Saturday, 30 April 2011

Mel's Random April

Wow, what a month! Here in the UK we've had gorgeous weather for much of it - it's been like summertime! Add to that Easter so plenty of chocolate (which does melt in sunshine, but still tastes good - I speak from experience!) and of course, yesterday was the Royal Wedding. I don't know how much coverage those of you around world had, but in the UK it's been more or less continuous all month! But I won't complain as
a) we got an extra day of work for it
b) it was happy news so that made a nice change for papers to focus on a happy occasion
c) I hope they'll be happy together 

For me though the event of the month was the addition of sun in April - have you see how pretty the Thames is by Richmond in sunshine? No? Have a look...
River Thames by Richmond on a sunny day in April
 Lovely, isn't it? :-)

So, how was my reading month?

Breathless - Dean Koontz (BCC's Mystery & Suspense Challenge)
Amercian Gods - Neil Gaiman (FTC's Speculative Fiction Challenge)
River Marked - Patricia Briggs
Remember Me 2: The Return - Christopher Pike (TBV's YA of the 80s and 90s)
Chamed Life - Diana Wynne Jones

In The Arms Of Stone Angels - Jordan Dane
The Twisted Tale Of Stormy Gale - Christina Bell
Aftertime - Sophie Littlefield
The Restorer - Amanda Stevens
Spirit Dances - C.E. Murphy

Guest Posts
Sarah raved about The Gone Away World - Nick Harkaway which meant I had to go out and get my own copy!
Emma wrote a wonderful retrospective on much missed children's author Diana Wynne Jones

Other Posts
Sophie Littlefield stopped by for an insightful Q&A session
Books Remembered focused on The Ancient Future by Traci Harding
I confessed how little I've read with Pride and Prejudice one of my major bookfails

Plus some combined envy in my weekly wishlist posts, smuggness in my Mailbox and some guilt in my Throwback Thursdays.

So with all that in mind my reading challenges status looks like this:
BCC's Mystery & Suspense Challenge - 6 Read, 6 Left to read
FTC Speculative Fiction Challenge - 7 Read, 5 Left to read
BV's YA of 80s and 90s Challenge - 8 Read, 4 Left to read
Personal Classic Challenge -  2 Read

Highlight of the month - Hmm, tough one this month, but it's got to be Amercian Gods - Neil Gaiman - I just got sucked into the layers of the story and fabulous writing.

Honourable Mentions: So many this month - River Marked - Patricia Briggs and Aftertime - Sophie Littlefield were fantastic reads. I also loved Sophie Littlefield's frank replies to my questions, taking part in my first blog hop (The Fool for Books Hop) and so many lovely comments from you guys out there.

So how was your April? :)

On My Wishlist #36

This is a meme from Book Chick City. There are so many books out there that I want to read that this is the only way I can keep track! I don't usually read a lot of anthologies but there a one or two out there that have caught my eye recently...
Zombies vs. Unicorns - Edited Holly Black & Justine Larbalestier
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
In this anthology, edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier (unicorn and zombie, respectively), strong arguments are made for both sides in the form of short stories.  Half of the stories portray the strengthsfor good and evilof unicorns and half show the good (and really, really bad-ass) side of zombies. This anthology will have everyone asking: Team Zombie or Team Unicorn?

At first thought I was sure I'd be on Team Unicorn (The Last Unicorn was one of my favourite kids film!), but a quick perusal of my quick links shows zero for unicorns and lots of zombies, so I think I'm on Team zombie by default! Can't wait to see what sort of stories both teams have come up with.

Those Who Fight Monsters: Tales of Occult Detectives - Edited Justin Gustainis
Publisher: EDGE Science Fiction & Fantasy
Got Vampires? Ghosts? Monsters? We Can help!
Those Who Fight Monsters: Tales of Occult Detectives, is your one-stop-shop for Urban Fantasy’s finest anthology of the supernatural. 14 sleuths are gathered together for the first time in all-original tales of unusual cases which require services that go far beyond mere deduction!
Those Who Fight Monsters: Tales of Occult Detectives brings together popular characters from many Urban Fantasy paranormal investigative series, for your enjoyment.
Demons may lurk, werewolves may prowl, vampires may ride the wind. These are things that go bump in the night, but we are the ones who bump back!

So many great authors involved in this with some of my favourite characters reappearing and one or two authors I haven't tried yet...

Songs of Love and Death: Tales of Star-Crossed Love - Edited George R. R. Martin & Gardner Dozois
Publisher: Gallery Press
In this star-studded cross-genre anthology, seventeen of the greatest modern authors of fantasy, science fiction, and romance explore the borderlands of their genres with brand-new tales of ill-fated love. From zombie-infested woods in a postapocalyptic America to faery-haunted rural fields in eighteenth- century England, from the kingdoms of high fantasy to the alien world of a galaxy-spanning empire, these are stories of lovers who must struggle against the forces of magic and fate.

Again another stunning selection of some of my favourite authors plus a very gorgeous cover.

So what are you wishing for this week? :)

Friday, 29 April 2011

Charmed Life Review

Charmed Life (The Worlds of Chrestomanci)
-          Diana Wynne Jones
Publisher: UK – Harper Collins Children’s Books
Everybody says that Gwendolyn Chant is a gifted witch with astonishing powers, so it suits her enormously when she is taken to live in Chrestomanci Castle. Her brother Eric (better known as Cat) is not so keen, for he has no talent for magic at all. However, life with the great enchanter is not what either of them expects and sparks begin to fly!
I picked this book at a charity book sale after reading Emma’s wonderful post on Diana’s books as I haven’t read any of her books for a very long time. Charmed Life is one of her more famous books but I have to admit I haven’t read it before. I wasn’t quite sure what I would find – after all books enjoyed in childhood can be very different when read through adult eyes. I didn’t need to worry though!
Charmed Life is set in an alternative version of Earth where magic is prevalent and so are paddle boats, castles and old fashioned money – think Enid Blyton crossed with J.K. Rowling. Cat and his sister are orphans living with a witch with limited talent, Mrs Sharp when they catch the attention of Chrestomanci and are moved to a castle. Once there Gwen tries everything she can to capture the attention of the great Chrestomanci, while Cat can only look on in horror...
A short, fun read that feels perhaps a little twee now but considering it was first published in 1977 has aged well (the alternative world helps overcome most differences!). Cat is character that is often overlooked in favour of his talented sister, but has such a strong loyalty to her that you feel his struggle between doing the right thing and his sister. Chrestomanci is aloof and mysterious – with a fantastic range of dressing gowns! – that I just wanted to know more him – and his wife Millie. Overall, the writing is aimed at a younger audience – more pre-teens than teenager, but the imagination especially in the second half is top notch. Great fun and easy to see why it’s now considered a children’s classic.
Recommended for fans of Harry Potter and Isobelle Carmody. 7.5 out of 10.

YA Fridays!

I’ve been looking through my huge To Be Read pile and I noticed that I’m picking up a lot of YA books – most of which have been picked up because I’ve read a great review of them somewhere. So, I’ve decided that Friday’s are now YA Day! I will review a YA book on Friday to help reduce the reading pile and help give some structure to the reviews. Sometimes this might be a YA of the 80s and 90s and I’m loving the flashbacks it’s giving me and I still have a big pile to read through or it might be a more recent YA’s actually been something I’ve been doing for a while without realising it so now it’s official – Friday is YA day! J
Check back later today for a review of Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Throwback Thursday #6: The Reincarnationist

This is a great feature that Melissa at My words and pictures has been doing for a while and I wanted to jump on board! There are plenty of books out there I desperately want...

But what about all those wonderful books that are ALREADY on my shelves?
This highlights a book I already have but just haven't got round to reading yet!
The Reincarnationist - M.J. Rose
Photojournalist Josh Ryder survives a terrorist's bomb, only to be haunted by near hallucinatory memories of a past life in Rome as a pagan priest whose dangerous congress with Sabina, one of the Vestal Virgins, poses a transgression so serious the lovers will face a certain death if exposed. Scents of jasmine and sandalwood and images of furtive liaisons and violence descend on Josh at will, pulling him to an ancient yet strangely familiar Roman burial chamber harboring the remains of a woman clutching a wooden box.
A trail of present-day murders takes us deeper into a labyrinth at whose heart lies the enigma of a collection of ancient gems or memory stones whose origins trace back to both ancient Egypt and India. The stones' promise to "assist the wearer in reaching his next incarnation" sets the ancient and modern worlds on a collision course.

I picked this book up at Borders when they were closing down their UK stores over a year ago and I still haven't read it! I love the idea of reincarnation added to historical adventure, it seems like a great romp...when I get round to reading it! :)

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Spirit Dances Review

Spirit Dances (The Walker Papers 6)
-          C.E. Murphy
E-Arc courtesy of netgalley and Luna Books – Out now
For Seattle detective Joanne Walker, spring is about new beginnings. She’s mastered her shamanic abilities (mostly), survived a cannibalistic serial killer (barely) and now she’s facing the biggest challenge of her career—attending a dance concert with her sexy boss, Captain Michael Morrison. But when the performance— billed as transformative—actually changes her into a coyote, she and Morrison have bigger things to deal with. And there’s more. Homeless people are disappearing, a mystical murder puts Joanne way out of her jurisdiction and with the full moon coming on, it’s looking like the killer is a creature that can’t possibly exist. But Jo could probably handle all of that, if one ordinary homicide hadn’t pushed her to the very edge.… Cop or shaman? The choice isn’t easy. But it’s one she just might have to make.…

I read the first three books in the Walker papers series and really enjoyed but I have to confess that I’ve skipped over books four and five (The Walking Dead and Demon Hunts) - mostly because these books are difficult to get hold of in the UK. Slowly the series slipped off my radar until I saw this on netgalley and thought I’d catch up with Joanne Walker and her shaman powers.
This book has a strong heroine who struggles and fights but somehow manages to pull of the balancing act between Warrior and Healer, alternatively making us root for and feel for her. The joy of these books has always been Jo’s character and her struggle to find her own identity – torn as she is between her Irish and native American roots, her shaman powers and job as a police detective, her heart and her head . To help her, she surrounds herself with some great characters – from her ‘ghost whisperer’ partner, her 70+ year old cab driver friend, her mystical mentor Coyote and of course her boss, Morrison.  The antagonistic relationship with him is one that is difficult to define – mostly because they are reluctant to define it. That relationship is central to this particular story and develops is some pleasing ways here while still retaining the snark and respect they have for each other.
This is a fast paced action adventure with plenty of mystic powers as Jo discovers some new abilities and comes across a frightening new threat to Seattle in the form of an energy sucking creature. There is barely room to pause for breath as Jo struggles to balance her responsibilities and explores her powers. While I didn’t feel lost at all having not read the previous two books, past events are referenced and I now want to find out what I missed! A great addition to the Urban Fantasy genre that feels fun, fresh and full of verve.
Recommended for fans for Richelle Mead’s Succubus series and Nicole Peeler. 8 out of 10.

Part of FTC's Speculative Fiction Challange Book 8/12

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Book Confession #3: Pride and Prejudice

Like most book bloggers, I read a lot (kind of a prerequisite!). But there are some things related to reading that I’ve kept secret – until now. This feature is my chance to confess what I’ve done or what I’ve not done related to reading.

I have to confess something - something big. I’m not sure I can even type it. It may change how you think of me and my reviews...there’s no sense putting it off any longer...deep breath... I’ve never read any Jane Austin. This means I’ve never read Pride and Prejudice. I’ve not seen any adaption of the book – not the critically acclaimed BBC version with Colin Firth or the Oscar nominated film version with Keira Knightley. Even worse I’ve never even wanted to.
Colin Firth as Mr THAT scene...
I know it’s a major fail. Somehow I’ve managed to pick up the whole story – complete with jokes and twists (mostly thanks to Bridget Jones!), but the idea of actually picking up the book just doesn’t appeal to me. I’m not a huge fan of that style of writing and romance has never had a big appeal to me (unless there’s a hot werewolf involved!). Yes, it’s a classic and yes, it’s on most people’s favourite book list, but an old fashioned comedy of manners and society doesn’t tickle my fancy.
 So here’s the challenge - is there anyone out there that can persuade me to actually pick up the book? What can you say that will make me try this classic? Or perhaps you too are a secret non-Austin reader? Let me know!
PS - I’ve never read anything by any of the Brontes either! J

Monday, 25 April 2011

Early Review: The Restorer

The Restorer (Graveyard Queen 1)
-          Amanda Stevens
E-Arc courtesy of netgalley and MIRA Books
Released: 26th April 2011 
My name is Amelia Gray. I’m a cemetery restorer who sees ghosts. In order to protect myself from the parasitic nature of the dead, I’ve always held fast to the rules passed down from my father. But now a haunted police detective has entered my world and everything is changing, including the rules that have always kept me safe.
It started with the discovery of a young woman’s brutalized body in an old Charleston graveyard I’ve been hired to restore. The clues to the killer—and to his other victims— lie in the headstone symbolism that only I can interpret. Devlin needs my help, but his ghosts shadow his every move, feeding off his warmth, sustaining their presence with his energy. To warn him would be to invite them into my life. I’ve vowed to keep my distance, but the pull of his magnetism grows ever stronger even as the symbols lead me closer to the killer and to the gossamer veil that separates this world from the next.

Amanda Steven’s written a very eerie book, with a memorable leading lady. Amelia is strong but also lonely. Seeing and ignoring ghosts, means she has taken to ignoring live people as well in case they guess her secret. The ghosts here are menacing creepy presences, who are desperate to feel some of warmth of living and this makes them feel very dark – no Caspers here!  - and means that Amelia’s gift is treated as more of curse.
The central crime is intriguing and mysterious. I particularly liked the way Steven’s has set up the novel that as a reader you are suspicious of many of the characters Amelia meets, but Amelia’s long term friendship and relationships with them mean she isn’t. This made me feel quite tense at times and added layers to the book. The prose is haunting and paints a colourful picture of the South – so much so that I wanted to visit Charleston and smell the flowers.
There are enough hidden depths to the novel to keep you gripped throughout and I’m looking forward to next in the Graveyard Queen series – and especially to seeing how the relationship between Amelia and Devlin progresses.
Recommended for fans of Sookie Stackhouse and Daniel Hecht. 8 out of 10.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

My Book Haul/In My Mailbox

Happy Easter! Hope you're all having a good day with plenty of chocolate eggs and spring flowers! :)
The Story Siren hosts a weekly meme where bloggers can share what goodies they've purchased/received this week. If you get a chance head over to The Story Siren and check out what everyone is up to!
My Soul To Take - Rachel Vincent
Publisher: MIRA Books
Being a teenager just got much more complicated. There is something very wrong with Kaylee Cavanaugh: she senses when someone near her is about to die. And when that happens, a force beyond her control compels her to scream bloody murder. Literally. Kaylee just wants to enjoy having caught the attention of the hottest guy in school. But a normal date is hard to come by when Nash seems to know more about the need to scream than she does. And when classmates start dropping dead for no apparent reason, only Kaylee knows who'll be next.
I won this from the generous Carolyn at Book Chick City and it arrived in the post this week. I loved Rachel Vincent's Shifter series so I'm excited to see what her YA series is like!
Side Jobs - Jim Butcher
Publisher: UK - Orbit
Harry is the best and technically the 'only' at what he does, being the lone professional wizard PI in the Chicago phonebook. So when the Chicago PD has cases that transcend mortal capabilities, they come to him for answers. For the 'everyday' world is actually full of strange and magical things - and most of them don't play well with humans. Yet despite his precautions, Harry tends to stumble from crisis to drama in his dealings with the supernatural world - call it an occupational hazard. Here, he unfailingly manages to get on the wrong side of werewolf, fae and vampires alike. And that's where his own rather special powers come into play .

I think the Dresden Files is one of the best, if not the best UF series around - certainly one of the most consistent! So this book of short stories featuring Harry Dresden was one I had on pre-order for a long time! It arrived this week.

Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later - Francine Pascal
Publisher: UK - Arrow Books
It’s been ten years since the Wakefield twins graduated from Sweet Valley High, and a lot has happened. For a start, Elizabeth and Jessica have had a falling out of epic proportions, after Jessica committed the ultimate betrayal, and this time it looks like Elizabeth will never be able to forgive her.
Suddenly Sweet Valley isn’t big enough for the two of them, so Elizabeth has fled to New York to immerse herself in her lifelong dream of becoming a serious reporter, leaving a guilt-stricken Jessica contemplating the unthinkable: life without her sister.
Despite the distance between them, the sisters are never far from each other’s thoughts. Jessica longs for forgiveness, but Elizabeth can’t forget her twin’s duplicity. Uncharacteristically, she decides the only way to heal her broken heart is to get revenge. Always the ‘good’ twin, the one getting her headstrong sister out of trouble, Elizabeth is now about to turn the tables...

I was a HUGE fan of Sweet Valley when I was young (before I discovered Point Horror and Christopher Pike) - I was so excited to see that Francine Pascal had written a book set 10 years after high school! I don't expect it to be much good, but purely for nostalgia I had to purchase it! :)

So what have you picked up this week? :)

Saturday, 23 April 2011

On My Wishlist #35

Don't forget to check out my MERCY THOMPSON GIVEAWAY - Ends tomorrow, open INT :)

This is a meme from Book Chick City. There are so many books out there that I want to read that this is the only way I can keep track! This week I'm want some scarey vampires...
A Rush of Wings - Adrian Phoenix
Publisher: Pocket Books
Dark. Talented. Beautiful. Star of the rock band Inferno. Rumored owner of the hot New Orleans nightspot Club Hell. Born of the Blood, then broken by an evil beyond imagination.
F.B.I. Special Agent Heather Wallace has been tracking a sadistic serial murderer known as the Cross Country Killer, and the trail has led her to New Orleans, Club Hell, and Dante. But the dangerously attractive musician not only resists her investigation, he claims to be "nightkind": in other words, a vampire. Digging into his past for answers reveals little. A juvenile record a mile long. No social security number. No known birth date. In and out of foster homes for most of his life before being taken in by a man named Lucien DeNoir, who appears to guard mysteries of his own.
What Heather does know about Dante is that something links him to the killer -- and she's pretty sure that link makes him the CCK's next target. Heather must unravel the truth about this sensual, complicated, vulnerable young man -- who, she begins to believe, may indeed be a vampire -- in order to finally bring a killer to justice. But Dante's past holds a shocking, dangerous secret, and once it is revealed not even Heather will be able to protect him from his destiny....

The fourth book in this series has just been released but before I get that far I need to start at the beginning! Looks like an UF so I'm pretty sure I'll enjoy it!

Through Stone and Sea - Barb & JC Hendee
Puiblisher: ROC
Wynn journeys to the mountain stronghold of the dwarves in search of the "Stonewalkers," an unknown sect supposedly in possession of important ancient texts. But in her obsession to understand these writings, she will find more puzzles and questions buried in secrets old and new-along with an enemy she thought destroyed...

I loved the Noble Dead series which was kind of like Buffy set in Middle-Earth complete with vampires, elves and ancient gods. I'm happy that the initiall 5 book series has had a spin-off series and this is the second book. I already have the first, In Shade and Shadow, on TBR pile but I know I want this as well! :)

Hunt The Moon (Cassandra Palmer 5)- Karen Chance
Publisher: UK - Penguin

Cassandra Palmer recently defeated a god, which you’d think would buy a girl a little time off.
But when your job is being Pythia – the world’s chief clairvoyant – you don’t get a lot of R&R. Cassie is busier than ever, discovering her power, figuring out her complicated relationship with enigmatic and sexy vampire Mircea, and preparing for her upcoming coronation.
But someone is dead set against Cassie being Pythia, and will go to any lengths to stop the coronation ceremony from happening – including making sure that Cassie is never born.
Now, Cassie has to save herself – and the world, if she can find the time …

I love the Cassandra Palmer series - there is so much action it leaves me breathless! The latest in the series isn't out until August in the UK, but I'm counting down the days!

So what are you wishing for this week? :)

Friday, 22 April 2011

Book Blogger Hop #15

The Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Jennifer at Crazy for Books  and is a place just for book bloggers and readers to connect and share our love of the written word! I love taking part in the hop as I get to know more about other bloggers out there and to find a few new ones - I haven't taken part in the hop for a while, but thought this long weekend was worth jumping back in. :)


This week's question is - 


"If you find a book you love, do you hunt down other books by the same author?"


Yes, definitely! If I find an author I've enjoyed, I will go through their back list - it's one of my favourite things: Discovering an author with a lot of books already available. It means I don't have a long wait for the next book to be read! Sometimes, it takes me a while to find or read the other books but I usually at least one more book by an author if I liked it! What about you? :)

Remember Me 2: The Return Review

Remember Me 2: The Return
-       Christopher Pike
Publisher: Hodders Children’s
First published in 1995 in UK
Shari Cooper, a murder victim, is given the opportunity to return to Earth in the shape of a Wanderer
It’s unusual to have a sequel to a book when the main character died in the first book – however seeing as Shari died at the beginning of Remember Me, it doesn’t really impact this sequel too much. The story starts a year after Shari was pushed off the balcony with Jean Rodrigues getting ready for a party at her boyfriend’s place. At the same time we also follow Shari’s adventures in the afterlife as she tries to come to terms with her life cut short.
 I had a lot of affection for the first Remember Me when I first read it as a teenager – enough that I picked up this and the third in the trilogy as well. However, I didn’t have as many fond memories for this book as I did the original. Re-reading now after all these years and I can see the reason I didn’t have any fond memories is that not a lot happens in this book. Jean has a near death experience and Shari decides to return to earth...and that’s pretty much it. This is more of a setting up book – putting the pieces in place and expanding on the epilogue from the first book. To be honest I felt the story was completed in Remember Me and didn’t really need a sequel – and as much as I liked the writing – this story doesn’t really add a lot. I’m not sure how much sense it would make if you haven’t read the first book either!
On the plus side Christopher Pike’s writing is as good as ever – I really have rediscovered the joy of his writing through this challenge! I also liked the philosophy Shari discusses with the master – it adds some depth and complexity to a simple story.    
Recommended for fans of RL Stine and Carrie Ryan. 5 out of 10.

The Book Vixen's YA of the 80s and 90s Reading Challenge Book 9/12
YA of the 80s and 90s Reading Challenge

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Throwback Thursday #5: Magic Lost, Trouble Found

This is a great feature that Melissa at My words and pictures has been doing for a while and I wanted to jump on board! There are plenty of books out there I desperately want...

But what about all those wonderful books that are ALREADY on my shelves?

This highlights a book I already have but just haven't got round to reading yet!

Magic Lost, Trouble Found - Lisa Shearin
'My name is Raine Benares. I'm a seeker. The people who hire me are usually happy when I find things. But some things are better left unfound...'
Raine is a sorceress of moderate powers, from an extended family of smugglers and thieves. With a mix of street smarts and magic spells, she can usually take care of herself. But when her friend Quentin, a not-quite-reformed thief, steals an amulet from the home of a powerful necromancer, Raine finds herself wrapped up in more trouble than she cares for. She likes attention as much as the next girl, but having an army of militant goblins hunting her down is not her idea of a good time. The amulet they're after holds limitless power, derived from an ancient, soul-stealing stone. And when Raine takes possession of the item, it takes possession of her.

I can't wait to start this book! I'd almost forgotten I had it on the shelf, but I love the cover, the premise and there's a whole selection of further books to explore afterwards! Why have I waited so long? Oh, yeah, the hundred of other books in the pile that I want to read! :)

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Author Interview: Sophie Littlefield

On Monday I reviewed Afterlife by Sophie Littlefield and loved it – check out my review here! I was so intrigued by the story I wanted to quiz the author and by a combination of stalking and flattery I was able to corner Sophie down and interrogate her...
 First tell us a little about yourself...
I've been writing for close to two decades and I've written in nearly every genre - I can't seem to stick to just one!  I've been a waitress, a computer professional, a copy writer, a homemaker, and now a professional writer. Waitressing burned the most calories, computers was the one I was least competent at, writing copy changed the way I look at the relationship between writers and readers, and raising children was the most humbling and rewarding thing I've ever done. And every day that I get to be a writer is a good day. I've been published for less than two years, so consider that against 20 years of trying, and that'll give you an idea of how often I've been rejected. 
How would you describe Aftertime?
Aftertime is the story of a broken woman who restores herself through sheer determination, impossible hope, and the love of her child. It's also the story of the end of our world as we know it, and its reemergence as a stark place beset with, among other things, zombies. It's also a romance of sorts.

 What kind of research did you do for the book?
Because my fictional apocalypse involves bioterrorism, I learned about real and hypothetical bioterrorist tools and techniques online. I brainstormed with my brother and my editor to come up with geopolitical conflict scenarios.  I've also done a fair amount of research into the plants that grow in California, where my book is set. This latter subject was a joy for me, as I've always loved gardening and don't have time to do much anymore.

Zombies are very popular at the moment for books, TV and films – what do you think draws us to them?

I've read dozens of reasons why people like zombies, and they are astonishingly varied. The current favorite seems to be that in a time of economic upheaval, when the news from many corners of the world is bad, we are drawn to explicit good/evil dichotomies, and by removing all ambiguity from a villain (zombies are dead! they have no feelings! they want to eat you!) we have a perfectly evil character to root against.
Other intriguing ideas range from the idea that zombies explore racial tensions to zombies as loss-of-innocence allegories to corporeal mortification as the path to the sublime. To all of which I say "hmmmmmm"....

The Walking Dead

I don't personally think that any of the above makes a lot of sense. If you watch THE WALKING DEAD, I think you might agree that a zombie story is a perfect story setup for exploring *character* (of the non-zombies, that is). You have an essentially static evil, and everyone else's character arc is set against that. When you have a paranormal creature with its *own* character arc (vampires, werecreatures, etc.) then the non-paranormal characters' story impact is diluted.  Which is of course not wrong, just a different type of story.

I loved the different reactions of people in Aftertime – how do you think you would react in the ‘zombie apocalypse’?
Isn't that a fascinating question? :)  The reason I gave my main character a child - specifically, a child in danger - in AFTERTIME was that I wanted to arm her as strenuously as I could, and there is no fiercer combatant than a parent whose child is threatened.  I'm a mom, and if anyone threatened my kids - be it a school bully or an online predator or a zombie - I would fight back with a passion that could level entire cities.
Now, if my kids were safe and accounted for, I'd probably just retreat to the nearest WalMart ladies' restroom with a huge shopping cart full of Diet Coke and kettle potato chips, and a stack of tabloid magazines, and hope the problem took care of itself.

 What would you stock pile for the end of days?
Oops!  I think I just answered that. Well, here in California we are taught to be prepared for natural disasters so I know about the importance of lots of drinking water and good shoes and spare eyeglasses. Beyond that, I've just started backpacking, and have discovered the amazing world of freeze-dried food. I just survived 48 hours on a few foil packets of grayish powder that weighted about three ounces, in fact. It was...oddly not awful. So I think I might start there.

Have you ever had a supernatural experience?
Ahhhhh....the Smiling Woman of 1979. I had just barely gotten my driver's license, and I and a friend had gone to the double feature at the drive-in. On the way back, driving pitch-dark Missouri backroads, we saw this....woman, wearing a diaphanous white hooded robe, shimmering and FLOATING two feet above the ground on the side of the road and grinning eerily.  My friend and I screamed and I drove faster.  I swear it's true, and for corroboration, you could ask Mary Anderson, who went on to become a criminal defense attorney, which is neither here nor there, except it somehow makes my story seem more credible.

 What have you got coming up next?
Next up is the third in my Stella Hardesty mystery series, A BAD DAY FOR SCANDAL (June, St. Martins Minotaur). And then in July will be the sequel to AFTERTIME, titled REBIRTH. I can't wait to see what you think of it! The third and final book in the series is titled HORIZON and will be out in February 2012.

Finally  a 30 second, quick question quiz...
Favourite Book you’ve read?
I can't possible answer that!! How about my favorite book I read last month? That would be LITTLE BEE by Chris Cleave.

Favourite Book you’ve written?
Ugh, next you'll be asking me which of my children I love most!  I'm going to cop out and say it's always the one I wrote before the one I'm working on (because it's part of my process to despise every word of my current project and be convinced it's drivel and all my best work is behind me and I'll never write again.).

Favourite food?
Kettle potato chips!
Favourite film?
"Love Actually" daughter and I watch it every year to kick off the holidays.

Favourite music?
I love all sorts of things, depending on my mood and the character I'm writing, but in the end I would say country (of the Chris Knight/Steve Earle/Emmylou variety)

Favourite authors?
my dad, my brother, and my friends

Any pets?
A beagle named Bridget

Favourite saying/quote?
"The only way out is through"

Sophie, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions!
Aftertime is out in stores now.