Thursday, August 28, 2014

Flings by Justin Taylor

Hi, all! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Justin Taylor's debut collection, Flings.

People young and old face all kinds of choices. Decisions that will affect their lives not only immediately but just as much further down the line. Friends newly graduated and deciding what to do next; a couple about to get married and facing down secrets from their past; a divorced father spending an evening with his grown children... these are just a few examples of the stories in Justin Taylor's new collection. 

I think there's a certain amount of discomfort I felt in reading these stories. Most of the characters are drifting, much in the way I imagine a lot of older twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings are. It's being faced with the very truth of today's post-college reality that's unsettling to someone like me and so with that in mind I can't say that I enjoyed these stories.

In terms of being realistic, well written, and effective, however, Justin Taylor most certainly has accomplished that. All of the people are well drawn and real. There's a depth to them that is intriguing. It makes you wonder - is the sign twirler on the corner skimming off the top? Is the person next to you on the airplane making a run for it from his longtime love? And what about that happy family in the corner booth of the restaurant - is there some dark tragedy that mars their past?

Rating: 3/5

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here. For more on Justin and his work you can visit his website here and follow him on Twitter.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Imitation by Heather Hildenbrand

Just last month, Amazon Publishing and Alloy Entertainment announced that they were teaming up to create a new digital first imprint focused on young adult, new adult, and commercial fiction. 

Here's a bit more about the new venture:

The new imprint, named Alloy Entertainment, will be part of Amazon Publishing’s Powered by Amazon program. Powered by Amazon enables publishers and authors to leverage Amazon’s global distribution and personalized, targeted marketing reach. 

“One of our strengths is working with talented authors to create and develop properties that have mass entertainment appeal,” said Leslie Morgenstein, President of Alloy Entertainment. “This program is an exciting extension of our business and will allow us to leverage Amazon’s ability to distribute to an incredibly diverse and broad readership.”

The announcement was paired with the release of the imprint's first three titles - Every Ugly Word by Aimee Salter, Rebel Wing by Tracy Banghart, and the one I'm covering today, Imitation by Heather Hildenbrand.

Ven was born and raised in Twig City. Just five years old, and yet a full grown teen, she was created as an Imitation: a perfect copy of someone living in the outside world, an Authentic. From day one Ven is taught to mimic her Authentic in language, behavior, and manner, all in preparation of one day being needed. When her Authentic is publicly attacked, Ven is sent to stand in until the criminals can be caught. 

But all the training in the world could never prepare Ven for being Raven Rogen. Ven is her own person, and she's nothing like Raven. Pretending takes every ounce of her concentration, but she's willing to do it until she can find a way to escape. 

I've been in a mood of late, readers. A bit of a blah mood. It happens to the best of us and for me, while it makes it harder to settle on a book, the kind of escape I get out of a good book is exactly what I need. I can say that while I wasn't blown away by Imitation (and some of that can be chalked up to the mood) it did provide the kind of escape I was craving. 

The story takes place in a futuristic setting wherein the über rich can afford genetic clones for whatever purposes they can think of. The clones - or imitations - are supposed to be exact copies and so they spend much of their time observing their Authentic. The idea is that no one will know the difference between the Authentic and the Imitation. This is particularly difficult for Ven because Raven is pretty much a self-absorbed snob. 

I liked Ven and I liked the setting. I thought Hildenbrand did a pretty good job putting together a believable situation as well - someone is after Raven and it's up to Ven to be the bait until that person can be caught. There's much more to the story, of course, and Ven realizes that as soon as she steps foot outside Twig City. 

I wasn't surprised or really wowed at any point during the story, but I did enjoy it. There was a nice twist at the end and a super cliffhanger that makes it clear there's more to come. Imitation is technically a reprint so early readers likely have already read the follow up, Deviation. The Alloy Entertainment edition is due out in December. 

Rating: 3.5/5

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Really Want to Read but Don't Own Yet

I've decided to jump on board with Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the topic is: books I'm dying to read but don't actually own.

I'm going to limit it to books that are out already - there are WAY too many in the wish list otherwise.

1. A Simple Plan by Scott Smith - Smith was praised by no less that Stephen King himself when this book released. I've read (and loved) The Ruins so there's no real reason for me not to have bought this one yet except that I have so many others to get to in my TBR right now. 

2. Blueeyedboy by Joanne Harris - I adore Harris's work but this is one of her few titles yet to be released here in the States. It is available through Book Depository but I haven't gotten around to ordering it yet. 

3. Crackpot Palace by Jeffrey Ford - his The Shadow Year was completely brilliant, so of course Ford's short story collection is in my must have list. 

4. Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke - I've heard nothing but great things about this book and have had it on my wish list since it released. Now there's a second one out that I need to add to the list as well!

5. The Osiris Ritual by George Mann - there are now four books in this series out with a fifth one coming. I've read the first book in this series and really quite enjoyed it. I just haven't bought this follow up yet. 

6. Blythewood by Carol Goodman - I've not yet read Goodman's titles as Juliet Dark but I do love her work as Carol Goodman. This one is her first teen outing and I've so far heard very little about it. It's probably in my next round of book buying :)

7. The Elementals by Michael McDowell - this one was highly recommended by another author I read. I recently found out that it was reprinted and is available once again. Yay! Another one that'll be in the next batch I buy. 

8. Hollow City by Ransom Riggs - this falls under the I-don't-know-why-I-don't-have-this-yet header! I loved Miss Peregrine's and had Hollow City added to the wish list before I'd even finished the first one. And yet, I don't have it!

9. Motherless Child by Glen Hirshberg - ok, so the reason I don't have MOST of these is just that I haven't bought them yet. I've tried to make myself a deal - I'll buy more when I finish a large enough chunk of the current TBR. 

10. Visions by Kelley Armstrong - I haven't read the first in this series yet but I already know I want to buy this latest as soon as I can. 

Inamorata by Megan Chance

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Megan Chance's latest, Inamorata.

Joseph Hannigan and his sister, Sophie, have come to Venice to meet the people who can make Joseph a star! He has the talent - his art immediately catches Nicholas Dane's eye - and the siblings are almost immediately swept into the city's thriving art community. But the Hannigans are hiding something, something that caused them to leave New York quite suddenly. Something they don't want their new friends to know. 

Nicholas has his own reasons for wanting to keep Joseph close. Nicholas himself was once a talented poet. Alas, all of his ideas have left him. He blames this on Odilé, his one time muse. Odilé serves as muse to many poets, musicians, and artists. It's how she lives. Nicholas knows her secret and knows that Joseph is exactly the kind of man Odilé would choose. And Nicholas wants to make sure that doesn't happen. 

Since I had no idea what Inamorata was really about when diving in, I'm going to leave it a surprise for you as well. No spoilers :)

I've read Megan Chance just once before this. Her City of Ash was amazing and was set around early stage life in nineteenth century Seattle. Given how much I'd enjoyed that one, I jumped at the chance to join in on the Inamorata tour.

Chance has an almost hypnotic style. Her prose is the kind that literally drowns out everything around you, wrapping you up in the setting and the characters. In this case it's nineteenth century Venice and the art scene. Whistler makes an appearance. Poets the likes of Byron and Keats are mentioned and even Schumann has a bit of a cameo (in a sense). And the city! I've never been to Venice but here I was imagining I was alongside Sophie and Joseph and Nicholas and Odilé as they told their tales!

Inamorata is a bit odd as well. Joseph and Sophie, for example, - as a reader it's hard not to immediately suspect that there's something off about their relationship. It doesn't escape Nicholas either. Part of the twins' plan involves Sophie gaining Nicholas's attention but she doesn't seem to realize that her connection with her brother also stands in the way. Nor does she realize that he's already obsessed with another woman.

Oh, and once we realize exactly what's going on between Nicholas and Odilé the story takes on a whole new level of wonderful!

Inamorata was darker than I'd imagined. And much more otherworldly as well. It was really fantastic not only to return to an author I've enjoyed but to find that she had so many surprises up her sleeve!

Rating: 4/5

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

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

Sunday, August 24, 2014

New Releases 8/26/14

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Story of Land and Sea by Katy Simpson Smith

The Broken Eye by Brent Weeks

Lock In by John Scalzi

No Time To Die by Kira Piekoff

The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley

The Long Way Home by Louise Penny

Strange Shores by Arnaldur Indridason

Heroes Are My Weakness by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

The Beautiful Ashes by Jeaniene Frost

Echopraxia by Peter Watts

Silver Bay by Jojo Moyes

Lisette's List by Susan Vreeland

The Mill River Redemption by Darcie Chan

Summer of the Dead by Julie Keller

The Remaining: Fractured by D.J. Molles

The Rule of Thoughts by James Dashner

Gabriel Finley & the Raven's Riddle by George Hagen

The Aftermath by Jen Alexander

Ghost House by Alexandra Adornetto

How to Fall by Jane Casey

Revenge of the Seven by Pittacus Lore

Deliverance by C. J. Redwine

Feral by Holly Schindler

New on DVD:
Age of Uprising
Blood Glacier

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Left Turn at Paradise by Thomas Shawver + a Giveaway

Hi, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Thomas Shawver's latest Michael Bevan mystery, Left Turn at Paradise. There is a tour wide giveaway here so be sure to read through to the bottom to enter.

While preparing for a trip to the California International Book Festival, Michael Bevan stumbles upon a rare and surprising find. Hidden away in his attic, in a box that dates back to his military days, Bevan discovers an eighteenth-century journal penned by a sailor on the HMS Endeavor. The volume is relatively unknown but the sailor who wrote it accompanied Captain Cook on all three of his voyages. What makes the book in question even more of a find is the fact that it would be a first look at a side of Cook's story that is both uncensored and could reveal more about the famed explorer than ever before. 

Bevan makes a connection at the show who also has a journal in hand by the same sailor. Together their set could collect quite a bit of attention and money, but they both suspect a third journal may be hiding somewhere. They agree to consider their options overnight but wake the following morning to find that both journals have been stolen. A bereft Bevan is close to throwing in his book selling towel when he's offered up one last shot to find the book. But of course tracking down the stolen and rare tome won't be easy!

Readers may recall that when we left the ex lawyer/ex marine antiquarian bookseller in The Dirty Book Murder, he'd just barely escaped his last adventure with his life. It's ok if you don't remember, though, there is a small recap worked into the beginning of this follow up. We also begin with the promise of wild dog attacks, cannibalism, a ritual with a fertility god, and the immortal Captain Cook, which for another Michael Bevan adventure is pretty promising.

I love that this series is based in the book world. Books about books are almost irresistible for a reader like me! I also enjoy the fact that a first glance might leave a reader under the impression that this is a cozy series. Further delving into Shawver's books reveals this is very much not the case. The books are actually kind of violent and twisted. And the plots themselves are pretty clever.

Shawver does have a tendency to get a bit wordy. To me wordy is fine as long as I don't notice it, so when I saw Shawver is wordy I mean there are extraneous bits of information I find don't really move the story ahead. (The same could be said for my reviews sometimes, though, so it's totally subjective!) In spite of that, this is a series that I am rather enjoying, flaws and all.

Rating: 3/5

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here. For more on Thomas Shawver you can like him over on Facebook.

And now for the giveaway. Again this is tour wide, to enter simply fill out the Rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Agincourt Bride by Joanna Hickson

Hello, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Joanna Hickson's The Agincourt Bride.

Mette was just fourteen when she lost her first child. Her loss left her bereft beyond measure but her mother was able to secure her a position as wet nurse for the King's newborn daughter. At first, Mette feels no connection with the child. Instead, she continues to mourn the loss of her own son, wishing it were he she was caring for. But soon she and Catherine begin to form a bond - one that will stand the true test of time. 

Amidst political upheaval - a king whose sanity leaves him unable to rule and a queen who's plotting with her lover against the king's advisors - the royal children are sent down separate paths. Catherine, just four at the time, is sent to Poissy where she will be taught the manners and bearing of a royal. It will be almost ten years before Mette is reunited with the girl. But this time Catherine will need more than mothering: the princess is to become an important piece in a game that pits the French against the English and, more importantly, her brother the Daughin against their mother, the queen. 

Ooh, more historical intrigue! As a US student, there's very little included in our education about the lineage of any country's monarchy. In truth, I have to admit that my ability to keep them straight comes from historical references I've gleaned through pop culture and books like Hickson's. So this Catherine of history is Catherine de Valois. Her brother is the king Joan of Arc fights for. Her son (Henry VI) is the king dethroned during the War of the Roses. Her grandson (Henry VII) is the king who finally ends the battle between the Lancasters and the Yorks.

But that's not this story! This is Catherine's younger years - from birth through to her marriage to King Henry V (and there's a sequel called The Tudor Bride from that marriage forward). Her story is told through Mette - Guillaumette - Catherine's nurse and friend.

It's a turbulent time in France. Their leader's mental health has been in decline and forces from England have been attempting to reclaim French lands for themselves. Charles VI, Catherine's father, becomes fairly unable to rule and the actual decision making falls into the hands of various others like his uncle, the Duke of Burgundy. Loyalties are split between two parties - the Burgundians and the Orleanists and no one is safe from the strife.

Meanwhile, Henry V of England is the latest to try to lay claim to land in France said to belong to England. Catherine, caught between her mother's plans and her brother's, is offered up as a possible bride for Henry in an attempt to forge a treaty. Catherine is well aware of the position she's in. In fact, Hickson portrays her here as an intelligent girl who attempts to forge her own political connections, first aligning herself with her brother against their mother. She also sets aside many of the social norms of the time in an attempt not only to piece together a family of sorts but to learn more about what's going on around her.

Hickson really does a wonderful job in The Agincourt Bride, smoothly plotting around the history itself and building believably complex characters out of their real basis. The story reads quite easily and quickly - just the kind of historical fiction I like to lose myself in!

With The Agincourt Bride Hickson displays a true expertise in the time period. As mentioned above, there is a second installment - The Tudor Bride - already out in the UK and due out here in the States this fall.

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

For more on Joanna Hickson and her books, you can like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.