The Night Reader

I read at night. I used to be a daytime reader, but then I had kids. I guess I’m still a daytime reader, if you count the books I read to my children, which I generally don’t, because they’re not for my own, personal pleasure (though I couldn’t wait to read more of THE FROG PRINCESS, by E.D. Baker, and WE ARE IN A BOOK, by Mo Willems, to my girls).

Reasons for Night Reading:

1)   Focus: I tend to shut out the world when I read, and I just can’t do that when I’m on mommy-duty. Reading at night allows me to totally relax and become absorbed by the story…until a little person in the next room wakes up, at which time I might mutter, “Curses! A pox on me for a bungling fool! Shall a mam, at the witching hour, yield to the wiles of a delightsome tome whilst her toddlings drowse? Nay!” I like historical fantasy novels, by the way.

2)   Relaxation: I love falling asleep to a good book! Notice I said “good” book. I’ll fall asleep to anything, when I’m tired. So nobody take offence, okay? The only drawback to falling asleep with a book is having it hit you in the face at that moment when the tiger in your dream jumps out of the bushes at you. Experience has taught me to read paperbacks in bed: less screaming involved. Worst book to read in bed? WAR AND PEACE, for sure. Not only does it pack a wallop, but it’s so thick, your hands will go to sleep with the effort of keeping the book upright and open on your chest. I once read a book in the bathtub at night. Once.

3)   Quiet: This goes with “Focus,” I suppose. But I love peace and quiet when I’m reading—because I read aloud, in my head. Does that make sense? I don’t read aloud aloud, but I do read in my head. Aloud. Um…who said that? Is anyone there? Don’t you dare jump out at me! Hello…?

4)   Munching: I like to eat when I read. If I really love a book, then I’ll eat something really special at the same time, in order to make it a more thoroughly pleasurable experience. I can’t do that during the daylight hours, because my kids will want a piece of my chocolate bar. And I don’t share (Okay, I do, but I’m reluctant about it.).

How about you? Are you a daytime reader, a nighttime reader, or an all-the-time reader? Or a doctor’s office reader? Or a drive-through-at-the-bank reader? Or a waiting-for-the-kiddos-at-ballet-lessons reader? Or…well, you get the idea. When do you read?

Interview with Author Teri Harman

I’m so excited to have Teri Harman, author of the Young Adult/New Adult novel, BLOOD MOON, here on my website! I enjoyed BLOOD MOON very much, and I am thrilled to be a part of Teri’s blog tour. If this is the first time you’ve heard about the tour, let me tell you, it’s not something to miss; but if you have missed it, you can catch up on all the happenings by referring to this post on Teri’s website, where she lists links to all the websites that are participating in the tour.

Now, on to the interview!

Kim Harris Thacker:  BLOOD MOON is a wonderfully romantic novel, but it is unique among love stories in that it begins with the two lead characters falling into a stars-aligning-souls-a-blazing-hearts-a-pounding love. Why did you choose to begin your novel this way, instead of sticking with the more traditional (and, unfortunately, somewhat cliché) method of bringing two lovers together near the end of the book?

Teri Harman:  I purposely went against the cliché. I thought it would be interesting to avoid the normal he-loves-me-he-love-me-not relationship drama and start with a strong bond. I wanted Willa and Simon to be together from the start. Outside sources may threaten their bond, but they will always fight to protect their love. Also, I didn’t want the story to be about them coming together; it’s not really a romance, although it is often romantic.  I wanted it to be about them discovering the magic as a couple, supporting one another.

KHT:  In BLOOD MOON, all the witches have different gifts that give them particular powers. Here’s how Wynter (a Light witch) explains the Six Gifts to Simon and Willa (two new witches):

Every witch is born with a specific, dominant talent or ability. There are six in all. The four elemental gifts: Earth, Air, Water and Fire. And the two gifts connected to the Otherworld, or the world beyond our own: Mind and Dreams.

If you could have any one of the Six Gifts Wynter lists in BLOOD MOON, what would it be and why?

TH:  I think I’d have to go with Willa’s Gift of Dreams. I’ve always had vivid dreams and in fact a few of the scenes in BLOOD MOON were inspired by the nighttime creations of my mind. It’d be so interesting to see real events in dreams and talk to the spirits of the dead.

KHT:  Speaking of Wynter, Simon, and Willa, how did you come up with the names for your characters? They’re wonderful!

TH:  Thanks! Names are critical; I take a lot of time to pick the right ones. I’ve always loved the name Simon, so he was easy. Willa was harder. At first, her name was actually something else – Lynette, I think – and it totally did not work for the character that formed in my head. So I started looking for something else. Willa struck me. It fits her and it has ties to the willow tree in the books. Wynter’s name had to be something unique. She’s an Earth witch so I wanted it to sound like someone with strong ties to nature. I came across this name and it was perfect.

KHT:  In BLOOD MOON, you jump from time period to time period, visiting characters that, by the end of the story, are all integral cogs in a complex, interconnected wheel. How do these time leaps serve your story? Did you like writing in one particular time period more than another?

TH:  I love stories that move between the past and the present, that have a symbiotic relationship between what’s happening now and what happened then. Also, witches have a rich and long history – I wanted to honor that in this story.

It’s easier for me to write in the past. Maybe it’s because of my obsession with period dramas. It wasn’t always easy to switch between the two, but it was really interesting.

KHT:  Who is your favorite heroic character in BLOOD MOON and why? Who is your favorite villain and why?

TH:  It’s nearly impossible for me to pick between Willa and Simon – it’s their joint story – but I suppose I have a soft spot for Simon. His back story is so tragic and he’s struggled so much. He’s easy to root for.

Archard is the main villain in BLOOD MOON, but my favorite is Bartholomew. He has a small role in this book, but a big one in BLACK MOON, book 2.

KHT:  On your website, you have links to your Pinterest boards for your books. How does having a collection of images inspire you? Or is it just for fun?

TH:  It helps me with visuals and descriptions, but I did it mainly for readers. I wanted readers to be able to check out the boards and experience more details, more visuals for the book. It’s also just fun.

KHT:  BLOOD MOON is the first book in “The Moonlight Trilogy.” What can you tell us about the other, forthcoming books?

TH:  Book 2 throws into question everything that happened in book 1. Evil abounds in expected and unexpected places. Simon struggles the most as his powers grow out of control. The ending is a killer! Book 3 is still up in the air. I need to make some serious decisions about what will happen.

KHT:  I’m from a small town just south of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, which is one of the settings of BLOOD MOON. Does this mean I might be part witch? Just kidding. What I meant to say is, in your book, you mention that magical abilities are generally inherited. Does this mean we’ll learn more about Willa’s and Simon’s parents in future books?

TH:  Hmm. That has yet to occur, but it’s a great idea!!

KHT:  You will publish a work of literary fiction, entitled A PAINTED LIFE, in 2014. Here’s the synopsis, from your website:

Saffron is a painting. Brought to life, unknowingly, by the hand of the artist, she is color on canvas, but she is also so much more. From her prim white chair, surrounded by sunflowers, pretty Saffron watches the world move beyond the edges of her silver frame.

At the beginning it is only her eyes that can move, but as her story progresses so do her abilities. A finger that twitches, tears that stream down her canvas, her heart suddenly bursting into rhythm. These miraculous, but confusing changes bring thoughts of life beyond her frame. Thoughts that over time become more of a torture than a pleasure.

As mysterious as her ability to be alive, is the way her various owners talk about her, the way they look at her. Especially the way Mr. Emmett Charles looks at her. This handsome, complicated stranger, a cotton mill owner and an elite of late nineteenth century Boston society, looks at her with a layered sadness that only makes her wish for more things she cannot possibly have or become.

Saffron tries to resolve herself to life as a painting. But what happens when a dream won’t die? She wants more, but can she dare to reach for a real life beyond her frame, a life with Emmett?

Brimming with blissful romance, intriguing magic realism and curious mystery, A Painted Life, is a refreshingly unique novel about reaching beyond our frames and having the endurance to follow a dream.

This sounds so romantic and intriguing! How was your writing experience for this book different from that of BLOOD MOON?

TH:  It was very different! A PAINTED LIFE is told in first person and chronologically. Plus, it’s such a different story. I loved writing this book soo much. Saffron’s journey is so close to my heart. I can’t wait to hear what readers think.

KHT:  You’ve been writing articles about books for a while, now. How is article writing different from novel writing? Is it the same in any way?

TH:  Article writing is brief, to the point. There are few flourishes; it’s all about facts and quick-access information. Novels are ALL about the details, about getting into the deep layers of things. It’s so much more interesting and so much more fun. However, writing articles and learning to be concise has helped me write better when I write novels. It’s helped me pull back when I tend to go overboard.

KHT:  On your website, you mention that you are a stay-at-home mom. How do you balance being a mom with being a professional writer?

TH:  Haha! Well, it’s pretty much chaos all the time. I am constantly interrupted while I work, it’s rarely quiet, but I gets things done. I’ve trained myself to still be productive while every day life is happening (most the time anyway). It also really helps to have a consistent schedule, so the kids know when it’s time for mommy to work and when we can play or read books. They are good kids too (most the time :) ). Plus I have a wonderful husband who helps a lot.

KHT:  Tell us a little bit about your recent book launch party at The King’s English. How did you feel, standing in front of everyone to talk about your very own book?

TH:  It was so emotional. I started crying the moment everyone started clapping for me to come up to speak. I’d dreamed of that moment so many times over the last 6 years. Standing there and seeing my book in people’s hands was like standing inside a dream. It was blissful and felt so exactly right. What an incredible night!

KHT:  What is one piece of advice that you can give to aspiring writers?

TH:  Three words: Persistence, hope and hard work. Those three things can get you anywhere.

Thank you so much for joining us today, Teri! I wish you the very best in all you do, and I look forward to reading more of your work!

For those of you who haven’t yet entered BLOOD MOON’S big giveaway, there’s still time! Click here to be referred to my June 22nd post, where you will find an entry form widget.

You can learn more about Teri by clicking on these links:  Teri on FacebookTeri on TwitterTeri’s Website.

Coming SOON: Interview with Author Teri Harman!

I’m so pleased to announce that this coming Wednesday (June 26th), I will be interviewing author Teri Harman, whose debut Young Adult/New Adult novel, BLOOD MOON (“The Moonlight Trilogy Book One,” published by Jolly Fish Press), hit bookshelves earlier this month! My interview with Teri will be part of her blog tour, details of which can be found here.

BLOOD MOON is an exciting, modern day witch story where romance, adventure, and magic–both Light and Dark–abound. And I totally have to comment on the cover of this book, because it’s absolutely gorgeous! I mean, it even has different phases of the moon just above the title! And little witchy symbols by the series name! Lookee here:

 Pretty, no? Jolly Fish did a great job of making this a really lovely publication. And while I don’t like to advocate judging a book by its cover, the story itself is also really wonderful–completely deserving of its beautimus binding.

Here’s the synopsis for BLOOD MOON, from Goodreads:

Willa dreams of true events, and her best friend is a ghost. Simon can heal any wound with a touch and senses others’ emotions, intentions. All their lives they’ve felt alone in their bizarre abilities, hiding behind a facade of normalcy, wondering why and how. The night Simon walks into the Twelve Acres Diner and meets Willa face to face, in a swirl of electric heat, they are bound to one another and glimpse the magic of who they are.

Across town a witch is held prisoner in the derelict basement of an old Victorian house. One night as it rains, she dares to reach her filthy, scarred hand out the window. Willa, walking home from work, recognizes the pathetic hand from a recent, terrible dream.

After a daring rescue of the witch, Willa and Simon are catapulted into the alluring but dangerous world of witchcraft and the magic of The Six Gifts. Answers to all their questions are within reach, but they’ve stepped into the middle of a deadly fight for the Powers of the Earth. Do they stay, risk their lives on the promise of power, or walk away?

Teri Harman’s groundbreaking debut novel, the first installment in The Moonlight Trilogy, completely reinvents the modern concept of witches and magic. With its authentic translation of the history of witches into a fresh and entertaining package with unprecedented characterization, Blood Moon is sure to capture readers from the first page.

Make sure you stop by this Wednesday for Teri’s interview! And in the meantime, sign up for the great giveaway by clicking on the Rafflecopter link below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You can also click here to view a short TV spot about BLOOD MOON on Utah’s Studio 5.

See you on Wednesday!

Book Review: THE RAVEN BOYS, by Maggie Stiefvater

Confession #1:  Aside from this first installment in The Raven Cycle, the only other Maggie Stiefvater novel that I have read is THE SCORPIO RACES, which I loved with a passion (and which you can read a review of here). Keep Confession #1 in mind as you read Confession #2, which follows, because Confession #2 may not hold water upon reading Maggie’s other books (I suspect it will, though).

Confession #2:  Maggie Stiefvater is one of very few authors whose books I don’t dare to put down, for fear that I’ll miss something crucial. Her writing makes me feel like the action is happening right now, as I read.

Have you ever had to go to the bathroom at the movie theater, but known that if you did go, you’d miss out on something really important? Yeah. That’s how I felt about THE RAVEN BOYS and THE SCORPIO RACES. I had to devour them, because if I didn’t, these books, which have a life all their own, would run off without me! What a feeling.

I finished THE RAVEN BOYS a couple of nights ago, and after laying in my bed for a while, all stunned, I recalled that the last time I had felt that “wait for me!” way about a book was a year earlier, when I was reading THE SCORPIO RACES. So yes, I really like Maggie Stiefvater’s writing. I’ll let you know how I feel about her books that came out before THE SCORPIO RACES once I’ve finished them. Even if I don’t love them, let it be known that I do love THE SCORPIO RACES and THE RAVEN BOYS, and I can’t wait until Book 2 of The Raven Cycle comes out!

Okay, enough of my gushing. On to the review.

A synopsis of THE RAVEN BOYS from Maggie’s website:

Richard “Dick” Gansey has it all: family money, good looks, devoted friends. But he’s on a quest for much more: Glendower, a legendary Welsh king.

Blue Sargent, the daughter of the town psychic, has been told for as long as she can remember that if she ever kisses her true love, he will die. Surrounded by the Raven Boys — the rich boys at prestigious Aglionby Academy — she never thought this prediction would be a problem. When Gansey and his Raven Boys enter her life, however, she’s not so sure.

When news about this book first started making the rounds, I have to admit that I cringed a bit. The synopsis sounded so…high school. Giggle at me now, if you like. I am well aware that reading YA fiction often means reading about high school and all the stuff that goes along with it. But reading YA fiction does not always mean reading about high school, and it’s those YA non-high school books that I tend to enjoy more than the high school-ish ones. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read plenty of YA high school books that I’ve really liked. But as a general rule, I don’t love contemporary angst. And that’s what THE RAVEN BOYS sounded like, which, after reading and adoring THE SCORPIO RACES, made me feel kinda sad.

But. But.

Oh, friends, lemme tell you, this ain’t no high school drama. Forget your preconceived notions (if you have any, like I did) about forbidden love and misunderstood rich kids, and get ready to be blown away by phenomenal characters. Sure, the plot is great. Super exciting, and all that. I mean, I didn’t want to leave the theater to go potty for fear I’d miss out on something, right? But it wasn’t the plot I was afraid of missing out on–it was the characters. They were so real to me, even as I was constantly being surprised by them. Maggie writes such incredible characters. Especially the boys. Blue was really, really interesting, and I thought she was exactly the female lead this story needed, but it was the Aglionby boys who gripped my heart and jostled it a bit. Especially Ronan. Ah, Ronan. You scare me a whole lot, young man, but I like it.

At any rate, Maggie handles a huge cast of characters not just with skill, but with seeming ease. Every stinkin’ one of her characters is different from the other, and they’re all so believable. They all have super rich backstories, which we only get glimpses of, really, but you know those backstories are there, just under each page’s skin. Because the characters are real people. No stock characters here, folks.

And that’s all I want to say about this incredible book, because if I say anything else, I’ll ruin the story for you. And I don’t want to do that. Do yourself a favor, though, and read it! Also read THE SCORPIO RACES. While you’re reading those, I’ll read Maggie’s other stuff.

Speaking of reading an author’s complete works, have you ever done that? Whose? Did you love every book? Sound off in the comments!

*Note:  Because many of you come to this site to find reviews and recommendations of what I consider to be “wholesome” reading material (which is what I generally read and review), I do want to say that there is plenty of cussing in THE RAVEN BOYS (and by “cussing,” I mean some F-words), along with a few references to sexual activity. Be forewarned.

Book Review: DRAGONSWOOD by Janet Lee Carey

Have you ever stared into a fire and been completely mesmerized by what you’ve seen? There’s something about the heat and the ever-changing shapes and colors of flames that makes a blaze seem magical.

But what if fire really were a tool for the magically-gifted? What if you could see the future in flame?

In the second book in the “Wilde Island Chronicles,” blacksmith’s daughter Tess keeps her firesight a secret, knowing that if word of her strange gift were to get out in Harrowton, the witch hunter would see to it that she was burned at the stake. But the hungry, impoverished villagers are looking for someone to blame for the suffering they’ve endured ever since their king died and his heir left for the Crusades, and soon, Tess is arrested under the charge of having been seen in Dragonswood–the forest where only the fey or those who are in league with Satan can freely pass without going insane.

Under torture, Tess gives the names of her two dearest friends, both of whom entered Dragonswood with her once before, to search for berries. After surviving the water test in the miller’s pond, Tess escapes the witch hunter and tells her two friends that they have no choice but to leave Harrowton with her, before the witch hunter can arrest them, too. But something in Dragonswood calls to Tess–has always called to her–and, inevitably, she must answer.

I enjoyed reading DRAGON’S KEEP years ago, and I always hoped that Janet Lee Carey would write another book that takes place in the wonderful, magical world she created. DRAGONSWOOD satisfied my yearning to know “what happens next,” and left me excited for future Wilde Island books.

The characters in DRAGONSWOOD are terrific. I don’t want to spoil the story, so I’ll only tell you what I loved about a few characters:

  • Tess is everything one would want in a heroine: She’s fiesty, but also fearful. She’s loyal, but she makes huge mistakes. She’s brave, but she’s heedless. In other words, she’s utterly believable.
  • The witch hunter, Lady Adela, is so scary! The tale is told throughout the kingdom that she was abducted by witches a few years before our story takes place, and was tortured. The witches cut the tendon in one of her ankles and also put out one of her eyes. After she was rescued, the fey gifted her with a glass eye that can, supposedly, help her to pick witches out of a crowd. Creepy. And what’s even creepier is that you can’t help but feel a little bit sorry for this villain! That’s what makes a truly great villain, I think–someone who is not just purely villainous, but also human.
  • Then there’s the Gray Knight. Who is he? Well, he accompanies Lady Adela on her witch hunts, but there’s something more to his character–something I can’t wait to learn more about in subsequent books!

The plot was fast-paced and satisfying, if somewhat predictable. Again, I don’t want to spoil the story, so I won’t go into details. I did admire the pacing, for sure. There was no lull in the mid-section, like there is in many fantasy novels, owing, perhaps, to the fact that even when Tess found safety for herself and her friends, that safety seemed under constant threat of shattering into a million nasty knives of scariness. Pretty cool.

The settings were terrific. The human world seemed like something out of early English history–all except for the part where the royal line contains dragon blood, which manifests itself in scaled limbs or golden eyes with slit pupils. They fey world was lush and suitably lecherous (nothing unsuitable for a young adult audience). The dragons were…awesome. Carey made them lovable and unpredictable at the same time, rather like a few cats I’ve known.

The epilogue was my favorite section of the book, since it tied up all the loose strings but also introduced tantalizing new ideas (which I hope Carey added for the sake of the next book).

I hope you’ll read DRAGONSWOOD! While it was nice to have read DRAGON’S KEEP first, I don’t think it’s essential.

What are some of your favorite dragon books?