Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Guest Post by Kimberly Pauley

Good morning! I've got a very special treat for you this morning Kimberly Pauley's latest hit shelves just last week and as part of the tour SoHo Teen has arranged I'm able to offer up a guest post from Kimberly herself!

But first just a bit about the book from Goodreads just in case you haven't read it yet:

Ask Aria Morse anything, and she must answer with the truth. Yet she rarely understands the cryptic words she‘s compelled to utter. Blessed—or cursed—with the power of an Oracle who cannot decipher her own predictions, she does her best to avoid anyone and everyone. 

But Aria can no longer hide when Jade, one of the few girls at school who ever showed her any kindness, disappears. Any time Aria overhears a question about Jade, she inadvertently reveals something new, a clue or hint as to why Jade vanished. But like stray pieces from different puzzles, her words never present a clear picture.

Then there’s Alex, damaged and dangerous, but the first person other than Jade to stand up for her. And Will, who offers a bond that seems impossible for a girl who’s always been alone. Both were involved with Jade. Aria may be the only one who can find out what happened, but the closer she gets to solving the crime, the more she becomes a target. Not everyone wants the truth to come out.

And now to hand things over to Kimberly!

What’s in a Name?

Coming up with character names is always an interesting process. Like in all my books, ASK ME’s character’s names came from a mix of sources. I am incredibly thankful to CJ Redwine (author of Defiance) for helping me come up with Aria’s (the main character) name. It’s perfect for her, the girl who hides behind music, who goes through life apart from others. She is a melody sung solo, a self-contained piece of music for a single voice. Aria can also mean noble, air, or lioness. All of those things work really well for this girl who is an oracle, not by choice but by birth.

William means strong-willed warrior and Will from the book is definitely confident in himself. I also had a good friend in middle school and high school with that name (though he was as completely unlike Will in the book as he could be).

Both of the main male characters in the book, actually, have strong names. Alexander (Alex) is another powerful name. Think of the famous Alexander the Great. The name itself means “defender” or “defender of men.” Alex is also named after a good friend of mine from high school (though, again, he’s not much like his namesake since my friend was more of a skateboard punk rocker who has grown up to be a real-life version of The Dude).

Delilah in the book is actually named after the author Delilah Dawson, a writer friend of mine. Aria’s Granddad is also named after a family friend named Porter (who was just as irascible in real life as the one in the book). Mrs. Rogers, Aria’s art teacher, is named after the art teacher I had in high school. Shelley is named after one of my loyal readers who volunteered it for use on my Facebook Fan Page (even though I warned her I couldn’t guarantee the character would be nice).

Aria’s grandmother’s name is Ellie, which means “bright shining one” or “shining light.” I like to think that she’s a bit of a beacon for Aria, even if Aria doesn’t always see it.

Even the town’s name (Lake Mariah) has a meaning for me. The town is loosely based on a real location in Florida (Lake Placid), but the image I have held in my mind from the beginning is of a girl with her hair blowing in the wind. Bear with me here...there’s an old movie with a young Clint Eastwood called Paint Your Wagon and there’s a song in it named “They Call the Wind Mariah” sung by Harve Presnell. Really great song. Very roundabout, I admit, but it works for me since it is both a famous song and has to do with the wind.

It’s a bit of a mish-mash of deeper meanings and personal memories, but that’s how it often goes!

About the author:
Kimberly Pauley is the award-winning author of Sucks to Be Me, which was honored on the YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers list. Born in California, she has lived everywhere from Florida to Chicago and has now gone international to live in London with her husband and son. She is also the founder of YA Books Central, one of the first and largest teen book websites in the world. Visit her online at www.kimberlypauley.com.

For more on Kimberly you can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter. To check out an excerpt of Ask Me, visit the official SoHo Teen page here.

Big, big thanks to Kimberly for being on the blog today and thanks to the folks over at SoHo Teen for setting it up!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Under a Silent Moon by Elizabeth Haynes

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm pleased as punch to be a stop on the TLC blog tour for Elizabeth Haynes's latest, Under a Silent Moon.

When Polly Leuchars, a groom at Hermitage Farm in Morden, is found dead in her cottage, an investigation is immediately launched. Though she was found at the bottom of her steps, the death is anything but accidental. Blood is found throughout the cottage and Polly was obviously beaten. At the same time, another woman in Morden is found dead of apparent suicide. Her fingerprints are found in Polly's house, leaving the police no doubt that the two must be connected, the how and why are the job of DCI Lou Smith and the rest of the team assigned to OP Nettle.

Haynes rocketed to the top of my must have list with her debut Into the Darkest Corner. Her work as an actual police intelligence analyst no doubt inspires her twisted and unique story lines, and she can always be counted on for a tightly plotted tale that will keep me on edge throughout.

Under a Silent Moon was of course no exception, but this one is a bit different from its predecessors for a few reasons: first, it's the start of a new series, which means we can look forward for more to come in this vein. Second, this is a much more straightforward police procedural. She's even gone so far as to include charts and forms used in Lou's investigation. And finally, and this one is for readers of her previous books, this one is quite graphic in the sex department. In fact, the call out for this book should have been something along the lines of "Everyone KNOWS everyone in Briarstone and Morden!"

I really loved the idea that the reader has access to all of the necessary clues to figure this out. And yet, Haynes did keep me guessing. The real motive is not obvious and the killer eluded me throughout the book.

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here.

For more on Elizabeth Haynes and her work you can visit her here on the web. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Waiting for Wednesday by Nicci French

After being attacked by a suspect in a case she was asked to consult on, Frieda Klein managed to survive. No one really believed her when she said that a suspect in a previous case had been stalking her so they surely wouldn't believe that this person was her real savior. No, the final word on the event is that Frieda herself killed her attacker. 

After time recovering in the hospital she has returned home but she and DCI Karlsson have been told that under no circumstances is Frieda to become involved in another case. Instead, Karlsson is to work with the official consultant, Hal Bradshaw, a man whose clashes with Frieda have become increasingly venomous. 

When a wife and mother of three is found murdered in her home, it seems to be a case of interrupted burglary. The investigation becomes complicated when Karlsson and his team learn that not only does the burglar have an alibi for the time of the murder, but the victim was hiding a few secrets that could have prompted the crime. Karlsson ignores orders bringing Frieda in to help only to learn that Bradshaw has launched a recent smear campaign against Frieda and some of her colleagues. But Frieda, still dealing with the psychological affects of her near death, is distracted by an inquiry of her own. 

This third in the Frieda Klein series is yet another fabulous installment! I think what I love most about this series is that while there is certainly a mystery driving the story forward - and in this case two mysteries - the real momentum of the series comes from the characters themselves. Frieda, Karlsson, Josef, Chloë and Olivia, Reuben, and all of the others all have things they're dealing with.

So often, the focus of a thriller/mystery is the individual plot of the book. The characters can get pushed to the side and any real development is almost coincidental. That's not the case at all here. Husband and wife Nicci Gerard and Sean French excel at creating rich and complicated characters whose stories remain central to the series. The fact that they are able to also weave wonderfully plotted mysteries around all of these people and their lives makes this series unique and a true stand out.

I would definitely suggest reading the series through from the beginning as there are a lot of details carried over from book to book. Readers diving in with this third title will likely be confused by these elements (Dean Reeve, Bradshaw's animosity towards Frieda, characters' backstories...). Plus the series just keeps getting better and better!

Rating: 4.5/5

Sunday, April 13, 2014

New Release 4/15/14

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Under a Silent Moon by Elizabeth Haynes

Dead People by Ewart Hutton

All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld

Casebook by Mona Simpson

Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid

The Sea House by Elisabeth Gifford

Baudelaire's Revenge by Bob van Laerhoven

Until You're Mine by Samantha Hayes

Unwrapped Sky by Rjurik Davidson

Chop Chop by Simon Wroe

No Way Back by Matthew Klein

The Steady Running of the Hour by Justin Go

Ember Island by Kimberly Freeman

Blood Always Tells by Hilary Davidson

The Good Inn by Black Francis & Josh Frank

Aunt Dimity & the Wishing Well by Nancy Atherton

The Other Story by Tatiana de Rosnay

Transhuman by Ben Bova

The Forever Song by Julie Kagawa

Frozen by Erin Bowman

The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

All the Boys I've Loved by Jenny Han

Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

New on DVD:
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Philomena

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Pre Pub Book Buzz: The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joël Dicker

Morning, all. It's time to share my latest addition to the wish list!

The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair caught my attention just last month and has rocketed to the top of my must have list, in part thanks to some of the promo the author has been posting on Twitter. (Which so far has included fake newspaper articles as well as other fun teasers.) It doesn't hurt that Gaby Wood at Telegraph calls it the "smartest, creepiest book you'll read this year." Oh, and it's a doorstopper weighing in at 656 pages. With the weather warming up I could definitely use a really great, engaging and LONG read that's both smart and creepy! I'm already daydreaming about getting that fun version of the farmer's tan that results from a long afternoon in the sun reading (you know, cuts off at the forearms thanks to the shade from the book!).

So it's a French thriller, written by a Swiss author, due out in the UK May 1 (from Quercus's MacLehose imprint) and hitting shelves here in the States May 27 (Viking). Here's the description from Goodreads for you:

August 30, 1975: the day fifteen-year-old Nola Kellergan is glimpsed fleeing through the woods before she disappears; the day Somerset, New Hampshire, lost its innocence.

Thirty-three years later, Marcus Goldman, a successful young novelist, visits Somerset to see his mentor, Harry Quebert, one of America’s most respected writers, and to find a cure for his writer’s block as his publisher’s deadline looms. But Marcus’s plans are violently upended when Harry is suddenly and sensationally implicated in the cold-case murder of Nola Kellergan—whom, he admits, he had an affair with. As the national media convicts Harry, Marcus launches his own investigation, following a trail of clues through his mentor’s books, the backwoods and isolated beaches of New Hampshire, and the hidden history of Somerset’s citizens and the man they hold most dear. To save Harry, his writing career, and eventually even himself, Marcus must answer three questions, all of which are mysteriously connected: Who killed Nola Kellergan? What happened one misty morning in Somerset in the summer of 1975? And how do you write a successful and true novel?

Oh, I'm dying to read it! Dying I tell you!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Collector of Dying Breaths by M.J. Rose - excerpt

Hello, everyone! I'm super excited to be offering up an excerpt from M.J. Rose's latest release, The Collector of Dying Breaths, which just hit shelves this week.

But first a bit about the book:

The Book of Lost Fragrances had Cleopatra. Seduction had iconic novelist Victor Hugo. Now, with The Collector of Dying Breaths, Rose showcases her most fascinating character yet: Catherine de Medici, who infamously spearheaded the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre during her son Henry III’s reign, slaughtering thousands of French rebel Protestants in one fell swoop.

In 1533, an Italian orphan with an uncanny knack for creating fragrance is plucked from poverty to become Catherine de Medici’s perfumer. To repay his debt, over the years René le Florentine is occasionally called upon for a darker purpose: the creation of deadly poisons used to dispatch the Queen’s rivals. But it’s René’s other passion—a desire to reanimate a human breath, to bring back the lives of the two people whose deaths have devastated him—that incites a dangerous treasure hunt five centuries later.

That’s when Jac L’Etoile—suffering in modern day France from a heartache of her own—becomes obsessed with the possibility of unlocking René’s secret to immortality. Soon Jac’s search reconnects her with Griffin North, a man she’s loved her entire life. Together they confront an eccentric heiress whose art collection rivals many museums and who is determined to keep her treasures close at hand, in both this life and the next.

If you've not yet read Rose, you really are missing out. Each new release is rich in historic detail, suspense, and romance. The books are linked via common characters, but each one can easily be read on its own.

And now for your reading pleasure, a piece from The Collector of Dying Breaths:

That night, Jac fell asleep easily, cosseted by the down pillows and comforter. Her dreams were full of the perfumer who had lived here so many centuries ago. In his secret laboratory, she saw him mixing up potions and recipes, stirring, shaking and sniffing. At one point he picked up his head and looked right at her, as if she were in the room with him, as if he could actually see her. And then he spoke to her. All this I do for you. To see you again. To be with you again. Please God, it will work. Because without you I am lost to the world. 

In her sleep Jac felt the power of his words like a perfumed wind, blowing around her, embracing her. The most profound sense of longing overwhelmed her. Jac tried to go to him. Tried to move toward him. Wanted him to take her in his arms. Want to bury her face in his chest and have him stroke her hair. Wanted to feel his rough lips bruising hers. Oh, how she wanted him. But she was a half a millennium away. And they were forever separated by time. 

She woke up suddenly. Soaked with sweat. The perfumer had seemed so familiar to her. Her feelings for him were the same as her feelings for Griffin. Was it possible that-No. She would not entertain the thought. But she couldn't escape it, could she? Jac could almost hear Malachai asking her how she could even question what the dream revealed: that in a previous incarnation Griffin had most likely lived a life as the perfumer. Time was coming full circle again.

M.J. Rose will be live at BookTrib on April 21 at 3pm ET and there are a ton more offerings this month all around the blogosphere so be sure to check them out.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth

I'd planned to read Veronica Roth's Divergent ages ago. I mean I bought the thing in early 2012 and then got Insurgent that same year and Allegiant this past Christmas, so it's not like I didn't have plenty of time! And yet the movie's release rolled around and the trilogy was still waiting in my TBR. So yeah, I saw the movie first. But that's ok. Apparently that was the motivation I needed to finally tackle the books, which I did in a binge this past weekend.

I'm not going to include synopses of the books so if you're a late comer like me you don't have to worry about spoilers. Plus I figure there are enough other reviews of the books out there by now that if you really want a synopsis and in-depth review of each one you can easily find them.

First I have to say that I did rather enjoy the movie. I had a few very minor complaints but overall I thought it was really well done and I was quite happy with the casting, especially after diving into the book. Surprisingly the film adaptation follows the book fairly closely. There were a few changes and most of them seemed logical for the sort of edits necessary in adapting for film (accounting for the length and pacing of a film as opposed to a book). All in all, it's definitely a great adaptation

One complaint that I've seen in reviews of both Divergent and Insurgent is the lack of world building. Why did the world get this way and how did the factions really come to be? There's a very small explanation and now that I've read all three I can assure you that there's a good reason for this. The story behind the factions is a big part of Allegiant so hang in there, you'll get your explanation.

Insurgent was an excellent sequel. There was no lag in story - it picks up immediately after the end of Divergent and maintains the great pacing and action I came to expect after Divergent. There's no second book slump that often happens in trilogies (when we kind of realize that the three books were always meant to be one and the second installment serves simply as a connecting piece between the introductory installment and the actual climax!). Nope, Insurgent moved the story along nicely, building further on Tris and Four's relationship and the conflicts between the factions. In other words it fit and it felt necessary on pretty much all points, rather than being filler.

And Allegiant, the buzz around this one is part of my recent delay in reading the books. Talk about eliciting some passionate responses from readers worldwide. Holy cow! Even halfway through this one I couldn't begin to imagine what Roth had coming that could have angered so many readers!

Then I got to the end.

I get it, I really do. I shed some tears but all in all I have to admit that I'm really not disappointed or angry. The end was the end. It worked.

I kind of zipped through these, it was a bit unavoidable. They just begged to be read in one go but it did kind of mean a bit of a book hangover at the end! It was super hard to transition away from the dystopian built paranoia and into a completely different read (which I did with the Titanic based The Girl Who Came Home). Now I really can't wait to see the other two movies!