Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Eggshells by Catriona Lally

Happy Wednesday, y'all! Today I'm part of the TLC blog tour for Catriona Lally's Eggshells.

When Vivian was little, her parents said they thought she was a changeling. Not only that, but they told her they tried to get their real daughter back. 

Out of work for six months, Vivian wanders the streets of Dublin. It's not random, it's planned and she maps her travels. She also visits site and museums, listing butterflies, treasures she discovers on the beach, and other things she sees in her wanderings. Of special interest, signs with missing letters. 

Then one day Vivian decides she'd like to make a friend. Not just any friend - a friend named Penelope. So she makes an advert. Lo and behold, a Penelope answers!

Eggshells is a bit of an odd read. Catriona Lally has a very different and distinct style and voice, creating in Vivian a whimsical character who most definitely lives outside the bounds of what one would consider normal.

Vivian's travels and interactions with others only cement this further. At one point, a man on a bus asks her for money and she hands him lemons. Her logic, the lemons are worth so much and so he only needs to seek out the difference. Needless to say, her lemons are not accepted with gratitude.

In another scene, Vivian has decided to have a blue day and heads to the store to buy appropriate materials. The clerk mistakenly believes it's for a child's birthday and Vivian does nothing to dissuade this idea, instead informing the clerk that yes, she's planning a party for her six year old sons. Who are at home alone. But it's ok because they can't get out of their wheelchairs.

This is a telling scene for a few reasons. First, Vivian definitely doesn't think about the repercussions in taking this farce as far as she does while she's doing it. But she does quickly realize her mistake. So we know that she knows, for example, that leaving six year old wheelchair bound children at home alone is not acceptable. She even goes so far as to wear a disguise later, in case anyone from the store who over heard is nearby.

There's never an explanation about Vivian. Is she simply given to flights of fancy and happy as such. Or is there an actual reason for the way she is. We don't know. There were a few instances where it seemed she might be OCD, mentally repeating "safe" when going to a new shop, for example. But other than those hints, the reader is left to wonder.

I have mentioned before that I lean more towards plot driven rather than character driven novels. A book like Eggshells is the exception. While it is a strange read, following Vivian around on her day to day explorations and such, she is the kind of character who drives a story through her oddness. And so I was curious to see where Vivian would take me next and stuck with her.

In the end I did, however, wish for more plot, more actual happenings, and even more on Vivian's life before the book began.

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here. And for more on Catriona Lally and her work you can follow her on Twitter.

Purchase Links: Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Simple Favor by Darcey Bell

Hi, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Darcey Bell's debut, A Simple Favor.

Stephanie and Emily are friends, as are their sons. And it's not unusual for Emily to occasionally ask Stephanie to pick up her son after school on the rare day when his after school nanny isn't available. After all, the boys are friends and play dates are good for all of them. So there's nothing unusual about Emily asking Stephanie to do the same this time. Until Emily fails to pick her son up. One night, two... Stephanie starts to wonder if she misunderstood the request. But when Emily's husband returns from a trip overseas, it becomes clear nothing about this is normal. 

I find frequently that without planning or knowing it's a possibility I end up reading things back to back that share themes or elements. Not obvious ones, I mean. For example, I might be in the mood for dark crime fiction or unreliable narrators and read a few of those back to back; that's not what I mean. What I mean is the unexpected appearance of the same element that I didn't like in yesterday's book rearing it's head in today's book. Is incest a trendy subject all of the sudden? If so, it really shouldn't be.

Sorry I had to get that out of my system, it had been nagging at me. I will do my very best now to review A Simple Favor without spoilers.

We begin with Stephanie. Her blog to be exact. She's worried and becoming frantic because her best friend has apparently gone missing. And that's the only explanation she has for the fact that a simple favor - picking up Emily's son, Nicky, from school and letting him play with her own son, Miles, for the afternoon - has turned into an overnight sleepover. And another overnight. And another.

It turns out Stephanie may have misunderstood. She reaches out to Emily's husband, who's out of town for business, and is told Emily will be gone for a few days. But, as mentioned above, when Sean returns and Emily is still gone it becomes clear to both of them that this wasn't the planned trip he thought it was.

The police become involved.

The narration shifts, giving readers a chance to see bits of the story from Emily's and Sean's perspectives in addition to Stephanie's. And secrets are revealed.

I liked the way Bell played with persona - the pieces of the characters that are kept personal and the pieces that are doled out to those around them, the edited for public consumption parts if you will. And of course it makes for unreliable narrators and multiple twists in the story.

A Simple Favor has earned quiet a bit of comparisons to some of the more popular unreliable narrator/domestic thriller/psychological suspense tales to be released of late. The comparisons are pretty unavoidable, all things considered, and frankly to even mention them is a bit spoilery. But which I mean A Simple Favor doesn't necessarily stand out as original or unique in the growing trend.

That's not to say that I didn't like A Simple Favor. It was a decent read - good entertainment for an evening at home alone while hubs was teaching. Had it come first, it would have packed a bit more punch. But it didn't. If you're a fan of the trend (as am I) and are looking for more in that same vein, A Simple Favor is a great one to try. If you're looking for something that'll knock your socks off (which I was), this one likely won't do it for you.

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here. And for more on Darcey Bell and her work you can follow her on Twitter.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

It's a new week, readers! Today I'm part of the TLC blog tour for Amy Engel's latest, The Roanoke Girls.

For sixteen years, Lane dreamed of the house named after her mother's family. Her mother never told her anything about the place where she grew up. Never told Lane anything about her parents. Never told her why she left in the first place or why she avoided any mention of the small Kansas town where she lived before. And then Lane's mom committed suicide. 

At first, it seemed like life at Roanoke would be ok. But then Lane discovered the secret her mother lived with all those years. 

A decade later, Lane's cousin has gone missing and Lane finds herself once again pulled to Roanoke. 

Um. This is a tough one to review. At it's most basic, Amy Engel's writing is great. Her prose reads easily, pulling you into the story from the start with Lane's narration. And I admit I really did like Lane. She's tough and she's clever and her determination to find out what happened to her cousin is admirable.

Chapters alternate between "Then" - Lane's first arrival at Roanoke as a teen, "Now" - her return after learning Allegra has gone missing, and interspersed chapters on the other Roanoke girls going back to Lane's grandfather's sisters.

As Lane's cousin reveals, none of the Roanoke girls lasts long. It didn't take but a few pages for me to draw my own conclusion about what the dark secrets of Roanoke might be. And that suspicion was confirmed shortly thereafter. I was actually a bit disappointed when it turned out I was right - first because it seemed too obvious, or just too easy a choice. Second because had I known from the start that's what the book was about, I likely wouldn't have read it at all.

As I said, the reveal comes early so the why of the Roanoke girls' stories lacks suspense and twists. The only real reveals left concern Allegra's fate, which for some might be enough of a draw. If you're a frequent visitor to the blog, then you know there's not much subject wise that I shy away from and I'm a fan of dark. This one, though, was just too much for me.

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

For more on Amy Engel and her work you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Purchase Links: Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

Sunday, March 26, 2017

New Releases 3/28/17

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Satanic Mechanic by Sally Andrew

Almost Missed You by Jessica Strawser

The Fire Child by S. K. Tremayne

Conviction by Julia Dahl

The Night Mark by Tiffany Reisz

It Happens All the Time by Amy Hatvany

A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi

100 Hours by Rachel Vincent

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Just Fly Away by Andrew McCarthy

Dream Forever by Kit Alloway

Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

The Ship Beyond Time by Heidi Heilig

New on DVD:
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
A Monster Calls
Why Him?

New reviews at
The Dime by Kathleen Kent

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Pre Pub Book Buzz: Three Titles From Putnam

So this week I'm doing something a little different with the pre pub book buzz post - I'm featuring three titles rather than the usual one. Which is not to say that each of these books doesn't deserve their very own highlight post! Rather, I was invited to an event this week that featured all three.

The good folks at Putnam put together a pre pub tour this week for three of their summer authors: Jill Santopolo, Courtney Maum, and Bianca Marais - and the second stop on this tour just happened to be Denver. And I got an invite.

The group included editors, publicists, booksellers, and sales reps, all mingling with the authors over Mexican hors d'oeuvres and drinks. It was a fabulous time and it gave us all the chance to hear a bit about the books from each of the authors too.

And Now I want to share them with you!

First up, Jill Santopolo's The Light We Lost, which is due out in May. Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

Lucy is faced with a life-altering choice. But before she can make her decision, she must start her story—their story—at the very beginning.

Lucy and Gabe meet as seniors at Columbia University on a day that changes both of their lives forever. Together, they decide they want their lives to mean something, to matter. When they meet again a year later, it seems fated—perhaps they’ll find life’s meaning in each other. But then Gabe becomes a photojournalist assigned to the Middle East and Lucy pursues a career in New York. What follows is a thirteen-year journey of dreams, desires, jealousies, betrayals, and, ultimately, of love. Was it fate that brought them together? Is it choice that has kept them away? Their journey takes Lucy and Gabe continents apart, but never out of each other’s hearts.

The Light We Lost sounds like a heart wrenching read. And a bit nostalgic too (for me anyway) considering we meet the characters in college at the same time I myself was there.

Next up is Courtney Mauam's Touch, which hits shelves in June. Here's the Goodreads synopsis:

Sloane Jacobsen is the most powerful trend forecaster in the world (she was the foreseer of the swipe), and global fashion, lifestyle, and tech companies pay to hear her opinions about the future. Her recent forecasts on the family are unwavering: the world is over-populated, and with unemployment, college costs, and food prices all on the rise, having children is an extravagant indulgence.

So it s no surprise when the tech giant Mammoth hires Sloane to lead their groundbreaking annual conference, celebrating the voluntarily childless. But not far into her contract, Sloane begins to sense the undeniable signs of a movement against electronics that will see people embracing compassion, empathy, and in-personism again. She s struggling with the fact that her predictions are hopelessly out of sync with her employer's mission and that her closest personal relationship is with her self-driving car when her partner, the French neo-sensualist Roman Bellard, reveals that he is about to publish an op-ed on the death of penetrative sex a post-sexual treatise that instantly goes viral. Despite the risks to her professional reputation, Sloane is nevertheless convinced that her instincts are the right ones, and goes on a quest to defend real life human interaction, while finally allowing in the love and connectedness she's long been denying herself.

I'll be honest, this one sounds a bit like a lighter Black Mirror kind of tale. The dangers of technology and all. I'm quite looking forward to it!

And finally, due out in July, is Bianca Marais's debut, Hum If You Don't Know the Words. Here's what Goodreads says:

Life under Apartheid has created a secure future for Robin Conrad, a nine-year-old white girl living with her parents in 1970s Johannesburg. In the same nation but worlds apart, Beauty Mbali, a Xhosa woman in a rural village in the Bantu homeland of the Transkei, struggles to raise her children alone after her husband's death. Both lives have been built upon the division of race, and their meeting should never have occurred . . . until the Soweto Uprising, in which a protest by black students ignites racial conflict, alters the fault lines on which their society is built, and shatters their worlds when Robin s parents are left dead and Beauty s daughter goes missing. 

After Robin is sent to live with her loving but irresponsible aunt, Beauty is hired to care for Robin while continuing the search for her daughter. In Beauty, Robin finds the security and family that she craves, and the two forge an inextricable bond through their deep personal losses. But Robin knows that if Beauty finds her daughter, Robin could lose her new caretaker forever, so she makes a desperate decision with devastating consequences. Her quest to make amends and find redemption is a journey of self-discovery in which she learns the harsh truths of the society that once promised her protection.

I'm not going to lie, this book sounds amazing! I wish you all could hear Marais talk about the inspiration behind this story! 

Huge thanks to the Putnam team and the authors for putting together this tour and for the invite. I had a wonderful time! I hope you'll all add these titles to you must have lists for this summer and if any of the authors are in your area for book tours, definitely don't miss the chance to see them!!!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Last Days of Magic by Mark Tompkins PB Release + Giveaway

You may recall seeing Mark Tompkins's The Last Days of Magic on the blog before, but today I want to revisit that post and let you all know that the paperback is now out in the world! To celebrate, the publisher is letting me give away a copy of said paperback as well as a set of custom tarot cards! Be sure to read through to the end for the Rafflecopter.

Sara Hill always loved the books and fairy tales her grandmother shared with her. What she didn't know was that those tales were steeped in a history and reality that stretched back to the days of Adam and Eve. And that her grandmother had been hiding a secret so dangerous it put them all at risk.

In the earliest days of man, the angels came together with humans in a union unsanctioned by their creator. The beings that were born of that union became the creatures we know today as the Nephilim and their offspring split into varying lines of Sidhe. Many of them made their home in Ireland and the Middle Kingdom, and their presence - along with the goddess Morrigna - on the Emerald Isle kept it protected from its enemies.

But in the late fourteenth century, a schism between the Sidhe led to a revolt against the Morrigna and the death of one of her human aspects. That death was just the start of what would become a battle between the Sidhe, the Celts, and Ireland's own enemies. It was a battle that would lead to the end of magic itself.

Mark Tompkins's debut is an interesting blend of folklore and theology. In his world, the Sidhe are descended from the Nephilim - the offspring of angels and man. This combination is suited to the story considering much of the conflict is between the Church and those who believe in and follow magic.

The story is populated by some of the most fabulous beings in all of fairy tale lore including the well-known gnomes, brownies, and pixies and the possibly lesser known (at least by me) beings in Irish folklore like the fomorians and skeaghshee. And that's just a small taste. Tompkins has seriously combed through the plethora of magical beings and the annals of history to create one of the most unique twists on fae legend and magic I've ever come across!

That said, though, I would haver loved it if the story had been told in more of a linear timeline. The frequent time jumps (back and forth) through history made it hard to keep the various threads of the story straight at times. I found myself getting hooked on one storyline and character only to realize that they may not appear again for quite some time. This is a pretty typical fantasy tendency, switching back and forth through a handful or characters, but the gaps between some of the characters' appearances were sometimes a bit too long and I found myself losing track of their stories. (Blame it on my Swiss cheese brain at least in part.)

What is really cool about The Last Days of Magic, in addition to the beings portrayed, is the way Tompkins twists the actual history to suit his tale. The story is set in the time of Richard II who did indeed invade Ireland and while I'm almost certain that Isabella and her kin were not part of a high coven it is said that Richard's own grip on reality was slipping in his final days...

Mark Tompkins's debut is not an easy read. It's a dense tale packed with history (maybe overpacked) but if you have the patience for a bit of a slower read I think you'll find it's quite fascinating.
And now for the giveaway! To enter to win a copy of the brand new paperback edition and that fabulous tarot deck, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, April 3. Open US only and no PO boxes please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Wallflower Blooming and Best Laid Plans by Amy Rivers

Happy Wednesday, readers! I have two reviews for you today as part of the TLC blog tour for Amy Rivers's latest, Best Laid Plans!

Wallflower Blooming and Best Laid Plans are the first two titles in a planned trilogy featuring cousins Val and Gwen. And while you can read them out of order, they do take place consecutively, which means you'll already know some of the events of Wallflower if you read Plans first. So I read them in order :)

Wallflower Blooming is Val's story.

Val has no interest in getting involved in politics. Especially in light of the fact that her own father's business went under when he threw his support behind a local candidate years ago. But when her cousin Gwen decides to run for office in Cambria, Colorado, Val can't say no.

She should have been in the background, quietly running Gwen's PR campaign. But instead, Val finds herself in the spotlight when she falls for a local reclusive, but highly sought after, bachelor. And that's not all, history may be repeating itself when Gwen's competition begins bullying Val's clients. Now with her business at risk and her love life the talk of local gossips, the normally grounded Val is finding it hard to keep it together.

I loved Val! She is so fun. She's focused and driven, but hasn't had much luck in love. Which is why it comes as such a surprise that John Hatfield could possibly be interested in her. As their story progresses, she's equal parts irked and smitten.

Of course work complicates things. Again, she's driven. And her fear of falling into the same trouble that led to her father's business closing begins to affect all aspects of her life. She's the kind of character you want on your side. And the kind of character you want to rally for when the going starts getting rough.

And the same can be said of Gwen! Best Laid Plans follows right on the heels of the events of Wallflower Blooming.

When Gwen won the election for Mayor of Cambria, she figured she was on the fast track to her ultimate goal: becoming the youngest Governor of Colorado. But one year into her term, her plans are starting to go awry. 

First, it appears she's being bullied by certain figures in local government. Then it appears she's picked up a stalker, too. As she tries to juggle mayoral responsibility with her other obligations, it also seems her relationship with Jason could be nearing its end. It'd been rocky already, considering some question the ethics behind the mayor dating one of the city's finance folks, but it becomes worse when Jason bends to pressure and takes another job. One that has him traveling a lot and seemingly getting cozy with a new female coworker. As the uncertainty weighs on Gwen, she begins to wonder if her plans are all for naught. 

Oh, Gwen! The title of her book is quite perfect. Of course one could say that she brings some of it on simply by setting so much stock in her careful plans.

As much as I liked Val's story, I honestly think Gwen's was even better. Or maybe I just identified with Gwen a bit more.

Gwen, like Val, is also driven. And like Val she also hasn't had much luck in love. But unlike Val, Gwen doesn't consider bowing under pressure. Where Val, when faced with a bully who threatens her business, seriously considers bowing out as Gwen's PR manager, Gwen, when faced with an overly zealous city manager, gets snarky. And I loved it!

I should pause to mention the men in these stories, because the books are equally as much theirs. John and Jason each get their own chapters in the respective books, giving readers a chance to see the relationships and happenings from their eyes as well. At times the two seemed a bit too similar for my taste, causing me some confusion at times in remembering which one was paired with which cousin. An argument could be made that because they grew up together and are friends that they are indeed similar, gravitating together as friends do. It didn't detract from the reading, but my Swiss cheese brain did have to do a double take occasionally when they shared a scene.

Together, Rivers's two books make for an easy, breezy pair of fun reads. Each is fairly short, too, so you can literally zip through them back to back.

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

For more on Amy Rivers and her work you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter and Goodreads.

Purchase Links: Amazon

If you're local to Colorado, you can also find Amy's books at BookBar and Boulder Bookstore!