Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The Lying Room by Nicci French

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for the latest Nicci French thriller, The Lying Room.

Neve is having an affair. A fling with her boss. But when she shows up for a morning together and finds him dead in his flat, she knows she has to do something.

Fearing her secret will ruin her family, Neve scrubs the apartment of her every trace. But the nagging feeling that she's forgotten something is one she can't throw off. And when the detective on the case begins to show an inordinate amount of interest in Neve, it seems maybe her secret is going to get out anyway. 

Husband and wife Nicci Gerard and Sean French are at it again with another page-turning suspense read that will keep you guessing until the very end!

Neve is, as mentioned, cheating on her husband. It's been going on for a bit—still exciting and fun—and she's done everything she can to make sure her family and her coworkers will never find out. But before the affair can come to a natural end, her lover is murdered and an investigation is underway.

An investigation that's hampered by the fact that, in the interest of keeping her relationship secret, Neve cleaned the crime scene of every trace of herself and the killer!

I can't say that Neve is a completely unlikable character. You'd think she would be considering she didn't have any thought as to the killer's identity or her lover's murder but only in making sure her own little world isn't upset by the death. But in spite of all of that, she does care about her family and her kids. And much of the book is focused on her concern about the people in her life. Which balances her terrible decision making in the beginning of the book.

And the narrative moves so quickly that even while you're shaking your head at Neve's poor choices, you're still being pulled along in the whodunit and whodunit and will Neve get away with what's she's done of the story!

Nicci French has been on my must read list for some years now and this latest is yet another example of why that is! Plus, if you haven't read them and have been intimidated by the fact that their latest books were all part of a series, this one is a stand alone!

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here.

For more on Nicci French and their work you can like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The Art of Escapism Cooking by Mandy Lee

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm kicking off the TLC blog tour for Mandy Lee's (aka Lady and Pups) debut cookbook, The Art of Escapism Cooking: A Survival Story With Intensely Good Flavors.

What do you do when your spouse's job takes you to a foreign land where you're increasingly irritated by your surroundings? Well, in Mandy Lee's case, you cook. A lot.

This is a gorgeous cookbook with tantalizing dishes a person can lose themselves in. And that's the point—cooking as escapism! Food makes Lee happy. Intricate dishes as much as easy dishes. It's something she was able to dive into while at the peak of unhappiness. And the reason for that level of unhappiness is made clear in a piece she includes about China called "Meet Richard."

This is a cookbook perfect for reading as much as it is for cooking. Lee heads up almost every section with an essay like "Meet Richard" and "My Days as a Ma-jiang Line Cook" giving you a chance to get to know her in the same way longtime followers of her blog have gotten to know her. And the table of contents itself is a good indication of what you're in for too:

For Getting Out of Bed
For Slurping
For a Crowd
For Snacking
Shit I Eat When I'm By Myself
For Sweets
For Pups

And the recipes are a cool amalgamation of cultural food influences: Buffalo Fried Chicken Ramen, Mochi Challah Bread Stuffed with Proscuitto and Dates, Pizza Tonnato with Chinese Pancetta, and that amazing burger on the cover, Crackling-Studded Pork Belly Burger!

If cooking is your lifeline, your addiction (as Lee puts it), this is the best cookbook you can buy!

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here.

For more on Mandy Lee you can visit her blog here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

A Bitter Feast by Deborah Crombie

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm kicking off the TLC blog tour for Deborah Crombie's latest, A Bitter Feast, which releases today!

Gemma and Duncan are set to spend a few days in the country courtesy of their friend and fellow officer, Melody Talbot. Melody, the daughter of a society matron and a newspaper mogul, has invited Gemma, Duncan, their three children, and Doug, another of their friends, to visit her family estate where her mother has been planning a luncheon to show off the talent of local pub owner and chef, Viv Holland. Of course, it's a charity luncheon, meant to raise money and awareness, but Melody knows well that her mother believes she's doing Viv a favor in introducing her talent more broadly. 

Unfortunately, the event catches the eye of one of Viv's old colleagues, a celebrity chef who's fallen on hard times. When he shows up at Viv's pub demanding an audience, it creates quite the scene. And later, when he's found dead in a car accident that involves Kincaid himself, it seems the police have a true mystery on their hands. 

The accident claims the life of a local woman who has no determinable connection to the chef. But his presence in her car is the least of it. It appears the man in question was dead prior to the actual accident. And since Nell, the driver, can't answer any questions herself, it falls to the local detectives to find out what's going on. Seeing as how Kincaid is affected directly, it's no stretch that both he and Gemma soon find themselves involved in the investigation.

This is the eighteenth installment in the Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James series! Eighteenth! Crombie kicked off the series in 1993 with A Share in Death and has been at it ever since.

Diving into a new book in this series is like slipping on your favorite sweater. It's such a comfort returning to characters I've grown to know and love throughout the series. And that's just one of my favorite parts: the characters.

Crombie excels at characters. The development and growth of the series regulars as well as the slew of new characters introduced at the heart of each new book is something not many authors can pull off. She does it, in part, by offering up varying perspectives throughout the book. And in less deft hands this would likely be jarring, but Crombie pulls it off!

In A Bitter Feast, not only are Gemma, Duncan, Melody, and Doug all continuing their own stories, but new and peripheral character are as well. Kit gets to spread his wings a bit, for example. And we also get pieces of Viv's own perspective, Booth (the detective on the case), and other players in the village as well.

This gives us a chance to become truly invested in the characters and their story. It also gives us a chance to try and solve the mystery ourselves!

And that's my other favorite aspect of this series: the mysteries! Crombie's careful plotting and deliberate doling out of clues makes each new book such a fun read! They're also the perfect blend of cozy and dark elements, toeing the line between the two types of mysteries and offering up just enough of the dark stuff to satisfy a reader like myself, while also being perfect reads for folks who shy away from heavier genre fare!

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here.

For more on Deborah Crombie and her work you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Friday, September 27, 2019

Short Fiction Friday: The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin

I should start a series of lost reviews. Books I read in the final months of pregnancy and the first months of new parenthood that I never got around to writing up because my brain was too much mush!

Ira Levin's classic sci fi tale falls into that category. In fact, probably one of the only reasons I got through the whole book was because it's actually a novella! A peek at my books read from the early months of 2019 reveals a penchant for graphic novels and easily digestible reads. If you go further back, you'll see that between Halloween and the end of last year, I only managed to finish seven books. Understandable, I think :)

But I also didn't review any of those books. I am endeavoring to do so now.

I'm not sure I need to write my usual synopsis for this one. It seems like one so many people are familiar with already. But maybe that's not true. Maybe there's a whole slew of readers who aren't familiar with Levin. I personally hadn't read him until this one, though I have been quite familiar with his work for some time. I fear we're coming to a time when younger generations won't even know what a Stepford Wife is!

Here's the gist: Joanna and her husband are the newest neighbors in the charming and close-knit Stepford community. But the longer they live there, the more the neighborhood rubs Joanna the wrong way. What was once idyllic is now insular. And what was once welcoming, to the point of being obnoxious, is now off-putting. But Joanna is only just beginning to realize the truth about her new home...

I choose to believe my delay in coming to Levin's work, particularly The Stepford Wives and Rosemary's Baby (which admittedly I've only watched the adaptation of and haven't yet read), is timely. I watched Rosemary's Baby for the first time while I was pregnant. I'll read it as a mother. And I read The Stepford Wives before my son was two months old. Like I said, timely.

Of course the book is a statement on a lot of things, most particularly the drive to stay young and appealing. For me, at least for much of this first year of motherhood, I haven't really cared! But the people in this book would be aghast at the thought! If I lived in Stepford, well...let's just say the expectation if I'd just moved there would be that I'd be working to get back into shape. That I'd have supper on the table every night for my hardworking husband. That my house certainly wouldn't be the mess it's been for over a year now. And I'd do all of this with a smile on my fresh and rested face while parenting our son with nary a complaint or thought about myself!

And while most women would rally behind me in my messy house and sweatpants glory, the women in Levin's story would not.

I loved The Stepford Wives. Nothing it reveals about the world is new (and it wasn't when it was released in the 70s) but that's not the point. Throwing the ridiculousness of society's, and even men's, expectations in your face is what it's about. And it's fun. What's more, though the book is almost fifty years old now, it's aged magnificently well!

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

A Cosmology of Monsters by Shaun Hamill

The Turner family is a bit...strange. Noah Turner's father died of cancer. But before he passed, he became obsessed with building a Halloween haunted house that would thrill and delighte people from miles around. After he died, Noah's mother hid all of his papers away, much to the ire of her eldest daughter, Sydney.

Then, when Noah is just 6, Sydney goes missing. And Noah makes a peculiar friend.

A Cosmology of Monsters is an odd and fabulous read! It's literary horror (leaning a bit more literary than horror in my opinion, but perfect for fans of both genres) that examines family relationships, mental health, and so much more!

The story doesn't begin with Noah—well, it does, because he is our narrator, but then he backtracks to tell of his family's origins. How his mother and father met. And I immediately felt a kinship with both Noah's mother and father! His father, perusing books he hasn't paid for and his mother, the irritated bookseller who takes her frustrations in life out on this poor soul!

Soon they are married and have two children, Sydney and Eunice. And things are good for a while. And then they aren't.

In the meantime, Noah's father begins obsessing over building a haunted house. Pieces and parts begin to take over their house and their yard. Every minute is devoted to planning and building the thing and soon the whole family is involved. It should have been a fun affair except that it becomes and all consuming obsession, one Noah's mother isn't on board for especially when she finds out she's pregnant with a third child.

Jumping forward six years, Noah is a child who never knew his father but lives in his shadow. His loss affected the family greatly. His oldest sister clashes with their mother regularly. But the rift in their relationship goes deeper than simply butting heads. Sydney won't let go of her conviction (one she's had since she was a small child) that her mother didn't truly support her father. And Eunice, who'd always stepped up as Noah's best friend, has begun to drift away. Leaving Noah vulnerable and in need of a friend.

And this is when the book gets weird! But in such a good way!

I was intrigued by this book from the start. The cover and the description caught my attention and it was immediately added to my reading plans. But other readers got to it first—and were raving about it! And I mean RAVING! Which could have set me up for disaster, all things considered.

Fortunately it lived up to the hype.

It wasn't exactly what I expected. As I mentioned above, it's literary horror with the bones of a classic horror story wrapped up in a more literary package. Readers who dive more deeply into narratives will find a lot to analyze in this one in terms of family. I would have liked a bit more of the city, but enjoyed what little there was. And I loved the cosmic horror undertones!

A Cosmology of Monsters is an accomplished debut, one that will appeal to readers who like bizarre books that sit between genres. Everyone who reads it is in for an absolute treat!

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

The Stranger Inside by Lisa Unger

Rain Winter has put her career as a producer on hold to be a full time mom. She and her husband agreed. But the tug of the newsroom becomes too much to bear when Steve Markham is murdered. 

Markham had been acquitted in the case of his wife's murder a year earlier. And Rain had been there to cover it. To say she'd been disappointed when the man was let go is an understatement. And Rain clearly wasn't the only one. 

Rain's sources hint that officials believe the case is connected to at least one, if not two others. Two other cases where killers who didn't pay for their crimes were killed after the fact. One of them the man who changed Rain's life forever. 

Rain was only twelve when she narrowly avoided being kidnapped. Her two best friends weren't so lucky. One of them escaped, the other was killed. Rain knows she's never fully healed from the trauma and believes diving back into work—diving into Markham's murder—could finally offer her some peace. But balancing motherhood and career isn't the only challenge she'll face. 

Lisa Unger's latest is a deep dive into childhood trauma, motherhood, and the current true crime obsession. And it's a dark dive indeed!

Rain and her husband have agreed that one of them should be home with their new baby. So Rain puts her career aside to do just that. But as pretty much any new mom who's had a career can attest, setting aside one chunk of yourself to devote yourself to being mom is hard! And the Markham case is unfinished business.

But she can't quite return to the newsroom. So she toys with the idea of a podcast, something that gets enthusiastic support from her old colleagues.

There's just one problem: she isn't sure how to broach the subject with her husband. She is sure, though,—convinced, in fact—that seeing the case to its conclusion and analyzing her own past will be cathartic. Will offer some release of the pain and guilt she's felt at avoiding her own abductor's hands. He was, after all, targeting her when he took her friends instead. And she's never been able to forget.

There is another POV featured in the book: Hank, the other survivor. Hank, who was once Rain's friend, is now a psychologist working with patients who've experienced trauma. Hank is helping people like himself heal and move on. Except we learn pretty quickly that Hank didn't heal and definitely hasn't moved on! So while some of Rain's biggest questions in any story—who, what, where, when, why, and how—may be known to the reader (and, at least in some small part, Rain), there are still a lot of questions that drive The Stranger Inside.

Different things strike different chords for every reader and for me, the strongest chord this one hit was motherhood. The guilt that goes with wanting to be an individual beyond "mom," the terror at trying to protect your child and keep them safe from the outside world, the uncertainty and fear that every step you take is the wrong one. Unger perfectly illustrates these feelings and more in Rain.

As I mentioned, this is a dark one. If cozies are your bag, The Stranger Inside is probably not at the top of your TBR. But if you're a fan of Mindhunter and true crime podcasts, Unger's latest should absolutely be on your radar!

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Chilling Effect by Valerie Valdes

Happy Thursday, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Valerie Valdes's debut, Chilling Effect.

Eva Innocente walks the straight and narrow these days; no illegal jobs for her or her crew. Unfortunately there's no money in the straight and narrow. Which becomes a major problem when her sister, Mari, is snatched by the criminal organization known as The Fridge. In order to free Mari, Eva will have to break her own vow to stay on the legal side of things and earn enough money doing The Fridge's bidding to satisfy the debt. Do the jobs, Mari gets out. Should be easy. Or not...

Valerie Valdes's debut is one of a kind! A Cuban captain with attitude, psychic cats, and a whole slew of alien beings beyond most of our imaginings are just a few of the things readers encounter in the pages of Chilling Effect.

Eva, as we soon learn, has a dark past. It's one she's tried very hard to overcome, so much so that she won't even work with her own father (who admittedly toes the legal line!). But in spite of all of her efforts, she's dragged into this mess with The Fridge. In part because her dad doesn't have enough funds to make The Fridge happy and neither does anyone else in the family.

Not that Eva has the money either. Instead, she has the means and the potential (i.e. the ship and the crew). But before she can even get started with a job that seems simple enough, Eva gets and entire station on her tail!

Oh yeah, and can I mention again the psychic cats?! Twenty of them, all making trouble from the literal start of the book.

Chilling Effect is every ounce of fun you can imagine and more! If you're a fan of Becky Chambers or any other quirky sci-fi, you have to read this one! If you don't, the psychic cats will come and get you :)

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here.

For more on Valerie Valdes and her work you can visit her blog here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble