Monday, August 31, 2009

Win Mark of the Demon by Diana Rowland

Enter to win

Mark of the Demon by Diana Rowland

I ran out and purchased this book the first day it hit the shelves in June. It easily piqued my interest and kept me turning pages to find out what happened next. To the exclusion of all things, I finished it in one day. If you enjoy urban fantasy, you'll love this urban fantasy suspense thriller. In Mark of the Demon, I got lost in the magic and didn't analyze the writing, dialogue, characters and world building-although all these things are skillfully managed. I loved this book because it took me AWAY from thoughts of writing and just let me enjoy. I had no choice. I was sucked in!

The main character, Kara Gillian, is a witty detective by day, a demon summoner by night. She's worked hard to get where she is and she's good at it, but the character is sympathetically written with vulnerabilities. She isn't the perfect, beautiful heroine doing the job with a tough obnoxious attitude, unrealistically killing multiple baddies three times her size. (I don't like those kinds of characters.) Kara is totally believable as a demon summoner detective with Fraggle Rock as her ring tone.

The story opens with her successfully summoning one of the highest level demons. She's finally getting the break she's been waiting for in the police department: heading the task force for the Symbol Man's serial murder case, and she must learn to handle herself among the men assigned with her, and solve the crime as quickly as possible. But something goes strangely awry during a routine summoning, and Rhyzkahl, an intensely powerful, angelic creature appears. Oops!

The plot is original, and the suspense had me going all the way to the end. The story was perfectly paced, not long winded. Knowledge of police work is evident, and I loved the interactions between Kara and FBI Agent Ryan Kristoff.

Just an all round sexy, exciting, fun read! The sequel, Blood of the Demon, will be out in Spring, 2010, so I'm sure some pressing questions will be answered. I hope.

4.5 Stars, Recommended

  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam (June 23, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • The giveaway for Monday, September 7th is the debut novel, Mark of the Demon by Diana Rowland. There were new books available at the RWA conference, but I didn't have the opportunity to meet the author. This is a great start to a new series and I can't wait for the next installment. Rowland writes like a seasoned professional. It's very difficult to believe this is her first book! Leave a comment below for one entry to win. Link to the giveaway on your blog for another entry to win. As always, I'll use the random number generator to choose the winner. Contest closes at 5pm EST on Mondays. Good luck, everyone!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Dreamfever by Karen Marie Moning

Dreamfever, the 4th installment in Karen Marie Moning's Fever Series, does not disappoint. It's edgy, unpredictable and keeps you on the edge of your seat. That's very difficult to do, but Moning is such a talented storyteller and skilled author that she's able to sustain mystery, intrigue and tension throughout the entire book and series. She definitely knows her craft and fans love her for it.

In true Moning fashion, she leads the reader down a bread crumb path meting out clues to ponder, while the pathway gets increasingly darker and more terrifying. There are few answers, but non-answers are plentiful, another Moning trait.

Macayla Lane continues to grow as a character. She's no longer the innocent girl from the south, no longer 2.0 but Mac 4.0! And Barrons! (I love the man. I know he's fictional, but still.) In Dreamfever, we get a bit more insight into his character but burning questions still remain.

The Fever puzzle is gradually falling into place; clues abound but the final picture
shimmers behind a magical veil just out of reach. Exactly how it should be! It's a great series, 4.5 stars and highly recommended. If you want to read the series, it's best to read the books in order. Enjoy!

From Amazon:

MacKayla Lane lies naked on the cold stone floor of a church, at the mercy of the erotic Fae master she once swore to kill. Far from home, unable to control her sexual hungers, MacKayla is now fully under the Lord Master’s spell.…In New York Times bestselling author Karen Marie Moning’s stunning new novel, the walls between human and Fae worlds have come crashing down. And as Mac fights for survival on Dublin’s battle-scarred streets, she will embark on the darkest—and most erotically charged—adventure of her life.

He has stolen her past, but MacKayla will never allow her sister’s murderer to take her future. Yet even the uniquely gifted sidhe-seer is no match for the Lord Master, who has unleashed an insatiable sexual craving that consumes Mac’s every thought—and thrusts her into the seductive realm of two very dangerous men, both of whom she desires but dares not trust.

As the enigmatic Jericho Barrons and the sensual Fae prince V’lane vie for her body and soul, as cryptic entries from her sister’s diary mysteriously appear and the power of the Dark Book weaves its annihilating path through the city, Mac’s greatest enemy delivers a final challenge.…

It’s an invitation Mac cannot refuse, one that sends her racing home to Georgia, where an even darker threat awaits. With her parents missing and the lives of her loved ones under siege, Mac is about to come face-to-face with a soul-shattering truth—about herself and her sister, about Jericho Barrons…and about the world she thought she knew.

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Press (August 18, 2009)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Win Autographed Copy of Marked: House of Night Book One

In 16-year-old Zoey Redbird's world, vampyres not only exist but are also tolerated by humans. Those whom the creatures "mark" as special enter the House of Night school where they will either become vampyres themselves, or, if their body rejects the change, die.

If you're new to the series, already a fan or know someone that would enjoy the story, now's your chance to win a NEW copy autographed by P.C. Cast. I met the author at the RWA conference in Washington, DC in July and she gave me a copy.

Just think what a great holiday gift this would be for that special young adult in your life!

For one entry, just leave a comment with your email address. For two chances to win, leave a comment but also post a link back to this post on your blog. Next Monday, August 31st, I'll use the random number generator to pick a winner!

*Please note* The autograph on the inside is generic.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Aidan Turner from Being Human Is My Jericho Barrons

Anyone watching Being Human on BBC America? It's a series about a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost sharing a flat in Bristol struggling to hold on to what little humanity they have left. The dark humor makes the show even if the plot can be cliche at times. The actors do a good job with what they have.

Aidan Turner, the Irish actor that plays Mitchell, should go far imho--young and talented with rugged good looks. The accent definitely ratchets him up a few notches as well. Lenora Crichlow (the ghost) said it herself, calling him an "American pancake, sweet and lovely yet a bit bad." SOLD! Dark hair, dark eyes, the sexy stubble on his handsome face-he's how I envision Jericho Barrons, the alpha male in Karen Monings Fever series. Perhaps he'll be cast in the role when the books make it to the big screen. Rumor has it Guillermo del Toro, director of Hell Boy 2 and Pan's Labrinyth is interested.

Watch the vid for a peek at Aidan Turner on Being Human. My favorite part is when Mitchell is trying to help his friend George (the werewolf) hook up with a woman. George tells him not to get involved because it all just feels like playground and Mitchell responds under his breath, "Welcome to being a bloke."

Monday, August 17, 2009

Internet Piracy of Books

Please stop internet piracy.

Copied from Karen Marie Monings Blog:

Lately I've been hearing from authors and publishers that internet piracy of books has become such a significant problem that it’s destroying careers. Midlist authors are losing contracts because so many people are stealing the book instead of paying for it. Great new voices are being lost before they even really get to begin. I may be a hopeless idealist, but I believe most people don't think "Gee, I'm stealing a book." Rather they think, "Well, if it was illegal, surely someone would stop me, so it must be okay."

Unfortunately the Internet defies anyone's efforts to stop it. For every ten illegal copies pulled down, a hundred more go up. Passing a book to a friend is one thing. We all do it. But uploading it so thousands, and in some case tens of thousands can copy it? What are these people thinking? Do they want the authors to lose their jobs? Do they think authors shouldn't get paid for their work? I don't get the mind-set. But then I've spent most of my life working two jobs.

I think people don’t realize the crippling impact of what they’re doing when they download an illegal copy of a book, so I’m going to share a bit of personal information.

At a single illegal download site last month, over 70,000 copies of three of my books had been downloaded. 70,000 at one site! Does it hurt me financially? Yes. Will I survive it? Maybe. It depends on how much worse it gets. (Then there's the whole emotional component: creating springs from joy; to watch what you've created get stolen nihilates that joy. It's a tough tangle of emotions to balance.) Will less-successful authors survive it? No, many of them won’t. Many of them will lose their contracts, or quit writing because they can’t afford it anymore, and some will give up the ghost simply because they can't bear to see their hard work stolen. It is theft.

I love libraries. I love used book stores. But uploading books illegally so hundreds of thousands of others can download them illegally is wrong. It’s a violation of copyright, it’s illegal and it must stop. Illegal downloads end up driving prices higher for the actual book, and consign wonderful new voices to oblivion before they even get a chance to perfect their craft. I don’t know which bothers me more: the idea that I could lose my job, or the thought that there are fabulous storytellers out there I may never get to read because their contracts get cancelled due to poor sales. I love you guys and know you aren’t the ones doing it.

What I’m asking is that you raise the awareness of someone you know that is doing it. Save the midlist writers that may be the next Stephanie Meyer or Stephen King, and give anonymous theft a kick in the petunia!

If you come across a site offering illegal downloads of my books, please let us know at

Friday, August 14, 2009

Thorn Queen by Richelle Mead

Boring plot, terrible writing, flat characters. Nothing interesting happens until page 289 and even that was disappointing. The author breezes lightly over a terrifying, violent stream of events then has the heroine recover within days. Unbelievably ridiculous.

The author "tells" and doesn't "show", dialogue lacks snap, characters lack spark. I won't continue this series. And as for the Vampire Academy series, I hope she doesn't screw it up.

Volusian needs to kill Eugenie and put an end to our suffering.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Swoon by Nina Malkin

Swoon by Nina Malkin
  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Simon Pulse (May 19, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416974342
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416974345
From Amazon:
Swoon, Connecticut, stands proudly on its heritage and the good behavior of its Lilly Pulitzer–clad inhabitants, so semi-psychic New York transplant Candice (Dice) sticks out like a sore thumb. On the autumnal equinox, Dice’s sweet and gentle cousin Penelope suddenly changes into a dangerous vixen, and only Dice is able to see that she has been possessed. Dice knows she must exorcise Sinclair, the ghost of a handsome young man from the colonial era, but she has fallen deeply in love with the appropriately nicknamed Sin. Finally, Dice follows Sin’s directions for an exorcism, which frees Penelope from his hold and releases Sin into his own physical form. The golem-like Sin finally reveals his goal: to exact revenge on the descendants of those who unjustly hung him for the murder of his fiancée. Since Sin awakens the quaint town’s denizens to all of their suppressed urges, this steamy and suspenseful romance with a psychic slant and time-travel twist will pull mature teens.

4 Stars
Definitely for mature YA/adults that enjoy a dark tale. I enjoyed this unique story about a different supernatural creature because books are overly saturated by vamps, shifters and fairies, et al. Sinclair Youngblood Powers is a Golem with a goal. He wants revenge for the murder of his true love and their unborn child.

An entertaining read with intelligent vocabulary interspersed with teenage vernacular. Nicely written, fast paced. Dark and engaging. Witty with a touch of cool. One scene made me raise an eyebrow (because it's YA) but overall, a good story. When you read it, drop your preconceived notions about this book and just let the author take you on a journey.

Reader beware: contains sex, drugs, and alcohol. Bravo to Malkin for writing a gritty story that isn't starry-eyed fluff. Once again, mature YA only. The book is about love, friendship, loss, revenge, suffering, redemption, peace. The focus is on Sinclair (Sin), whose soul has been tormented for centuries over the death of his beloved Hannah, so when he sees his chance for revenge-even if it is on the ancestors that commited the crimes (afterall, he did curse them with this fate)-his spirit takes the chance. This is not a warm and fuzzy, but delves into deep emotional crevices where dark painful things lay. Unfortunately, I think readers are missing the point and only focusing on the havoc Sin brings to Swoon, CT, forgetting about his tortured soul and all he had to endure when he was alive. That's a big thing to miss, like, the whole point?

I understand the psychic bond between Sin and Dice, their attraction for each other and I see how, in the end, Sinclair is redeemed. Dice is able to open up about her own loss and suffering-the reason for her move to Swoon, CT in the first place.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Book Hooks: Just For Fun

In my writing class, we're discussing hooks and how to improve on them. We all know what they are and why authors need them.

Just for fun, I posted the first three paragraphs of some random novels. Which ones work for you and why? Which ones make your eyes glaze over or roll back in your head? Which ones would you buy? Is it the story that hooked you or the author's voice? Do you like stories that begin with setting or dialogue? Does it matter?

Link this post around for feedback. I'm not judging the authors abilities here. I am really just curious and a bit bored this afternoon :D

Personally, if a book starts with dialogue, I'll more often than not put it down. It's just disembodied voices. When I first pick up a book, I prefer to learn a bit about the characters, get some setting description, feel the tone, hear the author's voice.

Let me know what you think!

1. Fast Women by Jennifer Crusie:
The man behind the cluttered desk looked like the devil, and Nell Dysart figured that was par for her course since she'd been going to hell for a year and a half anyway. Meeting Gabriel McKenna just meant she'd arrived.

"Yes, I think you better to look into that," he said into the phone with barely disguised impatience, his sharp eyes telegraphing his annoyance.

It was rude to talk on the phone in front of her, but he didn't have a secretary to answer the phone for him, and she was a job applicant not a client, and he was a detective not an insurance salesman, so maybe the regular rules of social intercourse didn't apply.

2. Crow Lake by Mary Lawson

When the end came, it seemed to do so completely out of the blue, and it wasnt until long afterward that I was able to see that there was a chain of events leading up to it. Some of those events had nothing to do with us, the Morrisons, but were solely the concern of the Pyes, who lived on a farm about a mile away and were our nearest neighbors. The Pyes were what youd call a problem family, always had been, always would be, but that year, within the privacy of their big old gray-painted farmhouse,offstage as far as the rest of the community was concerned, their problems were developing into a full-scale nightmare. The other thing we didnt know was that the Pye nightmare was destined to become entangled with the Morrison dream. Nobody could have predicted that.

s no end to how far back you can go, of course, when youre trying to figure out where something started. The search can take you back to Adam and beyond. But for our family there was an event that summer catastrophic enough to be the start of practically anything. It took place on a hot, still Saturday in July when I was seven years old, and brought normal family life to an end; even now, almost twenty years later, I find it hard to get any sort of perspective on it.

The only positive thing you can say about it is that at least everything ended on a high note, because the previous day
, our last day together as a family, my parents had learned that Luke, my other brother, other than Matt, had passed his senior matriculation and won a place at teachers college. Lukes success was something of a surprise because, to put it mildly, he was not a scholar. I remember reading somewhere a theory to the effect that each member of a family has a role, ”the clever one, the pretty one, the selfish one. Once youve been established in the role for a while, youre stuck with it, no matter what you do, people will still see you as whatever-it-was,but in the early stages, according to the theory, you have some choice as to what your role will be. If thats the case, then early on in life Luke must have decided that what he really wanted to be was the problem one. I dont know what influenced his choice, but its possible that hed heard the story of Great-Grandmother and her famous book rest once too often. That story must have been the bane of Lukes life. Or one of the banes,the other would have been having Matt as a brother. Matt was so obviously Great-Grandmothers true intellectual heir that there was no point in Luke even trying. Better, then, to find what he was naturally good at, raising our parents blood pressure, say,and practice, practice, practice.

3. Blindness by Jose Saramago:

The amber light came on. Two of the cars ahead accelerated before the red light appeared. At the pedestrian crossing the sign of a green man lit up. The people who were waiting began to cross the road, stepping on the white stripes painted on the black surface of the asphalt, there is nothing less like a zebra, however, that is what it is called. The motorists kept an impatient foot on the clutch, leaving their cars at the ready, advancing, retreating like nervous horses that can sense the whiplash about to be inflicted. The pedestrians have just finished crossing but the sign allowing the cars to go will be delayed for some seconds, some people maintain that this delay, while apparently so insignificant, has only to be multiplied by the thousands of traffic lights that exist in the city and by the successive changes of their three colours to produce one of the most serious causes of traffic jams or bottlenecks, to use the more current term.

The green light came on at last, the cars moved off briskly, but then it became clear that not all of them were equally quick off the mark. The car at the head of the middle lane has stopped, there must be some mechanical fault, a loose accelerator pedal, a gear lever that has stuck, problem with the suspension, jammed brakes, breakdown in the electric circuit, unless he has simply run out of gas, it would not be the first time such a thing has happened. The next group of pedestrians to gather at the crossing see the driver of the stationary car wave his arms behind the windshield, while the cars behind him frantically sound their horns. Some drivers have already got out of their cars, prepared to push the stranded vehicle to a spot where it will not hold up the traffic, they beat furiously on the closed windows, the man inside turns his head in their direction, first to one side then the other, he is clearly shouting something, to judge by the movements of his mouth he appears to be repeating some words, not one word but three, as turns out to be the case when someone finally manages to open the door, I am blind.

Who would have believed it. Seen merely at a glance, the man's eyes seem healthy, the iris looks bright, luminous, the sclera white, as compact as porcelain. The eyes wide open, the wrinkled skin of the face, his eyebrows suddenly screwed up, all this, as anyone can see, signifies that he is distraught with anguish. With a rapid movement, what was in sight has disappeared behind the man's clenched fists, as if he were still trying to retain inside his mind the final image captured, a round red light at the traffic lights. I am blind, I am blind, he repeated in despair as they helped him to get out of the car, and the tears welling up made those eyes which he claimed were dead, shine even more. These things happen, it will pass you'll see, sometimes it's nerves, said a woman. The lights had already changed again, some inquisitive passersby had gathered around the group, and the drivers further back who did not know what was going on, protested at what they thought was some common accident, a smashed headlight, a dented fender, nothing to justify this upheaval, Call the police, they shouted and get that old wreck out of the way. The blind man pleaded, Please, will someone take me home. The woman who had suggested a case of nerves was of the opinion that an ambulance should be summoned to transport the poor man to the hospital, but the blind man refused to hear of it, quite unnecessary; all he wanted was that someone might accompany him to the entrance of the building where he lived. It's close by and you could do me no greater favour. And what about the car, asked someone. Another voice replied, The key is in the ignition, drive the car on to the pavement. No need, intervened a third voice, I'll take charge of the car and accompany this man home. There were murmurs of approval. The blind man felt himself being taken by the arm, Come, come with me, the same voice was saying to him. They eased him into the front passenger seat, and secured the safety belt. I can't see, I can't see, he murmured, still weeping. Tell me where you live, the man asked him. Through the car windows voracious faces spied, avid for some news. The blind man raised his hands to his eyes and gestured, Nothing, it's as if I were caught in a mist or had fallen into a milky sea. But blindness isn't like that, said the other fellow, they say that blindness is black, Well I see everything white, That little woman was probably right, it could be a matter of nerves, nerves are the very devil, No need to talk to me about it, it's a disaster, yes a disaster, Tell me where you live please, and at the same time the engine started up. Faltering, as if his lack of sight had weakened his memory, the blind man gave his address, then he said, I have no words to thank you, and the other replied, Now then, don't give it another thought, today it's your turn, tomorrow it will be mine, we never know what might lie in store for us, You're right, who would have thought, when I left the house this morning, that something as dreadful as this was about to happen. He was puzzled that they should still be at a standstill, Why aren't we moving, he asked, The light is on red, replied the other. From now on he would no longer know when the light was red.

4. Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde:

The Adrian Lush Show

Sample viewing figures for major TV networks in England, September 1985

The Adrian Lush Show (Wednesday) (Chat show) 16,428,316 The Adrian Lush Show (Monday) (Chat show) 16,034,921 Bonzo the Wonder Hound (Canine thriller) 15,975,462

Name That Fruit! (Answer questions for cash prizes) 15,320,340 65 Walrus Street(Soap opera; Episode 3,352) 14,315,902 Dangerously Dysfunctional People Argue Live on TV (Chat show)


Will Marlowe or Kit Shakespeare? (Literary quiz show) 13,591,203 One More Chance to See! (Reverse extinction show) 2,321,820

Goliath Cable Channel (1 TO 32)
Whose Lie Is It Anyway? (Corporate comedy quiz show) 428 Cots to Coffins: Goliath. All you'll ever need. (Docuganda) 9 (disputed)

Neanderthal Cable Network 4
Powertool Club Live (Routers and power planers edition) 9,032 Jackanory Gold (Jane Eyre edition) 7,219


The Ratings War

I DIDN'T ASK to be a celebrity. I never wanted to appear on The Adrian Lush Show. And let's get one thing straight right now-the world would have to be hurtling toward imminent destruction before I'd agree to anything as dopey as The Thursday Next Workout Video.

The publicity surrounding the successful rebookment of Jane Eyre was fun to begin with but rapidly grew wearisome. I happily posed for photocalls, agreed to newspaper interviews, hesitantly appeared on
Desert Island Smells and was thankfully excused the embarrassment of Celebrity Name That Fruit. The public, ever fascinated by celebrity, had wanted to know everything about me following my excursion within the pages of Jane Eyre, and since the Special Operations Network have a PR record on par with that of Vlad the Impaler, the Top Brass thought it would be a good wheeze to use me to boost their flagging popularity. I dutifully toured all points of the globe doing signings, library openings, talks and interviews. The same questions, the same SpecOps-approved answers. Supermarket openings, literary dinners, offers of book deals. I even met the actress Lola Vavoom, who said that she would simply adore to play me if there was a film. It was tiring, but more than that-it was dull. For the first time in my career at the Literary Detectives I actually missed authenticating Milton.

I'd taken a week's leave as soon my tour ended so Landen and I could devote some time to married life. I moved all my stuff to his house, rearranged his furniture, added my books to his and introduced my dodo, Pickwick, to his new home. Landen and I ceremoniously partitioned the bedroom closet space, decided to
share the sock drawer, then had an argument over who was to sleep on the wall side of the bed. We had long and wonderfully pointless conversations about nothing in particular, walked Pickwick in the park, went out to dinner, stayed in for dinner, stared at each other a lot and slept in late every morning. It was wonderful.

5. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

Sanderling Island, Georgia

Imagine a ruin so strange it must never have happened.

First, picture the forest. I want you to be its conscience, the eyes in the trees. The trees are columns of slick, brindled bark like muscular animals overgrown beyond all reason. Every space is filled with life: delicate, poisonous frogs war-painted like skeletons, clutched in copulation, secreting their precious eggs onto dripping leaves. Vines strangling their own kin in the everlasting wrestle for sunlight. The breathing of monkeys. A glide of snake belly on branch. A single-file army of ants biting a mammoth tree into uniform grains and hauling it down to the dark for their ravenous queen. And, in reply, a choir of seedlings arching their necks out of rotted tree stumps, sucking life out of death. This forest eats itself and lives forever.

Away down below now, single file on the path, comes a woman with four girls in tow all of them in shirtwaist dresses. Seen from above this way they are pale, doomed blossoms, bound to appeal to your sympathies. Be careful. Later on you'll have to decide what sympathy they deserve. The mother especially--watch how she leads them on, pale-eyed, deliberate. Her dark hair is tied in a ragged lace handkerchief, and her curved jawbone is lit with large, false-pearl earrings, as if these headlamps from another world might show the way. The daughters march behind her, four girls compressed in bodies as tight as bowstrings, each one tensed to fire off a woman's heart on a different path to glory or damnation. Even now they resist affinity like cats in a bag: two blondes--the one short and fierce, the other tall and imperious--flanked by matched brunettes like bookends, the forward twin leading hungrily while the rear one sweeps the ground in a rhythmic limp. But gamely enough they climb together over logs of rank decay that have fallen across the path. The mother waves a graceful hand in front of her as she leads the way, parting curtain after curtain of spiders-webs. She appears to be conducting a symphony. Behind them the curtain closes. The spiders return to their killing ways.

At the stream bank she sets out their drear picnic, which is only dense, crumbling bread daubed with crushed peanuts and slices of bitter plantain. After months of modest hunger the children now forget to complain about food. Silently they swallow, shake off the crumbs, and drift downstream for a swim in faster water. The mother is left alone in the cove of enormous trees at the edge of a pool. This place is as familiar to her now as a living room in the house of a life she never bargained for. She rests uneasily in the silence, watching ants boil darkly over the crumbs of what seemed, to begin with, an impossibly meager lunch. Always there is someone hungrier than her own children. She tucks her dress under her legs and inspects her poor, featherless feet in their grass nest at the water’s edge--twin birds helpless to fly out of there, away from the disaster she knows is coming. She could lose everything: herself, or worse, her children. Worst of all:
you, her only secret. Her favorite. How could a mother live with herself to blame?

6. Graceling by Kristin Cashore

IN THESE DUNGEONS the darkness was complete, but Katsa had a map in her mind. One that had so far proven correct, as Oll’s maps tended to do. Katsa ran her hand along the cold walls and counted doors and passageways as she went. Turning when it was time to turn; stopping finally before an opening that should contain a stairway leading down. She crouched and felt forward with her hands. There was a stone step, damp and slippery with moss, and another one below it. This was Oll’s staircase, then. She only hoped that when he and Giddon followed her with their torches, they would see the moss slime, tread carefully, and not waken the dead by clattering headlong down the steps.

Katsa slunk down the stairway. One left turn and two right turns. She began to hear voices as she entered a corridor where the darkness flickered orange with the light of a torch set in the wall. Across from the torch was another corridor where, according to Oll, anywhere from two to ten guards should be standing watch before a certain cell at the passageway’s end.

These guards were Katsa’s mission. It was for them that she had been sent first.

Katsa crept toward the light and the sound of laughter. She could stop and listen, to get a better sense of how many she would face, but there was no time. She pulled her hood down low and swung around the corner.

7. The Gravedigger's Daughter by Joyce Carol Oates

Chautauqua Falls, New York

One afternoon in September 1959 a young woman factory worker was walking home on the towpath of the Erie Barge Canal, east of the small city of Chautauqua Falls, when she began to notice that she was being followed, at a distance of about thirty feet, by a man in a panama hat.

A panama hat! And strange light-colored clothes, of a kind not commonly seen in Chautauqua Falls.

The young woman's name was Rebecca Tignor. She was married, her husband's name Tignor was one of which she was terribly vain.


So in love, and so childish in her vanity, though not a girl any longer, a married woman a mother. Still she uttered "Tignor" a dozen times a day.

Thinking now as she began to walk faster He better not be following me,
Tignor won't like it.

To discourage the man in the panama hat from wishing to catch up with her and talk to her as men sometimes, not often but sometimes, did, Rebecca dug the heels of her work shoes into the towpath, gracelessly. She was nerved-up anyway, irritable as a horse tormented by flies.

She'd almost smashed her hand in a press, that day. God damn she'd been distracted!

And now this. This guy! Sent him a mean look over her shoulder, not to be encouraged.

No one she knew?

Didn't look like he belonged here.

8. A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole

On an island in the Seine, against the nighttime backdrop of an ageless cathedral, the denizens of Paris came out to play. Emmaline Troy wound around fire-eaters, pickpockets, and chanteurs de rue. She meandered through the tribes of black-clad Goths who swarmed Notre Dame like it was the Gothic mother ship calling them home. And still she attracted attention.

The human males she passed turned their heads slowly to regard her, frowns in place, sensing something, but unsure. Probably some genetic memory from long ago that signaled her as their wildest fantasy or their darkest nightmare.

Emma was neither.

She was a co-ed -- a recent Tulane grad -- alone in Paris and hungry. Weary from another failed search for blood, she sank onto a rustic bench beneath a chestnut tree, eyes riveted to a waitress drawing espresso at a café. If only blood poured so easily, Emma thought. Yes, if it came warm and rich from a bottomless tap, then her stomach wouldn't be clenched in hunger at the mere idea.

9. Silent in the Grave Deanna Raybourn

To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband's dead body is not entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching upon the floor.

I stared at him, not quite taking in the fact that he had just collapsed at my feet. He lay, curled like a question mark, his evening suit ink-black against the white marble of the floor. He was writhing, his fingers knotted.

I leaned as close to him as my corset would permit.

"Edward, we have guests. Do get up. If this is some sort of silly prank—"

"He is not jesting, my lady. He is convulsing."

An impatient figure in black pushed past me to kneel at Edward's side. He busied himself for a few brisk moments, palpating and pulse-taking, while I bobbed a bit, trying to see over his shoulder. Behind me the guests were murmuring, buzzing, pushing closer to get a look of their own. There was a little thrill of excitement in the air. After all, it was not every evening that a baronet collapsed senseless in his own music room. And Edward was proving rather better entertainment than the soprano we had engaged.

10. Exit Strategy by Kelley Armstrong

I twisted my fork through the blueberry pie and wished it was apple. I've never been fond of blueberry, not even when the berries were wild and fresh from the forest. These were fresh from a can.

Barry's Diner advertised itself as "home of the best blueberry pie in New York City." That should have been the tip-off, but the sign outside said only Award-Winning Homemade Pie. So I'd come in hoping for a slice of fresh apple and found myself amid a sea of diners eating blueberry. Sure, the restaurant carried apple, but if everyone else was eating blueberry, I couldn't stand out by ordering something different. It didn't help that I had to accompany the pie with decaf coffee--in a place that seemed to brew only one pot and leave it simmering all day.

The regular coffee smelled great, but caffeine was off my menu today, so I settled for inhaling it as I nibbled the crust on my pie. At least that was homemade. I shifted on my seat, the vinyl-covered stool squeaking under me, the noise lost in the sounds of the diner--the clatter of china and silverware, the steady murmur of conversation regularly erupting in laughs or shouts. The door behind me opened with a tinkle of the bell, a gust of October air and a belch of exhaust fumes that stole that rich scent of fresh coffee.

11. An Inconvenient Wife by Megan Chance

An asylum!" William said. "Is there nothing else we can try? Nothing at all?"

My husband balanced on the edge of his chair. The electric light shone on his high forehead, glinting in the gray threading through his dark hair. He was only thirty-five. The aging was due to his profession, he said. Brokering was a hard business. But I knew it was not that at all. I knew it was because of me.

"You don't want surgery." Dr. Little adjusted his round spectacles. The myriad certificates that dotted the brown toile wallpaper framed him nicely, as if deliberately placed to give weight to his earnestness.

"But if you think it's best ..." I said.

Dr. Little turned his mild, thoughtful gaze to me. "An ovariotomy is not always successful. Your husband feels the risk is too great."

"You could die, Lucy," William said.

"But there's the chance it would work."

Dr. Little nodded. "Yes, of course. We've made great gains with surgery of this type, but I would not be so anxious to try it-not when there is another option. Beechwood Grove is an excellent institution, Mrs. Carelton. We've had good results with hysterics and neurasthenics. A few months of enforced rest may be effective."

"A few months," William said in a low voice. "You've said six months, at least. It would encompass the entire season. What would we tell people?"

Dr. Little shrugged. "Perhaps you could suggest that Mrs. Carelton has taken an extended tour abroad."

"Lucy has always hated Europe," my husband said.

"Something else, then," Dr. Little said impatiently.

William exhaled. "I don't know. An asylum ..."

12. The Patriot Witch by C.C. Finlay
April 1775

Proctor Brown stopped in the middle of bustling King Street, close enough to Boston’s long wharf to smell the fishing boats, and wished he hadn’t worn his best linen jacket. He rolled his shoulders to loosen the fit, but it still felt too tight. His mother had given him the linen jacket two years ago for his eigh teenth birthday, and he’d already outgrown it. Taking over all the work on the farm hadn’t made his shoulders any smaller.

The elegantly lettered sign of the British Coffee- House swayed over him, above the door of a narrow bay- windowed building squeezed between aged storefronts. Emily Rucke waited inside. He would be excited to see Emily again except her father was going to be there too. It figured–the first time he was to meet Emily’s father, and he would show up in a jacket that was two years too small. A fine impression that was going to make.

He tugged the sleeves down one last time and stepped resolutely toward the door. A rattling cart loaded with barrels of molasses careened toward him, and Proctor jumped out of the way to keep his feet from being crushed by the wheels.

His elbows bumped into someone behind him.

“I beg your pardon–” Proctor began to say as he turned.

A bright flash cut off Proctor’s sentence and made him avert his eyes. When he blinked them clear, four men in the red coats of the British marines blocked his way, two bullies and two officers. The se nior officer glared at Proctor; the flash had come from something at his throat, but the light faded and Proctor no longer saw it. The marines snickered, mistaking Proctor’s averted eyes for fear. The largest one loomed over Proctor, shoved him.

“Watch where yee’re goin’, and watch yeer manners,” he said in a thick Scots accent.

Proctor’s urge to strike back surprised him by its violence, but he mastered the feeling in an instant, not wanting to ruin his best jacket before meeting Emily’s father. He lifted his head and met the big Scot’s eyes.

13. Mark of the Demon by Diana Rowland
I could hear the intruder breaking into my house.

Unfortunately, it was in the same instant that the demon appeared before me.

The sound of shattering glass upstairs disrupted my focus for only a fraction of a second, but it was enough for the arcane portal to shift from my control and leap away from me like an untethered water hose. I made a frantic grasp at the portal, cold sweat breaking out under my arms as I struggled to wrench the power back into place. My heart slammed in my chest as I fought the uncontrolled energy, seizing each strand to bind and anchor it. My technique was raw and inelegant, but I didn't give a crap. I was only interested in surviving, not in how pretty it looked.

It felt like an eternity, but it was merely several frenzied seconds before I had the wildly fluctuating potencies settled and calmed. I cautiously loosened my hold as I took several deep, ragged breaths, struggling to slow the mad galloping of my pulse. That had been far too close for my peace of mind. If that loss of focus had come just a few -seconds earlier, I most likely would have been ripped apart—either by the maelstrom of the arcane portal I'd opened in the basement of my house or by the claws of the demon I'd just summoned through that portal.

I exhaled a shuddering breath, finally releasing my hold on the portal as I looked with no small amount of triumph at the massive demon on one knee before me, his head lowered and his wings tucked along his back. He had remained utterly still throughout my battle with the portal, and I silently thanked whatever powers existed that I had already sealed the terms with him before losing control. I could feel a grin spread across my face. I'd done it. I had summoned a reyza, the highest of the twelve levels of demons.

I was officially a -full—fledged summoner.

14. Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning

A year earlier . . .

July 9. Ashford, Georgia. Ninety–four degrees. Ninety–seven percent humidity.

It gets crazy hot in the South in the summer, but it’s worth it to have such short, mild winters. I like most all seasons and climes. I can get into an overcast drizzly autumn day–great for curling up with a good book–every bit as much as a cloudless blue summer sky, but I’ve never cared much for snow and ice. I don’t know how northerners put up with it. Or why. But I guess it’s a good thing they do, otherwise they’d all be down here crowding us out.

Native to the sultry southern heat, I was lounging by the pool in the backyard of my parents’ house, wearing my favorite pink polka–dotted bikini that went perfectly with my new I’m-not-really-a-waitress-pink manicure and pedicure. I was sprawled in a cushion-topped chaise soaking up the sun, my long blonde hair twisted up in a spiky knot on top of my head in one of those hairdos you really hope nobody ever catches you wearing. Mom and Dad were away on vacation, celebrating their thirtieth wedding anniversary with a twenty-one day island-hopping cruise through the tropics, which had begun two weeks ago in Maui and ended next weekend in Miami.

I’d been working devotedly on my tan in their absence, taking quick dips in the cool sparkling blue, then stretching out to let the sun toast drops of water from my skin, wishing my sister Alina was around to hang out with, and maybe invite a few friends over.

My iPod was tucked into my dad’s Bose sound dock on the patio table next to me, bopping cheerily through a playlist I’d put together specifically for poolside sunning, comprised of the top one hundred one-hit wonders from the past few decades, plus a few others that make me smile–happy mindless music to pass happy mindless time. It was currently playing an old Louis Armstrong song–“What a Wonderful World.” Born in a generation that thinks cynical and disenchanted is cool, sometimes I’m a little off the beaten track. Oh well.

15. The Thorn Queen by Richelle Mead

Sad fact: lots of kids know how to use knives and guns.

I'd been one of them, but instead of pursuing a life of crime, I'd trained to be a shamanic mercenary. This meant that while my friends were at dances and football games, I'd been out banishing spirits and wrestling down monsters with my stepfather. On the upside, I grew up never fearing muggers or any other assailants. On the downside, an adolescence like that really screws with your social development.

It meant I'd never really been like other kids. I'd had some friends, but compared to their world, mine had been terribly stark and terribly deadly. Their dramas and concerns had seemed so petty next to mine, and I could never fully relate. As an adult now, I still couldn't really connect to kids because I had no shared experiences to draw on.

Which made my job today that much more difficult.

"Go ahead, Polly," crooned the girl's mother, smiling with overplump lips. Too much collagen, I suspected. "Tell her about the ghost."

Polly Hall was thirteen but wore enough makeup to rival a forty-year-old whore. She sat slouched against the back of a couch in her family's perfectly decorated house, chewing gum loudly, looking everywhere but at us. The more I studied her, the more I decided she probably did have problems. I suspected they had less to do with supernatural influences and more with having a mother who had named her Polly and let her wear thongs. It was an unfortunate side effect of Polly's low-cut jeans that I could see the aforementioned thong.

After a minute of silence, Mrs. Hall sighed loudly. "Polly, dear, we've been over this. If you aren't going to help us, we can't help you."

Smiling, I knelt down in front of the couch so I could look the girl in the eyes. "It's all right," I told her, hoping I sounded sincere and not like an after-school special. "I'll believe whatever you tell me. We'll get it taken care of."

16. Seducing Mr. Darcy by Gwyn Cready

"Did you say Mr. Darcy's pants?" Dinah asked, choking on her espresso.

Flip tucked a long strand of blond hair behind her ear, happy to shock her more upright friend. "Well, it's more polite than the first thing that popped into my head."

Eve grinned. "Which was?"

"Mr. Darcy's pants and a breath mint."

The women laughed loud enough to turn heads at the outdoor café.

"If I were Lizzy Bennet and the heroine of Pride and Prejudice," Flip said in only a slightly lower voice, "and had just bagged Darcy, the hottest man in literature, forget the engagement gift. I'd want his pants, coat, shirt and -- well, he could probably keep the boots -- for a hardy screw in the hedgerow." She considered the image forming in her head. "Oh, yeah. Definitely keep the boots."

Dinah put on her fiery high school English teacher look, the look that transformed her from a happy, bisexual Julianne Moore look-alike to Magenta in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. "Lizzy Bennet is not that kind of girl," she said hotly.

"And that, my dear Dinah," Flip replied, "is the trouble with Pride and Prejudice. Not enough hedgerow."

Eve, whose spiky black bob and sleek attorney suit gave her the look of an upscale punk rocker, considered the sandstorm of sugar she was stirring into her iced tea. "I think our friend Flip has a hedgerow fixation."

"You know what they say about hedgerows," Dinah said with a superior smile. "If you're not careful, all you'll end up with is pricks."

17. Night Play by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Stunned, Bride McTierney stared at the letter in her hand and blinked. She blinked again.

It couldn't really say what she thought it said.

Could it?

Was it a joke?

But as she read it again for the fourth time, she knew it wasn't. The rotten, cowardly SOB had actually broken up with her via her own FedEx account.

Sorry, Bride,

But I need a woman more in keeping with my celebrity image. I'm going places and I need the kind of woman at my side who will help me, not hinder me. I'll have your things delivered to your building. Here's some money for a hotel room tonight in case you don't have any vacant rooms.

Best, Taylor

"You sorry, sycophantic, scum-sucking dog," she snarled as she read it again and pain engulfed her so profoundly that it was all she could do not to burst into tears. Her boyfriend of five years was breaking up with her ... through a letter that he'd charged to her business account?

"Damn you to hell, you filthy snake!" she snarled.

Normally Bride would sooner cut her own head off than cuss, but this ... this warranted serious language.

And an ax to her ex-boyfriend's head.

She fought the urge to scream. And the need she felt to get into her SUV, go over to his television station, and pound him into itty-bitty bloody pieces.

Damn him!

A tear rolled down her cheek. Bride wiped it away and sniffed. She wouldn't cry over this. He so wasn't worth it.

Really, he wasn't, and deep inside she wasn't surprised. For the last six months, she'd known this was coming. Had felt it every time Taylor put her on another diet or signed her up for another exercise program.

18. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keys

progris riport 1 martch 3

Dr Strauss says I shoud rite down what I think and remembir and evrey thing that happins to me from now on. I dont no why but he says its importint so they will see if they can use me. I hope they use me becaus Miss Kinnian says mabye they can make me smart. I want to be smart. My name is Charlie Gordon I werk in Donners bakery where Mr Donner gives me 11 dollers a week and bred or cake if I want. I am 32 yeres old and next munth is my brithday. I tolld dr Strauss and perfesser Nemur I cant rite good but he says it dont matter he says I shud rite just like I talk and like I rite compushishens in Miss Kinnians class at the beekmin collidge center for retarted adults where I go to lern 3 times a week on my time off. Dr. Strauss says to rite a lot evrything I think and evrything that happins to me but I cant think anymor because I have nothing to rite so I will close for today...yrs truly Charlie Gordon.

progris riport 2-martch 4

I had a test today. I think I faled it and I think mabye now they wont use me. What happind is I went to Prof Nemurs office on my lunch time like they said and his secertery took me to a place that said psych dept on the door with a long hall and alot of littel rooms with onley a desk and chares. And a nice man was in one of the rooms and he had some wite cards with ink spilld all over them. He sed sit down Charlie and make yourself cunfortible and rilax. He had a wite coat like a docter but I dont think he was no docter because he dint tell me to opin my mouth and say ah. All he had was those wite cards. His name is Burt. I fergot his last name because I dont remembir so good.

I dint know what he was gonna do and I was holding on tite to the chair like sometimes when I go to a dentist onley Burt aint no dentist neither but he kept telling me to rilax and that gets me skared because it always means its gonna hert.

So Burt sed Charlie what do you see on this card. I saw the spilld ink and I was very skared even tho I got my rabits foot in my pockit because when I was a kid I always faled tests in school and I spilld ink to.

I tolld Burt I saw ink spilld on a wite card. Burt said yes and he smild and that maid me feel good. He kept terning all the cards and I tolld him somebody spilld ink on all of them red and black. I thot that was a easy test but when I got up to go Burt stoppd me and said now sit down Charlie we are not thru yet. Theres more we got to do with these cards. I dint understand about it but I remembir Dr Strauss said do anything the testor telld me even if it dont make no sense because thats te
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