Friday, September 7, 2012

Guest Blog & Giveaway: To Catch a Vampire by Jennifer Harlow

UFI welcomes Jennifer Harlow Author of the A F.R.E.A.K.S. Squad Investigation series. Thanks for Joining us!!

Women Who Kick Ass Book Club-Jennifer Harlow

When I moved to California and I had few friends I got the bright idea to start a book club to meet people (and drink wine). Then I got busy and remembered I'm basically an anti-social person so I scrubbed the idea in favor of dealing with crazy people living under my roof. Through the years I've gotten busier, and crankier, but sometimes I revisit the idea (I do love wine). Then the laziness kicks in, as does a new season of The Real Housewives and I don't read a thing let alone want to talk to anyone. But if you are none of these things and like talking books here is the list I came up with about fiction books featuring women who kick ass. Now, I'm not talking just physically, though most do. No, the women in these books all have one thing in common: grit. No matter what life throws at them, be it zombies or snarky Mr. Darcy, they stay true to themselves and keep on trucking. In ABC order (with the Amazon descriptions):

1. 13 Bullets by David Wellington
All the official reports say they are dead-extinct since the late ’80s, when a fed named Arkeley nailed the last vampire in a fight that nearly killed him. But the evidence proves otherwise.
When a state trooper named Caxton calls the FBI looking for help in the middle of the night, it is Arkeley who gets the assignment-who else? He’s been expecting such a call to come eventually. Sure, it has been years since any signs of an attack, but Arkeley knows what most people don’t: there is one left. In an abandoned asylum she is rotting, plotting, and biding her time in a way that only the undead can. 

Caxton is out of her league on this case and more than a little afraid, but the fed made it plain that there is only one way out. But the worst thing is the feeling that the vampires want more than just her blood. They want her for a reason, one she can’t guess; a reason her sphinxlike partner knows but won’t say; a reason she has to find out-or die trying.
Now there are only 13 bullets between Caxton and Arkeley and the vampires. There are only 13 bullets between us, the living, and them, the damned.

JH pick because: Not only is Laura Caxton thrown into this world of rabid vampires but she remains human and believable while doing it.

2. The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King
In 1915, Sherlock Holmes is retired and quietly engaged in the study of honeybees when a young woman literally stumbles into him on the Sussex Downs. Fifteen years old, gawky, egotistical, and recently orphaned, the young Mary Russell displays an intellect to impress even Sherlock Holmes--and match him wit for wit. Under his reluctant tutelage, this very modern twentieth-century woman proves a deft protégée and a fitting partner for the Victorian detective. In their first case together, they must track down a kidnapped American senator's daughter and confront a truly cunning adversary--a bomber who has set trip wires for the sleuths and who will stop at nothing to end their partnership. Full of brilliant deductions, disguises, and dangers, this first book of the Mary Russell--Sherlock Holmes mysteries is "wonderfully original and entertaining . . . absorbing from beginning to end" (Booklist).

JH pick because: Any woman who can believably hold her own against Sherlock Holmes deserves a place on this list.

3. Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton
Anita Blake may be small and young, but vampires call her the Executioner. Anita is a necromancer and vampire hunter in a time when vampires are protected by law--as long as they don't get too nasty. Now someone's killing innocent vampires and Anita agrees--with a bit of vampiric arm-twisting--to help figure out who and why.
Trust is a luxury Anita can't afford when her allies aren't human. The city's most powerful vampire, Nikolaos, is 1,000 years old and looks like a 10-year-old girl. The second most powerful vampire, Jean-Claude, is interested in more than just Anita's professional talents, but the feisty necromancer isn't playing along--yet. This popular series has a wild energy and humor, and some very appealing characters--both dead and alive.

JH because Anita isn't a Mary Jane. She's hard-boiled and not nice, which is refreshing.

4. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, "The Hunger Games," a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed.

JH pick because: A teenager not focused on boys but archery and saving her family is the definition of true grit.

5. The Little Friend by Donna Tartt
The setting is Alexandria, Mississippi, where one Mother’s Day a little boy named Robin Cleve Dufresnes was found hanging from a tree in his parents’ yard. Twelve years later Robin’s murder is still unsolved and his family remains devastated. So it is that Robin’s sister Harriet—unnervingly bright, insufferably determined, and unduly influenced by the fiction of Kipling and Robert Louis Stevenson--sets out to unmask his killer. Aided only by her worshipful friend Hely, Harriet crosses her town’s rigid lines of race and caste and burrows deep into her family’s history of loss. Filled with hairpin turns of plot and “a bustling, ridiculous humanity worthy of Dickens” (The New York Times Book Review), The Little Friend is a work of myriad enchantments by a writer of prodigious talent.

JH pick because: Harriet is like a tougher Scout trying to solve her brother's murder. I love tough little girls because they become tough women.

6. One For the Money by Janet Evanovitch
Stephanie Plum is so smart, so honest, and so funny that her narrative charm could drive a documentary on termites. But this tough gal from New Jersey, an unemployed discount lingerie buyer, has a much more interesting story to tell: She has to say that her Miata has been repossessed and that she's so poor at the moment that she just drank her last bottle of beer for breakfast. She has to say that her only chance out of her present rut is her repugnant cousin Vinnie and his bail-bond business. She has to say that she blackmailed Vinnie into giving her a bail-bond recovery job worth $10,000 (for a murder suspect), even though she doesn't own a gun and has never apprehended a person in her life. And she has to say that the guy she has to get, Joe Morelli, is the same creep who charmed away her teenage virginity behind the pastry case in the Trenton bakery where she worked after school.
If that hard-luck story doesn't sound compelling enough, Stephanie's several unsuccessful attempts at pulling in Joe make a downright hilarious and suspenseful tale of murder and deceit. Along the way, several more outlandish (but unrelentingly real) characters join the story, including Benito Ramirez, a champion boxer who seems to be following Stephanie Plum wherever she goes. 

JH pick because: Though she's in over her head, Stephanie keeps on going while keeping her humor.

7. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
The year is 1945. Claire Randall is traveling with her husband when she touches a boulder in one of the ancient stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is hurled back in time to a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of our Lord 1743. Catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life, she soon realizes that an alliance with James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, might be the only way to survive. Thus begins a work of unrivaled storytelling that has become a modern classic.

JH pick because: Even when thrown through time into the primitive Highlands Claire holds her own with the clans and her hot husband.

8. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
One of the most beloved books of all time, Pride and Prejudice is Jane Austen’ s classic story of the love that blooms, is denied, and finally flourishes between the prideful Mr. Darcy and the prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet. A country squire of limited means, Mr. Bennet is faced with the monumental task of marrying off his five daughters, including his much-loved Elizabeth, while surviving the puerile antics of his wife, Mrs. Bennet, the plotting of the untrustworthy Wickham, and the arrogant Mr. Collins, who is entitled to inherit Mr. Bennet’ s property. Containing some of the most memorable characters to grace English literature, Pride and Prejudice is an enduring classic whose lessons of morality and responsibility continue to resonate with readers two centuries after it was first published.

JH pick because: Elizabeth is her own person in a time when that was beyong frowned upon. She sticks up for herself and those she loves even when it costs her.

9. The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte by Syrie James
Though poor, plain, and unconnected, Charlotte Bronte possesses a deeply passionate side which she reveals only in her writings—creating Jane Eyre and other novels that stand among literature's most beloved works. Living a secluded life in the wilds of Yorkshire with her sisters Emily and Anne, their drug-addicted brother, and an eccentric father who is going blind, Charlotte Bronte dreams of a real love story as fiery as the ones she creates.

But it is in the pages of her diary where Charlotte exposes her deepest feelings and desires—and the truth about her life, its triumphs and shattering disappointments, her family, the inspiration behind her work, her scandalous secret passion for the man she can never have . . . and her intense, dramatic relationship with the man she comes to love, the enigmatic Arthur Bell Nicholls.

JH pick because: This book started by love of all things Bronte. I love her tenacity, spirit, and strength even when she loses everyone she loves.

10. The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
Clarice Starling, a precociously self-disciplined FBI trainee, is dispatched by her boss, Section Chief Jack Crawford, the FBI's most successful tracker of serial killers, to see whether she can learn anything useful from Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Lecter's a gifted psychopath whose nickname is "The Cannibal" because he likes to eat parts of his victims. Isolated by his crimes from all physical contact with the human race, he plays an enigmatic game of "Clue" with Starling, providing her with snippets of data that, if she is smart enough, will lead her to the criminal. Undaunted, she goes where the data takes her. As the tension mounts and the bureaucracy thwarts Starling at every turn, Crawford tells her, "Keep the information and freeze the feelings." Insulted, betrayed, and humiliated, Starling struggles to focus. If she can understand Lecter's final, ambiguous scrawl, she can find the killer. But can she figure it out in time?

JH pick because: Clarice was one of the first to face off against a serial killer and the boys club of the FBI.

So those are my top picks. Which ones would you add to the list? Who’d I forget? What to you is a kick-ass chick?

Jennifer Harlow spent her restless childhood fighting with her three brothers and scaring the heck out of herself with horror movies and books. She grew up to earn a degree at the University of Virginia which she put to use as a radio DJ, crisis hotline volunteer, bookseller, lab assistant, wedding coordinator, and government investigator. Currently she calls Northern Virginia home but that restless itch is ever present. In her free time she continues to scare the beejepers out of herself watching scary movies and opening her credit card bills.

Find Jennifer and her books

To Catch a Vampire
A F.R.E.A.K.S. Squad Investigation #2


F.R.E.A.K.S. Do Dallas

Beatrice Alexander, telekinetic special agent, is still adjusting to life among the F.R.E.A.K.S. while wiping out zombies and other supernatural threats. When Bea learns about her “special assignment” investigating a series of human disappearances with Oliver Montrose, her gorgeous but annoying vampire co-worker, she reluctantly agrees to go undercover.

Disguised as a married couple, they infiltrate the gothic vamp scene in Dallas. While sniffing out clues, Oliver's convincing public—and not so public—displays of affection have Bea swooning in her bustier and fishnets.

Between contending with her fake husband’s ex-lover Marianna and feeling guilty for hiding the mission from her werewolf crush Will, Bea discovers she’s not the only F.R.E.A.K. keeping secrets. Clubbing with the undead turns bloody when Oliver's old enemy, the Lord of Dallas, decides to seek his revenge. Caught in the crossfire, Bea is up to her neck in blood-sucking trouble.

   Mind Over Monsters
A F.R.E.A.K.S. Squad Investigation #1


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