Thursday, August 25, 2016

Natchez Burning by Greg Iles

Hi, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Greg Iles's Natchez Burning.

Mayor Penn Gage has always looked up to his father, but when Dr. Tom Gage is accused of murder Penn is forced to reevaluate everything he thought he knew about the man. 

Viola Turner was a nurse who worked alongside Tom during the Civil Rights era. In fact, Viola's own brother was a well-known musician and activist whose disappearance has never been solved. Viola left for Chicago where she lived until just recently. Sick and with the knowledge that she didn't have much time left, she returned to Natchez and sought care from Tom. Though her time was limited, her death is attributed to an overdose of morphine and Viola's son is convinced that Tom is behind it. Assisted suicide is a prosecutable crime in the state of Mississippi and unfortunately for the doctor the line between that and murder is a fine one. 

At the same time, a reporter from just over the river has made his career exposing the crimes of the Double Eagles - a violent offshoot of the KKK. Viola had been recently interviewed by the man who now has cause to suspect that the Double Eagles themselves could be responsible for her death. As the mystery becomes more convoluted, crimes of the past begin to surface and certain individuals are definitely willing to do whatever it takes to ensure their names are kept out of the spotlight. 

Natchez Burning is actually the fourth book to feature Penn Gage - author, lawyer, and now Mayor of Natchez. Interestingly, it's also the first of a trilogy that continues in The Bone Tree and next year's Mississippi Blood. The story traces back to the 1960s, and indeed begins there with multiple murders and the formation of the Double Eagles. And the scene is set for this dark and twisty doorstopper of a thriller!

In spite of it's heft (roughly 800 pages), Natchez Burning moves at a swift pace. Part of this is spurred by the fact that many of the players are still actively involved in the plotting that began all those decades ago. The book is set in 2005 and, as Penn and reporter Henry Sexton discover, the original Double Eagles are still very vested in keeping their crimes under wraps.

Sexton, inspired by (according to the author's afterword) the very real pursuits of Stanley Nelson, is determined to not only bring the Double Eagles' crimes to light but to unmask those who have so far been able to hide behind not only power and money, but the public's ignorance of the very crimes they are responsible for. The murders kept quiet for generations, the disappearances that have yet to be uncovered, and the other crimes that were swept under the rug so many years ago. Of course his efforts have not gone unnoticed - the FBI consults with him in their own attempts to solve these cold cases and the perpetrators themselves are very aware of how close his stories have come to revealing their secrets.

Penn, however, is mostly unaware of his father's own involvement. Tom Gage held a precarious position in the 60s and has vowed to keep Viola's secrets. Claiming doctor patient confidentiality, he is unwilling to budge and offer any help to Penn in his own defense.

It's hard to say much more about the plot as there are still two chapters to the trilogy to consider and I don't want to spoil anything for those just coming to the books! Natchez Burning is a fine example of exactly why so many folks are fans of Iles's books. And while I'm not completely new to the author, I've never delved deeply into his work before now. I am, though, completely invested in this story and in seeing how it will continue to play out.

Natchez Burning and The Bone Tree are both out now. Mississippi Blood is due out next spring. You don't have to have read the prior three Penn Cage books in order to dive into the trilogy, but here's the full series list if you're interested:

The Quiet Game
Turning Angel
The Devil's Punchbowl
Natchez Burning
The Bone Tree
Mississippi Blood

And now for the giveaway! I've got one copy of Natchez Burning and a super cool tote bag to give away today. To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, September 5. Open US only 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 Greg Iles and his work you can visit his website here. You can also like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale

Hi, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Kerry Lonsdale's Everything We Keep.

It's Aimee's wedding day, but instead of exchanging vows with her childhood sweetheart, James, Aimee and her friends and family are attending a funeral instead. James's funeral. 

James was supposed to have been going to Mexico for a quick business trip, but the trip ended with his disappearance. It was two months before his remains were recovered and sent home for burial. Aimee is beyond heartbroken, understandably unable to move on in the months after the funeral. But when a woman contacts her claiming James is still alive, Aimee isn't at all sure what to believe. James is gone, positively identified by his own brother. But Aimee has known James for so long, she's certain she'd feel it if he were truly gone. And something within her says he isn't. 

Kerry Lonsdale's Everything We Keep is an intriguing read. Much of the story is focused on Aimee's emotional state and attempt to rebuild her life in the aftermath of losing James. But there's a vein of suspense as well.

Aimee and James had plans for their lives. Plans that included Aimee taking over her family's restaurant after her parents retired or even opening her own place. And since she's known James since she was eight years old, her past is as deeply wound around his as her future was to be. So yes, moving on without the person who is so deeply a part of her life is going to be challenging, to say the least. Lonsdale does a fairly good job of tackling the emotions of grief, though they certainly could have been explored much more deeply (that said, the book isn't really a tearjerker and I was glad for it!).

I really liked Aimee. She was fleshed out and genuine, so it was easy to become emotionally invested in her story and to want to see where it would go and how it would play out. But it was the mystery element as a whole that really made me want to dive in and continue with Everything We Keep.

It's in Aimee and James's backstory that this bit of mystery begins to unfold. James's family is weird. Stringent rules, a required commitment on the part of each member to be involved in the family business, and especially James's mother's regard of Aimee from the very start of the book all make the reader wonder what's really lying under the surface of this seemingly picture perfect family.

And of course there's a psychic's claim that James isn't actually dead.

Everything We Keep isn't a deep read. In fact, it's a bit like sitting down with a Lifetime movie in book form. But like those movies, it was fun! I did kind of hate the ending, in an "argh, you're killing me," kind of way. But Lonsdale's debut was one that I definitely could not (and would not) put down until I'd reached the bitter end!

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

For more on Kerry Lonsdale 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

Thursday, August 18, 2016

A Little Knowledge by Emma Newman

Things are getting tense in Londinium. Will is under pressure to secure his lineage, per orders from Lord Iris himself, while also trying to keep the truth about Margritte under wraps. Cathy's drive to change things for the women of the Nether isn't helping. Even though he agrees on most counts, the other men of Londinium are none too pleased about the prospect of their wives being more than arm candy. 

Up in Mundanus, Max has started a new investigation into a rash of missing people, including his own father. As his case progresses, his path crosses once again with Sam, the new Lord Iron, who faces challenges similar to that of Cathy. Turns out the Elemental Court is about as eager for change as the folks of the Nether!

I love this series! With an undying passion! I seriously want everyone to discover the fabulousness of the Split Worlds and am so very, very glad that Newman has had the opportunity to bring us more installments!

As I'd mentioned in my release/what I'm reading post a few weeks ago, there are currently plans for a fifth installment to be released next year. I am dying to see how things will turn out for Cathy, Will, Max, Sam, and the others.

A Little Knowledge has started to address some of the questions of the Elemental Court and their purpose. We've also returned to the Sorcerer issue (no spoilers) and maybe a bit more insight into the plot there. But the true goals of the fae are still in question. What does Lord Iris envision for Will and Cathy's son? Why is Lord Tulip so interested in Cathy's "full potential?" And when will the people of Albion catch on to the progress that seems to be passing them by!?

Emma Newman's series is filled with fabulous characters, intricate detail, and tons of political intrigue. And of course magic and fae. The combination alone is appealing but paired with Newman's fabulous prose, the series is a serious stand out!

Rating: 5/5

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Agenting: Horror + a Giveaway

Hi, everyone! I want to start by saying that this blog is still, and will be for a long time, my personal space for book reviews and such. I haven't talked much about my day job here, and I have no plans to devote the blog to my work as an agent. (Note I am giving away a copy of Adam Nevill's No One Gets Out Alive so be sure to scroll through to the Rafflecopter to enter.)

But I wanted to do an agenting post today because anyone who follows Writers Digest or Chuck Sambuchino may have seen today's list of "9 Literary Agents Seeking Horror NOW" - which I'm lucky enough to have been included on.

If you've followed the blog for a while then you're well aware that I'm a horror fiend. So it makes sense that it would be one of the genres (and there are a lot) that I'd want to champion as an agent. And while I don't have an agent wish list of topics, per se (because I'm basically looking for a great books in general!), I did want to share some of my favorite horror reads, in case you're curious about what appeals to me.

(I'm particularly drawn to ghost stories, apocalypse tales, and abandoned hospitals/asylums/orphanages, I don't know why.)

And now for the giveaway. Adam Nevill's No One Gets Out Alive is now out in paperback and I have a bright, shiny copy for one of you. To enter simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, August 29. Open US only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, August 15, 2016

Secrets of Nanreath Hall by Alix Rickloff + a Giveaway

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Alix Rickloff's Secrets of Nanreath Hall.

Anna's parentage has never been a secret, but when her new post is to Nanreath Hall - the home where her mother once grew up - she hopes to get her adoptive parents' opinion before deciding. Graham and Prue Handley have something to tell her, but unfortunately before they can reveal what they know they're killed in a London bombing leaving Anna orphaned once again. 

When she arrives at Nanreath Hall, Anna finds she has a cousin and aunt in residence. The cousin is curious but her aunt wants nothing to do with her, even offering to use her clout to get Anna a posting as far away as possible. Now Anna has to decide whether to take the opportunity she's so longed for or stay and learn more about the family she's never met. 

Alix Rickloff, aka Alexa Egan, tells the story of two women and two wars: Lady Katherine Trenowyth, a fallen heiress who followed her heart in the years up to and following WWI, and her daughter, Anna, orphaned after her mother dies of cancer and working as a nurse for the Red Cross Voluntary Aid Detachment in WWII.

Katherine, who begins our tale in 1923 already dying of cancer, was raised the daughter of an earl. Given everything she could ever dream of, she longed for the one thing she could never have: an education at an art school. And so when an artist catches her eye, even the promise of scandal can't dissuade her.

A generation and a war later, her daughter Anna has only just recovered from a terrible injury courtesy of German bombers. The "incident," as others are fond of calling it, also claimed the life of Anna's friend and left Anna unfit to be sent overseas for duty. But it's still a posting she wants desperately. And so the assignment at Nanreath Hall is something of a disappointment - and a shock considering it's her ancestral home.

At the request of her mother, Graham and Prue Handley have never kept Katherine's story from her daughter. But it's clear there are still secrets. Being the daughter of an unwed mother who fled her own family doesn't really leave much room for being welcomed into the arms of the remaining Trenowyth family, and yet with just two aunts and cousins remaining - one of whom is the current earl and seemingly ok with Anna's presence and acknowledgment -, Anna's reception is more icy than even she'd expected.

The tale unfolds through alternating chapters, giving readers glimpses into Katherine's story as well as that of her immediate family alongside Anna's own journey and eventual discovery of the truth about that generation. Bookended by two massive wars, its a tale that is of course fraught with tragedy but one that is also filled with hope.

And interestingly, the story doesn't end with Secrets of Nanreath Hall. Both timelines mention sister Cynthia and her daughter - Cynthia is the cooperative Trenowyth daughter who lives overseas as Anna's story plays out. Apparently Rickloff has plans to follow up Secrets of Nanreath Hall with Cynthia's daughter's story: "...who has departed Singapore for England under a cloud of scandal on the eve of Pearl Harbor." (According to the interview included in the back of Secrets.) It's a good thing people were so incredibly scandalized so easily during this era - it's great fodder for historical fiction writers for sure!

And now for the giveaway. I've got one copy up for grabs today - to throw your name in the hat simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, August 29. Open US only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

For more on Alix Rickloff and her work you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Sunday, August 14, 2016

New Releases 8/16/16

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin

Damaged by Lisa Scottoline

Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal

Rise the Dark by Michael Koryta

The Gentleman by Forrest Leo

The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson

Nothing Short of Dying by Erik Storey

A House Without Windows by Nadia Hashimi

Curious Minds by Janet Evanovich

All At Sea by Decca Aitkenhead

A Quiet Place by Seicho Matsumoto

Sting by Sandra Brown

Any Minute Now by Eric Van Lustbader

Last Days by Graham Moore

Invasive by Chuck Wendig

The Flame Never Dies by Rachel Vincent

The Poisoned Blade by Kate Elliott

Thornghost by Tone Almhjell

The Edge of Light by Elizabeth George

New on DVD:
Angry Birds

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Lowcountry Stranger by Ashley Farley + a Giveaway

Hi, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Ashley Farley's latest, Lowcountry Stranger. Note there is a tour wide giveaway for this one, so do be sure to read through to the end to enter the Rafflecopter.

It's been months since Faith's daughter, Bitsy, last spoke. And while they've all taken some time to get over the incident that caused this selective mutism, everyone expects it'll simply take more time for Bitsy to open up again. But then a strange girl crashes Faith's wedding. As she wanders the celebration stealing food and pocketing other items, she also speaks to Bitsy - and Bitsy answers. 

Everyone is so blown away that they can't help but feel some sort of obligation to the girl, especially when they learn that she's been abandoned partway on her own journey to New York City. And so they offer her a place to stay in exchange for helping with Bitsy. Even so, none of them is quite sure what to believe when it comes to their new houseguest. 

Readers, I had a hard time getting into Lowcountry Stranger. It was clear at the start, as sisters Faith, Sam, and Jackie narrate Faith's wedding, that there's a history here. And it's one that the author does make an effort to rehash as the story begins. Unfortunately I still felt lost. I did realize it was the second in a series that I hadn't read before but I'd hoped that I would have an easier time getting into the family's story.

It does pick up, but that shaky start stuck with me, overshadowing all.

There was also, for me, a big sense of disbelief here. A strange teenager shows up at a wedding she's not invited to, packs her purse with bam biscuits and makes off with a wallet or two and the family offers her up a guest house - even when they acknowledge that her story seems off. Not only that, but they want to put their children in her care... And that's just the start.

Perhaps, had I had a better grasp of the characters and their family dynamic going in, I would have enjoyed their second outing more. My fault. I've no doubt fans of Farley's Her Sister's Shoes will love returning to this family and seeing what comes next for each of them. If you're curious and new to this author, I'd recommend starting there before diving into Lowcountry Stranger.

And now for the giveaway. Ashley is offering up a $50 Amazon gift card to one lucky winner! Again, this is tour wide so you only need to enter on one blog post.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

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

Purchase Links: Amazon | iTunes | Barnes & Noble | Kobo