The Sunday Post AKA What’s On My (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand? 9-30-12

Wasn’t the Naughty or Nice Blog Hop a terrific idea?  My vote would have been for mostly naughty, I think, but of course, I can’t enter my own hop. And I just finished a terrific romance that would actually have come down on the “nice” side of the equation. Mostly, I like a good story, no matter what. But then, I also like mysteries, where the point is a “nice” dead body, or science fiction, where the point is a fast rocket ship. I’m funny that way.

The winner of the Naughty or Nice Blog Hop at Reading Reality, and that $15 Amazon Gift Card is Laurie Goudge. The lucky winner has already been notified by email.

This week’s reviews (and a couple of giveaways) in addition to the Blog Hop… here’s a look back at the past week:

Ebook Review Central Featured Titles: #1 Doubtless by Cat Grant (Riptide), #2 Wilde’s Army by Krystal Wade (Curiosity Quills), #3 Bone Wires by Michael Shean (Curiosity Quills)
B+ Review: The Sweetest Spell by Suzanne Selfors + Chocolate Giveaway
A- Review: Blood and Whiskey (Cowboy and Vampire #2) by Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall + Interview
A- Review: Willow Pond by Carol Tibaldi + Book Giveaway
B Review: Paradise 21 (A New Dawn #1) by Aubrie Dionne

Chocolate lovers take note! There is still plenty of time to get in on Suzanne Selfors’ chocolate, yes, I said chocolate, giveaway! She is giving away a chocolate prize to one lucky US winner to celebrate the release of The Sweetest Spell. And it is a very, very sweet book, and prize.

Speaking of chocolate, let’s look ahead to what’s coming up this week!

If you’re wondering how chocolate could possibly be relevant, I have the answer right here.

Tuesday, my guest will be Sheila Roberts, and the book she’ll be talking about (and that I will be reviewing) is her latest book, Better than Chocolate. While for some of us that may be strange thought, let’s just say that the story in the book makes a fairly good point. (Also the hero is allergic to chocolate, so his opinion on the subject is somewhat prejudiced.) The course of true love and the saving of a chocolate company and the town that depends on it, does not exactly run as smooth as a creamy caramel center in this small town romance. But the story is pretty yummy.

We switch from small town sweetness to the hard edge of military romantic suspense on Thursday with Christi Snow and her debut novel Operation: Endgame. Christi is a well-known romance blogger (Smitten with Reading) but this is her first time on the other side of the fence, and she’s hit this one out of the park. I’m really looking forward to her interview.

In addition to blogging, one of the things that I’m going to be doing this week is speaking at the Southeastern Library Association Conference in Macon, Georgia about one of my favorite topics, “Ebooks in Libraries”. Last week, my friends at Book Lovers Inc let me do the Bookish Rant for the week on that very topic, more or less. At SELA, I’ll be on the good side of the topic, introducing my fellow librarians to sources for terrific ebooks that libraries can get for patrons.

Last week, my Bookish Rant on How Much Does an Ebook Cost? was the flip side of the problem. My post was about the high prices libraries pay for ebooks from the “Big 6” publishers and the difficulties libraries have getting books from most of those publishers. Small and mid-size publishers, like most of the romance publishers, are much, much friendlier to libraries.

And last but not least, Banned Books Week starts today, September 30, and runs through October 6. This week’s Bookish Post at Book Lovers Inc will be about Banned Books Week, and I will also post it here while I’m off at the conference (scheduling posts is a wonderful thing!)

Anyone can participate in Banned Books Week. If there is no event in your area, you can take part in the Virtual Read-Out online. Just record 2 minutes reading from a banned book and why you think that book is important. The full info for participation is here.

If you want to be stylish while you read your banned book for Banned Books Week, or at any time during the year, Out of Print Clothing has a fantastic line of bookish t-shirts designed from classic book covers. It’s amazing how many of the truly iconic books, with instantly recognizable covers, have been banned.

Celebrate the Freedom to Read! Read a banned book.

Stacking the Shelves (18)

I beg your indulgence for two week’s worth of shelf-stacking. This actually isn’t bad for me for two weeks of temptation, now that I look at it closely.

Maybe I’ve learned a little restraint? Not a chance.

The lone print outlier on the list, Dreams and Shadows by Cargill, is the monthly contribution from Library Journal. I never know what’s going to drop out of the envelope. I will confess that this one looks better than the last one. I may be the only reviewer on the planet who did not like Doyce Testerman’s Hidden Things, but I just didn’t. It read too much like an unbaked version of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, and Gaiman just did it better. For that matter, so does Simon R. Green, since his Nightside is the snarky version, where Neverwhere is the one with more heart. My 2 cents.

There are a lot of audiobooks this fortnight (not many times that one gets to use that word properly!) Audible was having a sale, and I couldn’t resist. Also it gave me an opportunity to start my great re-read, well, it’s turning out to be a re-listen, of the awesome Liaden Universe series by Lee and Miller. I’m only sorry I waited so long. Sometimes books (or movies) are not as fantastic as we remember. Liaden is even better than I remember.

What new books have you discovered this week? Anything wonderful that you’d like to share?

For Review: (everything’s an ebook unless specifically stated otherwise!)
The Devil’s Thief (The Saint’s Devils #1) by Samantha Kane
Dreams and Shadows by C. Robert Cargill (print ARC)
The Forbidden Lady by Kerrilyn Sparks
Gilded (The St. Crois Chronicles #2) by Karina Cooper
The Lady Most Willing (Lady Most #2) by Julia Quinn, Eloisa James and Connie Brockaway
Lady X’s Cowboy by Zoe Archer
Merry Ex-Mas (Life in Icicle Falls) by Sheila Roberts
The Naughty Angel (1Night Stand) by Sheila Stewart
Season for Surrender by Theresa Romain
Shoggoths in Bloom by Elizabeth Bear
Skies of Steel (The Ether Chronicles #3) by Zoe Archer
The System by Heather Lin
What an Earl Wants by Kasey Michaels

First Lord’s Fury (Codex Alera #6) by Jim Butcher (audiobook)
Invasion (The Secret World Chronicles #1) by Mercedes Lackey with Steve Libbey, Cody Martin and Dennis Lee (audiobook)
Iron’s Prophecy (Iron Fey #4.5) by Julie Kagawa
Local Custom (Liaden Universe #4) by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller (audiobook)
The Night Beat (Necropolis Enforcement Files #1) by Gina Koch
Princeps (Imager Portfolio #5) by L.E. Modesitt (audiobook)
Scout’s Progress (Liaden Universe #5) by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller (audiobook)

Review: The Mine by John A. Heldt

Format Read: ebook provided by the author
Number of Pages: 290 pages
Release Date: February 12, 2012
Genre: Time-travel romance
Formats Available: ebook
Purchasing Info:Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Book Depository US | Book Depository (UK) | Author’s Website | Goodreads

Book Blurb:

In 2000, Joel Smith is a cocky, adventurous young man who sees the world as his playground. But when the college senior, days from graduation, enters an abandoned Montana mine, he discovers the price of reckless curiosity. He emerges in May 1941 with a cell phone he can’t use, money he can’t spend, and little but his wits to guide his way. Stuck in the age of Whirlaway, swing dancing, and a peacetime draft, Joel begins a new life as the nation drifts toward war. With the help of his 21-year-old trailblazing grandmother and her friends, he finds his place in a world he knew only from movies and books. But when an opportunity comes to return to the present, Joel must decide whether to leave his new love in the past or choose a course that will alter their lives forever. THE MINE follows a humbled man through a critical time in history as he adjusts to new surroundings and wrestles with the knowledge of things to come

My Thoughts:

This was originally posted at Book Lovers Inc.

The description does not do this one justice. When I finished (at 2 in the morning!) I lay there and stared at the ceiling for a long, long time. The Mine is one of those stories that will stick with you. It was just about perfect.

Time travel stories are supposed to be messy, as a recent column by Charlie Jane Anders in io9 put it, and the messiness of the time-travel is the crux of the dilemma for Joel Stein. Not the mechanism, that’s as improbable as time-travel usually is (a six planet alignment and a cave in an abandoned mine–think of the Stargate SG-1 episode “1969″ for a not-dissimilar concept). The way the time-travel occurs is not the point. It’s what time-traveler Joel Stein does afterwards that lodges deep in the reader’s heart.

Because he doesn’t go back that far. From Memorial Day in the year 2000, Joel goes back a mere 59 years. But those years are crucial. He arrives at the beginning of the United States’ last summer of innocence, The summer before December 7, 1941, before Pearl Harbor. And he is the only one who knows the future.

One last golden summer before the war that is already raging in Europe and Asia engulfs the U.S.

There are no cell phones, no credit cards, no computers. Joel is broke. He has skills, but no identification. The Great Depression has not lost its hold on the country. He has no home, no job, no friends.

His family is in Seattle. The grandmother that he remembers is a young woman in 1941. Seattle is still home. He does what other down on their luck young men did during the Depression. He hopped a freight train from that abandoned mine in Montana to the west coast.

Trying to get a night’s sleep on a bench outside a bar in Seattle, dead tired, looking and feeling like a bum, he saves a guy from getting beaten up over a gambling debt. That guy turns out to be his grandmother’s first fiance–the one that Joel knows, absolutely knows, will be killed in the war that is to come.

But Tom Carter doesn’t know a thing. All he knows is that this down on his luck guy rescued him from three bruisers. He takes Joel home with him, gives him a place to stay. His dad gives him a job. Joel makes a life. Becomes part of Tom’s circle of friends. Lives life to the fullest in that last golden summer.

And falls irrevocably, irretrievably in love with a woman, even though she’s engaged to someone else. Even though he can’t tell her the truth about himself. And manages to win her heart.

The summer turns to Fall. October turns to November. Just before Thanksgiving, He worries about what he’s going to do on December 8th. Every able-bodied man is going to volunteer for the Armed Services, and he’s not registered for the draft. What if he takes a bullet meant for someone else? What if he saves someone who shouldn’t be saved? How much of the future has he already changed?

Then he sees an article in the paper that the same alignment of planets that brought him to the past is going to happen again. On December 8, 1941. He has to try to go back. He’s afraid he’ll change too much if he marches off to war.

But he’s leaving his heart behind.

Verdict: This is beautiful, simply beautiful. The story is absolutely heartbreaking in Joel’s immersion into life in 1941, because he (and the reader) know how fragile it all is, and how soon everything is going to go smash. He feels the poignancy of it and conveys it so well. He’s happy and is aware of how precious and fleeting it is. At the same time he’s selfish enough to pursue Grace Vandenburg just because he wants her, and not thinking about the consequences (he is only 22 after all!).

When Joel comes back, he has changed, and the world hasn’t, and he feels something a lot like survivor’s guilt. Was it real or did he dream it? His loss and his loneliness, his need for validation were so well-done, I wanted to cry.  And the ending, well, that was just the one I hoped for.

I gladly give The Mine 5 brightly shining stars properly aligned for time-travel.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Paradise 21 by Aubrie Dionne

Format read: ebook purchased from Amazon
Formats available: Trade Paperback, ebook
Genre: Science Fiction Romance
Series: A New Dawn #1
Length: 247 pages
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Date Released: August 2, 2011
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Aries has lived her entire life aboard mankind’s last hope, the New Dawn, a spaceship traveling toward a planet where humanity can begin anew–a planet that won’t be reached in Aries’ lifetime. As one of the last genetically desirable women in the universe, she must marry her designated genetic match and produce the next generation for this centuries-long voyage.
But Aries has other plans.

When her desperate escape from the New Dawn strands her on a desert planet, Aries discovers the rumors about pirates–humans who escaped Earth before its demise–are true. Handsome, genetically imperfect Striker possesses the freedom Aries envies, and the two connect on a level she never thought possible. But pursued by her match from above and hunted by the planet’s native inhabitants, Aries quickly learns her freedom will come at a hefty price.

The life of the man she loves.

The classic science fiction line is that “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or of the one”. Mr. Spock is, after all, the authority on this sort of thing.

But what happens when you’re that “one” and you absolutely hate your lot in life taking care of the needs of that all-important “many”? And who decides what’s best, anyway?

The New Dawn is a generation ship, centuries out from a destroyed Earth, and centuries away from a new home planet. The crew/colony of the New Dawn have been raised in the belief that they carry the best genetic stock from the old world, and that their only destiny is to marry the mate the computer determines is the best genetic match from the available crew. Love and even psychological compatibility don’t enter into the equation.

The man Aries Ryder has been matched with is Lieutenant Astor Barliss. Astor is a ruthless officer–proud, ambitious, ruthless and manipulative. He’ll do anything to get ahead. It’s amazing that anyone in his ancestry was considered a perfect specimen of anything.

He’s also an abuser. Aries know that marriage to him will be a living hell. Astor has done everything he can, every minute, to kill her spirit, even just as her fiance. When they are married, he will have complete control over her. She would rather be dead.

Aries plans an escape, meticulously, carefully, as the New Dawn passes the desert world of Sahara 354. She finds that all of her education, her programming about uninhabited worlds was incorrect, as was the mis-information she was taught about the so-called inferior humans that the colonists left behind on Earth when they fled.

Because she is rescued by the descendant of one of those supposedly “lesser” humans on Sahara, a pirate named Striker, and finds him not inferior, but far superior to the people she left behind on New Dawn. Because Striker thinks and acts for himself. He wants a friend and a partner, not a mindless drone following some ancient “Code” by rote.

Aries falls in love with freedom, and with the man who represents that freedom, all too quickly. Striker keeps his emotions to himself. He’s been betrayed before. But he will help her get free of the tyrant who pursues her, or die trying.

Because Astor Bayliss refuses to give up what he thinks is his and cuts through half the planet of Sahara to get Aries back, terrorizing a whole company of his fellow colonists in the process.

The New Dawn may be headed for paradise, but Bayliss’ conduct and the rewards he receives for it reveal that its methods of getting there are anything but utopian.

And Striker, well, once he’s lost Aries, he discovers that he felt a lot more for her than he thought. Enough to rescue her from the middle of a whole ship full of hostile colonists–no matter what the cost.

Escape Rating B: Paradise 21 is a very solid beginning to Dionne’s science fiction romance series, A New Dawn. The next books in the series are Tundra 37, A Hero Rising and Haven 6, and I’m definitely looking forward to reading them!

While on the one hand, I did find Striker’s and Aries relationship a bit too close to “insta-love” to be totally believable, I was fascinated by the portrayal of life aboard the generation ship, and how the “Code” was fraying around the edges.

I did wonder how things had evolved so that women were that completely subservient to men. It could happen, I just wondered how and why. In that small and closed a group, every hand and every brain would seem to be needed.

What does a totally closed society do with people who don’t quite conform, like Aries and Barliss? Interesting solutions in each case made for a fascinating story.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Dual Review: West of Want by Laura Kaye

Format read: e-ARC provided by publisher
Release Date: 10 July 2012
Series: Book #2 in the Hearts of the Anemoi series
Number of pages: 222 pages
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Formats available: ebook
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Author’s Website, Amazon, KindleBarnes and Noble, Read an excerpt


Betrayal is all he’s ever known, but in her, he’ll find a love strong enough to be trusted…

When Marcella Raines’ twin brother dies, she honors his request to be buried at sea, never expecting the violent storm that swamps her boat. Though she’s gravely injured–and still emotionally damaged from her recent divorce–Ella fights to survive.

Zephyros Martius is the Supreme God of the West Wind and Spring, but being the strongest Anemoi hasn’t protected him from betrayal and loss. Worse, he’s sure his brother Eurus is behind it. When Zeph’s heartbreak whips up a storm that shipwrecks a human, his guilt forces him to save her.

Ella is drawn to the vulnerability Zeph hides beneath his otherworldly masculinity and ancient blue eyes. And her honesty, empathy, and unique, calming influence leave Zeph wanting…everything. When Eurus threatens Ella, she and Zeph struggle to let go of the past, defend their future, and embrace what they most want–a love that can be trusted.

Our Thoughts:

Marlene: North of Need was one of those utterly marvelous stories that comes along once in a “blue moon”, a story that was absolutely magical. When West of Want came out, I was hoping for another fantastic experience, but unfortunately the lightning wasn’t captured in the bottle the second time around. West of Want is pretty good, but it just isn’t up to the high bar set by North of Need.

Stella: *sighs* Yes, I pretty much agree Marlene. For the past couple of years I haven’t been a big PNR fan as I find it way too clichéd nowadays, but North of Need was such a breath of fresh air, I loved how unique Owen was, his innocent discovery of the world (and ice creams!), I just loved their story! So naturally I started West of Want with high expectations: I wanted the same original and entertaining story with memorable and unique characters I got used to in North of Need, but West of Want fell short on both accounts.

Marlene: One of the issues that I had with the story from the very beginning was “what the hell was wrong with Zeph?” We never do get complete clarity on why he caused the storm that starts off the story. I often found myself floundering in the backstory of this book. All of Zeph’s and Ella’s problems with trusting each other have to do with their past bad relationships, but we don’t get a whole lot of info on what happened. Ella’s backstory is fairly clear, but Zeph, not so much. And his family feud with Eurus, OMG. There’s a whole other novel’s worth of stuff in what’s wrong with Eurus.

Stella: Yes, sadly I felt that the plot of West of Want was all over the place. While I enjoy mythological references (hello, history/mythology junkie here!), I felt that there was too much crammed into West of Want. We got the whole run down on Zeph’s every paramour, family dysfunctions among many other things, one of them namely the main storyline…

While I was fairly engrossed in Zeph and Ella’s story they weren’t the memorable and unique characters that made me wonder and ponder things long after I have turned the page. I had problems understanding (and accepting) their insta-love connection (especially on Zeph’s side, he is a god after all, has been around for millenia and I didn’t get a clear answer to why this woman, what does he see in her?).

Marlene: The ending of the story, and the convenient explanation for Zeph’s and Ella’s insta-love at the beginning, smacked way too much of deus ex machina. Although Stella, my Latin scholar friend will probably correct that to dei, since there are multiple gods involved in cleaning up the mess that Eurus causes, and more gods than just the Anemoi. Was it truly necessary to bring both the Greek and Roman pantheons in on this? Really? Either/or would have been reasonable, since the Anemoi are the Greek wind gods after all. But both? Mars and Ares?

Stella: Lol Marlene, thanks first for including a bit of Latin, it’s really a pity we don’t use this language more 😉 And second of all thanks for mentioning the combination of BOTH mythological worlds. Ares is the Greek counterpart of Mars, they are one and the same god just either perceived by the Greeks (Ares) or the Romans (Mars), so I was stumped why a Roman god (Mars) was introduced in a story which featured Greek gods (the Anemoi). I thought it was a shallow, typo-kind of mistake that an editor should have corrected. I get that they needed the names to rhyme (Mars – Marcella – March), but it still screwed with the rules of the world-building.

Marlene: That was an “off the rails” moment for me. Zeph actually refers to “Mars and his brother Ares” late in the story as sharing a “legendary masculine aggression”, but while Ares directs his towards literal war-making, Mars focuses on peace-making. However you slice and dice this, both pantheons seem to co-exist simultanously. That’s just too many gods at one time. The only author who can successfully put this many gods in one story is Neil Gaiman, and that’s not the kind of story we’re talking about here.

Stella: I’m all for re-interpreting legends and stuff, but messing with the main characteristics of gods this way is just not something I can take in stride. Mars as the peacemaker, oh yeah… *snorts*

Marlene: I’ll see your snort and raise you an eyebrow.

Stella: You’re on 😉 So anyway I found the ending, the resolution of everything way too easy and convenient, too neatly tied off.

Marlene: Exactly! Deus (or dei) ex machina. Except in this case there’s no machina, just lots and lots of dei.

Stella: Lol, perfectly said! 😀


Marlene: The insta-connection and insta-love was highly improbable, but I really liked Ella as a character. She may have accepted Zeph a bit (a lot) too easily, but who wouldn’t accept someone that gorgeous who could heal that much damage?

Eurus came across as much too “Bwahaha” evil, and there wasn’t enough backstory to explain why Zeph was so incredibly down on himself. He was, after all, a god. Even though the author’s writing made the story entertaining enough to carry me along, it was still a disappointment after the astonishment and wonder of North of Need.

I give West of Want 3.5 stars.

Stella: After having North of Need give back my love and hope for PNR I was very excited and looking forward to West of Want, which sadly didn’t live up to the first story 🙁 I found it too clichéd, too generic, the typical paranormal romance. Don’t misunderstand me, West of Want wasn’t bad, but it was just ‘nice’, which after the wonder and great surprise that North of Need was, felt like a let down. Laura Kaye’s writing is still amazingly captivating, but the characters felt flat and cardboard-like. If you are a fan of paranormal romances and/or Laura Kaye you’ll enjoy West of Want, but if you are looking for something a bit different and more original (and fun) than the “six of one, half a dozen of the other” PNR stories, try North of Need instead.

I give West of Want 3.5 stars.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Willow Pond by Carol Tibaldi + Giveaway

Format read: ebook provided by the Author
Formats available: Trade paperback, ebook
Genre: mystery
Length: 324 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace
Date Released: December 12, 2011
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

The Roaring Twenties crumble into the Great Depression, but Virginia Kingsley, New York’s toughest and most successful speakeasy owner, is doing just fine. Now that the world is falling apart, bootlegging is a flourishing business, and she’s queen of that castle.

Then her infant nephew is kidnapped. Her niece, Laura, and Laura’s philandering movie star husband, are devastated. The police have few leads, and speculation and rumors abound in the media circus that follows the celebrity abduction.

Only one reporter, Erich Muller, seems to care enough about the child’s welfare and the parents’ feelings to report the case responsibly. Over the course of the investigation, Erich Muller and Laura fall in love, but their relationship is doomed to failure since he suspects her beloved aunt Virginia is behind the kidnapping. Laura, jaded when it comes to men, sides with Virginia.

But Virginia has figured out the truth, and she can’t tell anyone for fear of losing her niece’s affections and having the police ransack her life. So she pursues her own investigation, shaking down, threatening, and killing one petty crook after another during her search.

Little Todd’s absence shapes everyone’s lives. When he is finally found, the discovery will bring disaster for some and revelation for others.

There’s something about “The Roaring 20’s” that continues to fascinate, even nearly a century later. The styles still look incredible cool, for one thing. The sleekness of Art Deco has become instantly recognizable.

Ms. Tibaldi evoked the era so completely that I half expected Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot to step out of the pages and offer to solve the case. The 20’s were, after all, his time, and this type of upper-class affair would have been just the sort of thing to exercise his “little grey cells”.

But the case it reminded me of most was the Lindbergh baby kidnapping of 1932. The 20-month-old son of famous aviator Charles Lindbergh and his wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, was kidnapped in May of 1932, and later found murdered. This case resulted in the Federal Kidnapping Act, the law which makes it a federal crime to transport a kidnapping victim across state lines.

When I started the story, I wondered how much the kidnapping in Willow Pond would resemble the historic crime. Thankfully, not at all.

Instead, Willow Pond looks at another memorable historic law of the 1920s–Prohibition. We romanticize the speakeasies and laugh about “bathtub gin”, but Prohibition also brought about the rise of Organized Crime to transport the illegal booze that everyone still drank.

In Willow Pond, four lives intersect. Laura Austin’s life is turned upside down when her son is kidnapped. It seems that this should be her story, and it somewhat is, but only somewhat. In the aftermath of the terrible devastation wrought by the limbo of her missing child, Laura finally grows up. She completes her separation from her self-absorbed actor-husband, Philip Austin.

Both fortunately and unfortunately, Laura turns to Erich Muller, the crime reporter sent to cover the sensational story. Their relationship draws his investigative reporter skills in to pursue leads long after the police have let the trail run cold.

Virginia Kingley is Laura’s aunt, and the woman who raised Laura after her mother died. However, and most important, Virginia is part of the underworld. She runs a speakeasy called the Bacchanal, and she runs booze with the big boys. Her love affair with the Police Commissioner gives her the clout to keep her life from being investigated, but it doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be.

Because Laura is caught in the middle between her need to defend the woman who raised her, and her lover’s certainty that someone in Virginia’s shady life had something to do with the kidnapping. All the trails seem to lead back to Virginia Kingsley, where every investigation gets blocked. Laura sides with her aunt. She may have come to love Erich, but her narcissistic bastard of a husband taught her that Virginia is much more trustworthy than any man.

It’s just too bad that Erich is right. Because that fourth life in the intersection…is her child’s kidnapper. She doesn’t want money. She just wants a child of her own.

And Todd just wants his mommy.

Escape Rating A-: I stayed up until 3 am to finish Willow Pond. I was so caught up in it that I couldn’t wait to find out how it ended.

Two things about Willow Pond that I found captivating were the 1920s setting and the kidnapping mystery itself. The author did an excellent, absolutely marvelous job invoking the feel of the 1920s. Poirot or Lord Peter Wimsey would have seemed right at home in this mystery.

The tension of limbo that the “not knowing” had on Laura was intense and very well-done. I felt for her pain and loss. Also the whole suspense of where the kidnapper and Todd were and the chase for them was definitely a thrill-ride.

One part didn’t work for me and that was Erich’s incredibly shabby treatment of his wife at the end of the story. This was not a romance, so I was not expecting that kind of happy ever after. But if Laura and Erich were going to get one, then Erich’s rebound marriage to Jenny seemed an unnecessary bit of pathos to this reader.

All in all, Willow Pond is a fantastic evocation of the 1920s with their glamour, scandals, and crimes.


As part of the book tour for Willow Pond, Carol Tibaldi and Pump Up Your Books are giving away one (1) trade paperback copy of Willow Pond to one lucky commenter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Bookish Rant: How Much Does an Ebook Cost?

When you go to your bookseller of choice and buy an ebook, it costs whatever the dealer says it costs. Anything from free to $14.99 or the equivalent per country.

The real caveat isn’t the different currency, the “trick” is in that three-letter-word “buy”. Because as we all know but conveniently forget, we don’t buy our ebooks, or any electronic media, including software. We license it from the supplier. Which means that they can set the terms of the license.

Back to the question of the cost of an ebook. The price to an individual, meaning you and me, is what the seller (Amazon, B&N, Book Depository, etc.) says it is. Because that’s the arrangement that those suppliers have made with the publishers. You remember the publishers, and that little anti-trust lawsuit problem they have with the U.S. Government about, you guessed it, the price of ebooks? (If not, see this Bookish Rant)

About that cost of ebooks … have you ever checked an ebook out of your public library? Did you know that libraries have ebooks for you to check out?  They very definitely do, but there are a couple of issues, and they boil down to that cost of ebooks problem.

If you’ve ever tried to check an ebook out at your local public library, you might have discovered that there are a number of ebooks that just plain aren’t available at the library, but that you know perfectly well are available from Amazon and B&N. There’s a reason for that and it’s not pretty.

Those “Big 6” publishers in the price-fixing anti-trust lawsuit? (Only five are in the price-fixing suit, but the “Big 6” publishers are: Hachette Book Group, Harper Collins, Macmillan, Penguin Group, Random House and Simon & Schuster). Only Harper Collins and Random House currently license frontlist ebooks to libraries in the U.S. Hachette licenses backlist titles only. Penguin,  Macmillan and S&S just say no, although Penguin and Macmillan are “experimenting with some models of access”.  Scholastic Books, the publishers of The Hunger Games, also just says “no”.

This means that more than half the big publishers have said they don’t want libraries’ money, not at any price. Why? Because they are afraid, and yes, I do mean afraid, as in scared out of their socks (and wits), that people might borrow ebooks instead of buying them. This is in spite of increasing evidence that people who borrow books actually buy more books.

So if you’re wondering why you can’t borrow an ebook of Sylvia Day’s Bared to You from your public library, it’s because she’s published by Berkley Books, a division of Penguin. J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy is being published by Little, Brown, and guess what? Little, Brown is a division of Hachette.

But some publishers do want libraries’ money. They just want LOTS of it. If you want to buy a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey, it costs $9.99 as an ebook. If a library wants it, they can buy it alright, but it costs $47.85. Think about that for a minute and gasp. It’s still one copy. It can only be out to one person at a time, just like the print book. What makes the publisher think it’s worth five times as much? (If you want the entire gruesome picture, take a look at this price comparison from the Douglas County Libraries in Colorado.)

Libraries have very finite, and often shrinking budgets. If they spend a lot in one area to keep patrons happy, that money has to be taken from somewhere else. If a very, very popular ebook like Fifty Shades costs five times as much as it should, or if Gone Girl costs $25 instead of the $12.99 that it should, something else doesn’t get bought. Like more debut authors, or more genre fiction (like romance) or simply having more titles to choose from all the way around.

When the library purchases fewer titles to satisfy the clamor for high-demand titles on the best-seller list, mid-list and debut authors lose sales. They get lower advances for their next books, or publishers don’t buy their books at all. What happens then? It’s a vicious cycle. Or a circle towards the drain. (Insert your metaphor here)

Some of you are thinking that this won’t matter to you, that you either don’t use your local library, or that you only borrow print books. Or even that you only read print books. There’s a couple of other thoughts I’d like to leave you with before I get down off my soapbox.

Ebooks are now the dominant form of distribution for adult fiction in the U.S. More adult fiction is purchased in ebook format than any other format. More than hardcover, more than trade paperback, more than mass market paperback. Not more than all of them combined, but more than any one of them individually. And don’t think the day won’t come when ebooks do pass all of them combined for categories like adult fiction. This snowball is already rolling down that hill and picking up speed. And debris.

Publishers make more profit on hardcovers than they do on ebooks, so hardcovers aren’t going away. But authors I heard speak at Dragon*Con were saying that this is the beginning of the end for mass market paperbacks. Ebooks are more profitable for the publishers to produce than mass market paperbacks, and consumers are voting with their dollars for ebooks over mass market paperbacks.

I love the convenience of ebooks. I buy them in bed at midnight and they are right there, right then. But I want every book I buy to be available for my local library to purchase too, so everyone can enjoy them. (Libraries are fantastic for “try before you buy” for new-to-me authors)  What happens, not if, but when publishers only publish first-time authors in ebook, and libraries can’t buy those books?

Interview with Authors Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall

My very special guests today are Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall, the authors of the Cowboy and Vampire series. And one of the most fascinating (and detailed) interviews it has ever been my privilege to host. Read it and get a taste of why you should dive right into their Cowboy and Vampire thriller series (see my reviews of The Cowboy and the Vampire and Blood and Whiskey for all the deliciously gory details–we’re talking vampires, there’s supposed to be some gore!)

Marlene: Clark and Kathleen, can you please tell us a bit about yourselves? What do you do when you’re not writing?

Clark and Kathleen: Leading with an absolute stereotype, all authors are boring and we are not exceptions to that rule. Serious authors (and we don’t mean authors who lack cheerful dispositions, nor do we mean those who are financially successful — we’re talking about authors who take the pursuit seriously and place it equal to or above all others) tend to spend most (all) of their spare time locked in a room, examining the motivations of make-believe people moving across a fictional landscape. It’s self-imposed schizophrenia and there is simply nothing interesting about it other than, hopefully, how it makes readers feel later when they make their way through the finished product. But there is a lot of hard, boring work to get from idea to finished product.

That’s a long-winded way of saying the only thing we do when we are not writing is think about writing, talk about writing … and read. Reading is not only an enjoyable pursuit, it keeps the brain primed with what writing feels like once it’s delivered.

To make a boring story even more mind-numbing, we both work in communications — Kathleen for a research university, Clark for a national financial services company — so we spend all of our days writing, or thinking about the strategy behind how words will affect an audience. We both write for a living, and we both write to live, which is awesome, but also tiring. And boring.

Which is a shame because we live in Portland, Oregon — one of the coolest cities in the country. Along with all the creative people, great food and tremendous beer, it’s smack dab between the lovely, rocky and often undeveloped coast to the west, the sagebrush-covered high desert to the east and the mountains of the Gifford Pinchot Wilderness (where Bigfoot walks!) to the north. We do try to get away whenever we can, but generally tote our laptops and notebooks along with us to write or talk about writing.

Marlene: And speaking of writing, what is it like to co-author a book? What’s your process for writing a novel together?

Clark and Kathleen: Writing together is like making diamonds from carbon. It takes a lot of time, heat and pressure to end up with something rare, something that endures, something that people want to own. The time is something we carve out ourselves. The heat is generated by the shared creativity and the epic fights we have about … well, everything — from the phallic nature of em-dashes to the value of flashback sequences. As for the pressure, it’s self-imposed; we feel a responsibility to create simply the best work possible, work that — despite the seemingly crazy subject matter: cowboys and vampires — will stand the test of time and not do a disservice to the efforts of writers who came before us and those who will come after us.

For example, we’re not Kafka, but it’s okay — desired, actually — to aspire to that level of creativity and skill and to try and replicate his ability to change perceptions, if only for a short time, of readers. We write about cowboys and vampires, among other things. Kafka wrote about a man who turned into a giant cockroach. We want to be known for fun, entertaining books that still deliver quality fiction. Our books use familiar icons to take readers on a journey that examines the nature of reality, the meaning of consciousness and the nature of evil. And of course, it’s all wrapped up in a dark comedy and a sizzling love story.

The process of writing together is pretty straightforward. First, we come up with the concept. Then we plot it out. Next up is assigning chapters. After that comes the most crucial step: murdering our “regular” lives. We give up on social events, family obligations and anything fun. We immerse ourselves in the process, crank out chapters and then swap them to edit and back and forth, ad infinitum. Despite great odds, in the midst of all that madness and mayhem, a book begins to take shape. And after countless edits passing it back and forth, and countless fights and going to bed angry over the most ridiculous things, our two visions of the world are gradually, painstakingly shaped into a seamless whole. And hopefully that whole will be a glittering diamond and not fool’s gold (pyrite, which is formed under much less extreme conditions than diamonds).

Marlene: What made you decide to get into this whole co-novel-writing thing in the first place? There must be a story in there.

Clark and Kathleen: We started writing together to try and save our relationship. We were tentatively exploring the idea of reconciling after a two-year separation following an ugly break up. We had crashed together in an intense and passionate relationship but the intensity, the energy generated, was bigger than we were at the time, so we came up with creative ways to sabotage our own happiness and retreated to lick our wounds. In the time apart, we realized we had turned our back on something huge, something that deserved another attempt. But we wanted to be smarter this time, so we agreed on some ground rules.

We decided to write together to divert some of the crazy, creative energy into fiction. So far, so good.

Marlene: Would you care to tell us a bit about how you got together? It sounds like your story might make a good romance novel just by itself?

Clark and Kathleen: Right? Thank you! We think it would make an awesome story. We met while working survival jobs in a restaurant in Portland. We were both unhappily married to other people at the time and there was an immediate, visceral, magical connection like we’d met in a past life, or several past lives, but — and we want to make this very clear: nothing came of it. Other than having some fantastic conversations and, probably, flirting a bit more than we should have, absolutely nothing happened.

Several years later, luckily, our paths crossed again and we were both single. Lots happened then, so much so that we combusted into an epic break up (see above).

Marlene: The series you’re writing is Cowboy and Vampire. Western meets horror. Two genres that don’t normally ride together, so to speak. What inspired you to blend them?

Clark and Kathleen: When we got back together the second time and decided to write together, we wanted to come up with a concept that brought together our interests. Clark grew up in Montana and is a big fan of the west, interested in how modern life in cowboy country is built on all of the myths and legends of that short, golden era of the American west. Kathleen is interested in the intersection of science and religion, exploring concepts such as where the self exists, how morality is created and what Near Death Experiences mean. And we both have a macabre, dark side. Bring all that together, along with a desire to write something fun that would really grab readers, and you can see how undead buckaroos bubbled to the surface.

We met up after our two-year seclusion at a truck stop in Madras, Oregon, halfway between our respective homes — a neutral, no-man’s land. We started pitching ideas and when we got to cowboys and vampires, we both got really excited and the more we talked about it, the more possibilities we saw. We sketched out the rough plot line for the first book in crayon on the back of a paper placemat, then returned to our homes and started working on it. At the time, this was 1998, we didn’t have email (insert your own “when I was young” jokes) so we mailed the chapters back and forth written in long hand.

Marlene: Can you briefly describe the Cowboy and Vampire series, so readers know what to expect when they step into your world? Can they start with Blood and Whiskey, or do people really need to start at the beginning?

Clark and Kathleen: The Cowboy and Vampire Thriller Series is a love story about the power that exists when worlds collide and opposites attract. And Tucker and Lizzie, the main characters, couldn’t be more opposite.

Tucker is a down-on-his-luck cowboy living in LonePine, Wyoming, population 438. He’s got a small ranch, big bills, an overly-sensitive dog named Rex and a good, but simple life. His world is completely upended when he falls hat-over-boot-heels in love with Lizzie Vaughan. She’s a hot-shot reporter from New York on assignment from her magazine to chronicle the disappearing west. They meet, sparks fly and bed sheets get twisted, and that might have been the end of it — a few nights of passionate sex and enough good memories to last a lifetime — but Lizzie has ancient vampire blood in her veins and the ruling elite of the vampire world want it bad.

In The Cowboy and the Vampire, Lizzie finds out she is a vampire and turns to Tucker for help. They have to fend off a horde of evil vampires, led by her maniacal father who is bent on stealing the power in her veins and using it to reshape the world to his own twisted liking, while coming to terms with the fact that she will need blood to live.

In Blood and Whiskey, which picks up on the action but is a standalone read, they face a new challenge ­­— a race war brewing between the two species of vampires, Reptiles and Royals — and LonePine is caught right in the middle. As foreign vampires bent on testing Lizzie’s strength swarm to the tiny town, an undead assassin straight out of the old west has Lizzie in his gun sights.

Marlene: What book do each of you recommend that everyone should read, and why did you pick that particular book?

Kathleen: Animal Liberation, by Peter Singer. It’s a little outdated now, but it still gets you thinking about cruelty and our own role in it. Thinking about cruelty is a good state of mind to be in when you write about vampires.

Clark: Les Misérables, by Victor Hugo; I think it’s one of the greatest books ever written and the level of character development is inspiring. Hugo spent more time developing minor characters than many contemporary authors spend on their protagonists. And that final chapter is just heart wrenching. I’m not sure the book would get published today because modern readers seem to prefer less exposition, but I consider it is a true monument to the craft.

Marlene: Will there be more books in this series? What is next on your schedule?

Clark and Kathleen: We are hard at work on book three, tentatively called Undead Frontiers. And we are debuting a new paranormal detective series shortly after that. It has a tough female lead and is written in the old noir style. We call it “paranoir.” The first in the series is tentatively titled Plantlife.

Marlene: Now can you tell us 3 reasons why people should read your books?

Clark and Kathleen:

1) Pure entertainment. Our books are a great blend of funny and suspenseful. There’s intrigue, backstabbing, betrayal, pulse-quickening action and steamy romance all punctuated with deadpan black humor. For example, after barely surviving an undead assault at a horrific slaughterhouse and flash-freezing a vampire, Tucker has this to say:

“Vampire-sicles,” Tucker said. “There’s a flavor that ain’t gonna catch on at the Tastee Freeze next summer.”

2) Gets your brain juiced up. Our vampires are sustained by The Meta. They die every morning, completely, and their “souls” — the sense of individuated self — reside temporarily in The Meta, a giant energy field that contains, sustains and stores life in between physical incarnations. For vampires, who have a near death experience every morning, it’s fairly run of the mill. For humans, accessing The Meta is life-changing. This aspect of the story continues to draw interest.

“While a number of existentialist underpinnings give the series some depth, the book is first and foremost a thriller, upping the ante in every chapter as bullets fly and relationships strain under the weight of old loyalties and new revelations. In a way, it’s a shame more time isn’t spent exploring the existence of this meta world where consciousnesses wait out the daylight hours and immortality has all sorts of ramifications for human spirituality.” Kirkus Reviews.

3) Welcome to the real modern west. The western part is utterly realistic and based on Clark’s experiences growing up on a ranch in Montana as well as our shared love of the remote reaches of Oregon. For example, we so fell in love with tiny Plush, Oregon on a recent trip there to mine sunstones, we decided to feature it — and sunstones, the state gemstone of Oregon — in Blood and Whiskey. A review from the nearest paper, the East Oregonian, indicates that we got the cowboy part right.

“These books are billed as romantic thrillers, and it’s certainly non-stop action from the get-go. They are full of the down-home dry wit and laid-back attitude that cowboys do so well. And as unlikely as their relationship is, Tucker and Lizzie’s bond is what makes the whole scheme work. So if you’re looking for a combination of sex, blood and Western romance, pour yourself a shot of the good stuff and settle in for a wickedly good read.” Renee Struthers, The East Oregonian

Marlene: Each of you, morning person or night owl?

Clark and Kathleen: Neither of us are really night owls, but only because our work schedules get us up early and send us to bed pretty early, with our brains spent. In a perfect world, one in which we never had to leave our little world (lovingly referred to as Reclusia) we would probably stay up later and sleep later.

Thanks so much for letting us stop by!

And thank you for interrupting your real and writing life (or that much-needed trip to Reclusia) to answer all my questions. This was awesome! Vampire-sicles, OMG I’m still laughing about the vampire-sicles.

Review: Blood and Whiskey by Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall

Format read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: Trade paperback, ebook
Genre: paranormal
Series: Cowboy and Vampire #2
Length: 362 pages
Publisher: Pumpjack Press
Purchasing Info: Authors’ Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Wanted: Lizzie Vaughan, Dead or Alive. Relationships are always hard, but for a broke cowboy and a newly turned Vampire, true love may be lethal. After barely surviving an undead apocalypse in The Cowboy and the Vampire, Tucker and Lizzie hightail it back to quirky LonePine, Wyoming (population 438), to start a family. But she’s got a growing thirst for blood and he’s realizing that mortality ain’t all it’s cracked up to be when your girlfriend may live forever. With a scheming Vampire nation hot on their boot heels and a price on her head, how far will Lizzie and Tucker go to protect their unlikely love? Blending evolution, religion and an overly sensitive cow dog named Rex, Blood and Whiskey drags the Vampire myth into the modern west, delivering double-barreled action, heart-pounding passion and wicked humor.

Blood and Whiskey by Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall is definitely “A Cowboy and Vampire Thriller”, just like it says in the subtitle. Meaning that it involves a cowboy, (actually multiple cowboys, but one in particular), a vampire (again multiples, some good, some definitely not so good) and is it ever a thriller.

Also, it’s the sequel to The Cowboy and the Vampire (reviewed here), and it helps a ton to have read the first book first. These vampires have a whole religion of their very own. (There will be spoilers here for the first book. You have been warned.)

When last we left out heroes, Lizzie was the new queen of the vampires, her nemesis (and father) Julius, was permanently dead, and she was pregnant with Tucker’s baby–with no idea whether said baby was going to be human, vampire or some combination of the two. After all the crazy changes in her life, she just wanted to go home, and that meant Tucker’s home, little ole LonePine, Wyoming.

Where the vampire world descends in droves. With Julius dead, there’s a vacuum of power, and everyone wants to know if Lizzie is even capable of filling it. If she isn’t, or doesn’t, chaos will rule. A chaos that will be very, very bad, not just for Lizzie, and for the “good” vampires, but also for the human race. They’ll just be food, like cattle. On the worst-tended factory farm anyone could possibly imagine…and probably for the shortest time in (unlikely to be) recorded history.

Then night will fall. A night that will make the first Dark Ages look positively bright in comparison.

While Lizzie figures out whether she can “woman up” (maybe that should be “vampire up”) and deal with the politics, Tucker has a mission of his own: helping his best friend, conspiracy theory-happy Lenny rescue his kidnapped niece Rose from a feed lot. It turns out Lenny’s conspiracy theories were right after all, just not quite the way anyone imagined.

It forces Lizzie to accept the consequences of her choices as a vampire, and not take the easy way out. Not as a vampire, not as leader, not as a queen. She can either consciously choose to consume evil, or she can become evil by default. It’s her choice, and her destiny.

The right choices are never the easy ones. Lizzie is lucky that cowboys learn that before they fall in love with vampires.

Escape Rating A-: Blood and Whiskey had less philosophy and more action than the first book, and that made for a much more action-packed, and more absorbing story. I picked this one up and totally lost track of time–always an excellent sign.

Every writer who tackles the “vampire question” puts their own unique spin on it, and Hays and McFall are no exception. Their take on vampire philosophy/metaphysics as “good” vampires being those who consume evil humans, and “bad” ones as those who just eat whatever they darn well please made for an interesting moral conundrum, along with the two different pictures of “love as redemption” painted by Tucker’s steadfast love for Lizzie in spite of her change, and the reptile-descended vampire Eliza’s surprising discovery of love for the beautiful Virote.

The question at the end, whether enlightened self-interest is enough to redeem an entire species, is one that I hope will be answered in later books in the series.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Interview with Author Suzanne Selfors + Chocolate Giveaway!

By now, everyone is salivating in anticipation of today’s interview with Suzanne Selfors. Her fairy-tale romance, The Sweetest Spell, is a marvelous re-telling of King Midas, Rumpelstiltskin and The Ugly Duckling all rolled into one delicious chocolate covered treat. (See my review for details). If you want a chance to win a copy of Suzanne’s fairy tale, head on over to Book Lovers Inc, there’s a contest to win a copy of her book going on until Sept. 29.

Now if you want a chance for some delicious, delectable chocolate, to celebrate Suzanne’s book about the magic of chocolate, read on!

Marlene: Suzanne, can you please tell us a bit about yourself?

Suzanne: I’m the mother of two—my son just left for his first year of college. I started writing my first novel when I was 39. I’m the fifth generation of my family to live on my little island. I love dogs. Oh, and chocolate.

Marlene: Most of your previous books have had at least one foot in contemporary life. What inspired you to slip all the way into the fantasy genre for The Sweetest Spell?

Suzanne: Well, I also write for younger kids and those books tend to be much more fantastical in nature. This idea was bouncing around in my head, to retell the King Midas story. I toyed with the idea of using a contemporary setting, but I’ve always wanted to write a fairy tale. So I took the leap.

Marlene: Describe a typical day of writing? Are you a planner or pantser?

Suzanne: Before I start a new novel, I always know the beginning of the story and the ending. But the journey between is the adventure. For me, trying to chart the story before it’s written is a waste of time and honestly, kills the joy.

I typically write at my favorite coffeehouse where there’s just enough white noise and great music to keep me going. Plus they provide great coffee and the dark chocolate sticks. I can’t write at home. I get distracted by all the stuff that needs to be done.

Marlene: What can we expect of The Sweetest Spell?

Suzanne: An entertaining, fast-paced, romantic tale. A girl to cheer for, a boy to fall in love with. And all the fairy-tale elements we’ve come to love—a faraway kingdom, a prince, a cruel queen, a hero who must grapple with her destiny.

And some deeper meaning, too. I wanted to explore the theme of greed. What a perfect time to do this, since we are surrounded by a culture of greed. I ask the question, what would you do if you had nothing and suddenly had everything, but at great cost to those you love?

Marlene: Would you like to share your favorite scene from the book with us?

Suzanne: I love the scene where we first meet the arrogant but dashing Griffin Boar. He’s the neighbor boy who’s spent his life ignoring our hero, Emmeline Thistle. He falls off his horse because he’s staring at himself in a mirror while riding.

Marlene: Why did you pick chocolate as the precious delicacy for the book? Why not something else? (Not that chocolate isn’t precious…)

Suzanne: So as I said earlier, I wanted to retell the King Midas story. Midas was the guy who touched everything and it turned to gold. He became very rich but in the end was miserable because he couldn’t touch those he loved without killing them. I started writing but soon discovered that I felt very little passion for the story. Gold wasn’t doing it for me. I was bored.

Then one night, when my daughter and I went on a rampage, searching every inch of our house for a morsel of chocolate and finding NOTHING!, I realized, chocolate is all about desire, longing, passion. So that’s when I decided to give Emmeline the magical gift of making chocolate.

Marlene: What’s your favorite food…?

Suzanne: Well, I eat dark chocolate most every day. It’s a true addiction. And I love blueberries. I pick them in the summer and keep bags of them in the freezer.

Marlene: What was the first moment you know you wanted to write?

Suzanne: I’ve been creating stories my whole life but I didn’t attempt a novel until the morning my daughter got onto the school bus to begin first grade. It was that morning, I was 39 and facing my 40th birthday, feeling my mortality and it struck me like a lightning bolt. I need to do this thing. I need to write and try to get published.

Marlene: What book do you recommend everyone should read and why?

Suzanne: My book? Well, of course I recommend The Sweetest Spell because it will appeal to all ages.

Someone else’s book? There’s this book called A Little History of the World by E.H. Gombrich. He turns history into story. I recommend it to everyone.

Marlene: What’s next on your schedule? Do you have any upcoming projects you would like to share?

Suzanne: I’m busy, that’s for sure. In November the 3rd book in the Smells Like Dog trilogy releases. It’s called Smells Like Pirates. Then in 2013, I have two new series releasing, one for Little,Brown, the other for Harper Collins. These are all for younger readers.

Marlene: Now can you tell us 3 reasons why people should read your books?

Suzanne: First and foremost, they are fun. Entertainment is my goal. Funny and filled with hope.

Marlene: Speaking of precious substances, coffee or tea?

Suzanne: Oh, coffee. Espresso. One shot with nonfat milk. Daily.


In celebration of the magic of chocolate in The Sweetest Spell, Suzanne is giving a chocolate gift to one lucky commenter (US only). All you have to do is fill in the rafflecopter form and answer Suzanne’s question:

What’s your favorite kind of chocolate? This can be your favorite chocolate dessert, or whether you like dark chocolate or milk chocolate better.

a Rafflecopter giveaway