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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand

I've long heard that Elin Hilderbrand is the quintessential summer author and based on The Perfect Couple, I have to say I'm in agreement with that sentiment.

The morning of Celeste Otis and Benji Winbury's wedding is one no one on Nantucket is likely to forget any time soon. Rather than nuptials and the sure to be grand celebration to follow, Celeste awakens to discover her maid of honor floating dead in the water.

The police are called, the wedding is cancelled, and everyone at the Winbury estate of Summerland is a suspect until the investigation proves otherwise. As the local chief tries to trace back the happenings of the previous evening the suspect list doesn't shorten. It seems everyone at the Otis-Winbury wedding has something to hide.

I've never read Elin Hilderbrand before, but I definitely will be reading more!

Not only is this a summer read, it's a Nantucket summer read. Even with a murder investigation underway - which is just the present day thread of the story - Hilderbrand manages to squeeze in a bevy of balmy beach days, lobster rolls, and perfectly mixed cocktails to give the reader the ultimate Nantucket feel. That atmosphere of course offers a bit of a jarring feel against a backdrop of a dead maid of honor, but in a way that understandably draws the reader into the story even further: How could anything bad happen in such a perfect paradise?

And of course that's the rub - it isn't a perfect paradise at all. The town itself is filled with locals just living their lives. The chief, raising his wife's twin niece and nephew after their own parents died (the subject of a previous book), the local head of security at the airport trying to get a date, the chief's nephew's girlfriend who just wants her boyfriend's adopted parents to like her... And yet, natives aside, Nantucket is the playground for the uber rich and fabulous like the Winbury family.

Celeste Otis is nothing like the Winburys. Their extravagant wealth and their ability to buy and spend however they please is not something she's ever known. Her own small but tight-knit family of three saved scrupulously for everything they have. And at the time of her wedding, her mother is dying of breast cancer. So she knows how much the wedding means to her parents and she wants them to have a good time. Which presents a problem because Celeste is no longer sure about anything in her life. And her mother suspects it.

As the story unfolds, readers are given an inside peek into various characters' perspectives both through their own narration as well as through the police questioning. There are multiple potential suspects, many potential motives, and so many places the story could go. Following along is the ultimate voyeuristic fun!

And while the mystery at the heart of The Perfect Couple - what happened to the maid of honor - certainly pulls the story along and at a fabulous pace, but it's the characters as a whole that take center stage here. I loved every second of my time between it's pages and look forward to returning to Hilderbrand's Nantucket very soon!

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Summer List by Amy Mason Doan

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Amy Mason Doan's debut, The Summer List.

It's been seventeen years since Laura and Casey last spoke. Seventeen years since their friendship fell apart. Laura's mother has kept her apprised of some of the bigger moments in Casey's life since, more out of spite than anything else. But the one time best friends haven't seen one another since Laura abruptly left their tiny town of Coeur de Lune, never to return. 

At least that was the plan. 

A pink envelope with a mermaid sticker changes all of that. An invitation to one final scavenger hunt together, a tradition started the summer before their junior year in high school. Laura knows it'll be uncomfortable but curiosity wins out. As they make their way through the list - one designed to bring to mind all the memories they once shared - the hunt also brings up a long buried secret that could break their tenuously mended bond once and for all. 

Ah the heady days of balmy teenage summers, dreadfully awkward high school, crushes, first loves, and best friends forever. The Summer List plays on all of that teen nostalgia - for me especially, considering I'm the same age as the characters. Their high school playlists and experiences read almost like a map to my own teen years.

Almost.

It's a bittersweet read as well, though. One I thankfully can't relate too closely to!

Laura and Casey's story plays out in two timelines, interspersed with chapters from a perspective that only begins to reveal itself as the story progresses. Laura travels back to Coeur de Lune and the girls' quite stiff reintroduction, then we travel back to the summer they first met, hopscotching back and forth between the two timelines as the reason for the break in their friendship begins to become more clear.

The third perspective is at summer camp - an unknown narrator with a crush on an older man, relegated to the camp while her own mother attends an adult retreat in the wake of what seems to be a breakdown.

I loved this book, even the more heartbreaking parts. The friendship between Laura and Casey rang so true and reminded me of my own high school friendships and the mystery behind their split - as well as that of the third narrator and the secret the book's cover copy hints at - made this even more of a page turner.

The Summer List is an excellently crafted debut and a read that'll give you lots to think about. Even at its heaviest moments, though, it's a quick and easy read that pulls you along from the very first page all the way through to the end.

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

For more on Amy Mason Doan 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: Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

Sunday, June 17, 2018

New Releases 6/19/18

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Anomaly by Michael Rutger

The Mermaid by Christina Henry

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

Witchmark by C.L. Polk

Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris

The Lost Vintage by Ann Mah

The Melody by Jim Crace

When Katie Meg Cassidy by Camille Perri

Tell the Machine Goodnight by Katie Williams

Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li

The Throwaway by Michael Moreci

Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage

History of Violence Édouard Louis

Providence by Caroline Kepnes

Guilt by Amanda Robson

You Were Made for This by Michelle Sacks

Not the Girls You're Looking For by Aminah Mae Safi

Dive Smack by Demetra Brodsky

New on DVD:
Pacific Rim: Uprising
Unsane

Sunday, June 10, 2018

New Releases 6/12/18

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee

A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

The Color of Bee Larkham's Murder by Sarah J. Harris

Little Big Love by Katy Regan

Starless by Jacqueline Carey

The Verdun Affair by Nick Dybek

Bearskin by James McLaughlin

Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and their Muses) by Terri-Lynne DeFino

The Bookshop of Yesterdays by Amy Myerson

The Woman in the Woods by John Connolly

All That I Can Fix by Crystal Chan

A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir

New on DVD
Love, Simon
Tomb Raider

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire - rerelease

After much waiting, we're finally getting another Rose Marshall installment. In preparation of the upcoming July release of The Girl in the Green Silk Gown, DAW is rereleasing Seanan McGuire's Sparrow Hill Road - with a brand spanking new cover, too!

You may recall having seen this review back in 2014 but just in case you missed it, I'm reviving it here to get ready for the second volume!

You all know her story - the Girl From the Diner, the Phantom Prom Date, the Ghost of Sparrow Hill Road... killed on her way to prom and forced to forever wander the roads in search of a ride home. Beneath the urban legends, the twisting variations of the story that started it all, is a girl: Rose Marshall.

She wanders the highways and byways of the continent, hitching and helping those whose own fates are tied to the road as well. Some she's able to save, others she helps pass on to their final home.


Savvy Seanan McGuire readers have already met Rose Marshall. The book originally started as a collection of shorts that appeared in The Edge of Propinquity, a webzine whose archives are available here. Twelve of Rose's tales appeared in the zine in 2010 and on her website McGuire notes that one of the stories is still available online through The Edge of Propinquity. Fortunately for the rest of us, most of those original stories have been gathered up and recently released as one volume by the good folks over at DAW!

I could swear that Alvin Schwartz was the first to introduce me to a variation of the popular urban legend that spawned McGuire's latest. Seems like a likely candidate since Schwartz's various Scary Stories collections were tops in my creepy reads lists as a kid. Anyway, McGuire's spin on this classic story is excellent! She fleshes out the tale, giving life to the character in a way those passed along variations never could.

It's interesting that this is still essentially a collection of Rose stories in one volume rather than a linear novel. And our spectral narrator does warn us of this in the beginning of the book. Some may find that leaves the reader with a feeling of disconnection but I kind of felt the opposite. There is a running plot that ties all of Rose's stories together and the book does feel very much like Rose telling us the chapters of her own life and afterlife.

McGuire does a quite effective job of building a really complex world in Sparrow Hill Road. We see some other familiar supernatural presences - a Beán sidhe, mention of a white lady, and a new variation on the strigoi - but many of McGuire's otherworldly presences are new (to me at least). Routewitches, crossroads ghosts, hitchhiking ghosts, homecoming ghosts, and more live in this world. Some - bela da meia-noite, for example - are basically sidebar entries while others like the haunt and the maggy dhu do get brief cameos.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Blackout by Alex Segura

Good morning, readers! If you follow me elsewhere online then you know that I am currently sick as a dog - and expecting. So please forgive me if I'm not at my best and brightest this morning.

But I am pleased as punch to be part of the TLC blog tour for Alex Segura's latest Peter Hernandez mystery, Blackout.

Ever since Pete's last case landed him on a hit list for one of Miami's most brutal gangs, he's been hiding out working as a PI in New York. But Miami comes calling when a case that ties into a mystery from his past lands on his doorstep. 

Miami politician Trevor McRyan has his eye on moving up the political ladder but fears his son could cause issues. Said son has recently gone missing and McRyan and his wife want to hire Pete to find him. Pete refuses, intent on staying out of Miami, until a picture of the son reveals a strong likeness to the one person who claimed to know what happened to a classmate of Pete's who went missing decades ago. 

Pete dabbled in Patty Morales's case a bit, at the urging of her aunt and his one time girlfriend, leading to the discovery of the dead girl's remains. But that's as far as it went. No suspects, no explanation as to her fate, and no resolution. But as Pete digs into Patty's murder and the whereabouts of the missing McRyan, it becomes clear that whoever is responsible isn't going to let Pete unravel this mystery without a fight. And Pete soon realizes that returning to Miami could be the last mistake he ever makes. 

This fourth in Segura's PI series is a doozy. Multiple timelines thread together to meet in the present as Pete at first reluctantly and then doggedly attempts to solve one of Miami's most infamous cold cases.

We meet Pete in high school serving detention after trying to steal liquor. His run in with Patty is brief and somewhat stinging considering he'd asked her to prom and she'd refused. That it was the last time he ever saw her alive still burns today and he's haunted by the idea that he could have saved her. Patty's ex boyfriend was murdered that afternoon, the body found in the school after hours. Patty was nowhere to be found.

For years that was the case. Her father, separated from her mother and devoted to his church, was always convinced that Patty was still alive somewhere. But it wasn't until 2013 that her remains were discovered - by Pete. Patty's own aunt, her father's much younger half sister, has never given up hope that the case will be solved and is part of the force driving Pete in his current investigation.

Of course, Pete (as mentioned above) enters the case reluctantly. Each of his investigations has landed him and those around him in massive trouble. And since his last case, he's basically burned every bridge he has. He's estranged from his partner, Kathy, and hasn't spoken to anyone in Miami since he moved to Rockland County. But he's managed not to return to the bottle, so there's that.

Pete is damaged goods, something those closest to him are tiring of. They're ready for Pete to deal with his inner demons and move forward but Pete stubbornly holds on, keeping everyone at arms length (or further, as is the case at the start of Blackout). He's a good detective, as everyone keeps telling him, but he bucks against it at every turn. And Patty is clearly one of the reasons for that.

Returning to Miami does force Pete to face some of his demons. But whether he'll come out alive and survive to see the end of the case is the biggest question.

If you're a fan of gritty detective series, Alex Segura's is absolutely one you need to check out. The setting, the cases, and the characters are the perfect mix, driving the series from one installment to the next and leaving the reader anxious for more.

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

For more on Alex Segura and his work you can visit his website here. You can also like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

Purchase Links: Indie Bound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Sunday, May 13, 2018

New Releases 5/15/18

Some of the new releases hitting shelves this week are:

How to Walk Away by Katherine Center

The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll

Armistice by Lara Elena Donnelly

So Lucky by Nicola Griffith

Tin Man by Sarah Winman

Paper Ghosts by Julia Heaberlin

Do This For Me by Eliza Kennedy

Pretend I'm Dead by Jen Beagin

Fall of Angels by Barbara Cleverly

All of This is True by Lygia Day Peñaflor

My So-Called Bollywood Life by Nisha Sharma

War Storm by Victoria Aveyard

New on DVD:
Black Panther