November 21, 2008

Dead Ringer

In other news, Deimyts has not been with us because he was putting together a portfolio. He recently received acceptance into his college's graphic design program. Therefore . . . congratulations! I've got some academic news myself, but I'm going to save it for a review (coming soon) that I think it will go well with.

Book Cover

By Mary Burton

The police discover the body of a woman strangely wearing a charm decorated with a name that's not her own. Soon, another woman with similar facial structure and coloring is found dead. Detective Jacob Warwick notices their resemblance to reporter Kendall Shaw who really gets under his skin.

At the same time Kendall has her own concerns. The Stranger (the killer in I'M WATCHING YOU) kidnapped and terrorized her and now she's having nightmares. Oddly, they aren't of her recent experience but of a little girl and baby hiding in a closet. This renews her interest in her adoption. Her parents never wanted to talk about it, but now both of them are dead and she's curious about her ancestry. Of course, her curiosity is also encouraged by her roommate Nicole Piper's pregnancy.

Nicole doesn't know whether she wants to keep her child or give it up for adoption. She does know she doesn't want her creepy customer anywhere near her or the baby. (And that might not be the only creeper after her.) Burton knows how to keep multiple storylines with multiple shady characters in play.

She also knows how to develop a relationship well. Kendall and Jacob are both very independent, career-driven people. With that in common it's hard for them to make connections. It takes them awhile to take steps toward a relationship, but it's satisfying when they do. There are interesting side relationships going on as well. Burton offers glimpses into the life of reunited couple Zach and Lindsey, the hero and heroine of I'M WATCHING YOU. They don't get more screen time than necessary, but they do get enough to show that their marriage has improved.

In addition, Nicole begins a very sweet relationship with widowed policeman Ayden. Well, they don't actually begin a relationship, but they clearly like each other. Nicole deserves it after all she's gone through in this duology. I believe this relationship is the focus of Burton's novella in the SILVER BELLS anthology, which makes me want to pick it up. I'm a sucker for cute, sweet romances. And a cute, sweet romance is exactly what DEAD RINGER needs at points.

Burton doesn't shy away from dark material, which is needed to make a romantic suspense suspenseful. In the end I find the killer a bit overly capable. Just how did he manage to find all his victims? (For that matter, why did they all live so close together?) However, she kept the story moving and I didn't begin to think about these questions until the end.

If you aren't into romantic suspense, this likely won't be the book to convert you. If you are, it's a good one to pick up. It's not too gory and it's there's plenty of lighter stuff to balance out the killers. Please read my review of I'M WATCHING YOU and my interview with Mary Burton as well. Burton's other current release, SILVER BELLS, is currently on the NYT bestseller list. DEAD RINGER is available in stores now. More information can be found at Burton's website.

My review copy was received through PUMP UP YOUR BOOK PROMOTION.
PUYBP

November 20, 2008

Interview with Mary Burton

Mary BurtonMary Burton has been a marketing professional, written historical romances, and romantic suspense. Her latest releases were I'M WATCHING YOU and DEAD RINGER, single title romantic suspense from Zebra. Her other current release, SILVER BELLS (an anthology with Fern Michaels, JoAnn Ross, and Judy Duarte), is currently #16 on the NYT bestseller list. Her novella features a character that first appears in I'M WATCHING YOU and DEAD RINGER.

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Book CoverBefore you decided to write and sell your stories, you worked in marketing. How do you apply skills from your first career to your current career?
My marketing background taught me so much. I learned how to network effectively, how to hold my own in a reception full of strangers and how to handle myself at signings. The principals of selling are much the same and I think its very wise for authors to handle themselves professionally.

Of your seventeen novels, twelve were for Harlequin Historicals. How did you research the setting? Do you use a similar process for your romantic suspense?
For the historicals I read just about every diary, map and history book I could find on the American West. One year I even took my vacation in Colorado where I visited every historical site I could find. And when I switched to romantic suspense, I followed the same pattern. First it was reading all the books I could find on crime solving. Then it was a vacation to St. Louis for the Sister’s in Crime Forensic University. I also attended a local citizens police academy and did a ride along with a police officer.

How is writing a single title different than a category?
Single Title plots are more complicated—meaning I’m balancing more points of view and more subplots. Also in Single Title I can spend more time with my characters and dig deeper into their pasts.

What drew you to historical romance and romantic suspense? Are there any other genres you would like to write?
I’ve always loved reading romance so I think no matter what type of book I write, there will be some romance in it. As for the historicals, I love history. In fact, I’ve been accused of being a history geek. If there is a historical reenactment in my area, you can bet I’ll be there. And Romantic Suspense is the perfect blend of mystery and romance. I love creating great puzzle for my readers to solve. For now, I’ll be writing romantic suspense.

Romantic suspense needs scary criminals in addition to an engaging romance. What are some of the difficulties in developing and portraying a villain?
I don’t have trouble building my villain’s history. In fact I try to find something that might explain why they became the people they’ve become. The toughest part for me is writing about my villain’s deeds. I always know if I’m on the edge of my seat while I’m writing a villain’s scene, chances are my reader will be as well.

I’m Watching You and Dead Ringer share a number of characters. Which couple – Lindsay and Zach from I’m Watching You or Kendall and Jacob from Dead Ringer – was easier to write?
Kendall and Jacob. I got to know them pretty well while I was writing I’M WATCHING YOU. Much of their story didn’t end up in I’M WATCHING YOU but I knew it. And when it came time to pen their story it just fell together.

Please tell my blog readers why they might enjoy reading Dead Ringer.
It's scary, sexy and I think I’ve created a book that will keep you guessing right up to the last page!


Mary Burton
www.maryburton.com

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Come back tomorrow for my review of DEAD RINGER!

November 14, 2008

The House on Tradd Street

Book Cover

By Karen White

While I haven't reviewed much literary fiction on this blog, I do enjoy it. On the other hand, I think it's something of an artificial category. The title and faux-impressionist cover speak of the setting but conceal the contents. At least the blurb is honest; otherwise people might be quite surprised to find themselves reading a ghost story with strong romance and mystery elements.

The eponymous house on Tradd Street is Melanie Middleton's unexpected inheritance. She grew up in Charleston and appreciates the history, but she doesn't appreciate the upkeep old houses require nor that her mother sold their house when it was supposed to become Melanie's. Though Melanie has become a realtor specializing in historical homes, she lives in an ultra modern apartment. But now Nevin Vanderhorst has died and left his home to Melanie with several strings attached. To her the most bothersome is having to live in the house.

Mr. Vanderhorst's mother left the family with Joseph Longo when he was a child, a strangely out-of-character move. Melanie inherited the ability to see ghosts from her mother and now she can see both Louisa Vanderhorst and a more malevolent, unknown male presence. However, Melanie wants to keep her nose out of the mystery. On the other hand, handsome, younger author Jack Trenholm is all too interested in the mystery. Joseph's descendant Marc Longo also approaches her to purchase the house.

In addition to suddenly gaining a social life, Melanie's parents are re-entering her life. Her former alcoholic father has been given control of the finances to restore the house and her runaway mother is calling. To survive her childhood Melanie became a very anal and controlled woman. The ghosts, suitors, and reemerging family ties through her off-balance and force her to own up to parts of herself she prefers to ignore.

There's quite a bit going on in THE HOUSE ON TRADD STREET and Karen White manages well. She rotates between focusing on the family, mystery, or romantic aspect often enough that you don't forget one plot thread is happening but not so often that the story loses its flow. The characters get less equal attention. Melanie is very well-developed and Jack has interesting dimensions. Marc, the final point of the triangle, is fairly one-note. Sophie and Chad, two supporting characters who appear frequently, are entertaining but rarely escape being stereotypical modern hippies. While I liked all of the characters, in the end I felt like I only had a grasp on Melanie.

Karen White can be found at her website. You can also learn more from my interview with her. The sequel to THE HOUSE ON TRADD STREET, titled THE GIRL ON LEGARE STREET, will be published November 2009. I intend to pick it up.

My review copy was received through PUMP UP YOUR BOOK PROMOTION.
PUYBP

November 12, 2008

Unsent

Bookluver Carol tagged anyone who hasn't done this yet. That would include me.

1. Put your iTunes, Windows Media Player, Minamp, etc on shuffle.
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.
3. YOU MUST WRITE THAT SONG NAME DOWN NO MATTER HOW SILLY IT SOUNDS.
4. Put the artist after a dash following the song name.
5. Put any comments in brackets.
6. Tag some lucky people to spread the disease.

How would you describe yourself?
A Child with the Ghost - Gary Numan

Now, that sounds far more interesting than me.

How do you feel today?
Get Down, Make Love - Nine Inch Nails

Makes sense but is inaccurate.

What is your life's purpose?
Sally - Gogol Bordello

How's that a purpose? Great song though . . .

What is your motto?
Once a Part of Me - Eric Johnson

These questions aren't really designed to be answered by songs, methinks.

What do you think about very often?
The Down Town - Days of the New

In a way, I suppose this makes sense.

What is your life story?
Blessed - Simon & Garfunkel

One can only hope.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
Mother's Little Helper - The Rolling Stones

That's scary.

What will you dance to at your wedding?
In the Flesh - Luther Wright & the Wrongs

Nothing says wedding like a bluegrass cover of a Pink Floyd song. Nothing.

What will they play at your funeral?
. . . And the Gods Made Love - The Jimi Hendrix Experience

Bwhahahaha. Now I need to make my descendants do that.

What is your hobby/interest?
Gang's All Here - Dropkick Murphys

This one makes sense too, in a way.

If you could do anything right now, what would it be?
Ode to My Family - The Cranberries

I'm trying to make this one make sense in my head. I'm failing at it to.

What do you want most of all?
I Want You (She's So Heavy) - The Beatles

The one worked out beautifully. The one would work even if that wasn't one of my favorite songs in the entire world. If you haven't heard it before, look it up on YouTube or something. The bass line will be in your head for days.

What is your greatest fear?
Blue Valentines - Tom Waits

Yes. Those are scary indeed.

What is your darkest secret?
Whisper - Evanesence

That song works well as a darkest secret, just not mine.

What is your favorite thing in the world?
Burning Hell - John Lee Hooker

Oh iTunes shuffle, why aren't you this amusing on a daily basis?

If you could have one wish, what would you wish for?
God Only Knows - The Beach Boys

Yes, I have the Beach Boys on my iPod . . . another beautiful song.

What is your theme song?
I've Designed It That Way - Townes Van Zandt

"I don't envision a very long life for myself. I do think my life will run out before my work does, you know. I've designed it that way."

The next time you hear this song (aside from now, that is), you must dance.
Welcome Home (Sanitarium) - Metallica

Shouldn't be too hard, unless I forget.

What will you post this as?
Unsent - Alanis Morisette

Actually, I will send this on. I tag Dominique, Melissa Walker, and Stephanie Kuehnert. Now feel free to judge my taste in music.

November 11, 2008

Detective Jermain, volume 1

Book Cover

By Misako Rocks!

High school senior Jermain's father died when she was seven. She wants to follow in his footsteps and become a detective. Luckily, she's in a shojo-inspired ELO manga and can thus discover a case more interesting than, "Does James like Sarah?" Of course, since it is shojo inspired, she does have to deal with those pesky hormones.

When classmate Mike and the band teacher begin acting weird, Jermaine is instantly on the case. Their untimely deaths convince her there really is a case. Her only help comes from her friends Andy and Travis, both of whom harbor crushes on the budding detective. I must admit, I was 100% partial to Andy. First, the shallow reason: I like his character design better. He reminds me of the guys I hang out with. Second, he doesn't go behind a friend's back and make a move on someone he knows his friend likes without telling the friend first. Third, when he makes his move he doesn't go farther than Jermain is comfortable with. Travis is a bit of an unapologetic personal space invader.

Okay, there's another shallow reason. When Andy confesses his feelings there's a full page of him hugging Jermain from behind, surrounded by flowers. It's got to be true love! (Me, a sucker for the pretty? Why yes, yes I am.)

As for the mystery, it involves extremely sketchy chemistry and people who are strangely apathetic that a classmate and teacher died. Jermain can't study the night it happens because she's preoccupied with the case, not because of grief. No one else seems to care much at all. However, the story moves along at a fast pace and Misako Rocks!'s artwork is a good vehicle. She has a strong grasp of layout. I never had trouble figuring out which panel came next.

The art is well done. The character design's are distinctive, the action easy to follow, and the tones well applied. In my opinion, Misako's art is very accessible. Everything's a little round, more cartoony than stylized. Aside for Travis's hair, which I find oddly flat, I cannot think of any bothersome quirks.

While the story features high school seniors, it seems to be pitched at younger teens or tweens. (Seniors will appreciate the characters' worrying about which colleges to apply to.) There's room for character growth, but as this is the first volume I'm not to concerned about that. I did love a panel where the brother is complaining about his mother and sister always ignoring him; I'd forgotten he existed! It was a clever way to be reminded.

DETECTIVE JERMAIN hit shelves in September. I have not found a release date for the second volume. Misako Rocks! also wrote and illustrated BIKER GIRL and ROCK AND ROLL LOVE. Her illustrations accompany Dan Savage's weekly column Savage Love, printed in the Onion. If you're under eighteen, I'm not responsible for making you aware of Savage Love. You can find out more about Misako on her webpage, MySpace, or blog.

November 7, 2008

Interview with Karen White

PhotobucketKaren White marries her passion for Charleston, the architecture of the area, and its history and legends in her new novel THE HOUSE ON TRADD STREET, the story of a real estate agent who, though she specializes in homes in the city’s historic area, detests them. To do so, Karen had to conjure up and face a universal horror—renovation. Unlike her recent book, The Memory Of Water, for which she physically confronted her lifelong fear of deep water for the sake of research, this time out she enjoyed a metaphorical wallow in the joys associated with restoring a one hundred and fifty year old house and garden and let her characters deal with the pain.

White’s protagonists face everything from a leaky roof, old fountains, and cracked cornices to overgrown flowerbeds, paint chipped ceilings, disintegrating plaster and warped floorboards. For herself she saved the best. Her research included luxurious strolls on the streets of Charleston, sampling and choosing restaurants such as Magnolias, Gaulart & Malicelet, Cru CafĂ©, Blossom and Anson for her characters to enjoy. Rumor has it she also did a bit of shopping at RTW on King Street and spent an afternoon on the Battery visiting White Point Gardens. Relishing the architecture and choosing among Victorians, Federals, Colonial Revivals, Queen Anne, Dutch Colonials and others, along with the amazing range of colors and appointments, Karen eventually placed the house at the center of her story at “55 Tradd Street” in the downtown historic district and, inspired by an actual house on that street, imagined it as a Federal style single family home.

Italian and French by ancestry, a southerner and a story teller by birth, White has moved around quite a bit in her life. Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, she has also lived in Texas, New Jersey, Louisiana, Georgia, Venezuela and England, where she attended the American School in London. She returned to the states for college and graduated from New Orleans’ Tulane University. Hailing from a family with roots firmly set in Mississippi (the Delta and Biloxi), White notes that “searching for home brings me to the south again and again.” She and her family now live near Atlanta.

It was love at first sight when White first visited Charleston and South Carolina’s lowcountry in 1995. She says it was “inevitable” that she would set several novels in the area, as she did with 2005’s The Color of Light, which Booklist praises as “an accomplished novel about loss and renewal.” Three years later, she returned to the there with The Memory Of Water and, now, to Charleston with THE HOUSE ON TRADD STREET. Her love of the southern coast shows no sign of abating. Her next novel, The Lost Hours (May 09) is set in and around Savannah.

Karen White’s work has appeared on the South East Independent Booksellers best sellers list. Her recent novel The Memory of Water, was the Borders Books and Atlanta & Company’s Book Club Selection for May, topped off at the end of the month with their live, television interview with Karen. The Memory of Water, which is well reviewed in Atlanta Magazine and an array of other print and online book media, and was adopted by numerous independent booksellers as a book club recommendation and as a featured title in their store. It’s been back to press five times since its March 2008 publication, the first time within its first four weeks on sale. It is one of NAL/Accent’s fastest selling titles.

Adding to the excitement of The Memory of Water’s March 2008 debut, was the resounding, continued recognition achieved by White’s 2007 novel Learning to Breathe. This spring Learning to Breathe was honored with a National Readers’ Choice Award, the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, and the Virginia Romance Writers HOLT Medallion. It was also named a finalist for the Romance Writers of America’s Award for Best Novel, the Colorado Romance Writers Award of Excellence and the Georgia Author of the Year Award.

White credits years spent listening to adults visiting in her grandmother’s Mississippi kitchen, sharing stories and gossiping while she played under the table, with starting her on the road to telling her own tales. The deal was sealed in the seventh grade when she skipped school and read Gone With The Wind. She knew—just knew—she was destined to grow up to be either Scarlet O’Hara or a writer.

In addition to THE HOUSE ON TRADD STREET, White’s previous novels include Learning to Breathe, Pieces of the Heart, and The Color of Light

You can visit her website at www.karen-white.com.

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PhotobucketFrom your site, I can see you earned a business degree. What did you do for a living before you became a full-time writer? Do you miss it?

A: I’d worked in the business world in a variety of roles—media buyer in an advertising agency, a department store manager in an executive training program, and my last position as an operations manager for a software development company. When I left this last job, they hired six people to take my place proving to me what I’d known all along: I was overworked and underpaid! So, do I miss it? Not at all!

Many of your books have a Southern (United States) setting, but you grew up in London. Do you think this affects the way you interpret the setting?

A: Most definitely. My parents are both from Mississippi so I spent many summers there with my grandmother and cousins. I think living outside of the country helped my observation skills—watching and listening to everything as an outsider who’d been allowed a peak into the inside of southern life and culture.

What is your writing process like?

A: A process? I’m supposed to have a process?? I’m the mother of two teenagers and my husband travels a great deal—I write in the car, in bed, on vacation, in waiting rooms. I’m writing two long novels a year now so I don’t have a lot of pre-planning time (not that I would do much of that, anyway) so I’m basically a seat-of-the-pants writer. I come up with the characters and setting first, then throw them in a situation that will help them grown and learn. Then I just start writing and see where it leads.

Do you have any favorites in your books? Maybe a favorite character, a favorite scene, or a favorite line?

A: I can’t pick a favorite book anymore than I could pick a favorite child—but because my last book is always the freshest in my mind, I’d have to say THE HOUSE ON TRADD STREET. The two main characters flirt with ‘snarky and sparkling energy’ (according to Publishers Weekly) with each other and I had so much fun with them. The protagonist, Melanie Middleton, is an uptight control-freak (in the beginning, at least) and her nemesis is Jack Trenholm, a laid-back bestselling author of historical true-crime mysteries. She’s obsessed with order and the musical group ABBA and Jack has so much fun teasing her. But as much as I love Melanie and Jack and their sparring, my favorite character is Melanie’s best friend, Sophie, a professor of historical restoration at the local College. When we first meet her, this is what Melanie thinks and says:

I eyed her now. She wore brown suede clogs, a long, gauzelike skirt with embroidered iguanas racing along the hem, and a tie-dyed T-shirt tucked into the elastic waist of the skirt. Her long, curly black hair was pulled into a straggly bun at the back of her head and held in place by what looked like two chopsticks—complete with the name of the Chinese Restaurant they had come from.

“Your outfit alone is a strong case against tenure, you know.”


You’ve received a variety of awards throughout your career. Which was the most exciting?

A: The most exciting was actually the one I didn’t win! This past summer, my 2007 release, LEARNING TO BREATHE, was nominated for the RITA award and was in the same category with one of Nora Roberts’ books. Neither one of us won, but it was such a thrill to see my name up there with Nora’s!

What kind of books do you read? Are there any book releases (beside your own) that you¢re anticipating?

A: I read anything and everything. I love historicals—anything from Philippa Gregory to Eloisa James. And I love general fiction, too--Nelson deMille, Sue Monk Kidd, and Sara Addison Allen. The list could go on and on but we don’t have room here. Last night I was at a book store and bought THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL SOCIETY. I’ve heard so much about this book that I can’t wait to read it. I also listen to books on CD (since I’m in the car more than I’m sitting down at home) and I’m currently listening to THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH by Ken Follett. It’s extraordinary! As for an anticipating a book release, I can’t wait to read THE ACCIDENTAL BESTSELLER by Wendy Wax which comes out next June.

Avoiding quoting the blurb, how would you recommend THE HOUSE ON TRADD STREET to a curious reader?

A: I call THE HOUSE ON TRADD STREET my ‘Moonlighting meets The Sixth Sense’ book. It’s a fun treasure hunt through Charleston’s history peopled with characters with emotional depth and issues that aren’t all resolved in this book (the sequel, THE GIRL ON LEGARE STREET will be out November 2009). This book is romance, mystery and ghost story and to borrow from my PW review again, “a fun and satisfying read.”

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Be sure to return on the 14th for my review of THE HOUSE ON TRADD STREET.

November 4, 2008

11/04/08

At this moment, I am incredibly proud of my country.

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I'm listening to his acceptance speech right now and it's beautiful. I have such hope for the next four years.

November 3, 2008

Thirteen Reasons Why

Don't forget you can always read more of my reviews here.

I'm sorry for disappearing for over a week. I didn't mean to, but that's how things worked out. Now here's the first truly unfavorable review I've posted to this site.

By Jay Asher

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Hype helps and hinders novels. It gets the word out and gets people excited. But it can make people too excited and hold the novel up to unrealistic expectations. I have never heard anyone say anthing bad about this novel. But, while I did like TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY in many was . . . In several ways I didn't. I recently told someone that the reread is very important to my internal scale - and I don't believe I will ever reread TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY.

Here's reasons why:

1. I like Clay. Clay's a sweetheart, the kind of guy I want to like me. He's easy to sympathize with. When he reaches his tape, I can barely stand it.
My heart doesn't jump. My eyes don't flinch. I don't breathe.
And then.
I snap my arm back, my elbow into the seat. Then I smash it into the door and I want to pound my head sideways into the window. But I pound it back against the headrest instead.

I love this boy and he spends most of the novel needlessly tortured. Hannah, for all she made these tapes to force people to look at what they've done, never examines her own actions . . . which leads me to my second reason.

2. I hate Hannah. She's not just cruel to Clay. She's perhaps most cruel to Mr. Porter. Without context he gets the burden of everything. He's just a high school teacher, not perfect, not even a counselor. Most of the people Hannah blames in her thirteen reasons, she seems to blame after she made her decision to commit suicide. She could have better served the world by telling these secrets openly rather than giving them to a few people after her death so that they can fester.

TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY is built around an incredible premise. It's emotionally compelling. The story weaves around itself and pulls together in an examination of unintentional cruelty, unexpected consequences, and some of the darkest sides of human behavior. I found it torturous to read.

Jay Asher is 1/3 of the Disco Mermaids. He can also be found on MySpace or the Class of 2k7. TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY is now available in paperback.

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