Wednesday, December 31, 2014

As Red as Blood by Salla Simukka

Lumikki spends much of her time trying to be completely invisible. But when she stumbles on a stash of bloodied money in her school's dark room, she's forced to change her tactics. The kids who found the money know that Lumikki knows their secret and when one of them becomes the focus of a kidnapping attempt, they quickly recruit her in their efforts to find out what's going on. Lumikki's years of practice at going unnoticed are exactly what they need, but her investigation doesn't stay as secret as they'd all hoped. 

2014 Debut Author Challenge complete! Not only that, but this is the first read from my Christmas haul. This is Salla Simukka's first (I believe - I hope) US release and the first in a projected trilogy, with book two, As White as Snow, due out in March.

I'm a bit at odds with this one. Overall it was an ok read. It wasn't bad but I wasn't blown away. And I really wanted to be. It is, as far as I can tell, my first Finnish read and it's yet another translated teen read, which I think we need far more of. My biggest issue is with Lumikki herself and the lack of development.

But that's not exactly true either. Lumikki is actually pretty well developed as a character. The author gives us a great sense of her and her quirks: she's a teen who's living alone in a small apartment, something she's facilitated so that she can attend a magnet school in another town; she's also an outsider and there's a definite reason for it, a reason that is again facilitated by Lumikki herself. But in giving us a good picture of Lumikki, it's clear that there's so much more to her that we've not yet seen. Obviously this is because it's meant to be the first in a series - which would make stretching Lumikki's story necessary - so maybe my issue is that I can't move directly onto the next book.

The main plot of As Red as Blood does stand pretty well alone (which also lends to my character issues considering this is an otherwise a complete story on its own). Lumikki is wrangled into a plan that involves tracing a mysterious bag of money that some of her classmates stumble upon after a party. The first thing they have to find out is who the money is intended for. Once they've got that down, they have to figure out where it came from. And that's the biggie because it means infiltrating a local drug ring.

While I admittedly didn't LOVE this one, I am looking forward to reading book two. If I'm lucky, that one will tie up a few things and push me from meh to wow for these.

Rating: 3/5


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Novel Cure by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin + a Giveaway

I think that most bookish people are with me when I say a good book can fix just about anything - at least temporarily. But I'd never heard of it as an actual therapy! And yet, apparently it can be.

Bibliotherapy, according to Merriam-Webster.com, is "the use of reading materials for help in solving personal problems or for psychiatric therapy." Even more fascinating, they list 1919 as the first known use of the word!

According to their bio, Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin have been running their own bibliotherapy service since 2008. And now they've put together a book - The Novel Cure - featuring suggested titles for every malignancy and problem you could ever think of. Seriously, they've included literary cures for everything from physical ailments like a broken leg and mental ailments like depression to more abstract ailments like failure to seize the day and even embarrassments like egg on your tie. Each entry even includes an explanation as to the particular recommended title(s). Some of the recs are a bit tongue in cheek (the recommended book for dealing with pressure to have children gave me quite a laugh), but all are pretty sincere.

In addition to the listed ailments, there are even sidebars on reading ailments: Inability to find your books... Being a compulsive book buyer... Fear of Sci-fi... Stuck on Sci-fi... you get the picture :) One of my favorite things the authors include, though, are lists. Top ten lists, to be specific! Top ten to read by age (teens, twenty somethings...) and top ten seasonal reads like "Top Ten Best Novels for When You've Got a Cold." Uh, considering the fact that I'll catch a cold pretty much if someone says "cold" this list is going to come in handy!

The paperback edition of The Novel Cure: From Abandonment to Zestlessness: 751 Books to Cure What Ails You is due out today and makes for a pretty handy tool, at least for this book junkie. Thanks to the publisher I'm able to offer up a copy for giveaway. To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, January 12. US only and no PO boxes please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, December 29, 2014

Game by Barry Lyga

William Cornelius Dent has escaped prison and his son, Jazz, is afraid he might have played a pivotal role in the plan. But before he can focus too much on that, Jazz is approached by New York City authorities who want his help in catching another serial killer. Hat-Dog's MO and signature are all over the place. His victims aren't connected and run the gamut in age, race, and sex. And while Billy Dent himself was known for changing it up as he went along, there's no way he can be the killer this time around as the murders started while he was still very much behind bars. Jazz knows he can help, but this time he's not so sure he should get involved.

Soooo Lyga drops a big ol' bomb at the end of this second installment. It's a revelation that almost overshadows the rest of the book! I'll hold my tongue, though, at least until I read and post on Blood of My Blood.

This series is so dark and twisty and good! Really, really good! And Lyga has carefully set up clues throughout that leave you hanging on the edge of your seat. I can't even try to figure them out, I have no clue at all where this train is headed I just know I'm along for the ride.

Jazz continues to fight what he thinks may be his dark destiny. It doesn't help that his pops is out again and in his ear teasing him about potentially following in his footsteps. But Jazz has Howie and Connie by his side for support and they are such fabulous characters.

If you're looking for some dark thrillers, I do suggest picking these up. They're teen but they definitely don't read that way. And they make for good binge reading considering you'll want to jump right into the next title every time you finish one.

Rating: 4/5

Sunday, December 28, 2014

New Releases 12/30/14

It's the last new release post of 2014!

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

The Soul of Discretion by Susan Hill

Viking Bay by M. A. Lawson

Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar

Things Half in Shadow by Alan Finn

The Winter Sea by Di Morrissey

The Life Intended by Kristin Harmel

Die Again by Tess Gerritsen

Saving Grace by Jane Green

The Bishop's Wife by Mette Ivie Harrison

No Fortunate Son by Brad Taylor

Rain on the Dead by Jack Higgins

The Assassination Option by W.E.B. Griffin

Robert B. Parker's The Bridge by Robert Knott

New on DVD:
Stephen King's A Good Marriage
The Equalizer
Tusk

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
The Baker Street Letters by Michael Robertson
The Three by Sarah Lotz

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Pre Pub Book Buzz: The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen

I came across this one in the upcoming St. Martins Press/Thomas Dunne catalog and immediately added it to my 2015 wish list. Aside from the fact that The Telegraph apparently called this "Twin Peaks meets the Brothers Grimm" the synopsis itself is quite intriguing.

Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

Only nine people have ever been chosen by renowned children’s author Laura White to join the Rabbit Back Literature Society, an elite group of writers in the small town of Rabbit Back. Now a tenth member has been selected: a young literature teacher named Ella. 

Soon Ella discovers that the Society is not what it seems. What is its mysterious ritual known as "The Game"? What explains the strange disappearance that occurs at Laura White’s winter party? Why are the words inside books starting to rearrange themselves? Was there once another tenth member, before her? Slowly, as Ella explores the Society and its history, disturbing secrets that had been buried for years start to come to light. . . .

According to his bio online, Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen is a Finnish author and teacher with a fondness for vampires :) The Rabbit Back Literature Society is his first novel - originally released back in 2006 - so it's taken some time but we finally get to read it here in the States next January! (Pushkin released it in the UK last year.)

Friday, December 26, 2014

Short Fiction Friday: A Lunar Chronicles Edition

I'm working on catching up on a few series that I've been reading and one of those is Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles. After devouring Cinder in just a couple of hours, I was pretty keen to lay my hands on the next book and yet two books later I still hadn't read it! Shame, shame on me. This Christmas holiday break has given me a chance to do a LOT of reading, though, and that at least has been remedied. And now it's time to break before reading Cress and take on two of Meyer's shorts: "Glitches" and "The Queen's Army."

Orphaned and pieced back together in the wake of a terrible accident, Cinder finds herself with a second chance in New Beijing. Linh Garan, his wife - Adri, and his two daughters, Peony and Pearl, are to become Cinder's new family. But as Cinder tries to fit into her new home, tragedy strikes the Linh family changing everything. 

Rating: 5/5

Twelve-year-old Ze'ev knew they would come for him. The queen's thaumaturges were guaranteed to seek him out for the queen's service and sure enough, they've finally come. But even though it's considered an honor to serve, Z doesn't want to join this new army. And serving in this army means more than just fighting, it means giving yourself over to an array of "improvements" that will take Z further and further from the boy he was into a creature fit to do the bidding of a queen whose goal is literal world domination. 

Rating: 5/5

If you haven't read either of these, they are available online. "Glitches" is a prequel to Cinder while "The Queen's Army" is set prior to Scarlet, though as one review has pointed out, it's probably best not to read it until after you've read Scarlet as it does give away a little bit of the story.

Despite the fact that I've clearly taken way too long to continue this series, it is definitely one of my favorites. The world building is fabulous and the premise is completely enchanting!

Of course by now there's a fourth installment due out. Fairest, which will be Levana's story, hits shelves January 27.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes

On October 27, 1945 the HMS Victorious set off for the first of three trips to transport WWII servicemen and war brides. Jojo Moyes's own grandmother was one of those brides, traveling from Australia to England to be with her husband. According to the acknowledgements, her story and others inspired The Ship of Brides, which was originally released back in 2005 but has recently been reissued by Penguin.

The war has ended and out of the remaining war brides in Australia, Margaret, Avice, Jean, and Frances have each been chosen to travel to England aboard HMS Victory in a push to reunite them with their husbands. They aren't the first to travel to England and they aren't the last, but they're the lucky ones who won't have to wait any longer. The four couldn't be more different from one another and yet they find themselves bunkmates on the newly outfitted aircraft carrier. Margaret is massively pregnant; Jean, at sixteen, is among the youngest on board; Frances, a former nurse, is quite closemouthed about her past; and Avice is a society girl who'd hoped for roommates of a different class. But they each have one thing in common: they've left behind everything they know to start a new life. 

Decades later, one of these women gets the shock of a lifetime when she stumbles upon a reminder of that fateful journey. 

I rather liked The Ship of Brides, and I really wasn't sure that I would at the start. Mainly because I'd looked forward to it for so long but never really felt I was in the right mood for it. But I forced myself to sit down with it one evening and soon found myself quite taken in by the story.

This one is very different from the other titles I've read by Moyes thus far. To be honest, that was appealing at this stage as both One Plus One and Silver Bay had a lot of common elements between them. And while there is some of that in The Ship of Brides, the premise and the WWII setting couldn't have been more different!

This was most definitely a piece of history that was fairly new to me. Not so much the war brides aspect but the fact that such a massive undertaking to deliver these women to their new homes had occurred. Moyes does a wonderful job blending in historical quotes from real men and women concerning the actual HMS Victorious mission, setting the scene mood of the novel quite nicely. Each of the characters came across as genuine in both emotion and setting, making it easy to imagine them as real people. Bringing the story forward to the present day was also a nice touch that added another layer of believability for me as the reader.

Ship of Brides may not be what you've come to expect from Moyes but it is a wonderful historical read, perfect for anyone who enjoys WWII fiction.

Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Bringing Me

I've decided to jump on board with Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the topic is: top ten books I wouldn't mind Santa bringing.

Duke City Hit by Max Austin + a Giveaway

Hi, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Max Austin's second Duke City title, Duke City Hit, new out now from Alibi! There is a tour wide giveaway on this one so be sure to read through to the bottom to enter.

Vic Walters is a hitman and he's quite good at it. He easily made the shift from bounty hunter and he and his boss have a nice sideline going with a legitimate business as a cover. But after years of hits going off without a hitch, Vic has a little problem. Two problems in fact. The first problem is that someone seems to be tailing him. The second problem? A recent hit turns out to have mob connections and those connections want Vic to do another job to even the score. 

Now you may recall my review of Austin's first Duke City title, Duke City Split, earlier this year. That book was about a couple of bank robbers (Bud and Mick). The fun thing here is that Hit features an all new cast of characters, so if you missed Split that's totally ok!

Duke City Hit is the kind of book you want to settle in with when there's just too much going on around you. It's a read that doesn't require a lot of concentration and can be enjoyed simply for being fun and easy. 'Cause let's face it, sometimes fun and easy is all you need. If you're looking for something deep and dark with lots of surprise twists, this probably isn't the book for you. But if you're looking for something to take your mind off of last minute holiday stress, Max Austin makes a good fix.

Rating: 3/5

Max Austin's third Duke City/Lawbreakers title, Duke City Desperado, is due out next year.

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

As mentioned above there is a giveaway for this tour. To enter simply fill out the Rafflecopter below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Monday, December 22, 2014

The Martian by Andy Weir

Just six Mars days (sols) after landing on the Red Planet, the Ares 3 mission is brought to a violent end. A massive storm causes the crew to immediately evacuate and abandon what was to be a month-long mission. Mark Watney is left behind, presumed dead. 

And yet Watney miraculously survived. Well, maybe not miraculously. After being almost run through with an antenna, the combination of his suit and the Mars atmosphere turned out to be a blessing. But now Mark is stranded. On Mars. And everyone believes he's dead. 

There's been a ton of buzz about The Martian and though I'm definitely late coming to it, I can wholeheartedly swear to the fact that it's earned every ounce of praise!

This is science fiction for the non science fiction reader. Oh, it's perfectly suitable for sci-fi fans, but for those of us who find the genre a bit overwhelming and/or intimidating this is the perfect book. It's very science based, but Weir - through Watney - takes the time to explain it in a way that makes sense and is easy to swallow. Amazingly this doesn't hang up the narration at all. It's incorporated quite smoothly into the story as a whole. Part of this, and definitely one of the things that makes the book stand out, is the way the book is written: much of The Martian is set up as being Mark Watney's log of his experiences on Mars - explaining everything for anyone who might come across his report at some later date.

Mark is a FUN character. I mean, really fun. Considering it's already been announced that Matt Damon will play him in the upcoming movie (due out next year and directed by Ridley Scott!), I did automatically picture the character as the actor. But I think it's totally suited.

The Martian has the pacing and action of a thriller - even though it's mainly driven by one man on an abandoned planet. It's highly entertaining and actually pretty funny at times. It really is just a great read overall and one that will appeal to a very wide range of readers - if they'll chance a sci-fi book. Serious, I recommended this book to a teen looking for a good read. He read it, loved it, and passed it onto his classmates. After I finished it, I passed it onto my husband who also loved it and we've both been talking it up ever since.

Rating: 5/5

Per Blogging for Books requirements: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

New Releases 12/23/14

Some of the few new titles hitting shelves this week are:

A String of Beads by Thomas Perry

Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis (reissue)

We Should Hang Out Sometime by Josh Sundquist

Bad Romeo by Leisa Rayven

New on DVD:
Pride
The Good Lie
The Trip to Italy

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
My top ten of 2014 list

Friday, December 19, 2014

Short Fiction Friday: Zero Hour by Ray Bradbury

I'm not at all sure how I missed it, but I did indeed miss initial promos about the show The Whispers. Haven't heard of it? Makes sense considering it still hasn't begun airing. You can check out the trailer here if you're curious but I think it looks completely creepy and fabulous and do hope it'll see the light of day sometime soon.

The show is based on "Zero Hour" a short story by Ray Bradbury that can be found in The Illustrated Man.

Mrs. Morris's seven-year-old daughter, Mink, has a new game to play. It's called "Invasion" and all of the neighborhood kids have been recruited. The younger kids, anyway. Anyone over ten hasn't been invited. Mrs. Morris doesn't know it yet, but "Invasion" is much more than a simple game and the kids aren't players at all: they're pawns being used for something out of this world. 

Ray Bradbury is THE BEST and The Illustrated Man has always been a favorite collection of mine. I don't recall when I first started reading him but it seems like stories like "The Veldt" and books like Something Wicked This Way Comes have always been part of my bookish memory. And yet I didn't recall this story at all!

"Zero Hour" is a really creepy one. The underlying ominous tone layered in what first appears to be nothing more than a children's game is utterly fabulous! Bradbury twists the story so delicately that the reader almost doesn't realize the actual horror until Mrs. Morris herself begins to. Almost. There are certainly clues along the way but seeing as how Bradbury tends to (as he does here) set his stories in realities that are only seemingly similar to our own, it's not altogether obvious what those clues are leading to at first glance.

Rating: 5/5

Thursday, December 18, 2014

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

Jazz Dent knows serial killers - his father was one of the most notorious ones out there, after all. And dear old dad raised his son to follow in his footsteps, something Jazz fears to no end. But Jazz's knowledge about how a serial killer thinks and works could come in handy. When it appears a new killer has set his eye on Lobo's Nod, Jazz's own hometown, the teen is determined to put his knowledge to work in tracking - and hopefully stopping - the killer before it's too late. 

This first book in the Jasper Dent series introduces readers to a teen character with some real issues: Jasper - Jazz - suffers nightmares thanks to his dad's particular type of parenting and spends much of his time worrying over whether he will end up a sociopath. Most of his time, in fact. It's why he's so interested in serial killers - so that he can constantly monitor his own thoughts and behavior in comparison.

The discovery of a body in Lobo's Nod is shocking and yet Jazz is the only one to immediately come to the conclusion that it's a serial killer. Along with his friend, Howie, Jazz combs the crime scene and even breaks into the morgue to find more evidence to support his theory. It helps that the sheriff is set up as a character particularly sympathetic to Jazz's situation because our lead does have more than one run-in with the law that obviously would get him in pretty deep trouble were that not the case.

I can say that Lyga does a great job getting me to suspend my disbelief here. G. William helps sell the case that Jazz could and would be involved in the investigation to the extent that he is - and have his other deeds excused the way they are. It's almost a bit over the top, but honestly I liked it so I went with it.

Obviously a book like this is going to draw comparison to Dexter. How could it not? The main difference - in this first outing at least - is that Jazz isn't a killer and doesn't have any killer tendencies. He's driven by proving this fact and by doing something good. I can't promise this won't remain the case in the two later books as I've not yet read them..

I feel I should warn those who might be a bit faint of heart that while this is a teen thriller, it's still pretty dark and graphic.

Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Reads of 2014

I've decided to jump on board with Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the topic is: top ten reads of 2014.

Believe it or not, I'm finding this really hard! I've got over 20 titles tagged as favorites this year and anticipate running into at least one or two more in the coming weeks before the year is truly out. My biggest issue, though, is that there's been so much overlap so far with other TTT posts, particularly last week's. Oh, well. Here goes!

Woman With a Gun by Phillip Margolin

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Phillip Margolin's latest, Woman With a Gun.

Stacey Kim is floundering. A recent MFA grad, she's taken a job as a receptionist in a New York City law firm. She's supposed to be working on a novel but hasn't even been able to start. 

When she stumbles on a photography exhibit featuring a captivating image of a woman holding a gun behind her back, Stacey knows she's finally found the inspiration she needs. As she begins to plot and outline, she researches the image in question and discovers that it's tied to a ten-year-old homicide that's never been solved. As Stacey digs into the case further, she realizes that the pieces of the original investigation don't quite fit. Could she be onto something? But as Stacey grows closer to solving the cold case, someone else begins to take notice of her. 

The Woman With a Gun is essentially told in three parts: first, Stacey's story. Stacey's part is set in 2015, ten years after the infamous and unsolved Cahill murder. Flash back to 2005 when the case actually took place. Jack Booth has been asked to assist in investigating and potentially prosecuting the Cahill murder. While on the case, Jack meets the crime's only witness - Kathy Moran. But Jack and Kathy actually know each other from a prior case. Flash back once more to 2000 and the Kilbride case. Jack, an up an comer in the DA's office thinks he has an open and shut case against a notorious drug runner. But the perp's young lawyer, Kathy Moran, is more clever than Jack gives her credit for.

There's a lot of great backstory here and a lot of excellent build in the various facets of the plot. Unfortunately the characters themselves are a bit shaky. I got a good feel for Jack and something of a good feel for Stacey, but the others are very wooden and thin: they felt like stand ins meant to flesh out the story. Stacey's relationship, for example, builds pretty predictably but never feels truly convincing. To that end, Jack's womanizing and his feelings for Kathy felt pretty thrown in there as well.

The Woman With the Gun wasn't bad but it didn't blow me away. I thought it had great potential but fell somewhat short.

Rating: 3/5

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

For more on Phillip Margolin and his work, you can visit his website here. You can also like him on Facebook.


Monday, December 15, 2014

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

When the outbreak hits, Malorie is able to escape to a safe haven that's opened its arms to strangers. Four years later, she and her two children are still there. But Malorie knows they have to move on. They may be able to continue to survive as they have, but it's an existence that's both unfair and unsustainable. In order to leave, though, she and her young children will have to brave the outside and that means braving the thing that caused all of this in the first place.

So as I mentioned last week in my review of Anne Knows Books, their first recommended title for me was Josh Malerman's Bird Box. Holy crap it was a great recommendation! It totally suited my reading preferences. Not only that, it totally suited what I was in the mood for: it's dark and a bit bleak. It's horror, but the kind that's heavily focused on atmosphere and characters.

The story alternates between Malorie's travel upriver and her experiences from the beginning of the outbreak through to this point. The children, simply called Boy and Girl, are only four but Malorie has spent all of their lives teaching them how to survive in this new world. And she well knows that in order for them to reach their goal she will need their help as much as they will need hers.

Oh, this world! The outbreak begins with reports of violence from around the globe. Neighbors turning on neighbors, family members turning on one another, all preceding the perpetrator's suicide. And all the reports can surmise is that the person afflicted saw something that caused them to lose their minds. So in order to survive, Malorie has lived for four years in a world where literally opening your eyes can mean certain death. As the story progresses and the reader is exposed to the various ways Malorie and others have tried to outwit this strange epidemic shows how strong a character she truly is.

By the end there really isn't much of an answer as to what's caused this new reality and that makes the book that much more terrifying. Bird Box is by far one of the best horror reads I've had the pleasure of diving into for quite some time. As it's Malerman's first, I do hope it means much, much more to come!

Rating: 5/5

Sunday, December 14, 2014

New releases 12/16/14

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Doll's House by Tania Carver

Memory of Flames by Armand Cabasson

The Devil in Montmartre by Gary Inbinder

Thief by Mark Sullivan

A Nip of Murder by Carol Miller

The Voices by F. R. Tallis

The Lost by James Patterson & Emily Raymond

New on DVD:
This Is Where I Leave You
The Maze Runner
Stonehearst Asylum
At the Devil's Door
Skeleton Twins
Magic in the Moonlight

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
The Vault by Emily McKay
The Lair by Emily McKay
The Farm by Emily McKay

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Pre Pub Book Buzz: Little Black Lies by Sandra Block

My latest Pre Pub title isn't due out until February but the publisher has put out a free five chapter preview to whet your whistle!

Here's a bit about the book from the press release:

She helps people conquer their demons. But she has a few of her own...

In the halls of the psychiatric ward, Dr. Zoe Goldman is a resident in training, dedicated to helping troubled patients. However, she has plenty of baggage of her own. When her newest patient arrives—a beautiful sociopath who murdered her mother—Zoe becomes obsessed with questions about her own mother's death. But the truth remains tauntingly out of reach, locked away within her nightmares of an uncontrollable fire. And as her adoptive mother loses her memory to dementia, the time to find the answers is running out. 

As Zoe digs deeper, she realizes that the danger is not just in her dreams but is now close at hand. And she has no choice but to face what terrifies her the most. Because what she can't remember just might kill her. 

Little Black Lies is about madness and memory - and the dangerous, little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.

I do so love discovering new authors and Sandra Block's debut is right up my alley. Little Black Lies is due out February 17 from Grand Central. The free preview is available now through all major book etailers (here's the BN link.)

Friday, December 12, 2014

Short Fiction Friday: Haunted Holidays

I'm a bit of a grinch when it comes to holiday-themed reads. I don't particularly like feeling as though it's only appropriate to read something at one specific time of year. Plus, they tend to be (in my experience) kind of writes offs. Little cutesy extras that are fine if you're into that kind of thing. But hey, me = grinch, remember?

But this doesn't apply to horror and when one of my favorite authors announced she was taking part in a holiday horror collection, I couldn't resist.

First off, it's seriously awesome that telling ghost stories used to be a Victorian Christmas tradition. Why did this go away?! This should totally still be a thing! And that's exactly the spirit authors Carolyn Haines (aka R.B. Chesterton), Laura Benedict, and Lisa Morton have adopted in putting together this little collection.

Haines kicks things off with "The Christmas Ornament," a chilling piece wherein a handful of grad students gather 'round the fire as one of their peers regales them with his own family ghost story. A story centered around an ornament that's said to curse anyone who looks at it.

Then Benedict gifts us with a tale of a Christmas Nisse in "The Christmas Gnome." Here Venus Hansen receives the latest in a string of odd Christmas gifts from her mother-in-law. This one - a dirty little gnome statue - should have come with a warning!

Finally, in "The Christmas Spirit" Lisa Morton spins a truly disturbing tale about a couple with a rocky marriage, a creepy family cottage, and an old ghost story that may be more than just a story.

Not only was this the perfect little collection to suit my current mood, it was a fabulous set of creepy stories! As a little bonus, because I was definitely left wanting more, the collection does include excerpts from each of the authors' latest releases.

Rating: 5/5

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Anne Knows Books

If you're looking for a gift for a reader or book junkie this season (or yourself!), I have a great suggestion for you: Anne Knows Books.


In an age where not everyone has a fabulous indie bookstore in their neighborhood, a well-read or not so well-read person can find themselves in a bit of a pickle. What to read next is a question I find myself pondering a lot. I'll spend hours browsing my shelves, looking through blogs and Goodreads trying to find something that suits my mood. Sometimes I just want someone else to make a suggestion for me! Well, the folks over at Anne Knows Books are there to help.

For $3 a month this new service offers personalized book recommendations! You can subscribe for suggestions monthly, bi monthly, or even every three months and after completing a questionnaire aimed at deciphering your personal reading taste (it helps if you have a Goodreads page as well so they can see what you've read) the good folks at Anne Knows Books will email you their suggestion. It's quick and painless and - having tried it myself - I can attest that they do make an effort to not only pinpoint a book that fits your taste but to find something you haven't yet read (should that happen, there is "Already Read This Book" option in your recommendation email).

Note: Gift subscriptions come in 6 month or 12 month options.

It really is personalized, guys. My first rec came two days after I'd completed the questionnaire and it was paired with a message admitting that I was a bit of a challenge (part of the reason I signed on was to see how they'd handle someone like me). My recommended title: Bird Box by Josh Malerman. To be fair, Bird Box has been on my radar ever since reading a review on one of the blogs that I follow, but I'd not yet bought or read it. As I write this, I have started and I am LOVING it. (Review to follow.)

I would suggest that if you opt to buy someone a subscription, you pair it with a gift certificate for a fabulous bookstore!

This just in: want to try Anne Knows Books for yourself? Sign up and use the promo code nomoregrumpy to get one month free!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Baker Street Letters by Michael Robertson

I didn't think Cozy Mystery Week was going to be as big of a challenge as it turned out to be! Now, I'm not a huge cozy fan at all; I like my mysteries a bit darker and bloodier as you all likely know. My original plan was to read cozy all week, knocking out some series that have been building up in the TBR. In trying to choose something to read for the week, though, I ended up doing a bit of book speed dating - starting and abandoning various titles before finding one that seemed like a good match for me. That one was... Michael Robertson's The Baker Street Letters.

Reggie Heath was unaware of the strange clause in his lease for office space at 221 Baker Street. Unaware, that is, until his brother, Nigel, pointed it out to him. For some time, the office has been accepting letters addressed to a certain famed literary detective. As part of the lease, Reggie agreed to handle and respond to the letters using a prepared form response. Under no circumstances are they ever to contact the writers of the letters. 

But Nigel becomes overly curious about one letter in particular, which turns out to be three letters in fact. Twenty years ago, a letter was sent from an eight year old in search of her missing father. Along with the letter, the child sent a number of items to help with the investigation. Now that girl wants those items back. But Nigel notices something off about these new letters and becomes convinced they aren't from the original sender. Just as he sets off to LA to dig deeper, Reggie stumbles upon a dead body on Nigel's office floor. Reggie is almost certain that his brother can't be the killer, but wonders if the letters could be to blame. Reggie follows his brother to the States and immediately becomes entangled in the mystery of the letters as well. 

So as I said, this wasn't the first book I tried on for size this week but it was the one that intrigued me most. I was pretty immediately drawn in by the characters and by the time the premise was introduced I was sold.

You don't have to be a Sherlock Holmes fan to enjoy this first outing in Robertson's series. In fact, even Holmes purists can rest easy as the only real connection to Conan Doyle's creation here is the address. You do have to be something of a mystery fan, though. The brothers Heath both have law backgrounds, which makes it easy to believe they have the means and the brains to do what they do in the book (always a plus). Nigel in particular has been in hot water of late thanks to his dogged desire to do the right thing. And of course tracking down a girl with a missing father who could be in danger is the right thing!

The Baker Street Letters is a fun and light read, nice for cleansing the reading palate after some heavier books of late. I fully intend to continue the series now that I've started. If you're interested there are four titles in the series to date (the latest out in hardcover now and due out in paperback Dec 30):

The Baker Street Letters
The Brothers of Baker Street
The Baker Street Translation
Moriarty Returns a Letter

Rating: 4/5


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: New to Me Authors Read in 2014

I've decided to jump on board with Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the topic is: top ten new to me authors read in 2014.

To make this a bit easier and avoid some of the duplication in lists, I did not include any 2014 debut authors in this TTT.

Monday, December 8, 2014

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

It's been generations since Saypur overthrew the powers that ruled the Continent. Divinities, six in all, that ruled by force and magic, all of them conquered and killed by a people who were once their slaves. And now the Saypuri rule instead, forcibly outlawing any and all reference to those gods and their history. When a Saypuri historian focused on studying the history of Bulikov and those deities is murdered, Shara Komayd is sent to investigate. One of Saypur's most experienced agents and a direct descendant of the Kaj - the man who famously defeated Bulikov - Shara arrives undercover and immediately discovers multiple motives for the murder. As her investigation proceeds, she learns that the man was digging into more than just the history of the Continent, and while it's certain that some of the Divinity's followers are still in existence, Shara begins to wonder if some of the gods themselves may have survived the war. 

Sooooo, City of Stairs starts off really freaking confusing! It was jarring diving into a story that starts midstream. Rather than easing the reader into what is truly a unique and complicated world, Robert Jackson Bennett plops us down in the midst of a trial with precedent based on a history we've not yet been exposed to. And then there's a murder.

Actually, with the exception of this being unexpected based on what I know about this author's work, I do prefer being dropped in the middle. It's the only way to avoid the ever-dreaded info dump. And yes, this is a very complicated world but - to be fair - the author does very quickly begin working in details that help us understand what's going on around us.

At it's heart, this is a murder mystery. Shara is a spy - and one with a great backstory! The book starts a bit slower but gradually the pacing picks up and the plot becomes more and more intriguing.

City of Stairs is a fantastic cross-genre read, one I'd definitely recommend to anyone in the mood for a cerebral plot and fabulously rich world building.

Per Blogging for Books requirements: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

New Releases 12/9/14

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Five by Ursula Archer

The Voices by F. R. Tallis

The Inheritance Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin (omnibus)

Perfect Sins by Jo Bannister

Death of Riley by Rhys Bowen

Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz

Asylum City by Liad Shoham

The Boston Girl by Ania Diamant

Irène by Pierre Lemaitre

The Iris Fan by Laura Joh Rowland

The Convert's Song by Sebastian Rotella

Zodiac by Romina Russell

Gathering Darkness by Morgan Rhodes

King Dork Approximately by Frank Portman

No Place to Fall by Jaye Robin Brown

New on DVD:
Guardians of the Galaxy
Dead Snow 2: Red vs Dead
Frank

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
Keep Your Friends Close by Paula Daly
The Merciless by Danielle Vega

Friday, December 5, 2014

Short Fiction Friday: The Burning Girl by Lisa Unger

Lisa Unger takes readers back to The Hollows with her latest, a trilogy of short e reads featuring Eloise Montgomery. You can read my post on the first installment, "The Whispers," here.

"The Burning Girl" picks up ten years after "The Whispers." Eloise has become somewhat used to her gift and has made increasing use of it since the death of her husband. Not everyone is so pleased, though. Eloise's daughter has distanced herself over the past decade and some of the citizens of The Hollows are understandably wary - and even critical - of Eloise's ability. 

When the angry spirit of a girl accompanied by smoke and fire begins to appear to Eloise, she is curious and wants to help. But Eloise is warned off of involving herself with such a spirit. Meanwhile, retired cop turned PI Ray Muldune has taken on a complicated missing persons case and has asked for Eloise's assistance. 

I enjoyed this one even more than the first! The burning girl herself is incredibly intriguing and the progression of Eloise's character is really wonderful. Both tales are quite short - easy to slip in when you've got limited reading time - and I'm really dying to read the third now as well. ("The Three Sisters" is out Jan 5.) And of course this little trilogy is leading up to Unger's upcoming novel, Crazy Love You, out February 10.

Lisa Unger really is one of the best thriller writers of the day. Her characters are flawed and well-drawn and her stories are tense and fabulously plotted. Some of the books are connected and do have a reading order. If you enjoy the Whispers trilogy (or if they've piqued your curiosity) and you've not yet read any of The Hollows tales, I suggest starting with Fragile (it's one of my favorites!).

Rating: 4/5

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Deadly Little Sins by Kara Taylor

Anne has managed to stay mum on the murder of Wheatley alum Travis Shepherd all summer, but the disappearance of her favorite teacher is another matter. Of course, finding out what happened to Ms. Cross is tough considering Anne's been a. ousted from Wheatley, b. permanently grounded, and c. under constant parental supervision. All of that changes, though, when the Wheatley powers that be announce that they've decided not to expel Anne. 

Anne is well aware that her digging will need to be even more hush hush this time around. Unfortunately, another Wheatley teacher is found murdered and Anne realizes that her little investigation has once again turned deadly serious.

Sooo I'd hoped - and expected, based on Prep School Confidential and Wicked Little Secrets - that Deadly Little Sins would tie in more with the previous two. Instead, this third installment may have jumped the shark more than even I can bear. 

But wait, of course it ties in because it's Anne and it's Wheatley. Yes, that's true. But with the previous two, the mysteries are tied together by more than just the protagonist and the setting. There's a core group of suspects and baddies that have a very clear connection to both plots. Had that again been the case with this third title the plot would have been wholly more believable! And there is a bit of a link to the... issues of the previous two, but overall this one just feels like Wheatley is an unfortunate Sunnydale type magnet for crazies and killers. And Anne is the only one who notices. 

Less shark-y is the actual wrap up in Deadly Little Sins. Some might find Anne's potential career choice just a bit too convenient or twee but I thought it was quite fun. It is actually along the lines of what I'd expect Anne to do post high school. I can't say that I loved the open ending as much, though. I'm not sure if there are plans to take Anne further with future books (something I wouldn't be opposed to) but it felt a little too obvious that that was the hope or intention. It left me feeling like there was still something to be addressed where there really shouldn't have been.

So a meh, on the fence result with the trilogy tie up. Deadly Little Sins is fun for fun sake but not as fabulous as the previous two. 

Rating: 3/5

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Orbs by Nicholas Sansbury Smith

It's been six years since the solar storms of 2055 wiped out much of the midwest, leaving a radioactive wasteland in their wake. Dr. Sophie Winston witnessed the storms and the results firsthand and is well aware that a second occurrence could mean the end of mankind. No one wants to stand by and wait for that to happen and so scientists around the world have been searching for an alternative option. One man, Dr. Hoffman of the NTC, has conceived of a possible solution: a Mars colony. It will be both costly and difficult, but it could be the only way to save the human race. 

Sophie been recruited to be part of a team of scientists tasked with testing Hoffman's new biosphere set up. If successful, the biospheres would be the basis for the Mars colony and Sophie would be ensured a place there. But just days into the experiment, something goes wrong. Sophie and her team quickly realize that it's not the biosphere that has failed or malfunctioned, but that something has gone wrong on the Earth's surface. What they discover when they emerge is worse than they could possibly imagine. 

Sophie and Emanuel from the short "Solar Storms" play a big role in this first of the series. Brothers Jeff and David from "White Sands" make an appearance as well. I'd been wondering if and how they would and I do have to say the author has done a fabulous job there!

I am really loving this series! Orbs is post-apocalyptic alien invasion fun - big on entertainment and not too big on scientific jargon. It's a total popcorn read (as in big blockbuster movie fare and all that's missing is the popcorn). You don't have to have read "Solar Storms" or "White Sands" prior to reading Orbs. In fact, much of "Solar Storms" does make an appearance in Orbs. (Personally, I found "White Sands" to be particularly fun in introducing David and Jeff, so I would recommend checking that one out.)

As per my post on the shorts, "Solar Storms," "White Sands," Orbs and Orbs II: Stranded are out now. Orbs III: Redemption and another prequel short, "Red Sands," are due out next year.

Rating: 3/5

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: 2015 Releases I'm Most Looking Forward To

I've decided to jump on board with Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the topic is: 2015 releases I'm most looking forward to.

The Vault by Emily McKay

Happy book birthday to Emily McKay! Today marks the release of The Vault the third installment in the fabulously dark post-outbreak vampire trilogy that kicked off in 2012 with The Farm.

When we left Lily, Mel, and Carter in The Lair, things weren't so rosy. The Vault begins right where we left off.

After facing what could be the ultimate betrayal, Carter isn't sure who to trust or where to turn. But with Lily infected and only temporarily saved, he does know that her twin sister Mel can be relied on to help. 

The two set off in search of a rumored cure only to realize that they may need to reach out to two very unlikely allies. As Carter sets off to return to San Angelo, Mel must go back to El Corazon where she left Sebastian staked to the ground... and hope that he's still alive. 

As with the other two installments, the story plays out in alternating chapters from each of the characters' viewpoints. And the characters are one of the best things about this series! It's likely a bit of a challenge for an author to ensure that each character truly does have their own voice. This is something that McKay really excels at, though. While it is sad to see Mel change so drastically from the girl we met in The Farm (because that definitely was one of my favorite aspects of the first book) seeing how she continues to deal with her altered state and her potential future, not to mention her warring feelings about Sebastian, is pretty captivating stuff. Then you've also got Carter and his own... feelings... to deal with and Lily's potential transformation into a Tick. Lets just say there's lots of dramatic fodder in this one!

I know I'm not alone in my excitement about returning to this world and this series. Rest assured, The Vault is a fabulous addition to the series. And if you haven't started these yet, what are you waiting for?! They're dark and fun, the world building and the setting are excellent, and - as I may have mentioned - the characters are great!

Rating: 4/5

Monday, December 1, 2014

2014 Thankfully Reading Weekend Wrap Up

I survived the post Thanksgiving weekend! To be truthful, I only ventured out twice the whole time: once for lunch (and salsa) on Saturday and once for Chex mix ingredients on Sunday. I don't know why, but I love making homemade Chex mix this time of year.

Anyway, here's how the weekend ended up reading wise:

Finished:
Deadly Little Sins by Kara Taylor
Orbs by Nicholas Sansbury Smith
Burning Paradise by Robert Charles Wilson
"The Burning Girl" by Lisa Unger
The Kill List by Nichole Christoff
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (finished the audio)

And I was supposed to start The Vault by Emily McKay but instead went back to its predecessor (to get my Swiss cheese brain working again and get back into the story), The Lair.

All in all not a bad marathon weekend, though I do always overestimate my abilities - I feel like I could have read more :)


The Kill List by Nichole Christoff + a Giveaway

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Nichole Christoff's The Kill List, the first book in the Jamie Sinclair series. There is a tour wide giveaway here as well, so be sure to read through to the bottom to enter.

Jamie Sinclair has made a nice living as a securities specialist and private investigator. While on a case tracking a seriously twisted stalker, Jamie receives a call from her ex. Jim's three-year-old daughter has gone missing and he wants Jamie on the case. Still hurt over their split, Jamie is reluctant to offer Jim any help at all, but the fear of what could happen to an innocent child prompts her to accept the case. But when she arrives at Fort Leeds, Jamie immediately begins to suspect that Jim isn't being up front about everything. As more time passes, the danger to the missing girl increases and with the father clearly hiding something, Jamie isn't certain she can solve this one in time. 

The Kill List was a nice kick off to a series. Jamie is ballsy and smart, but she's not overly so (which is also nice). The plot is pretty straightforward and the twists are a bit easy to see coming, but all in all it's an exciting read and one that can be finished in one sitting (if you're prone to do so, as I am). There's a romantic aspect that does go a bit overboard in the beginning (EVERYONE loves Jamie, apparently) but once the real romance begins to develop it does so believably and in a way that doesn't overshadow the overall plot.

For a post Thanksgiving and staying-indoors-to-avoid-Black-Friday-madness weekend, I do have to say The Kill List hit the spot. It's a bit light for a mystery/thriller, I wouldn't have complained about more depth of character or plot development, but it did work and I really liked the military aspects. I'll look forward to seeing more of Jamie - and soon! The Kill Shot is due out from Alibi in March.

Rating: 3/5

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

And now for the giveaway: as I mentioned, this is a tour wide giveaway. To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway



Sunday, November 30, 2014

New Releases 12/02/14

Some of the new titles hitting shelve this week are:

The Beautiful and the Wicked by Liv Spector

Genocide of One by Kazuaki Takano

Carbide Tipped Pens ed by Ben Bova & Eric Choi

How to Be Both by Ali Smith

The Big Finish by James W. Hall

Spirit of the Wolf by Dorothy Hearst

Woman With a Gun by Phillip Margolin

City of Eternal Night by Kristen Painter

Memory of Flames by Armand Cabasson

Strangers by David Moody

Independently Wealthy by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal

Inspector Specter by E.J. Copperman

Sustenance by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

Vicious by Sara Shepard (Pretty Little Liars)

Ravencliffe by Carol Goodman

New on DVD:
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
As Above, So below
The Hundred-Foot Journey

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
Robot Uprisings ed by Daniel H. Wilson and John Joseph Adams

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thankfully Reading Weekend Day Three: My Life In Books

Today's challenge as part of the Thankfully Reading Weekend is hosted by Jen over at Jen's Book Thoughts. The goal is to use the titles of books read this year to complete ten sentences. Here are mine:





Pre Pub Book Buzz: Persona by Genevieve Valentine

So the good folks over at Simon and Schuster added not one but two new SF/F imprints recently: Simon451, whose first titles released just last month, and Saga Press, which will begin releasing titles in the spring. And there are exciting things going on at Saga Press, indeed! Just this week it was announced that they'd signed a two book deal with Kat Howard and last month they announced a deal with Chuck Wendig that involves not only continuing the Miriam Black series but also new editions of the first three titles.

But before we heard tell of all of that news, Saga Press released their list of launch titles, which includes a new book by Genevieve Valentine. You may recall I was particularly impressed by her contribution to Robot Uprisings, and I've been planning to read her latest, The Girls at the Kingfisher Club, for quite some time now.

Persona is a bit different but no less worthy of a place in my TBR, so of course it's in the wish list until it hits shelves in March. Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

When Suyana, Face of the United Amazonia Rainforest Confederation, secretly meets Ethan of the United States for a date that can solidify a relationship for the struggling UARC, the last thing she expects is an assassination attempt. Daniel, a teen runaway-turned-paparazzi out for his big break, witnesses the first shot hit Suyana, and before he can think about it, he jumps into the fray, telling himself it's not altruism, it's the scoop. Just like that, Suyana and Daniel are now in the game of Faces. And if they lose, they'll die.

I expect this to be AMAZING!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thankfully Reading Weekend Day 2: Book I'm Most Thankful For


This is a tough one. There have been so many great releases this year but I think I'm going to have to go with Katie Crouch's Abroad for my pick.

Why? Well, for one because I seemed to have been going through a bit of a slump when this one crossed my path. Whenever this happens I find that I have a really hard time deciding what to read and nothing hits the spot.

Abroad was my first time reading Crouch and it was amazing. Really dark but also gorgeously written. It was not only the perfect slump buster but it introduced me to a new-to-me author!

To see my full review of Abroad you can check out my post here. I do highly recommend this one to anyone looking for a dark psychological thriller with an exotic setting and a bit of a slower pace (it's one you can really get lost in!).

I'm off to tackle more Thankfully Reading Weekend books. Hope you all had a fabulous turkey day yesterday!


Thursday, November 27, 2014

2014 Thankfully Reading Kick-Off Post

Good morning, everyone, and Happy Thanksgiving!




This year I've decided to officially take part in Jenn's Thankfully Reading Weekend. First, I kind of hate everything Black Friday is about. Sorry. Second, I'm not hosting Thanksgiving this year! This is the first time I don't have to cook a turkey or clean the house. Well, clean the house for guests anyway.

Since we weren't able to travel home to spend the holiday with family, we will be celebrating with friends this evening. But that means I've got most of today to relax! And actually, I'll have ALL WEEKEND to devote to my TBR pile! I'm so nerdy excited.

I haven't set an official TBR for the weekend. I may set some titles as my reading progresses but for now I think I'll just read where the mood takes me. I will, however, be trying to peck away at the mountain of to be read physical books as well as the amassed collection of eArcs waiting for review on my eReader.

If you want to sign on to participate, here's the link to Jenn's sign in page. I'll be updating this post with titles read throughout the weekend. (I've finished my first already, but I started reading it yesterday so it half counts.)

Books read:
Deadly Little Sins by Kara Taylor
Orbs by Nicholas Sansbury Smith
Burning Paradise by Robert Charles Wilson
The Burning Girl by Lisa Unger
The Kill List by Nichole Christoff

Currently Reading:
The Vault by Emily McKay

TBR:

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Wicked Little Secrets by Kara Taylor

Readers, I'm facing a real dilemma this week. I have time off! This means I have an ample amount of time to read. Why is this a problem, you might ask? Because it means I have to pick what to read - and I have lots to choose from!

Considering I have a ton of series and trilogies partially started and unfinished currently waiting in my TBR, I decided one of those would be a good place to start. Kara Taylor's Prep School Confidential was quite a pleasant surprise last year. It was well plotted and featured a cast of characters that I kind of adored. And yet, when Wicked Little Secrets and then Deadly Little Sins released in March and August (respectively) I didn't immediately devour them. Ugh. I hate when I do that.

Wicked Little Secrets picks up immediately after Prep School Confidential. Having solved the mystery of her roommate's murder, Anne finds herself now focused on that of Matt Weaver. He's a legend at Wheatley Prep and - before her murder - Isabella had been digging up dirt on his disappearance. Anne's discovery of a crew team picture with the words "they killed him" penned on the back is enough to pique her curiosity. Learning that her boyfriend's father could have been involved in the decades-old missing persons case causes tension in Anne's budding relationship and her tendency to poke her nose into sticky situations soon lands her in hot water... again.

While the relationship issues/love triangle do get a bit more heavy handed in this second of the trilogy, overall it's a perfect follow up to such a fabulously fun kick off!

I love these books because Anne is so feisty and stubborn. And I like that Anne's not a typical outsider looking in or unpopular girl, as one would probably expect with a boarding school setting. She's amongst her peers, she has good friends, and she's reasonably well adjusted. In other words, she's a pretty normal, average teen. She's just a bit of a troublemaker. Or it might be better stated that she's often caught getting in trouble.

These are also fun because the mysteries themselves are so well thought out and believable. Anne has to go to class. She has to pass tests. She does get caught sneaking out. She is limited by her age and she does have to rely on outside - adult - help (i.e. the cops). Taylor manages to do all of this without getting overly cheesy or contrived.

I'll be jumping into the third and final title shortly - both to avoid my usual procrastination in completing series and to see what's up with the big reveal Taylor dropped on her character at the end of Wicked Little Secrets.

Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Books in my Winter TBR

I've decided to jump on board with Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the topic is: top ten titles in my winter TBR. I'm going to limit this to books that I currently have on hand, just to make this a little easier on myself (so no wish list titles or books I plan to buy).

Sunday, November 23, 2014

New Releases 11/25/14

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Betrayed by Lisa Scottline

Symbiont by Mira Grant

Wild Cards III: Jokers Wild ed by George R. R. Martin
(reprint)

Superheroes Anonymous by Lexie Dunne

The Whispering by Sarah Rayne

The Darkest Touch by Gena Showalter

Wicked Ways by Lisa Jackson & Nancy Bush

We All Go Down Together  by Gemma Files

Knife Fight and Other Stories by David Nickel

Hope to Die by James Patterson

Flesh and Blood by Patricia Cornwell

Endsinger by Jay Kristoff

Captive by Aimée Carter

New on DVD:
What If
The Giver
The November Man
Expendables 3

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Merciless by Danielle Vega

Okey dokey! I realized I'm not doing as badly on the Debut Author Challenge as I'd thought! Here's the rundown of what I've read and when I read them:

Jan: No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale
Feb: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
Feb: Fates by Lanie Brass
March: Red Rising by Pierce Brown
April: Sekret by Lindsay Smith
May: The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen (admittedly folks are on the fence about counting this one as it was an adult release cross marketed to teens)
July: The Girl From the Well by Rin Chupeco
August: Servants of the Storm by Delilah S. Dawson
September: The Jewel by Amy Ewing
October: Beware the Wild by Natalie C. Parker
November: Stone Cove Island by Suzanne Myers

So even though I didn't have a June book, my two Febs have me all caught up. And the actual accounting of the challenge did fall apart as it transitioned from one host to another, so those middle titles never made it to any link ups.

Before I put all that together I was rushing to squeeze in a few more books before the year rolls to an end and decided Danielle Vega's The Merciless would be my next read.

Sofia is used to being the new girl in town. Her mom is a military medical technician, which means they move around a lot. It makes it hard to have real friends, but Sofia has high hopes for their newest home. The town is called Friend, after all. 

Sofia finds herself pretty quickly embraced by one of the school's cliques and is accepted and embraced for the first time that she can remember. But something isn't quite right with new pals Riley, Grace, and Alexis. They have a weird obsession with another girl in school and are seemingly convinced that the girl is evil. And not just mean girl evil, biblical evil. Riley convinces the group that this girl needs to be saved, but even Sofia couldn't guess how far Riley and her friends are willing to go. 

The Merciless released in June and I heard absolutely nothing about it. Which was weird because it falls right there in the teen horror category and I love horror of any kind. Anyway, it's a Razorbill release and part of Alloy Entertainment's growing list of titles. I discovered, too, that while this does fit the DAC challenge it actually isn't the author's debut. Danielle Rollins writes tweens as Ellie Robbins and horror as Danielle Vega - Merciless is the debut title for her Vega pseudonym.

The action kicks off a little too quickly in The Merciless for my taste - I would have liked a chance to get to know the girls a bit more, or at least feel like Sofia had a chance to get to know them more before diving so readily into their schemes. I didn't feel comfortable that I knew enough to believe that Sofia would so readily join in on Riley's or Brooklyn's plots. Not that I couldn't believe it, just that I didn't know her well enough as things started rolling along.

Once they get down to the real dirty plot, though, this book takes off!

I kind of liked that I knew little about the book going in because it made the story that much more shocking and surprising for me. And The Merciless is just that: shocking and surprising. So yeah, I'll let you be surprised as well and not give away anything more about the plot or the premise but this was definitely a dark and fun return to some of the 90s horror movies I remember from my teen years!

BTW - this has horror movie blockbuster written all over it and it looks to be possibly in development - according to Vega's Twitter.


Pre Pub Book Buzz: Bones & All by Camille DeAngelis

Oh, yay! 2015 looks to be the year ALL of my favorites release new titles!

I had the great pleasure of discovering Camille DeAngelis's work back in 2010 with her release Petty Magic. It was really a phenomenal read and one I recommend to anyone looking for a witchy and witty tale. Since then I've been waiting for her to come out with something new and now the wait is finally almost over!

Bones & All is due out from St. Martins Press in March. Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads to tide you over until then:

Maren Yearly doesn’t just break hearts, she devours them. 

Since she was a baby, Maren has had what you might call "an issue" with affection. Anytime someone cares for her too much, she can’t seem to stop herself from eating them. Abandoned by her mother at the age of 16, Maren goes looking for the father she has never known, but finds more than she bargained for along the way. 

Faced with love, fellow eaters, and enemies for the first time in her life, Maren realizes she isn’t just looking for her father, she is looking for herself. The real question is, will she like the girl she finds?

Aren't you just dying to read it? I know I am!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Short Fiction Friday: Two Orbs Prequels by Nicholas Sansbury Smith

I've been in the mood for a good alien invasion book for a while now - it's a result of my own attempt to make room for more traditional science fiction in my reading list AND the new Simon451 releases I've been delving into (which have only left me craving more). And given that I've still got Simon451's Nicholas Sansbury Smith releases to dive into ready to go on my ereader, I figured it was time.

But I read these backwards, starting with "White Sands" rather than "Solar Storms," something I have to consider a bit of a mistake. See, it's not until almost the end of "White Sands" that the story's timeframe becomes somewhat clearer, with a mention of the "solar storms of 2055." Anyway, that was my mistake but it certainly didn't make "White Sands" any less fun! I've since gone back and read "Solar Storms" though and am going to cover them in order here.

In "Solar Storms," Doctors Sophie Winston and Emanuel Rodriguez have been tasked to the Johnson Space Center in Houston for what they believe is a NASA operation. Upon arrival, they learn that recent sun activity suggests an anomalous event that could be catastrophic to Earth. Massive solar flares seem to be increasing in size and frequency and it seems to be just a matter of time before they hit our planet. Sophie and Emanuel have both studied varied effects of such an event but the CME hits before they can even begin to theorize what might be causing it. Now everything has changed and surviving the storm is just the beginning. 

"Solar Storms" honestly did clear up a few things for me. Some of the when and the what are revealed, and we're given a bit of a look into NTC's involvement at this early stage as well as the government's... response... (I've since started Orbs, so I know Sophie makes a return). There's a very menacing overtone to the whole story what with the questions surround the cause of the flares and Sophie's initial discoveries pertaining to that matter.

"White Sands" begins with brothers Jeff and David (and stepmom Paula) headed to meet their dad for their annual visit. Dad - Michael Fitz - is a guard working for the New Tech Corporation, based at their White Sands Missile Range location. 

The visit is off to a rocky start when Paula and the kids are redirected after witnessing what they believe is a test flight of one of NTC's new prototypes. Unbeknownst to Fitz's family - and much of the base staff - NTC has intel that indicates an alien landing is imminent. While some of the company's top scientists are boarding a shuttle that will take them off world to a new potential colony, Fitz and his sons are going to witness the beginnings of a hostile invasion firsthand. 

Hmmm. And things have now gotten much more interesting and much more complicated. The beings actually do make contact in "White Sands" and it is creepy as hell! But what I find even more chilling is the obvious way the powers that be have kept it all from everyone! Of course that begins in "Solar Storms" but it's much, much worse by the time "White Sands" takes place.

So far I'm finding Nicholas Sansbury Smith's work to be quite entertaining. These are sci fi tales that even I can wrap my brain around, so they're not terribly heavy on the actual science part. There is enough present, though, to set a nice tone and scene for the series.

"Solar Storms," "White Sands," Orbs and Orbs II: Stranded are out now. Orbs III: Redemption and another prequel short, "Red Sands," are due out next year.