Friday, October 19, 2012

TOUCHED by AJ Aalto: Review + Interview + Giveaway

**NOTE! Giveaway exteded through Halloween!
Ok, I have found my absolute new favorite in the Adult book world! As you all know, I have a soft spot for YA, but Kim and I both love us as good grown-up read and Touched by AJ Aalto has made it into my top faves. Yep, that’s right. It’s right up there with the WVMP series by Jeri Smith-Ready and The Night Huntress series by Jeaniene Frost! So all my friends out there that did the read-a-long for WVMP with us last year and all of your who stayed on me about reading Cat and Bones… YOU WANT TO READ THIS ONE! *ahem, Jen and Rissa, ahem*

Some of you may know that I turned 27 this year. *balks* O_o  You may also know how awful that was for me… yeah yeah… no big deal. *squirms* Anyway, the main character in Touched is, get this, 27! I know, a very small part of what I love, but having a character that’s my age after reading so many YA novels lately was such a relief. Ok, moving on to the serious grit. Here's the synopsis of Touched. And stay tuned for a fabulous interview with the author, AJ Aalto!

Title: Touched: The Marnie Baranuik Files #1
Author: AJ Aalto
Publisher: Booktrope
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Suspense

The media has nicknames for Marnie Baranuik, though she’d rather they didn’t; twice-Touched by the Blue Sense, a rare dual-talented psychic with a doctorate in preternatural biology and a working knowledge of the dark arts, she was considered without peer in the psychic community.
Her first big FBI case ended with a bullet in one shoulder and a chip on the other, a queasy heart and a serial killer in the wind, leaving her a public flop and a private wreck. When the FBI’s preternatural crimes unit tracks her down at her remote mountain lodge in Ten Springs, Colorado for her insight on a local case, she isn’t particularly eager to stick her neck out again, but her quiet retirement is promptly besieged by a stab-happy starlet, a rampaging ghoul, and a vampire hunting jackass in tight Wranglers. Marnie figures the only real mystery is which one will kill her first.
Too mean to die young, backed up by friends in cold places, and running with a mouth as demure as a cannon’s blast, Marnie Baranuik is about to discover that there’s no such thing as quitting time when you’re Touched.

Touched is a novel that can fall into so many genres. It’s a paranormal – urban fantasy – mystery – romance – thriller. Basically, it’s every single love of my reading life. , there are supernatural beings, magic, psychics, and crazy critters that feast on the undead *ewwww!*

AJ Aalto’s writing is catchy, gritty, original and oh so fascinating. From the first page you can tell her characters have a past that will play a pivotal role in their future. So often authors get wrapped up in the “beginning” of the story and forget that their characters shouldn’t just come out of nowhere. Not AJ, she keeps everything interesting with the tiny little bits of information that the characters feed the reader throughout the book. As if the very events of the novel weren’t interesting enough! There is nearly non-stop action throughout the book, both in an actual physical sense and an emotional one.

The characters all have something at stake within their relationships among one another, but each relationship is non-typical. (You’re all thinking, what the hell does she mean by “non-typical”) Well, it’s not Harry met Sally or Edward met Bella or even vampire met human. The relationship between a vampire and psychic is… remarkable to say the least. I don’t want to reveal too much, but Harry and Marnie are a psychiatrist’s nightmare! And don’t even get me started on the very sexy, very stoic, Agent Mark Batten. *sighs* I love bad boys, and Mark Batten is a Federal Agent/Vampire hunter/emotionally blunt hunk! Yowza! My kinda man! This little triangle (I don’t really want to use the term “love triangle.” Read it and you’ll see why) is a complex, tangle of WTF if I ever saw one. But both men pale in comparison to Ms. Marnie Baranuik. Whom I absolutely love!

Marnie is a kick-ass heroine! Yes, in a small package, but that package is brimming with psychic talent and overflowing with attitude. Lots and lots of colorful attitude. If you know Kim and me, we ADORE attitude. And Marnie doesn’t disappoint. Her snarky quips and vibrant insults left me laughing my ass off while absolutely LOVING every second of it! Her language and descriptions made me blush at times, but she was always so freakin’ funny! She's a character with spunk, but also endearing insecurities and relatable faults. She puts up a good front for the outside world, but the little insecurities she shares help create a bond with the reader. All women, no matter how bad ass, have insecurities. And poor Marnie has her fair share. Almost everything goes wrong for her, but she doesn’t quit.

Between Marnie’s snark, Harry’s considerable use of old fashioned slang and insults, and Batten’s attempts to keep Marnie from carrying a gun, I was hooked. Touched is an intense page-turner that will keep you guessing and yearning for more. If you enjoyed books such as Wicked Game and One Foot in the Grave then I definitely recommend Touched. It shares a few themes with these books, but it’s in a league all its own!

**Note: Touched has adult language, topics, and sexual content. If you are sensitive to these elements, I do not recommend this book.

And now... check out my interview with AJ Aalto!

Hi AJ, and welcome to Living Fictitiously! I have to say, I am so incredibly excited to pick your brain. I couldn’t believe my luck when I found a review request for Touched in my inbox and started reading it. I was hooked! So, let’s get to the fun part!

Britney: What inspired you to become a writer?

AJ: When I was 13, I read David Eddings’ wonderful Belgariad series, and kept trying to imagine myself in that world, inventing dialogue for my character and rearranging the plot in my head to fit myself in.  My dad challenged me to take that passion and pour it into something that was new and entirely my own. That was the summer I became a writer.
Britney: Do you have a special writing process and/or place?
AJ: I do most of my writing at my desk, in my home office, with the lights off, and just the right music or sound effects for the scene (or character) that I’m working on. I need tea and lots of it. I like to have candles, if I can. If something is even slightly off, my muse revolts and I start getting grumpy. Nobody wants to see Writerghoulie grumpy. Don’t even get me started about the dog barking.
Britney: Vampires (I mean Revenants), witches, and psychics oh why!? In Touched, there is a plethora *fancy word there* of supernatural characters. In addition to those listed above there are vampire hunters, ghouls, and an impressive array of insects/critters that relate specifically to the undead. The relationships between these supernatural characters are a little different than what is typically found in this genre. What made you want to write about this wonderful combination of supernatural characters? And how did you decide on the Blue Sense connection between vampires and psychics?
AJ: Vampires in classic fiction and mythology have always had some form of mind control over humans, a lure or an ability to sense your feelings or manipulate your brain. It made sense to me that they’d be psychic. How I made the jump from “then the only humans who could be psychic must have a relationship with a revenant” I honestly don’t remember….it probably popped into my head in the shower. I get all my best ideas while soaping my armpits.
Britney: Kim and I love us some sexy male characters. *grins* I have to say Mark Batten kind of turns me on. *bigger grin* What is it like writing these oh-so-sexy characters? And where do you get inspiration for them. *Ahem. Fans self**pictures and Batten**Pictures Harry* *fans self again*
AJ: Uh, Mark Batten is a real dude. Heh. I can’t name names. I won’t name names. But yeah… had that lightning-from-head-to-toes chemistry with a guy who was totally wrong for me, and whom I never should have even looked at never mind touched.  Mark Batten the character is frustrating as hell to write. I have no control over him whatsoever. I type his dialogue with my jaw gaping most of the time, because I can’t believe he’s making me say these things. And sometimes he’s a total dick. But that’s Batten. He isn’t gonna change for me, or Marnie, or anyone else. Harry, on the other hand, is a tad more flexible. He might wave my suggestions away as though they’re ridiculous, but he’s an uxorious companion and delights in satisfying the needs of his beloved. Where Batten won’t give you an inch, Harry will give you the world—for a price.
Britney: Marnie is by far my favorite character. Her attitude, devotion, snark, and insecurities are all great elements of her character. I’m wondering, so you yourself share any of her traits? (Other than a penchant for singing Monty Python songs of course.)
AJ: We both share the less-is-more approach to cars, houses, possessions. Marnie & I don’t need the kind of luxuries that Harry would prefer to provide. She prefers her beat-up Buick to Harry’s Bugatti. Frankly, I would too. Marnie’s already-worn-in cabin sounds like my idea of paradise. I wouldn’t change a thing.
Britney: I can’t wait for more of The Marnie Baranuik Files! So, when is the next book coming? And are there any little secrets you can share with us?
Aj: The second book, Death Rejoices, is currently in the very capable hands of my editor, and rewrites/corrections are underway. The third book in the series, Last Impressions, is being outlined and researched. I can tell you that in the second book, Marnie starts off at a stake out … wearing a squirrel suit at a Fan Furry convention. *chuckle* You can imagine how thrilled she is about that.
Britney: Ahhhhhahahahahahahaha! I cannot wait to find out more about that! *continues to laugh her butt off*
Ok, now some “just for fun” questions:
Coffee or tea? Tea. I love the smell of coffee, but I don’t drink it very often.
Hard-copy or e-books? I have a ton of both, and the ease of buying ebooks from my couch is fabulous, but I do prefer to have the paper in my hands, to smell the book. I particularly love used books, old pocket paperbacks. I have over four thousand paperbacks in my office right now.
Romantics or bad boys? I was a smart girl: I married the romantic teddy bear. But I will always have a roving eye where the bad boys are concerned.
Salty or sweet? Salty snacks are my Achilles heel. Chips, pretzels, cheese doodles, Doritoes, popcorn …I can’t resist. But I do love my chocolate.
Pink or blue? Blue. 
Late night or early morning? I’m up at 4 AM every day, so early morning it is!
Hot or cold? I am a Canadian snowbunny. I come alive in Autumn and Winter, and absolutely wilt in summer. 
Britney: And last but not least, if you could take one fictional character, either your own or one from another book/movie/TV show, on a week-long vacation to the destination of your choice, who would you take and where would go? There are no limitations to money/time/etc. J

AJ: My first TV crush: Hawkeye Pierce from M*A*S*H … I’d take him to good ole Crabapple Cove and let the drunken debauchery begin!  
Thank you again for sharing with us AJ!

I know you all want to rush out and snag your own copy of this absolutely fantastic book! So, here are some easy links for you.
Barnes and Noble 

And now... what you've all been waiting for! That's right! We've got a chance for you to win a copy of Touched! We have a signed paperback of Touched for one lucky US or Canadian winner and an e-copy giveaway that is open INTERNATIONALLY. Just enter through the Rafflecopter form below.
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  1. This sounds like an exciting new series!

    And 27? You're just a baby!!! lol (add 20 and you have my age - that'll really freak you out lmao)

    1. It's fantastic!

      And I know 27 is nothing (my husband is 36!) I've just been having a diva moment. Lol!

  2. Rumor has it that pictures of a Mark Batten-alike exist in the wild...

    1. Ahem *clears throat* Thanks for this! ;)

  3. Hey B- hopefully when we go out in a couple weeks, peeps won't be thinking you are hanging with your mom ;)

    Great interview and I look forward to reading it!!

    1. Lol! No one would ever believe that! Seriously though, I think you would LOVE this one! :)