Tuesday, August 29, 2023

The Phoenix King by Aparna Verma

Hi, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the Compulsive Readers tour for Aparna Verma's The Phoenix King. The first installment in the Ravence trilogy.

A king unwilling to give up his throne. A would-be queen certain she'll never be accepted. And an assassin who yearns for freedom. 

These three and their stories intertwine to make up Verma's debut, The Phoenix King

When we meet Yassen Knight, he's on his last assignment. The last one before he's out of the business. Unfortunately things go very wrong and Yassen ends up on the run. Which is how he ends up in service to the Ravences. 

For Elena, the throne is her birthright. And yet, it seems everything, including her own father, is working against her claiming her place as leader. 

To that end, Leo is not at all ready to give up his seat or his power. 

But war threatens their kingdom, and an ancient prophecy could upend all of their plans. 

The Phoenix King has an interesting history, all things considered. Verma self published the title as The Boy With Fire, gaining popularity and fanbase enough to catch the attention of trad publishers (a perfect storm, in other words). 

And rightfully so! Verma weaves political intrigue, romance, and Hindu mythology into a book and a world that are quite unlike anything else I've read of late!

The Phoenix King is a perfect example of the power of new voices in fiction! Voices that tell stories we haven't heard over and over again. I'd be lying if I said this wasn't one of my most anticipated fantasy debuts of the year—and the book delivers on every possible front!

This is the first in a trilogy and so far I've not seen a date for the release of book 2, but it's already on my mental must have list!  

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Whalefall by Daniel Kraus

Seventeen-year-old Jay Gardiner had what you would absolutely call a troubled relationship with his father. But Mitt Gardiner was such a local legend that no one, even his own family, quite understands. Especially in the wake of his father's illness and suicide.

In a last ditch effort to gain back some respect, Jay has decided to find his dad's body. But what should be a typical dive for someone as trained as Jay becomes a harrowing survival tale when he's swallowed by a sperm whale. And it's up to Jay to remember all the things Mitt taught him if he's going to survive.

As someone who knowingly suffers from thalassophobia, I knew this was going to be a tense one, but I think this is the most anxiety-inducing thing I have ever read! Which might make you wonder why I even subjected myself to it. You should know that as a habit I do read and watch just about everything focused on deep sea horror, exploration, and killer creatures. I'm terrified of it but equally fascinated by it!

And oddly enough, both of my parents were divers. 

Lest you think this is just a creature feature, it is not. In fact, the bulk of the story is actually the relationship between Jay and Mitt. And being trapped forces Jay to reckon with something he's been trying to escape for a long time: facing down his issues with his father. 

So yeah, it's a story about being swallowed by a giant whale. But it's also family relationships, trauma, and one determined teen!

This is 100% binge read material and perfect for fans of Peter Benchley, Nick Cutter, and pretty much anything in between!

Order a copy from Bookshop.org!

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Zero Days by Ruth Ware

Happy Wednesday! Today I'm excited to be a stop on the Random Things blog tour for Ruth Ware's latest, Zero Days

Jack and Gabe are known for being experts in testing security systems. But a regular job turns out to be anything but when Jack finds Gabe murdered in their home. 

The night starts like any other. They are testing security systems at Arden Alliance. Jack on site and Gabe at home manning the computers. But Jack makes a mistake that leads to her getting caught, which means having to convince security and the police that she is not in fact a criminal but was hired to break in. And it seems Gabe has fallen asleep because he isn't answering calls to back her up. 

After finally being released, Jack returns to the job site to pick up her car. Then, tired from the long night, takes a few wrong turns. Looking forward to calling it a night, she finally arrives home to find Gabe has been brutally murdered. And the scene suggests a professional hit.

Except Gabe doesn't have any enemies Jack can think of. And he hasn't been involved in anything that would attract the attention of professional killers. Unfortunately for Jack, the police decide her timeline of the night in question doesn't quite add up. And with no one else to seriously consider as a suspect, the detectives turn their eyes to her. 

As the primary, and easy, suspect, Jack knows the police are focused on pinning the crime on her. Which means the real killer will get away. And that's something Jack won't stand for. 

Ruth Ware has done it again! And by it, I mean bringing readers another impossible to put down thriller that will keep them guessing through to the end!

Jack is quite a fun leading character. She's trained in evading security. Which means she has (excuse the use of the cheesy phrase) a certain set of skills that are pretty perfect for avoiding police capture while also digging into a completely unfathomable crime. 

But she's not alone. She has the support of her sister's family as well as Gabe's best friend Cole. Even still, staying off the grid pushes her to her limits. 

And not only does she have to figure out who murdered Gabe, but also why

Zero Days proves once again that Ruth Ware is truly one of the best in the thriller business!

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

You Can't See Me by Eva Björg Ægisdóttir

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for the prequel to Eva Björg Ægisdóttir's Forbidden Iceland series, You Can't See Me.

On what would have been the family patriarch's 100th birthday, the Snæberg family has scheduled a reunion at a posh new hotel in rural Iceland. Modern and stark, the hotel is nonetheless breathtaking. But certain family members are less than impressed. 

With a storm looming and alcohol in the mix, tension is particularly high. And then one of the guests goes missing. 

Two days later, the police are on site. But what happened between the guests' arrival and then?

The story alternates in timeline and POV. Some of the narrators include Petra, an interior designer, her daughter Lea, who may have been followed to the hotel by an online stalker, and Irma, a hotel employee (to name a few). 

The book begins with a prologue of sorts, set on Sunday, November 5, but then jumps back to Friday, November 3, the day the family is set to arrive at the hotel, and the reader is given a brief introduction to the family by way of Irma, who's done ample research to prepare for the family's stay at the hotel. But then the story jumps back to Sunday and the arrival of the detectives. 

So less than three days before what's supposed to be a family reunion turns into something much more sinister!

The author perfectly sets the stage for a snowed in thriller that's excellent fun! And there's plenty of ominous foreshadowing for what's to come!

This is a perfect entry and introduction to the series for readers who are new to Ægisdóttir. If you're a fan of dark crime fiction and/or Yrsa Sigurdardottir and Ragnar Jónasson, you need to be reading Eva Björg Ægisdóttir!

As mentioned, this is a prequel to the Forbidden Iceland series. Reading order, after You Can't See Me is:

The Creak on the Stairs
Girls Who Lie
Night Shadows

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

The Dive by Sara Ochs

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Sara Ochs's The Dive!

It's supposed to be a normal work day for dive instructor Cass. And yet it's anything but. 

Cass has lived and worked on the island of Koh Sang in Thailand for two years. And in that time she's made great efforts to keep her background under wraps. And she's done well in that regard, finding friends and a family of sorts among the other expats who work on the island. 

That is until she receives an ominous message: someone knows about her past. 

Things take a significant turn for the worst when a member of her latest dive class is found dead in the water. Cass soon becomes convinced that the death is tied to the note she received. Unsure of the note writer's motive, Cass, along with another expat, Brooke, decides to find out more about the tourist's death. And when another person turns up murdered near the resort and Cass receives another note, she's more certain than ever that the two are connected. 

With the locals and the police determined to keep their island tourist friendly, Cass knows she can't turn to the authorities with her suspicions. Solving the case is her only option. 

Conspiracies and murder in paradise! If you're a fan of The Beach, this is the summer read for you! (If you haven't read The Beach, definitely pick it up—even Cass herself has a nod to the book/movie.) 

The reader is introduced to Cass the morning after she's become engaged to another expat, Logan. And we quickly learn that Cass hasn't told Logan everything about herself. Whatever she's keeping is big. Big enough that she's afraid of losing him. Big enough that someone can use it as blackmail. 

The reader is also introduced to our second narrator, Brooke, who is (surprise) also keeping secrets. Posing as a travel influencer, Brooke has been getting to know Cass and her friends for the past few weeks. But Brooke has bigger aspirations than Instagram. And when a guest at the resort is found dead, Brooke's interest is piqued. 

Though the death is ruled an accident, it is actually the second tourist death in recent weeks. A connection neither Cass or Brooke can overlook as they become involved in digging up info on the latest death. 

I loved The Dive! The setting is fabulous: a small dive resort on a less popular Thai island where business lives—or dies—by its reputation. And with so many people running from their pasts (yep, it's not just Cass and Brooke that are hiding things), the list of possible suspects and motives isn't as small as you'd think. 

Given that it does take place on a (fictional) island, there's an automatic urgency to the story. An insular community, made so by language and cultural barriers, tied together simply by way of their all speaking English. And those nasty secrets none of them wants revealed are all in danger of being spilled!

The Dive is great fun! Perfectly paced and super fun! It's out now from Bantam Press in the UK and will be out in the US early next year. 

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Eye for an Eye by M. J. Arlidge

Happy Sunday, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the Compulsive Readers tour for M. J. Arlidge's latest, Eye for an Eye. 

I'm a little under the weather, so here's a bit about the book from the publisher:



'Emily' is a devoted single mother.
'Jack' starts a new job in a new town.
'Russell' may be falling in love.

They all share the same secret: none of them are who they say they are.

They are among only nine criminals in the UK who have been granted lifelong anonymity, for their own safety, because of their terrible crimes.

But what if someone exposed their true identities to the families of their victims, who are desperate for revenge?

Probation officer Olivia Campbell is caught in the crossfire of this unprecedented crisis - and as the hunt for the mole behind it all intensifies, so too does the search for the vigilante killers let loose by the leaks...

Everyone is a suspect. Anyone could be a killer.
Who deserves justice? And who gets to decide?

I have been a big fan of Arlidge's work since the Helen Grace series debuted back in 2014 (2015 in the States). 

This latest is a standalone that presents an excellent premise. What would happen if criminals who have served their time and been given a new identity were suddenly outed. 

Given that the readers have the chance to get to know each of the characters, it becomes an even bigger question. They've rebuilt their lives, have new families and friends, and suddenly their darkest secrets have come to light. 

But don't those around them deserve to know their truths? The chance to reveal that has been taken away from them by someone else...It's an interesting question. And one that begs the reader to ponder what they themselves would do in both situations. 

Eye for an Eye is out now from Orion Books!

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Goddesses by Nina Millns

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Nina Millns's Goddesses.

Ayesha and her friend Yaz are off for a weekend hen do. But it's anything but the average bachelorette party. No, this one is a goddess retreat, complete with cleansed auras, transformations, and a strict schedule to adhere to. 

Yaz is something of an outsider, a comic who is friends with Ayesha, but invited nonetheless. They'd been classmates, but were reunited on the comedy scene. 

Ayesha, after going viral calling out a heckler at one of her shows, was brought into the fold of a activism group headed by Frankie. Alone with her partner, Joni, and another activist, Jessica, the group made headlines doing interviews on the #MeToo movement and women's rights. But a falling out is what introduced them to India, the bride to be. And India's friend Clemmie plays host for the weekend. 

Things begin awkwardly, but ok. As the weekend progresses, however, things go further and further off kilter until Ayesha finds herself stuck in the middle of nowhere, afraid for her life. 

Goddesses is a book that's understandably being touted as Bridesmaids meets Get Out, which is a simplistic but fair comparison as the audience gets a good sense for what to expect. Except that it's also SO MUCH MORE!

Goddesses is a story that can be read and enjoyed in layers. You can take the basic comedic horror, dipping into the odd vibes of the weekend and the ultimate creepiness that comes into play. You can also delve deeper into the social commentary about white feminist activism, cultural appropriation, generational trauma...

Whichever approach you take, you're in for a ride!

Dark humor is almost always a hit for me, as is horror containing social commentary (pretty sure all horror comes out of social commentary of a sort anyway). And this really is the hen do from hell! I can say without a doubt I'd be miserable from the moment of arrival and easily empathized with Ayesha and her car full of unwelcome pink party favors! Plus the book starts out with her not quite sure where she stands with the rest of the group, with the exception of Yaz.

And awkward doesn't even begin to describe what Ayesha is in for! The minute they walk through the door, its a practice in masking offense and excusing things that pile on until it can no longer be excused or denied. 

Like I said, it's a ride and I was along for every snarky bit of it!

Word has it tv rights have been sold for this one. I cannot wait to see it! 

Goddesses is out now from Simon and Schuster UK. No US release date as of yet, but I really hope it'll get a chance here!