Ashes of a Black Frost (11/1) | The Shattered Vine (11/3)
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FTC Disclosure: I am an affiliate at IndieBound, The Book Depository, and Amazon, and any purchases made by clicking on covers or links here may result in monetary compensation.

Review: 136. Queen of Diamonds by Barbara Metzger...

September 30, 2011
I was intrigued by the story of an orphan child who is determined to stand on her own two feet, so I said "of course!" when approached with this title...

queen of diamonds
Title: Queen of Diamonds (House of Cards #3)
Author: Barbara Metzger
Publisher: Untreed Reads, 2011
Purchase at Amazon, Barnes & Noble
Source: Untreed Reads

drey's thoughts:
Queenie Dennis is a woman in hiding--from the truth of her origins, from the Endicotts, and from the authorities. Her mother's lies set Queenie on the path towards redemption, and she hopes that she can make it up to the Endicotts, at least. After Paris, of course.

Returning to London with a quick needle and quicker eye for fashion and designs, Queenie sets up shop. She figures the quicker she can make money, the faster she can repay her mother's stolen money. But before she knows it she's hanging out with Lord Harkness (aye, even in her shop!), and attracting more attention than she'd like...

This third House of Cards book is very different from the first two. Those were about the men, and even rakish Jack was a gentleman who had his brother's name and money to fall back on if needed. Queenie has nothing and nobody, except an air-headed friend who stands by her. So by its very nature, Queen of Diamonds has a darker and grittier background and feel to it.

But I loved the characters. Queenie is strong and determined, even if she doesn't know that she's wrong. And Lord Harkness is a perfect foil for her personality, even if he doesn't mean to be. I loved the scenes where he's helping out in her shop. Him, a fancy lord and all... *grin*

Fans of regency romance will love Queen of Diamonds, and the entire House of Cards trilogy.

drey's rating: Excellent!

Have you read Barbara Metzger's House of Cards trilogy? You don't need to, but start with Ace of Hearts and Jack of Clubs for the story of Queenie's brothers Alex and Jack...

Review: 135. Spider's Revenge by Jennifer Estep...

September 29, 2011
Hurrah! 'Tis time for more Gin Blanco! I've been waiting sooooo patiently...

spider's revenge
Title: Spider's Revenge (Elemental Assassins #5)
Author: Jennifer Estep
ISBN-13: 9781439192641
Publisher: Pocket Books, 2011
Purchase at IndieBound, Amazon, The Book Depository
Source: Jennifer Estep

drey's thoughts:
Well. Mab Monroe has messed with Gin for the last time. Now Gin's on the warpath, and she'll do anything to keep Mab from hurting her sister Bria. But her first attempt at Mab almost costs her her life... And earns the wrath of her friends.

And Mab's trying to turn the tables on Gin, because suddenly Ashland is overrun with visitors--and not the kind that the Visitor's Bureau invited over. Nope, Ashland's playing host to a horde of bounty hunters and miscellaneous low-lifes. All at Mab's invitation. And money, of course. You know it doesn't take long before they're tripping all over each other to get Bria.

Gin is still the super-sassy assassin I know and love. But there's always room for improvement, right? In this fifth installment, Gin makes (*gasp*) mistakes... She learns from them, but they almost cost her her life. Knowing that her anonymity protects those she loves, she's loathe to go public--but soon runs out of options. And you know I'm not the only who loves this assassin when she finds herself with unexpected (or maybe not quite so unexpected!) allies...

Will Gin make it through alive? (Isn't that always the questions?) Jennifer Estep sure keeps you on your toes... You'll have to pick up this fast-paced read to find out.

drey's rating: Excellent!

Have you read Spider's Revenge? What did you think?

September's FEATURED AUTHOR: Cathy Holton and family ghosts...

September 28, 2011
Is it really the end of September already? How fast time flies... BUT. It's still September and it's a Wednesday, so here's Cathy Holton with a guest post on Family Ghosts...

Family Ghosts

I’m often asked about the paranormal elements in Summer in the South. Readers generally fall into two categories: those who think I should have expanded the paranormal theme, and those who think the ghostly “presences” were simply manifestations of Ava’s sleep disorder.

One of my favorite novellas is Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw. I have always loved the story is because it can be read in either of two ways: (1) It is the story of a sexually repressed Victorian governess sent to care for two orphans on an isolated English estate who, through a mental breakdown, begins to “see” the ghosts of two dead servants; or (2) it is the story of a brave young governess determined to save her two charges from demonic possession by two very real and very evil, dead servants. Depending on the reader’s own beliefs and background, the story can be read from either viewpoint. (It’s fun to try and read it both ways.)

I knew when I wrote Summer in the South that it would be a tribute to the Gothic literature I grew up reading and loving. Mr. Lockwood’s dream of the ghost of Catherine Earnshaw knocking on the window at the farmhouse in the opening chapter of Wuthering Heights, not only sent a chill up my spine but also imbued the story with an “otherworldly” quality that deepened the tragic love story of Catherine and Heathcliff.

Is Woodburn Hall truly haunted by the ghost of Charlie Woodburn? I’ve never known an old Southern home lived in for generations by the same family that didn’t boast at least one family ghost. Or is the ghostly presence simply a manifestation of Ava’s growing obsession with Charlie, an obsession that intensifies as she begins to write her version of what happened to Charlie on that tragic evening nearly sixty years ago.

In the end, dear Reader, I suppose you’ll have to decide that for yourself.
So, what do you think? Do you believe in ghosts? Or was Ava's Charlie just a figment of her imagination and surroundings?

Thank you, Cathy, for visiting us this month! I wish you continued success with your writing!

Blog Tour: Katrina Kittle's (134.) Reasons to be Happy...

September 27, 2011
Today's tour is for Katrina Kittle's Reasons to be Happy, a book about the heart-breaking and impossible standards of body image.

About the author:
Katrina Kittle taught middle and high school English for 11 years. She is the author of four other novels and earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University in Louisville.

Find Katrina online at her website, the Reasons to be Happy blog, on facebook, and on twitter.

I asked Katrina for a guest post on what prompted her to write this particular book. Here's what she says...
Do you remember middle school? Was your experience pretty horrible? Mine was. Such a crazy, miserable time of insecurity. My life had been great leading up to sixth grade…and suddenly it was a trainwreck. Most memories of that time seem all fuzzy with self-doubt, humiliation, unbearable shyness. Ugh. I would no more want to re-live that time that I would want to chop off one of my own hands!

When I became a middle school teacher myself, I kept a photo of my seventh grade self in my desk drawer. This awful photo—of me with a hideous perm (I'd had a friend give it to me so that I could have curls like the popular girls), goofy glasses (how I longed for the contact lenses I would finally get in high school), and wearing outrageous, ridiculous high heels (were they comfortable? no! did I look natural in them? no! did I do much that made sense then? no!)—was my reminder on the days the students were making me to want to go drink vodka in the teacher's bathroom! That photo gave me compassion and patience for my students. That photo reminded me: they can't help it. I mean, I could walk into my classroom and feel the hormones and anxiety in the air.

But then I started thinking: why can't they help it? Remembering my own experience, I grew so disheartened by a particular phenomenon I saw unfold over and over again: bright, bold, curious girls—strong and confident in their abilities—would hit the wall of self-doubt around seventh grade. They'd lose all sense of their own unique identity, stop taking any risks, and retreat into approval-seeking behaviors that made them all seem like watered-down clones of each other. Every single one of my novels has begun with a social issue I'm passionate about, and one day I realized this concern and obsession I had with “keeping girls brave and confident” was my new story. I began to seek the cast of characters who could inhabit this story, and Hannah Anne Carlisle came into existence.

As a writer, I'm fascinated with how story ideas will simmer a long, long time before they take shape. I'll often have several different story “threads” and suddenly one day it will finally become clear which threads I might be able to braid together to make a book. That certainly happened with Reasons to Be Happy. Hannah's “list” was something I did in my own classroom—putting a reason to be happy on the whiteboard every day. I already had the drama of the middle school pecking order playing out in front of me on a daily basis. I knew that body image was still a huge part of the middle school girl identity crisis. I could pull specific knowledge of the particular workings of bulimia and anorexia from my years as a serious ballet student, and, sadly, from some experiences with my own students. (Instead of improving the situation with our awareness and understanding of body image and eating disorders, these issues seem more pervasive than ever before—40 percent of nine-year-olds have already dieted!) Add to this my own secret obsession with celebrity gossip (friends are sometimes horrified to discover this about me. I guess they all think I'm much more lofty-minded than I really am!), which led me to make Hannah's parents into A-list actors. I also have local friends who are twice-Academy-Award-nominated documentary film makers (hence, the creation of Hannah's Aunt Izzy). And I had the amazing privilege of traveling to Ghana once with a group of students, and had long been looking for the right place to use some of my experiences from that life-altering trip. (I actually had a goat under my bed one night in Tafi Atome, just like Hannah does).

What I hope readers take away from the book is that our authentic selves are so much more interesting and beautiful (and less maintenance!) than anything we “manufacture” to please others. It took Hannah being plunked down in a culture where she had no idea what was even considered beautiful, for her to be kind to herself and accept her own body. We all spend so much time comparing ourselves, judging ourselves against that teensy percentage of women who are supermodels (airbrushed supermodels, thank you very much) instead of accepting our imperfections and embracing our own unique beauty. Hannah discovers that what she perceived as an imperfection is actually one of her strengths.

That's the real beauty of the writing life to me: we use everything. Anything I see or experience, no matter how random or trivial, might just become a piece of “the story behind the story.”

reasons to be happyAbout the book:
Title: Reasons to be Happy
Author: Katrina Kittle
ISBN-13: 9781402260209
ARC: 277 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks, Inc., 2011
Purchase at IndieBound, Amazon, The Book Depository
Source: Sourcebooks
What Happens When You’re Not So Perfect?
How could so much change so fast?
Let’s see, you could be a plain Jane daughter of two gorgeous famous people; move to a new school; have no real friends; your mom could get sick; and, oh yeah, you could have the most embarrassing secret in the world. Yep, that about does it.

Hannah is an eighth grader trying her hardest to cling to what she knows and loves while her world shatters around her. Her parents are glamorous Hollywood royalty, and sometimes she feels like the ugly duckling in a family of swans. Faced with her mother’s death and her father’s withdrawal into grief, Hannah turns to the one thing she can control: her weight.

Hannah’s self-destructive secret takes over her life, but the new Beverly Hills clique she’s befriended at school only reinforces her desire to be beautiful, and not even the quirky misfit Jasper—the only one who seems to notice or care—can help. It will take a journey unlike any other to remind Hannah of who she really is, and to begin to get that girl back. Reasons to Be Happy is about standing up for all the things you love—including yourself.
drey's thoughts:
Hannah Carlisle should be on top of the world. Her parents are movie stars. She herself is an artist and an athlete. Her life is good…

Then she starts at a new school, and all at once everything changes. Why? Because she can’t seem to get herself—her real self—unstuck from the person she becomes with the group she hangs out with at school… Seems like an easy solution: stop hanging out with that group! But Hannah’s bravery has deserted her, and she can’t. So she finds another way to deal with that stress.

I couldn’t believe that such a lovely and talented girl would fall prey to the clutches of the mean girls at school, right from the get-go. Then again, I was never in that situation, so I’m not in any position to say what could be real or not… I wanted to read this book to see how an author addresses one of the many problems that our young girls and women face as they battle their own body image. And see how a young girl's own self-image could become so skewed.

What happened to Hannah can happen to any other eighth-grader, or any other young girl or woman you know. We are too often bombarded with negativity--we're too fat, too tall, to short, too flat, etc. Even when we do well at school or other pursuits, even to those who love us best, it seems our looks are still our most-used measuring stick--and we never seem to measure up. Why is that?

Who defines beautiful? Is it the media? The entertainment industry? Our families? Friends? Acquaintances we barely know? Whose opinion carries the most weight? Why? And most importantly (to me at least): Why do we give control of our own selves over to those who certainly (usually?) don’t give a rat’s behind what happens to us? And what can we do about it? Ok, so maybe I'm being a little harsh--after all, we expect that our parents and loved ones do give a rat's patootie. And we're all just a bit (hah!) too sensitive...

Hannah's being "outed" by her aunt is one step towards recognition, and possible recovery. And when she has to go to Ghana for four weeks, that's four weeks dedicated to something other--other than thinking and stressing about her self, her weight, her insecurities... Can she keep up the progress once she's back in the USA though? You'll have to read Reasons to be Happy to find out.

drey's rating: Pick it up! We need more books like this to reinforce a healthier self-image for our young girls and women! And not just books and messages; we also need to follow through with action. What we say and do is definitely worth more than what we say to do!

Have you read Reasons to be Happy? What did you think? And if you haven't, here's your chance to win a copy!

Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy of Reasons to be Happy for you, if you live in the US (no PO Boxes, please). To enter, fill out the form below. Good luck!

Blog Tour: (133.) Flawless by Carrie Lofty...

September 26, 2011
Today's tour is for a historical romance laced with mystery and a sweeping backdrop... Say hello to Carrie Lofty and Flawless...

About the author:
Carrie Lofty holds a Masters degree in history, which she puts to good use as a devoted historical romance writer (What a Scoundrel Wants and Scoundrel's Kiss), teacher and lecturer on the craft of writing, and as founder of the blog Unusual Historicals. An active member of the Chicago North and Wisconsin chapters of Romance Writers of America, she lives outside of Chicago with her husband and two daughters.

Find Carrie online at her website, on facebook and twitter.  

About the book:
Sir William Christie, ruthless tycoon and notorious ladies’ man, is dead. Now his four grown children have gathered for the reading of his will. What lies in store for stepsiblings Vivienne, Alexander, and twins Gareth and Gwyneth? Stunning challenges that will test their fortitude across a royal empire . . . and lead them to the marvelously passionate adventures of their lives.

Lady Vivienne Bancroft fled England for New York, hoping to shed the confines of her arranged marriage to unrepentant rogue Miles Durham, Viscount Bancroft—though she never forgot the fiery desire he unleashed with his slightest touch. And when the gambling man arrives on her doorstep for a little sensual revenge for her desertion, he is met with Vivienne’s dilemma: She must earn her father’s inheritance by profitably running a diamond business worth millions in colonial South Africa. Swept together in an exotic undertaking filled with heated passion and hungry temptation, will Vivienne and Miles discover that the marriage vows they once made are the greatest snare—or the most treasured reward?
flawlessTitle: Flawless (Christie Saga #1)
Author: Carrie Lofty
ISBN-13: 9781451616385
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Pocket Books, 2011
Purchase at IndieBound, Amazon, The Book Depository
Source: Pocket Books

drey's thoughts:
Carrie Lofty's Flawless sets up the story for the series quite nicely, with the Christie children getting together for reading of their father's will. Of course, it's not exactly what they'd expected, which throws them into quite the tizzy. Vivienne doesn't have much of a choice other than to do as she's directed to--you can't live on nothing, after all. So after packing and preparing and waiting for the fighting to be over, she heads to Kimberly and her father's diamond mine.

What she doesn't expect is to see her rogue of a husband there. And she definitely doesn't know what to think of his efforts to get back in her good graces--or into her bed. The fireworks between the two are zingy hot. And the dialog deliciously cutting.

Carrie Lofty's vivid descriptions cover both the lush landscape and the workers' pitiful living conditions. And her characters are moving and beautifully written. I just have one teeny tiny problem. All throughout the book were missed punctuation errors, specifically where it referred to Miles in the possessive form. That would be "Miles'" not "Miles's". Yes, I'm nit-picky like that. Feel free to blame it on my English-teacher mother. And I'll volunteer to proof-read the other books in the series, just in case... *grin*

drey's rating: Pick it up!

Have you read Flawless? What did you think?

Banned Books Week giveaway hop!

September 24, 2011
The 2011 Banned Books Week is September 24th through October 1st. In honor of the occasion, I'm participating in the giveaway hop sponsored by I am a Reader, Not a Writer and I Read Banned Books.

What's the prize? Your pick of one of the following six books: three books from the most frequently challenged books of 2010 list (Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games, Natasha Friend's Lush, and Ellen Hopkins' Crank ), two from the Banned and/or Challenged Classics list (George Orwell's 1984 and Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five), and Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451.

This giveaway is open to US residents only. One entry per person, multiples will be deleted. Feel free to leave a comment so you can track if you've entered this giveaway already, as there are a LOT of stops on this hop.

I will pick up to three winners. One winner is guaranteed. A second winner will be picked if there are more than 100 people entered, and a third winner when there are more than 200 people entered.

Entry deadline: 6pm CST October 1st 

Good luck, everyone! Thank you for your interest. Now go read some Banned Books! *grin*

Hop stops:

Review: 132. Summer in the South by Cathy Holton...

September 23, 2011
Cathy Holton is this month's Featured Author, and Summer in the South is her latest novel...

Title: Summer in the South
Author: Cathy Holton
ISBN-13: 9780345506016
Publisher: Random House, 2011
Purchase at IndieBound, Amazon, The Book Depository
Source: Cathy Holton

drey's thoughts:
Summer in the South is a story about a young woman who's trying to figure out her life--who she is and what she wants. She's rallying though the loss of her mother and getting dumped by her lover, when a college friend offers her sanctuary at his family's home in a small town in Tennessee.

Ava hopes the solitude will spark her creative juices and get her started on writing again. She hopes to find out about her roots, and reaches out to the man who might be her father. What she gets is some of that, along with a decades-old mystery that nobody will talk about. Of course, this being a polite Southern town, nobody's actually going to tell her outright to let sleeping dogs lie. They'll just hint at it instead, even while knowing that this Yankee gal isn't going to get it...

I enjoyed Ava's journey, even when I thought that she was a little clueless at times and a little stubborn at others. I also enjoyed reading passages from the novel she's writing, even though I was confused at first--was this history, or her imaginings?

Summer in the South is a lovely piece of Southern fiction that'll immerse you in its hospitality and gentility. Enjoy it with a glass of sweet tea.

drey's rating: Excellent!

Forever Texas Tour Part 3: The Giveaway!

September 22, 2011
Thank goodness! We're at the end of the posts for the Forever Texas tour. This last post is for the giveaway! You can admit it, you've been waiting for this alllllllllllllllllllllllllllll day! *grin*

Thanks to Hachette Book Group, have I got the giveaway for you! Up to 3 winners will receive a copy of each book (yes, that's one copy of EACH TITLE). One winner is guaranteed, the second will be picked when there are over 100 entries, the third when there are over 200 entries. Feel free to share away!

To enter, fill out the form below. Good luck!

Forever Texas Tour Part 2: 131. Heartstrings and Diamond Rings by Jane Graves...

Here's Part 2 of the 3-parter that is today's Forever Texas tour organized by Hachette Book Group for two delish contemporary romances.

The second book in the Forever Texas Tour is Jane Graves' Heartstrings and Diamond Rings.

About Jane Graves:
Jane Graves is the author of eighteen contemporary romance novels. She is a seven-time finalist for Romance Writers of America's Rita Award, the industry's highest honor, and is the recipient of two National Readers' Choice Awards, the Booksellers' Best Award, and the Golden Quill, among others.

Jane’s books have been translated into more than a dozen languages, with three titles reaching the Top 100 on Amazon Germany. Her most recent release, TALL TALES AND WEDDING VEILS, appeared on the Barnes & Noble Bestseller List. Jane lives in the Dallas area with her husband of twenty-nine years and a beautiful but crafty cat who rules the household with one paw tied behind her back.

Find Jane online at her website, and on facebook and twitter.

heartstrings and diamond ringsAbout Heartstrings and Diamond Rings: 


In a world full of frogs, Alison Carter is determined to find her prince. Maybe her dating past is more Titanic than Love Boat, but she's seen enough happy marriages to know that true love is possible. No matter what, she won't give up on happily-ever-after. If she can't find Mr. Right, she'll simply hire someone who can.


When Brandon Scott inherits a successful matchmaking business, he thinks his prayers have been answered. Set up a few lonely ladies, collect the fee, how hard can it be? No one needs to know he's not really a professional matchmaker-especially not his first client, the beautiful, spirited Alison. Soon he's falling for her-and her dreams of kids and carpools. But Alison is getting close to figuring out his secret, and if she learns he's deceived her too, she'll walk right out the door, taking Brandon's heart with her.

ISBN-13: 9780446568487
Paperback: 402 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing, 2011
Purchase at IndieBound, Amazon, The Book Depository
Source: Hachette Book Group

drey's thoughts:
Heartstrings and Diamond Rings is a sweet contemporary romance with a matchmaking man at the heart of it. A man who has nothing left to lose, except maybe his dignity... And his heart. Brandon is charming and smart, not to mention gorgeous. He's in this matchmaking gig temporarily, just until he makes enough money to move on to what he's really interested in--real estate. His attempts at matches for Alison are seemingly normal, but end up to be completely ridiculous. I think he subconsciously did it on purpose just to have her banging on his door after each date... *grin*

Alison. Now Alison I have a wee problem with. I'm not much of a fan of a gal who's so stuck with the idea of marriage and family that she'd settle to get it. Yes, it's a pain digging thru crap to find the diamond, but if you don't dig thru it, you end up with it. And that's no way to start a happily-ever-after. She eventually comes to her senses (who wouldn't, it's Brandon we're talking about!), but is it too late?

Never mind that. This is a romance novel after all. Come and check this out--"watching" Brandon figure out matchmaking is worth it!

drey's rating: Pick it up! 

A note from Jane Graves:
Plano, Texas is a perfect setting for my series because it's an exercise in contrast, just as my characters are. In West Plano, people live in McMansions, drive Lexus SUVs, drink a lot of Starbucks coffee, and play a lot of golf. West Plano is upper-class Texas living with a sprinkle of glitter and a swimming pool in every backyard. East Plano used to be home only to blue collar folks who live in fifty-year-old tract homes with pickup trucks out front. Then the light rail came through and connected Plano to downtown Dallas, and the old downtown area was revitalized with trendy condos, restaurants, and bars. East Plano is middle-class Texas living with a touch of urban cool.

Alison Carter from HEARTSTRINGS AND DIAMOND RINGS owns a condo in downtown Plano, while the hero of that book, Brandon Scott, lives in a Victorian house on the edge of downtown he inherited from his grandmother. Because of its diversity, Plano, Texas gives me a great opportunity to show who my characters are by where they choose to live.

Forever Texas Tour Part 1: 130. Don't Mess with Texas by Christie Craig!

Hoo boy! Hold on to your horses everybody, today's going to be a busy busy day!

I'm participating in the Forever Texas tour organized by Hachette Book Group for two delish contemporary romances. There's lots of stuff for this tour, so take your time and grab a cup of tea/coffee. I split up the post into three segments that'll all go up today, so keep an eye out!

First up is Christie Craig's Don't Mess with Texas. Who would, with a title like that?

About Christie Craig:
Award-winning author Christie Craig grew up in Alabama, where she caught lightning bugs, ran barefoot, and regularly rescued potential princes, in the form of bullfrogs, from her brothers. Today, she's still fascinated with lightning bugs and mostly wears shoes, but focuses on rescuing mammals and hasn't kissed a frog in years. She now lives in Texas with her four rescued cats, one dog (who has a bad habit of eating furniture), a son, and a prince of a husband who swears he's not, and never was, a frog.

Find Christie online at her website, on facebook and twitter.

don't mess with texasAbout Don't Mess with Texas: 
Nikki Hunt thought her night couldn't get worse when her no-good, cheating ex ditched her at dinner, sticking her with the bill. Then she found his body stuffed in the trunk of her car and lost her two-hundred-dollar meal all over his three-thousand-dollar suit. Now not only is Nikki nearly broke, she's a murder suspect.

Former cop turned PI, Dallas O'Connor knows what it's like to be unjustly accused. But one look at the sexy--though skittish--suspect tells him she couldn't hurt anyone. The lead detective, Dallas's own brother, has the wrong woman and Dallas hopes a little late-night "undercover" work will help him prove it . . .

ISBN-13: 9780446582841
Paperback: 428 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing, 2011
Purchase at IndieBound, Amazon, The Book Depository
Source: Hachette Book Group

drey's thoughts:
Christie Craig always makes me laugh, and Don't Mess with Texas is no exception... The cast of characters are interesting and varied. Their issues are all love-related. And the murder-mystery is a doozy. What's a suspect to do?

Well, how about not falling for the hunky PI who swears he's just helping her out? Never mind that he's gorgeous, oh-so-earnest about helping her out, and have I mentioned gorgeous? I have? Well, I guess it bore repeating... And I guess the "don't fall in love" warning really doesn't belong in a romance novel, does it?

Anyway. Prepare to be entertained if you pick this up. And you'll pick this up if you like your love stories hot, funny, and with more than a dash of cheek.

drey's rating: Excellent!

Have you read Don't Mess with Texas? What did you think?

Christie Craig presents: 15 Things you’ll learn from Don’t Mess With Texas that might surprise you
  1. Never, ever feed a dog broccoli.
  2. You might be surprised how the weight of a dead body in the trunk of your car can go unnoticed.
  3. Don’t ever joke about killing your ex . . . in front of witnesses.
  4. In the right situation, vomiting on someone can endear them to you.
  5. When a good-looking detective steals your underwear, he may not be a pervert; he could just be looking for blood splatter evidence.
  6. Some men think hospital gowns are sexy, especially when a breeze comes by and a detective already stole your underwear.
  7. When your grandmother is getting more action than you are, something’s not right with that picture.
  8. Bed bugs are nasty little creatures but they can come in handy when trying to get someone to fall back in love with you.
  9. In the right set of circumstances, morphine can be an aphrodisiac.
  10. The consumption of five cupcakes when your heart is hurting is not always a bad thing.
  11. The way a couple shares an ice cream cone tell the viewing public if they’re sharing bodily fluids.
  12. Nothing can bring all the unresolved issues to the surface in a romance more than finding a naked woman in your boyfriend’s bedroom.
  13. The journey to fall in love isn’t all sweetness and light; it can also have its darker moments where you hurt like hell but it’s still a journey that makes life worth living.
  14. Love can make you laugh so hard you pee in your pants, but it can also make you feel like as though a pit bull just used your heart as a chew toy.
  15. Things really are hotter in Texas.

Don't forget there are two more posts coming up!

September's FEATURED AUTHOR: Cathy's favorite books...

September 21, 2011
You've met our Featured Author of the month, Cathy Holton. And checked out her bibliography. Now she's back, to share with us her current favorite books... 

It’s always difficult to narrow my favorite books down to a manageable list. I’m a voracious reader. There are always stacks of books on my bedside table, beside my tub, on my coffee table. I usually read two or three at a time; a biography or non-fiction book, and a novel. I have a tendency to go through “periods”; my Southern writers period, my English writers period, my Australian writers period, etc.

So, bearing in mind that my list of favorite books and authors constantly changes, depending on what I’m reading at any given moment, the following are some of my favorite most recent reads.

Parrot and Olivier in America
Parrot and Olivier in America – I’ve been a Peter Carey admirer since I read Oscar and Lucinda many years ago. I’m a huge fan of historical fiction and Carey does it best. Parrot and Olivier is the story of a French nobleman and his hapless servant, Parrot, exploring the New World in the years following the Revolutionary War. Carey manages to capture the feel and flavor of a raw new country undergoing some of the same conflicts and social concerns that we’re still dealing with today. The novel is based on the true-life 1831 travels of Alexis deTocqueville.

Lives of Girls and Women
Lives of Girls and Women - How is it that I have only recently discovered Alice Munro? This Canadian short story writer has been heralded as one of the greatest living fiction writers. She writes stories about ordinary people; mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, lovers and friends, living lives of quiet desperation. The stories are engaging and deceptively simple, yet filled with a surprising emotional intensity. Everything I’ve learned about good writing in the last few years, I’ve learned from reading Alice Munro.

case histories
Case Histories – I’ve read everything Kate Atkinson has ever written, starting with Behind the Scenes at the Museum. There’s something about combining satirical humor with good, clean writing that I find engaging and inspiring. Case Histories is the first of her Jackson Brodie series, the story of a Scottish ex-cop on the trail of several seemingly unconnected murder mysteries that all wind up having a surprise connection. It was the way she handled this novel, which is not really a classic mystery novel, that gave me the inspiration to attempt my own mystery, Summer in the South.

monsters of templeton
The Monsters of Templeton – I was amazed that this was a first novel, given the skill, confidence, and youth (damn her) of this writer. Lauren Groff tells the story of a young graduate student, Willie Upton, who returns in disgrace to her small hometown in Upstate New York on the same day a mysterious sea creature washes up on the shore of Lake Glimmerglass. The descendant of some of the founders of Templeton, New York, Willie must sort out not only her own troubled life, but also the elusive past of her illustrious family, including the mystery of her own parentage. Great story, great writing style, great novel.

These look wonderful, Cathy! I am embarrassed I haven't read any of them (yet!)...  I do have Case Histories on my TBR shelves, I should pull it out to sneak it in between some of these other books I need to get to...

What about you guys? Have you read these?

Review: 129. Blood Bound by Rachel Vincent...

September 20, 2011
I loved Rachel Vincent's Shifters series, and I had to pick up the first of her new adult urban fantasy series (especially since it was on sale)...

blood bound
Title: Blood Bound (Unbound #1)
Author: Rachel Vincent
ISBN-13: 9780778312550
eBook: 326 pages
Publisher: Mira, 2011
Purchase at IndieBound, Amazon, The Book Depository
Source: Purchased

drey's thoughts:
Once upon a time, four friends made a promise to each other to always help one another when asked. And they bound that promise with blood, not knowing that blood oaths have ramifications that will follow you for the rest of your lives. Or kill you. 

Fast forward to the present day. The four are friends no longer, having lived with the consequences of the blood oath. And the oath has been "neutralized" by a second one. Or so they think.

Liv Warren is a Tracker, a sort of bloodhound-slash-bounty-hunter. She can track anyone by using their blood, and freelances to whomever can pay the bills. When Annika shows up and asks Liv to find her husband's killer, Liv realizes that their second oath has been destroyed. Now Liv has to juggle conflicting loyalties along with an ex-boyfriend she can't seem to shake. Will she survive Annika's request? Better yet, will he?

Part paranormal-romance, part suspenseful mystery, Blood Bound explores the ramifications when loyalty and free will collide, especially when working under the power of multiple oaths. The plot twists and turns, letting you know there's way more going on than you expected. All of which combine into a recipe for a must-read from Rachel Vincent.

drey's rating: Excellent!

Have you read Blood Bound? What did you think?

A Q&A with Trevor Shane, author of (128.) Children of Paranoia...

September 19, 2011
I'm thrilled to have author Trevor Shane visiting today! He graciously submitted to a Q&A, and I've got a review of his debut novel, Children of Paranoia...

About the author:
Children of Paranoia is Trevor Shane’s first novel. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and son.

Find Trevor online at his website, on facebook, and on twitter.

Trevor has very graciously taken the time to do a short Q&A for us. Read on!
drey: Hi Trevor! Welcome to drey's library, and thank you for taking the time to do this short Q&A...

What should we know about Trevor Shane, in (about) 10 sentences?

Trevor: Nothing. I don’t mean to be snide but I really hope that my work stands alone. I’m a big believer in the idea that, once you’ve put your work out there, you don’t own it any more. It belongs to your readers. But, to not come off as a total ass, I live in Brooklyn with my wife and son. I’m from New Jersey originally. I believe that loyalty and decency are the most important traits a person can have. I love books and movies and I’m a big fan of the drink Calimocho which is a mixture of red wine and coke. That should cover it for now.

drey: Who are your literary heroes/heroines? Why?

Trevor: I’ve been trying to figure out if my answer is supposed to consist of authors or characters. I have to go with authors, though, because the list of characters would go on for way too long (generally, I’m attracted to flawed, romantic characters who can’t help but question the world around them like Rudy from The Book Thief and Daniel from Shadow of the Wind). As far as authors are concerned, I always thought that what Phillip Pullman did with the His Dark Materials trilogy was really brave. The fact that he wrote what is essentially a response to one of the most beloved series of all time (The Chronicles of Narnia) in that way that he did still amazes me. There a section of those books where a twelve-year old girl goes down to meet all the souls of the dead as they wait for the next life and Pullman puts her in the position of convincing those souls that it is better to simply let go and become part of the universe than it is to wait. It’s really an extraordinary passage. I don’t know if I agree with what he’s saying but I really admire his use of popular literature to get across a really complicated idea.

Then there’s Kurt Vonnegut who remains, to me, the greatest truth-teller of all writers. All of his books are hugely entertaining but they all also say something. It’s a trait that I’d like to emulate in my career.

drey: What inspired you to write Children of Paranoia?

Trevor: I wanted to write a really thrilling action/adventure style story that eschewed the standard good guy/bad buy dichotomy. I love thrillers and action/adventure novels (like The Hunger Games and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy). What I wanted to do was create a story in that vein but where there wasn’t a snarling figure as a bad guy and where it was even sometimes difficult to tell who is the bad guy and who is the good guy. I think that, throughout history, there have been very few villains who thought of themselves as villains. Most of the time everybody thinks that they’re the righteous ones. So, the novel opens with the protagonist following a woman down a dark street and strangling her in front of her home simply because she’s on the other side of a centuries old, secret war. So, right off the bat, there’s your hero committing this deplorable act and where do you go from there?

drey: Will there be a sequel?

Trevor: Children of Paranoia is the first book in a trilogy. It was envisioned and sold to Dutton as a trilogy. My goal is to have each book stand alone as a unique narrative but also to create a really interesting overarching story with the entire trilogy where each new book actually enhances the ones before it. Each book will be written from a different perspective and will, hopefully, pull in different aspects from different genres.

Right now, my editor and I are in the later stages of finalizing book II which should come out some time next fall with the hopes that book III will come out the fall after that.

drey: How did you celebrate getting published?

Trevor: Dutton and BookCourt (the world’s greatest book store) threw me a really amazing book release party the day that Children of Paranoia came out. I’ve got some great pictures from the event on my website (here). I had a lot of friends and family come and my son helped me to autograph books after the I did a reading and a Q&A (my son is the more handsome of the two guys in this picture). It turned out to be a much more emotional night for me than I expected. I knew that it would be fun but I was really touched to see so many people that I love essential there to help me celebrate my own dream coming true. Hopefully I’ll get to return the favor for each of them some day. Also, we sold out of books, which was great for BookCourt and hopefully a good sign. Since then, it’s just been really fun to go into bookstores and see Children of Paranoia on the tables and shelves.

My friends have been sending me pictures of Children of Paranoia in stores, a few of which I’ve put on my website (here). It has all be tremendously exciting.

drey: What words of wisdom would you share with aspiring authors?

Trevor: I’d say that the three most important things that anybody needs to make it as a writer are, not necessarily in this order: (1) a great story; (2) luck; and (3) thick skin. There’s not much you can do about the luck part so you have to concentrate on your story first.

To make a great story, you need to have something that’s unique, something that only you could write, but something that is still going so speak to people and that people are going to want to read. I personally don’t make any qualifications between genre fiction and literary fiction or high art and low art (every time people start talking about this stuff, I feel like I’m trapped in a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon). If it’s unique to you and still speaks to people, I think you’re a long way there already.

Even with a great story, however, you need really thick skin in this business. Even the best stories get tons of rejection. No matter how good your work is, people are going to ask you to change it. You are going to get bad reviews. Everybody does. Nobody’s ever written anything that pleased everybody. What helped me was to think of the books that I really love that never found huge success or books that I hate that are gigantic. Once you start thinking of those books, you realize that you can’t judge yourself on your sales or your reviews. You have judge yourself on how proud you are of what you’ve written.

drey: Thank you so much for taking the time, Trevor! 

children of paranoia
About the book:

ISBN-13: 9780525952374
ARC: 371 pages
Publisher: Penguin, 2011
Purchase at IndieBound, Amazon, The Book Depository
Source: Penguin Group

Since the age of eighteen, Joseph has been assassinating people on behalf of a cause that he believes in but doesn’t fully understand. The War is ageless, hidden in the shadows, governed by a rigid set of rules, and fought by two distinct sides — one good, one evil. The only unknown is which side is which. Soldiers in the War hide in plain sight, their deeds disguised as accidents or random acts of violence amidst an unsuspecting population ignorant of the brutality that is always inches away.

Killing people is the only life Joseph has ever known, and he’s one of the best at it. But when a job goes wrong and he’s sent away to complete a punishingly dangerous assignment, Joseph meets a girl named Maria, and for the first time in his life his single-minded, bloody purpose fades away.

Before Maria, Joseph’s only responsibility was dealing death to the anonymous targets fingered by his superiors. Now he must run from the people who have fought by his side to save what he loves most in this world. As Children of Paranoia reaches its heart-in-throat climax, Joseph will learn that only one rule remains immutable: the only thing more dangerous than fighting the war. . .is leaving it. 

drey's thoughts:
Trevor Shane's Children of Paranoia could be set in this very world we live in. But I hope it's not, because all those people killing or being killed, would be just depressing. In the first part of the book, we meet Joseph and find out about this world, the war, and the recruiting. We learn the rules of engagement, and the penalties for breaking those rules. A lot of setting-the-background stuff.

Then we follow Joseph as he goes on his assignments, and watch as he gets his cover blown. We witness his escape and recovery, the dressing-down he receives, and are there when he meets Maria. The question is, who else was? Because in this war, you never know where your enemies will show up... Or who's watching you...

As Joseph tries to get his "career" back on track, we notice his doubts surfacing. Not very handy things, those doubts. If Joseph isn't careful, they'll get him killed--and not just by the other side. And if all of this isn't enough, Joseph and Maria unknowingly break another rule--one that puts both of them on notice, and that lets both sides know they're fair game.

Joseph is not a sympathetic character--after all he does kill people for a living. And he doesn't make any excuses for it either. In his world it's them or him, or someone he loves. He's just a Joe doing his job. Until Maria. Until they're on the wrong side of the line. That's when his character really starts showing some balls, for lack of a better word. And that's when the story really started getting good. What do you do when your side decides you're expendable? Will Joseph and Maria outrun the war or succumb to their fates? You'll have to read it to find out.

drey's rating: Pick it up!

Have you read Children of Paranoia? What did you think?

Check out the book trailer!

Review: 127. Blood Rock by Anthony Francis...

September 17, 2011
I recently picked up Anthony Francis' Frost Moon and liked it. So of course I had to read Blood Rock right away... But now what am I gonna do?

blood rock
Title: Blood Rock (Skindancer #2)
Author: Anthony Francis
ISBN-13: 9781611940138
Publisher: Belle Bridge Books, 2011
Purchase at IndieBound, Amazon, The Book Depository
Source: BelleBooks

drey's thoughts:
We meet Dakota Frost in Frost Moon, where she's entangled in all sorts of trouble. In Blood Rock, she runs across graffiti art that's killing vampires, weres, and humans, and is prohibited from investigating. I bet you can see how well that's gonna turn out...

She also has to keep an eye on Cinnamon, and finds out some pretty startling revelations about her. All the "mom" stuff she's trying to do is stressing her out, especially when it seems as if nothing is going their way. Between school, Cinnamon's changing, and finding a place to live, Dakota's almost tempted to tell the world to take care of their own issues...

Magic, mystery, and murder abound in Blood Rock, and if you didn't like Dakota in Frost Moon (I couldn't imagine why), you will here. She goes through hell to keep her Cinnamon safe, and loses enough to make me wonder if she'll survive this installment.

A must-read for urban fantasy fans!

drey's rating: Excellent!

Blog Tour: Heather Lynn Rigaud & (126.) Fitzwilliam Darcy, Rock Star...

September 16, 2011
Today's tour is for Heather Lynn Rigaud's Fitzwilliam Darcy, Rock Star... How can any Austen fan turn down a title like that? 

About the author:
Debut author Heather Lynn Rigaud is fascinated by the comparisons between life in earlier times and modern times. She spends much of her time thinking about how Regency-era characters would exist now. She is a professional writer with degrees in Music Therapy and Teaching who lives with her husband and two sons in Kingston, NY.

Find Heather online at her blog Austen Nights, on facebook, and twitter.

Heather wrote a guest post for us... How lucky are we? *grin* Actually she wrote two. I had a couple suggestions for topics, and she's sooooooooooo cool she did both. So enjoy!

The first is on re-imagining the classics: the good, the bad, and the ugly. How do you decide what to do with which characters? How much do you stay true to the original character and story?
Well, I'm a plotter and I view the plot as the landmarks on where my story should go. My thought process goes something like: I know Elizabeth and Darcy fight here--how will that work? Here's where they meet at Pemberley--what can I do with that? In working those points out early, I can stay close to Austen's work, and I get a feel for what would be 'right' for each character. Would Elizabeth say this, would Charles do that?

Sir Laurence Olivier 1940
Once I have that framework plotted, I'm able to focus on the characters and really develop them. I spend an insane amount of time thinking about how each one will feel, and then act in each situation--what is Elizabeth like when she gets mad? What is Darcy like when he's uneasy? And then, when everything is in place and I know my characters, I just write. (And sometimes they hijack my story anyway--Richard and Charlotte were terrorists when it came to that.)

David Rintoul 1980
I was committed to keeping Darcy and Elizabeth as true to Austen as possible. The other characters I tried to keep their roles in place--Charles is Darcy's friend and he feels protective of him, Jane is Elizabeth's closest sister and confidant. The roles remained the same, but I was somewhat free in playing with their personalities. For example, Charles got a bit of a spine (but not too much). And then there are clear places where I just went my own way, like Caroline Bingley and Richard Fitzwilliam. In those cases, I developed the characters to fit what I needed in the story--Caroline shows how Darcy acts with most women, and so by contrast the reader can see how differently he treats Elizabeth. Richard is everything Darcy won't allow himself to be--he drinks, he sleeps around, he's somewhat lazy. In contrast, we can see how driven Darcy is.

The second guest post thrills the geek in me. I asked her to compare video game heroes (*cough* Alistair) to paperback heroes. Which format works better (& when)? If you play video games, you'd know exactly who Alistair is. *grin*
This is a cool question. It all comes down to what makes a fictional man attractive. Darcy is very sexy in Austen--even at Hunsford where he's insulting Elizabeth to her face (worst marriage proposal ever!) he is still able to make it swoon-worthy. How does that work? Taking this sexy character, and then amp'ing that up by making him a Rock Star? Well, there you go. It's no surprise that this is a very sexual book.

Colin Firth 1995
I'm a big fan of a video game, Dragon Age, in that your character works very closely with this Knight-type character who is amazingly good at pulling at your heart while also turning you on. And while I was enjoying that, my writer side was wondering how does this work?

So, what makes a guy loveable and hot? And what make him not hot? Universally, Charles Bingley is seen as not hot. (Except to me-because I'm a freak.) Another example is Dr. John Watson from the Sherlock Holmes series. Now, Charles is nice, he's friendly, he's somewhat funny (well, you can laugh at him). He's wealthy and generous--so what doesn't work for him? Watson is brave (war veteran who's the one always carrying the gun, handsome, tough, smart (but not as smart as Holmes, of course) and yet, he's never the hot one.

Matthew Macfadyen 2005
So what is it? The only thing Darcy and Alistair share is a reluctance to admit their feelings at first, and a great intensity when they finally do. So, is that it? Is it the 'still waters run deep' thing? Or is it the way we as a reader/player travel on an emotional journey with them? We start with them in a bad place, and watch them/help them move to a stronger, better place. Darcy goes through, well, a lot--first he falls for Elizabeth and gets flat out rejected (and you know that hurt) then he mends his ways and reconnects with her at Pemberley, only to have that bastard Wickham pull the rug out from under him. Again. (I hate Wickham with the heat of a thousand suns.) So Darcy's a hurtin' boy.

Alistair is in a terrible war against the demon-types who are mounting an attack, and in the middle of that, he loses his mentor/father figure through a terrible betrayal, that incites a civil war among the people. On top of that, he's the bastard child of the former King and next in line for the throne, so he's got some issues there that he's in denial about. He's emotionally a wreck, and the player takes charge of the war effort, and slowly draws Alistair out of his grief. (Plus, he was raised by monks, so he's a virgin.)

Both these men are very passionate, but they've had to keep a tight reign on that passion, because it's dangerous when it breaks out. Now, if I can pull on an anthropologist hat for a moment--the idea of 'passion that is dangerous if let run free' is exactly the way many, many cultures view women's sexuality--that it has to be kept bound by strict social mores, otherwise, its as destructive as a wildfire. Now, I'm not saying that either of these characters are women, but it's possible that as women we recognize something familiar about them. They remind us of our sexual side, and we can relate to them in a very deep way. And that's important, because how many times have you looked at a man who's just done something typically male and just "Wha????"

Elliott Cowan 2008
So, we have characters who've suffered, (and boy, we loves us some suffering) and who trust us with something very private and important to them. (Letting Elizabeth stand in for us, of course...) They are familiar in that they don't have those annoying man-traits that we don't understand, but at the same time, they're hyper-manly physically and in their actions. And they're leaders of men.

Clearly, I don't have a good answer here and I'm not sure I could explain it if I did. But, it's really interesting. I'd love to hear what makes a man really 'Work' for them. What makes him hot, sexy and loveable? Thanks for having me here today and for those interesting questions.

fitzwilliam darcy, rock star
About the book:
Darcy's as hot as he is talented...

Fast music, powerful beats, and wild reputations-on and off stage-have made virtuoso guitarist Fitzwilliam Darcy's band into rock's newest bad boys. But they've lost their latest opening act, and their red-hot summer tour is on the fast track to disaster. Now Darcy and bandmates Charles Bingley and Richard Fitzwilliam are about to meet their match...

But she's about to rock his world...

Enter Elizabeth Bennet, fiercely independent star of girl-band Long Borne Suffering. Elizabeth, her sister Jane, and friend Charlotte Lucas have talent to spare and jump at the opening band slot. Elizabeth is sure she's seen the worst the music industry has to offer. But as the days and nights heat up, it becomes clear that everyone is in for a summer to remember.

ISBN-13: 9781402257810
ARC: 566 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks, Inc., 2011
Purchase at IndieBound, Amazon, The Book Depository
Source: Sourcebooks

drey's thoughts:
Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite classics, and I jumped at the chance to read a re-imagining of it that doesn't have zombies, vampires, or other other-worldly creatures.

Anyway. Darcy as a rock star. Yum. (Yes, even if I can't really imagine Colin Firth as a rock star... Can you?) He's still arrogant and aloof. He still doesn't know how to talk to Elizabeth without pushing all the wrong buttons. Some things shouldn't ever change...

I enjoyed Fitzwilliam Darcy, Rock Star. It's a bit long at almost 600 pages, and I got a bit annoyed at Richard and Charlotte--way too much angst. Darcy and Elizabeth had the sparks going like crazy, and Jane and Charles were totally mushy. The boy-band meets girl-band plot is almost too convenient, and the creepy Mr. Collins was almost creepier than George Wickham. Ugh.

All in all, this is a pretty fun read for Darcy fans, not least because it's fun imagining the Darcy-rock-star strut... *wink*

drey's rating: Pick it up! 

Have you read Fitzwilliam Darcy, Rock Star? What did you think? And if you haven't, here's your opportunity to win a copy...

Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy of Fitzwilliam Darcy, Rock Star for you! This one's open to US/Canada residents only. To enter, fill out the form before September 30th. Good luck!

Review: 125. Touch of Frost by Jennifer Estep...

September 15, 2011
Jennifer Estep writes one of my favorite urban fantasy series, The Elemental Assassins, and here she is with a brand new YA offering. Ok, so maybe it's not quite brand new, since it's been out since July...

touch of frost
Title: Touch of Frost (Mythos Academy #1)
Author: Jennifer Estep
ISBN-13: 9780758266927
e-ARC: 278 pages
Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corp., 2011
Purchase at IndieBound, Amazon, The Book Depository
Source: Jennifer Estep

drey's thoughts:
I loved the mythology weaved into Touch of Frost. Sure, I'm a bit rusty on all the players, but I used to read everything (and I mean everything) I could get my hands on that had any hint of myths--never mind where they originated, I wanted 'em.

Gwen Frost is seventeen and a Gypsy. She's at the Mythos Academy against her wishes and skulks around the other students--Spartans, Valkyries, Amazons, etc.--in between classes. Being the only Gypsy there does make one tend to lurk alone. The first part of the book is all new-girl stuff: not fitting in, covering the cliques, and angst over having to be there in the first place. Plus how easily she gets off the grounds to steal visits with her grandmother...

Then Gwen stumbles into stuff that's way more than she's prepared to handle--by herself anyway. And finds out that not all the mean girls are actually mean, and not all the cool dudes are too cool to hang out with a Gypsy. And that's the easy stuff... She also finds out the gods are real, they're not above messing with the world, and some gods are definitely more benign than others. Death happens to be all too real at Mythos Academy...

I liked Gwen, even when I think she's sometimes too dang stubborn for her own good. I like her friend Daphne, who's as snarky as the best of them. I am intrigued by the story, and want to find out what Logan's thinking, and where Gwen goes from here.

drey's rating: Pick it up! Especially if you like your boarding-school YA novels wrapped in mythological figures and good-vs-evil intrigue.

Have you read Touch of Frost? What did you think?

September's FEATURED AUTHOR: Cathy Holton's books!

September 14, 2011
Today's FEATURED AUTHOR post is all about Cathy's books! I love these covers, and cannot wait to get reading...

After a personal tragedy, Chicago writer Ava Dabrowski quits her job to spend the summer in Woodburn, Tennessee, at the invitation of her old college friend Will Fraser and his two great-aunts, Josephine and Fanny Woodburn. Her charming hosts offer Ava a chance to relax at their idyllic ancestral estate, Woodburn Hall, while working on her first novel.

But Woodburn is anything but quiet: Ancient feuds lurk just beneath its placid surface, and modern-day rivalries emerge as Ava finds herself caught between the competing attentions of Will and his black-sheep cousin Jake. Fascinated by the family’s impressive history—their imposing house filled with treasures, and their mingling with literary lions Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Faulkner—Ava stumbles onto rumors about the darker side of the Woodburns’ legacy. Putting aside her planned novel, she turns her creative attentions to the eccentric and tragic clan, a family with more skeletons (and ghosts) in their closets than anyone could possibly imagine. As Ava struggles to write the true story of the Woodburns, she finds herself tangled in the tragic history of a mysterious Southern family whose secrets mirror her own.
Random House | May 2011 | Purchase at IndieBound, Amazon, The Book Depository

beach trip
Mel, Sara, Annie, and Lola have traveled diverse paths since their years together at a small Southern liberal arts college during the early 1980s. Mel, a mystery writer living in New York, is grappling with the aftermath of two failed marriages and a stalled writing career. Sara, an Atlanta attorney, struggles with her own slowly unraveling marriage. Annie, a successful Nashville businesswoman married to her childhood sweetheart, can’t seem to leave behind the regrets of her youth. And sweet-tempered Lola whiles away her hours—and her husband’s money—on little pills that keep her happy.

Now the friends, all in their forties, converge on Lola’s lavish North Carolina beach house in an attempt to relive the carefree days of their college years. But as the week wears on and each woman’s hidden story is gradually revealed, these four friends learn that they must inevitably confront their shared past, and a secret that threatens to change their bond, and their lives, forever.
Random House | June 2010 | Purchase at IndieBound, Amazon, The Book Depository

secret lives of the kudzu debutantes
Cotillion: A formal gathering of bright young women on the verge of entering adulthood, the society pages, and prospective high-tax-bracket marriages. Think a Civil War reenactment with crisp, clean white dresses.

Catfight: An impromptu gathering of not-so-young women on the verge of losing their cool. Think a cotillion with hair-pulling.

It’s been more than a year since the Kudzu Debutantes exacted sweet, merciless revenge on their cheating husbands, but the repercussions are still palpable throughout Ithaca, Georgia: Nita is anxiously preparing herself for marriage to Jimmy Lee, a man thirteen years her junior; Lavonne, despite having dropped her husband–and eighty pounds–and launched her own business, longs for love; and while Eadie remains married to Trevor, she feels more neglected than ever.

So the occasion of Nita’s second wedding seems like just the ticket to cheer up the disconsolate Debs. But they’ve made a formidable enemy in Virginia Broadwell, first lady of Ithaca and the bride’s ex-mother-in-law. Hell-bent on vengeance and determined to restore old-school social mores, Virginia hatches a plan so devious it makes her pedicured toes curl in anticipation.

Soon enough, the women are knocked for a loop–but you can keep a Kudzu Debutante down for only so long. The one thing stronger than Virginia’s wrath is the bond between the three friends, who soon learn that one of Virginia’s Jimmy Choos contains an irresistible Achilles’ heel. With spirit, wit, and down-home gumption, the take-no-prisoners trio decides it’s time to ditch their cotillion manners as they rally to save Nita’s marriage, Lavone’s business, Eadie’s sanity . . . and the honor of Kudzu Debs the world over.

Packed with authentic Southern flavor and characters as colorful as an azalea in full bloom, The Secret Lives of the Kudzu Debutantes serves up stinging one-liners and earthy wisdom in equal measure.
Random House | May 2008 | Purchase at IndieBound, Amazon, The Book Depository

revenge of the kudzu debutantes
kud • zu \kud-zü\ n: a ubiquitous vine/weed found in Southern climes that, left uncontrolled, will grow over any fixed object in its path, including trees, power lines, and the entire state of Georgia.

deb•u•tante \de-byu-tänt\ n: a young woman making a debut into society, easily spotted in white dress and pearl necklace. Common names include Muffy, Bootsy, and Bunny.

Eadie Boone is no shrinking violet. An artist and former beauty queen who married into one of the first families of Ithaca, Georgia, she tackles everything with gusto and flair. But tailing her wayward husband proves to be, well, an exasperating chore. If only Trevor would just see the light, dump his twenty-two-year-old hussy, and return home, Eadie’s creative energy could be put to better use. Now all she has to do is convince him.

Nita Broadwell, a good Southern girl from a good Southern family, is jolted out of complacency when she discovers condoms in her husband’s shirt pocket (“Maybe he’d found them on the ground and picked them up”). Between clinging to denial and dodging her overbearing mother-in-law, Nita is also trying to break her addiction to steamy bodice-ripper novels. Only now it appears she’s authoring her own real-life romance tale with a hunky handyman thirteen years her junior.

Lavonne Zibolsky–a transplanted Yankee, bless her heart–is saddled with planning the annual Broadwell & Boone law firm party. That and her lackluster marriage have her seeking solace in the contents of her refrigerator. If she could just put down the Rocky Road ice cream and peach pie, she might get around to finding a caterer, dropping sixty pounds, and figuring out how to fall in love with her husband again. Not necessarily in that order.

Bonded by years of friendship, these three women discover what else they have in common: lying, cheating spouses. So they heed their collective betrayals as a wake-up call and band together to exact sweet revenge. The take-charge trio will see to it that the punishment is just, exquisitely humiliating, and downright hilarious.

Cathy Holton’s debut novel is a delicious yarn of friendship and marriage, secrets and retribution, and how nothing stays hidden for long. Against a Southern backdrop of gentility and decorum, Revenge of the Kudzu Debutantes dares to abandon Junior League social graces in ways that would make even Scarlett O’Hara blush.
Random House | June 2007 | Purchase at IndieBound, Amazon, The Book Depository

Tell the truth, y'all... Don't these books look like fab reading?

Review: 124. One Salt Sea by Seanan McGuire...

September 13, 2011
I've been waiting and waiting for this since I finished Late Eclipses... It does NOT disappoint!

one salt sea
Title: One Salt Sea (October Daye #5)
Author: Seanan McGuire
ISBN-13: 9780756406837
Publisher: Penguin, 2011
Purchase at IndieBound, Amazon, The Book Depository
Source: Purchased

drey's thoughts:
Toby's life is so not boring... But at least One Salt Sea waits (almost) a few chapters before throwing her into chaos. Again.

She's trying to re-learn her body, thanks to her mother's actions in Late Eclipses (not that she's complaining--at least she's alive!). And figuring out what it can do by sword-training with Sylvester. If that's not enough, she's worrying about Tybalt. Spending time with Connor. Hanging with May. Settling Lily's people in at Goldengreen... And it all comes to a screeching halt when the Luidaeg stops by. Because the Luidaeg does not just "stop by"...

We meet the Undersea fae in this installment, and what colorful characters they are. Not happy though, but who would be if your sons were missing and you suspect the Queen of the Mists of the dastardly deed? (heh, I've always wanted to use those two words together)

Now, the Queen isn't one of Toby's favorite people in the world, but even she knows that while mostly mad, the Queen is not the one responsible. So to avert outright war between the sea and land fae, Toby does what she's best at--unraveling the mystery, finding the perpetrators, and saving the world. Hopefully while staying alive.

I am in awe of Toby. She's been through a lot, and Seanan McGuire has never (and I suspect, will never) coddle her. If you've read Rosemary and Rue, you'll know how much Toby loves water. Well guess where she gets to go in One Salt Sea? I'm amazed she managed to stay as composed as she does. But then again, that's Toby--it doesn't matter to her how uncomfortable the situations she gets in are, she'll do it anyway. Because she'll do what's right, to save those she loves most. And those she loves most are definitely on the line in this fifth installment.

You're in for adventure galore, a new world that amazes, and pulse-pounding anxiety, all wrapped up in Toby's trademark open-mouth-insert-foot snarkiness. Pack some tissues though--you'll most likely cry with her before you run out of pages to read. *sigh*

drey's rating: Outstanding!! Now I have to figure out what to do for Toby-withdrawal until Ashes of Honor comes out next September. Yes, that's twelve whole months. *cry*

Have you read One Salt Sea? What did you think? If you haven't, start with Rosemary and Rue...
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