Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday - Favorite Second Books in Series

My name is Lenore Appelhans and I have a problem. All too often, I start series and then never get to book two.  I realized this as I was trying to find books to put on today's list.

The actual Top Ten Tuesday topic today is Top Ten Best Sequels Ever, but I've decided to list only sequels I liked MORE than the first book. You know, just because I like to complicate my life like that. That means no Catching Fire or Pandemonium or Scarlet because even though I love them, I still prefer The Hunger Games and Delirium and Cinder.  I also couldn't include Lola and the Boy Next Door or Fire, because I haven't read Anna and the French Kiss or Graceling yet. (I know!)

BUT I did find seven books that fit my strict guidelines. So that's something.

The Likeness by Tana French. This second book in the Dublin Murder Squad series is still my absolute fave of the published four. Why? Because I love Cassie as a character and it contains one of my very favorite tropes -- impersonating a doppelganger. From my reviewIt's a murder mystery, yes, but it's also so much more: Author Tana French looks at class divisions and how history still effects the present, asks what "real life" really is, and explores the slippery nature of identity.

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness. My favorite book in the trilogy. I love how complex this whole book is and we really get to know Mayor Prentiss, one of the best villains of all time. Also, no major animal deaths in this one! Yay!  From my reviewIn KNIFE, they were pushed to their physical limits. In ASK they are pushed to their emotional and moral limits by two very ruthless leaders, each giving their arguments as to why they are the lesser of two evils.

Thumped by Megan McCafferty. Bumped was a close to perfect book for me, so intelligent and zany. But I loved Thumped just as much. And it looks like this may be the only instance I can think of where I loved books one and two of a series equally. From my reviewThese two books were so much fun, I wish Megan McCafferty would write 100 more books in the series.

Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde. (Read before blog) To me, this is the best book in the entire Thursday Next series. I love the fact that she jumps into Poe's The Raven and that she's the target of threatening coincidences. It's just so much fun. I liked it more than The Eyre Affair (maybe because I never read Jane Eyre?)

The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner. This series is out of my usual comfort zone, but I adore it so, so much, and a lot of that has to do with Gen's growth as a character (and the amazing twists of course).  From my reviewWhat I most enjoyed about the story though was Gen’s character growth. In book 1, he was clever, certainly, but also borderline unlikable for most of the book. Here he actually begins to grow into a swoonworthy romantic lead, and the transformation is stunning.

Rebel Heart by Moira Young. (My review + playlist) Hmmm... this one was a tough call, because there are certain things I liked more about Blood Red Road (Jack!), but De Malo is such a great adversary for Saba, that I'm going to go ahead and put this on the list.

The Forgetting Curve by Angie Smibert. (My review) I enjoyed this more than Memento Nora because I liked narrators Aiden and Velvet more than Nora and Micah. Plus the plot thickens and there's more conspiracy theory to dig into.

Honorable mentions:

Linger by Maggie Steifvater. Going to give a shout out to this book for introducing Cole St. Clair.
Prodigy by Marie Lu. I didn't put this on the list proper, because I still haven't gotten over my broken heart.
Star Cursed by Jessica Spotswood. Same reason as Prodigy. The end gutted me.

Which sequels did you like better?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Return of Cat Tuesday (86) + Red Panda

Long time no cat! How about a cat in a box?

Oh! And bonus red panda photo because CUTE!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Picture Book Review + Author Interview: The Monstore by Tara Lazar (Giveaway)

It's no secret I love monster picture books, and THE MONSTORE is an excellent addition to my collection. First of all, how cool is it that there's a store where you can buy monsters?  Zach goes there to purchase a monster to scare his annoying little sister Gracie out of his room ... but the monster doesn't work like Zach hoped.  So he goes back to the store only to hear "NO RETURNS" (I love this subtle commentary on the customer service experience, haha) and have the salesman convince him to buy another monster.  What happens when Zach's house is overrun with monsters that he can't return? Read the book to find out! (hint: lots of fun!!)

I had the chance to ask author Tara Lazar a few questions about her favorite aspects of THE MONSTORE.

What is your favorite scene in the book?

My favorite scene is the one where Gracie and the monsters have totally overtaken Zach's room. There's so much to discover in that spread, from Mojo with Zach's underwear on his head, to the purple monster who looks like a balloon.

What is your favorite line in the book?

Well, this never used to be my favorite line, but it is now: "A monster threesome is more gruesome than a twosome." When I wrote it, I thought it was too predictable in terms of the rhyme. But everyone who read the manuscript adored that line. I daresay it's grown on me.

Ha! I love that line, too! What setting was most fun to write?

The first paragraph was the most fun, definitely. I wanted the store to be in a secret location that only kids would know about. I think the opening lines set the mood well, but James' illustration brings it to a new level. That page seems to glow. I don't know how he does it!

It does glow! Who is your favorite supporting character - one you could see getting a spin-off book - and why?

I think my favorite is a character I didn't even write about! James invented an eyeball monster he named "Peepers" who appears on about 15 pages, either tucked away or hidden in plain sight. To me, Peepers feels like a "quality control" character who spies on all the monsters to make sure they're doing what they were purchased to do, but of course, they don't and Peepers doesn't care, he just joins in the fun!

I love it when illustrators add extras like that. What has been your favorite part of your publishing journey so far?

Just what I thought it would be--having someone as talented as James illustrating my story and bringing it to life. It is a very cool thing to see your characters in a book. When I write, I almost never have an image of what my characters look like. So getting those illustrations is a phenomenal surprise, better than Christmas and birthdays and Fourth of July fireworks all rolled into one!

Thanks for stopping by!

For a chance to win a copy of THE MONSTORE, fill out this form by Sept 18, 2013.

More about THE MONSTORE at Tara Lazar's website!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Time After Time Playlist Song + The Better Than Ezra Experience

Back in May, Tamara Ireland Stone and I drove from an event in St Louis to the Romantic Times Convention in Kansas City.  After only a couple hours of sleep and fueled by coffee and anticipation, we kept ourselves awake by sharing some of our favorite songs. Obviously it was an amazing road trip that I'll never forget.

Tamara has a real love affair with music. Her debut novel Time Between Us (read my review) was inspired by Tamara's desire to have the power to time travel back to epic shows by bands like Nirvana and The Smashing Pumpkins.  In one of the first chapters of the sequel Time After Time, Bennett and his sister travel to a small club in Munich to see Coldplay before they were big. I mean, how cool is that?!

So, when I found out that Tamara was doing a playlist blog hop for Time After Time, I begged her to be part of it. And when I saw that there was a Better Than Ezra song on Anna's playlist, I knew I had to have it.

To me, Good is a song about being apart which makes it an apt choice for Anna and Bennett who are in the ultimate long distance relationship across time. When you're together it's good. And when you're not, you're left with this yearning feeling, not knowing if you'll ever see each other again.

Better Than Ezra is the soundtrack to my college years. I didn't start listening in earnest until I saw the video for In The Blood, and this face:

And then I had the chance to go to a concert in Lawrence, KS at the end of October 1996. The concert was the highest of highs, not only did I feel the music deeply in my bones, I also got a backstage pass for being such an enthusiastic fan.

On the way home from that concert, a deer hit my car while we were listening to the song Rewind.  Rewind has the following lyric that I love, and it struck me as so ironic at the time.

In any case, over the course of the next two years, I traveled to any BTE show in KS, MO, OK or TX, culminating with my last show at The Hard Rock Cafe in Las Vegas in November of 1998 to bring me up to a total of 11 shows. Almost every journey was fraught with some sort of calamity - a speeding ticket, a flat tire, running out of gas - but those concerts will always hold a special place in my heart.

As will Tamara's novels, and Bennett and Anna.

More about Time After Time (add to Goodreads):

Calling Anna and Bennett’s romance long distance is an understatement: she’s from 1995 Chicago and he’s a time traveler from 2012 San Francisco. The two of them never should have met, but they did. They fell in love, even though they knew they shouldn't. And they found a way to stay together, against all odds.

It’s not a perfect arrangement, though, with Bennett unable to stay in the past for more than brief visits, skipping out on big chunks of his present in order to be with Anna in hers. They each are confident that they’ll find a way to make things work...until Bennett witnesses a single event he never should have seen (and certainly never expected to). Will the decisions he makes from that point on cement a future he doesn't want? 
Told from Bennett’s point of view, Time After Time will satisfy readers looking for a fresh, exciting, and beautifully-written love story, both those who are eager to find out what’s next for Time Between Us's Anna and Bennett and those discovering their story for the first time.

AND because today is a Playlist Double Dip, you can get a Bennett Song & enter a giveaway for signed copies of the books over at Once Upon a Prologue

Monday, September 2, 2013

Rogue Blog Tour

Wow - one of my Apocalypsies buddies (debut authors 2012) has the third book, ROGUE, in her  CROAK trilogy coming out in just one week. Gina Damico has been busy! Round of applause for Gina!

Hey hey Croak fans! Welcome to my blog tour / photo hunt / Roguestravaganza! 

From now until ROGUE's release on September 10th, each stop on the tour will reveal an image that represents a chapter in the book - could refer to setting, plot, an important object, mood, or whatever other diabolical visualizations with which I feel like tormenting my dear readers. Each image also contains a hidden letter...though really, they're not that well hidden. (If you have eyes, you should be able to spot them.) Collect the letters every day, and at the end of the tour I'll hold a contest, the winner of which will receive signed and annotated copies of the complete trilogy. (For a complete description of the contest, tour schedule, and links to the stops you might have missed, check out the blog tour page on my website.)

This photo is for Chapter 15. I will let the image do the talking.

Thanks for having me! Good luck everyone!

Plot Summary: 

Teenage Grim Reaper Lex’s power to Damn souls is getting out of control. She's a fugitive, on the run from the maniacal new mayor of Croak and the townspeople who want to see her pay the price for her misdeeds. Uncle Mort rounds up the Junior Grims to flee Croak once again, but this time they're joined by Grotton, the most powerful Grim of all time. Their new mission is clear: fix his mistakes, or the Afterlife will cease to exist, along with all the souls in it.

The gang heads for Necropolis, the labyrinth-like capital city of the Grimsphere. There, they discover that the Grimsphere needs a reboot. To do that, the portals to the Afterlife must be destroyed...but even that may not be enough to fix the damage. Things go from bad to worse, and when at last the fate of the Afterlife and all the souls of the Damned hang in the balance, it falls to Lex and her friends to make one final, impossible choice.


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