Winner! We Have a Winner Here!

Thanks so much for sharing your favorite reads with me on Tuesday’s Appreciation Post! Hope you try one of the great suggestions–maybe even Karin Slaughter’s amazing  COP TOWN!

Now, without further ado, the winner of an ARC of my upcoming book WHY LORDS LOSE THEIR HEARTS is Patti Straight!!! Congratulations, Patti! Email me using the CONTACT US link above with your snail mail address and ill get it out to you ASAP!

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Come back next Tuesday when the always excellent RACHEL GRANT shares some REALLY EXCITING NEWS!!! What can it be??? Like the Go Gos, my lips are sealed!!

 

 

 

Karin Slaughter’s COP TOWN–An Appreciation

Cover, Cop Town by Karin Slaughter

COP TOWN–A fantastic read!

Here at Kiss and Thrill, we don’t do reviews per se. What we do are better called, to my mind, appreciations.

These are the books that strike a chord, that make us wish we’d written them ourselves, that leave us turning the last page with a happy sigh. Karin Slaughter’s latest, COP TOWN, is certainly worthy of all the appreciation I can muster.

Better known for her Grant County and Will Trent series, COP TOWN is a bit of a departure for Slaughter, in that it’s a stand alone novel set in 1975 Atlanta.

When I read her 2012 book, CRIMINAL, which jumped back and forth between the early 1970s and the present, I was sad to see her close that 70s storyline, not because I didn’t want more Will Trent, but because I was equally as drawn to the women breaking barriers as cops in the Atlanta PD forty years ago.

Cover, Criminal by Karin Slaughter

CRIMINAL–70s + Will Trent=Awesome!

Fortunately for me, Karin Slaughter was also eager to revisit the turbulent70s and thank goodness she was. Because COP TOWN is easily the best mystery/thriller I’ve read this year. Following two female patrol cops–one a rookie and the other the sister and niece of cops–COP TOWN explores not only crime and punishment in the era, but also gives a very authentic portrait of life in post-war, post integration, post women’s movement Atlanta. And it’s not a pretty picture.

Kate Murphy, the rookie, is the widow of a Vietnam soldier, who, tired of spending her days weeping, decides to make a change, and that means joining the Atlanta PD. And, as luck would have it, she ends up partnered with Maggie Lawson, whose Uncle Terry and brother Jimmy are both cops too, making Maggie less than thrilled to show newbie Kate the ropes.

What follows is a fast paced, exhilarating, and–yes–sexy tale that kept me turning the pages well into the night. But what will stick with me is the characterization.

I especially appreciated the nuanced portrait of Kate, which was careful not to portray her as a saintly widow, and didn’t hold back when describing the ups and downs of her marriage. One of the things I appreciate most about Slaughter is that she shows love in all it’s messy, complicated, sometimes cruel facets. I also loved watching Kate develop from a scared baby cop into a seasoned veteran in the space of a week. Because her trial was by fire, and darned if she didn’t come through it alive and kicking.

Whether you’re looking for a police procedural with a complex and edge of your seat mystery, or a character driven story about two very strong female characters coming into their own, you can’t go wrong with COP TOWN. The PR materials say it’s a stand alone, but I’ve got my fingers crossed that Karin Slaughter will make this one an ongoing series. There’s a bit of a romance thread in this one and it’s one of the things that didn’t get tied up. But I’ve got my fingers crossed so here’s hoping!

Why not? She granted my wish the last time, right?

What have you read lately that knocked your socks off? I’ll give one lucky commenter an ARC (electronic or print, your choice) of my upcoming WHY LORDS LOSE THEIR HEARTS which Romantic Times just called, “chilling and sweet”!

2014 Summer Reading List for Teens and Tweens

Wreckless_iBooks-700x1050-2First I want to thank everyone who suggested books for the list. We have an amazing selection of books and authors! My kids will officially be on summer break around noon today and ready to fill their ereaders or hit the library. To that end, I’ve taken all the recommendations and compiled them into one Word document you can download by clicking: K&T 2014 MG & YA Reading List. To make it easy to download samples, embedded in the document are links to each book’s page at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iBooks. Or you can print the list and bring it with you to the library.

And now for our winner  who gets to choose one of the books my kids recommended:

The winner is…

Sunny!

Front-Cover-FINAL-Maid-of-Secrets_300Sunny, to claim your book please contact me with your preferred format (print or ebook) and your selection from Tuesday’s blog within 10 days.

Join us next week at Kiss and Thrill, when we will be adding to our adult summer reading list with two reviews by Manda Collins.

2014 Middle Grade/Young Adult Summer Reading List

It’s the time of year when I turn to my friend young adult author Amanda Brice and beg her for middle grade and young adult mystery titles that will keep my 11-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter entertained for the coming months and share those recommendations with our readers. This year, sadly, Amanda is offline due to a sick toddler, so my daughter and son are filling in with their book recommendations. All of us at Kiss and Thrill hope Amanda’s little guy gets better quickly!

As we do each year, I’m asking our readers to chime in with their book recommendations in the comments. Summer is long and my kids are voracious readers, I need books! One lucky commenter will win a print or ebook copy of one of the books recommended by my kids - winner’s choice. On Thursday I’ll post a downloadable list of all the books recommended here and in the blog comments.

Before we get started on our list, here is a mom tip from me: if your son or daughter has an ereader of their own, use the links on this page to send a sample directly to their device. No need to remember titles or guess what they’ll like because they can try them all for free!

Here are my daughter’s book recommendations, in no particular order. (If you check out this list every year, you will see some titles repeated from previous years. These are books she really, really loves.)

1816 Candles
by Amanda Brice

The Selection
by Kiera Cass

City of Bones
by Cassandra Clare

Wreckless
by Bria Quinlan

 

 

The Other Side of the Island
by Allegra Goodman

Enclave
by Ann Aguirre

Defiance
by C.J. Redwine

Goodbye Rebel Blue
by Shelley Coriell

 

 

Bloom
by A.P. Kensey

Maid of Secrets
by Jennifer McGowan

First Light
by Rebecca Stead

Cold Magic
by Kate Elliot

 

 

For Darkness Shows the Stars
by Diana Peterfreund

Alanna:The First Adventure (Song of the Lioness)
by Tamora Pierce

Heist Society
by Ally Carter

Eleanor & Park
by Rainbow Rowell

 

 

The Immortal Rules
by Julie Kagawa

Cinder
by Marissa Meyer

Dangerous
by Shannon Hale

I Am Malala
by Malala Yousafzai

 

 

Here are my son’s book recommendations, in no particular order.
The Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins

The Ruins of Gorlan (Ranger’s Apprentice Book 1)
by John A. Flanagan

Ender’s Game
by Orson Scott Card

Stormbreaker (Alex Rider)
by Anthony Horowitz

 

 

School of Fear
by Gitty Daneshvari

The Lightning Thief
by Rick Riordan

Diary of a Wimpy Kid
by Jeff Kinney

Battle Heroes: Voices from Afghanistan
by Allan Zullo

 

 

When My Name was Keoko
by Linda Sue Park

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
by J.K. Rowling

Holes
by Louis Sachar

The Hobbit
by J.R.R. Tolkien

 

 

Okay readers, my kids have shared some of their favorites, now it’s your turn! Please post your book recommendations for middle school and high school aged readers. One commenter will win a copy of one of the books my kids recommended, winner’s choice! Check back on Thursday to see if you are our winner.

Thursday Winner!

DeadHeat-1A special thank you to Allison Brennan for hosting our blog on Tuesday. Congratulations to jdh2690! You win a signed copy of either DEAD HEAT (The Lucy Kincaid series) or NOTORIOUS (The first in the Max Revere series.)

Please click on the Contact Us link and let us know where to send you book.notorious-final

 

Thank you to all of the commenters on Tuesday, we appreciate you stopping by and chatting about books and TV shows, what works and what is contrived.

Next Tuesday, June 10th, Rachel will host Amanda Brice, who returns with her 3rd ANNUAL YA SUMMER READING LIST. If you have tweens or tweens, do not miss this!Amanda Brice

Allison Brennan: let’s talk books and TV shows!

Brennan_official_photocred Brittan Dodd We welcome back one of the modern day Romantic Suspense Greats: Allison Brennan! Besides being a wife and raising 5 children, she’s presently writing 3 separate series. 1)Her best-selling Lucy Kincaid novels, 2)A new series featuring Max Revere, a spunky investigative reporter and 3) the Moreno and Hart Mysteries collaboration with colleague Laura Griffin. Crash and Burn cover

Therefore, it’s a quite an honor she took time out of her busy schedule to write this:

I am thrilled to once again guest blog here at Kiss and Thrill!

Sarah asked me to write something totally fabulous. There’s nothing that kills the muse faster than expectations. Which got me thinking about reader expectations for Romantic Suspense.

Romantic Suspense is a broad and thriving genre where any of us can write a story about two worthy people battling against all the odds to defeat the bad guy and live happily ever after. Any way you get there is a win. Because the only REAL expectation in a romantic suspense (other than a good story well told) is that the hero and heroine should at least be one step closer to a commitment. They need to overcome internal and external conflicts so that, even if there are no wedding bells or shared bedrooms, the readers know they will make it, together.

I wrote 12 romantic thrillers–each book with one hero and one heroine who were together by the end of the book. It was clear in the structure and set up, and I felt I had a broad canvas to play with, so I did. But after 12 of a similar type of story, I was a little burned out and ready to try something else…and was inspired by J.D. Robb’s successful IN DEATH series (which is one of my all-time favorite series.)

I was nervous about launching a romantic suspense series–where there is the same hero and heroine throughout multiple books. But I’m glad I did. Lucy Kincaid and Sean Rogan have had their ups and downs, but they are together in San Antonio in DEAD HEAT, the 8th book of the series, that comes out today!DeadHeat-1

But even though I’ve followed Sean and Lucy over the past years, and readers know they will stick together, I never want to get complacent about their relationship. One of the things I love most about Eve and Roarke (J.D. Robb’s characters) is that their personal conflicts are organic to who they are as people–so their arguments are never contrived, and while we know they are going to be together by the end of the book, how they overcome the conflict is an integral part of the story and keeps us turning pages as much as the mystery plot.

The season 5 finale of CASTLE illustrates how they do it right. The swing scene. Rick and Kate love each other, but there are some very real conflicts in their relationship. Where are they going? Kate has an opportunity to do something amazing with her career–a once in a lifetime shot at advancement that will take her out of New York City.

Rick has had two failed marriages and his mother has been a bit of a naysayer regarding whether he’s truly committed to the relationship. Add in external plot issues that highlight their core emotional and relationship problems, and you go into the last two minutes not knowing what each of them is going to do.

What I loved the most was that Kate said she was taking the FBI job, Castle proposed, and said they would make it work. Their love and respect for each other would not only help them overcome any hurdles, but empower them to do so. The first four episodes of season 6 were outstanding in how they handled Kate’s job and the transition back to New York. The wedding proposal and subsequent job conflicts were true to character, as was how Kate got fired and how she got her job back at NYPD.

There is nothing I dislike more than a contrived story plot point in order to keep characters together or apart. (Like the season finale of CASTLE 6 … they’d better nail Season 7 or I’ll be really mad.)

I thought a lot about the job conflict for Kate because in many ways Lucy has a similar conflict. After graduating from Quantico, the FBI rarely assigns an agent to the office from which they were recruited. So I knew if I assigned Lucy to the Washington DC office, it would be a contrived plot point to keep them in DC and Sean as a principle of Rogan-Caruso-Kincaid. So I thought back over the course of all the books to identify core conflicts.

One of Sean’s core conflicts, going back to even before the Lucy series when Sean’s brother Duke had his book (CUTTING EDGE), was that he never felt that he lived up to his brother’s expectations. I worked with that, and broadened it by diving into more back story in how Sean got to be who he was. There were tidbits spread throughout the series, but in STOLEN readers get to learn all about Sean’s criminal past and what he’s willing to do to protect Lucy from his past mistakes. And in the end, it feels right that he walks away from the family business and seeks to find his own path.

So moving Lucy to San Antonio, it’s a no brainer that Sean went with her. And right now, in DEAD HEAT, they are at a perfect place together – Sean has made friends (including a good friend working in Lucy’s FBI squad); Lucy loves her job and is working hard; and Sean has spent time fixing up their new house. But he doesn’t have a job and while he doesn’t need one, he would be miserable without something to do – or get into a lot of trouble. Lucy sees it now, while Sean hasn’t quite gotten there yet because he’s in the happy bubble of having the woman he loves living with him. But it’s a real conflict that they are going to have to address, and hopefully it’ll be organic to the story.

There are other issues that will have to be addressed, things that are partly resolved (like Lucy’s past) but that can and will come up. Whether they’ll get married and when and why. And there are a few unresolved issues from Sean’s past … maybe things that Sean didn’t even know were unresolved. 

The fun thing about writing a continuing series is that I can explore more issues between two people—and a strong secondary cast–while also keeping the suspense on the front burner. Series like CASTLE, and to a lesser degree BONES, help promote such storylines.

 

What do you think? Do you like continuing characters? Let’s talk about series … or Castle or Bones! I’m a bit of a television addict, so I’m game to talk about whatever you are!

 

One lucky commenter will win a signed first edition hardcover of NOTORIOUS, the first book in my new Max Revere mystery series, OR a signed copy of DEAD HEAT, the latest Lucy Kincaid thriller – winner’s choice!notorious-final

Thank you SO much for sharing your thoughts on creating a series with organic, ongoing conflicts, Allison! Readers, for more information, please visit her at:

Website: http://www.allisonbrennan.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AllisonBrennan

Twitter: @Allison_Brennan

 

 

 

Last Day to Win!

The gals  at Kiss and Thrill have assembled an auction basket for the Brenda Novak Annual Online Auction for Diabetes Research.

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This is a cause near and dear to our hearts.  So many of our family and friends here at Kiss and Thrill have been affected by this terrible disease.  So please go and bid on something — from jewelry to books to exciting vacations, there is something for everyone.

Our own gift basket, valued at more than $200, is a real steal!  It features $125 in gift cards (including cards for jewelry, books, and starbucks), two items of clothing, two audio and seven print/digital books from Kiss and Thrill authors, a character naming, and a wonderful tote to carry everything in.  You can find our basket HERE.  

You must bid by 7 PM PT on 5/31/2014, so don’t delay!

 

There’s Something About a Man in Uniform

640px-Pararescuremen_extraction_-_081016-F-5957S-919Military romantic suspense is a wildly popular subset of romantic suspense (one of my favorites to read and write). But why are men in uniform so attractive? I know why I love them so much (especially the one I married), but I was curious what other readers thought, so I asked at a Facebook party a few months ago. Below is a list of the most common reasons the readers I chatted with cited for loving a military (or ex-military) hero:

  1. Self-sacrificing. This was number one, no contest. Apparently a brave man who’s willing to die for his beliefs and to save those he loves makes us weak in the knees like no one else. This probably also explains the popularity of other heroes in uniform like law enforcement and fire fighters.
  2. Intense/determined. Readers love a man who will stop at nothing to save the day (and the heroine). Oh, and when he turns that intense focus on her? Swoon.
  3. Honorable. A strong sense of honor and integrity is sexy as hell.
  4. Hot/muscular. Are you surprised this came in so low? As much as we enjoy the muscular physique that military training makes possible, it’s the man on the inside we really love.
  5. Loyal. A man who stands by those he cares about and keeps his word is a definite keeper.
  6. Alpha. The military is a hotbed of alpha males, and we love watching these tough guys exhibit the traits above. We love it even more when their tough exterior cracks and we see their soft heart on the inside.

I think the purest embodiment of these traits is the special forces hero. Suzanne Brockmann got romance readers lusting after Navy SEALs, first with her Tall, Dark, and Dangerous series for Silhouette Intimate Moments, and later with her single-title Troubleshooters series. After SEALs received publicity for capturing Osama Bin Laden and rescuing Captain Phillips, they became the vampires/dukes of the romantic suspense shelf.

They’re everywhere.

Occasionally the Army Delta guys or Rangers get some love too. With the possible exception of Marine Corps special operators, I think it’s the Air Force spec ops guys who are most overlooked, though that’s slowly changing.

504px-United_States_Air_Force_Pararescue_Emblem_%22That_Others_May_Live%22Air Force Special Operations Forces (SOF)? Yes, they exist. In fact, they might just be the toughest SOF group out there. You’ve probably even watched a few movies that featured them—specifically pararescueman—without realizing it (Perfect Storm, Black Hawk Down). In Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), Steve Rogers’ new friend, Sam Wilson, is a former pararescueman, though the way they describe his mission initially makes him sound like a pilot. Even the Captain is confused.

When I first started writing military romance, I wanted to highlight the Air Force’s lesser known SOF teams, all of whom go through similar training as SEALs or Delta Force, but also require additional education for their specialty. It takes nearly two years for them to get through their training “pipeline” and be ready to join a squadron.

The Air Force has three major types of special operators.

Deliver with carePararescueman (a.k.a. PJs or pararescue jumpers). Their motto is “These things we do, that others may live,” often shortened to “That others may live.” First tasked with rescuing downed pilots in Vietnam (often under fire), they are experts at combat search and rescue: inserting into hostile territory to rescue/return American or allied servicemembers. In addition to possessing all of the skills you’d expect from a special operator—weapons training, fast-roping, static and freefall jumping, combat dive techniques—every one is a trained paramedic with the skills to handle battlefield trauma.

Above all else, their goal is to do whatever it takes to save lives. According to AirForce.com, they must be willing to “…parachute, scuba dive, rock climb or even snowmobile into hostile territory to get to a wounded Airman…”

Their original mission has expanded to include picking up NASA astronauts who return to Earth via water landing, as well as participating in civilian search and rescue operations and humanitarian missions. Since 9/11, they have participated in more than 12,000 life-saving, combat rescue missions.

Kick-ass special operators with heart? Be still mine.

512px-JTACCombat Controllers. Combat controllers are also special operators, but instead of paramedic training, they become FAA-certified air traffic controllers. According to the Air Force fact sheet, “The mission of a combat controller is to deploy, undetected, into combat and hostile environments to establish assault zones or airfields, while simultaneously conducting air traffic control, fire support, command and control, direct action, counter-terrorism, foreign internal defense, humanitarian assistance and special reconnaissance in the joint arena.”

So, basically, they risk their lives to set up runways, control the air traffic in their area, and call in close air support for troops under fire (i.e. direct the assets in the air to take out the enemy). These guys are serious multi-taskers.

125th_STS_SOWT_takes_weather_readings_at_Fort_CarsonSpecial Operations Weathermen. Yep, you read that right. Special operators who are also meteorologists. Who knew?

Combat weathermen, are assigned to SOF teams from all services to forecast the mission impact of the weather in the area of operation. According to the Air Force fact sheet, “They collect critical weather, ocean, river, snow and terrain data, assist mission planning, generate accurate mission-tailored target and route forecasts in support of global special operations and train joint force members and coalition partners to take and communicate limited weather observations.” So, brains and brawn. What’s not to love?

Want more of these Air Force heroes? Here are a few books to check out.

- Blind Fury by Gwen Hernandez (yes, I’m shameless!) – Hero Mick Fury is a former pararescueman (my Men of Steele series revolves around several former PJ teammates).

- Breakpoint by JoAnn Ross – Features former Combat Controller Dallas O’Halloran.

- Cover Me by Catherine Mann – This is the first in her Elite Force: That Others May Live series featuring active-duty PJ heroes.

Want to learn more about the real heroes who inspire us? Try one of these nonfiction books.

- None Braver by Michael Hirsh

- That Others May Live by Pete Nelson and Jack Brehm

- Guardian Angel by William Sine

Do you like a man in uniform? What’s the draw for you?


All images were obtained via Wikimedia and are in the public domain.

 

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