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Review: Royal Street by Suzanne Johnson


Royal Street
Author:  Suzanne Johnson
Series:  Sentinels of New Orleans, 1
Publisher:  Tor Books, April  10, 2012
Format:  Trade Paperbook and eBook, 336 pages
List Price:  $14.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780765327796 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review: Royal Street by Suzanne Johnson
As the junior wizard sentinel for New Orleans, Drusilla Jaco’s job involves a lot more potion-mixing and pixie-retrieval than sniffing out supernatural bad guys like rogue vampires and lethal were-creatures. DJ's boss and mentor, Gerald St. Simon, is the wizard tasked with protecting the city from anyone or anything that might slip over from the preternatural beyond.

Then Hurricane Katrina hammers New Orleans’ fragile levees, unleashing more than just dangerous flood waters.

While winds howled and Lake Pontchartrain surged, the borders between the modern city and the Otherworld crumbled. Now, the undead and the restless are roaming the Big Easy, and a serial killer with ties to voodoo is murdering the soldiers sent to help the city recover.

To make it worse, Gerry has gone missing, the wizards’ Elders have assigned a grenade-toting assassin as DJ’s new partner, and undead pirate Jean Lafitte wants to make her walk his plank. The search for Gerry and for the serial killer turns personal when DJ learns the hard way that loyalty requires sacrifice, allies come from the unlikeliest places, and duty mixed with love creates one bitter gumbo.



Melanie's Thoughts:

Royal Street is set in the historic city of New Orleans just before and during Hurricane Katrina. DJ is a 'sentinel' whose job it is to protect the city from ghosts and demons from 'the beyond'. DJ packs herself off to her grandmother's in Florida to wait out the storm when she gets a call from the wizard Elders to return to the city to hunt for her mentor and substitute father Gerald. Unable to contact Gerald by either technological or magical means has DJ extremely worried as he is a powerful wizard who should be able to protect himself. Returning to New Orleans following the hurricane makes the search for Gerald even more of a challenge with the wide spread devastation caused by the storm. The wizard Elders force DJ to team up with the enforcer Alex as the threat of more incursions of ghosts from the 'Otherworld' into New Orleans makes the city even more dangerous. Just to make her search even more difficult DJ has the centuries old pirate Jean Lafitte, straight from the Otherworld, hot on her tail and looking for revenge. Everything seems to be conspiring against DJ and her quest to find her lost mentor. Time is running out before Hurricane Katrina isn't the only thing that leaves New Orleans devastated.

I have wanted to read Royal Street for a long time and I wasn't disappointed. I thought it was a great start to the series. New Orleans makes for the perfect setting to deliver Johnson's plot with its colourful history in both witchcraft and voodoo. Hurricane Katrina is an excellent plot device to deliver her story as it creates its own challenges for DJ and the mechanism for weakening the barrier between New Orleans and the 'otherworld'. Johnson is spoiled for choice for baddies and she picks several excellent antagonists for this tale. However, DJ felt a little under developed as a character and there were a couple of times I felt like reaching inside the story and giving her a good slap. DJ always seemed to do the opposite of whatever she was told to do. I was almost surprised that she given so much responsibility when she acted with so little of it at times.  I am confident that this character will grow and mature as the series continues, or at least that I am hoping that is the case. I am looking forward to continuing with the Sentinels of New Orleans series to see what else is in store for DJ and how Johnson portrays the re-building of New Orleans.

Melanie's Week in Review - January 5, 2014



Melanie's Week in Review  - January 5, 2014


Happy New Year! I hope 2014 brings you the very best in books. I had a rather successful week in reading despite only having only 2 days of commuting into work. So what did I read?

Melanie's Week in Review  - January 5, 2014Well I finished the two books I mentioned at the end of my WIR last week which were Broken Homes (Peter Grant / Rivers of London 4) by Ben Aaronovitch and Master of Crows by Grace Draven. I also started and finished Royal Street (Sentinels of New Orleans 1) by Suzanne Johnson. I will be doing full reviews of both Broken Homes and Royal Street so I can't give too much away here. What I can say is that I enjoyed both although Broken Homes more so. Royal Street had very much the 'first book' feel about it...which makes sense as it was the first book in the series and Johnson's first book. You know the type of first book where  the characters aren't fully developed and do the opposite of everything they are told?

I came to read Master of Crows by Grace Draven after the author Ilona Andrews recommended it on her blog. Master of Crows is self-published. I wasn't sure about romantic fantasy but Andrews assured her fan base that it was a great story and I whole heartedly agreed. I LOVED IT! It was high fantasy with characters that were well developed. It really flowed along and there wasn't so much romance that it got in the way of the story. The added bonus was the cover. Check it out! I have added a slightly larger image so that you can see the full affect. GORGEOUS! As you will know I am a bit obsessed by book covers so I spent a lot of time looking at it. In fact I think it is one of my all time favourite covers.

Melanie's Week in Review  - January 5, 2014Since I am on on the topic of book covers have a look at the one for Broken Homes. This is another great cover although doesn't have quite the instant impact as Master of Crows but is a excellent nonetheless. This cover is best looked at on zoom. The cover was created by the artist Stephen Walter who specialises in these funky, graphite maps.

Well I am sure you think I probably have OaBCD - Obsessed about (or a-boot since I am Canadian) Book Cover Disorder as this whole WIR was largely about the covers. I am truly not that shallow that I judge a book purely by the cover but when I see a really great one or a really bad one then I feel I should let you know.

I should get back to reading Silvered by Tanya Huff which I only just started and hope to tell you all about next week. So until then Happy Reading!


Interview with Suzanne Johnson and Giveaway - April 11, 2012

Please welcome Suzanne Johnson to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Royal Street, Suzanne's debut, was published yesterday, April 10th. You can read Suzanne's Guest Blog - Fantasy, Meet Reality - here.


TQ:  What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

Suzanne:  Hm…not sure how interesting it is, but I’ve developed a system that works for me. My first draft, which I call “draft zero” (and which NOBODY sees) is usually about only two-thirds the length of the finished book. Really bare bones, where I’m working out the plot with no descriptions or setting details. Then I go back and layer in the other stuff.

TQ:  Who are some of your favorite writers? Who do you feel has influenced your writing?

Suzanne:  Probably the biggest influence has been Stephen King. I grew up reading his stuff, and still do. Whether or not you like horror, which has a lot in common with urban fantasy, the man can tell a good story. In urban fantasy, I love Jim Butcher. In paranormal romance, I’m all about the Black Dagger Brotherhood. Outside the speculative fiction genre, I think the writing of my fellow Alabama author Rick Bragg is brilliant. If he published a phone book, I’d buy it and read it.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Suzanne:  A serious plotter. Royal Street was the first novel I’d ever attempted, and I didn’t yet realize the value of plotting. So it went through a lot of upheavals and scene cuts and bloody, brutal surgery. I recently finished the third book in the series and I think my outline was something like 12,000 words long!

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing about writing for you?

Suzanne:  Finding time to write, definitely. I have a full-time job as associate editor for a quarterly university magazine, plus family obligations. I’ve had to give up a lot—sleep and any semblance of a social life, LOL.

TQ:  Describe Royal Street (Sentinels of New Orleans 1) in 140 characters or less.

Suzanne:  Katrina topples New Orleans’ supernatural levees, monsters invade, junior wizard learns to fight. Must love pirates, voodoo queens, magic.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Royal Street?

Suzanne:  I re-read all the Times-Picayune (New Orleans’ daily newspaper) coverage from Hurricane Katrina, making sure my plot followed the exact timeline of what happened when—when the lights came back on, when the water was drinkable, when Hurricane Rita came through, etc. Also read biographies of pirate Jean Lafitte and jazz great Louis Armstrong to make sure I portrayed them as accurately as I could. Quite a bit of research on voodoo. And I re-read my own blog that I maintained for a couple of years after Katrina, to remind myself of what I was bitching and moaning about at the time (which was a lot!).

TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? Hardest and why?

Suzanne:  The easiest has probably been the pirate Jean Lafitte, because after reading several biographies of him I now find him totally fascinating. In the original version of the book, I’d planned for him to be in one scene—the first one in the novel—and never see him again. But he just kept coming back and ended up really impacting the direction the whole series is going.

The hardest character to write has been Jake Warin, a veteran who was injured badly in Afghanistan and has gone through some rough years before Royal Street begins. He’s had issues with alcohol, and sometimes his head goes to really dark places. Yet on the outside, he’s charming and flirtatious. His story arc over the first three books takes a lot of dark turns.

TQ:  Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in Royal Street?

Suzanne:  One of my favorites is a scene that takes place at the Napoleon House, which is a bar and restaurant in the French Quarter that was built around 1800 as a residence. Napoleon Bonaparte had been invited to spend his exile there, but never made it. It’s one of my favorite places in New Orleans. But in the book, the Napoleon House is still closed for Katrina, and my heroine DJ ends up in a dramatic scene with a gaggle of pirates. I can’t say much more without spoilers.

I also like the scene early in the book when DJ’s new partner Alex shows up, guns ablaze. It was fun to write.

TQ:  What's next?

Suzanne:  Beginning in April, I’ll have “Easter Eggs” on my website for those who want some backstory on things like how character names were chosen, info on the places the characters go, what in real life inspired certain scenes, etc.

I’ll be talking about the book and signing copies in April and May in New Orleans, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, Birmingham, Portland, and San Diego. Dates and times are on my website (www.suzanne-johnson.com). I’ll also be at Authors After Dark in August. The second book in the series, River Road, will be out November 13!

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Suzanne:  Thanks so much!


About Royal Street

Royal Street
Sentinels of New Orleans 1
Tor Books, April 10, 2012
Trade Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Interview with Suzanne Johnson and Giveaway - April 11, 2012 
As the junior wizard sentinel for New Orleans, Drusilla Jaco’s job involves a lot more potion-mixing and pixie-retrieval than sniffing out supernatural bad guys like rogue vampires and lethal were-creatures. DJ’s boss and mentor, Gerald St. Simon, is the wizard tasked with protecting the city from anyone or anything that might slip over from the preternatural beyond.

Then Hurricane Katrina hammers New Orleans’ fragile levees, unleashing more than just dangerous flood waters.

While winds howled and Lake Pontchartrain surged, the borders between the modern city and the Beyond crumbled. Now, the undead and the restless are roaming the Big Easy, and a serial killer with ties to voodoo is murdering the soldiers sent to help the city recover.

To make it worse, Gerry has gone missing, the wizards’ Elders have assigned a grenade-toting assassin as DJ’s new partner, and undead pirate Jean Lafitte wants to make her walk his plank. The search for Gerry and for the serial killer turns personal when DJ learns the hard way that loyalty requires sacrifice, allies come from the unlikeliest places, and duty mixed with love creates one bitter roux.


About Suzanne

Interview with Suzanne Johnson and Giveaway - April 11, 2012
Urban fantasy author Suzanne Johnson grew up in rural Northwest Alabama, halfway between the Bear Bryant Museum and Elvis’ birthplace. That, plus living in New Orleans for fifteen years, has given her a highly refined sense of the absurd and an ingrained love of SEC football and fried gator on a stick. Her debut novel, Royal Street, will be released on April 10, 2012, by Tor Books, and will begin an urban fantasy series set in New Orleans during and immediately after Hurricane Katrina. The second book in the series, River Road, will be released in November 2012. By day, Suzanne is an editor at Auburn University despite being a graduate of the University of Alabama, which she thinks makes her bilingual. She lives in Auburn with two dogs named after professional wrestlers—a story she is not inclined to share (unless you catch her at the Napoleon House during Authors After Dark 2012).



Suzanne's Links

Website
Blog
Facebook
Twitter
At Tor.Com


The Giveaway

THE RULES

What:  One commenter will win a copy of Royal Street (Sentinels of New Orleans 1) from The Qwillery.

How:  Leave a comment answering one of the following questions posed by Suzanne:

Who are some of your favorite wizards in books, movies, and/or tv?

Please remember - if you don't answer the question your entry will not be counted.

You may receive additional entries by:

1)   Being a Follower of The Qwillery.

2)   Mentioning the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter. Even if you mention the giveaway on both, you will get only one additional entry. You get only one additional entry even if you mention the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter multiple times.

3)   Mentioning the giveaway on your on blog or website. It must be your own blog or website; not a website that belongs to someone else or a site where giveaways, contests, etc. are posted.

There are a total of 4 entries you may receive: Comment (1 entry), Follower (+1 entry), Facebook and/or Twitter (+ 1 entry), and personal blog/website mention (+1 entry). This is subject to change again in the future for future giveaways.

Please leave links for Facebook, Twitter, or blog/website mentions. You MUST leave a way to contact you.

Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59pm US Eastern Time on Wednesday, April 18, 2012. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules are subject to change.*

Guest Blog by Suzanne Johnson - Fantasy, Meet Reality - and Giveaway

Please welcome Suzanne Johnson to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Royal Street (Sentinels of New Orleans 1), Suzanne's debut, will be published in April 2012.


Fantasy, Meet Reality

     On Sunday, August 28, 2005, I piled in a car with two dogs (one a ninety-pounder), an elderly parent, a friend, and her ailing cat, and left home for a two-day trip. It’s what I’d packed for, after all: one change of clothes, only the shoes I was wearing, a book to read (John Berry’s Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi River Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America), and a few cans of dog food. I was pretty much broke, it being two days before payday and, like most people, I lived paycheck to paycheck.

     But I didn’t go home on August 30 as planned. In fact, I didn’t go back for almost six weeks. We all lived in a hotel room for a week with our restless pets, and then disbursed to live on the goodwill of friends. When I finally did go home on October 10, I was afraid of what I’d find. (And I really, really grew to hate the irony of that John Berry book.)

     I was a New Orleanian, and when I left on August 28, it was a last-minute run from a little storm called Hurricane Katrina. You probably know what happened after that.

     For the next couple of years, I fought insurance companies and bureaucrats to get my house repaired. I watched elderly friends grow weak from the stress and die. I watched the city I loved so fiercely as it struggled back to its feet. I worked long hours trying to do my part in helping Tulane get reopened and repaired. I cried a lot.

     I don’t say all this as a “poor me,” because I had it SO much better than a lot of folks in New Orleans, including many of my friends and coworkers. But a catastrophe or natural disaster leaves its mark on everyone who goes through it. What do you do with all those unresolved feelings?

      For me (and at least two or three other New Orleanians I’ve since met), it became a new endeavor: fiction writing. I’d been a nonfiction writer and editor in higher education for years. But fiction? Moi? Uh-uh.

     I left New Orleans in late 2007 for family reasons, and between unresolved Katrina stress and homesickness, I began to write. In early 2009, I finished a book called Royal Street. I didn’t know if it had any commercial legs—after all it was about a national tragedy people are still dealing with…and it was urban fantasy.

     Urban fantasy is a genre I loved long before I ever heard the name. Anne Rice introduced me to vampires. Stephen King introduced me to all kinds of scary stuff that might be true (and might, without provocation, eat me). The joy of urban fantasy, for me, is the “what if” factor. What if, in our real world, we could turn the corner and run into a vampire? What if the guy behind the counter at the meat market is a werewolf (who cleans up the scraps between customers)? What if science hasn’t really killed off magic in our world?

     What if a wizard got caught in Hurricane Katrina? What if the levees that broke were not only physical but metaphysical? What if more than floodwater swept into New Orleans after the storm? “What if” is the heart of any story, but it’s especially strong at the crossroads of fantasy and reality that we call “urban fantasy” or “contemporary fantasy.”

     Royal Street, at its heart, is a love song to the hometown of my heart. It’s a story about what we do when the things we’ve learned to depend on are taken away from us, abruptly and unexpectedly. It’s about the power of human memory to keep alive those we love. It’s about how even in the worst of times, good things can happen if our hearts are open to them. The wizards of Royal Street aren’t real, but the post-Katrina world they live in is.


A contest! Royal Street, the first book in the Sentinels of New Orleans series, will be released by Tor Books on April 10 and is available for preorder at the usual places online. I’ll be giving away a signed copy of Royal Street to a commenter who answers one of these questions:

     Have you read a book set around a natural disaster, or what’s your favorite book set in New Orleans? (Note: the winner will receive the book in March, as soon as I have author copies available.)

Please see contest rules below.


To find out more about me or the Sentinels of New Orleans series, visit my Preternatura Blog at http://suzanne-johnson.blogspot.com, or my website at www.suzanne-johnson.com.


About Royal Street

Royal Street
Sentinels of New Orleana 1
Tor Books, April 10, 2012
Trade Paperback, 336 pages

Guest Blog by Suzanne Johnson -  Fantasy, Meet Reality - and Giveaway 
As the junior wizard sentinel for New Orleans, Drusilla Jaco’s job involves a lot more potion-mixing and pixie-retrieval than sniffing out supernatural bad guys like rogue vampires and lethal were-creatures. DJ’s boss and mentor, Gerald St. Simon, is the wizard tasked with protecting the city from anyone or anything that might slip over from the preternatural beyond. 

Then Hurricane Katrina hammers New Orleans’ fragile levees, unleashing more than just dangerous flood waters. 

While winds howled and Lake Pontchartrain surged, the borders between the modern city and the Beyond crumbled. Now, the undead and the restless are roaming the Big Easy, and a serial killer with ties to voodoo is murdering the soldiers sent to help the city recover. 

To make it worse, Gerry has gone missing, the wizards’ Elders have assigned a grenade-toting assassin as DJ’s new partner, and undead pirate Jean Lafitte wants to make her walk his plank. The search for Gerry and for the serial killer turns personal when DJ learns the hard way that loyalty requires sacrifice, allies come from the unlikeliest places, and duty mixed with love creates one bitter roux.
Pre-order



About Suzanne

Guest Blog by Suzanne Johnson -  Fantasy, Meet Reality - and Giveaway
Urban fantasy author Suzanne Johnson grew up in rural Northwest Alabama, halfway between the Bear Bryant Museum and Elvis’ birthplace. That, plus living in New Orleans for fifteen years, has given her a highly refined sense of the absurd and an ingrained love of SEC football and fried gator on a stick. Her debut novel, Royal Street, will be released on April 10, 2012, by Tor Books, and will begin an urban fantasy series set in New Orleans during and immediately after Hurricane Katrina. The second book in the series, River Road, will be released in November 2012. By day, Suzanne is an editor at Auburn University despite being a graduate of the University of Alabama, which she thinks makes her bilingual. She lives in Auburn with two dogs named after professional wrestlers—a story she is not inclined to share (unless you catch her at the Napoleon House during Authors After Dark 2012).



Suzanne's Links

Website
Blog
Facebook
Twitter
At Tor.Com


The Giveaway

THE RULES

What:  One commenter will win a signed copy of Royal Street (Sentinels of New Orleans 1) from Suzanne. Note: the winner will receive the book in March, as soon as Suzanne has author copies available.

How:  Leave a comment answering one of the following questions posed by Suzanne:

Have you read a book set around a natural disaster, or 
what’s your favorite book set in New Orleans?

Please remember - if you don't answer the question your entry will not be counted.

You may receive additional entries by:

1)   Being a Follower of The Qwillery.

2)   Mentioning the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter. Even if you mention the giveaway on both, you will get only one additional entry. You get only one additional entry even if you mention the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter multiple times.

3)   Mentioning the giveaway on your on blog or website. It must be your own blog or website; not a website that belongs to someone else or a site where giveaways, contests, etc. are posted.

There are a total of 4 entries you may receive: Comment (1 entry), Follower (+1 entry), Facebook and/or Twitter (+ 1 entry), and personal blog/website mention (+1 entry). This is subject to change again in the future for future giveaways.

Please leave links for Facebook, Twitter, or blog/website mentions. In addition please leave a way to contact you.

Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59pm US Eastern Time on Wednesday, February 22, 2012. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules are subject to change.*
Review: Royal Street by Suzanne JohnsonMelanie's Week in Review  - January 5, 2014Interview with Suzanne Johnson and Giveaway - April 11, 2012Guest Blog by Suzanne Johnson -  Fantasy, Meet Reality - and Giveaway

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