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Friday, October 20, 2017

Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Jenny Colgan's latest, Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery.

It's Christmas season on Mount Polbearne and Polly is determined that everything will be perfect. Unfortunately, everything seems to be going against Polly's careful plans. First, there's a wee issue with her best friend and her best friend's husband (who also happens to be Huckle's best friend) and a secret Polly has been trusted with regarding said issue. Then, a storm cuts the island off, leaving Polly stranded on the mainland through the holiday. As tensions rise and fights break out, it begins to look as though Christmas will be ruined beyond repair!

At this point in their story, Huckle is thinking about what's to come and Polly is digging in her heels. Which also makes for more tension as the little issue with Kerensa and Reuben grows to its inevitable climax. There's holiday drama, family drama, relationship drama, oh, so much drama! Oh, and there's baking too. Lots, as is to be expected!

Of course Christmas isn't ruined. But as the story progresses and things get more fraught, it's easy to see why Polly would worry. And yet, as a reader familiar with Colgan's work, I wasn't worried on bit!

Colgan's stories are always such a delight and returning to Mount Polbearne for the third part of Polly's and Huckle's (and Neil's!!!) story was so much fun!

If you're in the mood for a light and breezy, sweet as pie read, you can't go wrong with any of Jenny Colgan's titles!

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

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

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Naturalist by Andrew Mayne

Theo Cray is winding down research in Montana, just days away from the start of a new semester,  when he's arrested. It seems a former student of his has been brutally murdered just a few miles away and the coincidence of their both being in the same place is enough for the police to pull him in as a suspect. Fortunately for Theo, he's quickly released when it appears the killing was at the hands of a bear rather than a human. 

Cray, a computational biologist, isn't so sure the case is that easily closed, though. And when he's mistakenly given some of the victim's blood, which comes paired with a hair from the beast that supposedly killed her, he's even more certain. 

But the cops have their man, or bear, and are certain Cray is driven solely by misplaced grief. If they're right, though, why does Cray keep finding bodies?

This is such a cool premise! I'm a longtime reader of mysteries and it's always refreshing when someone comes up with a new twist. Theo Cray is a professor, and like other erstwhile detectives thrown into crime investigation due to circumstance, he uses his skills to untangle a web of clues the police aren't interested in seeing.

Cray uses a combination of computer programming and biology to drive his investigation, tracking data points to create a map that could (and does) reveal more victims. Tracking the data turns out to be the easy part. Convincing the authorities that he's a. a person to be taken seriously and b. that the killer may be human rather than bear are the hard parts.

To be fair, it seems quite clear to the police involved in the case that they have a killer bear on their hands. And Cray's evidence otherwise comes across as that from a crazed person who was a suspect just shortly prior to revealing said evidence.

Like a dog with a bone, our stubborn hero just won't let it go. Which makes the reading all the more fun.

In Cray, Andrew Mayne has built a fascinating amateur sleuth with a unique set of skills that sets him a bit apart from other mystery/thriller main characters. The Naturalist is apparently the start of a new series - book two, Looking Glass, is due out in March and I'll definitely be first in line to grab a copy!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Lona Chang by Ashleyrose Sullivan

Happy Tuesday, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Ashelyrose Sullivan's Lona Chang: A Superhero Detective Story.

Lona Chang and Awesome Jones are good. They're to be married, Awesome has taken on the mantle of his father - even though the Guild says he's not allowed, and Lona herself has come into a power she's just beginning to learn about. But all that changes when a good friend and fellow superhero dies in Lona's arms. His death shakes Arc City to its core, but none are more affected than Lona herself. The hero's cryptic final words, the strange circumstances of his death, and an odd book with seemingly hidden clues are more than enough to force her to investigate. And what she finds could mean bad news for all of Arc City. 

Lona Chang is a cute idea - a story told in comic book style complete with bold faced lead ins like you'd see in a comic panel. There are even comic panels throughout the book. Of course, it's also a story about superheroes, which is always fun. And it's got within the story as Lona takes her investigation further and finds more clues in different books.

And the story is fun. A murder mystery, flashbacks to a story that began some years ago, and even Lona and Awesome's relationships with one another and their friends all make this an entertaining read. And yet, the execution wasn't as polished as I would have liked.

I found myself a bit confused by the progress of the book from the start, rereading sections in order to try and get a grasp on what was happening. I often felt, too, like more effort was put into the mystery than the characters themselves - I wanted to spend less time in the pages of the books Lona was reading, for example, and more time with Lona herself.

Lona Chang is the second book in the series, following Awesome Jones: A Superhero Fairy Tale. Character development aside, Lona Chang can be read as the starting point quite easily. I say character development aside because I assume there's maybe more emphasis on their development in that first outing. And yet, it doesn't mean it's not needed in the second.

Lona Chang is a great concept and a fun afternoon read, but I found wanted more depth overall.

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here. And for more on Ashleyrose Sullivan and her work you can visit her website here.

Purchase Links: Amazon

Sunday, October 15, 2017

New Releases 10/17/17

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Last Mrs. Parrish by Live Constantine

House of Shadows by Nicola Cornick

Start Without Me by Joshua Max Feldman

Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornok

Forbidden Suns by D. Nolan Clark

Righteous by Joe Ide

Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks

Twelve Dogs of Christmas by David Rosenfelt

Deep Freeze by John Sandford

Tell Me No Lies by Lisa Hall

The Floating World by C. Morgan Babst

It Devours! by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor

The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman

Strange Lies by Maggie Thrash

The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis

Dear Martin by Nic Stone

A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez

A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge

Like Water by Rebecca Podos

The Midnight Dance by Nikki Katz

New on DVD:
Spiderman: Homecoming
Landline
Girls Trip

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Pre Pub Book Buzz: The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

Browsing is, I think, the best part of being in a bookstore. And online avenues have created a new sort of browsing. I was scrolling through Edelweiss recently and came across Laura Purcell's upcoming title and now I can't wait to read it!

Edelweiss is kind of great for discovering upcoming titles, if you didn't know. You can browse publishers' catalogs, you can see comp titles, all kinds of fun stuff. And as a book junkie who not only loves to wander the spines of bookstores' collections, I very much like to stay in the know about what I need to buy down the line as well.

And this one, readers, is one I definitely need to buy!

Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

When Elsie married handsome young heir Rupert Bainbridge, she believed she was destined for a life of luxury. But with her husband dead just weeks after their marriage, her new servants resentful, and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie has only her husband's awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. Inside her new home lies a locked door, beyond which is a painted wooden figure--a silent companion--that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself. The residents of The Bridge are terrified of the figure, but Elsie tries to shrug this off as simple superstition--that is, until she notices the figure's eyes following her.

A Victorian ghost story that evokes a most unsettling kind of fear, this is a tale that creeps its way through the consciousness in ways you least expect--much like the silent companions themselves.

This is not Purcell's debut, but it is the first of her books to be released here in the States and it's said to be a great one for fans of Shirley Jackson!

The Silent Companions is due out in March from Penguin. 

Friday, October 13, 2017

Short Fiction Friday: The Murders of Molly Southbourne by Tade Thompson

Molly Southbourne has to be careful. Any drop of blood has to be quickly taken care of, or it'll turn into another Molly - intent on murder. Yes, since she was a little girl, Molly has been killing herself over and over and over. But with strict care and attention, and the help of her parents, Molly has made it to adulthood still living and breathing. 

But that doesn't mean she's safe. In fact, as she grows older things only become more dangerous. 

Sooo this one wasn't a big hit for me. It should have been. Everything about the premise promised it would be. But something about Thompson's style just didn't click for me. Instead of being strange and mysterious, it was just plain hard to follow.

Molly bleeds and her blood becomes another Molly. Not a baby Molly, but another Molly exactly the same age and appearance as the Molly that bleeds. And yes, the doppelgängers appear from any Molly's blood, hence the care and attention it takes not only in getting rid of Molly's blood but in getting rid of other Mollys.

The story begins with Molly chained up, visited by at least one other Molly who narrates the story. And of course, without context the reader is immediately asking, which Molly is which?

The bigger questions, for me, are why do the Mollys all want to kill and why does Molly have this strange ability in the first place? (Because I have control issues and apparently can't always follow a story where it leads my - just going with the flow!)

Molly's backstory is never quite revealed to my satisfaction. It's more a read between the lines story than anything. Yes, there's some detail given about her mother and about what led to Molly's problem, but I wanted more. (See, control issues.)

I've gotten better over the years with less explanation in stories. As a teen, I'd have had a much stronger reaction to the pieces of the story that are left out. As an adult, I accept it as an interesting read, but admit I still crave more answers in order to be thoroughly satisfied.

The Murders of Molly Southbourne is being adapted as a movie and I'll be interested to see how it turns out. I'd also be interested in reading more should Thompson revisit this story in some way down the line, so clearly I didn't dislike it. I just want loose ends tied up. Control.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Odd Child Out by Gilly Macmillan

It's Thursday, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Gilly Macmillan's latest, Odd Child Out.

Two boys - best friends - but then one ends up hospitalized after an accident that may be more than that. 

DI Jim Clemo is just back on duty after mandatory leave and therapy thanks to a very public breakdown. His boss, and everyone besides, thinks this is a straightforward accident that'll be open and shut. Unfortunately, the case is much more complicated than it seems. An eyewitness claims to have seen the boys fighting, but by all accounts Noah and Abdi never fight. With Noah in a coma, though, and Abdi silent, the police don't have much to go on. And then the public gets wind of the case. 

I've not read Gilly Macmillan's What She Knew, so this is my first meeting with Jim Clemo. And yet, this second outing does stand well enough on its own that it made for a great introduction.

Jim is the kind of cop who gets over involved in his cases. Which is why he's good at his job, but also why he suffered a breakdown before the events of Odd Child Out take place. From the start, though, I could tell that it was beneficial, not just for him but for Abdi. There's a line in the book when Jim is interviewing Abdi for the first time, or trying to, and he says his own father would have taken the boy into the station.

Abdi and his family are refugees from Somalia. It's an area Noah's father actually knows well as he's spent time there photographing the very camp Abdi's family once lived in. And this detail - Abdi's background, that is - is part of what makes the book such an emotional read. From page one it's obvious this is not going to help Abdi. Comments that seem to be in passing - a tut tut from a fellow bus passenger that Abdi's sister overhears, yelled slurs at the hospital when Abdi's parents arrive to pick him up - make it clear (even if you've been living under a rock) what kind of backlash there will inevitably be. And it doesn't make Jim's job any easier.

As I mentioned, Odd Child Out is an emotional read. Chapters alternate between multiple characters, including Noah himself while he's in his coma. Normally a mystery will draw anger and sympathy from me as a reader, but this one got to me much deeper than that. I don't want to give anything away, but Macmillan does a fantastic job at tugging at your heartstrings while also giving the reader a great mystery. Be prepared!

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

For more on Gilly Macmillan you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble