Monday, February 28, 2011

I've Tased It One Too Many Times

1. I must confess that nothing in the following post will have anything to do with the picture I used.

2. I just couldn't resist the awesomeness.

3. I'll start today's list with a comment on the strange philosophy boys have toward personal hygiene and clothing.

4. My teenager is exempt from the following commentary because he's recently been awakened to the fact that GIRLS like cleanliness and clothing that hasn't been worn for a month.

5. My other two boys could care less.

6. I force them to shower, I insist they use soap, and I check their teeth daily because if I don't, I fear the CDC will show up at my home and quarantine us all.

7. I also watch their clothing for signs they've worn it too many days in a row. They act like it's the end of the world when I hand them a fresh pair of jeans and insist the pair they're wearing deserves a decent burial in our back yard, but they change their pants.

8. I've recently realized, however, that I need x-ray vision to assess the full scope of the problem.

9. Because it turns out they change their pants far more often than they change their underpants.

10. How is this possible, you ask, if I make them shower on a regular basis?

11. Yesterday, I made Starshine take a shower. He took off his clothes, bathed, used soap, got out of the shower, and then proceeded to PUT ON THE SAME PAIR OF UNDERWEAR HE JUST TOOK OFF.

12. When I informed him he needed a fresh pair of underwear, he looked mystified and said, "But these are clean. I just put them on three days ago."

13. ..........

14. Which explains why I have to approach my laundry pile armed with mace and a taser.

15. However, what confuses me the most is the fact that if left to their own devices, my children wouldn't wear clothing at all.

16. The other morning, Starshine came downstairs for breakfast sans clothing. When I insisted he get some clothes on before he could have his oatmeal, he put on his father's coat and sat at the dining room table.

17. I asked him if he was naked beneath the coat. He said no. He had skin on.

18. I caved and served him his oatmeal.

19. And last night, Daredevil got out of his mom-enforced shower and sauntered out of the bathroom (the one attached to my bedroom) buck naked. No towel. No old underwear. Nothing.

20. He saw me sitting on the bed and exclaimed, "Don't look!"

21. To which I replied, "Wouldn't it just be easier to put some clothes on?"

22. And he said, in a perfectly reasonable tone of voice, "Why? You can just shut your eyes."

23. Some days I begin to feel like maybe I'm the one who's crazy around here.

24. I realize most of this post has been talk of nekkid children and underwear that qualifies as a weapon of mass destruction.

25. But, yanno, that sort of sums up my life.

26. On the writing side of things, I realized after I finished the first third of TCD that it might possibly be a story that needs to be told from dual first person POVs. A chapter or two from the heroine and a chapter or two from the hero etc.

27. This means I spent most of last week going back over the first third to change chapters into the hero's POV.

28. I'm frustrated at the lack of forward progress, though I'm still in good shape to make my deadline, and now I'm so close to the story, I can't tell if the dual POV is working or if I've tased one too many piles of laundry and can no longer be trusted to make good story-telling decisions.

29. I have some trusted CPs (critique partners) on it and expect a verdict soon.

30. This weekend, I'm attending my local RWA chapter's retreat. Apparently, I'll be doing karaoke. No, I don't think there will be video. If there is, I have minions who can take care of that.

31. Check back in on Wednesday when the Were-llama of Awesomesauce takes on urban fantasy author Jill Myles. It's funny. Trust me.

32. And now I'm off to do another load of laundry.

33. Do try to contain your shock.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


Thank you to all who entered the drawing for a signed copy of SO CLOSE THE HAND OF DEATH. I hope those of you who didn't win will check out J.T.'s thrilling books (Just make sure your doors are locked and all the lights are on...). As always, I used to pick the winner. And the winner is:

Marley Delarose

Congratulations, Marley! Please email me your mailing address, and I'll forward it on to J.T. Thanks again for entering and happy reading!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Interview With J.T. Ellison

I discovered J.T. Ellison when I was browsing for a new book in Kroger last year and saw JUDAS KISS on the stand. The cover instantly drew me, and when I learned it was set in Nashville, I was sold. I soon learned J.T. has mastered the art of edge-of-your-seat, spine-tingling suspense, intelligent, gritty writing, and characters you desperately hope don't get killed.

I later had the pleasure of sitting on a panel with J.T., and she is lovely, gracious, and FUN. So much fun, I decided I had to have her on the blog. I was thrilled when she agreed to make an appearance to mark the release of her latest book, SO CLOSE THE HAND OF DEATH. Which I will be reading. Most likely all night. Because I will NEED to know what happens! Want proof? Here's a look at SO CLOSE THE HAND OF DEATH:

It's a hideous echo of a violent past. Across America, murders are being committed with all the twisted hallmarks of the Boston Strangler, the Zodiac Killer and Son of Sam. The media frenzy explodes and Nashville homicide lieutenant Taylor Jackson knows instantly that The Pretender is back...and he's got helpers.

As The Pretender's disciples perpetrate their sick homages – stretching police and FBI dangerously thin – Taylor tries desperately to prepare for their inevitable showdown. And she must do it alone. To be close to her is to be in mortal danger, and she won't risk losing anyone she loves. But the isolation, the self-doubt and the rising body count are taking their toll: she's tripwire-tense and ready to snap.

The brilliant psychopath who both adores and despises her is drawing close. Close enough to touch....
I know, right? It's going to be a heart-stopping thrill ride from page one. And you could win your very own copy! More details on that in a little bit. But first, let me introduce today's guests.

Captain Jack Sparrow

J.T. Ellison

Now that you know who's who, let's reveal the amazing cupcake my hubby made for J.T. and get to the interview. When I asked J.T. about cupcake ideas, she told me "the big stuff goes down in Belle Meade Mansion," a location us Nashvillians are familiar with. I tossed my hubby the challenge of creating a mansion with a cupcake, and he more than rose to the occasion. Without further ado, I give you the Belle Meade Mansion cupcake, and J.T.'s interview with Captain Jack.

1. Would you classify yourself as a pirate or a member of Her Majesty’s Royal navy? Why?

Pirate at heart, definitely, though many would assume otherwise. It’s the showering, don’t’cha know. Dreadlocks just don’t look good on me. And when no one’s looking, I like to admire myself in my cutlass. But on the outside, prim and proper, full to the brim with proper etiquette and gentle smiles.

2. *admires self in cutlass* My apologies. Were you saying something? I got distracted by the shiny. What’s your favorite thing to do in Tortuga?

See, there was this one time, in Tortuga, where we drank all the rum punch we could hold and might have made off with some guy’s yacht. Wait, that wasn’t Tortuga. That was freshman year of college. Crap. No wonder I did so poorly.

3. As much as I admire the drinking of the rum punch and the absconding with someone's yacht, I find myself wanting to tie you to the yard arm so as to guard the fate of my own lovely vessel. I’m offering you free passage aboard my ship to anywhere in the world. Where shall we go, love?

The Greek Iles, the Dalmatian Coast, Monaco, Venice, the Riviera, the Amalfi Coast, around Cape Horn, the Panama Canal, the Hebrides… think you’ve got enough ship for me, sir?

4. Darling, I have more than enough ship for you and every other willing wench this side of the Caribbean. Who is the hero of your story most like: me (savvy, debonair, and unquestionably smooth with the ladies), the insufferably honorable Will Turner, or that deceptive little minx Elizabeth?

John Baldwin ... Jack Sparrow. Let’s see. Absolutely like you, but taller, with better teeth, fresher breath, cleaner hair and a bigger... whoops, what was that? A parrot? He doesn’t have a parrot… now I’m yours!

5. If you were trying to distract me from the fact that you nearly cast aspersions upon the size of my telescope, you'll have to do better than ... a yacht? With rum punch? Ooh. Shiny. Rum? Or more rum?

What? No grog? I prefer shards of glass in my rum, thank you very much.

6. Who doesn't? Which leads me to the age old question: Why is the rum always gone?

It’s the rum mice. They sneak in and sip at it whilst you’re busy looking after your parrot. Naughty mice. Naughty parrot! Naughty, naughty pirate.

7. Stop. I'm blushing. What’s the most piratish thing you’ve ever done?

Outside of vomiting rum overboard? Let’s see… once, in a fight for truth, justice and the American way, I… wait, that wasn’t piratish, that was Royal Navyish. I’ve got it. Rescued a kitten from the pound right before it was about to be put down. (What, you don’t think pirates love kittens? We do, we really, really do!)

8. If they can vanquish undead monkeys, I adore them. Are they rules? Or more like guidelines?

The only rules are those you create and impose upon yourself. The rest are merely suggestions, like stoplights in Italy.

9. My dear, you had me at kitten. Oh, wait. That was a different question. I understand you’re a story-teller. Any undead monkeys in your stories?

Come to think of it, no. I must remedy that immediately.

10. Oh, bugger it. Only if you find a way to kill him off. Permanently. Any curses in your story? Heartless monsters? Irritating women who insist on taking matters into their own hands?

Curses, absolutely! My previous book, THE IMMORTALS is predicated on a curse, a calling from the netherworld, a summons to the dark angel Azræl, death himself. Once Azræl is a participant, bad things happen to good little boys and girls. And of course, Taylor Jackson seeks to thwart their evil plan.

11. If I've learned anything in life, it's that a wise man ignores all calls from the netherworld. One of my favorite words is “egregious.” Care to share one of yours, love?

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, love. Really, did you have to ask?

12. I'm stunned into near silence by your use of such a bombastic travesty of the English language. I don't believe that even IS a word. Maybe it looks like a word through the wrong end of a mug of grog? I've seen plenty of THOSE words myself. Parlay? Or draw your sword?

It’s depends. How badly have you insulted me? A stain upon my honor, or a presumption against my honor. You pick.

13. *stares at your cutlass* Darling, I fear you've  misunderstood me. I adore your choice of supercalifragi listi--whatever it was. Adore it. No need to avenge your honor on my account. You’ve got a crowd of cursed sailors and a nasty sea monster on your trail. How do you escape?

Close the book, silly.

14. That only works in my world if said beasties have their heads between the covers of said book. Romantic night in? Or adventure on the high seas?

Adventure, without a doubt. The best nights are ones where romance is found, not created.

15. Here's hoping you find stealing a vessel from Her Majesty's Royal Navy romantic, then. It's at the top of my To Do list tonight. My personal motto is: Take what you want, give nothing back. What’s yours?

“When you are content not to compare or compete, everyone will respect you.” Lao Tzu, who was something of a pirate himself, if you stop to think about it.

Thank you, J.T., for such a fun, entertaining interview!  To learn more about J.T.'s books and how to find her on the web, head to her site. To order your own copy of SO CLOSE THE HAND OF DEATH, go here. Of course, the fun isn't over yet! J.T. is giving away a signed, personalized copy of SO CLOSE THE HAND OF DEATH to one lucky commenter! (Giveaway is for U.S. only.) Here's how to enter:

1. Earn entries:

*Comment on this post = 1 entry

*Be a follower of this blog = 2 entries

*Tweet the link to this interview = 3 entries (Use @cjredwine or leave url to tweet in your comment so I can see it.)

*Post the contest on your blog or facebook= 3 entries (Include link in your comment.)

2. Tally it up:

Please tally up your entries and leave the total in your comment.

3. Check back:

The contest is open until 8 p.m. (central time) Sunday, February 27th. Please check back to see if you've won and to claim your prize!

Good luck to all, and happy reading!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Swamp Floggers For The Win!

But only if you bring back lemon bars.

1. My brain is exhausted right now.

2. I have good reasons.

3. For one, Princess J was sick Saturday night and together I think the two of us had maybe four hours of sleep.

4. And instead of napping on Sunday, I went to the bookstore and wrote 5k.

5. Because I'm turning this book in on March 27th, and I have 2/3 left to write.

6. I'm one of those people who works very well with a deadline. It lights a fire under me--like someone tossing a gauntlet down and daring me not to finish.  I HAVE to prove I can do it.

7. And I have to tell you, I love what I'm writing. It has a depth and authenticity to it that I've never achieved before. I hope to get to share it with you soon!

8. Anyway, I told you all of that to explain why my brain is exhausted because it's very ... See? I can't even think of the word I want! Hang on ... Oh, yes. It's very probable I'll write a few items on this list that a) make no sense or b) ramble and then make no sense.

9. Be a doll, and don't point it out.

10. Or, yanno, point it out and see what happens when you challenge an exhausted woman who enjoys wielding a titanium spork.

11. Discovery Channel has a new show coming out. I caught the end of the ad for it and it said "Swamp Floggers" as the title.

12. Which really caught my attention because WOW! There are people who flog swamps? I mean, not that a swamp doesn't deserve a good flogging every once in a while, what with all those mosquitoes and alligators and stinky mud, but people do this? Do they get paid? Is this a hobby? Is there some sort of special flogging uniform and does it involve leather?

13. I was primed and ready to program my DVR for this BRILLIANT show, when I took a closer look at the screen and realized it said "Swamp Loggers."

14. Which really doesn't generate the same degree of excitement at all.

15. Maybe Discovery should run a few of their ideas by me. I bet I could brainstorm some worthy improvements.

16. I learned a lesson this week.

17. Turns out, not all people respond well to a stranger saying something to them in a public restroom.

18. Who knew?

19. I took the Scientist to the movies this past weekend and had cause to visit the restroom. When I approached the sink to wash my hands, I realized the entire counter surrounding it was covered with water, but it was too late to alter my choice.

20. There was a woman (who looked perfectly nice but that just goes to show you that outward appearances LIE) already at the sink beside me.

21. So, I decided to suck it up, keep myself from leaning into the puddle of water, and wash my hands.

22. I turned on the faucet and got SPRAYED. Thoroughly.

23. So did the counter.

24. Which explains the puddle.

25. I said as much out loud. Something along the lines of "Holy cow! Well, I guess that explains all this water, right?" And looked at the woman beside me.

26. She backed away and said "It's really weird to talk to strangers in a bathroom."

27. I kind of wanted to ask her if the weirdness was generated by the act of talking to a stranger, or if it was simply a problem of location. Instead, I very maturely said "Well, you just talked to me."

28. She left.

29. And she looked like she'd just been sucking on a lemon.

30. It's fine. I'm not everybody's cup of tea.

31. Speaking of tea ... no, I really can't make that transition work because I didn't drink tea while watching I Am Number 4. I drank Diet Dr. Pepper.

32. Hence the bathroom visit.

33. Anyway, I was curious to see how this movie would hold up amid all the hype. Short answer: it's a decent popcorn flick if you don't need everything to make sense and you really love awesome action scenes.

34. The romance was fine, though I wasn't yearning for them to be together. However, I didn't want to take a spork to them either, so that's something.

35. And honestly the action sequences were pretty cool. And there were some acting gems along the way.

36. What brought the movie down were the villains. They were evil, terrible, planet-destroying beings because ... because ... well, because they were evil, terrible, planet-destroying beings! With gills around the nose! And awful looking teeth!

37. And they liked to talk quite a bit when any idiot could see their stupid soliloquy was just giving the good guy enough time to figure out how to blast the bad guy into dust. Less talking, gill boy! More shooting!

38. To illustrate: At one point, the main bad guy has a human friend to #4 trapped and says the following to him: "Do you watch tv? Yes? Well then, I bet right about now, you're thinking to yourself you could be the hero and save the day. You know what I have to say about that? Don't do it, okay?"

39. Okay! Because you have scary gills around your nose and have never been to a dentist, I will obey you!

40. Seriously. A little motivation? Explanation of why they're killing them in order? And why they're bothering with it at all since they destroyed everyone else on the planet Lorian? Why not sit back and enjoy the fruits of their labors?

41. So, I didn't buy into the threat, which made it hard to take anything seriously. That aside, though, I was moderately entertained by the good guys action sequences (Thankfully, they all had nice teeth and no problems with delivering death instead of soliloquies.) and my son loved it.

42. But, you know what would've improved the movie a thousand percent?

43. Swamp Floggers. With really excellent teeth. And zero soliloquies.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Winner of OutsideIN

Thank you to all who entered the contest for a signed, personalized copy of Maria V. Snyder's excellent OutsideIN. As always, I used to choose the winner. And the winner is ...

Sarah McClung

Congratulations, Sarah! I know you're going to love these books. Those of you who didn't win this time, I hope you'll pick up Maria's books next time you're in the book store. They are well worth it!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Interview With Maria Snyder

I discovered Maria Snyder when a friend loaned me her copy of InsideOUT (which made my list of best reads from 2010). Maria's world-building is seamless. Even though she introduces an entirely new culture--with its own set of customs, rules, and complexities--I was instantly immersed in the story. In fact, the strangeness of the new world I found myself in was part of what made the book so fascinating. Plus, there was a mystery to solve, a potential romance to cheer on, and a plot twist I never saw coming. Yay!

The sequel to InsideOUT hits the shelves March 1st, and I can't wait to get my hands on it! Here's a peek at OustideIN. (Spoiler Alert! If you haven't already read InsideOUT, this will give some details away.)

Me?? A Leader??

Okay, I did prove that there's more to Inside than we knew. That a whole world exists beyond this cube we live in. And finding that led to a major rebellion-between worker scrubs like me and the snobby uppers who rule our world. Make that ruled. Because of me, we're free. I thought that meant I was off the hook, and could go off on my own again-while still touching base with Riley, of course. He's the one upper I think I can trust. But then we learned that there's outside and then there is Outside. And something from Outside wants In.
I can't wait to read OutsideIN to learn what happens! I've already ordered my copy, but YOU might win one of your own. Before I give you details on that, let me introduce today's guests. After perusing her options, Maria decided to spar with the always-charming Captain Jack Sparrow.

Captain Jack Sparrow

Maria Snyder

Now that you know who's who, let's dive into the interview and reveal the cupcake my hubby made in honor of Maria's books. As a side note here, my hubby would like to fervently thank Maria for A) Not requiring another zombified limb made out of cake and frosting B) Having the good sense to have something as simple as pipes be a main theme in her book and C) Not requiring another zombified limb made out of cake and frosting. (And here I thought he was excited to build his own frankenzombie!). The world Trella lives in has a massive structure of large pipes, and Trella spends a lot of time cleaning, maintaining, and ultimately hiding and spying from those pipes. In honor of that, my hubby made a cupcake sculpture with intersecting pipes. Without further ado, I give you the pipe cupcake structure and Maria's interview with Captain Jack!

1. Would you classify yourself as a pirate or a member of Her Majesty’s Royal navy? Why?

I would like to say I was a pirate, but I was raised to follow the rules and think I’d be more comfortable in the Royal Navy. Plus, no offense to present company, but there’s something about a man in uniform….yummy!

2. Darling, I wear a uniform too. Notice the dashing captain's hat. What’s your favorite thing to do in Tortuga?

Lie on a beach and drink rum punch. :)

3. I'm forced to point out that while most men in uniform wouldn't find the time to lay around on the beach drinking rum punch with you, I'm more than willing. I’m offering you free passage aboard my ship to anywhere in the world. Where shall we go, love?

Galapagos – I always wanted to visit and see all the animals.

4. Who is the hero of your story most like: me (savvy, debonair, and unquestionably smooth with the ladies), the insufferably honorable Will Turner, or that deceptive little minx Elizabeth?

Riley is most like Will Turner – reliable, dependable, but willing to break a few rules if his love is in danger.

5. I'll forgive him for the reliable and dependable parts since he knows how to be a rule-breaker for love's sake. Rum? Or more rum?

If I had my choice, it would be a glass of red wine. Except for on hot tropical nights, then it’s rum!

6. With me, they're all hot tropical nights, my dear. Which leads me to the age old question: Why is the rum always gone?

I’d check with your crew, mate. With that group of scallywags, I’m surprised you get any rum at all.

7. You may have a point. *looks over shoulder at scallywag-ridden crew and hides rum bottle behind back* What’s the most piratish thing you’ve ever done?

I was a crew member on the US Stars and Stripes racing yacht for a 12 meter race. We won by inches. It was so fun – racing through the waves, hanging on for dear life and being chased. The US SS would leave the Black Pearl bobbin in her wake.

8. You've cast aspersions of a libelous nature against my ship. I hope you're prepared to put your boating skills where your mouth is. Are they rules? Or more like guidelines?

Depends on the situation, but I lean towards following the rules. Curse those 12 years of catholic school!

9. Twelve years?! *shudders* Darling, it's a wonder you drink anything BUT rum. I understand you’re a story-teller. Any undead monkeys in your stories?
No undead monkeys, but plenty of nasty Pop Cops. They’re the Population Control Police and they’re in charge. If they catch you breaking the rules, then they’ll feed you to Chomper. Chomper is like the Kraken, it will chew you into little pieces. Except Chomper will spit you out and the Pop Cops will use the pieces for fertilizer.

10. Thanks, but I'd rather not, if it's all the same to you. Any curses? Heartless monsters? Irritating women who insist on taking matters into their own hands?

There is an unknown threat coming from the Outside which could be a heartless monster or just some lost souls. Trella is irritating to certain people, but her problem is not taking charge when she should, which leads to all kinds of trouble.

11. I personally despise unknown threats. So much better when one knows what one is facing so one can decide if one should run away to fight another day. One of my favorite words is “egregious.” Care to share one of yours, love?

Plethora. It explains so much about my life and the state of my office. As in, “Maria has a plethora of junk in her office.”

12. I used to have a plethora of rum aboard this ship. *hiccups* I'm not precisely sure what happened to it. Parlay? Or draw your sword?

Draw my sword! I’ve taken karate, self-defense classes, fencing, and gymnastics over the years. I’m not going to waste my time or breath on Parlay.

13. A woman after my own heart! Not in a literal sense, of course. I hope. You’ve got a crowd of cursed sailors and a nasty sea monster on your trail. How do you escape?

I call my friend and Stormdancer Kade. With his magical ability to control the weather, he would make sure I had plenty of wind in my sails and that they didn’t.

14. Does he accept payment in mostly empty rum bottles? Because I use a good stiff breeze myself. Romantic night in? Or adventure on the high seas?

Adventure on the high seas! I love to travel and meet new people.

15. Excellent. We shall begin forthwith! My personal motto is: Take what you want, give nothing back. What’s yours?

Don’t give up. With my first book, Poison Study, I sent it out to over 40 literary agents and 17 publishers. All rejected it. Then number 18 bought the book and I’ve been writing and publishing ever since.

Wonderful advice, Maria! Thank you so much for such an enjoyable interview. I think you gave our beloved Captain a run for his money! (No one has EVER dared insult the Black Pearl before.)

To learn more about Maria and her books, head to her website or her blog. To read the first chapter of OutsideIN, go here. Warning! May cause an uncontrollable urge to head to Amazon and order the book!

Of course, the fun isn't over yet. Maria is offering a signed, personalized copy of OutsideIN to one lucky commenter! (US and Canada only, please) Here's how to enter:

1. Earn entries:

*Comment on this post = 1 entry
*Be a follower of this blog = 2 entries

*Tweet the link to this interview = 3 entries (Use @cjredwine or leave url to tweet in your comment so I can see it.)

*Post the contest on your blog or facebook= 3 entries (Include link in your comment.)

2. Tally it up:

Please tally up your entries and leave the total in your comment.

3. Check back:

The contest is open until 8 p.m. (central time) Sunday, February 20th. Please check back to see if you've won and to claim your prize!

Good luck to all, and happy reading!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Step Away From The Belt Buckle

1. I come in contact with a lot of people at my day job.

2. Many people are genuinely nice and often interesting.

3. A select few are idiots.

4. Like the ones who somehow feel that personal hygiene is a good idea for the rest of the world but doesn't actually apply to them.

5. I love those conversations where I have to gently explain to someone that bathing WITH SOAP would be in their best interest.

6. I had to do that twice last week.

7. There's no way that conversation isn't going to turn awkward at some point. Especially when the other half of the conversation looks at me as I tactfully suggest that perhaps waking up early enough to get some shower time would be best and asks "Why?"

8. It's hard to come up with creative, tactful ways to say "Because you smell like you live in a dumpster."

9. Speaking of awkward, this past week a man sitting in our restaurant decided he had on too much clothing.

10. First, he took off his shoes.

11. Which is pretty weird, but not really cause for concern. If you like to eat lunch in your socks, who am I to judge you?

12. Then he took off his sweatshirt, which was fine because he had a t-shirt underneath.

13. Sadly, the t-shirt was the next to go.

14. When he reached for his belt buckle, one of the managers made a table visit, ostensibly to make sure the food was fine. I don't know what was said, but the pants stayed on, and I'm grateful.

15. I have to wonder what kind of person (he was eating with four family members, all of whom didn't look the least bit fazed to see him shed his clothing in public) feels it's appropriate to strip down during the lunch hour of a family restaurant?

16. I watch a lot of little kids' shows early in the morning with Princess J now.

17. The other day, I saw Yo Gabba Gabba for the first and I swear ONLY time. If I have to watch it again, I will mostly likely stick plastic forks in my eyes just to alleviate the pain.

18. I am completely convinced Pink Floyd helped write that show.

19. Last night was our annual Valentine's Day dinner. Our group of friends gets together at my house and the men cook and serve us a beautiful three course meal (with three different options for each course). They also clean up my kitchen afterwards. It was lovely, and my hubby deserves a shout out today on the blog since he worked so hard, stayed up super late (which is hard for a radio morning show guy to do!), and was the genius behind both the menu and the gorgeous plate presentation.

20. This week on the blog, Captain Jack Sparrow interviews the lovely Maria Snyder (whose book INSIDE OUT made my best reads of 2010 list) and she's giving away a signed, personalized copy of the sequel, OUTSIDE IN. Amazing books!

21. Also? I've decided to share the story of my Ninja Boobs.

22. You know you want to read it.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Winner of ROT & RUIN!

Thank you to all who entered Jonathan Maberry's giveaway of a signed, personalized copy of ROT & RUIN! If you didn't win, I hope you'll pick up this compelling book the next time you're in a book store. You won't be disappointed. As always, I used to choose the winner. And the winner is ...

Gretchen Stull

Congratulations! Please email me with your shipping address. (Email is on my "About" page) Thanks again for entering, and happy reading!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Winner of One of My Favorite Books!

I enjoyed reading everyone's recommendations and have now added several titles to my To Be Read pile! I can't wait to share one of my faves with the winner of the drawing. As always, I used to select the winner. And the winner is

Angela Blount

Congratulations! Please choose one of the books from my list of favorites and email me with both your choice and your mailing address. Happy reading!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Interview With Jonathan Maberry

I discovered Jonathan Maberry as I was browsing my local bookstore with a friend. My book shopping method includes hurrying to the YA section and then slowly perusing the shelves for covers that catch my eye. This cover really grabbed my attention, so I read the description and decided to give it a try. (For a thorough explanation of how AWESOME this book really is, check out my review on my Best Reads of 2010 post. It's another chance to win a copy!)

Because this is a satisfyingly long book, I decided to bring it with me on my trip to China. Every afternoon, while Johanna slept, I would sit on the hotel bed and devour this book. The story is compelling, as much for the fact that it's told from the perspective of a fifteen year old boy who SOUNDS like a fifteen year old boy, as for the fact that it's truly a fresh perspective on zombies. I appreciated the humor, the tension, and the complex relationships and found the story lingered with me long after I closed the cover for the last time. When I tweeted about loving this book, Jonathan replied with a gracious thank you and before he knew it, I'd bamboozled convinced him to be on the blog.

I'd usually give a peek at what Rot & Ruin is about here, but the Were-llama himself drags that info out of Jonathan, and I make it a habit to never get in the Were-llama's way. I'm excited to announce that Jonathan is giving away a signed, personalized copy of Rot & Ruin to one lucky commenter. Before I tell you how you can enter the drawing, let me introduce today's guests.


Jonathan Maberry
 Now that you know who's who, let's get to the interview and reveal the amazing cupcake my hubby make in honor of Jonathan's book. (My hubby would just like to say that, while he has nothing against zombies personally, he's a little concerned at the current trend on my blog wherein he's been required to use his cake skillz to portray decay and putrescence. This makes two zombified cupcakes in a row. I call it awesome. He calls it decorating for the dark side and said "All we need is for one of your freaky peeps to ask for a zombie foot and we could put together a frankenzombie." *eyes future interviewees and wonders which one can be coerced into asking for a zombie foot*) With no further ado, let's dive into the interview and reveal the freakishly delicious Zombie Eyeball cupcake my hubby made for Jonathan.

Eat me if you dare

WERE-LLAMA: So, you’re a writer. I’m a super-scary shape-shifter who can command obedience with the awesome power of my glowing red eyes. What do we have in common?

JONATHAN MABERRY: We’re both strikingly handsome and have legions of devoted followers. (I believe it’s the general hairiness that attracts them!)

WERE-LLAMA: I am strikingly handsome, aren't I? I like to spit at my enemies from whichever end is closest to them. Do any of your characters have cool abilities like that?

MABERRY: Nothing quite that cool. Probably the next closest would be Tom Imura from ROT & RUIN, who fights zombies with a katana.

WERE-LLAMA: You're right. It's not as cool as winning a war with the cunning use of bodily fluids. But it's close. If I had a nickname, it would be The Awesome. You?

MABERRY: The Bear. I’m about the same height, build, and general fuzziness of a grizzly (except that I don’t catch my own salmon and I type faster than most bears).

WERE-LLAMA: I hang around this blog because I love stories. What’s your story about? Bonus points if it includes a llama.

MABERRY: ROT & RUIN: It’s been 14 years since First Night, when the dead came back to life. Six billion people have died (and reanimated) since then, and America has collapsed into isolated communities living within the great “Rot and Ruin.” Benny Imura is 15, which means it’s time to get a job or face cut rations, but his general laziness leaves him with only one employment option: join his stuffy, sword-swinging, Japanese half-brother, Tom, as an apprentice bounty hunter. This means heading beyond the gates to slice and dice “zoms,” but Benny quickly begins to see the undead in a new light—as well as realizing that Tom is much more than he ever let on. ROT & RUIN is a story about discovering the value of life and what it means to be ‘human’. No llamas, alas, but that’s one of the things that make this post-apocalyptic world so bleak.

WERE-LLAMA: A world with  no were-llamas is bleak indeed. You’re making me a cake worthy of my awesome Were-llama status and decorating it to represent your story. What does it look like?

MABERRY: It looks like a shrub. Llamas love shrubs. But a-ha! It’s really chocolate inside. Kind of a were-cake motif.

WERE-LLAMA: A chocolate were-cake? *glares at you with Awesome Red Eyes* Bring me a shrubbery! Any Were-llamas in your book?

MABERRY: It’s always possible, but how can you tell? They blend in so easily.

WERE-LLAMA: We are masters of disguise. Except for the glowing red eyes, but by the time you see those, it's too late. Spoiler Alert: We always win. Anyone in your stories who might be a Were-llama and you just haven’t figured it out yet?

MABERRY: I sometimes wonder about The Lost Girl (from ROT & RUIN). She spends a lot of her time alone…or, is she really only a girl some of the time and when we don’t see her that means she’s in her Llama form? Hmm.

WERE-LLAMA: You know a girl were-llama? *tosses head to achieve ultimate Awesome hair-do and spits for good measure* You might make an acceptable minion, but I have to ask: Llamas or camels and why? Think carefully.

MABERRY: Camels are cheap knock-offs of Lllamas.
WERE-LLAMA: So few people realize that. I give you a baby Were-llama as a companion. What do you name her?

MABERRY: LLinda. (It means ‘pretty’)

WERE-LLAMA: My favorite word is “awesome” because, yanno, look at me. What’s yours?

MABERRY: Cool. I say it too much, too often, and seldom at the appropriate time. Which sometimes makes people think I’m onto something they aren’t seeing. Which is cool.

WERE-LLAMA: As a young Were-llama, I dreamt of taking over the eastern seaboard one face full of spit at a time. What did you dream of doing when you were young?

MABERRY: I wanted to grow up to be Richard Matheson, but ultimately I realized that his clothes wouldn’t fit me. I decided to be me instead.

WERE-LLAMA: I see you kept his facial hair, though. Good call. Cake or cookies?

MABERRY: Cake. Chocolate cake with chocolate icing and chocolate on top.

WERE-LLAMA: Is that my shrubbery you're eating?! *gives you Doomy Glare of Death* Do you share chocolate?

MABERRY: Only with my wife because by Pennsylvania commonwealth law she owns half of mine. Otherwise…no. Get away.

WERE-LLAMA: What a coincidence. Neither do I. *takes chocolate shrubbery were-cake and swallows whole* The Zombie Goat invasion is upon us. How will you fight them off?

MABERRY: High caliber baaalistics and hardwood baaatons. Maybe a baaaaseball baaat upside the head.

Jonathan Maberry is the NY Times bestselling author, multiple Bram Stoker Award winner, and Marvel Comics writer.  His recent works include The King of Plagues, Rot & Ruin, Marvel Zombies Return, The Wolfman, Patient Zero, and Wanted Undead or Alive.  Since 1978 he has sold more than 1200 feature articles, thousands of columns, two plays, greeting cards, technical manuals, how-to books, short stories, and more.  His Joe Ledger thrillers have been optioned by Sony Entertainment and are in development for TV.

Thank you, Jonathan, for such an entertaining interview! You were more than a match for the Were-llama. To learn more about Jonathan and his books, head to his website.  And now, for Jonathan's exciting giveaway! He's giving away a signed, personalized copy of Rot & Ruin to one lucky commenter. U.S. entries only, please. Here's how to enter.

1. Earn entries:

*Comment on this post = 1 entry

*Be a follower of this blog = 2 entries

*Tweet the link to this interview = 3 entries (Use @cjredwine or leave url to tweet in your comment so I can see it.)

*Post the contest on your blog or facebook= 3 entries (Include link in your comment.)

2. Tally it up:

Please tally up your entries and leave the total in your comment.

3. Check back:

The contest is open until 8 p.m. (central time) Sunday, February 13th. Please check back to see if you've won and to claim your prize!

Good luck to all, and happy reading!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Getting Jiggy With It

1. I know, I know... list day is usually Monday. But last week got away from me, so the list is a Tuesday thing this week.

2. If you missed yesterday's post, I listed my favorite books from 2010, why I loved them, and introduced a contest where you could win your choice of one of those books. You have until Thursday night to enter.

3. I don't sew.

4. I don't even mend things. Not. At. All.

5. This has just as much to do with my complete lack of aptitude as it does with the fact that really I'm not the best girl to be wandering around with a needle in my hands.

6. It's all fun and games until someone gets a needle in the eye, after all.

7. My mother, on the other hand, is a master seamstress. She used to make our dresses--the fancy ones with ribbons, lace, and little silk roses on them--and has yet to meet a pattern she couldn't beat into submission.

8. My sister is also very handy with a sewing machine and can crochet blankets and other fabulous things.

9. I'm the girl who had to sew a pair of shorts for Home Ec (back when that was still a subject) and accidentally sewed the legs completely shut.

10. I say all of this because now when I tell you I used a glue stick to hem my work pants, you won't be surprised in the slightest.

11. The glue washes out every time the pants go through the laundry, but there's more glue where that came from!

12. Problem solved.

13. I've been informed by Daredevil that I'm not allowed to say "Getting Jiggy With It." Ever.

14. I beg to differ.

15. I gave birth to three children in four years. There are parts of my body that must be restrained with duct tape and some steel pipes to avoid putting out someone's eye in a brisk breeze.

16. I am the very definition of getting jiggy with it.

17. He also told me I don't get to say "Wiggedy, Wiggedy Whack."

18. Who wants to say that??

19. It doesn't even make sense.

20. I hypothesized it meant someone wigged out and whacked someone.

21. Daredevil looked like maybe he'd swallowed a lemon and begged me to stay far, far away from his friends.

22. We had our annual Super Bowl party here this past Sunday (where we eat stuff we'd never normally eat, talk as loud as we want throughout the game, and become dead silent for the commercials) and that means I watched the half-time show.

23. Where I got the privilege of seeing people in neon spandex jumpsuits dance around with boxes on their heads while the Black Eyed Peas proved once again they can't sound anything close to good without a studio well-equipped with Auto Tune.

24. I've never heard Sweet Child of Mine sound like someone was beating a tomcat against a wall, but I guess if you live long enough, you experience just about anything the world has to offer.

25. Perhaps that was wiggedy, wiggedy whack?

26. My hubby took HOURS of video footage while we were in China (including filming the Communist soldiers as they stood beneath a HUGE sign that said NO PICTURES) and is now in the process of editing it down to a coherent film.

27. He showed me the first twenty minutes of edited film the other night.

28. As one might expect, I was on the film several times. And every time, I was saying something sassy.

29. Do try to contain your shock.

30. I told him he'd edited it wrong.

31. He asked what I meant.

32. I said he'd only included the parts where I was being sassy.

33. He laughed and told me if he edited out the parts where I was being sassy, I wouldn't even be in the film because, and here I quote, "You are nothing but sass."

34. The fact that he said it with love and pride in his voice (and the fact that he makes ridiculously awesome cupcakes) saved him from incurring my wrath.

35. The fact that he thinks it's cool that I can get jiggy with it didn't hurt either.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Best Reads of 2010

I promised my blog readers a list of the top books I read in 2010, along with a fun contest to win your very own copy of one of these books, and here it is! It's highly possible with my busy schedule, I missed reading some very awesome books, and I can't wait to see your recommendations. But if you missed one of THESE awesome books, you really should hie thyself to thy nearest purveyor of books and rectify the situation because these books ROCK.

Here, in no particular order, are the books I enjoyed the most in 2010:

Jonathan Maberry is an accomplished author with a list of best-sellers, but this was the first book I tried of his. The cover grabbed my attention, along with the title, and when I read the description, I was hooked and decided to give it a try. I'm so glad I did! Here's a quick look at ROT & RUIN:

In the zombie-infested, post-apocalyptic America where Benny Imura lives, every teenager must find a job by the time they turn fifteen or get their rations cut in half. Benny doesn't want to apprentice as a zombie hunter with his boring older brother Tom, but he has no choice. He expects a tedious job whacking zoms for cash, but what he gets is a vocation that will teach him what it means to be human.

I was drawn to the zombie premise, but that alone isn't what swayed me to buy the book. I liked the hint that I would find complex relationships and a lesson beyond the usual "do whatever it takes to survive and don't get bitten" message many post-apocalyptical books have. The book is 464 pages, which is AWESOME since it's a book well worth reading. Intense action is levied by true humor. The world building is seamless. The characters are flawed, authentic, and distinct, and the relationships, even between secondary characters, reveal a depth and complexity that make it a pleasure to live inside their world for a while. Maberry doesn't shy away from the violent nature of the world Benny lives in, but he shows a rare sense of respect and compassion for those who've had their humanity stripped from them without their consent. I loved the growth in Benny's character from start to finish, but what really endeared me to Benny is that he is a fifteen year old boy who sounds like a fifteen year old boy. I live in a house surrounded by mostly boys. I'm well versed in "boy" and most books with a teenage boy as a narrator sound like a what a girl thinks goes on in a boy's head. Benny is spot-on, and that makes the gradual deepening of his relationships, his choices, and his understanding of the world he lives in such a pleasure to read.

This is one book I whole-heartedly endorse for both the post-apocalyptic zombie fans and for those who've never felt an ounce of interest in zombies but love the kind of compelling story that makes you laugh, makes you cry, and ultimately fills you with hope.
Meet Jonathan Maberry as he takes on the Were-llama on this blog 2/9/11!

Catherine Fisher is another acclaimed, award-winning author whom I just recently discovered. I admit, it was once again the amazing cover that first drew me to this book. Then I read the description and was hooked.

Imagine a living prison so vast that it contains corridors and forests, cities and seas. Imagine a prisoner with no memory, who is sure he came from Outside, even though the prison has been sealed for centuries and only one man, half real, half legend, has ever escaped.

Imagine a girl in a manor house in a society where time has been forbidden, where everyone is held in a seventeenth century world run by computers, doomed to an arranged marriage that appals her, tangled in an assassination plot she both dreads and desires.

One inside, one outside

But both imprisoned.

Imagine a war that has hollowed the moon, seven skullrings that contain souls, a flying ship and a wall at the world's end.

Imagine the unimaginable.

Imagine Incarceron.
I was instantly intrigued by the idea of a living, breathing prison. I dove into the book, which clocks in at a satisfying 448 pages, and found so much more than I expected. The world-building is completely captivating. What amazed me was Fisher has two very distinct worlds set up in this book, and both require quite a bit of assimilation for the reader as very little of it is familiar to us. However, reading this book is a visual banquet, and I never once felt lost. The book is very atmospheric, with tension constantly rising as two separate, but ultimately joined plot arcs spiral faster and faster toward their conclusion. The narrative is told from two perspectives, and I appreciated that each voice felt like its own, with no author intrusion.

I can't recommend this book highly enough. The voice is compelling, the storyline intriguing, the characters memorable, and the plot twists make it clear you're in the hands of a master story-teller.

Tessa Dare was on the blog last year when this book hit the shelves. There was quite a bit of publicity and momentum behind this book from authors whose work I respect, so I decided to give it a try. I'm so glad I did! Here's a look:

Ever the bold adventuress, Lucy Waltham has decided to go hunting for a husband. But first she needs some target practice. So she turns to her brother’s best friend, Jeremy Trescott, the Earl of Kendall, to hone her seductive wiles on him before setting her sights on another man. But her practice kisses spark a smoldering passion—one that could send all her plans up in smoke.

Jeremy has an influential title, a vast fortune, and a painful past, full of long-buried secrets. He keeps a safe distance from his own emotions, but to distract Lucy from her reckless scheming, he must give his passions free rein. Their sensual battle of wills is as maddening as it is delicious, but the longer he succeeds in managing the headstrong temptress, the closer Jeremy comes to losing control. When scandal breaks, can he bring himself to abandon Lucy to her ruin? Or will he risk his heart, and claim her for his own?

Dare has a rare gift. Her plot is intriguing, her prose enjoyable, but where she really shines is in her vivid, memorable characters and her sharp sense of humor. I adored sinking beneath her characters' skins for the duration of the story. I laughed, hard, numerous times throughout the book, and I felt the romance between the two main characters deeply. When I shut the book, I was both satisfied and sorry to see such a deliciously enjoyable tale come to an end. Dare's voice is confident, compelling, and true, and I highly recommend her books to any reader who wants a book that simultaneously makes one laugh, cry, and wish for a fan (I did mention the hot romance between the main characters, didn't I? I will never look at an armoire the same again...).

I've been a fan of Julia Quinn for quite some time. Her historical romances always feel fresh, vivid, and fascinating because she is a master at understanding her main character's voices and using those unique voices to bring her stories to life. Here's a look at What Happens In London:

When Olivia Bevelstoke is told that her new neighbor may have killed his fiancée, she doesn't believe it for a second, but still, how can she help spying on him, just to be sure? So she stakes out a spot near her bedroom window, cleverly concealed by curtains, watches, and waits... and discovers a most intriguing man, who is definitely up to something.

Sir Harry Valentine works for the boring branch of the War Office, translating documents vital to national security. He's not a spy, but he's had all the training, and when a gorgeous blonde begins to watch him from her window, he is instantly suspicious. But just when he decides that she's nothing more than a nosy debutante, he discovers that she might be engaged to a foreign prince, who might be plotting against England. And when Harry is roped into spying on Olivia, he discovers that he might be falling for her himself...
Quinn never disappoints. This book was full of humor, wit, and the customary vivid characters I've come to expect from Quinn. I appreciate that her heroines are always strong, intelligent women who know how to go after what they want (even if they sometimes make dreadful mistakes like getting caught spying out their bedroom curtains!). And each relationship takes it's own, distinct (sometimes rocky) path to a very satisfying happily ever after. I know when I pick up a book by Julia Quinn, I'm in for something fresh, intriguing, and absolutely delicious and What Happens In London is definitely one of her best.

I came late to the Hunger Games party, which was fine with me since it meant I got to read all three books back to back instead of agonizing over the fate of Katniss, Peeta, and the others for months between book releases. Honestly, the cover for Hunger Games (the first in the series...Mockingjay is the last.) did nothing for me, so I'd never even picked up the book. It wasn't until my agent recommended it to me (The one and only book rec she's ever given me), that I sat up and paid attention. Here's a peek at the series (I'm giving the description of Hunger Games only so as not to give away any spoilers to those who've yet to get into the series):

Katniss is a 16-year-old girl living with her mother and younger sister in the poorest district of Panem, the remains of what used be the United States. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, "The Hunger Games." The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed. When her sister is chosen by lottery, Katniss steps up to go in her place.
This description fails to do justice to the incredible, all-encompassing world of the Hunger Games trilogy. A better description might be "literary crack." Don't start reading unless you have time to devour all three because your need to keep reading will be all-consuming. The world-building is complex and seamless, and instantly engulfs the reader. Katniss is a survivor in a world where surviving is sometimes the only thing one can fight for, but one act of instinctive bravery to protect the only person she loves ignites a fire and shoves her from survivor to hero without her consent. This story is intricately plotted, layered with complexity, and still manages to feel like one thrilling fast-paced ride where every plunge brings the reader closer and closer to a desperate sense of certainty that the outcome we WANT will be nearly impossible to GET. Literary crack, people. I promise.

I "met" Bree on Twitter before her book hit the shelves, struck up an acquaintance, and decided since she was such a nice person, and her book seemed to be gaining traction with readers, I'd give The Dark Divine a try. In the time it took me to promise myself "just one more chapter" until I'd finished the book in one, sleep-deprived, satisfied gulp, I became a Bree Despain fangirl, had her on the blog, and began recommending this book to anyone I thought might enjoy it.

Grace Divine, daughter of the local pastor, always knew something terrible happened the night Daniel Kalbi disappeared—the night she found her brother Jude collapsed on the porch, covered in blood. But she has no idea what a truly monstrous secret that night really held. And when Daniel returns three years later, Grace can no longer deny her attraction to him, despite promising Jude she’ll stay away.

As Grace gets closer to Daniel, her actions stir the ancient evil Daniel unleashed that horrific night. Grace must discover the truth behind Jude and Daniel's dark secret . . . and the cure that can save the ones she loves. But she may have to lay down the ultimate sacrifice to do it—her soul.
Very few stories stay with me for days after I read them, but The Dark Divine did. (Which is why I invited Bree to the blog.) I really identified with Grace. She felt very authentic and real to me, which is a testimony to the story-telling skill of Despain. I enjoyed that the ancient evil uncovered in the story had some solid historical roots. It felt like this story was the modern day extension of a story that had been going on for centuries. And the complicated relationship between Grace and Daniel was both tension-filled and lovely. I can't recommend this book enough.

The paranormal genre has begun to feel stale to me, with a few notable exceptions. Kelly Armstrong is one of those exceptions. I picked this book up in Kroger this year, and though Armstrong is a new-to-me author, she's quite an established writer with a strong backlist of titles. Bitten wasn't actually published this year, but since I bought it this year, I've  included it on the list. Here's a look:

Elena Michaels is the world’s only female werewolf. And she’s tired of it. Tired of a life spent hiding and protecting, a life where her most important job is hunting down rogue werewolves. Tired of a world that not only accepts the worst in her–her temper, her violence–but requires it. Worst of all, she realizes she’s growing content with that life, with being that person.

So she left the Pack and returned to Toronto where she’s trying to live as a human. When the Pack leader calls asking for her help fighting a sudden uprising, she only agrees because she owes him. Once this is over, she’ll be squared with the Pack and free to live life as a human. Which is what she wants. Really.
One of the things I loved most about this book was the instant immersion in what felt like true werewolf culture. Armstrong does this seamlessly, without long info dumps, and I immediately knew I was seeing the story through the eyes of a woman who was only pretending to be human. There's a depth and complexity to the pack's relationships that goes beyond the usual alpha/beta hierarchy. And the simultaneous yearning to be with the pack and fighting to stay away from them that Elena feels colors every choice she makes, and ratchets up the emotional tension (especially when as a reader, we can't see an obvious best choice for her either), and contributes richly to the conflict. And the conflict is non-stop. Suspense, romance, and tough relational choices combine with vivid, clean writing to make this story as un-put-downable as they come.

Rachel Hawkins is an agent-mate of mine, so when her book hit the shelves, I was excited to read it. I wasn't prepared for how much I'd love it. Rachel was on the blog last year, one of the first to take on the Were-llama.  She returns March 9th (The sequel comes out in early March!) to, as she puts it, "get her hands on Captain Jack." Here's a look at Hex Hall:

In the wake of a love spell gone horribly wrong, Sophie Mercer, a sixteen-year-old witch, is shipped off to Hecate Hall, a boarding school for witches, shapeshifters and faeries. The traumas of mortal high school are nothing compared to the goings on at "Freak High." It's bad enough that she has to deal with a trio of mean girls led by the glamorous Elodie, but it's even worse when she begins to fall for Elodie's gorgeous boyfriend, Archer Cross, and frankly terrifying that the trio are an extremely powerful coven of dark witches. But when Sophie begins to learn the disturbing truth about her father, she is forced to face demons both metaphorical and real, and come to terms with her own growing power as a witch.
This book deserves a space on my "best of" shelf because it's funny and suspenseful. The awkwardness of high school, the tumultuous nature of first love and jealous girls, the sometimes painful growth of relationships and of the self, are all woven together against the eerie Southern Gothic backdrop of Hecate Hall. I devoured the book in one sitting (using my trademark "I'll go to bed after JUST ONE MORE CHAPTER" method), and can't wait to get my hands on the sequel. I have a Hex Hall mystery to solve ...

Maria V. Snyder is another new-to-me author who is an established best-seller. I received an ARC of Inside OUT, and I'm glad I did because while I wouldn't normally have picked up this book, I'm now committed to buying the sequel because I HAVE TO KNOW what happens next. Here's a peek at Inside OUT:

Keep Your Head Down. Don't Get Noticed. Or Else.

I'm Trella. I'm a scrub. One of thousands who work in the lower levels, keeping Inside clean for the Uppers. I do my job and try to avoid the Pop Cops. The Trava family who rules our world from their spacious Upper levels wants us to be docile and obedient, like sheep. To insure we behave, they send the Pop Cops to police us.

So what if I occasionally use the pipes to sneak around the Upper levels? Not like it's all that dangerous--the only neck at risk is my own.

Until a lower level prophet claims a Gateway to Outside exists. And guess who he wants to steal into the Upper levels to get the proof? You’re right. Me. I alone know every single duct, pipe, corridor, shortcut, hole and ladder of Inside. It’s suicide plain and simple. But guess who can’t let a challenge like that go unanswered? Right again. Me.

I should have just said no...
Snyder's writing is spare and fluid. I immediately felt immersed in Trella's world, even though it's far different from my own. The mystery instantly grabbed me, and as the suspense built, I found myself mentally scrambling to find the answers before Trella did. I thought maybe I had a handle on things, but I was WRONG. I love being wrong. It means the story-teller is adept at plot twists and surprises, and I was certainly surprised. I also enjoyed the tension building within Trella over her place in the world, her relationships, and the sense of responsibility for others she gradually gained. I can't wait to see another story through her eyes. The sequel comes out in March, and Maria will be on the blog facing off with Captain Jack next Wednesday, the 16th!


Because I love these books so much, I can't wait to share them with my readers. I'm offering to give away one of the books on my list--winner's choice!--to one of my commenters. Here's how to enter:

1. Leave a comment recommending a book you read in 2010 and why you think I'd love it. -1 entry

2. Tweet a link to this post. - 2 entries

3. Blog about this contest. - 3 entries. Bonus entry if your blog includes a recommendation for YOUR favorite book. :)

4. Put a link to this post on facebook. - 2 entries

Add up your entries in your comment and check back this Friday to see if you've won your choice of one of my favorite books from 2010!

Harry Potter Trailer & More!

The final trailer for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 has been released, and I'm not going to lie. I get choked up every ti...