Thursday, 27 July 2017

What’s in a Name? More Than You Think! - Guest Post by Susannah Sandlin

Illumination, the last book in the Penton Legacy series, released earlier this month. I finally managed to get hold of a print copy this week, so expect a review soon.

Today Susannah is visiting my blog with a guest post about names.

What’s in a Name? More Than You Think!
by Susannah Sandlin

“How do you name your characters?” It’s one of the common questions authors get, and the answers vary from author to author. Here are my methods:

A name drops out of the ether.
Shay Underwood, the heroine of ILLUMINATION, was one of those. The name just came to me, I liked it, it wasn’t too similar to any other major characters in my books, and I kept it. Ditto with the hero, Nikolas Dimitrou, aka Nik. He is half Greek. It sounds Greek. I kept it. Ditto with the hero of the previous Penton book, Cage Reynolds.

A family or acquaintance name fits the character.
I did this more often in my early books. Drusilla Jane “DJ” Jaco, the heroine of my Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series (written as Suzanne Johnson) is a mashed-up version of my great-grandmothers Drusilla Jane Harris and Ida Jaco. Quince Randolph pays homage to my great-grandfather Rand Sandlin. And, yes, my pen is also that of my gggg-grandmother Susannah Sandlin (who’s probably spinning in her grave up in Bug Tussle, Alabama). I used a slew of my own and my pets’ names in my book LOVELY, DARK, AND DEEP (the hero, Shane, was named after my Irish terrier; my rott-chow-triever Tanker played himself). The surname of my neighbors in New Orleans was Zrakovi, which I took as my villain’s name in the Sentinels books.

I look for a name with a specific meaning, or that’s right for the era or location.
I knew the head of my Penton Legacy vampire scathe (or family) was in his human life an Irish farmer, so what’s more Irish than Murphy? And Aidan, originally Áodhán, is an old Gaelic name. In the Sentinels series, the character of Alex needed a strong, warrior-like name to match his nature, so I chose Alexander and softened it as a nod to his Louisiana mama by giving him the (to him) embarrassing middle name of Basile.

I look for pronounceable names that are simple but distinctive.
One of my favorite tricks is using surnames as given names. The Penton Legacy character of Mirren Kincaid drew his first name from, yep, actress Helen Mirren (shhh…don’t tell him). I liked the last name Gentry, so I gave it to my hero of WILD MAN’S CURSE as a first name: Gentry Broussard. I also like ironic names, which is why I named Penton’s eagle shifter Robin (her sister is named Wren). My STORM FORCE heroine is named after a nearby university, Emory, although she has shortened it to Mori.

I keep my minor character names simple.
Thus, we have names like Jonathan, David, Michael and Linda—nice names but not ones I’m likely to use for hero or heroine material.

But naming characters has its pitfalls.

You don’t want too many characters with similar names.
I learned that lesson the hard way when I was writing Penton #2, ABSOLUTION, the first book in which the character of Cage Reynolds makes an appearance. His original name was Marcus, but I realized in the course of revision that I had a Mirren, a Mark, a Melissa, a Matthias—and now a Marcus. The other four were already in the previous book so that barn door had closed. I could, however, change “Marcus” to “Cage.”

You don’t want use names with baggage.
I mean, would you want a hero named Adolph or Hitler? ‘Nuff said.

Make sure old-fashioned names aren’t TOO old-fashioned.
I mean, “Sarah” is a timeless name, but a heroine named Bertha or Gertrude? Uh, probably not. My grandmother was Bertha, so I named a hurricane for her in STORM FORCE; I wasn’t saddling a character with her name, sweet woman that she was.

Make sure your name is right for the era.
Aidan Murphy’s original name was Galen, right up until my “alpha reader” got her draft of REDEMPTION. She hated the name Galen so much that she did some research and found that the name Galen was not used in Ireland in Aidan’s human lifetime of the early 1600s and therefore I had to change it. Áodhán, however, was in use, so Galen became Aidan.

Avoid names from popular books in the same or similar genre.
Aidan’s heroine, Krys (named after the fast-food chain, Krystal Hamburgers), was originally named Bethany, aka Beth. Somewhere along the way, I realized Beth was the name of the heroine in JR Ward’s first Black Dagger Brotherhood book, so while Galen became Aidan, Beth became Krys. Boy, was that manuscript a mess as I tried to catch all the changed names!

So, how do you get your names? It’s a more complex process than one might think! Do you have a favorite name from a book you’ve read lately? I’ll give away a $10 Amazon gift card (or equivalent order from Book Depository if outside the U.S.) to a commenter*. In the U.S., $10 will buy the Kindle versions of the entire five-book Penton Legacy series plus the Penton 3.5 spinoff, STORM FORCE, through the end of this month!

About Illumination:

He came to Penton seeking peace. Nik Dimitrou joined the Army to escape his family legacy, only to have his psychic abilities exploited as a weapon. Now, as a civilian, he turns to the bottle to veil the images that haunt his mind whenever he touches anyone—except vampires. With them, he has finally found a home. But as Penton, Alabama, moves into open warfare with the Vampire Tribunal, Nik finds himself a linchpin in the deepening conflict, not to mention facing a transformation in his own body more frightening than anything he’s encountered before.

She wanted to change the world. Shay Underwood watched her Peace Corps parents move from one third world country to another—until both died following an outbreak of fever. Driven to her own career in tropical medicine, Shay works in New Orleans to cure the disease that killed her parents—until a careless weekend outing draws her into a world far more dangerous than the diseases she studies: a vampire society engaged in human trafficking and on the verge of all-out war.

Two cities, two near-strangers, one world. With Penton rebellion leader Aidan Murphy making risky choices and chief vampire lieutenant Mirren Kincaid forced to take a leadership role in Penton, it will fall to two outsiders, Nik and Shay, to find a way for the town—and themselves—to survive in this much-anticipated conclusion to the multiple award-winning Penton Legacy series.

Buy from Amazon

The entire Penton Legacy Series leading up to ILLUMINATION (Redemption, Absolution, Omega, and Allegiance, as well as the spinoff Storm Force—Penton 3.5—are on sale for 99 cents each for Kindle through July 31. You can find the series here and Storm Force here.)

About the Author:

Susannah Sandlin writes award-winning paranormal romance, including the popular Penton Legacy series, and romantic suspense and thrillers, including two series, The Collectors and Wilds of the Bayou. Writing as Suzanne Johnson, she writes the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series and a number of standalones. Suzanne grew up in Alabama halfway between the Bear Bryant Museum and Elvis’s birthplace and lived in New Orleans for fifteen years, so she has a refined sense of the absurd and an ingrained love of college football and fried gator on a stick. She currently lives in Auburn, Alabama, where she is a full-time author who does copy editing for other authors on the side through



Twitter: @SusannahSandlin, @Suzanne_Johnson


*comment before August 4, 2017 to be entered in the giveaway*

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

My Not So Perfect Life - Book Review by Voodoo Bride

My Not So Perfect Life
by Sophie Kinsella

What is it about:
Katie Brenner has the perfect life: a flat in London, a glamorous job, and a super-cool Instagram feed.

Ok, so the real truth is that she rents a tiny room with no space for a wardrobe, has a hideous commute to a lowly admin job, and the life she shares on Instagram isn’t really hers.

But one day her dreams are bound to come true, aren’t they?

Until her not-so perfect life comes crashing down when her mega-successful boss Demeter gives her the sack. All Katie’s hopes are shattered. She has to move home to Somerset, where she helps her dad with his new glamping business.

Then Demeter and her family book in for a holiday, and Katie sees her chance. But should she get revenge on the woman who ruined her dreams? Or try to get her job back? Does Demeter – the woman with everything – have such an idyllic life herself? Maybe they have more in common than it seems.

And what’s wrong with not-so-perfect, anyway?

What did Voodoo Bride think of it:
This is yet another fun and funny read by Kinsella.

Katie is trying hard to make it big in London, but with her low paying job it's hard to get by. She is creative in showing the world a perfect life though. This is especially because her father never understood the attraction of London, so when she's fired she doesn't want to face an "Ï told you so" and so the lies and subterfuge get bigger.

Kinsella knows how to tell a story in a funny way, so that even cringe-worthy moments are fun. I was hooked from the start and was eager to see what Katie would do to keep others from finding out the truth about her life. Throw in a father who thinks up more getting rich schemes than he can handle, and a possible revenge on the woman who fired her and there wasn't a boring moment in this book.

All in all a fast and very entertaining read, just as I've come to expect from Kinsella.

Why should you read it:
It's a funny and entertaining read.

Buy from bookdepository

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Teaser Tuesdays - The Edge of the Blade

I've been rereading the Twelve Kingdoms/Uncharted Realms books, and thought I'd give you a teaser from The Edge of the Blade today.

The dragons loomed in silent menace against the rosy dawn. They’d given me a serious chill the first time the Hákyrling sailed between their fearsome snarling mouths. This time their daunting size and gleaming black coils seemed to mock me.

(start of Chapter 1, The Edge of the Blade by Jeffe Kennedy)

Buy from bookdepository


Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following: - Grab your current read - Open to a random page - Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) - Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Monday, 24 July 2017

Summer in the Elevator - Book Review

Summer in the Elevator
by Abigail Blakely

What is it about:
Summer Fridley is comfortable. She has a steady job, a bearable apartment, and a longtime boyfriend. Her only plan for the hot months ahead is to stay afloat and continue the course. She’ll also avoid her mother as much as possible. She doesn’t believe in ghosts or magic. Every moment is known, every hour is predictable, every day is the same.

Until June 11th, 2018.

Her cell phone chimes with a text message from an unknown number. A simple message from someone named Isaac Fishburne. Summer doesn't know that he died in the elevator and has remained there ever since. For years, Isaac watched the tenants of the apartment building. Something about Summer intrigues him. For the first time, he reaches out to someone living.

It may be a summer that changes them both... forever.

What did I think of it:
This is a beautiful story.

It's almost entirely set in an elevator and is more about mood, feelings and communication than that there's lots of action.

The chapters are set up as elevator rides in which Summer interacts with Isaac or others, or thinks about things that happen in her life. Discovering that Isaac is part of the elevator makes her connect with him and makes her think about her choices in life.

I loved getting to know Summer through these elevator glimpses, and rooted for her to figure out what she wants from life and if it's possible to reach her goals. I also loved reading how she and Isaac connect and are a comfort to each other.

All in all this is beautiful and haunting story, and I will definitely read more by Blakely.

Why should you read it:
It;s a beautiful, atmospheric story about friendship, love, and finding your place in the world.

Buy from Amazon

Friday, 21 July 2017

The Crowns of Croswald - Book Review

The Crowns of Croswald (The Croswald Series #1)
by D.E. Night

What is it about:
In Croswald, the only thing more powerful than dark magic is one secret…

For sixteen years Ivy Lovely has been hidden behind an enchanted boundary that separates the mundane from the magical. When Ivy crosses the border, her powers awaken. Curiosity leads her crashing through a series of adventures at the Halls of Ivy, a school where students learn to master their magical blood and the power of Croswald’s mysterious gems. When Ivy’s magic––and her life––is threatened by the Dark Queen, she scrambles to unearth her history and save Croswald before the truth is swept away forever.

What did I think of it:
When I was offered to receive a bookish box that included a signed ARC of this book, I jumped at the chance, because this sounded like a fun read.

And this book is indeed fun and very entertaining.

Ivy is an interesting character. It's clear there's more to her than she herself knows and it was fun to discover both what that is and the magical world this story is set in.

After an introduction to Ivy and the world she grew up in, Ivy is soon on her way to a boarding school where she will learn what gifts she has. You might know how I love a good boarding school story, so you bet I was hooked from the start.

With a young orphan enrolling in a school of magic it's impossible not to compare with other such books, Harry Potter being the most famous of course. Although there are certainly similarities, there are enough differences that this book isn't a clone of any of those other magical boarding school books. It can firmly stand on its own.

I really liked the setting and the world Night created. I like the thought of the Scriveners: a mix between alchemists and magic users, their quill and imagination the tool they use instead of a wand.

The story is fast paced and works up to an action packed finale. The ending is satisfying: no cliffhanger, but enough has happened and has been revealed to promise lots of adventures for Ivy in a future book.

You bet I'll keep an eye out for the next book.

Why should you read it:
It's a fun and entertaining Middle Grade read.

Buy from Amazon

Thursday, 20 July 2017

In McPig's TBR Pile - Driven

The problem with getting lots of secondhand books at the same time, is that you easily forget about some of them, so they stay on your shelves unread. Here's another one that I might have to dust off and read one of these days.

Driven (Northern Waste #1)
by Eve Kenin, Eve Silver

In the harsh Northern Waste where human life is worth little, ice trucker Raina Bowen has learned to keep her eyes open and her knife close at hand. She's spent her life on the run, one step ahead of the megalomaniac who hunts her. All she wants is to stay out of trouble and haul her load of grain to Gladow Station.

But trouble finds her in the form of a sexy stranger called Wizard. He has the trucking pass she needs, and she has to drag him out of a brawl with the very people she's trying to hide from in order to get it. She may have rescued him, but Raina's not foolish enough to see Wizard as anything close to helpless. He's hard and honed and full of secrets--secrets that may destroy them both.

As they race across the Waste, trying to outrun rival truckers, ice pirates, and the powerful man bent on their destruction, Raina's forced to admit that trouble's found her. And this time, there's nowhere left to run.

Buy from Amazon

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

The Lonely Ones - Book Review

The Lonely Ones
by Kelsey Sutton

What is it about:
When your only friend is your own endless imagination, how do you escape your mind and connect to the world around you?

With parents too busy to pay her attention, an older brother and sister who would rather spend their time with friends, and peers who oscillate between picking on her and simply ignoring her, it's no wonder that Fain spends most of her time in a world of her own making. During the day, Fain takes solace in crafting her own fantastical adventures in writing, but in the darkness of night, these adventures come to life as Fain lives and breathes alongside a legion of imaginary creatures. Whether floating through space or under the sea, climbing mountains or traipsing through forests, Fain becomes queen beyond - and in spite of - the walls of her bedroom.

In time, Fain begins to see possibilities and friendships emerge in her day-to-day reality. . . yet when she is let down by the one relationship she thought she could trust, Fain must decide: remain queen of the imaginary creatures, or risk the pain that comes with opening herself up to the fragile connections that exist only in the real world?

Told in breathless and visual verse, THE LONELY ONES takes readers through the intricate inner workings of a girl who struggles to navigate isolation and finds friendship where she least expects it.

What did I think of it:
This is a beautiful and very touching read.

I mentioned in my review of Where Silence Gathers that Sutton has a beautiful writing style that adds to the atmosphere of her stories. In this book she uses verse to tell the story, making this book one long and beautiful poem.

I myself have loved poetry since discovering the poetry section of my local library back when I was about ten or eleven, so once I had the time to sit down with this book I got lost in the beauty of the writing and the heartache of this story until I finished it.

Fain is a lot like I used to be at that age, and this made the story recognizable and emotional. It made me smile, cry and hope for Fain and all those other overlooked lonely ones that are out there.

The story and its mood stayed with me long after I finished the book, and you bet I'll keep an eye out for Sutton's other works.

I can recommend this book to anyone who is, or was, an introvert with lots of imagination, and to everyone who loves beautifully written verse.

Why should you read it:
It's a beautiful Middle Grade read.

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