Friday, September 23, 2016

Magic Binds: An Interview with Ilona Andrews

#1 New York Times bestselling authors, the husband-and-wife team writing under the name Ilona Andrews, have kept us entertained and thoroughly invested in their stories for many, many years. Now that their latest book, Magic Binds, has hit the shelves, they kindly stopped by to answer a few questions.

Dear Ilona and Gordon, welcome to The Nocturnal Library. Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. I solemnly swear never to ask you about writing together.

The world of Kate Daniels is built on an interesting premise of magic and technology coexisting and constantly trying to balance each other out. Plenty of urban fantasy series had their rules changed along the way, but you’ve never done that. Kate’s worldbuilding has been rock solid from the start. Did you ever wish to have done something differently or needed something (for the plot) that the world just couldn’t provide?
A)    Thank you.  We’ve tried to be consistent.  In the beginning I don’t know that we really had all the rules worked out.  Once we did, probably by the second or third book, I think it actually made it easier for us.  We knew what was possible, what we could get away with and what was impossible in that setting.  One thing we have to watch is the magic waves, sometimes when writing a scene, we have to figure out if the magic is up or down.  The closest we’ve come to bending or breaking the rules was Magic Slays where we introduced a technology capable of permanently removing magic from the land.  We had to decide if such a thing were possible and how it would affect magical beings living in the area.

Your books leave no doubt about the amount of research you put into them. World mythologies seem to be your playground and you always introduce at least one obscure mythological creature for Kate to fight. How do you choose them? Can you explain the process and the criteria?
A)    We started with what we were already familiar with.  That’s why it’s Slavic myths in Magic Bites and Celtic in Magic Burns.  Ilona being Russian knows all the old fairy tales and we’d never seen an Upir in contemporary English fiction so we thought it might be interesting to have one.  Being giant fans of both the comic character Slaine and David Gemmell’sRigante series we wanted to play a bit with Celtic legends.  For Magic Strikes, Rakshasas seemed like a good choice of villains, they’re shapeshifters but not like ours who are infected by a strain of lycanthropy.  What few people know though is that an early version of Magic Bites had a dwarf in it.  Like a full out D&D, Tolkien type dwarf.  Or that one of our first books, one that will never, ever be published, had hobbit ninjas.  We just thought it was cool.  I wish I could say there was more to it than that but most of the time we put in things we would like to read about that we don’t see a lot of.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever googled during research?
A)    Lord, so much.  Now we have to look at our search history.  Ummm, poisoning, kidnapping, evil names, a lot of Fallout 4 settlement stuff.  Here’s the weirdest, probably “Governors who’ve been assassinated?”  That was for the Hidden Legacy series.

You are known for your strong online presence and for being extremely good to your fans? Is that a double-edged sword sometimes? It’s impossible to keep everyone happy and people can be rather vocal. How do you handle complaints and/or various requests? Were there any weird interactions you’d be willing to share? 
A)    Let me preface this by saying that 99.9 percent of our fans are great.  They’ve supported us from the beginning of the series and stuck by us through it all.  However, as you’ve stated, you can’t please everybody.  All we can do is write the book we want to read and hope people like it.  The most common complaints we hear are about the covers, which personally, I’ve almost always liked, or the price of the books.  In both cases, we can honestly say we have little to no control over those things.  We don’t sell them, we just write them.

Let’s talk about Magic Binds. First of all, I can tell you that I’ve already read it twice and that it surpassed my wildest expectations. It’s an amazing book and perhaps my favorite thus far. Which of the nine was the hardest to write? And do you have a favorite?
A) Thank you so much, we’re glad you liked it.  Maybe Magic Burns because we didn’t really expect there to be a second book.  What if we were afflicted by the sophomore slump curse and it sucked and they didn’t want a third?  I think the conversation went along the lines of they’re publishing the first but they want a second.  Oh man, what are we going to do?  It has to be better than Magic Bites and the final battle has to be bigger.  Maybe also Magic Rises because we took Kate and the gang out of our usual setting.  We had to decide who would go, what the world outside of Atlanta or even the US was like, and most importantly we decided to kill off Aunt Bea.  That was a hard conversation to have.  As I recall, we were loading the dishwasher and as the debate raged, things were loaded with increasing force.  It was probably the closest we’ve come to having a fight over the books.  Well, a disagreement, not a knock down drag out row.

For me, Magic Binds was about characterization, or more specifically, the shades of gray in Kate’s family. We finally understand a bit more about the worldview of someone who’s been around for millennia. But even Kate undergoes major changes. Was it hard to put her through that? Change some parts of her character that we’ve started taking for granted?
A)    Yes, but we felt it was necessary.  Even as recently as Magic Breaks, she wasn’t ready to fight Roland head on.  She knew that.  To even begin to rival him in power she needed to stop holding back and embrace her magic.  The risk with that of course is the temptation to become like him.  She had to find her own way to deal with it.  She also needed some training, which is a part we really enjoyed putting into the book.  I guess we had to decide how dark she would get or far we could let her go before we pulled her back from the edge.

It’s so hard to understand Roland, and even harder to figure out his endgame. Magic Binds clears out some of the fog, but there are still so many questions. Did you ever change your mind about his intentions and motivations or was he clear to you from the start? How do you think he sees Kate?
A)    I think he evolved over time from an idea to a fully realized character.  For the first few books, all we know of Roland is what Kate was told of him. That he killed her mother and wanted to kill her. All of which is true. What we didn’t know was how very much he loved them both.  More than the he has loved anyone or anything.  From the beginning we knew who he was, historically, but not much else.  I think the image of the long suffering father of a rebellious daughter, which of course is how he seems himself, came later.  He is proud of her, of all that she’s accomplished on her own, but in his mind she’s had her fun and now it’s time to come home and take her place in the family business.  If he has to kill every single man, woman and child in Atlanta to make her understand this, he will.

By far the most interesting and morally challenging part of Magic Binds are the sahanu. What can you tell us about them (and what inspired them) without it being spoilerish?
A)     Well, Roland is a paranoid megalomaniac with god-like power, it makes sense that he would have his own cult of killers.  We watched a lot of Ancient Assassins and we both thought, wow, that seems like something he would want.  We should put some of that in the book.  I don’t think that’s too spoilery.

The mystery of Christopher is finally unraveled in Magic Binds. I don’t think anyone could have guessed his origins. Without actually revealing it, did you know when you put him in that cage and on Kate’s path? Or did he develop along the way?
A)     We didn’t know who he was, or even what he had done to anger Roland.  We only knew that he had once been immensely powerful and now he was broken.  The old saying is that if you have a gun in the first act, it has to go off in the third, so that’s what we did.  We knew that he could fly, just that he had forgotten how. I don’t know if anyone got it but it’s also a nod to the late Douglas Addams who in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy said "There is an art to flying, or rather a knack. Its knack lies in learning to throw yourself at the ground and miss. ... Clearly, it is this second part, the missing, that presents the difficulties."

With nine books behind you and only one more to go, what are your thoughts on the series? Did you accomplish everything you set out to do?
A)     A mix of sadness and relief.  I hope so because we have no idea what to do in the next one.  We have to give it a satisfying ending but leave the door open for a spin off series.  What I can say is that it will be a proper ending, no cliffhangers, no ambiguity.  Kate and Curran will get their happily ever after.  They’ve earned it.

Finally, I have to ask: is there any chance for more Kate books or is book 10 definitely the last we’ll see of Kate and Curran?
A)    Oops, may have answered too much of this in the one above.  Book 10 will be the last Kate book but if there is a spin off series they will appear.  It won’t be their book but they will be in it.  We want to do a Hugh book and of course we’ve talked about continuing the series with an older Derek and Julie.

Thank you once more! Thank you for having us.

Every little blogger dreams about interviewing his or her favorite author. For me, that was always Ilona Andrews, and my day has finally arrived. I'm pretty much done now, I can retire and read the 1852938593 books on my tbr list in peace. 

Learn more about the Kate Daniels series and other Ilona Andrews books at

You can order your copy of Magic Binds on Amazon, Barnes&Noble, The Book Depository and pretty much everywhere else.

Thank you for stopping by!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Seismic Events in The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth, #1)
Author: N.K. Jemisin
Series: Broken Earth, #1
Relesed: August 4th 2015
Publisher: Orbit
Length: 468 pages
Source: Publisher for review

A season of endings has begun. 
It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world's sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun. 
It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter. 
It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester. 
This is the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy. 

As a Hugo award winner and Nebula award nominee, among many other awards and accolades, The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin leaves very little doubt about its own quality. But even without the official recognition, The Fifth Season enchants easily, making it clear from the prologue that Jemisin’s writing is something extraordinary. This novel shines in its every aspect and shows precisely what a fantasy novel should be. It carries in itself everything from shiny worldbuilding to superb characterization and cleverly inserted traces of metanarration and metafictionality.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Ghosts and Cults in: The Women in the Walls by Amy Lukavics

The Women in the Walls
Author: Amy Lukavics
Series: Standalone
Released: September 27 2016
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Length: 304 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon

Lucy Acosta's mother died when she was three. Growing up in a Victorian mansion in the middle of the woods with her cold, distant father, she explored the dark hallways of the estate with her cousin, Margaret. They're inseparable—a family.  
When her aunt Penelope, the only mother she's ever known, tragically disappears while walking in the woods surrounding their estate, Lucy finds herself devastated and alone. Margaret has been spending a lot of time in the attic. She claims she can hear her dead mother's voice whispering from the walls. Emotionally shut out by her father, Lucy watches helplessly as her cousin's sanity slowly unravels. But when she begins hearing voices herself, Lucy finds herself confronting an ancient and deadly legacy that has marked the women in her family for generations. 

The Women in the Walls is a mildly disappointing sophomore novel by Amy Lukavics, author of Daughters Unto Devils. It delivers all the things one expects from such a read – the deep atmosphere, the chilling moments, the compelling paranormal mystery – but it proves lacking in terms of substance, characterization or any real depth of emotion.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Romance and Vigilantism in The Female of the Species by M. McGinnis

The Female of the Species
Author: Mindy McGinnis
Series: Standalone
Released: September 20 2016
Publisher: Katherine Tegen
Length: 352 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon

Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it. When her older sister, Anna, was murdered three years ago and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best. The language of violence.
While her crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people, even in her small hometown. She relegates herself to the shadows, a girl who goes unseen in plain sight, unremarkable in the high school hallways.
But Jack Fisher sees her. He’s the guy all other guys want to be: the star athlete gunning for valedictorian with the prom queen on his arm. Guilt over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered hasn’t let him forget Alex over the years, and now her green eyes amid a constellation of freckles have his attention. He doesn’t want to only see Alex Craft; he wants to know her.
So does Peekay, the preacher’s kid, a girl whose identity is entangled with her dad’s job, though that does not stop her from knowing the taste of beer or missing the touch of her ex-boyfriend. When Peekay and Alex start working together at the animal shelter, a friendship forms and Alex’s protective nature extends to more than just the dogs and cats they care for.
Circumstances bring Alex, Jack, and Peekay together as their senior year unfolds. While partying one night, Alex’s darker nature breaks out, setting the teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever. 

After a hugely successful dystopian trilogy and her standalone exploration of insanity in a historical setting, Mindy McGinnis delves into a new territory with The Female of the Species, which is perhaps best described as a hyper-realistic contemporary examination of teenage life, human resilience and revenge. It’s a bold, daring book that shoves hard realities right into our faces, making no effort to soften the blows or make us feel better along the way. Those who are a bit more sensitive to drugs and violence in young adult books might have a hard time reading it, but in truth, the pain and heartbreak, the shock and outrage are so worth your time and trouble with this book.

Monday, September 19, 2016

LGBT Monday (YA) Whatever.:Or how junior year became totally f$@ked

Don't Twunk With My Heart (Loving You, #2)
Author: S.J. Goslee
Series: Standalone
Released: August 2nd 2016
Publisher: Roaring Brook 
Length: 272 pages
Source: Bought
Buy: Amazon

 Hilarity ensues when a slacker teen boy discovers he's gay, in this unforgettably funny YA debut.
Mike Tate is a normal dude. He and his friends have a crappy band (an excuse to drink cheap beer and rock out to the Lemonheads) and hang out in parking lots doing stupid board tricks. But when Mike's girlfriend Lisa, who knows him better than he does, breaks up with him, he realizes he's about to have a major epiphany that will blow his mind. And worse--he gets elected to homecoming court.
It's like the apocalypse came, only instead of nuclear bombs and zombies, Mike gets school participation, gay thoughts, and mother-effin' cheerleaders.
With the free spirit of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, the raw voice of Winger, and characters reminiscent of Freaks & Geeks, this debut YA offers a standout voice and a fresh, modern take on the coming-out story.  

Whatever by S.J. Goslee is a hilarious and honest YA coming out story and it’s in many ways unlike anything I’ve ever read before. It’s not a romance by any usual standards, but it can be painfully romantic and endearing at times. It’s a heart-warming story with so many laugh-out-loud moments and unparalleled honesty in dealing with subjects like self-discovery, bisexuality and coming of age.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Dangerous Bloodlines in: Magic Binds by Ilona Andrews

Magic Binds (Kate Daniels, #9)
Author: Ilona Andrews
Series: Kate Daniels, #9
Released: September 20 2016
Publisher: Ace
Length: 384 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon

Mercenary Kate Daniels knows all too well that magic in post-Shift Atlanta is a dangerous business. But nothing she’s faced could have prepared her for this…
Kate and the former Beast Lord Curran Lennart are finally making their relationship official. But there are some steep obstacles standing in the way of their walk to the altar…
Kate’s father, Roland, has kidnapped the demigod Saiman and is slowly bleeding him dry in his never-ending bid for power. A Witch Oracle has predicted that if Kate marries the man she loves, Atlanta will burn and she will lose him forever. And the only person Kate can ask for help is long dead.
The odds are impossible. The future is grim. But Kate Daniels has never been one to play by the rules…

Magic Binds, the ninth (and apparently second-to-last) installment of Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series is quite possibly this author’s best work to date. At this point, it’s very difficult to separate, compare or evaluate each individual book, but Magic Binds challenges our beloved characters in all new ways and adds a lot to the already spectacular characterization. The sheer quality of these books sets them apart from anything even remotely similar.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Vampires, Cannibals and Steampunk in Revenge and the Wild by M. Modesto

Revenge and the Wild
Series: Standalone
Released: February 2nd 2016
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Length: 384 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon

The two-bit town of Rogue City is a lawless place, full of dark magic and saloon brawls, monsters and six-shooters. But it’s perfect for seventeen-year-old Westie, the notorious adopted daughter of local inventor Nigel Butler.
Westie was only a child when she lost her arm and her family to cannibals on the wagon trail. Nine years later, Westie may seem fearsome with her foul-mouthed tough exterior and the powerful mechanical arm built for her by Nigel, but the memory of her past still haunts her. She’s determined to make the killers pay for their crimes—and there’s nothing to stop her except her own reckless ways.
But Westie’s search ceases when a wealthy family comes to town looking to invest in Nigel’s latest invention, a machine that can harvest magic from gold—which Rogue City desperately needs as the magic wards that surround the city start to fail. There’s only one problem: the investors look exactly like the family who murdered Westie’s kin. With the help of Nigel’s handsome but scarred young assistant, Alistair, Westie sets out to prove their guilt. But if she’s not careful, her desire for revenge could cost her the family she has now.
This thrilling novel is a remarkable tale of danger and discovery, from debut author Michelle Modesto. 

The first thing you need to know if and when you decide to read Revenge and the Wild is that it will be the most fun you’ll have in ages. Entertainment is pretty much guaranteed, regardless of your usual reading preferences. For a book that refuses to be labeled or in any way categorized, Revenge and the Wild is pretty universally lovable. I challenge you to be grumpy while reading it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Very Best of Romantic Suspense: The Witness by Nora Roberts

The Witness
Author: Nora Roberts
Series: Standalone
Released: May 22nd 2012
Publisher: Piatkus
Length: 488 pages
Source: Bought
Buy: The Book Depository

Daughter of a controlling mother, Elizabeth finally let loose one night, drinking at a nightclub and allowing a strange man's seductive Russian accent lure her to a house on Lake Shore Drive. The events that followed changed her life forever. 
Twelve years later, the woman known as Abigail Lowery lives on the outskirts of a small town in the Ozarks. A freelance programmer, she designs sophisticated security systems--and supplements her own security with a fierce dog and an assortment of firearms. She keeps to herself, saying little, revealing nothing. But Abigail's reserve only intrigues police chief Brooks Gleason. Her logical mind, her secretive nature, and her unromantic viewpoints leave him fascinated but frustrated. He suspects that Abigail needs protection from something--and that her elaborate defenses hide a story that must be revealed. 
With a quirky, unforgettable heroine and a pulse-pounding plotline, Nora Roberts presents a riveting new read that cements her place as today's most reliably entertaining thriller
author--and will leave people hungering for more.

The Witness is perhaps Nora Roberts’ best and most successful romantic suspense novel, which is saying something considering the dozens we have to choose from. It’s a long novel, as her romances usually are, but every word is thought-through and every sentence exactly in its place. Nora has a steady, experienced hand fully capable of leading us through decades of backstories and keeping us fully engaged the whole time.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Three Murderous Queens in Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Three Dark Crowns (Untitled, #1)
Author: Kendare Blake
Series: Untitled, #1
Released: September 20 2016
Publisher: HarperTeen
Length: 416 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon

Every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.
But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.
If only it was that simple. Katharine is unable to tolerate the weakest poison, and Arsinoe, no matter how hard she tries, can’t make even a weed grow. The two queens have been shamefully faking their powers, taking care to keep each other, the island, and their powerful sister Mirabella none the wiser. But with alliances being formed, betrayals taking shape, and ruthless revenge haunting the queens’ every move, one thing is certain: the last queen standing might not be the strongest…but she may be the darkest.

Even before its release, Three Dark Crowns, the first in Kendare Blake’s new series, is proving to be a highly polarizing book, with readers either loving or hating it and very few (if any) falling somewhere in the middle. Three Dark Crowns offers all the things Kendare is known for: the dark moments, the vivid imagery, the shocking, almost grotesque violence, but it lacks her usual rich plotting and regrettably falls behind her other works.

Monday, September 12, 2016

LGBT Monday: Tied Up in Knots by Mary Calmes

Don't Twunk With My Heart (Loving You, #2)
Author: Mary Calmes
Series: Marshals, #3
Released: September 16th 2016
Publisher: Dreamspinner
Length: 384 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon
         Dreamspinner Press

Miro Jones is living the life: he’s got his exciting, fulfilling job as a US deputy marshal, his gorgeous Greystone in suburban Chicago, his beloved adopted family, and most importantly, the man who captured his heart, Ian Doyle. Problem is, Ian isn’t just his partner at work—Ian’s a soldier through and through. That commitment takes him away from Miro, unexpectedly and often, and it’s casting a shadow over what could be everything Miro could ever dream of.
Work isn’t the same without Ian. Home isn’t the same, either, and Miro’s having to face his fears alone… how to keep it together at the office, how to survive looming threats from the past, and worst of all, how to keep living without Ian’s rock-solid presence at his side. His life is tied up in knots, but what if unknotting them requires something more permanent? What would that mean for him and Ian? Miro’s stuck between two bad choices, and sometimes the only way to get out of the knot is to hold tight to your lifeline and pull. 

Mary Calmes is one of my go-to authors for passionate, rewarding romances with very little difficulty or angst and a guaranteed happily ever after. Her characters tend to be similar and her relationships are always deeply romantic and just a bit desperate, but the growly alphas and heroes everyone seems to love somehow work better for her than for anyone else.

Friday, September 9, 2016

All the Paradoxes In: Highly Illogical Behavior by J. Corey Whaley

Highly Illogical Behavior
Series: Standalone
Released: May 10th 2016
Publisher: Dial
Length: 253 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon

Sixteen-year-old Solomon is agoraphobic. He hasn’t left the house in three years, which is fine by him.
Ambitious Lisa desperately wants to get into the second-best psychology program for college (she’s being realistic). But is ambition alone enough to get her in?
Enter Lisa.
Determined to “fix” Sol, Lisa steps into his world, along with her charming boyfriend, Clark, and soon the three form an unexpected bond. But, as Lisa learns more about Sol and he and Clark grow closer and closer, the walls they’ve built around themselves start to collapse and their friendships threaten to do the same. 

I’ve loved (loved!) John Corey Whaley ever since he published his first novel, Where Things Come Back, before all the awards and accolades that are now attached to his name. As a National Book Award finalist, winner of William C. Morris award for his debut and Michael L. Printz gold medalist for his sophomore novel, Whaley needs no more official confirmations of quality for his work. It’s becoming quite clear that he is extraordinary.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Forensic Investigation in: One Grave Too Many by Beverly Connor

One Grave Too Many (Diane Fallon Forensic Investigation, #1)
Author: Beverly Connor
Series: Diane Fallon, #1
Released: September 4th 2004
Publisher: NAL
Length: 388 pages
Source: Bought
Buy: Amazon

With spot-on details, a smart new voice, and ingenious plot twists, Beverly Connor has been compared to the hottest crime writers on the scene. Now, she ratchets up the suspense with a brand new series featuring one of today's most cunning and complex sleuths: forensic anthropologist Diane Fallon. Her new job as director of the RiverTrail Museum of Natural History in Georgia takes Diane out of the game-until a former love and a murdered family bring her back in.

I picked up One Grave Too Many after reading a recommendation by Ilona Andrews, knowing I would surely enjoy something she liked enough to recommend. She doesn’t do it often, but when she does, the books are always worth checking out. The Diane Fallon Forensic Investigations series has nine installments, published between 2004 and 2010. One Grave Too Many is the first one.