Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Ana of California by Andi Teran + a Giveaway

With all the retellings coming out these days I'm almost surprised that Andi Teran is the first (that I know of) to take on Anne of Green Gables. That's right, if you didn't know then now you do - Ana of California, out now from Penguin, is a take on the beloved Lucy Maud Montgomery classic. Thanks to the publisher, I get to offer up a set - Ana and Anne - to give away today. Be sure to read through to the end to enter.

After being booted from her latest foster home, Ana is certain she's bound for yet another group home. But her social worker has one last trick up her sleeve: Ana is to be sent to the small town of Hadley, California, to live and work with the Garbers on their farm.

Siblings Abbie and Emmett were looking for a farm hand for the season, ideally a college student who would work for class credit, but found no takers. So when Ana is offered up, Abbie doesn't say no. Emmett has his concerns about taking on a girl for an employee, but Ana soon convinces him otherwise. 

Now, on her best behavior, Ana is determined to make things work. But trouble has a way of finding her...

I had some concerns going into this book, mainly that in taking on a story that is so close to so many readers' hearts that Teran might have taken on a little more than she could handle. Thankfully, Teran proved me oh, so wrong!

It was impossible for me not to love Ana and her story. It's a modern twist on the classic, moving it from Canada to California. Ana is an orphan who lost her parents to violence and crime. In this case, it's Emmett who's somewhat hardened against the girl and Abbie who has almost no reservations at all about taking her in before she arrives. Even the hair dying incident and the unforgettable cordial episode are given their own updated twist.

I find the most successful adaptations, for me as a reader, are those that maintain the spirit of the original while standing apart as their own story and Andi Teran has done that in Ana of California. This is not a play by play retelling of Anne set in California, Ana is her own character and her story is her own as well. She and Anne would be best of friends, though. Bosom buddies for sure!

Rating: 4.5/5

And now for that fabulously awesome giveaway I promised. Again, the publisher is letting me offer up an Ana/Anne set - that's right, one of you will win both Andi Teran's Ana of California and Lucy Maude Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables! To enter just fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, July 20. Open US only and no PO boxes please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

(Bonus for book clubbers: the good folks at Penguin have prepared an online book club kit for Ana of California. You can find that here.)

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Guest Post by Gail Z. Martin

Good morning, everyone! I am happy to have one of the hardest working women in fiction - Gail Z. Martin - here today to promote her upcoming Iron & Blood (due out from Solaris July 7).

Before I hand things over to Gail, I wanted to tell you a bit about the new release. You might know her from her epic fantasy series (Chronicles of the Necromancer, Fallen Kings Cycle, and Ascendant Kingdoms) or her urban fantasy work (Deadly Curiosities/Deadly Curiosities Adventures). She's also a frequent contributor to anthologies and pretty massive web presence as well. Now with Iron & Blood, she's tackling steampunk! That's right, Gail Z. Martin's latest is the first in a new steampunk series coauthored with her husband, Larry N. Martin.

Here's a bit about the book from the publisher:

New Pittsburgh in 1898, a crucible of invention and intrigue, the hub of American industry at the height of its steam-driven power. Born from the ashes of devastating fire, flood and earthquake, New Pittsburgh is ruled by the shadow government of The Oligarchy.

In the abandoned mine tunnels beneath the city, supernatural creatures hide from the light, emerging to feed in the smoky city known as ‘hell with the lid off.’ Jake Desmet and Rick Brand, heirs to the Brand & Desmet Import Company, travel the world to secure treasures and unusual items for the collections of wealthy patrons, accompanied by Jake’s cousin, Veronique ‘Nicki’ LeClercq .

Smuggling a small package as a favor for a Polish witch should have been easy. But when hired killers come after Jake and a Ripper- style killer leaves the city awash in blood, Jake, Rick and Nicki realize that dark magic, vampire power struggles and industrial sabotage are just a prelude to a bigger plot that threatens New Pittsburgh and the world.

Stopping that plot will require every ounce of Jake’s courage, every bit of Rick’s cunning, every scintilla of Nicki’s bravura and all the steam-powered innovation imaginable.

Sounds amazing, right?! She had me at steampunk, honestly, but abandoned mine tunnels with supernatural creatures AND a Jack the Ripper wannabe... yep. I'm sold!

And now to hand things over to Gail!

Four Ways Well-Meaning Readers Put Their Favorite Authors Out of Business 

By Gail Z. Martin 

Readers love their books, and no readers that I've ever met would intentionally make it harder for their favorite series to keep coming out with books. But in today's changing marketplace, the publishing world is in turmoil. And whether readers realize it or not, they are part of the equation, since how they acquire their books and what they do with the book after purchase impacts whether or not more books by that author will continue to be published.

Here are a couple of ways well-meaning readers may accidentally be putting their favorite authors out of business--and how you can change that.

#1 Not buying a series until all the books are out. I write three ongoing series at a time--an epic fantasy series, an urban fantasy series and a steampunk series. Two of those series are open-ended, meaning that for the Deadly Curiosities books and the Jake Desmet Adventures, the books stand alone and there isn't a set number of volumes in the series. But for my Chronicles of the Necromancer series and my current Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, there are a fixed number of books in that main story arc.

I can't tell you how many times someone has said, "This looks good. But I always wait until all the books are out in a series before I buy any because I like to binge-read them."

Problem is, authors need to eat on a regular basis, and publishers want to see interest in a series in order to keep bringing the books out. When readers put off buying individual books in multi-book series until the whole series is out, publishers have no indication of reader interest and are likely to discontinue the series because it isn't popular or profitable. If that happens, your favorite author might not get another contract from that publisher because the last book/series 'failed'. And yes, your purchase matters. You. Because if everyone says "my purchase is just one in a million," then no one buys the book. Every purchase makes a difference.

No one says you have to read books as you buy them. Most readers have a 'to be read' pile a mile high. Do your favorite author a favor and buy the new book in his/her series (preferably in the first 90 days and as close to the publication date as possible) to show the publisher you want to keep on seeing new books from this author/series. This goes double for indie authors who don't get advance checks and depend on month-to-month sales revenue, but it's also true for those of us who write for big publishers. We're all only as valuable to publishers as our last sales report. Your purchase makes a difference.

#2 Returning ebooks for a refund after they've been read. I remember hearing stories about girls who would buy a prom dress, not cut off the tags, wear it to the big dance, and then try to return it to the store for a refund. Stores get testy about this for a reason. It's a form of theft. The consumer gets the value but doesn't pay for the value. Returning ebooks for a refund not because they were ordered by mistake or have a technological flaw or aren't what you thought they were, but instead returning them after the reader has finished reading the book is also a form of theft, because the author receives nothing for the transaction.

What about libraries? Libraries pay a special rate to publishers based on the intention to loan out a book. Publishers factor in the library cost knowing that most books rent a certain number of times, and so the library cost has to recoup a portion of those lost sales. In that case, it's like a store that rents tuxedos--they have factored the temporary use into the price. Authors get paid for sales to libraries. We make nothing on returned books.

#3 Downloading off pirate sites. Yes, I know that some people make the argument that pirated books are a form of 'advertising'. That pirates may tell their friends about an awesome book, and then the friend may go actually buy a copy. That pirates wouldn't have bought a book because they have no money and therefore a 'sale' isn't lost. Imagine how far that defense would go if someone shoplifted a physical book from the local bookstore. Pirate sites are a form of shoplifting and book theft. It's taking a product that is for sale without paying for it.

I'd much rather have someone borrow my book from the library or even borrow it from a friend who paid for it than download off the pirate sites. At least in those cases, someone purchased a copy of the book to start with. And while authors don't get any money from books re-sold at yard sales or second-hand bookstores, there again at least the book was purchased one time. (By the way, if you get your books mainly through libraries, yard sales and re-sale shops, please 'pay' the author with a review on Amazon or Goodreads. That would be a huge help!)

#4 Being addicted to free books. I understand the appeal of sites like Bookbub and Kindle Unlimited, especially for power-readers, people who read a book a day or multiple books a week. And I get the need to watch the budget. But writing books is time-consuming and actually work (to put out a good, well-written, well-edited and well-produced product). A surprising number of 'big-name' authors already have to work a second job because publishing isn't as lucrative for most people as readers might think. So getting paid for books matters a lot to authors, especially as advances from publishers shrink.

BookBub is a service publishers arrange to get wide early visibility with high volume readers. So it's a calculated risk, just like doing a book giveaway on Goodreads. The gamble is trading a certain number of free books with the hope of word of mouth and/or online reviews against lost revenue. It works when the freebies result in buzz and reviews. It fails when people take the free books and don't give back the reviews/buzz. So if you sign up for a program like BookBug or register to win free books on Goodreads, Reddit or other sites that do giveaways, please help the author out with a positive review when you can honestly do so.

If you really love your favorite authors and series, please help those writers keep writing by using the power of your wallet and also by posting reviews on online sites. Your favorite authors are depending on you!

Check out my new Steampunk novel Iron and Blood, co-written with Larry N. Martin, set in an alternative history Pittsburgh in 1898. In stores July 7!

The Hawthorn Moon Sneak Peek Event includes book giveaways, free excerpts and readings, all-new guest blog posts and author Q&A on 28 awesome partner sites around the globe. For a full list of where to go to get the goodies, visit

About the authors:

Gail Z. Martin writes epic fantasy, urban fantasy and steampunk for Solaris Books and Orbit Books. In addition to Iron and Blood, she is the author of Deadly Curiosities and the upcoming Vendetta in her urban fantasy series;The Chronicles of The Necromancer series (The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven, Dark Lady’s Chosen) from Solaris Books and The Fallen Kings Cycle (The Sworn, The Dread) as well as Ice Forged, Reign of Ash, and War of Shadows in The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga from Orbit Books. Gail writes two series of ebook short stories: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures and the Deadly Curiosities Adventures and her work has appeared in over 20 US/UK anthologies.

Larry N. Martin fell in love with fantasy and science fiction when he was a teenager. After a twenty-five year career in Corporate America, Larry started working full-time with his wife, author Gail Z. Martin and discovered that he had a knack for storytelling, plotting and character development, as well as being a darn fine editor. Iron and Blood is their first official collaboration. On the rare occasions when Larry isn’t working on book-related things, he enjoys pottery, cooking and reading.

Find them at, on Twitter @GailZMartin or @LNMartinauthor, on, at blog and, on Goodreads free excerpts, Wattpad

Big, big thanks to Gail for being here today and to the folks at Solaris for setting up the guest post. 

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Books of 2015 So Far

I've decided to jump on board with Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the topic is: Top Ten Favorite Reads of 2015 So Far

Monday, June 29, 2015

Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Happy Monday, Readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Erika Johansen's second installment in the Queen of the Tearling series, Invasion of the Tearling.

With the Mort Queen's soldiers at their border, things are looking bleak for the Tearling and it seems it's only a matter of time before they reach New London. Until then, though, Kelsea continues to search for a way to defeat her enemy. When Kelsea begins to have visions of another woman in a very different time and place, it seems an answer to her problems may be forthcoming. But only if she can decipher the meaning of the visions and her connection to them. 

This book. This book! I had trouble summing this up coherently and just as much trouble reviewing it. I loved it - it's completely amazing - but you need more than that don't you, readers?

First I'll say that this is not only a worthy successor to the first in the series, The Queen of the Tearling, but that Johansen has taken the story to completely unexpected places. I found with the first outing that this series was very similar in a lot of ways to Rae Carson's Girl of Fire and Thorns. Happily, these similarities end completely with Invasion.

We left Queen with just a hint of what was to come and just a tiny bit of information about the world prior to the Tear. With Invasion we're given a much better look at the origins of the Tear and where the people who inhabit it come from - via Lily.

Oh, Lily! I love Lily! Holy crap! Her story, which Kelsea sees through visions, was such a surprise. Honestly, I did expect some exploration of the world's history but not in this way.

Don't think this means that Kelsea or the happenings of Mortmesne and the Tearling take a backseat, though. Lily's story is woven in fabulously while Kelsea continues to try to find ways to heal her kingdom AND defeat their enemy. All of this means a lot of stress for our heroine, stress she's dealing with in possibly damaging ways. Tearling and Kelsea are on the brink and it's only a matter of time before we'll find out whether they'll end in disaster or rise to truly great heights. (Til book three releases, anyway.)

Rating: 5/5

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here.

For more on the series, you can visit the official Queen of the Tearling site here. You can also like the series on Facebook.

Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream by Laura O'Neill, Ben Van Leeuwen, & Pete Van Leeuwen with Olga Massov

So apparently July is National Ice Cream Month and the third Sunday in July (July 19 this year) is National Ice Cream Day. Who knew? That - and summertime in general - makes the release of the new Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream cookbook pretty perfectly timed.

I can remember homemade ice cream as a kid: it was an event. An EVENT. It meant breaking out that big bucket with the blister inducing crank. You needed serious muscle to get that going - and to get an actual edible serving of ice cream. As you can imagine it wasn't something we did very often.

These days homemade ice cream is MUCH easier with most of the machines on the market doing the major work for you. We got one of our very own as part of our wedding registry but after using it to make sherbet and slushies few times it ended up being shelved and fairly forgotten.

Until now!

The Van Leeuwens run their very own ice cream shop in Brooklyn, so the name is likely known by many in those parts. Way over here in the midwest it was their cookbook that served as introduction for me. And what a cookbook! With a focus on quality ingredients and phenomenal flavors, the Van Leeuwens have inspired me to break out the machine and get to making ice cream again.

Many of the recipes are custard based but the authors provide perfect step-by-step instructions for pretty foolproof results. Recipes for additions like Homemade Marshmallows, Candied Citrus Peels, and Pistachio Shortbread are included and there's a chapter on other icy treats like Sorbet and Granitas, too.

Two of my favorite things about the book, though, are the vegan chapter and the egg whites chapter. Now, I don't have any dietary restrictions but I know plenty of people who do and I love the fact that the authors have included an entire chapter devoted to vegan ice creams (and a recipe for making your own Cashew Milk). It means not having to miss out on all the fun if you can't eat dairy or eggs. Even better, for me, is the chapter on what the heck to do with all those leftover egg whites! Custard ice creams require yolks - lots of yolks - and I personally can't stand the idea of that many egg white omelets or of tossing the egg whites out.

Whether you're devoted to the classics or are an adventurous ice cream lover, I promise you this book has something (many things) to tempt your palate. There are chocolate options galore - Milk, Spicy, Mocha Almond Fudge, and White Chocolate with Almond-Cocoa Nib Brittle, to name a few - and favorites like Vanilla, Strawberry, and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, but there are also some truly unique and imaginative flavors as well. We had to test the Sour Cream Blueberry and the Honey with Roasted Fig and Walnut immediately. (Both are AMAZING but the Blueberry was the overwhelming favorite. The sour cream in the base is magical!) I even tried my hand at the Citrus-Scented Angel Food Cake, which given my baking issues required quite a bit of courage. I'm pleased to announce that the recipe seems to be cursed kitchen proof.

Note: You need an ice cream maker to use this book, but if you've got that and a desire for truly awesome ice cream, you're set!

Rating: 5/5

Sunday, June 28, 2015

New Releases 6/30/15

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

White Crocodile by K. T. Medina

Ana of California by Andi Teran

As Night Fallsby Jenny Milchman

The Map of Chaos by FĂ©lix J. Palma

Run You Down by Julia Dahl

The Assassins by Gayle Lynds

What Doesn't Kill Her by Carla Norton

Summer Secrets by Jane Green

The Tomorrow War by J. L. Bourne

The Tide Watchers by Lisa Chaplin

The Bones of You by Debbie Howell

Little Girls by Ronald Malfi

Murder, D.C. by Neely Tucker

The Hollow Queen by Elizabeth Haydon

The Mountain Story by Lori Lansens

The Insider Threat by Brad Taylor

The English Spy by Daniel Silva

Ghost Fleet by P.W. Singer & August Cole

Death by Tiara by Laura Levine

The mask by Taylor Stevens

Artemis Invaded by Jane Lindskold

Death in Brittany by Jean-Luc Bannalec

The Red: First Light by Linda Nagata

Local Girls by Caroline Zancan

Between Us and the Moon by Rebecca Maizel

New on DVD:
While We're Young
Last Knights
The Gunman

New reviews at
The Perfect Egg by Teri Lynn Fisher and Jenny Park
The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook ed by Kate White
Styx & Stone by James W. Ziskin

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Pre Pub Book Buzz: Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal

There is a bevy of great books being released this summer, readers, and I couldn't be more excited! J. Ryan Stradal's debut novel, Kitchens of the Great Midwest, is just one of the titles I've had my eye on and it sounds fabulous!

Here's a bit about the book from the publisher:

Cynthia Thorvald falls in love with a fellow sommelier and out of love with family life, leaving behind newborn daughter Eva and a devastated husband Lars. Despite this, Lars is a determined father, and instills his passion for food in the infant Eva, feeding her the finest produce and a carefully planned menu including pureed pork shoulder and osso buco. Eva grows and her family is torn apart, but she finds solace in food and the friendship of her two cousins, Braque and Randy, eventually becoming a globally renowned chef, famous for her legendarily opulent pop-up dinners. KITCHENS OF THE GREAT MIDWEST weaves together the perspectives of eight people in Eva Thorvald’s life with the bake-offs, eating contests and potluck dinners that shaped her story of pain, spirit, and resilience.

Kitchens of the Great Midwest is due out from Pamela Dorman Books on July 28 and I have a couple of extras to share with you today - to get you just a bit more excited!

The first is a link to the publisher's online book club kit, which features discussion questions, recipes for snacks, and other fun stuff for your book club get-together.

The second is an interview with J. Ryan Stradal himself:

A Conversation with J. Ryan Stradal 

Q: It’s clear from your book that you have great knowledge and love for food. Does this come from childhood or discovered in adulthood?

A: My interest in food began when I got my driver’s license, which took three tries – I was a famously terrible driver as a teenager. Growing up in a small town in Minnesota, I had a lot of wanderlust and a yearning to see the world, but couldn’t swing international travel on the money I was making as a janitor at the Steamboat Inn and as a clerk at Sam Goody. Therefore, with my high school girlfriend Stacy (who shared similar dreams) we hopped in my mom’s VW Golf, drove north on Highway 61 and hit all of the unusual and ethnic restaurants we could find up in the Twin Cities.

At college outside of Chicago, this trend continued. The parents of my college girlfriend Carly were really into wine; I went on my first trip to Napa Valley with them one year. That’s where another lifelong interest began.

Living in Los Angeles – where I finally learned to drive well; it was that or be killed – there’s no shortage of exceptional and interesting cuisine. Food is still a major motivation behind the international travel I’ve finally been able to do as an adult; my favorite culinary destination in the last few years has been Malaysia, no contest.

Q: Did the recipes featured in each chapter come from family/friend recipes, or did you have to research them? What made you decide on these dishes?

A: Five of the eight recipes came from the 1984 edition of “First Lutheran Church Women,” a cookbook released by the First Lutheran Church in Hunter, North Dakota, where my grandmother was born and raised. My great-grandmother has recipes in that volume. So some of these dishes have been in the family for generations.

I wanted to choose food that was particular to the Midwest, so things like lutefisk, sweet corn, venison, and dessert bars fit that bill, but I also didn’t want to merely adhere to the typical. My dad grows Serrano peppers in his garden in central Minnesota, and I know plenty of Minnesotans like him who enjoy spicy food. While not stereotypically representative of the Midwest, I wanted to demonstrate that passion as well, and I feel that Eva’s interest in Chocolate Habanero peppers also is a bit of a metaphor for my own wanderlust and interest in faraway places. I think it’s extremely typical for teens and pre-teens to venerate what’s exotic to them. That was absolutely true for me.

Q: What does the “J.” stand for?

A: It’s the result of a family argument. My dad’s side of the family is 100% Czech, mostly from a small town called Domazlice, and my dad was especially close to his “Stryc Joe” (stryc is Czech for uncle) who died shortly before I was born. My parents wanted to name me after him, but my superstitious Czech grandmother was having none of it. As a compromise, my parents named me “J. Ryan,” with the “J.” implicitly, but not legally, standing for “Joseph.” As a result, my birth certificate, passport, etc., all read “J. Ryan.” That said, the short answer is that the “J.” doesn’t stand for anything – it’s just “J,” like the “S” in Harry S Truman or the J in Homer J Simpson. I didn’t even know about the “J.” until I was ten or eleven, when I came across my birth certificate. Until then, my relatives and friends called me Ryan. Some still do.

Q: Did you draw Eva from any people or experiences in your life?

A: Eva is the largest amalgam of people I’ve ever written, but she’s mostly me, especially as represented in her pre-teen years. I didn’t grow exotic peppers in my closet, but I had pretty obscure and all-encompassing obsessions, and I was relentlessly bullied on the bus. It was a tough time, and my interests – which helped me feel connected to a larger world outside of this small, hurtful one – kept me going.

Q: What made you decide to tell Eva’s story mostly through the point-of-view of other characters?

A: I set out to write a story about redemption through empathy, and it seemed like an inherently empathetic structure; I wanted Eva to face conflict and challenges, but I didn’t want there to be a villain or an anti-hero as such. I felt that, in the case of the characters who may initially be the hardest to like, getting in their heads and feeling their pain was a way of ameliorating any “straw man” aspects to their characterizations.

Q: Do any of the characters reflect your own personality or experiences?

A: All of them, I think. I feel that at one point or another, I have been every single one of these people. There’s only one character directly based on myself, though, and I’ll leave it for the readers to figure out who that is.

Q: In addition to being a writer, you have also worked on a number of reality shows. Do those experiences factor into your stories? Did working on those shows give you any good material or inspiration?

A: The shows I worked on were very different from each other and in each case, I didn’t interact with the talent very much. Maybe there are vestiges of TV personalities in characters like Octavia. I do have to say that editing unscripted TV is an extremely useful narrative exercise. When you’re trying to get a twenty-nine minute rough cut down to twenty-one minutes and thirty seconds, and you only have a few days, at most, to do it, you have to develop an instinct for the necessary. Fortunately, I learned from some of the best – folks like Jeff Conroy, John Gray, and Phil Segal, who have all won multiple Emmys. However, I have never explicitly written about TV or based any character on anyone I met in that world. Too soon, maybe.

Q: What’s the best meal you have ever had?

A: Extremely tough question. I can think of several, and they all were really more about the people present at the meal than the food involved. In cities like Los Angeles that are confederations of individuals split from families and lifelong friends, we form our own families of choice, and food is a unifier, a value system, a mode of expression, an attractor. While the food may have been unbelievable at some of the gatherings I remember most, the people involved were, invariably, the point of the whole affair. I think that’s ultimately true for Eva as well.