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Hello, my name is Valorie. I have a Master's Degree in History and a license to teach-- I have been both university professor and public school teacher. Currently, I am a middle school social studies teacher. I love horror movies and spooky things. Every day is Halloween. I am also a passionate book blogger.

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Blog Tour, Book Review & Author Interview: My Forbidden Desire by Carolyn Jewel

Welcome to Carolyn Jewel, who is here with us today at Morbid-Romantic.net while on her blog tour of My Forbidden Desire. I am fortunate enough to have her, and she even stopped in to answer a few questions! So, everyone say welcome and hello to Carolyn Jewel.

About Carolyn Jewel

When not writing, Carolyn Jewel is a Database Administrator. She lives in northern California with her son, three cats, a border collie, several chickens, and some sheep. 

About My Forbidden Desire

Alexandrine Marit is a witch in mortal danger. An evil mage craves the powerful, mysterious talisman that supplies her magic, and the only person who can keep her safe is a dark and dangerous fiend called Xia. With his fierce animosity toward witches, he's hardly the ideal bodyguard. Yet as days turn into nights, she can't deny the white-hot passion between them. Xia hates witches. They enslave and mercilessly kill his kind. But he's been ordered to protect Alexandrine, who, to his surprise, has a spirit he admires and a body he longs to possess. With the mage and his henchmen closing in, Alexandrine and her protector must trust the passion that can unite them...or risk losing everything to the enemies who can destroy them both. Watch the trailer:

My Review of My Forbidden Desire
Alexandrine Marit is a witch who can barely form a spell, abandoned as a child by her powerful mage father Rasmus for having too little power. However, as a grown woman, what she does have is a talisman imbued with a power her father supposedly wants. So to protect her from her father and his league of fiends, her no longer long-lost adopted brother Harsh puts a fiend named Xia in charge of her protection. Xia is a powerful creature, the tall and dark handsome kind, but hates witches because witches enslave and kill his kind. He would like nothing more than to kill Rasmus with his bare hands, and watching over a witch who is also the daughter of Rasmus is a terrible fate for him. Neither of them trust each other, but slowly Alexandrine sees he is more than just a witch hating fiend, and Xia comes to see that she is more than just a witch. Especially when the two discover that maybe Xia needs to be protected just as much as she does. The closer they get to one another, the less they can deny the chemistry and physical attraction pulling at them. Nothing like a good book full of magic and sexual tension to curl up with at night. I have a weakness for magic in books, though not only of the "witch" kind. I think the various concepts of magehelds and blood-twins and such are very unique and give more layers to the story than your typical witch-meets-demon-and-they-do-magic-together kind of story. There is more potential for conflict and storyline when relationships are varied and complex. And though you know Alexandrine and Xia are going to end up getting hot and petty, the anticipation is tense and their mutual dislike is amusing. Xia is the absolute bad boy type and women can't get enough of men like him. In that way, he is charming but frustrating, but bad boys tend to be stubborn. And Alexandrine, darling, after all the things Xia did and said to you, you still thought he was going to abandon you at the end? Where is your faith, girl!? But hey, the story needed that last surge of drama, I suppose, and it was a great ending to see the two of them together but not sugary. After all, Xia is still a bad boy fiend and Alexandrine is still a "take no crap" kind of girl.

Interview With Carolyn Jewel

Q: What do you do to prepare to write? What is the process that gets you ready to sit down and lay out a story?
A: I sit in my chair or boot up my laptop if I'm not at home.
As for my process, I have learned that laying out a story in advance is a huge waste of time and fatal to my success in ending up with a book that anybody would care to read. That's how it is for me. YMMMV (Your Mileage May Vary).
Not only am I a seat of the pants writer, but I am one of those character-driven authors. It does me no good to conconct elaborate plot charts or lists of goals and motivations before I start. (Believe me, I tried and failed at all of that planning stuff.)
My story develops in the course of writing about my characters. What they do on the page drives my plot. I do a lot of brainstorming in a notebook just to hash out ideas, possiblities and what-ifs so it's not as if I start completely unprepared. And then, when I sit down to write, 98% of the time something completely different happens.
If I don't pay attention to what's happening in the story that's actually developing on the pages and instead try to impose my will, I end up with dreck. So I don't do that anymore.

Q: How much of yourself do you put in your characters? Are they extensions of you, or are they independent creations that take on a life of their own after coming from your imagination?
A: To some extent my writing is an extension of myself -- the thoughts and ideas, after all, come out of my head, and I have a certain set of experience, knowledge, politics etc.
If I were to write characters who were extensions of me, they would all be the same and that would be dull. I'm sorry to report that I do not live a life of thrill and excitement. My characters, however, frequently do. They constantly surprise me and I do my best to keep up.

Q: What sort of research went into making this book?
A: Not a tremendous amount, since I was wise enough to set the book in places I used to live; San Fransicso and Berkeley, or places I was, for one reason or another, very familiar with.
The house in Tiburon is based on a multi-million dollar home that was once the subject of a lawsuit -- at a time when I worked at a law firm. The house in Sausalito is loosely based on a house I knew of from a friend. The places where Alexander and Xia walk are all places I used to walk or run myself.
In my student days and beyond, I lived in crappy cheap apartments, so it was pretty easy to recall that experience when describing Alexandrine's apartment. The only hard part was getting in contact with real mages and fiends to confirm my understanding of how their world works. Fortunately, I took pretty good notes.

Q: What is the most valuable piece of knowledge that you've picked up after becoming a published author that you wish you knew from the start?
A: The secret handshake, without a doubt. Kidding! I wish I'd known how important it is to stay in contact with other people who write, to be around people with the same obsessions.

Q: What is one thing you've never done but would love to do?
A: I have never gone to Spain, and I would like to one day.

Q: Finally, could you share with all of us a quote that you love?
A: How about one of my favorite poems instead?
Nothing is so fleeting as the cherry flower, you say. Yet I remember well the moment when Life's bloom faded at a spoken word And not a breath of wind had stirred. - Tsuriyuki, 5th century.

Participating Sites:

http://bridget3420.blogspot.com - June 28 review and giveaway 
http://booksoulmates.blogspot.com/ - June 28 review and giveaway 
http://ajourneyofbooks.blogspot.com - June 28 review and giveaway 
http://debbiesworld.wordpress.com - June 28 
http://yankeeromancereviewers.blogspot.com/ - June 28 giveaway 
http://rannthisthat.blogspot.com - June 28 
http://dreyslibrary.blogspot.com/ - June 28 review, giveaway, and Q&A 
http://undercoverbooklover.blogspot.com/ - June 28 giveaway and Q&A 
http://bookinwithbingo.blogspot.com - June 28 
http://martasmeanderings.blogspot.com/ - June 28 review and giveaway 
http://www.mgpblog.com/ - June 28 review and giveaway 
http://www.startingfresh-gaby317.blogspot.com/ - June 28 review and giveaway 
http://trinsnook.blogspot.com - June 28 review and giveaway 
http://mustreadfaster.blogspot.com/ - June 29 review and giveaway 
http://www.loveimpossible.com - June 29 review and Q&A 
http://seductivemusings.blogspot.com/ - June 29 review and giveaway 
http://reviewfromhere.com/ - June 29 review 
http://booksandneedlepoint.blogspot.com/ - June 29 review; giveaway 
http://mindingspot.blogspot.com/ - review, giveaway, and Q&A 
http://reesspace.blogspot.com - review and giveaway 
http://carolsnotebook.wordpress.com/ - June 29 review, giveaway, and possible Q&A 
http://horrorandfantasybookreview.blogspot.com - June 29 review and giveaway 
http://www.myspace.com/darbyscloset - review

Friday, June 26, 2009

Blog Tour, Book Review & Author Interview: Visions on America by Jean Koning

Today I would like to welcome author, artist, and musician Jean Koning to Epeolatry.  He is here promoting his book Visions on America. It was a real pleasure for me to get to read his book since he is a pretty unique guy and I love people full of opinions. It proves the person is listening. For more information about Jean Koning, visit his personal homepage or the official !JP site.

About Visions on America

Visions' is a collection of columns written for the e-zine The Noise. A surprisingly intimate portrait on life and every day politics, accomplished with a fierce manner of writing. Inspired by his own research for the musical album 'Notes from Purgatory', Jean Koning digs deep into the well of his personal life and blends the stories he found there with his experiences and visions of the American Way of Life, to portray a whirlwind of emotion, anger and doubt. Dipped deep in a cocktail of absurdity and melancholy, the swift stories are built upon the eagerness to achieve a deeper understanding "in" trends, hypes and the corrupt world of commercial art. 

The stories' subjects change as swiftly as the Dutch climate. From Amsterdam hookers to New York art openings and the ongoing war in Iraq. From the duality toward American lifestyles and Hollywood productions to Barbie and Ken in a setting of ironic perversity. From a heartfelt letter full of tips for Hillary Clinton to a remarkable talk show with Oprah Winfrey. 'Visions' is a humoristic approach of the life we lead today, with a huge comment made on worldwide politics. This is our planet today, with America as the prime suspect, Europe as the jury and Koning himself as the brutal judge. Surprisingly enough, Koning doesn't point a finger of blame at anyone without pointing that finger at himself first.

My Review of Visions

Visions: on America by Dutch artist Jean Koning is a collection of columns written for an e-zine called The Noise. Koning writes in a tone that is blunt, humorous, opinionated, and unapologetic. There is a little bit of everything discussed in the succinct little snippets of life that Koning writes: sex, drugs, commercial art, finger pointing, rap music, coffee, public transportation, war... Did I mention that there is also some Oprah, Tom Cruise, and Hillary Clinton mentioned? And, best of all, some mentions of The Smiths and Morrissey? Though the subtitle is on America, the book is about a lot more than how non-Americans see America. The book is rather a reflection on life, the insight of one person who is without a doubt the culmination of personal experience. And it is refreshing and interesting to see the way that my culture, that of America, is seen by people in Europe. The opinions expressed are always amusing and never offensive, and maybe a bit pleasingly hedonistic, which we could all use a bit more of in today's world where news reports of international conflict shake us to the core. It also speaks of human reservation and the limitations that we place on ourselves, sometimes for propriety, and sometimes just because we want to fit in. Koning questions what art is, what freedom is, and why we place so many restrictions on our nature for the sake of what we perceive to be the better good. Yet, ultimately, the book is just funny. If you are a patriotic American, maybe an extreme right-winger, you might want to shy away or calm down a bit before you pick this book up because it is not a kiss ass book or a series of articles about "what's so great about America." I particularly loved the part about Tom Cruise's Interview With the Vampire role being nothing more than a ploy for him to come out of the closet to Brad Pitt and Antonio Banderas. If only, Koning, if only. I hope to see you on Oprah soon.

Interview With Jean Koning

Q: What do you do to prepare to write? What is the process that gets you ready to sit down a lay out a story?
A: It depends on what I'm about to write. When I try to write lyrics for my music, I usually have a theme of music that I write to. I try to make up a feeling or a story from the past that fits the music and start writing down just words and short sentences. That is such a different way to write than when I work on a novel. For a novel I think of the story. Once I think it's a story worth writing about I make up characters. I try to develop the characters in the earliest stage. And once the characters have voices, "this could take months, even years," the story tells itself. And then there are the columns. For Visions, I wrote on the spot. Things happened in my life and I instantly wrote down a few notes. Later I developed these scribblings into the stories that are collected in Visions. It seemed at the time the best way to work, since I wanted to show America a little bit of instant absurdity. My life is quite absurd, you know, but usually I realize weeks after an event the amount of absurdity that tiny detail in my life allowed itself to grow into. (Do you catch my drift, here?!) For Visions, I wanted to grab these moments and the feeling it gave me on the spot. In retrospect, perhaps the title should have been Tales from the crazy dude on the street, but who would buy that?!?

Q: Visions is a collection of e-zine columns and I am curious to know how you see e-zines compared to other forms of media. What do e-zines have to offer that make them unique?
A: I think e-zines are a left-over from the underground scenes. And that's exciting. I love the underground. I have lived there for many years. And there were these fanzines they used to put out there. I think e-zines in existence come closer to fanzines than to regular magazines. The exciting thing about that is that the e-zines are edited by those people who actually are topic-aficionados. I mean: an executive-economic-chairman with a passion for Mozart would never put out an e-zine about the necessity of punk-bands. He could do an e-zine about economics or the disastrous financial drama we woke up to. Or even Mozart. And he could attract readers who think alike. The downside of Magazines today is that they try to cover, like, the entire world. You can read about politics in Vogue and NME does fashion shoots with singers and bands. It's all a huge melting pot of information. And e-zines seem to cover only one interest. In fact it's a topic on line life and e-zines and blogs and so on I am working with right now. But that's going to be something musical.

Q: Visions is about life in America and the experiences of those in this country. If you had to sum America up in just one sentence, what would you write?
A: "Land of the free, home of the strange."

Q: How do you think people in the future will regard our present? What will they say we achieved or failed at?
A: This is an interesting question. I think-- I hope actually-- people will say we were selfish, stupid and numb. We have a close history of violence and warfare. The Second World War should be a school to our generation and the generations after us. But still there's war everywhere, all the time. Instead of learning from our mistakes, we wasted time perfecting weapons. Instead of teaching our children that every life on this planet is valuable, we teach them to fight for their dubious governmental rights. This is also an interesting point for the internet generation. We now have the ways of mass-communication; the world we live in has never been so small. But we don't know how to communicate. I love the saying: "You talk a lot, but you say so little!" I think that that one sentence sums up our generation. It's all talking and little to no action. We all scream and shout that we want to end all wars, want to end all poverty, want to end all hunger, but no body actually does anything. We have achieved the communication but we failed at communicating. Do you still understand me?

Q: I've looked around your website at all of your various projects and you've done a lot of stuff that would be considered edgy. Of course, a lot of people assume that this is for shock value only. What would you say to them? What do you try to impart on people through your art?
A: I would say: "I'm shocked that you think that way." But honestly, there is not a lot I can say to them. It's funny actually. Ever since I turned thirty, these mid-life-crisis-women-- do you know them? The type of woman who turns fifty and suddenly starts to paint and visit gallery openings and Jean Koning concerts. Nodding to the tunes of the music-- seem to understand me better than I understand myself. They find things I do suddenly interesting, but they voted against me ten years ago. The same women. And men, actually. I don't think what I do is quite shocking. Sure, there is some nudity and sure I write a lot of f*ck*ng words, but it is all a form of art. It is my voice. I don't want to shock people. I want people to understand that there are alternatives. It's not all just Hollywood. I tried Hollywood once, but I had to bleach my teeth. That was enough for me. I smoke and I drink a lot of coffee. It is not possible to bleach my teeth. Not anymore. But European cinema is the place where there is a lot of nudity. Even in some theatre pieces I've done, they've asked me to go the full Monty. But it's not different when I write. My words are also very naked. Hard, harsh and naked. But all of it comes from a good heart.

Q: What is the most valuable piece of knowledge that you've picked up after becoming a published author that you wish you knew from the start?
A: "There is a thing called 'genre'." I wish I would have taken that one more serious. I wanted to blend and mix and cook with French recopies and Asian herbs, but nobody likes that dish.

Q: What writer or writers are your favorite(s)?
A: I love the Beat Generation. Ginsberg, Burroughs, Kerouac.

Q: What is one thing you've never done but would love to do?
A: I still would love to do a Hollywood film one day. But without the bleaching. And when Hollywood doesn't accept that, I'd like to see how Steve Buscemi turns my latest novel (in Dutch only, but I'm hoping for a translation) into a film.

Q: What would your "theme" song be on the soundtrack of your life?
A: Wild is the Wind by David Bowie.

Q: Finally, could you share with all of us a quote that you love?
Once upon a time I was in my favorite cinema, where I watched Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and at some point the main character "forgot his name" played by John Cusack interviews the Lady Chablis and then she says: "My grandmother used to say: Two tears in a bucket, M*therf*ck it!"  I wish I wrote that line. That's a lovely quote. And--this is not really a quote, but let's be funny here-- once I read someone's T-shirt and it screamed "Do you want to have my abortion?" which I thought was fabulous.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Blog Tour, Book Review & Author Interview: Synarchy: Book 1- The Awakening by DCS

About Synarchy: Book 1- The Awakening

Thirteen bloodlines, The Brotherhood, fanatically loyal to their gods, the Anunnaki, have controlled the planet since his-story was written.. In 1925 Stefano Vasco Terenzio, head of the Terenzio crime family makes a deal with the Anunnaki to solidify his control over the American Mafia.. Clever and manipulative, Stefano's true goal was to put his family in a position so one day they would be able to turn on their masters. Two generations later, the shockwave he ignited was still being felt. Now, as the world inches closer to 2012, time is running out. The only thing in the Brotherhoods way is Terenzio, a family now divided as a truly epic battle begins that will determine whether mankind continues existing in a world of lies, or shatters the chains that have held it prisoner since his-story was written. Shocking yet hopeful, Synarchy slowly unravels the tightly laced reality we have created for ourselves. Blending the metaphysical with conspiracy, fact with fiction, debut author DCS has opened up a world that will force you to rethink everything you believe about your own. The knowledge within provokes the question; do you really want to know?

My Review of Synarchy: Book 1- The Awakening

Synarchy: Book 1- The Awakening is certainly a book that is hard to describe. The plot is so intricate and the characters so plentiful that to describe it would take a lot of time, and probably give away more of the storyline than I want to disclose. So, to keep it short, Marcello Terenzio is on his deathbed and summons his triplet grandchildren--Vasco, Lucien, and Simone-- to finish what they started in their past lives: the Ascension. The Ascension is opposed by a group of creatures known as the Anunnaki who use humans as servants, some of those being members of the Terenzio family. One by one, members of the Terenzio family awaken to their former lives and connect on opposed sides to either stop or aid humans in their Ascension. It won't be easy, though, because the Anunnaki is backed by a group of 12 loyal and powerful families known as The Brotherhood. The Anunnaki and The Brotherhood want to stop the Ascension because they want to stay in power on Earth. Ascensions have failed before, resulting in the destruction of planets. God and human alike hope that this one will be the last and finally successful attempt. Light read this book is not. The plot is intense and involved, and there are a lot of names and relationships to juggle. Many, many times while reading this book did I have to flip back to the previous pages to recall a person or a connection (hint for those who haven't read yet- there's a family tree online at the Synarchy novel website). 
The concept of Synarchy: Book 1- The Awakening is entirely unique. I've certainly never read anything like this before. In a world where every idea has been done and redone, it's refreshing to read something that hasn't been done quite like this before. The intricacy of the plot only enhances its uniqueness. I am surprised that a book this good, this well written and original, hasn't gotten the attention that it deserves. There's a considerable amount of science and metaphysics in the book, so you have to pay attention in order to fully grasp what the characters are trying to achieve. The idea is that humans can affect things with thought and emotion, and that ultimately all humans are connected in a way deeper than we can understand. At least, not until we Ascend. But it would be wrong to classify this book as science fiction because it's fantasy and mystery and thriller, as well. But in this way, within its complexity and perhaps because of it, the book is very thought provoking and it sort of makes you wonder if you have been looking at reality the right way all along.

Interview With DCS

Q: What do you do to prepare to write? What is the process that gets you ready to sit down a lay out a story?
A: My desk area must be clean. I am a little OCD about this. Messy will distract me. But there isn't much more of a process, I don't have a set time that I write everyday. I don't like routine, so I have my to-do list of things I want to get accomplished and I make a commitment to get them done that day. I write whenever the urge strikes me, but I'll never go more than a day without writing something. I've got a lot of notebooks and notes everywhere.

Q: How much of yourself do you put in your characters? Are they extensions of you, or are they independent creations that take on a life of their own after coming from your imagination?
A: My characters definitely take on a life of their own but, I find that some of my traits do sneak into them. One of them will have a penchant for playing the piano, something I love, or will write as a hobby, etc.

Q: How did you come up with the Anunnaki? What was your inspiration for them?
A: I actually can't take credit for coming up with the Anunnaki. The Anunnaki are referenced primarily in Sumerian mythology. Google them and you'll actually get a lot of different information.

Q: What sort of research went into making this book?
A: Index cards. Lots and lots of Index cards. And a lot of reading! I spent a lot of time trying to find what I felt was truth from all the conspiracy and 2012 theories out there. Theories about our origins and what we are here to do. It was a lot to dig through, especially when it all sounds fantastical. I've lightly scratched the surface on the topics like metaphysics, quantum physics, secret military installations, and everything in between.

Q: How much does your world resemble our own? Is it an Alternate Universe or a mirror into our world?
A: Synarchy is a mirror. I'd like to think I'm pulling back the curtain and exposing to the reader the potential that lays hidden in ours.

Q: Which author or authors have been the most influential to you and your writing?
A: I'd have to say Dean Koontz. There is a subtle spiritual message tucked away in some of his novels that I really enjoy. From the Corner of His Eye is one of my favourites of his.

Q: What is the most valuable piece of knowledge that you've picked up after becoming a published author that you wish you knew from the start?
A: You know, I actually don't have any after the facts. I definitely didn't know it all from the get go, I've learned so much about the publishing process and book promotion just by trying things. I think the journey has gone the way it should for me.

Q: What is one thing you've never done but would love to do?
A: Travel the world. I want to see Cairo and the Pyramids first.

Q: What would your "theme" song be on the soundtrack of your life?
A: Defying Gravity from the Broadway musical Wicked.

Q: Finally, could you share with all of us a quote that you love?
A: "Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it." Rumi-mevlana

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Blog Tour, Book Review & Author Interview: A Band of Roses by Pat McDermott

I would like to welcome Pat McDermott to Morbid Romantic. I recently had the honor of reading and reviewing her ebook A Band of Roses. If you would like to learn more about Pat McDermott, you can visit her official website

About A Band of Roses

A Band of Roses is an alternate history adventure set in modern day Ireland. The "what if" premise of the story supposes that Irish High King Brian Boru survived the Battle of Clontarf in 1014 A.D. and founded a dynasty that rules Ireland to this day. Crown Princess Talty Boru, the daughter of the current King Brian, is the heir to the throne, though she wishes she weren't. She'd prefer to pursue a military career, but she's resigned to her royal fate until England's Prince Geoffrey seizes a tiny Irish island in the North Atlantic and the oil-rich ocean bed around it. Geoffrey plans to return the island to Ireland in exchange for oil wells in the Irish sea. He proposes a conciliatory treaty that would marry Talty to the unbalanced young English King. Talty agrees, as the terms demand that she relinquish her title as heir to the throne. She believes she's free of her duties as the crown princess, but a murder attempt on her wedding night turns her life upside down. Multiple attempts on Talty's life force King Brian to send her away to protect her, though he unwittingly sends her into further danger. From Japan to California, Talty must hide her true identity until her elders can set things straight. She can't disguise her ingrained training as one of Ireland's ancient Fian warriors, however. Her recruitment into International Security Force's top secret Peregrine Project allows her to visit strange worlds, one an eleventh century Ireland preparing for the Battle of Clontarf. She finds romance and adventure and brings back a discovery worth more than any oil well, yet all she wants is to return to her family and her lifelong friend and protector Neil Boru, the adoptive cousin she secretly loves and can't have... or so she thinks. Talty's warrior cousin has a secret of his own, one that emerges as the Boru clan works with England's MI6 to thwart an invasion of Ireland and bring Talty home.

My Review of A Band of Roses

Genre: Fiction - Historical 
Finished: July 23, 2009
Historians love the "what-ifs" of history. We really do sit around tables and discuss... what if Jackson had not been killed during the Civil War? What if Jesus had not been crucified? What if Rome had never expanded? You get the picture. A Band of Roses presents a "what-if," but an obscure one. What is King Brian Boru of Ireland, when he fought against the Vikings at Clontarf, had not died as a result of the battle? How different would Ireland and Irish history be if the King who united the warring tribes of Ireland had lived? That is what McDermott poses and seeks to expand upon. His modern day twentieth century descendant Princess Talty only manages to escape assassination over some off shore oil issues. A grudge held by the Regent of the Kingdom of England, Prince Geoffrey Wessex, puts Ireland into danger and it's almost all the Irish warriors can do behind the scenes to head him off. This book pretty much covers a variety of different genres. There is historical fiction, historical fantasy, fantasy, and science fiction. There is, of course, also the real life elements of international relations and territory rights. Of course, there is also romance in that the princess harbors a secret crush for her cousin, a love she cannot imagine ever coming to fruition. McDremott did a lot of research for her writing, but you can tell that she also at the same time allowed her imagination go. That simultaneous interplay of reality versus fantasy makes A Band of Roses a truly unique novel with a happy ending.

Interview With Pat McDermott

Q: I have a degree in history, so I love imagining the "what if" possibilities. What made you choose your subject to be the death of Brian Boru?
A: My well-read aunts, who are both Irish history buffs, entertained me as a child with all sorts of Irish legends. Their tales of High King Brian Boru compelled me to explore Brian's history. Everything I found said how sad it was that Brian didn't survive the Battle of Clontarf, as Ireland would be a very different place today. The years I spent wondering just how different led to A Band of Roses.

Q: What sort of research went into making this book or is this a subject you know very well?
A: I knew enough about King Brian to realize I didn't know enough about him to write the story. Digging into his history became an enjoyable challenge, one that took me to the bookstores of Dublin and Galway. Not only did I visit Clontarf, the site of Brian's battle with the Vikings and now an upscale Dublin suburb, I also spent a day in Killaloe, his hometown in County Clare, to see the new Brian Boru exhibit.

Q: When you write something based on historical figures or events, do you worry about people finding historical inaccuracies?
A: Not at all. I research those aspects of a story well. I am writing fiction, however, and I do take liberties by placing imaginary characters in actual events, so I'm not as worried as I might be if I were writing a text book.

Q: If you could spend the day as or with any historical figure, who would it be and why?
A: I wouldn't want to be her, but I'd love to meet Granuaile, also known as Grace O'Malley, the sixteenth century Pirate Queen of western Ireland. I first heard of Grace from a priest named O'Malley who proudly claimed descent from her. I've read about her adventures on both land and sea, and I've come to admire the her as a powerful chieftain who defended her territory against all enemies. She locked her husband out of his castle, gave birth to a son at sea, and met Queen Elizabeth I without so much as a curtsey, as Grace considered herself a queen as well. Last year I had the pleasure of visiting the Grace O'Malley Museum in County Mayo, a wonderful exhibit depicting the life and times of this fascinating woman. Grace has inspired my writing: she plays a part in my third novel.

Q: What do you do to prepare to write? What is the process that gets you ready to sit down a lay out a story?
A: Making a good strong cup of tea is the first order of business, and my daily calendar has to display the new day. Whether I'm working on my desktop or my laptop, I'll choose a Quiet Music playlist from my media player, review the previous day's writing, and pick up where I left off.

Q: How much of yourself do you put in your characters? Are they extensions of you, or are they independent creations that take on a life of their own after coming from your imagination?
A: The characters in A Band of Roses are completely imaginary. I may offer suggestions as to how they might react in a given situation (I get to control the situations!), and sometimes they listen. Generally, they do behave as the situation warrants. But occasionally, and to my delight, they'll completely take over a scene.

Q: What is the most valuable piece of knowledge that you've picked up after becoming a published author that you wish you knew from the start?
A: The internet is an incredibly powerful tool.

Q: What is one thing you've never done but would love to do?
A: I would love to live in Ireland for a year.

Q: What would your "theme" song be on the soundtrack of your life?
A: "If I Ruled the World" by Leslie Bricusse and Cyril Ornadel

Q: Finally, could you share with all of us a quote that you love?
A: "Man's mind stretched to a new idea never goes back to its original dimensions." Oliver Wendell Holmes

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Book Review: Under this Unbroken Sky by Shandi Mitchell

Title: Under this Unbroken Sky 
Author: Shandi Mitchell 
Genre: Fiction - Historical 
Finished: June 18, 2009 

In the north Canadian prairie lands, Ukrainian immigrant Teodor Mykolayenko was sent to prison for two years for "stealing" grain that he cultivated. When his family, which includes five children, could not pay for their land, they had to vacate it despite all of the work already done on it. When Teodor tried to take some of the grain to replant somewhere else in order to give his family the start they needed, he was imprisoned for theft. With him gone, his family had no choice but to make ends meet the best way possible. Though it was a struggle, his wife Maria managed. Unable to own property as a criminal, Teodor's sister Anna purchased land with the promise that she would sign over his portion to him. Finally home after his two year sentence, where the book begins, Teodor wants to pick up where he left off with his family, gain ownership of his land through Anna, and build a great home to take care of his wife and children properly. He wants the pride of being able to call something his. Sister Anna is coming apart just as Teodor tries to mend everything. Pregnant with her third child, a child of rape by her drunken and often absent husband Stefan, she feels a kinship to the wild coyotes that roam the Canadian wild lands. With every howl she hears at night, she recognizes a freedom that has always been denied her. It is hard for Anna to adapt, to accept what life has given her, but Teodor wants all of them to have the best. Things get even worse for Anna when Stefan returns. Desperate to keep him, she sacrifices the love her brother has for her. Because Stefan says so, she submits to allowing him to try to take the land that Teodor has settled on because he has no legal right to it. Anna is willing to forsake her promise and her loyalty to Teodor because she does not want her and her two children to be alone. 

By the end, everything has come apart. 

People lose their lives, dreams are shattered, and a wounded family has to once again pick up and start all over again. There is no way to say this other than that I love this book. I honestly could not and did not put it down until it was finished. My boyfriend and I went out for a while when I started this book, but all I wanted to do was come home and keep reading. Under This Unbroken Sky is beautifully written and painfully vivid. The descriptions of the Canadian prairie and of the rough, desolate farming conditions are as lovely as they are striking. Each and every character is brilliantly developed and complex. You feel for young Sophie and her desire to be beautiful and rich. You love the innocence in Ivan and his moments of childish selflessness. You respect the strength in Maria and her desire to keep everything together for the sake of her children. And most of all, you can feel just how much Teodor wants his family to be happy. Every day, he goes out to the fields to sweat and toil, and it is all for them. The way Teodor understands and appreciates the land shows his nature as a man who is both gentle and rough, passionate about what he does and respectful of the natural world. Teodor is a pillar of strength to his family and it is easy to see through his character why this is. There's something about this novel that goes right to your heart. I certainly felt it in mine as I read. By the time I got to the end, I was frantic. I pride myself on being a fairly emotionally balanced person, but this novel broke my heart and almost had me in tears. It's all unbelievably emotional to witness the ups and downs of these imperfect but good people, and you want the best to come to them. When you realize that the most horrible thing you could imagine is about to happen, your heart absolutely breaks.  This book is going to go on my list of must reads and most favorites.

Book Review: Forbidden- The Temptation by Samantha Sommersby

Title: Forbidden: The Temptation 
Author: Samantha Sommersby 
Genre: Fiction - Paranormal, Fiction - Erotica 
Finished: June 18, 2009

In Forbidden: The Temptation, after a rock climbing accident, Jacob Madison's life has changed dramatically. Rescued by a group of werewolves, he is bitten and turned into one. It has been a hard adaptation for him, as has life with the pack, and not entirely one he feels is for the best. On one of the pack's excursions, Jake finds a woman in the snow. This woman, Allison Connelly, has been wounded. Jake takes her back to the camping ground of the pack and nurses her back to heath. As she mends and rests, a romance between the two blooms. Jake is at odds with his feelings for her and his werewolf nature, while Allison treads caution after her recent bad break up. But their reservations do nothing to smother the budding passion and the two cannot keep their hands off of each other. Two of Jake's pack mates, Ryan and Mireya, are likewise feeling something for one another. Problem for them is that Mireya has been mated to another male-- a very dangerous and murderous were who goes by the name of Devlin. Allison is familiar with this werewolf since she worked with him as a forensic psychologist. Everyone knows Devlin will soon be there to collect Mireya. How are they going to defeat such a strong werewolf as Devil, who has been killing immortals to increase his strength? And can both Allison and Jake look past his werewolf nature to allow a relationship? This book is steamy and unashamed! I like that there were no cut-outs as soon as the couple got hot and heavy. The plot itself was also very good, and I would recommend it to anyone who is a fan of romance/erotica and paranormal erotica. Jake and Allison pretty much got it on from second one (or three since she had to recover a bit from her accident first), but there was nothing in it that made me roll my eyes and go, "Oh yeah, not possible." The reaction is what typically keeps me from romance-- I can't stand the cliches. Fortunately, Forbidden: The Temptation had no terrible cliches about it. Just lots of sex, drama, and blood. So, do Jake and Allison get together? Can the group defeat the powerful Devlin and release Mireya from his grasp so that she can be with Ryan? You'™ll just have to read it and find out for yourself.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Blog Tour, Book Review & Author Interview: Gauntlet by Richard Aaron

About Richard Aaron

RICHARD AARON lives in a cold, northwestern city with his wife, four children, and various dogs and cats. He has a university degree in mathematics and a masters in law. Neither have anything to do with his burgeoning career as a writer. He worked in the real world for two decades before realizing that he was actually meant to be a writer. Gauntlet was produced soon thereafter. 

About Gauntlet

A terrorist threat is looming; an attack that would dwarf any other. This time, the government knows it's coming, but doesn't know where or how. From a stunning new voice in international intrigue comes a dramatic story of a shadowy underworld, high-stakes missions, treachery, honor, unlikely heroes, and the ultimate attack: Six hundred sixty tons of Semtex is detonated in a massive explosion in Libya – the last of a deadly stockpile. The operation seems to have gone smoothly, but within minutes of the explosion, CIA agent Richard Lawrence discovers that one shipment of the explosive was hijacked en route to the destruction point. Days later, a glory-seeking Emir broadcasts to the world that he is planning a massive terrorist strike against a major U.S. landmark. And he gives a timeline of one month. Now a desperate chase covers four continents, as the men bent on attacking the United States use every weapon at their disposal to evade the American authorities. Time and again they prove willing to destroy anything and anyone standing in their way. But Hamilton Turbee, an autistic computer mastermind at the secretive and newly created TTIC agency, discovers a way to follow their tracks. His flawed genius gives the nation its only chance at stopping the attack: if the American leadership will listen. As the enemies near their destination, and an attack becomes imminent, it is up to the TTIC team, still without a true leader, to stop the massive explosion that could destroy the lives of millions. As the world watches in horror, the President asks TTIC two questions"Where will the attack be? And can it be stopped?

My Review of Gauntlet

In Richard Aaron's Gauntlet, about 4.5 tons of a highly explosive plastic material known as semtex has gone missing and is in the hands of Afghanistan terrorists plotting against America. Authorities don't know where the attack will take place and have only a month to find out and stop it from killing a lot of innocent people. The terrorists, skilled at what they do, evade detection and catch at every turn. A major hub of the action is a group known as the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, or TTIC. One of their most vital employees turns out to be an autistic math genius named Hamilton Turbee who is good at cracking codes and doing quick calculations in his head. The plot will take you everywhere from the caves of Afghanistan where terrorists hide and plot, the deserts of the Middle East, the Canadian border where a cop is investigating drugs, and to Washington and back.

While reading, you will jump around the world, and this constant movement gives a sense of scope to the plot such that you realize how widespread and serious an issue like the one in the book really is, and of all the work that goes into cracking the plots of and stopping terrorists. Everything is fast paced, jumping from one character to the next, and there are A LOT of characters. Each character is distinct, though, even the terrorists that you come to understand the motives of. Gauntlet is a book to read when you don't have anything else to do because you will not want to put it down. With each page, the suspense builds until you feel like it is going to crack. What makes the book even more immediate and hard to put down is that everything within it feels real, as if it is happening or has happened. After all, we are living in a world aware and fearful of terrorist attacks. The thought that something like this could happen, or could be happening behind the scenes, is quite frankly very terrifying. This is really the first time that I have read a book like this and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I love a complex plot that twists and connects all over the place, and this book certainly delivered a well thought out and wonderfully written series of events. I don't want to give too much away, but suffice to say that you will be on the edge of your seat.

Interview With Richard Aaron

Q: What do you do to prepare to write? What is the process that gets you ready to sit down a lay out a story?
A: I try to get to my office very early, as I did this morning, at 5:30 AM. The rest of the crew doesn't start to filter in until 8 or 8:30. In the quiet of the morning, I have research from books and the internet prepared. I have a detailed outline prepared. If a new character is introduced, I put his traits or description into my data base. If I am using established characters I go to that database to make sure that the character remains internally consistent. Working on a plot this complicated takes a certain mind frame, and getting into the characters is the easiest way for me to enter the "Gauntlet/Counterplay world."  Then I can get huge amounts of work done. I do the same on weekends, and in the evenings.

Q: How much of yourself do you put in your characters? Are they extensions of you, or are they independent creations that take on a life of their own after coming from your imagination?
A: My nature is to like structure. On the book I am now working on I have literally, on very large sheets of roll paper, diagrammed out the story from beginning to end. From that I create a more detailed, written outline, and from that, outlines of the scenes in each chapter. When I'm finally ready to write, I have all the major bones in place, and I can motor along at 10 pages a day.

Q: As we are all aware, the issues of terrorist attacks, weapon stockpiles, and international instability are very prominent today. How influenced are you by modern events?
A: A smidgen here and a little bit there. I'm actually a boring person, when you consider the spectrum of personalities that exist out there. If I put too much of me into it, the book would flop. The characters come from the vast number of people I have met as a lawyer. I take a bit from one person, a chunk from another, and I put them together. They become vital and interesting.
Influence by present events?
Totally. I am a news junky. I read I don't know how many newspapers and magazines in a day. I look at each issue from different angles, everything from the stodgy CNN view to the crazy anarchist one-worlders out there. We live in fascinating and dangerous times. Counterplay, the sequel to Gauntlet, is set largely in Iran for this reason. Current events point to the fact that it's a fertile background for terrorism and nuclear hooliganism, which played perfectly along with my plot.

Q: I imagine there are many complexities in the plot with international relations, domestic politics, weaponry, culture, and computer technology. What sort of research did you have to do to write this book?
A: I can say that for every page of the book, there are a good two or three pages of research. I researched endlessly-- everything from the flight characteristics of an F22 to the nature of vegetation in the great Garagum Desert. My novels have that type of detail to keep them realistic.

Q: Do you feel that your book addresses some of the issues that we face today? When you wrote it, did you have any hope that readers would learn something from the events in your book?
A: Yes. But it does not provide answers. The book has issues of drug addiction, illicit border crossing, and the interplay between terrorist and heroin dealers, leading to what today could fairly be called narco-terrorists. It shows that the USA is exposed to terrorist attacks that we cannot even begin to imagine. But then again, it's a novel. It's fiction. I shine a spotlight on these potential problems, but I don't offer any answers or suggestions about how to handle the real world. Thanks goodness.

Q: Because I have to know: who is your favorite US President and why?
A: Kennedy, because he had balls. I know a lot of people blame him for a lot of things (including dying before he could take responsibility), but I mean really... becoming President at such a young age, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and dating Marilyn Monroe? You have to respect the guy for that.

Q: What is the most valuable piece of knowledge that you've picked up after becoming a published author that you wish you knew from the start?
A: It's like graduation from high school. It's a step, but only that. A long, long journey follows, involving publicists, expensive trips, signings, time away from home, and endless and expensive PR. When you get published, you soon find out that you are at the start of yet another difficult and challenging journey. I certainly didn't realize this, and I think most authors are probably as shocked as I was to find that writing the book is just the start of it.

Q: What is one thing you've never done but would love to do?
A: Spend a week inside and outside the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Q: What would your "theme" song be on the soundtrack of your life?
A: Bob Seeger, "Against the Wind."

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Blog Tour & Review: Chemical Cowboys by Lisa Sweetingham

I would like to welcome Lisa Sweetingham to Epeolatry, who is here on her book blog tour for Chemical Cowboys: The DEA's Secret Mission to Hunt Down a Notorious Ecstasy Kingpin. It is a book that I would highly recommend and perfect gift For Father's Day if you are still looking for a gift to give yours.

About Lisa Sweetingham

Journalist Lisa Sweetingham spent four years following in the footsteps of DEA agents and Ecstasy traffickers to bring Chemical Cowboys to life. Previously, she covered high-profile murder trials and Supreme Court nomination hearings for Court TV online. Sweetingham is a graduate of the Columbia University School of Journalism and her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Parade, Spin, Time Out New York, Health Affairs, and many other publications. She resides in Los Angeles. Chemical Cowboys is her first book.

About Chemical Cowboys

For nearly a decade, Ecstasy kingpin Oded Tuito was the mastermind behind a drug ring that used strippers and ultra-Orthodox teenagers to mule millions of pills from Holland to the party triangle: Los Angeles, New York, and Miami. Chemical Cowboys: The DEA's Secret Mission to Hunt Down a Notorious Ecstasy Kingpin is the thrilling, never-before-told success story of the groundbreaking undercover investigations that led to the toppling of a billion-dollar Ecstasy trafficking network, starting in 1995 when New York DEA Agent Robert Gagne infiltrated club land to uncover a thriving drug scene supported by two cultures: pill-popping club kids and Israeli dealers. Gagne's obsessive mission to make Ecstasy a priority for the DEA and to take down Tuito's network met with unexpected professional and personal challenges that almost crippled his own family. Woven into the narrative are the stories of Tuito's underlings, who struggled with addiction as they ran from the law, and the compelling experiences of a veteran Israeli police officer who aided Gagne while chasing after his own target, a violent Mob boss who saw the riches to be made in Ecstasy and began to import his own pills and turf warfare to the U.S.

My Review of Chemical Cowboys

Chemical Cowboys: The DEA's Secret Mission to Hunt Down a Notorious Ecstasy Kingpin by Lisa Sweetingham traces of the evolution of the popular rave and nightclub drug, Ecstasy. DEA Agent Gagne first notices the drug in its early years, when it was known as "kiddie dope" and overlooked by officials focused on harder drugs like cocaine and heroine. Infiltrating the New York night club scene, Gagne and his partner track nightclub owner Peter Gatien and his league of employees including Club Kid King Michael Alig (remember the movie Party Monster? that guy). But Gatien and Alig are just small pieces in a larger, more world-wide drug puzzle full of danger, violence, death, and money. At the top of the international drug chain is Oded "the Fat Man" Tuito, and Gagne soon sets his sights on catching and convicting Tuito, as well as some of his other associates and drug pushers. Sweetingham takes the reader around the world, from Israel to Amsterdam, to Belgium and France, and back to the United States into the club scene and the mob. We witness law enforcement around the world working together to gain evidence and convictions. We are also given the ins and outs of how big time international drug dealers hide out, hide evidence, launder money, and pass drugs through airport and port security. This is a book full of twists and turns, with real life people and events and only minor details changed, mainly for the sake of condensing or protecting some of the people involved. When you read this book, you don't feel like you are reading some stiff account of justice in action-- it is certainly not dry. Sweetingham has written the book with enough personality and excitement that one could easily be reading a crime mystery novel. This book is further proof that the things that happen in real life can be just as good as anything you see on TV or read in fiction. What makes this book even more fascinating is that you know while reading it that these things really did and are still happening all around you. Names, places, and events are all familiar and distinct. You'll learn a lot of about drug trafficking and how law enforcement tracks down criminals. I wasn't aware that there were so many restrictions and regulations in place for Agents, and it was frustrating to me to see the bad guy get away so many times! This book must have taken a lot of time, and had to have required Sweetingham to research a lot. The sheer detail and specifics of the book shows that Sweetingham really knows what she is talking about and properly investigated the key players and chronology from beginning to end and everything connecting in a confusing and intricate web of drug crime.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Book Review: Memoirs of a Fortune Teller by Gary Turcotte

Title: Memoirs of a Fortune Teller 
Author: Gary Turcotte 
Genre: Fiction - Supernatural 
Finished: June 6, 2009 

Mary Ann is a fortune teller traveling with a carnival. Her gift, passed on from mother to daughter at the time of death, is as much a blessing as it is a curse. Left behind is a diary of a few of her predictions, some of them disturbing and some of them inspirational. Mary Ann meets people who will have good things happen, who will die, who will molest, who will hurt, and who will be hurt. The major limitation to her power is that she cannot see her own fate but through glimpses in the fates of other people. Her visions make her an unfortunate witness to a murder, which she hopes to stop before it's too late. Aiding a police man named George whose fortune she earlier told, they try to pin down the murderer as a priest tries to save him. There were things that I really enjoyed about Memoirs of a Fortune Teller and things that I did not enjoy. 

Overall, Memoirs of a Fortune Teller is a quick and thrilling read. I wish it were a bit more fleshed out, though, with ample detail given to some of the human interactions and emotions experienced by both Mary Ann and her clients. Mary Ann deals with a lot of trauma and personal reaction, so I think the book missed a lot of potential in keeping descriptions of behavior and reaction minimal. Also, it is unbalanced in how details are given. Mary Ann delivering bad news to a client is given in dialogue form with little reaction to heighten the emotion of the scene and make it real, yet we are given an entire page describing Mary Ann eating a carnival sausage, and another of her eating a candy apple. I wish it were the other way around. Also, I found Mary Ann to be a bit inconsistent as a character. On one hand she is preaching to a preacher about Jesus and forgiveness, yet on the other hand she confesses to not helping a man out when his child's life was on the line because he was rude to her. I wowed at that because that is an awful thing to do! I couldn't imagine someone taking such a strong stand on how people should behave yet at the same time not even caring, indeed justifying, their own horrid action. If added to and expanded, Memoirs of a Fortune Teller will make a wonderful suspense/thriller novel. With a murderer to catch and her own life on the line, Mary Ann could be developed into a strong, formidable female lead full of complex emotions that are tempered by all of the things she has seen and all the people she has met through her years as a traveling fortune teller. The events taking place could also be a little slower coming to raise anticipation for what is coming. The murderer could also be formulated a bit more, could stand in the background as a deeper, shadowy, and insidious character that hovers like a dark omen of doom, you know? I love a good bad guy and I wish he were more of a threatening presence to Mary Ann for a long period of time. I liked the book, really. But it is bare-bones and needs about another hundred pages of build up, suspense, and description.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Book Review: Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan

Title: Of Bees and Mist 
Author: Erick Setiawan 
Genre: Fiction - Drama 
Finished: June 2, 2009 

Monarch Street, where Meridia grows up, is cold and uninviting, and certainly haunted. Her mother Ravenna, a severe woman in all black, cooks and mutters strange and angry curses all day long. Gabriel, Meridia's father, is a cruel and loveless man who spends his nights elsewhere, carried away at night and delivered home at morning by a strange fog. It's not long before Meridia is aware that her father is sleeping at another house with another woman. Memories of a scream and a flashing light haunt Meridia, as well as the shadows of the house that hold secrets she cannot begin to unveil. When Meridia meets and falls in love with a boy named Daniel, she relishes the thought of marrying him. Daniel's mother Eve is a bright and laughing woman, larger than life. At the age of 16, after struggling with her father to get what she wants, Meridia is allowed to marry Daniel and moves in with his family on Orchard Street. Her high hopes of having a happy family are soon dashed when it comes to light that Eve is not all she appears to be. Underneath her laughing, boisterous exterior is a cunning, selfish woman, cruel to the people around her and quick to do what will benefit her above the people who love her. It is a constant battle between Eve and Meridia. Eve takes as much money from Meridia and Daniel as possible, keeps them dependent, and says horrible things about Meridia behind her back while committing terrible crimes to her own gain. To make matters worst, Daniel refuses to see anything wrong with what his mother is doing. So how can Meridia break free of this? How can she gain the independent and support she has craved for so long? And, of course, finally have the loving and stable family that she has also always wanted. Help comes from strange places and magical clues help and hinder her. All the while, Meridia becomes a strong woman, aided by the tight laced nature of her mother and her father's quiet cruelty that is, in fact, loving. The one thing that Meridia refuses to do is back down and bow to Eve, which for a while brings her a lot of grief. But determined to free herself, she runs into all obstacles placed by Eve head on. 

I wasn't sure what to make of this story by the description on the back. The first few pages confused me a few times because I wasn't sure if I should understand the setting as an alternate universe or a common universe. And I will admit that some of the descriptions of things and events sort of threw me off-- I wasn't always quite certain of what the author was trying to convey or paint an image of. Still, the story was good enough that even the occasional time of confusion didn't make the book hard to read and ultimately understand. The use of imagery, when not abstract, was really very beautiful and heightened the sense that there was something sublime and magical all around. And there is something wonderfully disorienting about the whole story, which makes it dreamlike at times. What I wish, though, is that Ravenna and Gabriel had their own story! Just as much as I was drawn to the development of Meridia and her character, I was drawn to the complicated relationship between her parents. Maybe I am mentally ill with poor taste in men, but I found myself powerfully attracted to the character of Gabriel. Meridia's parents are so closed off and cold that it made me want to crack them open and see why they behave the way they do. And, ooooo, Eve is so insidious! So many times I wished I could reach into the pages of the book and strangle her, or knock some sense into the people around her who didn't see her manipulations and selfish lies. Every small and large victory won by Meridia I cheered, and I hurt every time she lost a battle. Eve is definitely a character to hate, but still one that I think readers can understand. All in all, Of Bees in Mists is a wonderfully crafted book of magic and reality, with characters that are well developed and unique. When reading, you clearly feel the workings of unseen forces and malice all around, and you sigh with relief along with Meridia.

Blog Tour, Book Review & Author Interview: A Hint of Wicked (James Family, #1) by Jennifer Haymore

About Jennifer Haymore
I've been writing since I could pick up a pencil. Wait, no-- that's what every other writer says! I started writing just before my eighth birthday, and it wasn't on my own volition. I was sailing with my family in a 42-foot sailboat across the Pacific, and since there were no local schools (except those pertaining to fish) nearby, my mother homeschooled me. She was a strict taskmaster! A veritable slave driver! She demanded a new story every day.  So I'd sit in the boat's galley and write. And stare out the porthole, and write some more. And doodle, and write some more. By the time we arrived in Hawaii the following year, I had a portfolio of stories, and I was hooked. Since then I haven't stopped. (Well, much. I did take breaks now and then, for things like college, young kids, and a master's degree.)  I love to read just as much as I love to write, and actually the reading bug hit me at about the same time my mom was cracking the whip over my head and commanding me to write. What else to occupy your time with when there are no other kids to play with and nothing to do but stare at the endless sea? Some of my most recent favorites: The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, River God by Wilbur Smith, and anything by Laura Kinsale and Loretta Chase.

About A Hint of Wicked

CAUGHT BETWEEN DUTY AND DESIRE . . . Sophie, the Duchess of Calton, has finally moved on. After seven years mourning the loss of her husband, Garrett, at Waterloo, she has married his cousin and heir, Tristan. Sophie gives herself to him body and soul. . . until the day Garrett returns from the Continent, demanding his title, his lands-and his wife. TORN BETWEEN TWO HUSBANDS . . .

Now Sophie must choose between her first love and her new love, knowing that no matter what, her choice will destroy one of the men she adores. Will it be Garrett, her childhood sweetheart, whose loss nearly destroyed her once already? Or will it be Tristan, beloved friend turned lover, who supported her through the last, dark years and introduced her to a passion she had never known? As her two husbands battle for her heart, Sophie finds herself immersed in a dangerous game-where the stakes are not only love . . . but life and death.

My Review of A Hint of Wicked

Title: A Hint of Wicked
Series: James Family
Book Number: 1
Author: Jennifer Haymore
Genre: Fiction - Historical Romance
Sophie, the Duchess of Calton, lost her husband Garrett at Waterloo. After seven years of mourning and searching, she finally moved on and married their mutual best friend Tristan, who lost his own wife. Though Sophie still harbors feelings for Garrett, she loves Tristan with a passion never experienced before, not even during her previous marriage to Garrett. The two of them have gotten through their grief together and are very much in love. In the midst of carnal passion, Sophie and Tristan are surprised by the sudden homecoming of Garrett who did not die at Waterloo, but instead spent the past years with amnesia in Belgium. But now that Garrett has his memory back, he wants his wife and his name returned to him. Sophie and Tristan are now at a loss of what to do-- nullify their marriage or fight it out. Sophie's position is especially difficult since she is still very much in love with Garrett and is overjoyed that he alive and home, back to her and their daughter. But yes, she loves Tristan and does not want to separate from him either. Since Sophie can't be married to two men, she has to choose. Of course, Garrett wants to give her no choice by declaring her marriage to Tristan illegal. Flanked by his trusted assistant William, Garrett is having trouble coming to terms with the war. He is prone to hallucinations, flash backs, and violence. His doctor is very grim about Garrett's eventual outlook, which makes it even harder for Sophie to give up on him. Very soon, Sophie and Tristan suspect that something is amiss, that Garrett isn't as sick and out of control as William and his doctor say. Now not only must Sophie decide between the two and Tristan fight for his wife, but the two of them have to uncover what plot Garrett is unknowingly in the middle of. I am a novice when it comes to romance, but I decided to give A Hint of Wicked a try because it is historical fiction and I am constantly searching for that one romance book that will seal the deal for me and make me love the genre. Or even just appreciate it. Though new to this genre, it didn't hinder my ability to appreciate Haymore's elegant writing style or her vast variety of adjectives that were never overused. It was, of course, predictable who Sophie would turn out with. 
Still, I tried not to let that bother me and instead took the book for what it was worth. Rather than accept the story as a mystery unfolding, I understood it as a progression of events I would see to the end, just to know how the events play out and what the means to the end are. Need I mention that the book is very steamy? I don't think I have to once you see the cover. Haymore certainly doesn't shy away from being descriptive, she doesn't hold back and cut out before the passion starts in full force, but her writing is such that she never descends into being crude. It is so easy to ruin a good love scene, you see, at least for me. Truthfully, sometimes Sophie annoyed me. Sometimes reading about how perfect she is got to me. But I never got bored of the love scenes.

Interview With Jennifer Haymore

Q: What do you do to prepare to write? What is the process that gets you ready to sit down a lay out a story?
A: It actually takes me a while to gear myself up to write. In advance, I know I'm going to need a good chunk of time. Unlike some (very lucky and enviable!) authors, I can't sit down for 10 minutes and whip out a page. I need a couple of hours, at least. Once I know I'm going to have the time, I sit down, clear out my email inbox so it won't distract me, and then I look over the last bit of work I did. I usually edit it, think about it, think about where I need to go now, and then I dive in. Sometimes I write fast (my record is about 7000 words in one day); other times I write at a snailâ's pace.

Q: How much of yourself do you put in your characters? Are they extensions of you, or are they independent creations that take on a life of their own after coming from your imagination?
A: The heroine of my first book (which is currently unpublished and under my bed) was very much an extension of me, but since then I think I've branched out quite a bit. I do think, though, that all my heroes and heroines possess certain attributes I have. For example, I think they all pretty much stand on a similar moral plane as I do (although at times theirs can be amplified!).

Q: What sort of research went into making this book?
A: As I wrote this book, I became addicted to Google books (www.books.google.com). There's nothing quite like a source written in the same time period you're writing in. I now have an extensive, organized Google books library filled with books written in the early 19th century about everything from medicine to fashion to travel and architecture and cooking. The cure for opium overdose in A HINT OF WICKED is taken from these texts! Along with Google books, I made use of published historical texts on the period, Regency & other historical websites, horse experts, and fellow members of the Beau Monde chapter of Romance Writers of America, many of whom are experts on the period.
The most historically complex aspect of A HINT OF WICKED was the legal ramifications of a woman (an aristocratic woman, who'd be treated rather differently than a commoner) being married to two men at once. The English courts were extremely complicated and very fluid during this time period, marriage laws went through radical changes about ten years later, and there weren’t any exact precedents for this situation. I bought books on the topic of historical marriage, separation and divorce in England, and I contacted legal experts for advice. Still, it was a tremendous challenge to work it out.

Q: A Hint of Wicked is set in the early 1800s. What is the appeal of historical romance? Is the past somehow more romantic than the present?
A: Hmm...this is a tough question, because I really love contemporary romance too. Sometimes, yes, I think the past is more romantic than the present. There was an intensity to the time—the morals were stricter, the expectations more fierce, and double standards abounded. For example, thinking in terms of A HINT OF WICKED and marriage: once Sophie married Garrett that's it. Game over. Until one of their lives is over, there can be no other marriage. Hopefully they'll be madly in love until the end of their days, because if they're not "oops. Major, impossible-to-overcome problems ensue!" I love huge life-and-death conflicts, and I love how seriously people in history approached concepts like honor and fealty. I also love the pageantry and the customs of the time.

Q: What is the best part of writing a book?
A: Finishing it! There's nothing like that feeling of accomplishment when you write "The End."

Q: What is the worst part of writing a book?
A: Feeling like it's never going to end. Writing a 400-page book is a big job, and if you're an impatient person (like me), you want to do it and be done, but it really does take a long time and a lot of hard work to write a book.

Q: What is the most valuable piece of knowledge that you've picked up after becoming a published author that you wish you knew from the start?
A: There's so much...hmmm. Maybe to trust myself and my own voice. I used to worry incessantly about my ability to communicate a scene appropriately, and I drove myself crazy over it. I'd work on one sentence for a day and still feel like it sounded juvenile and boring. As much as Iâ'd love every single word I write to sparkle with wit and satire, my voice is my voice, and I've learned to appreciate it for what it is (I can't pinpoint exactly what that is, but I can say that while it may contain an occasional glimmer of wit and satire, it doesn't do so 100% of the time!).

Q: What is one thing you've never done but would love to do?
A: I'd love to go on an around-the-world sailing trip for a year or two and explore a few seldom-touched corners of the world.

Q: What would your "theme" song be on the soundtrack of your life?
A: The Chariots of Fire theme song is running through my head, but my husband says the instrumental version of Hotel California reminds him of me.

Q: Finally, could you share with all of us a quote that you love?
A: Since I was talking about trusting myself, here's one I like from Sylvia Plath: "The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt."

Participating Sites:

http://www.foreigncircuslibrary.blogspot.com/ - May 19 review 
http://bookinwithbingo.blogspot.com - May 19 intro; May 21 review; May 23 Q&A; June 6 announce winners of giveaway 
http://ajourneyofbooks.blogspot.com - May 21 Q&A 
http://chicbookreviews.blogspot.com/ - May 22 review and giveaway 
http://www.findthetimetoread.blogspot.com - May 26 review and giveaway http://www.ReadingWithMonie.com - May 26 giveaway 
http://zensanity.blogspot.com/ - May 26 Q&A http://booksoulmates.blogspot.com/ - May 27 giveaway 
http://yankeeromancereviewers.blogspot.com/ - May 28 giveaway 
http://www.myspace.com/darbyscloset - May 28 review http://confessionsofaromancebookaddict.wordpress.com/ - June 1 to 4 Q&A, review, and giveaway 
http://dreyslibrary.blogspot.com - June 1 giveaway 
http://www.morbid-romantic.net - June 2 review, giveaway, Q&A 
http://mindingspot.blogspot.com/ - June 3 review and giveaway http://kayespenguinposts.blogspot.com/ - June 3 giveaway 
http://thereviewfromhere.wordpress.com/ - June 4 review 
http://www.thebookgirl.net - June 5 review and giveaway 
http://yougottareadreviews.blogspot.com/ - June 6 review and giveaway http://reesspace.blogspot.com - June 6 review and giveaway
http://abookbloggersdiary.blogspot.com/ - June 6 review and giveaway 
http://martasmeanderings.blogspot.com/ - June 8 
http://www.bookwormygirl.blogspot.com/ - giveaway 
http://www.alphaheroes.blogspot.com - review