PJV Quickie: Ah, another amazing novel that managed to deliver a perfect blend of paranormal romance, mystery, suspense, and humor. The best part about this book though? The characters! From a foul-mouthed psychic heroine to a sexy FBI agent/vampire hunter, this book delivers characters that draw a reader in and make them hunger for the next installment in the series.

 

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Title: Touched
Author: A.J. Aalto
Series: The Marnie Baranuik Files, #1
Type: Paranormal Romance
Published: September 10, 2012 by A.J. Aalto (through Booktrope)
Source: Booktrope
Goodreads Purchase Author

Review
The media has a nickname for Marnie Baranuik, though she’d rather they didn’t; they call her the Great White Shark, a rare dual-talented forensic psychic. Twice-Touched by the Blue Sense–which gives her the ability to feel the emotions of others, and read impressions left behind on objects–Marnie also has a doctorate in preternatural biology and a working knowledge of the dark arts. She is considered without peer in the psychic community.Then 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 a remote mountain lodge for her insight on a local case, 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. (synopsis courtesy of GoodReads)

As a mentioned before, the characters were amazing. The author did such a fantastic job of bringing them to life that after I was done reading it, I had to remind myself that they weren’t real people. The heroine, Marnie Baranuik, is absolutely hysterical. My mom used to tell me I “cuss like a trucker”, but I have nothing on Marnie. She definitely taught me some fun new words; unfortunately, none that I will repeat here for fear of offending someone. Trust me though, they had me literally laughing out loud. Besides having an impressive potty mouth, she was also brave, clever, and stubborn to a fault. There were a few times I wished I could reach my hands through the pages to slap some sense into her. This was usually when one of the FBI agents or her roommate, Harry, offered to help her and she refused, generally putting herself in a life or death situation. It was infuriating it at times, but I like to think that she did this to save the people she cared about, since she felt at least partly responsible for all of them being in danger. The one person Marnie wanted to shield more than anyone was her roommate Harry, or Lord Harrick Dreppenstedt, who also happened to be vampire (or revenant, as they are referenced in this book). She was his DaySitter, which means that she protected him during the day when he was most vulnerable. They shared a bond which allowed Marnie to draw on Harry’s Talents and use them; this is the source of her psychic powers. I fell in love with Harry immediately, even though his way of speaking was sometimes a little odd and confusing. It’s understandable though, because he’s over 400 years old and English. I agree with Marnie when she said:

“…when he says it, he uses big antique words that hurt my head.” (pg. 288, eBook)

There were a few times I swear my brain hurt trying to figure out what the heck he was saying; luckily, Marnie usually followed it up with a sentence of two giving the general gist of what he said. Most of the time he just spoke regally and it was easy to understand. The other character worth mentioning is Special Agent Mark Batten, who also does some revenant killing in his spare time. He was also known as Kill-Notch because he got a symbol tattooed on his chest every time he successfully killed a revenant. Let’s just say he had a lot of notches, thus his nickname. He had a professional and sexual history with Marnie, which made things tense a lot of times. He was a badass, no doubt about it, and incredibly charming. I have sort of mixed feelings about him though, which I’m about to explore further.

I hesitate to call the romance in this book a love triangle. Sure, she had a history with Mark, but I felt that the chemistry between Marnie and Harry was much more intense, even though they had never gotten together romantically. This may seem strange, considering they obviously have feelings for each other and live together; don’t worry this is all explained later on in the novel. For some reason I didn’t connect as much to Mark. Marnie’s memories of their sexy times were pretty hot, but I was praying that they wouldn’t hook up again. Call me crazy I guess; I’m not sure what that says about me that I’d rather have the hot, undead guy to the hot, alive guy. Eh, luckily we’re not scrutinizing my mind. Moving on!

I’m so excited about Touched because finally an author pulled off a mystery/suspense novel in the correct way. I do not want to read a book where I know what’s going to happen 100 pages before it does. I want to be given clues, but I hate when it’s spelled out for me. I found that in this book. Sure, there were still a few things I was able to guess early on. There were times I thought I knew what was going to happen, only to be thrown for a loop. There were yet other times when I was completely blindsided by plot twists. I enjoyed every second of it.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I much prefer a series to a stand alone book. I can’t wait to read the next book in the Marnie Baranuik series and that brings me to some good news; it looks like #2, entitled Death Rejoices, is available for download April 30, 2013. I’ve already read the preview at the end of Touched and it was amazing! Hooray for short waits!

 

Recommendations:

Paranormal romance fans are going to love this one, as long as you’re not opposed to foul-mouthed heroines.

Similar reads:

Kali Sweet series by Misty Evans

Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich


 

Character Interview

On top of being able to read and review this awesome book, I also had the distinct privilege of having all of my burning questions answered by Harry himself!

Thank you so much for being here with us today! We’ll try not to keep you too long. Do you get a lot of anxiety when you’re away from Marnie? Because it seems like if there’s trouble, she’s in the middle of it, especially when you aren’t around.

Oh, aren’t you just the dearest flower, but I’ll think you’ll find that time is a luxury that I have in abundance. As for my DaySitter’s proclivity to embroil herself in all manner of iniquitous scrapes in my absence, I shan’t deny this causes me no small amount of concern. To be perfectly fair, Marnie did survive nearly a score of years without my supervision, and not only managed to survive, but developed into a lovely, clever, and altogether remarkably interesting young woman before becoming my companion. Of course, with my gifts and powers, MJ has rather more capacity for calamity now, and has not been shy about endangering herself and those around her at practically every turn. Current laws prevent me from stepping-in as freely as I might like, which is frustrating when your pet is as cack-handed as my own. Still, one does one’s best. You’ll understand if I must away unexpectedly if, in the passage of our discourse, my darling minion somehow ends up in distress. 

Certainly, you can leave any time you need to! Now, since we’re already on the subject of your DaySitter, there’s something I just have to know. What is the most aggravating thing (I know it might be hard to narrow it down to only one) that Marnie does that gets on your nerves? 

I am loathe to speak ill of my dearest one when she is not here to defend herself, but to be honest, I do wish MJ would learn to appreciate the finer things and not be so adamantly common in her tastes. I speak not only of our ramshackle home full of hand-me-downs, or that beef-witted policeman with whom she shares such an unfortunate chemistry, but … have you seen her taste in sleepwear? Flannel pajamas, boxer shorts, and outsize tee shirts? Dreadful. I have seen enough cartoon frogs to drive one perfectly mad. She knows that I would spare no expense to clothe her in whatever finery her heart desires, yet remains so stubbornly casual. And let’s not even begin to touch on her absolutely appalling taste in vehicles. Oh, that slag heap of a Buick! I daresay I should name it for Agent Batten, since it lacks any sense of refinement, subtlety, or grace, much as he does. It even snorts and snores the way he does, at least to my finely-tuned ear.  

I knew her frog collection was probably aggravating to your incredible sense of taste! I’m glad you mentioned Marnie’s questionable wardrobe choices, because that actually brings me to my next question. I know you’re a fashionable guy, so I have to ask: In your opinion, what is the worst fashion travesty in history?

Jorts. Quelle horreur! Not simply the garment, but the word itself is an atrocity. As a gentleman, I am certainly not fond of a lady wearing trousers, either. Though it pains me greatly to watch my own darling slouch about in denim–denim, if you can imagine!–I have resolved to accept this modern habit, a wildly generous act on my part, if I may say so. I would have an unkind word for Snuggies as well, but I get chilled easily, and, well…..
I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that part about the Snuggies! *laughs* Ok, on to more serious questions. You’ve been alive for over 400 years. That fascinates me to no end. I’m just curious, what is the most amazing thing you’ve experienced in your time on this earth? 
*laughs grandly* I feel it would be trite to quote Ray Batty’s monologue from Blade Runner, but I have indeed seen things you people wouldn’t believe. But, to answer your question, however inadequately, I have experienced nothing more astonishing than the Bond… that is to say, the faithful and devoted submission of one’s beloved DaySitter. I have seen Marlowe’s Tamburlaine the Great performed at the Red Bull Theater, and with my own amazed eyes have I witnessed the towering flames of the Great Fire of London as it devoured that same theater in 1666. Still, experiencing the Bond’s fulfillment, and the investment and sacrifice made by my DaySitters time and again …that is by far, my good interlocutor, the most amazing thing to me.
The Bond does seem absolutely amazing, and few will ever experience that intense connection. You and Marnie have such great chemistry together, but some people have this notion that revenants can’t feel love, at least not in the way humans do. Can you dispel that rumor, or is there some truth to it?
Sadly, it is indeed so. We may feel affection, lust, devotion, loyalty, and all manner of gentler things, but the overweening emotion of love is the one of which we are utterly bereft. Some have theorized that it’s because we’re no longer in God’s grace due to our infernal lineage… but I have my own theories, which I shall not divulge here. However, while we may not feel love, we can certainly express passions of the spirit and the flesh quite comprehensively, if you take my meaning. 
I was afraid of that answer. Now I’m a bit depressed. You’re still able to show her how much you care, though, and that’s the important thing. This just reminded me that you weren’t always a revenant; you were human once. It’s been a long time since you were turned. Do you remember much from your human life?
Oh, heavens, yes. I remember my favorite public house, the names of my mother’s candle-maker and cobbler, and how terrible my schoolmaster’s teeth were. I remember the huge celebration for the turning of the year sixteen hundred, and how that was trumped by the coronation of Elizabeth the First, shortly before I was turned. The memory that grips me most keenly, after all this time, is one that may sound far less grand…that of the morning sun striking my mother’s hair as she leaned over me between the rows of raspberry bushes; I’m sure she had meant to scold me for something I’d done out of sheer impulsivity and youthful lack of foresight as a lad, but that part of the memory has long faded, leaving only gold threads. The warmth of both the sun and my mother’s gentle guidance…both are things I try not to think about, lest their absence prick my heart.
It doesn’t sound less grand to me. I have a lot of memories of my mom that I will carry with me always. If you had the ability, would you become human again, or do you like your life just as it is? 
Would I trade infernal grace for human clumsiness? Immortality for wrinkles? Goodness, no. While I do miss most keenly both the capacity to love and to enjoy a fine dinner, I daresay that having the whole of time stretch out before me is one gift for which I most assuredly would not keep the receipt. Trading my soul for immortality was not done on a whim, you understand, and though I may be damned for it, I have no intention of suffering that damnation anytime soon.
Thank you, Harry, for answering all of my questions, and with your usual grace!
SINS OF THE ANGELS Giveaway
Who out there wants to get to know Marnie, Harry, and the rest of the gang a little better? I’ve got just the thing for you. Author A.J. Aalto has been kind enough to offer up an eBook copy of Touched, the first book in the Marnie Baranuik Files series, to give away. Want to win? Enter below! Giveaway ends May 3, 2013. See Parajunkee’s View giveaway TOS for more information.



Don’t forget, book 2 of the Marnie Baranuik Files series releases April 30, 2013! It’s called Death Rejoices, and you can preorder it by clicking on the book cover.

Death Rejoices Cover

 

About A.J. Aalto
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When not working on her horror novels, you can find her singing old Monty Python songs in the shower, eavesdropping on perfect strangers, stalking her eye doctor, or failing at one of her many fruitless hobbies. Generally a fan of anyone with a passion for the ridiculous, she has a particular weak spot for smug, pseudointellectual assholes and narcissistic jerks; readers will find her work littered with dark, imperfect creatures, flawed monsters and oodles of snark.
5 Stars

Jamie