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Friday, January 31, 2014

Pandemic by Scott Sigler

The long awaited third part to Scott Sigler's Infected trilogy is here at long last! It's been five years since the release of Contagious and I really think I should have reread the first two before jumping into Pandemic. Fortunately there are a few sort of reminder chapters in here to help Swiss cheese brained folks like me. (But I did kind of miss Scary Perry.)

In the years since the outbreak of the alien infection Margaret Montoya has never come to grips with the decision to bomb Detroit or the role she played in the decision. Instead of feeling as though she's saved billions, she feels extreme guilt over those that had to die. And now it's begun again. A sub tasked with searching out pieces of the Orbital reported finding an artifact and within three days everyone on board was dead. The sub fired on its own fellow ships before being hit themselves. Two of the bodies recovered have tested positive for infection and the government has requested Margaret's help. But in the time since its apparent defeat, the alien organism has adapted. This time the fight for humanity will be even more brutal than before.

Any good author has the ability to take their readers out of the real world and fully envelop them in their fictional creation and Scott Sigler is a master at this. He calls it his Siglerverse and I have enjoyed each and every outing that I've experienced there. (And now I have to go dive into Ancestor, one I missed!)

Sigler's latest is a rip-roaring, action packed read but what makes it really, really great is the gore. I'm not kidding. Well, I am a little. It's the fact that he pays such close attention to making it all so believable. A look at his acknowledgements lists, amongst others, military personnel, MDs, and PhDs galore! What does that mean to you and me as the readers? Well, I dare you to read this in public and not get the heebie jeebies when the stranger across the room starts coughing. It's impossible!

As I said, there's a lot of gore here - there's always a major ick factor involved in reading this series - so if you're squeamish or easily grossed out, you might want to have a friend redact all the gory yuck for you before moving forward. Just saying. But that would be taking the fun out of this alien plague tastic horror tale for sure.

Rating: 5/5

(Oh yeah, and note my mention of Ancestor: one of the main characters in Pandemic is in that one as well - Sigler mentions it in the acknowledgements as well - so just go ahead and treat yourself to that one as well if you haven't read it!)

Pandemic by Scott Sigler: Excerpt + Giveaway

Alright everyone! The brand spanking new Scott Sigler title is now out on shelves and available for the masses and I want everyone to run out and buy a copy! Well, everyone who can handle an extremely icky and horrific series about an alien infection.

But first, you have to read books 1 and 2, Infection and Contagious. It's a trilogy, folks!

Now, if you have read the other two - or even if you haven't - I've got a little taste of what you can expect in Pandemic here for you. Be warned, though, this is not a PG excerpt or trailer! And if you'd like to enter to win your own copy of Pandemic be sure to fill out the Rafflecopter at the bottom.



THE SITUATION ROOM 

Murray Longworth had a dream. 

That dream consisted of a giant bonfire, a bonfire made from the long, heavy, wooden table that sat in the White House’s Situation Room. Throw in the wood paneling as well; that would burn up real nice. Not the video monitors that lined those walls, though — he would set those up around the bonfire and play some shit on them that had nothing to do with saving the world: a Zeppelin concert, maybe some playoffs for whatever sport was in season, a few cartoons, perhaps, and — for sure — at least three screens playing constitutionally protected good old-fashioned American porn. He’d have a keg. He’d hire some strippers a third his age to sit around in bikinis and laugh at his jokes. He’d warm his old bones in the heat of that bonfire, get crocked, and celebrate the death of the room he hated so much. 

"Murray? ” 

He blinked, came back to the moment. He was in that very Situation Room of his brief daydream, but there was no bonfire, no keg, and no porn. Images of Lake Michigan played across the screens. Instead of strippers, he was looking at some of the only people who knew the entire history of the situation, from Perry Dawsey’s naked run for freedom right up to the sinking of the Los Angeles

“Murray?” 

The president of the United States of America had called his name. Twice. Sandra Blackmon stared at him. She wore a red business suit. She always wore red. She did not look happy with him. In his defense, the only time she did look happy was when the news cameras were on her. There were no news cameras in the Situation Room. 

Murray sat up straighter. “Yes, ma’am,” he said, waiting for his mental playback loop to retrieve the question his conscious mind had missed. Forty years of marriage had developed that skill, the ability to make part of his brain record words even when he wasn’t paying attention at all. His wife would ask, Are you listening to me?, and Murray could regurgitate the last ten or fifteen seconds of what she’d said. The same skill came in handy during these meetings. 

His playback loop brought up her question: Did you get Montoya

“Yes, Madam President,” he said. “Doctor Montoya is on her way to the task force. She’ll report to the Carl Brashear, where we have the remains of Lieutenant Walker and Petty Officer Petrovsky.” 

President Blackmon nodded, just once. Murray thought the motion made her look like a parrot. 

"Excellent,” she said. “Lord willing, maybe Montoya can find something that other person you have running the show could not. What’s that man’s name again?” 

“Cheng,” Murray said. “Doctor Frank Cheng.” 

Blackmon nodded once. “Yes, Doctor Cheng. Why isn’t he on the Brashear already? ” 

Murray’s teeth clenched. “Doctor Cheng is at Black Manitou Island, overseeing preparation for the delivery of any samples that Montoya sends out for more detailed analysis.” 

Blackmon’s mouth twisted to the left, a tell that she wasn’t buying it. Most people bought into Cheng’s grandstanding bullshit. Murray did not. Neither, apparently, did President Blackmon. 

“Fine,” she said. “He can stay there and prep. I wanted Montoya on the case, and she is, so we’ll put our full trust in her.” 

If Murray could have lived out his bonfire fantasy, he knew some of the people in this room would eagerly join him. Others, no. These were among the most powerful people in the country: the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the national security advisor, the secretary of defense, the director of homeland security, the secretary of state . . . the nation’s decision makers, gathered together to help President Blackmon chart a path in this dangerous time. 

She turned to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Samuel Porter. 

“Admiral, you’re absolutely certain the Los Angeles didn’t succumb to enemy actions? Our regular enemies, I mean. I want the world to know that we are ready to strike back against anyone who thinks we are weak.” 

Sam Porter took in a deep breath. He looked down. No matter what the situation, he took his time answering a serious question. His pale skin made Murray think the man had been a submariner himself, an extended absence from sunlight causing his body to jettison any color as unnecessary baggage. Maybe Porter had even spent time on the Los Angeles as he moved up the ranks. 

“Madam President,” the admiral said, “we have no indication of any terrestrial forces in the Great Lakes area, or anywhere on the American theater. We have firsthand accounts from the Pinckney. There is no question here — American forces attacked American forces. This is, officially, the worst friendly-fire incident in U.S. history.” 

Blackmon pursed her lips, held them there as she thought. Fifteen years ago that same expression might have looked alluring. Now it showed the lines around her mouth, at the corners of her eyes. 

Like Porter, Blackmon took her time to think things through. She didn’t rush. That made the two of them get along quite well. For the bystanders, however, watching them converse was like watching paint dry. 

Blackmon had swept to power amid anti-Democratic fervor aimed at President Gutierrez, who had made the fatal mistake of trusting in the intelligence of the American people. An alien pathogen had turned regular Joes and Janes into psychopaths, had spawned a nightmarish version of little green men, and Gutierrez told the people the truth. 

What an idiot. 

Half the country hadn’t believed him then. Even less believed him now. Blackmon had been merciless in her campaign, citing Gutierrez’s inability to keep the country safe, hammering on the fact that, as president, he’d “allowed” the worst disaster in American history. Those things alone should have been enough, but she’d gone one step further. Without coming out and actually saying it, her allusions and insinuations made her stance clear: since God created everything, and the Bible was the immutable word of God, and the Bible didn’t talk about aliens, well, then there couldn’t be aliens — therefore Gutierrez was lying. 

Murray had watched, stunned, as a man who told the truth was washed out of office by a nation that didn’t want to believe humanity was not alone in the universe. Blackmon hadn’t rallied just the Bible thumpers. No, you couldn’t win in America anymore if you only paid attention to the religious Right. You also needed the Koran thumpers, the Talmud thumpers, and the thumpers of all moldy old books suitable for thumping. She found a way to gather all of those people into her fold without alienating her Christian base. Countering her strategy, practically every scientist in the country stood firmly behind Gutierrez. They trotted out papers and studies and formulas that proved he was telling the truth, yet that didn’t matter. 

When it comes to politics and tragedy, in the end people need someone to blame. 

A nation aching with loss and reeling with disbelief had chosen Blackmon. Piousness and ultraconservative views felt like the perfect counter to the science-minded liberal who ran the show when a mushroom cloud blossomed over Detroit. 

When the landslide election results came in, Murray had hoped Blackmon’s religious rhetoric was just a way to get her into power. It was politics, after all — say whatever you have to say to get elected. But Murray had come to realize that her brilliant election strategy wasn’t a show. 

Sandra Blackmon believed

In closed-door meetings like this, President Blackmon accepted that America had nearly been invaded by some kind of strange force. She also acknowledged that Gutierrez had played the only card available to stop a disaster that could have taken out the entire Midwest, possibly the nation, maybe the entire world. The problem was, she didn’t believe that force came from somewhere other than Earth. Most of the time, she acted like the attack had to have come from another country: Russia, China, maybe even India (for which she had an inexplicable hatred). 

Sometimes, however, the president of the United States of America said things that made it sound like she thought the attack was Satanic in nature. The fact that she might believe that, and she had her finger on the button? The thought made Murray’s balls — what were left of them, anyway — shrivel up into little fear-peanuts that tried to crawl up into his belly and hide. 

Blackmon turned to André Vogel, a man who — in Murray’s humble opinion — should have walked around with a coating of slime all over him and his fancy clothes. 

“Director Vogel,” she said. “What about spies? Any more information on Lieutenant Walker’s background? Could she have been turned?” 

“It’s possible,” Vogel said. “So far, however, we have nothing.” 

Murray knew that people sometimes said his department, the Department of Special Threats, was the second-most-important government organization you’d probably never heard of. The first? The Special Collections Service. Part NSA, part CIA and all black-budget, Special Collections existed well outside the framework of official government business. André Vogel was exactly the kind of shifty motherfucker needed to run it. 

“Walker seems to be as red, white and blue as they come,” Vogel said. “Naval Intelligence and the FBI are looking into the entire crew of the Los Angeles, Madam President. That’s a big job. But if a foreign power is at the root of this, we will find out.” 

Typical Vogel-speak: casually mention the difficulty of the task, but also promise results. 

Blackmon leaned back in her chair. “What about the Chinese? The NSA reported there was chatter shortly after the attack. Can we be sure the Chinese weren’t involved?” 

Vogel shook his head. “No, Madam President, we can’t be sure. We’re listening. They know something crashed into Lake Michigan five years ago. President Gutierrez informed the whole world that we had visitors, so it’s easy for the Chinese to put two and two together. Regardless, though, they can’t do anything with that knowledge. Even if they had a sub within a hundred miles of our coast, they couldn’t get it through the Saint Lawrence Seaway and into the Great Lakes.” 

“They’ve got money,” Murray said. Heads turned to look at him, eyebrows raised because he’d spoken out of turn. He ignored them all, just stared at Vogel. 

“The Chinese have more money than they know what to do with,” Murray said. “Do we really know for sure they couldn’t just quietly hire locals to go down and get the thing?” 

Vogel smiled, looking smug. “The probable crash site is seven hundred to nine hundred feet deep. You need specialized gear for that. The intelligence community has been consistently monitoring all domestic companies that have the right kind of equipment, with a special eye on Lake Michigan outfits, of course. Canadian and Mexican companies as well. The navy task force made short work of discouraging filmmakers, reporters, documentarians, even conspiracy theorists from venturing into a maritime exclusion zone.” 

He sat back, gave his bald head a quick, damp rub. “The only way anyone could steal our alien technology, which we haven’t even secured yet, would be to invade the United States of America and occupy Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota.”

The man knew his business, no doubt, but after all this time he still didn’t get the big picture. 

“I’m not talking about stealing it,” Murray said. “I’m talking about touching it. We just lost a nuclear sub, a destroyer, a cutter and over four hundred brave men and women. That didn’t happen by accident. If the wreckage was somehow contaminated with any of the contagious shit that forced us to nuke Detroit, then the Chinese don’t have to get the thing out of the country, they just have to be dumb enough to go down and try. That alone could be enough to goat-fuck us right in the ass.” 

“That’s enough,” President Blackmon said. 

Murray didn’t know if she’d had that voice of unquestionable authority before she took over as commander in chief, but she sure as shit had it now. 

“This briefing is over,” she said. “I think Director Vogel has clearly illustrated that the site is protected against espionage. He’s doing his job. Murray, you do yours. Find out what turned the crew of the Los Angeles into traitors, and find out fast.”

I know what you're thinking, "What, what what?!" Oh, yeah. It's freaking awesome!

And now for the giveaway. To enter, just fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, February 10. Good luck!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Kept by James Scott

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for James Scott's debut, The Kept.

Readers, I was infinitely glad that Jenn over at Jenn's Bookshelves mentioned that the publisher's synopsis was somewhat misleading. Being able to go into the book with this knowledge not only kept me from revisiting the book's premise before diving in myself but allowed me to really let go of any early misconceptions I might have had about the book. In finishing it and then going back to that synopsis I can say that it actually isn't entirely inappropriate, it's simply that James Scott's book is one that is difficult to describe in any real depth without giving away too much. And so, as Jenn did with her review, I will be brief in my own version of the description as well.

Elspeth Howell's job as a midwife often calls for her to be away from her home for long periods of time. When she returns from her latest trip, she discovers that her family has fallen victim to a brutal and senseless crime. The only survivor is her twelve-year-old son Caleb, who, having hidden out in the pantry since the event, accidentally shoots his mother before realizing she is not in fact the killers returning to finish the job. Caleb immediately goes about trying to save Elspeth and nurse her back to health while vowing to track down his family's murderers.

As Elspeth begins to recover, she and her son set off to track down the criminals. But along the way, Elspeth will have to face down a guilt that has weighed heavy on her heart for most of her life.

James Scott's debut is beautifully stark and captivating. It doesn't take long to discover that The Kept is a gem of a story, setting in the reader's mind a certainty about the direction it will take and the characters that quickly unravels and transforms into something else.

Elspeth's story unfolds in a series of flashbacks about the births of her children, her childhood, and her husband, Jorah. And as we learn about the very pieces that make up the puzzle of this character, we also see Caleb grow from a boy into a man. Caleb's narrative also takes this same flashback approach illustrating a boy who stands out from his family. His siblings say they don't understand him and he spends more time with the animals than he does with the rest of the family.

And readers, this is an oddly quirky story as well. It's set in winter 1897 in upstate New York. Superstitions and beliefs of the time do play a big role in the book, as does the desolate and remote setting. Elspeth and her family essentially live cut off from the world, as do others in their area, and many of the characters introduced in the book are peculiar.

I'm sure the cold and snowy weather we've been having lent itself well to creating an added atmosphere for me, but I found that reading The Kept was a fully enveloping experience. As Elspeth and Caleb trekked through the snow, I wrapped myself more snug in a cozy blanket. As they hunted their prey I thanked my lucky stars I was safe and sound in my own house!

Rating: 4.5/5

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here. For more on James Scott, you can visit his website here.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepherd

It was another fantastic reading weekend at my house. I dove into a Beauty and the Beast retelling, a witchy Swedish read, and Her Dark Curiosity, Megan Shepherd's follow up to last year's debut, The Madman's Daughter. If you've not read that, I suggest you do - there may be spoilers ahead. And if you aren't familiar with it, it is a teen version of The Island of Doctor Moreau, told from the viewpoint of his teenage daughter. You can read my review here.

After escaping the island Juliet Moreau returns to London where she finds herself at the mercy of one of her father's past friends. Professor Von Stein not only helped Juliet to clear her name after being arrested on charges of attacking Hastings, but has also taken her in as his ward. Her new position means Juliet now has the resources she needs to pursue a cure to her own malady but also means she must be careful to maintain a respectable outward appearance. And then Juliet hears of a murder in the city, one that bears a marked resemblance to Edward's victims on the island. But Edward is surely dead and the rest of her father's creatures were left far behind on the island she only narrowly escaped herself. Who then is the murderer they're now calling the Wolf of Whitechapel and why do his victim's have an unsavory connection to Juliet Moreau?

This sequel to The Madman's Daughter is equally as fun and dark as its predecessor. Shepherd once again has done a great job weaving in another classic tale alongside her already created play on the H.G. Wells classic with Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, something that was set up in The Madman's Daughter. And of course Shepherd has set up another tie in for her third installment with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. I love, love, love how Shepherd has done this and assure you, readers, that the inclusion of these tales works perfectly with Shepherd's story.

One of the things I'm loving about Shepherd's style is her ability to not only convincingly tie in these other tales, but to maintain the overall tone and feel of the setting established by the classic. I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to the third installment. I could tell early on that Frankenstein was the direction it would take based on the hints that were laid out throughout Her Dark Curiosity.

And the story in Her Dark Curiosity is wonderful! Let me just say I adore all of Shepherd's leading ladies. These are tough chicks! Juliet goes into some dark places here in this second book but Lucy gets to prove herself as Juliet's best friend and yet another modern girl unafraid to do what's necessary to save the ones she loves. And Elizabeth, well she proves to be a formidable female influence for Juliet as well.

Shepherd is a force to be reckoned with, readers, and this series is as perfect for adults as it is for teens.

Rating: 4.5/5

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Worlds I'd Never Want to Live In

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 worlds I'd never want to live in.


Ha! They wouldn't all be fiction either. 

1. The world of Julianna Baggott's Pure trilogy - um, yeah. The privileged live inside a dome while everyone outside is marred by the effects of a massive bomb detonation. No thanks!

2. Panem - I don't know which district I'd be relegated to and I don't care. This world would suck to live in. 

3. The horrific world of Lauren DeStefano's Chemical Garden trilogy - there's no way I'd survive being sold into marriage! I talk back too much.

4. The world of Andrew Fukuda's The Hunt trilogy - where humans are game for vampires. And these aren't sparkly vamps either. 


6. Europe at the time of the Black Death - yeah, no.

7. Salem in the late 1600s - I'd bet money on my being accused!

8. Detroit in Scott Sigler's Infected trilogy

9. New York in Adam Sternbergh's Shovel Ready - while it might be the best time to get a great apartment, I think the rest of it would be too much for little old me. The up side is that there's still pizza joints!

10. The water shortaged world of Mindy McGinnis's Not a Drop to Drink - frontier-esque survival and having to give up my hot baths? I think not. 

Ravenscliffe by Jane Sanderson

Morning, everyone! Today is the day for my second stop on the Jane Sanderson tour through TLC book tours with the second book in the series, Ravenscliffe.

Eve's business venture is doing wonderfully with the new cafe up and running and orders as far as London. Even the king has taken notice and plans a trip to visit Netherwood, insistent on having Eve's Yorkshire puddings while he's there. Of course this means everyone at the Netherwood estate is all in a tizzy as Clarissa plans renovations and redecorating in honor of the visit. Meanwhile, Tobias has his heart set on  a woman mom is none to pleased about. The earl approves, though, so it's just a matter of time. And Eve has her own new relationship going with an engagement to boot. Telling her children, Seth in particular, is somewhat problematic. Nonetheless, things are going well especially when Eve's brother Silas arrives. 

I have to say, this was a very welcome return to Netherwood and the characters introduced in the book of the same name!

These characters captured my heart in Sanderson's first outing and returning to them to continue their story was great fun! Even the Hoylands themselves started to win me over, though Eve, Anna, and Amos continue to charm me the most.

As with Netherwood, Sanderson spends a good amount of time detailing the daily life and setting of the story. Her attention to really is impeccable, offering the reader what feels like a true glimpse of the time in which the story is set. (Since I myself am not an expert on this time period, I assume it's a true glimpse! It feels like it either way.) Anyone who is a fan of period pieces and family dramas is sure to love Sanderson's series.

Rating: 4/5

To see check out the rest of the tour, be sure to visit the official TLC tour page here.

For more on Jane Sanderson and her series, visit her website here. You can also follow her onTwitter.


Monday, January 27, 2014

Guest Post by T. E. Woods + a Giveaway

Morning, readers! As I mentioned, today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for T. E. Woods's The Fixer. And to go along with my review post, I have a little bonus: a guest post from T. E. and a giveaway! (Note this is a tour wide giveaway so do be sure to check the other posts on the tour.

Now to hand things over to T. E. Woods!

Inside the Mind of a Vigilante

To be a U.S. citizen is to live under a contract. No, we don’t take newborns into an attorney’s office, spell out the details, and get them to sign on the dotted line. It’s an assumed thing. Like all good contracts, there’s a deal involved. The citizenship deal, in a nutshell, is I (citizen) get a whole list of luscious rights that make my life richer and happier. In return, I agree to live under the rule of law. Simple, right? Another groovy aspect is I have the right to shape those laws. I can run for elected office and make them. I can petition the government to change them to suit my liking. I can openly protest and catch the attention of legislators who might adjust them for me. A good deal all around. Laws keep this society running so long as folks agree to abide. People who break the laws are criminals, and there’s an entire system designed to deal with them.

Between you, me, and the dinner plate, I know you’re a criminal. You’ve broken the law. So have I. There’s a stretch of road between my house and clinic with a posted speed limit so low I’d have to crawl. Each day I blow through about 25 miles over the limit. I do so willfully and with intent. Should I ever get pulled over, I anticipate a ticket. And in the name of good citizenship, I’ll pay. How about you? Do you allow your 19 year-old to have a glass of wine his first Thanksgiving home from college? Did you slide those receipts from Bermuda into the file marked “business deductions”? The truth is we’ve all broken the law and must stand ready to cope with the consequences.

What we don’t do…at least I hope…is take upon ourselves deciding which of our fellow citizens is breaking the law, judging all on our lonesome what the punishment should be, and executing that punishment ourselves. That’s vigilantism.

Sure, some vigilantes are narcissists who feel their judgment is superior to that of our courts. Those folks are crazy. There’s no use trying to understand crazy. Crazy just is. But most vigilantes are people like us…with an exhausted level of frustration or impatience. They’ve tried the established systems. Their frustration grows when the person who’s done them wrong doesn’t get the punishment they think is deserved. Or they know the appropriate punishment is coming, but long delays don’t scratch the justice itch dancing deep in their soul. Again, between that same dinner plate and us, haven’t we felt that urge? Haven’t we wanted ten minutes alone with that person who’s hurt us or someone we love just long enough to hand out our own brand of justice?

But we don’t.

Why is that, dear reader? Is it because of a deep and inherent appreciation of that social contract? Or have we simply not been tested far enough?

About the author:

T. E. Woods is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Madison, Wisconsin. Her scientific writings are well represented in peer-reviewed journals and academic texts. Her literary works earned her first place for Fiction at the University of Wisconsin Writers’ Institute. Dr. Woods enjoys kayaking, hiking, biking, and hanging around the house while her two dogs help her make sense of the world. Her habit of relaxing by conjuring up any manner of diabolical murder methods and plots often finds her friends urging her to take up knitting.

For more on T.E. Woods you can like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Big, big thanks to T. E. Woods and the folks over at Alibi. And now for the giveaway:


a Rafflecopter giveaway



The Fixer by T. E. Woods

Morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for T. E. Woods's The Fixer.

The Fixer is the one you call for those special jobs. Things that need to be "fixed." Her services don't come cheap and you must adhere to her rules, and she can always refuse service. No repeat customers, a set amount of time between jobs, and a strict set of restrictions she sets on the jobs she'll accept are all designed to keep her anonymous, under the radar, and out of trouble. 

But the job has gotten tough for The Fixer and so she reaches out to Lydia Corriger, a psychologist who will soon find herself wrapped up in The Fixer's twisted world. 

The Fixer is T. E. Woods's debut as well as the kick off to her new Justice series. It's an exciting and fast paced thriller, but one that is on the graphic side - just a fair warning for any potentially more reserved readers out there.

As a debut the book is not without flaws. The main one is that while there is quite a bit of action throughout the book it does take a little while to really get to the meat of the story. And surprisingly, Mort Grant appears to become more of the focus of the series in the follow up. I say surprisingly because in this first installment he definitely takes a backseat to The Fixer and Lydia. I admit, though, that I'm quite excited to get more of Mort in the series follow up, The Red Hot Fix.

As a whole I found The Fixer to be an intriguing read. I enjoyed both Lydia and The Fixer very much as characters. Lydia is a psychologist who comes across much more real than some I've read of late, likely thanks to T. E. Woods's own experience as a clinical psychologist. And while I'm sure the real life job is much less exciting than Lydia's day to day might be, what with contract killers on her client list and all, she never comes across as overly exaggerated. Woods seems to have done a fine job of balancing the real with the fiction here. The Fixer in particular is an excellent character. A bit of a Dexter to be honest, someone who is much easier to sympathize with than to judge for her crimes.

The Fixer is one of the newest releases from Random House's new Alibi imprint, a digital line devoted to mystery and suspense.

Rating: 3.5/5

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here. Be sure to also check out my follow up post today as there's a great piece from T. E. Woods as well as a tour wide giveaway included!

For more on T. E. Woods you can like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter. And to see more titles from the folks over at Alibi you can check them out on Facebook and Twitter as well.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Engelsfors Trilogy book I: The Circle by Sara B. Elfgren & Mats Strandberg

The first pick for my 2014 TBR Tackle is a whopper clocking in at 596 pages. But it was one I had to plan for this month because the sequel is hitting shelves on Jan 30.

Minoo, Linnéa, Rebecka, Vanessa, Anna-Karin, and Ida couldn't be more different from one another. They aren't friends and they don't hang out in the same circles, but when a fellow classmate commits suicide these six girls find themselves brought together by powers none of them understands. They are the Chosen Ones - tasked to fight a powerful evil.

This paranormal teen trilogy debuted in the US last May but was originally released back in 2011. The final installment just hit shelves in Sweden last November and there's reportedly a movie in the works due out this year.

Guys, I got the biggest reader hangover from The Circle! It's likely thanks to the fact that I already had Fire in house but couldn't dive right in - and if I'd had the choice that's exactly what I would have done. Believe it or not this tome moved along at a super rapid pace and in turning the final page I wanted nothing more than to continue with the story.

There's of course witches and magic, a big bad that needs to be defeated, and someone after the girls heads in this debut but there's so much more besides. Each of the girls is dealing with everyday teen life: social pressures, insecurity, family trouble, and guy trouble on top of just trying to make it day to day in high school. And the Chosen Ones are told from the get go that their high school is an evil place! That's a pretty hefty weight to put on the shoulders of a handful of tenth graders for sure.

The authors spend a great amount of time in developing each character, with the exception of Ida. I'm not sure what the purpose of this might be but I do have my guesses and I feel certain that we'll get more of her in the two subsequent books to come. At any rate, what the authors have done here is established a core set of characters that carry an intriguing story.

The particulars of Elfgren and Strandberg's built mythology for this series is fascinating. The girls each have a power based in one of six elements. They also have a book called The Book of Patterns, which holds the key to just about any question they may have... but only if they can learn to read it. And it soon becomes clear to the reader and the girls that no one has a clue about what they're to face. First off, they're told that there's meant to be just one Chosen One and instead they are six. Their guide has no memory and the Council that soon reveals themselves as the arm of law and order amongst witches is also in the dark as to how to deal with the group. Nevermind the fact that none of them has been schooled in the art of witchcraft at all!

I'm seriously fan girling all over this book. It hit all the high points for me: the character development is there as is a pretty excellent plot development and world building as well. The book stuck with me and I was seriously just dreading turning the final page if only because I knew I'd have to wait to move onto book two. I expect this means that finishing Fire will be absolute torture since I'm sure book three won't be out until 2015! But yes, that does means the book was an all around win for me.

And yes, it's translated so I owe a nod to Per Carlsson who has done a fantastic job on the translation. Anyone who reads translated fiction knows well that a bad translation can kill an otherwise great book. Carlsson's work here is exactly what you'd want it to be, seamless and seeming as though it's not been translated at all.

Rating: 5/5

The Circle is out in paperback now and Fire is due out this week. Be sure to check back here on Feb 3 for my review of Fire and a chance to win your own copy!



New Releases 1/28/14

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Wife, The Maid and the Mistress  by Ariel Lawhon

Dominion by C.J. Sanson

This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash

The Swiss Affair by Emylia Hall

Beyond Belief by Helen Smith

The Orphan Choir by Sophie Hannah

The Ghost of the Mary Celeste by Valerie Martin

Ripper by Isabel Allende

Hang Wire by Adam Christopher

Moriarty Returns a Letter by Michael Robertson

A Darkling Sea by James Cambias

Ravenscliffe by Jane Sanderson

I Shall Be Near to You by Erin Lindsay McCabe

Wicked After Midnight by Delilah S. Dawson

Disenchanted & Co. by Lynn Viehl

Up From the Grave by Jeaniene Frost

The Last Enchantments by Charles Finch

Arcanum by Simon Morden

An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris

Fire by Sara B. Elfgren and Mats Strandberg (Engelsfors book 2)

Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepherd

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

The Queen's Choice by Kayla Kluver

The Unbound by Victoria Schwab

Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi

Uninvited by Sophie Jordan

New on DVD:
Last Vegas
Rush

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Books to Beat the Winter Blahs

Readers, I have a confession. It's no secret, but I hate winter. Loathe it. Despise it with an undying passion! It's cold and blustery, cloudy and grey. I crave warmth in a way that seems I'll never be satisfied again. Honestly, if I could hibernate the winter (and spring considering our snows) away I totally would. Alas that is not an option and neither is a dream home in the Caribbean to while away the cold seasons. At least I have my towering TBR to give me some respite :)

With all the winter storms of late it seems everyone is putting together a winter reading list. I'd actually begun preparing this one before the so called polar vortex hit but now I'm late to the game in posting.

If you suffer from the winter blahs like I do, here's a random set of reading suggestions to help get you through!

Chunksters to Pass the Time

Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone series - on their own, each installment is a super quick read. Combined you could probably get through a massive chunk of winter with the current 23 installments. Start with A is For Alibi. If you're not hooked by C is for Corpse, well...

The Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin, with supplemental reading material (i.e. GRRM's SoI&F novellas). I strongly suggest also padding it out with the tv show as well since it's phenomenally done.

Stephen King's Dark Tower series - with seven books (eight including the add on of Wind Through the Keyhole, ten if you include Talisman and Black House, and infinity if you tack on all the connected pieces in King's oeuvre).

At Least We Don't Have it This Bad


The Terror by Dan Simmons - seriously, the doomed northwest passage expedition. I read it during a blizzard, I kid you not. (I could load this list up with Simmons but I'll resist the urge this time.)

Smilla's Sense of Snow by Peter Høeg - one of my first and still one of my favorite Scandinavian thrillers.

The Silent Land by Graham Joyce - it's kind of a wonderfully fascinating but bleak read. If odd and thoughtful are your thing I highly recommend it. Joyce is fabulous and more people should read him.

Summer Settings


The Cypress House by Michael Koryta - a noir-esque thriller set it Florida in 1935.

Castaways by Briane Keene - fun and gory gross-out horror that pits Survivor like contestants in a competition that means life or death.

The Shadow Year by Jeffrey Ford - a coming of age tale somewhat reminiscent of King's The Body.

Oh, the Horror!

Apocalypse Cow by Michael Logan - Zombiefied animals rampaging through Scotland, sure it's gross but it's also hilarious! If this doesn't get your mind of the winter ick, nothing will.

The People Next Door by Christopher Ransom - what, summer does exist in Colorado after all?!

And two new ones I haven't read yet

Snowblind by Christopher Golden - brand new horror set around a blizzard. This one hit shelves on the 21st.

The Abominable by Dan Simmons - this one clocks in over 600 pages and is set on Everest. It's in my TBR as we speak.

Some of the other great lists I've come across include this one from Epic Reads and this one from the BN Book Blog (which has a few in common with my own list).

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Perfect by Rachel Joyce

Hello, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Rachel Joyce's latest, Perfect.

Two seconds is all it takes for Byron Hemmings's world to become completely turned upside down. 

It's 1972 and a Leap year to boot. Time has gone slightly out of balance as a result and two seconds will be added. When Byron's friend James tells him this, Byron becomes quite disturbed by the notion. And then one day his mother is running late. An accident happens, one that Byron believes is brought on by the two added seconds. This accident changes everything for both Byron and James.

Perfect is a strangely extraordinary book. From start to finish, the book hurtles forward building momentum until the very end. It begins basically as the story of a thirteen-year-old boy and his family's very normal life. This quickly changes with a sense that something quite horrible is coming. What it is is unclear, even after the accident mentioned above.

Byron's mother has a past that threatens to come out in the open, a tense relationship with Byron's father (the whole family has a tense relationship with Byron's father), and though she's seen as perfect through the eyes of the two teenage boys, it's evident that she is everything but.

Chapters alternate between Byron, 1972, and Jim, present day. And of course one immediately wonders why Jim? As the two storylines progress it becomes clear that the events of 1972 affected him profoundly, but in what way or how is part of the progression of the plot.

Perfect is another of those stories that's hard to sum up without giving everything away. Joyce's talent for writing, however, is not. Her style is truly wonderful, turning what could have been - in lesser hands - a tedious or even dry read into something magical. Each character is so carefully built from the littlest quirks to their desires and passions, that they make the story impossible to resist. Perfect stayed with me in between reading binges. When I wasn't reading it, I was thinking about it and when I was reading it, I was immersed in it. It stayed with me well beyond turning the last page.

Even if my attempt at providing a nutshell description and putting together my thoughts isn't quite convincing, which I suspect it isn't - I've been trying to do this book justice and fear that I've come short - I highly, highly recommend giving Perfect a try.

Rating: 5/5

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

For more on Rachel Joyce and her work, you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Reading Wishlist

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 things we wish writers would write about. 


This is a tough one. I'm not sure if I'll make a full ten but here goes:

1. The bermuda triangle!

2. Nautical horror - guys, I have a serious water phobia. Serious. So yeah, some nautical based horror would probably be just the thing to actually creep me the heck out!

3. Sci-fi horror a la Alien. Why isn't there more of this?!

4. Ghost ships. Yes, ghost ships. The Flying Dutchman, anyone? I would have thought that with the popularity of Pirates of the Caribbean that we would have gotten something piratey with a ghost ship. (Looking forward to checking out this new book, though.)

5. Even more mythology inspired fiction. We've been inundated with Roman and Norse but we're starting to see some Eastern European and Celtic as well. I love mythology and want to be exposed to even more of it from around the world. 

6. More translated teen genre fiction. Yes, this is out there but I want more of it to make its way here to the States. I'm reading Sara B. Elfgren and Mats Strandberg's The Circle as we speak and I really, really loved Johan Harstad's 172 Hours on the Moon. I know there's other fabulous stuff out there I'm missing out on!

7. Romantic comedy with a male perspective a la Charlotte Street. This book was sweet and hilarious and British, so it was full of dry Brit humor. It was fantastic and I want more!

8. Military horror - that's right, military horror. Movies like Below, R-Point, and Deathwatch kind of rocked my socks off. Now I want some books like this. 

9. 80s and 90s style horror. Campy and fun, I feel like this was the heyday of the genre, which isn't fair because there's still good stuff coming out if you know where to look for it. 

10. I need a ten. Um... I'm going to go with one similar to something I saw on another list and go with obscure but bizarre historical events. They're out there and I research some of them for work (the Bloody Benders, for example and HH Holmes, who is the subject of Devil in the White City) there's a ton of this kind of stuff that could be fodder for great books. It doesn't all have to be dark and twisty either, just not so well known history in general. 

I know my list is very horror leaning. What can I say, I crave great creepy reads!

Last Train to Paris by Michele Zackheim

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Michele Zackheim's Last Train to Paris.

It's been fifty-two years since Rose Manon left Paris. Now in her eighties, a trunk arrives on her doorstep. Inside are the notes she kept during the war years. Years when she worked as a correspondent in Paris and Berlin. Rose, half Jewish and half Catholic, witnessed first hand the horrors that occurred as the Nazis first came into power in the 30s. She was there when war broke out and barely made it out alive. Many of those beside her - friends, colleagues, and acquaintances - did not.  As an elderly Rose revisits those memories, she also reminisces about her early career and her family life.

Last Train to Paris was a bit of an odd bird. The book begins with a note from the author stating "A German citizen named Eugen Weidmann abducted a distant cousin of mine in Paris in 1937." Tell me that isn't an intriguing way to begin a book?! The case, which you can actually read more about on Wikipedia, does play a role in the book itself, but the overall focus of the story is Rose looking back on her life in the war years.

The story alternates quite randomly between various timelines. It was an approach that I actually enjoyed thanks to how well Zackheim transitioned between each new memory and Rose's present day. It made the book read more like an actual memoir than anything else. Unfortunately I did enter into the book with the expectation that it was going to lean more towards a thriller/mystery than anything else - and I definitely wouldn't consider Last Train to Paris to be that at all. As a result I had a tough time moving beyond what I'd expected the book to be and embracing what it actually was.

One of the things I really adored about this book was the way the author incorporated historical events and people throughout the story. The French author Colette becomes involved, as well as the fictionalized approach to the Eugen Weidmann case, even Ian Fleming gets a bit of a sidebar mention in the end.

To see more stops on the tour, check out the official TLC tour page here.

For more on Michele Zackheim and her work, be sure to visit her website here. You can also like the book's page on Facebook.


Monday, January 20, 2014

Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi

Readers have been waiting in GREAT ANTICIPATION for the final installment of Veronica Rossi's trilogy and it's almost here.

(Don't worry, my synopsis is quite vague so as long as you've read the first two books there shouldn't be any spoilers.)

After the downfall of Reverie, Aria awakens in the Tides's new home to find that much has happened while she was asleep. Hess and Sable have joined forces and are keeping Cinder hostage, with the knowledge that his control of the Aether will be the only thing that allows them to get to the legendary Still Blue. Aria's old Dweller friends are still keeping to themselves and many are suffering illness from having entered the outside. Aria knows they'll have to work together if they are to survive especially with the Aether storms growing more powerful and dangerous everyday. But first, she and Perry will have to try to save Cinder. 

I'm on the fence about this wrap up to the trilogy. I didn't love it but I did enjoy it. Part of it just seemed rather anti climactic after the build of the first two. I found the character development to be on the lean side in particular. One could argue that we already got plenty of Aria, Perry, and Roar in previous installments but this third book does introduce some new developments with regards to characters we've not really learned much about in previous titles. Sadly, there's little to no further development on anyone in the story here in this final release.

Much of the focus of the book is spent on rescuing Cinder. This is fine but - without giving anything away - it just felt as though a bit more time and energy could have been spent on fleshing out other aspects of the story as well, especially with regards to some of the BIG events and revelations that occur in this third installment. I also wanted to see more interaction between the Dwellers and the Tides. Instead, this is pretty much relegated to a few lines and Jupiter's help in flying one of the hovers (which I did appreciate).

I don't mean to knock the book too much. Overall Into the Still Blue was a fine installment and it did offer up closure to the series, but I wanted fabulous instead of fine.

Into the Still Blue is out next Tuesday, Jan 28.

Rating: 3/5

Sunday, January 19, 2014

New Releases 1/21/14

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan

Snowblind by Christopher Golden

Pandemic by Scott Sigler

The Vanishing by Wendy Webb

Bad Wolf by Nele Neuhaus

The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness

Hunting Shadows by Charles Todd

Dirty Magic by Jaye Wells

Worthy Brown's Daughter by Phillip Margolis

That Old Black Magic by Mary Jane Clark

The Secret of Magic by Deborah Johnson

Day Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko (rerelease from Harper Collins)

Avalon by Mindee Arnett

The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos

Evertrue by Brodi Ashton

The Rule of Three by Eric Walters

New on DVD:
Captain Phillips
Instructions Not Included
Best Man Down
Blue Jasmine
In a World...

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Pre Pub Book Buzz: Midnight Crossroad by Charliane Harris

Fresh off the Sookie Stackhouse finale comes Charlaine Harris's newest series kick off, Midnight Crossroad. Now, I only just heard of this one recently but I'm already excited. There's not much out about this one just yet, but here's the synopsis from Goodreads:

Welcome to Midnight, Texas, a town with many boarded-up windows and few full-time inhabitants, located at the crossing of Witch Light Road and Davy Road. It’s a pretty standard dried-up western town.

There’s a pawnshop (someone lives in the basement and is seen only at night). There’s a diner (people who are just passing through tend not to linger). And there’s new resident Manfred Bernardo, who thinks he’s found the perfect place to work in private (and who has secrets of his own).

Stop at the one traffic light in town, and everything looks normal. Stay awhile, and learn the truth...

Harris is such a powerhouse in urban fantasy and paranormal mystery that I can't wait to see what she'll be doing with this new series!

Midnight Crossroad hits shelves on May 6.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Shovel Ready by Adam Sternbergh

In a post disaster New York, law and order has gone by the wayside. Once a garbageman, Spademan has taken on a very different line of work as a killer for hire. He has rules, though: all he wants is a name and location, no details. And he won't kill kids. When he's hired to kill the daughter of a famous televangelist things go a bit haywire. She's eighteen, sure, but she's also massively pregnant and Spademan draws the line there. But Spademan's decision earns him a powerful enemy, one that puts him and every one he knows at risk. 

Adam Sternbergh's debut is filled with sparse prose but big story. The world building is dead on and Spademan is the kind of anti-hero readers like me love: a hardened man in a hardened world but still able to come down on the right side when it matters.

Much of Sternbergh's imagined future is bleak and understandably so. This is a New York that's been ravaged by nature and crime. Those who are able to afford to have literally tuned out, plugging into a new system called the limnosphere - an artificial world that allows you to live out fantasies and leave reality permanently behind. An entire industry has popped up as a result with hired hands offering protection and medical staff who check vitals and deliver food. Spademan himself once dabbled in it until cutting himself off altogether.

Sternbergh's bio describes the book as a "future-noir thriller about a garbageman-turned-hitman set in a dystopian New York City." It's the perfect in a nutshell pitch for the book to be honest. Stylistically it's quite unlike anything I've read of late. As I mentioned, the prose is sparse. Paragraphs are sometimes just one sentence long. There are no quotation marks either, which can sometimes drive a type-A person like myself bananas but it works here because Sternbergh has built the prose conversationally. Not only is the book addictively readable with Spademan's voice established immediately, drawing the reader in right away, but it makes the book move along at an insanely fast pace.

Shovel Ready is fairly dark, which I've said before on the blog is totally fine with me, but if you take issue with certain kinds of content this may not be the best book for you. If you like 'em totally original and twisted though, Shovel Ready the perfect read. There's also a second Spademan book in the works!

As a little extra bonus, for fans of dystopian fiction, Sternbergh posted this recommended reading list over on Huffington Post this week. Check it out.

Rating: 4.5/5

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Book Junkie Problems: Outgrowing Authors

In just two days the world will be re-introduced to America's favorite incestuous horror story Flowers in the Attic. Published in 1979 this first in Andrews's Dollanganger series likely made a stir I can't even imagine. Even today the plot is cringeworthy and skin crawling. Now, Lifetime is reviving the series with another movie adaptation (premiering Jan 18) starring Heather Graham and Ellen Burstyn. And of course this isn't even the first time the story has been adapted. Kristy Swanson and creepy Louise Fletcher starred in the 1987 version.

Readers, I discovered V.C. Andrews when I was about twelve. I devoured her books. I think the blame can be placed on one of my best friend's grandmothers, the same person tangentially responsible for introducing me to Dean Koontz as well. But readers, even I never could get through Flowers in the Attic, instead opting for the slightly less icky Casteel series, which began with Heaven, a few later titles, and my favorite of Andrews's books, My Sweet Audrina.

I abandoned these just a short time later having completed none of the series available at the time. Readers familiar with these will remember that four of the books in the series generally traced the family through numerous generations with a fifth serving as a prequel; I probably read about four books in the Casteel another four in the Cutler series and finished with just the first in the Landry series before moving on to new things.

By the time I was in college I did revisit Andrews and attempt Flowers in the Attic but I found that whatever drew me to the books in my younger years (likely a weird voyeuristic fascination combined with the knowledge that my parents would literally shit bricks if they knew I was reading them) just wasn't there in my blooming adulthood.

And while I've focused on Andrews in particular here, she's not the only author I find I've outgrown from that period in my reading life. Koontz has fallen by the wayside for me as well, though for different reasons. Andrews only ever completed a handful of the books attributed to her name. Books beyond that follow a very simple formula, which means you basically get the same story with new characters. Koontz on the other hand developed a particular style that I just didn't enjoy beginning right around the time By the Light of the Moon was released. His next few were hit or miss for me and eventually I gave up. I have to say, though, his books prior to that remain some of my favorites.

Another abandoned author I discovered around the same time was John Saul. Again his work in the 70s, 80s, and 90s still holds a place in my heart but his new stuff doesn't have the same magic for me. And frankly, I'm a bit afraid of going back to the works I enjoyed by these authors and discovering that they possibly no longer grab me either. I'd rather remember them fondly.

There are others I adored in the past and have moved away from. I think it's typical of any reader. In some cases it's discovering that you've become a more versatile reader and these old favorites have become formulaic. In other cases it's simply the fact that these books aren't that good or your tastes as a reader have changed. But am I alone in feeling a little bit of remorse about no longer being able to include these old favorites amongst my current reading passions?

If you're curious about V.C. Andrews and her legacy as a whole, check out this article from Buzzfeed.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Ex-Purgatory by Peter Clines

George Bailey is your everyday, average guy. He spends his days working at the local campus as part of the maintenance staff, cleaning up average college kids messes. He goes out with his best friend, Nic. He has average car troubles and average job troubles. But George's nights are anything but average. His dreams are plagued by the walking dead! They're just dreams, though, right? Then he's approached by a young co-ed in a wheelchair. Her name is Madelyn Sorenson and the story she has to tell him is weird to the extreme. Maddie is convinced that what George sees in his dreams is real! Certain Maddie's certifiable, George tries to go on as usual and when people from his dreams start to bleed into real life, he believes it's just a matter of not enough sleep. But the dream life begins to edge more and more into George's daily life and he finally starts to think that Maddie might be onto something after all. 

Whoa! I mean, WHOA! This fourth installment in Peter Clines's Ex-Heroes series is fan-freaking-tastic! If you've read the other installments then you realize that what Clines has done here is basically turned the whole story on its head.

It's really getting harder and harder to avoid spoilers in these and I don't want to give anything away. Nothing. Not one hint about what's going on in this one. And you definitely do need to read the books in order all things considered. Each new book plays directly off of the previous books, which works out awesomely in my opinion. Clines says he set out some clues in the previous installment and while in retrospect I do believe I caught at least one or two (with regards to Maddie and Christian), I must have missed every single one. I had no clue where this one was going but I was 100% along for the ride.

And given all of that, Clines has admitted that he's inserted some clues in this fourth book for a possible fifth installment as well. I sincerely hope it gets to see the light of day because I am certainly not done with Saint George, The Corpse Girl, or any of the rest of these guys!

Ex-Purgatory is filled with Clines signature witty and snarky prose packed with pop culture references and a levity that makes this zombies vs superheroes series a favorite in my house (hubs has been known to steal copies before I can get to them). They're super fun and super smart in my personal opinion!

Rating: 5/5

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: 2014 Debuts I'm Excited About

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 2014 Debuts I'm Excited About.


So here they are in no particular order:

1. Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates - I first came across this one on a BN list of suggested titles for folks who loved Donna Tartt's Secret History. I immediately added it (and the others I didn't already have) to my wishlist.

2. The Troop by Nick Cutter - debut horror? I'm in! I've heard awesome things about this debut. 

3. The Girl With All the Gifts by M. R. Carey - ok, as soon as I saw this trailer I knew I had to have this book. Plus this is Mike Carey writing as M.R. Carey (his Felix Castor series is pretty creepy).

4. Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige - it just looks completely awesome!

5. The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings - yeah, a "blood-soaked, futuristic debut thriller" tell me that's not intriguing!

6. Half Bad by Sally Green - witches! I think everyone wants to read this one.

7. Archetype by M.D. Waters - I read something on this just recently and my addled brain can't recall what it was (if it was an interview with the author) or where it was. Urgh. The book sounds awesome and I can't wait to read it either way.

8. The Quick by Lauren Owen - I just came across mention of this one the other day and had to look it up - a mystery with a secret society set in Victorian London and sounds like gothic undertones. Yep, must have!

9. String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones - this one's been on my radar for a while but it isn't due out here in the States until this summer. Like the rest of this list it sounds utterly magnificent!

10. Conquest by John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard - ok, this is only half a debut but it's John Connolly pairing up with his partner on a sci fi series. I'm pretty stoked!

11. The Girl From the Well by Rin Chupeco -  I had to include this one even though it put me over 10! I've heard really fantastic things about this teen horror debut due out from Sourcebooks in August. 

Netherwood by Jane Sanderson

Morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Jane Sanderson's Netherwood.

It's 1904 and Eve and her husband live well enough in Netherwood. Arthur is a strong man who takes pride in his work in the coal mines. Eve keeps house, cleverly stretching their resources and managing their affairs while also taking care of the children. When she hears that nearby Grangely residents - currently on strike for unfair wages at their own mines - are being forcibly evicted, Eve wants to help in any way she can. The local reverend approaches Eve and Arthur requesting that they take in a young widow and her infant daughter just until the woman can get back on her feet. They agree, but before the woman arrives tragedy strikes. Now Eve has found herself widowed and with little prospects in the way of supporting her family and two extra mouths to feed arriving on her doorstep. Fortunately for Eve, Anna matches her in smarts and resourcefulness. The two women soon band together to support one another and their families.

Meanwhile, the Earl of Netherwood and his family face their own troubles at Netherwood estate. The heir to the family fortune has just come into his own but has yet to take on any family responsibility. Instead, Toby Netherwood spends his evenings carousing with the locals and drinking beer.

Amongst the slew of Downton comparisons of late, I have to admit this one is probably closest - if Downton focused on the Crawleys and the folks who live within the village rather than the house staff.

My only issue with this book was that part one spends so much time on Eve and her family, and then Anna, that by the time part two begins and the focus turns a bit more to the Hoyland family I found it hard to care about them. I just wanted to get back to Eve and Anna's story!

Netherwood is rich with historical detail and description. Sanderson really brings Netherwood, both the village and the immediate estate (house and gardens), to life very vividly. The food, the smells, the day to day life, and especially the little details like the individual plants and colors in the garden and the linens on the dining table are so well described that the reader only has to close their eyes to imagine they're right there in Netherwood or Eve's kitchen.

Netherwood is the first in a series of three thus far. Please note I'll also be reviewing the second novel, Ravenscliffe, so check back here on Jan 28 for that. Over in the UK, the story continues with Eden Falls as well!

To see what others on the tour thought, be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here.

For more on Jane Sanderson and her series, visit her website here. You can also follow her on Twitter.


Monday, January 13, 2014

No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale

Friendship, Wisconsin - population 689 688 - has never seen a murder as brutal as that of Ruth Fried. The eighteen-year-old was found in a cornfield, hanging like a scarecrow, and stuffed with straw. She'd been on her way to visit her best friend, Kippy Bushman, when it happened and now the town's at wit's end to find her killer. Ruth's mother has passed along her journal in hopes that Kippy can clean it up for her, but Kippy soon finds that Ruth was... hiding things. Then Ruth's boyfriend is arrested for her murder, but Kippy is convinced the cops have another agenda. The evidence isn't stacking up and it seems no one but her is interested in tracking down the real killer. With Ruth's journal as a guide and a little help from Ruth's recently returned brother, Kippy sets out to unmask the real killer before it's too late.

Readers, I'm finally on the mend, but I was sick a ridiculously long time. Thanks to that, I spent a LOT of time in bed reading. Fortunately I had a stack of fun stuff to choose from and Kathleen Hale's book is going down as my first favorite of 2014 :)

I was tempted to say this book was super CUTE but I think that gives just a bit more insight into my twisted reading taste than the actual content of the book. No One Else Can Have You is quirky and dark. It's a teen mystery a bit a la Fargo, don'tcha know.

In terms of content this book is definitely not cute. Not only does it begin with a brutal murder, but there are characters dealing with a whole host of issues. It's Hale's style, though that makes this book much lighter than one would expect. She brings a levity to the story that makes it fun in a dark and twisted way. The small town small mindedness typical to this kind of story comes across believably rather than ridiculous or stereotypical with Hale's particular style and Kippy is an extremely likable lead.

Overall, No One Else Can Have You is a darkly comedic mystery and a definite not-to-be-missed debut of 2014. Highly, highly, highly and enthusiastically recommended!