husband - who has to hear about my book obsessions far too much for any one person - finds my "dystopian post-apocalyptic zombie" description of PODs to be a bit bizarre. We were at my parents' last week, and while I was trying to help my mom decide what to read next (we all do that service for people, right?), my husband decided he'd be "cute" and said "What about a dystopian post-apocalyptic zombie book?". My mom shot up out of her chair and said "Yes! I want that one!" LOL. I know, right?! Me, too! (Man, I love that woman.) Sorry, Mom, you'll have to wait until June 2013! *cry*

Add to Goodreads

What about you? What books are you obsessively waiting for?

This post is being shared as part of Breaking the Spine's "Waiting for" Wednesday.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Read-along | Feed by Mira Grant Part I

Grace over at Feeding My Book Addiction is having a horror read-along this month. Those participating chose to read Feed by Mira Grant. Here's the description of Feed if you aren't aware of the premise:

The year was 2014. We had cured cancer. We had beat the common cold. But in doing so we created something new, something terrible that no one could stop. The infection spread, virus blocks taking over bodies and minds with one, unstoppable command: FEED.


NOW, twenty years after the Rising, Georgia and Shaun Mason are on the trail of the biggest story of their lives-the dark conspiracy behind the infected. The truth will out, even if it kills them.

Or simply put: Zombies.

We are reading Feed all month long (the next and last post is February 29th) if you want to join us. I don't think there are any spoilers in this post if you'd like to read my thoughts so far.

Read-along Discussion

As a fan of the zombie, I'm digging Feed so far. There are a lot of new explanations for old zombie habits, and that is what I'm always hopeful for.

I liked the opening, but then I really started worrying that these characters had no sense at all. It pulled me out of the story for a while, but once I got all of the blogging details, it started to make a lot more sense. I like the message of blogs being bringers of truth, by the way.

I had to laugh at this line:

We are the Jennifers of our generation.

Oh, boy, can I relate to that. Maybe I should start calling myself Buffy. :)

I love that the zombies in Feed are called zombies. It's kind of a pet peeve of mine when I read a zombie book and everyone acts as though they've never heard of a zombie before. They don't know what to call it, they don't know how to fight it... Feed smashes that pet peeve, and I love it. If the zompocalypse occurs, people will react a lot like they do in Feed.

Does the relationship between Shaun and George make you uncomfortable or is it just me?

Feed is getting better and better as it progresses so I'm looking forward to reading the next half. I'm just hoping there won't be too much of a cliffhanger when it ends.

What do you guys think so far? Do you enjoy zombies?

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Monday, February 13, 2012

Currently Reading | Southern Gods, Dead of Night, Feed


Would you like to participate in Currently Reading? Click here for details.

Somehow I managed to be on a zombie kick this week! These are the books I'm in the middle of reading:

SOUTHERN GODS by John Horner Jacobs

I'm about half way through Southern Gods, and it is really surprising me. I try not to find out too much about a book before I read it because I'm spoilerphobic, but I'm pretty sure I had no reason to expect the events that are currently taking place. I'm loving it.

DEAD OF NIGHT by Jonathan Maberry

Jonathan Maberry stopped by last week to guest post. Check it out if you haven't! I couldn't help but start reading Dead of Night, and so far I'm really diggin' it.

FEED by Mira Grant

Grace at Feeding My Book Addiction is having another read-along this month. In honor of Valentine's Day, she chose horror as the genre of the month. You see why I love Grace, dontcha? Tomorrow is the first read-along post, but it lasts all month if you want to jump in! If you've read Feed already, come back tomorrow and share your thoughts!

What are you currently reading this week?

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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Notable New Book Releases | Feb. 5 - Feb. 11

After last week's new release overload, I'm happy to have a week with just a couple of books peaking my interest. These are the new releases that caught my eye this week. What did I miss? Be sure to let me know what books you were excited about this week.

Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
Publication Date: February 7, 2012

From Saladin Ahmed, finalist for the Nebula and Campbell Awards, comes one of the year's most anticipated fantasy debuts, THRONE OF THE CRESCENT MOON, a fantasy adventure with all the magic of The Arabian Nights.

The Crescent Moon Kingdoms, land of djenn and ghuls, holy warriors and heretics, Khalifs and killers, is at the boiling point of a power struggle between the iron-fisted Khalif and the mysterious master thief known as the Falcon Prince. In the midst of this brewing rebellion a series of brutal supernatural murders strikes at the heart of the Kingdoms. It is up to a handful of heroes to learn the truth behind these killings:

Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, "The last real ghul hunter in the great city of Dhamsawaat," just wants a quiet cup of tea. Three score and more years old, he has grown weary of hunting monsters and saving lives, and is more than ready to retire from his dangerous and demanding vocation. But when an old flame's family is murdered, Adoulla is drawn back to the hunter's path.

Raseed bas Raseed, Adoulla's young assistant, a hidebound holy warrior whose prowess is matched only by his piety, is eager to deliver God's justice. But even as Raseed's sword is tested by ghuls and manjackals, his soul is tested when he and Adoulla cross paths with the tribeswoman Zamia.

Zamia Badawi, Protector of the Band, has been gifted with the near-mythical power of the Lion-Shape, but shunned by her people for daring to take up a man's title. She lives only to avenge her father's death. Until she learns that Adoulla and his allies also hunt her father's killer. Until she meets Raseed.

When they learn that the murders and the Falcon Prince's brewing revolution are connected, the companions must race against time--and struggle against their own misgivings--to save the life of a vicious despot. In so doing they discover a plot for the Throne of the Crescent Moon that threatens to turn Dhamsawaat, and the world itself, into a blood-soaked ruin.



Dead to You by Lisa McMann
Publication Date: February 7, 2012

A page-turning realistic novel with a shocking twist from bestselling author Lisa McMann.

Ethan was abducted from his front yard when he was just seven years old. Now, at sixteen, he has returned to his family. It’s a miracle…at first. Then the tensions start to build. His reintroduction to his old life isn’t going smoothly, and his family is tearing apart all over again. If only Ethan could remember something, anything, about his life before, he’d be able to put the pieces back together. But there’s something that’s keeping his memory blocked. Something unspeakable...

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Friday, February 10, 2012

How to | Create Exclusive Shelves on Goodreads

When you add books on Goodreads, you are given three exclusive shelves by default: read, currently-reading, and to-read.


These three shelves are "exclusive" shelves meaning your book can only be placed on one of them. (You can't have 'read' it and be currently-read'ing it at the same time.)

Did you know you can create more "exclusive" shelves? Now you can have the books you actually own on your to-read shelf and the books you want to own on another!


Here's how:

On the menubar at the top of Goodreads, click "My Books".


*As you can see in this screenshot, Goodreads is not a great place to send me a message! I likely will not read get it... :)

Toward the bottom of the left hand menu (below all your custom shelves), click Add Shelf. Type in the name of the new shelf (ex. wishlist) and click add. (If you already have a wishlist shelf or a shelf you would like to use, you can skip this step.)

     


Back at the top of the left hand menu, click the "edit" link by "bookshelves".


This edit screen is where you can make your new shelf - or any existing shelf - exclusive. You have other options for your shelf as well. Feature will replace your "favorites" shelf at the top of your profile (only one shelf can be your feature), sortable gives you the option to number them (the way your to-read shelf does), sticky shelves "are sorted first on your books and on your profile", exclusive makes your shelf mutually exclusive, and you should check recs if you want Goodreads to make recommendations based on that particular shelf.

Check the box for exclusive to make your shelf mutually exclusive.


You will notice I also have a mutually exclusive shelf called "on-hold". I use this shelf to clean up my currently-reading shelf. This is for books that I'm not actively reading but are not DNFs. If you are a reviewer, you could even have a sortable "for-review" shelf to organize and sort review copies.

Once you set your new shelf as exclusive, it will begin appearing as an option when you add a book to Goodreads. This is what I see when I add a book:


I hope this helps you further organize your TBR pile and wishlist!

Are your TBR and wishlist books mixed on Goodreads? Do you use exclusive shelves?

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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Review | Down Here in the Dark by Lee Thompson

Down Here in the Dark by Lee Thompson
Down Here In The Dark is the latest Frank Gunn novella from Lee Thompson.

Book Description

After surviving a tragic event, Frank Gunn ends up breaking down. His ex-wife's family has him committed to New Wave Hospital.

While fighting to feel again, to remember his son's face and the life he had before, people mysteriously begin to disappear around him. What remains of his life is plunged into the dark, the fading line between reality and nightmare.

He meets a Jewish kid with haunted eyes who has a demon shadowing him. There is a girl carrying a fistful of razorblades. And a band of ghouls play a song that sounds like freshly turned earth.

In order to regain what he has lost, he must first survive existing down here in the dark.

It will come as no surprise I loved Down Here in the Dark. I've mentioned numerous times (here, here, here, here, and here) how much I enjoy Thompson's works.

Down Here in the Dark gives us a fantastic dose of Lee Thompson darkness. There is a difference between "dark" and "Lee Thompson dark" you will just need to experience for yourself. His descriptions are unlike any I have read.

Down Here in the Dark takes place just after the events of Iron Butterflies Rust (and As I Embrace My Jagged Edges). While it's not necessary to read Iron Butterflies Rust or Jagged Edges prior to Down Here in the Dark, I personally recommend that you do. Thompson is creating an epic mythos with all of his stories, and it's amazing how all of the pieces tie together.

If you haven't read anything by Lee Thompson yet, I can't recommend enough that you do so. Down Here in the Dark is an excellent choice.

8/10: Great Read

Review copy provided by publisher

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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Guest Post | WEIRD THOUGHTS (Or, Where the Spooky Stuff Comes From) by Jonathan Maberry

I'm very excited to welcome Jonathan Maberry to Book Den today!

Writers are a little weird.

This is a news flash to no one.

I’m not a composer, choreographer or painter, so I can only speak from the perspective of a storyteller, but I know that I’m weird. And I’m very cool with that. It’s the way I am, the way I think. To me it would be weird to think differently than the way I do. I tried it a few times, when I was trapped in the 9-5 grind of corporate America. I have friends who love that world, who crave it. I hated it.

I know that a lot of the folks who read this blog are readers rather than writers, so I wanted to visit the Book Den and talk about little about how the books you read get written.

For a lot of writers, it started when the voices in our heads start talking. My novel, DEAD OF NIGHT, was like that. One day I in an airport waiting for a plane, heading from one leg of a book tour to another. As I sat there, people started talking in my head. Characters. I didn’t yet know who they were or what they were talking about. But they were definitely talking.

Understand something…if you’re NOT a writer, then this is pretty much a cry for help, and maybe a good time to break out the Thorazine. However if you ARE a writer, this is a typical day on the job. It’s something you hope for.

So, while my characters chatted, I broke out my notebook and started writing it all down. It turns out that a bad-tempered female redneck cop from rural Pennsylvania was having an argument with her liberal news reporter ex-boyfriend. They were having this argument at an incredibly inopportune and inappropriate time (zombies were closing in on all sides). I had no idea what story they belonged to, but the argument was intense and it was real and I wrote every word of it down.

Later, I eavesdropped on a couple of other conversations the lady cop –I found out that her name was Desdemona Fox, known as ‘Dez’—was having with her ex-boyfriend (Billy Trout) and her long-suffering partner (JT Hammond). By the time my flight landed I had three or four of these short conversations recorded in my notebook. Over the next few days I started getting fragments of the circumstances in which Dez, JT and Billy found themselves.

After I got back from that part of my tour, I sat down and began organizing these notes into some kind of a story. As often happens, there was a lot of story there, sewn through the fabric of those conversations. I mapped it out, filled in the blanks, and outlined the research I’d have to do to transform the idea into a novel.

I pitched it to my agent and she sold it to St. Martin’s Griffin as DEAD OF NIGHT. It became the tenth novel that I’d written since 2005. I’m now writing my thirteenth.

The only one of these books that didn’t start with me eavesdropping on the voices in my head was THE WOLFMAN, which was adapted from a screenplay.

I already hear the voices for my next book. And I’ve jotted down conversations and scene fragments for books that don’t yet have a name and haven’t yet become clear in my head.

So…the voices in my head? Yeah, they’re friends. Every writer has friends like them. You’ve probably caught a glimpse of a writer sitting, not typing or writing, just sitting there with his head cocked, a bemused expression on his face. Haven’t you ever wondered who he’s listening to?

What we writers all hope is that while reading the stories we write, you’ll catch a whisper of those voices. And that those characters will be as real to you as they are to us.

-Jonathan Maberry
www.jonathanmaberry.com

DEAD OF NIGHT –a Zombie Novel by Jonathan Maberry (St. Martin’s Griffin) is available in print, for your e-reader and on audio (read by William Dufris).

DEAD OF NIGHT: Amazon | Kindle | BN | Audible | View Trailer | Bonus Scenes

Thank you so much for sharing your weird thoughts, Jonathan!

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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Notable New Book Releases | Jan. 29 - Feb. 4

Hot damn! What a fine week for new releases! A new Lee Thompson, a new Glen Krisch, a new Icarus Helix installment, new zombies, lots of dystopian...!! These are the new releases that caught my eye this week (in order of publication date). What did I miss? Be sure to tell me what books you were excited about this week!

Down Here In The Dark by Lee Thompson
Publication Date: January 30, 2012

[It took me about .2 seconds to download this one after hearing it was released! I'm totally bumping my TBR list. :)]

After surviving a tragic event, Frank Gunn ends up breaking down. His ex-wife's family has him committed to New Wave Hospital.

While fighting to feel again, to remember his son's face and the life he had before, people mysteriously begin to disappear around him. What remains of his life is plunged into the dark, the fading line between reality and nightmare.

He meets a Jewish kid with haunted eyes who has a demon shadowing him. There is a girl carrying a fistful of razorblades. And a band of ghouls play a song that sounds like freshly turned earth.

In order to regain what he has lost, he must first survive existing down here in the dark.



Brother's Keeper by Glen Krisch
Publication Date: January 30, 2012

[Looking forward to reading this and the upcoming trilogy!]

Growing up, Jason and Marcus Grant were close as only brothers can be. As they reached adolescence, they started to drift apart, taking opposite paths into adulthood. Jason went to college before getting a job at for the local newspaper. Marcus chose a path littered with drugs, violence, and self-destruction.

Now adults, Jason has cut Marcus from his life and considers himself an only child.

Clean and sober, Marcus finds his true calling when he joins the Arkadium, a secret society dating back millennia. They plan on setting history back ten thousand years by unleashing a world-wide calamity that will destroy modern man's domination of the planet. As the Arkadium set their plan in motion, Marcus reaches out to his brother, wanting him by his side to record the new prehistoric era. Jason is forced to make a choice, join his brother in the time of humanity's descent, or die like so many others.

A 16k word novella that introduces the forthcoming Brother's Keeper trilogy of novels. Book 1 is due Winter 2012.



Sadie Walker Is Stranded by Madeleine Roux
Publication Date: January 31, 2012

[This is the sequel to Allison Hewitt Is Trapped which I heard a lot of good things about last year. Anyone reading this series?]

MONTHS AGO THE WORLD ENDED…

…when an unknown virus spread throughout North America and then the world, killing millions of people. However, that is where the horror only started. The dead began to rise and when they rose they had an insatiable appetite for the living. A new hell had been unleashed on earth and the fight for survival had just begun.

Sadie Walker is one of the survivors in this new world. Living in north Seattle behind barrier that keep the living in and the dead out, she trying to get back to a normal life, while raising her eight-year-old nephew, if anyone even knows what “normal” is anymore. Then everything goes sideways when Shane is kidnapped by a group of black market thieves and they bring down a crucial barrier in the city while trying to escape, and flood the city with the walking dead. After rescuing her nephew, Sadie and Shane escape Seattle on the last remaining boat, along with other survivors. However, now they must face the complete chaos of a world filled with flesh eating zombies and humans who are playing with a whole new rule book when it comes to survival in their journey to find a new place that they can call home.



Frigid (Icarus Helix #6) by J.E. Medrick
Publication Date: January 31, 2012

[I sure love me some Icarus Helix!]

Deaf from birth, Jayden only knows a world of silence and sign with her best friend, Mason. Everything she's believed changes as she discovers an amazing potential within herself.

With a mistrustful eye toward the quicksilver man, Dennis Harper, Jayden struggles with family, love and secrets. Can she open up before they bury her?

This is a novella, approximately 20,000 words long. This episode should not be read before IH #4: "Thief". "Frigid" is the sixth episode of the first season.



The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine by Peter Straub
Publication Date: January 31, 2012

[A new novella from Peter Straub.]

Meet Ballard and Sandrine, the eponymous protagonists of Peter Straub's extraordinary, deeply unsettling new novella. The two are lovers, widely separated in age but bound together by a common erotic obsession. Their story, which takes place over a period of twenty-five years, is set primarily within the various incarnations of a mysterious yacht making its endless way down the Amazon river. Their journey encompasses moments of beauty and horror, mystery and revelation, pleasure and pain, culminating in the vision of an astonishing--and appalling--apotheosis.

In The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine, the author of the classic Blue Rose trilogy (Koko, Mystery, and The Throat) offers us one more glimpse behind the curtain that separates the visible world of commonplace events from an infinitely stranger world filled with wonders and enigmas, magic and terror. It is a world that only Peter Straub could have created and it burns its way indelibly into the reader's mind.



Incarnate by Jodi Meadows
Publication Date: January 31, 2012

[I've been a little on the fence about this one, but I'm still hoping to read it.]

New soul

Ana is new. For thousands of years in Range, a million souls have been reincarnated over and over, keeping their memories and experiences from previous lifetimes. When Ana was born, another soul vanished, and no one knows why.

No soul

Even Ana’s own mother thinks she’s a nosoul, an omen of worse things to come, and has kept her away from society. To escape her seclusion and learn whether she’ll be reincarnated, Ana travels to the city of Heart, but its citizens are afraid of what her presence means. When dragons and sylph attack the city, is Ana to blame?

Heart

Sam believes Ana’s new soul is good and worthwhile. When he stands up for her, their relationship blooms. But can he love someone who may live only once, and will Ana’s enemies—human and creature alike—let them be together? Ana needs to uncover the mistake that gave her someone else’s life, but will her quest threaten the peace of Heart and destroy the promise of reincarnation for all?



Article 5 by Kristen Simmons
Publication Date: January 31, 2012

[This one sounds like a true dystopian.]

New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., have been abandoned.

The Bill of Rights has been revoked, and replaced with the Moral Statutes.

There are no more police—instead, there are soldiers. There are no more fines for bad behavior—instead, there are arrests, trials, and maybe worse. People who get arrested usually don't come back.

Seventeen-year-old Ember Miller is old enough to remember that things weren’t always this way. Living with her rebellious single mother, it’s hard for her to forget that people weren’t always arrested for reading the wrong books or staying out after dark. It’s hard to forget that life in the United States used to be different.

Ember has perfected the art of keeping a low profile. She knows how to get the things she needs, like food stamps and hand-me-down clothes, and how to pass the random home inspections by the military. Her life is as close to peaceful as circumstances allow.

That is, until her mother is arrested for noncompliance with Article 5 of the Moral Statutes. And one of the arresting officers is none other than Chase Jennings…the only boy Ember has ever loved.



The Dead of Winter by Chris Priestley
Publication Date: January 31, 2012

[Ghosts. What more do I need to say?]

After Michael's parents die, he is invited to stay with his guardian in a desolate country house. He begins to suspect something is not quite right on the day he arrives when he spots a mysterious woman out in the frozen mists. But little can prepare him for the solitude of the house itself. His guardian is rarely seen, and there's a malevolent force lurking in an old hallway mirror. As the chilling suspense builds, Michael realizes that the house and its grounds harbor many more secrets-both dead and alive.



Shift by M.R. Merrick
Publication Date: February 1, 2012

[Shift is the sequel to Exiled which I still have not read! :( Now I have this one calling to me, too!]

Devastated by the loss of his mother, Chase is trying to balance the life he’s been left with, a family he’s still getting to know, and power he never thought he’d have. He doesn’t understand why the Goddess has named him the Protector and granted him two gifts: the Mark, a tattoo that now covers his back, and the ring. But between getting interrogated by the Circle and psychic attacks from Riley, the Mark is the least of his concern. There’s a demon inside Rayna that’s fighting to be released, and it’s not her inner witch. It’s something else–a monster threatening to tear her apart.

As Chase struggles to control his magic, his enemies are closing in. Everyone has staked a claim on his ring, and destroying it may be his only chance to stop Riley. But Chase must decide if stopping him is worth risking the lives of everyone he cares about, or if protecting the ring will be enough to save his world.



Drowning Instinct by Ilsa J. Bick
Publication Date: February 1, 2012

[I found this book through Giselle. She totally sold me on it, and I must read it NOW. (Why is there no Kindle edition?!)]

There are stories where the girl gets her prince, and they live happily ever after. (This is not one of those stories.)

Jenna Lord's first sixteen years were not exactly a fairy tale. Her father is a controlling psycho and her mother is a drunk. She used to count on her older brother--until he shipped off to Iraq. And then, of course, there was the time she almost died in a fire.

There are stories where the monster gets the girl, and everyone cries for his innocent victim. (This is not one of those stories either.)

Mitch Anderson is many things: A dedicated teacher and coach. A caring husband. A man with a certain...magnetism.

And there are stories where it's hard to be sure who's a prince and who's a monster, who is a victim and who should live happily ever after. (These are the most interesting stories of all.)

Drowning Instinct is a novel of pain, deception, desperation, and love against the odds--and the rules.



[LOL. I think this post is getting to me.]



Harbinger by Sara Etienne
Publication Date: February 2, 2012

[I'm totally intrigued. I can't wait to read it.]

When sixteen-year-old Faye arrives at Holbrook Academy, she doesn't expect to find herself exactly where she needs to be. After years of strange waking visions and nightmares, her only comfort the bones of dead animals, Faye is afraid she's going crazy. Fast.

But her first night at Holbrook, she feels strangely connected to the school and the island it sits on, like she's come home. She's even made her first real friends, but odd things keep happening to them. Every morning they wake on the floors of their dorm rooms with their hands stained red.

Faye knows she's the reason, but what does it all mean? The handsome Kel tries to help her unravel the mystery, but Faye is certain she can't trust him; in fact, he may be trying to kill her - and the rest of the world too.

Rich, compelling writing will keep the pages turning in this riveting and tautly told psychological thriller.



*Whew!* What a list! Whatcha readin'?!

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