Friday, May 29, 2015

Short Fiction Friday: Nightlife: Hazardous Material by Matthew Quinn Martin

Jarrod Foster makes ends meet doing cleanup jobs in and around New York City. Working hand in hand with hazardous materials like asbestos and other things most won't deign to go near, he and his boss handle the tough stuff readying places for renovation or tear down. Their latest job is an old Brooklyn roller rink with a dark and sinister past. Of course Jarrod and his boss aren't aware of the crime that happened there, not until they find the sealed arcade room.

Jarrod wasn't around then, but his boss remembers the massacre that took place all those years ago. The arcade killings shocked the nation, giving rise to more anti video game propaganda. The crime has been all but forgotten over thirty years on, but everyone's about to get a big reminder. 

Nightlife: Hazardous Material is a prequel in Matthew Quinn Martin's series featuring The Division. Readers were introduced to them in 2013 with the release of Nightlife, which takes place somewhat concurrent to the events of "Hazardous Material" (there's a brief mention). I, however, have not yet read Nightlife. Admittedly, some readers might find this e short confusing as an intro to the world. I found it intriguing instead. It's a taste, just a sip of the premise bound in a nice and neat tale about a character who's down on his luck and becomes wrapped up in something truly terrifying.

I imagine if you've read Nightlife, "Hazardous Material" will be a nice little chance to tide yourself over until the release of the sequel in June. It's my understanding that Nightlife has a bit of a cliffhanger ending and that folks have been waiting for As the Worm Turns to find out what happens. (I'll be diving into them both shortly.) If you're new to the stories "Hazardous Material" is out now for just .99 and June will see all three installments released as one in Nightlife: Night Terrors.

Rating: 3/5

Thursday, May 28, 2015

It's Not Me, It's You by Mhairi McFarlane + a Giveaway

Hi, all! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Mhairi McFarlane's latest, It's Not Me, It's You. Thanks to the publisher I'm able to offer up one copy in a giveaway. Be sure to read through to the end to enter.

Paul and Delia have been together for ten years. They're a great pair - Delia knows it and she's ready to make it official. But it appears Paul is anything but ready to settle down. Delia pops the question herself getting a less than enthusiastic yes from Paul and quick follow up of a text meant for his girl on the side. 

Uh oh. 

With her whole life up in the air, Delia knows she's got some decisions to make. And none of them are going to be easy. 

Ha! Delia's life changing events are hopefully above and beyond what most of us will ever face but I'd bet not a single one of us is totally immune to upheaval or Delia herself. Yes, she's a character who's corner you'll want to be in. She's feisty and funny, though her certainty that she'll forgive Paul early on is a bit... frustrating. Personally, reconciliation would not be on the table were it me. (Don't worry, it's not spoilers to say this. She admits it EARLY on.)

Normally a book like this could be uncomfortable, especially if you're facing some of the same issues Delia is faced with. I'd have to say in this case I'd recommend diving into this one even if (or especially if) you feel like your whole life is filled with uncertainty. Delia will make you smile! She might even make you laugh out loud. A lot.

McFarlane excels at awkward. Awkward situations. Awkward conflict. Awkward humor. Wait, the humor isn't ALL awkward. But it is all funny. And it's exactly that combination of awkward and funny that makes It's Not Me, It's You feel real. There's a charm to her writing that not all of the comparable genre reads truly capture. It means the difference between liking a read like this and LOVING a read like this. And let's be clear, I LOVED It's Not Me, It's You.

Rating: 4.5/5

And now for the giveaway. As I mentioned above, I'm able to offer up one copy to one of you lucky readers! To enter just fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, June 15. Open US/Canada only and no PO boxes please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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

For more on Mhairi McFarlane and her work, you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan

Frances was fourteen when she lost her family on the Persephone. Out of the over three hundred people on board, she was just one of four to make it off and just one of three who actually survived. But Frances's ordeal was far from over. The other two survivors, Senator Alastair Wells and his son Grayer - rescued days before Frances, claimed the ship was taken by a rogue wave. But Frances knows the truth: the Persephone was attacked. 

For four years, Frances has kept the truth about Persephone to herself. The only person she's confided in is her adoptive father, Cecil O'Martin. But now Cecil is dead and it's time for Senator Wells and his son to pay for their part in ruining everything Frances lived for.

So, the cruise ship setting is a bit different from the Bermuda Triangle and the nautical horror I said I wished for, but I have to say, I'll take a cruise ship as an alternative any day!

I wasn't sure that this book was going to play out in a way that made any sense at all! Frances survives a brutal attack and is rescued by Cecil - the father of her cruise ship friend, Libby. Libby also escaped Persephone but died before they could be rescued (something that has haunted Frances in the four years since). Libby's father believes Frances when she tells him what happened and his solution is to take her under his wing - as Libby.

Yes, Frances assumes the identity of Libby O'Martin, with Libby's father's help. And for four years, while she's away at boarding school, no one questions it. But when she returns home as Libby and has to convince people who actually knew the girl that she's her, I thought for sure Ryan hadn't thought the story through!

But indeed she had. Frances's transformation into Libby is explained and is pretty believable. It was interesting to watch as she struggled internally, fighting her Frances tendencies - including her feelings for Grey. And through it all it's the thought of revenge that drives her. Her plot is intricate, one worthy of the tv show folks will no doubt compare the book to, and plays out much as you'd expect it would. But that doesn't take away from the overall entertainment one bit.

I did think the explanation behind the attack could have used more oomph and more detail (and more cruise ship!). The end also came way too soon for me. WAY too soon. Surprising, I know considering it is a longer teen read than usual, but it felt short nonetheless (better than the alternative of feeling LONG).

Did I love and adore it as much as the Forest of Hands and Teeth books, not really. But did I enjoy it overall. Definitely!

Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness - Excerpt + a Giveaway

The Book of Life, the third installment in Deborah Harkness's All Souls Trilogy, releases today in paperback and to celebrate the release there are a TON of giveaways going on. The publisher is giving away a super neat board game via Twitter and here on the blog you can enter to win a copy of the paperback - be sure to scroll through to the end to enter. But first, the publisher has very kindly provided an excerpt to tease your reading tastebuds on this book birthday!

If you haven't read the trilogy, there MAY be spoilers here for you. 

THE BOOK OF LIFE by Deborah Harkness 

Chapter 7 excerpt

I stood in Sarah’s stillroom and stared through the dust on the surface of the window’s wavy glass. The whole house needed a good airing. The stiff brass latch on the sash resisted my attempts at first, but the swollen frame finally gave up the fight and the window rocketed upward, quivering with indignation at the rough treatment.

“Deal with it,” I said crossly, turning away and surveying the room before me. It was a familiarly strange place, this room where my aunts had spent so much of their time and I so little. Sarah left her usual disorderly ways at the threshold. In here all was neat and tidy, surfaces clear, mason jars lined up on the shelves, and wooden drawers labeled with their contents.

CONEFLOWER, FEVERFEW, MILK THISTLE, SKULLCAP, BONESET, YARROW, MOOWORT.

Though the ingredients for Sarah’s craft were not arranged alphabetically, I was sure some witchy principle governed their placement, since she was always able to reach instantly for the herb or seed she needed.

Sarah had taken the Bishop grimoire with her to Sept-Tours, but now it was back where it belonged: resting on what remained of an old pulpit that Em had bought in one of Bouckville’s antique shops. She and Sarah had sawed off its supporting pillar, and now the lectern sat on the old kitchen table that had come here with the first Bishops at the end of the eighteenth century. One of the table’s legs was markedly shorter than the other— nobody knew why—but the unevenness of the floorboards meant that its surface was surprisingly level and solid. As a child I’d thought it was magic. As an adult I knew it was dumb luck.

Various old appliances and a battered electrical-outlet strip were strewn around Sarah’s work surface. There was an avocado green slow cooker, a venerable coffeemaker, two coffee grinders, and a blender. These were the tools of the modern witch, though Sarah kept a big black cauldron by the fireplace for old times’ sake. My aunts used the slow cooker for making oils and potions, the coffee grinders and blender for preparing incense and pulverizing herbs, and the coffee machine for brewing infusions. In the corner stood a shining white specimen fridge with a red cross on the door, unplugged and unused.

“Maybe Matthew can find something more high-tech for Sarah,” I mused aloud. A Bunsen burner. A few alembics, perhaps. Suddenly I longed for Mary Sidney’s well-equipped sixteenth-century laboratory. I looked up, half hoping to see the splendid murals of alchemical processes that decorated her walls at Baynard’s Castle.

Instead dried herbs and flowers hung from twine strung up between the exposed rafters. I could identify some of them: the swollen pods of nigella, bursting with tiny seeds; prickly topped milk thistle; long-stemmed mullein crowned with the bright yellow flowers that earned them the name of witches’ candles; stalks of fennel. Sarah knew every one of them by sight, touch, taste, and smell. With them she cast spells and manufactured charms. The dried plants were gray with dust, but I knew better than to disturb them. Sarah would never forgive me if she came into her stillroom and discovered nothing but stems.

The stillroom had once been the farmhouse’s kitchen. One wall was occupied by a huge fireplace complete with a wide hearth and a pair of ovens. Above it was a storage loft accessible by a rickety old ladder. I’d spent many a rainy afternoon there, curled up with a book listening to the rain patter against the roof. Corra was up there now, one eye open in lazy interest.

I sighed and set the dust motes dancing. It was going to take water— and lots of elbow grease—to make this room welcoming again. And if my mother had known something that might help us find the Book of Life, this is where I would find it.

A soft chime sounded. Then another.

Goody Alsop had taught me how to discern the threads that bound the world and pull on them to weave spells that were not in any grimoire. The threads were around me all the time, and when they brushed together, they made a sort of music. I reached out and snagged a few strands on my fingers. Blue and amber—the colors that connected the past to the present and the future. I’d seen them before, but only in corners where unsuspecting creatures wouldn’t be caught in time’s warp and weft.

Not surprisingly, time was not behaving as it should in the Bishop house. I twisted the blue and amber threads into a knot and tried to push them back where they belonged, but they sprang back, weighting the air with memories and regret. A weaver’s knot wouldn’t fix what was wrong here.

My body was damp with perspiration, even though all I’d done was displace the dust and dirt from one location to another. I’d forgotten how hot Madison could be at this time of year. Picking up a bucket full of dingy water, I pushed against the stillroom door. It didn’t budge.

“Move, Tabitha,” I said, nudging the door another inch in hopes of dislodging the cat.

Tabitha yowled. She refused to join me in the stillroom. It was Sarah and Em’s domain, and she considered me an invader.

“I’ll set Corra on you,” I threatened.

Tabitha shifted. One paw stretched forward past the crack, then the other as she slipped away. Sarah’s cat had no wish to battle my familiar, but her dignity forbade a hurried retreat.

From The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness, published on May 26, 2015 by Penguin Books, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright by Deborah Harkness, 2015.

And now for the giveaway! One lucky winner will get a copy of the brand spanking new paperback, courtesy of the publisher. To enter to win, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, June 8. US only and no PO boxes. 


Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Plan to Have In My Beach Bag

I've decided to jump on board with Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the topic is: summer reads/books I plan to have in my beach bag. 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Disclaimer by Renée Knight + a Giveaway

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Renée Knight's debut, Disclaimer. I've also got an extra copy to giveaway, so be sure to scroll through to the bottom to enter.

It begins with a book. The Perfect Stranger by E. J. Preston, a novel found amongst their things as they unpack and set up their new house. Catherine thought maybe it was one of her husband's but he's never seen it. 

The book bears and eerie resemblance to Catherine's own life. An event she's kept secret for so many years. A secret she's kept from her husband and her son, now laid out in print by an anonymous author. Her son is given a copy. Stacks arrive at her office. It's sold by her local bookstore. And now her husband has read it as well. And no one would know that it's connected to Catherine if the author hadn't told them so. 

Disclaimer is dark and twisted, laid out in such a way as to keep the reader both on the edge of their seat and essentially in the dark until the very end. Sure, details are shared as the story progresses - the identity of the author, the reason for the book's printing, the plot of slow revenge that's being undertaken. But the truth doesn't come out until close to the final pages. And Catherine keeps her own truth from everyone, even the reader, until the very end.

Oh, this book was so deliciously paced. The way Knight teases the story is agonizing and fabulous! It is, as I said, a truly dark and twisted read. Both the "author's" motivations and the truth behind The Perfect Stranger are likely going to hit a nerve with a lot of readers. For me, there was a definite sadness to the tale. Not tearjerking sadness, but an unfairness to it all. Honestly, it's a bit hard to put into words without explaining, so I'll leave it there, but this is one that I not only enjoyed for the plot but would love to discuss with someone! So everyone go out and read it :)

(Amazingly, or maybe not, Knight took part in the same "Write a Novel" course as S. J. Watson. Surely it's no coincidence that two fabulous debuts have come out of that course.)

Rating: 4.5/5

And now for the giveaway. I've got one copy up for grabs - to throw your name in the hat, fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, June 8. US only please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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


Sunday, May 24, 2015

New Releases 5/26/15

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Dietland by Sarai Walker

Beauty by Sarah Pinborough

What Lies Behind by J. T. Ellison

Things You Won't Say by Sarah Pekkanen

Constant Fear by Daniel Palmer

Letters to the Lost by Iona Grey

The Long Black Curl by Alex Bledsoe

Written in the Blood by Stephen Lloyd Jones

Balm by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Radiant Angel by Nelson Demille

The Virgin's Daughter by Laura Andersen

The Rocks by Peter Nichols

Remember Me This Way by Sabine Durrant

The Storm Murders by John Farrow

The Shore by Sara Taylor

Secrets of State by Matthew Palmer

Piranha by Clive Cussler

Independence Day by Ben Coes

Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan

I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest

Nowhere But Here by Katie McGarry

The Water Knife by Paolo Bagicalupi

The Edge of Shadows by Elizabeth George

The Death Code by Lindsay Cummings

Kissing in America by Margo Rabb

Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipontra

New on DVD:
The Loft
Seventh Son

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
Love and Miss Communication by Elyssa Friedland