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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Delicious!: A Novel by Ruth Reichl + a giveaway

Hi, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Ruth Reichl's fiction debut, Delicious!. And I've got a copy to give away to one lucky reader - be sure to read through to the bottom to enter.

Billie Breslin knows she's lucky to get a job at Delicious!. She's dropped out of college and doesn't even cook, but she has her reasons and she has an amazing palate. Within months she's written her first piece and is right where she wants to be. But then the magazine is abruptly shut down and everyone around her is looking for new employment. Billie is kept on to run the magazine's guarantee - you'll love the recipe or your money back - when she makes a wonderful discovery: in the depths of the magazine's library Billie finds Lulu Swan's WWII correspondence with James Beard. Spurred on by a new project and purpose, Billie begins to hunt down all of the letters. As she delves further into Lulu's missives, Billie begins to blossom, finding the confidence to finally step out of her sister's shadow and open herself to the people around her. 

Is it too cliche to say Delicious! is delicious? Probably so. It is a truly delightful read in every way, though.

Delicious! is a story of love and loss, of personal growth, of food and the artisans of the food industry, of New York, and of history. Billie and the magazine, Sal and his shop, Mr. Complainer, Sammy, Lulu, Bertie... as the story progresses more and more pieces are added, layer by layer like some wonderful multi-course meal. It's the kind of book that keeps you turning pages late into the night and fills you with the warm and fuzzes.

I don't know that I can adequately convey my adoration of this book. Suffice it to say I found it completely absorbing and most definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a real feel good read (with food!).

But, this book should most definitely come with a warning. It's packed to the gills with tantalizing descriptions of food, which left me in a bit of a tough spot. No way could I possibly fight the constant temptation of all the mouth watering dishes. I had to valiantly fight the urge to eat the entire time I was reading!

Rating: 5/5

(Delicious! officially hits shelves Tuesday, May 6.)

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

For more on Ruth Reichl, you can find her on the web here. You can also follow her on Twitter.

And now for the giveaway! The publisher is offering up one copy - US only and no PO boxes, please. To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, May 12. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway



Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: If You Like British TV

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 if You Like... and I've chosen British TV.


I haven't had the chance to do TTT for a while but this was a topic that I just could not skip considering it's one I've been planning to do a post on myself. I watch a lot of British TV. A lot! And when each season ends I find myself craving more. I'd been planning to do a post on Broadchurch and then the recent end of Ripper Street left me wanting to do one on that. When this topic popped up it seemed like a great opportunity to roll them into one - with some others included. Here goes:

1. If you like Broadchurch you should read: The Guilty One by Lisa Ballantyne - like Broadchurch this one involves the death of a child. Unlike Broadchurch, however, there is an immediate suspect here. It's completely fantastic and definitely edge of your seat. Highly recommended.

2. If you like Ripper Street you should read: The Yard by Alex Grecian - while Ripper Street is a historical series based around the Fleet Street police (the same division that investigated much of the Ripper murders), Grecian's new series focuses on Scotland Yard's Murder Squad, created after the Ripper Murders!

3. If you like Hex you should read: this was essentially a UK Buffy so there are a ton of books I could recommend, I'm going to go with Lilith Saintcrow's Dante Valentine series, though. I adored this series for so many reasons and would love for everyone to read it.

4. If you like The Fades you should read: this was such an incredibly cool series. I don't know if it's done for good but there was just one season. Go out and rent it if you can. For this one I'm going to suggest Darynda Jones's Darklight trilogy.

5. If you like Survivors you should read: Ah! Another series I adored that seems to be done. It's a post viral apocalypse series. I'll go with White Horse by Alex Adams here. While Survivors is definitely an ensemble drama, White Horse is a super cool viral apocalypse story and one that I think will include more characters in books to come.

6. If you like The Bletchley Circle you should read: This one was a little hard. The series features a group of WWII code breakers - post war - investigating various crimes. Right off hand the best I'm coming up with is Charles Todd's Bess Crawford series, because it features a strong female character investigating various crimes. It is a different time period but I've yet to come across anything exactly like Bletchley.

7. If you like Being Human you should read: First, please, please do yourself a favor and watch the BBC Being Human. The Syfy one doesn't even compare. I'm sure there's something more fitting but I'm going to to with the Engelsfors Trilogy by Mats Strandberg and Sara B. Elfgren. This teen trilogy does focus on teen witches who are trying to maintain normal lives while also preventing an apocalypse. Aside from the various plots going on in Being Human the biggest theme is simply being human so I think that makes the Engelsfors books a good match.

8. If you like Sherlock you should read: Obviously the best suggestion is classic Sherlock Holmes. I'll stretch it a little and suggest the Pendergast series by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. There's definitely more of a science/paranormal slant to these but Pendergast is so very based on Sherlock Holmes!

9. If you like Downton Abbey you should read: Of all the Downton-esque titles hitting shelves my favorite so far has been the reissued Passing Bells trilogy by Phillip Rock. There's more of a focus on the war in this trilogy but overall the characters and upstairs/downstairs story lines are very similar to Downton Abbey.

10. My last one is a bit of a catch all with a few UK shows that have been based on books: The Secret of Crickley Hall adapted from the book by James Herbert, the forthcoming Intruders based on the book by Michael Marshall Smith, Endeavour the prequel series based on Inspector Morse series by Colin Dexter, Case Histories based on Kate Atkinson's books, and Call the Midwife based on Jennifer Worth's memoirs

Sekret by Lindsay Smith

It's 1963 in the USSR and Yulia and her family are on the run. Her mother and father were both scientists and loyal party members in the past but something changed. Now Yulia, her mother, and her younger brother are holed up with her aunt and cousin, living each day on the bare minimum and trying to stay out of the crosshairs of the State. 

Then Yulia is captured by the KGB and recruited into service. She has a special talent, one that allows her to see things through just one touch. It's this talent that a secret arm of the government hopes to use to their advantage. And Yulia isn't the only one. When the KGB learns that the CIA has a comparable program and is set on using their own team against Russia, Yulia and the others are thrown into a game with deadly consequences. 

Yes! A historical-teen-Russian-psychic-spy-thriller! Oh, Sekret not only sounded amazing but it turned out to be exactly what I'd hoped it would be.

Lindsay Smith deftly incorporates real historical tidbits in her tale: the Kennedy assassination, the Space Race (though Veter 1 is fictional), Stalin, Lenin, Kruschev... I wasn't around for these things and yet it's a piece of history that has always fascinated me. (And obviously many others as well considering we now have a show devoted to Russian spies in the 80s.) I would imagine that Sekret will prompt more than one reader to look into a lot of the things listed in the book out of newborn curiosity.

Smith does include an afterword that outlines some of the references she used, a lot of the historical fact that's included, and even some notes on both Russian and American attempts at psychic spying. While that particular piece of Sekret is fiction, there's definitely an air of believability supported by the fact that - at least at one time - there were legitimate attempts to not only recruit psychics to service but to use them against each other. What, what, what?! Not to mention it's just a super cool element in the story.

The characters and their relationships are developed quite nicely. I did find it difficult at times to really understand the details on the psychic abilities. It was a minor issue to be sure, but visualizing some of the interactions between the Scrubbers and Yulia in particular was somewhat muddled for me. It could be intentional considering. I'll leave that to you to decide.

But yes, Sekret is one I definitely recommend to both teens and non teens. It also left me wanting more! I never really got into The Americans but I may have to try again. Or maybe I'll reread Nelson Demille's The Charm School instead - to tide me over before the sequel to Sekret comes out next year.

Rating: 4.5/5

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Last Original Wife by Dorothea Benton Frank

Good morning, everyone, and happy Monday! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Dorothea Benton Frank's The Last Original Wife.

In a time when all their friends seem to be divorcing and moving on, Leslie has finally grown tired of it all. Tired of being forced to spend time with women she calls "Barbies" - the new, young brides her old friends have been swapped out for - and tired of her husband's attitude, Les takes matters into her own hands and leaves. Without her, Wes is at a loss, but he can't fathom why she'd up and go after all their years together. 

This latest from Dorothea Benton Frank happens to be my first ever read by her. And it was one that I'd looked forward to with great anticipation. But I don't think it was the right title for me or the right time.

In truth, I found Les and Wes both rubbed me the wrong way from the very beginning. I wanted to like Les and did sympathize with her situation but early counseling sessions didn't quite leave me sold on her decision to leave her husband. And yet, Wes's sessions did quite clearly illustrate why Les would be fed up with him! Sure, as things got rolling everything became more clear but I honestly felt more weight was put on the fact that Les simply wanted to start over (with some money in her pocket). I hate to say that - and I'm sure I'm probably in the minority - I found the book to be kind of a downer, though.

The Last Original Wife did have its moments of charm and amusement - the cat fight at the club and Wes's babysitting in particular left me in a fit of giggles - but all in all I was left with something of a sense of hopelessness about the fate of marriages in general!

Rating: 3/5

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

For more on Dorothea Benton Frank and her work you can find her on the web here. You can also like her on Facebook.


Sunday, April 27, 2014

New releases 4/29/14

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Spun by Catherine McKenzie

Black Lies, Red Blood by Kjell Eriksson

Fallout by Sadie Jones

Xom-B by Jeremy Robinson

The Summoning by F.G. Cottam

The Whispering by Sarah Rayne

Morningside Fall by Jay Posey

The Confabulist by Steven Galloway

The Fourth Motive by Sean Lynch

Thornlost by Melanie Rawn

Live to See Tomorrow by Iris Johansen

Stolen Remains by Christine Trent

The Temporary Gentleman by Sebastian Barry

Gone Are the Leaves by Anne Donovan

Peacemaker by Marianne De Pierres

The Target by David Baldacci

The Poor Boy's Game by Dennis Tafoya

The Pink Suit by Nicole Mary Kelby

Desperate by Daniel Palmer

Ruby by Cynthia Bond

The Widow's Walk by Robert Barclay

Natchez Burning by Greg Iles

Searching for Perfect by Jennifer Probst

The Break-Up Artist by Philip Siegel

The Taking by Kimberly Derting

Exile by Kevin Emerson

New on DVD:
Labor Day
Devil's Due
Escape From Tomorrow

Friday, April 25, 2014

More Pax Arcana shorts by Elliott James

Some of you might remember my review of Elliott James's super fantabulous Charming and you may have even checked out my post on the first round of James's series tie in shorts. Well there are more! (If you haven't read any of these, no worries - there are no spoilers and newbies can jump in with any one of them at any time!)

"Surreal Estate" finds our Charming caught in a strange web after a search for a new home leaves him on guard. The somewhat shocking number of available properties is a sure sign that something fishy is going on and before long John is trapped in a literal house of horrors.

It's been a while since I read the first three stories and I have loved them all but I do think that "Surreal Estate" might just be my favorite of these so far. A being with an unusual ability makes it hard for John to determine what's real and what isn't in this tale. It makes the whole thing that much more fun in my humble opinion!

In "Dog-Gone" a plea for help from the other side has John traveling back to Alaska where a local cop has become entangled in an investigation with suspiciously magical elements. 

This particular tale delves just a tiny bit more into John's own past, which is a welcome thing indeed. John Charming is an intriguing character and I'll take as many tid bits as I can get!

Again readers can jump in at any time. These great shorts offer a perfect taste of what's in store for you with the series - great world building, a truly excellent mythos, and a character I really do dare you not to fall in love with. Each story is super short and super affordable but also offer a sample of Charming as well. James's second full-length Pax Arcana release, Daring, is due out this Fall.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Incendiary Girls by Kodi Scheer

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Kodi Scheer's debut, Incendiary Girls, a collection of shorts that are (as the copy reads) "...inspired by science, medicine, and the power of healing with a magical twist."

This is a bizarre collection of pieces to be sure. My usual approach to any short story collection is to read straight through in order, just as I would chapters in a novel. This time, though, I mixed it up a bit. We have company in this week so shorts were definitely the perfect read but with time in mind I skipped around and read out of order. And so the story "Miss Universe" was one of the first I read rather than the third in order. This is a brutal little tale about Miss Universe competitors literally tearing apart the competition! I was surprised when I read it, but as I progressed further through the collection I realized it was indeed a perfect fit.

Other stories include "Transplant" where a woman adopts a new religion in the hopes that her prayers will be answered. "Fundamental Laws of Nature" finds a woman facing the same potential death sentence that took her mother but she finds solace in imagining that her daughter's horse is in fact her reincarnation (the dead mother's, that is). In "No Monsters Here" a woman whose husband is off fighting in Afghanistan begins finding pieces of him throughout her home and begins to fear the worst. "Salt of the Earth" was probably my favorite story in the bunch. In this tale a town is plagued by a love virus!

With Incendiary Tales I think Scheer has proven that she is a wonderful talent! Each of the stories is rich in emotion. They're quirky and a bit dark - depending on how you approach some of them - but they're also the kind of stories that grab hold of you from their first lines. I definitely recommend the collection not only to readers who enjoy a bit of an odd twist in their reading, but to readers who like to mull over and ponder the deeper meanings in stories that obviously deal with loss, fear, and love.

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

For more on Kodi Scheer, you can visit her here on the web. You can also follow her on Twitter.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Idea of Him by Holly Peterson + a giveaway

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Holly Peterson's latest, The Idea of Him. And to go along with today's post I have a super fun giveaway thanks to the publisher. Be sure to read through to the bottom for dets and entry.

Allie Crawford has everything - a great job, a great husband, a great family. But all of that changes the day her husband drops a $5,000 casino chip on the bedroom floor. Allie might not have suspected anything had Wade not covered it up so quickly. Just a few weeks later Allie finds Wade locked in their laundry room with a leggy blond and everything starts to go downhill. The woman, Jackie, claims there's something serious going on. Something that will ruin Allie and her family. Jackie wants her trust but with very little to go on Allie isn't so sure. Could the man she married really be so different than she'd thought he was? And what - beyond an affair, that is - could he be involved in that would be so detrimental to the life they've built together. 

Author Elin Hilderbrand called The Idea of Him "...a coming-of-age book for grownups." This is something I found so appealing in going into Holly Peterson's latest. Here you have a thirty something woman who seems to have everything together, forced to face the realities around her - realities that differ greatly from her actual idea of life.

There were intriguing aspects of the book: what Allie's husband is involved in, what role the mysterious Jackie plays in them, and of course the tantalizing detail that whatever the big secret is could ruin everything. But while The Idea of Him had a definite hook ultimately it just didn't live up to its promise for me. I found the big reveal to be a bit of a letdown given how it was built up. I also found there were a few too many threads to the story - elements that I felt were more distracting than supporting of the main plot.

Peterson's voice is incredibly engaging, however, and I did find myself drawn along into Allie's tale. All in all a The Idea of Him was good way to spend my weekend reading time.

Rating: 3.5/5

And now for the giveaway: the publisher is offering up one copy of Holly Peterson's The Idea of Him along with a handmade candle from Andrea Schroder (you can check her items out on her website and follow her on Twitter).


To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, May 5. US only and no PO boxes please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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

For more on Holly Peterson and her books visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.


 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

New releases 4/22/14

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

On the Rocks by Erin Duffy

The Furies by Mark Alpert

Afterparty by Daryl Gregory

Heaven's Queen by Rachel Bach

The Forever Watch by David Ramirez

From the Charred Remains by Susanna Calkins

Ruin Falls by Jenny Milchman

Terms & Conditions by Robert Glancy

Don't Ever Look Back by Daniel Friedman

A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable

'Till the Well Runs Dry by Lauren Francis-Sharma

The Target by David Baldacci

Everything to Lose by Andrew Gross

The Forever Watch by David Ramirez

Lovers at the Chameleon Club by Francine Prose

Chestnut Street by Maeve Binchy

Expiration Day by William Campbell Powell

The Inventor's Secret by Andrea Cremer

Friday, April 18, 2014

Gamache Reread Campaign

Morning, readers! I'm super excited about this (haven't you noticed I get pretty "super excited" about lots of book stuff?!) - Louise Penny and Minotaur Books have started an official Gamache Reread Campaign!

Since I've been reading this series completely out of order and had planned to read through from beginning to end anyway, this is pretty spectacularly perfect timing for me.

The reread begins next week (April 21) with book one, Still Life. Here's the official news:

This is a virtual, online club to re-read the Gamache series, beginning officially on April 21st. Each of the 9 books in the series will be discussed for two weeks, culminating in to the publication of Louise Penny’s latest novel, THE LONG WAY HOME, which is on sale August 26th.

There will be special guests, giveaways, discussion questions, and more! Here is the link.

So there you go folks. Sign up and join in on the reread. And if you're new to the series find out why Gamache and Three Pines are so adored by mystery fans everywhere!


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Spin by Catherine McKenzie

By now you all know that I'm a HUGE fangirl for Catherine McKenzie's work. Ever since Spin hit shelves here in the States in 2012 (actually, her first three books were all released here in the States in 2012 and her fourth, Hidden, released just this month).

When Spin released, I hosted an interview with McKenzie, which you can see here. Somehow, though, I did not end up posting an actual review of the book here on the blog (I did review it for Bookbitch.com at the time). With the novella follow up to Spin - Spun - releasing in just two weeks I thought now was as good a time as any to introduce you to that fabulous debut!

When Kate Sandford blows the job of a lifetime by showing up massively hung over at her interview with The Line magazine, she's sure she's done for. Fortunately for Kate, the magazine is willing to give her a second shot. The catch -- Kate has to go undercover in rehab and report on Amber Sheppard, the latest IT girl to gain notoriety for her drug abuse and crazy antics. Thirty days in rehab seems doable, especially if it means landing her dream job, but when Kate begins to really get to know Amber she starts to have serious doubts about completing the assignment. 

Spin is a super fun read. While the idea of alcoholism and rehab is quite serious, McKenzie handles her subject very well, keeping the book light and entertaining while never belittling the actual issue. It's a nice balance that works quite well.

McKenzie actually had a poll on which of her books readers would like to see a sequel to and it seems Spin won. I absolutely adored the characters in Spin and really can't tell you how excited I am to return to them. Spun will see us return to Amber's story.

Spun is due out April 29. Be sure to check back here on May 1 when I'll be posting my review as well as offering up an e copy of Spin (for Kindle) to one lucky reader! In the meantime, all of Catherine McKenzie's earlier titles (Spin, Arranged, and Forgotten) are available in all e formats for just $1.99 through April 28th.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Guest Post by Kimberly Pauley

Good morning! I've got a very special treat for you this morning Kimberly Pauley's latest hit shelves just last week and as part of the tour SoHo Teen has arranged I'm able to offer up a guest post from Kimberly herself!

But first just a bit about the book from Goodreads just in case you haven't read it yet:

Ask Aria Morse anything, and she must answer with the truth. Yet she rarely understands the cryptic words she‘s compelled to utter. Blessed—or cursed—with the power of an Oracle who cannot decipher her own predictions, she does her best to avoid anyone and everyone. 

But Aria can no longer hide when Jade, one of the few girls at school who ever showed her any kindness, disappears. Any time Aria overhears a question about Jade, she inadvertently reveals something new, a clue or hint as to why Jade vanished. But like stray pieces from different puzzles, her words never present a clear picture.

Then there’s Alex, damaged and dangerous, but the first person other than Jade to stand up for her. And Will, who offers a bond that seems impossible for a girl who’s always been alone. Both were involved with Jade. Aria may be the only one who can find out what happened, but the closer she gets to solving the crime, the more she becomes a target. Not everyone wants the truth to come out.

And now to hand things over to Kimberly!

What’s in a Name?

Coming up with character names is always an interesting process. Like in all my books, ASK ME’s character’s names came from a mix of sources. I am incredibly thankful to CJ Redwine (author of Defiance) for helping me come up with Aria’s (the main character) name. It’s perfect for her, the girl who hides behind music, who goes through life apart from others. She is a melody sung solo, a self-contained piece of music for a single voice. Aria can also mean noble, air, or lioness. All of those things work really well for this girl who is an oracle, not by choice but by birth.

William means strong-willed warrior and Will from the book is definitely confident in himself. I also had a good friend in middle school and high school with that name (though he was as completely unlike Will in the book as he could be).

Both of the main male characters in the book, actually, have strong names. Alexander (Alex) is another powerful name. Think of the famous Alexander the Great. The name itself means “defender” or “defender of men.” Alex is also named after a good friend of mine from high school (though, again, he’s not much like his namesake since my friend was more of a skateboard punk rocker who has grown up to be a real-life version of The Dude).

Delilah in the book is actually named after the author Delilah Dawson, a writer friend of mine. Aria’s Granddad is also named after a family friend named Porter (who was just as irascible in real life as the one in the book). Mrs. Rogers, Aria’s art teacher, is named after the art teacher I had in high school. Shelley is named after one of my loyal readers who volunteered it for use on my Facebook Fan Page (even though I warned her I couldn’t guarantee the character would be nice).

Aria’s grandmother’s name is Ellie, which means “bright shining one” or “shining light.” I like to think that she’s a bit of a beacon for Aria, even if Aria doesn’t always see it.

Even the town’s name (Lake Mariah) has a meaning for me. The town is loosely based on a real location in Florida (Lake Placid), but the image I have held in my mind from the beginning is of a girl with her hair blowing in the wind. Bear with me here...there’s an old movie with a young Clint Eastwood called Paint Your Wagon and there’s a song in it named “They Call the Wind Mariah” sung by Harve Presnell. Really great song. Very roundabout, I admit, but it works for me since it is both a famous song and has to do with the wind.

It’s a bit of a mish-mash of deeper meanings and personal memories, but that’s how it often goes!

About the author:
Kimberly Pauley is the award-winning author of Sucks to Be Me, which was honored on the YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers list. Born in California, she has lived everywhere from Florida to Chicago and has now gone international to live in London with her husband and son. She is also the founder of YA Books Central, one of the first and largest teen book websites in the world. Visit her online at www.kimberlypauley.com.

For more on Kimberly you can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter. To check out an excerpt of Ask Me, visit the official SoHo Teen page here.

Big, big thanks to Kimberly for being on the blog today and thanks to the folks over at SoHo Teen for setting it up!

Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates + a Giveaway

Morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Christopher J. Yates's Black Chalk. Plus, there's a giveaway open internationally!

I know I mentioned this one a while back, around the time Donna Tartt's Goldfinch was hitting shelves in fact. The reason being I came across this title on a readers who like this will also like... post on BN. And of course, as I also mentioned, it immediately got added to my wish list. And oh, I'm such a FANGIRL for this book!

Chad, Jolyon, Jack, Mark, Emilia, and Dee were just freshmen when they met at Pitt. Together they devised a game, one involving tasks of increasing humiliation. According to the rules, they would fall one by one leaving just one winner to take home the prize. But then the game became something different and one of them died.

Fourteen years later it's time for them to reunite.

I really, really don't want to give anything away but I will say that there were many points in this book where I got those tingly goosebumps that tell you this is something really special. (PAGE 114!!!)

The story plays out in an interesting way, with a narrator intersperced between the characters' Oxford days. This narrator is writing the story and the reader isn't quite sure who it is until around 60 or so pages in. This was the first one that threw me for a loop because it really was not who I expected it to be. And the narrator has some pretty big issues that of course make you wonder how far you can really trust them and the story they're telling.

Agh! I want everyone to read this so I can talk about it!

Anyway, if you like truly clever thrillers and unreliable narrators (and Donna Tartt apparently) you should most definitely check out Christopher J. Yates's debut! If you're curious but not sold, do head here to read an excerpt.

And now for the giveaway! The publisher has allowed us each to offer up a copy to one of our readers and (and this is a big AND) the giveaway is open WORLDWIDE!!! To enter simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, April 28.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


To see more stops on the tour be sure to visit the official TLC tour page here. And for more on Yates and his work you can find him on the web here. You can also follow him on Twitter.

Do note apparently there have been some issues with the paperback and American retailers have been struggling to keep it in stock - we've been told the publisher will update us once the pb stock issues have been resolved.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Under a Silent Moon by Elizabeth Haynes

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm pleased as punch to be a stop on the TLC blog tour for Elizabeth Haynes's latest, Under a Silent Moon.

When Polly Leuchars, a groom at Hermitage Farm in Morden, is found dead in her cottage, an investigation is immediately launched. Though she was found at the bottom of her steps, the death is anything but accidental. Blood is found throughout the cottage and Polly was obviously beaten. At the same time, another woman in Morden is found dead of apparent suicide. Her fingerprints are found in Polly's house, leaving the police no doubt that the two must be connected, the how and why are the job of DCI Lou Smith and the rest of the team assigned to OP Nettle.

Haynes rocketed to the top of my must have list with her debut Into the Darkest Corner. Her work as an actual police intelligence analyst no doubt inspires her twisted and unique story lines, and she can always be counted on for a tightly plotted tale that will keep me on edge throughout.

Under a Silent Moon was of course no exception, but this one is a bit different from its predecessors for a few reasons: first, it's the start of a new series, which means we can look forward for more to come in this vein. Second, this is a much more straightforward police procedural. She's even gone so far as to include charts and forms used in Lou's investigation. And finally, and this one is for readers of her previous books, this one is quite graphic in the sex department. In fact, the call out for this book should have been something along the lines of "Everyone KNOWS everyone in Briarstone and Morden!"

I really loved the idea that the reader has access to all of the necessary clues to figure this out. And yet, Haynes did keep me guessing. The real motive is not obvious and the killer eluded me throughout the book.

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

For more on Elizabeth Haynes and her work you can visit her here on the web. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Waiting for Wednesday by Nicci French

After being attacked by a suspect in a case she was asked to consult on, Frieda Klein managed to survive. No one really believed her when she said that a suspect in a previous case had been stalking her so they surely wouldn't believe that this person was her real savior. No, the final word on the event is that Frieda herself killed her attacker. 

After time recovering in the hospital she has returned home but she and DCI Karlsson have been told that under no circumstances is Frieda to become involved in another case. Instead, Karlsson is to work with the official consultant, Hal Bradshaw, a man whose clashes with Frieda have become increasingly venomous. 

When a wife and mother of three is found murdered in her home, it seems to be a case of interrupted burglary. The investigation becomes complicated when Karlsson and his team learn that not only does the burglar have an alibi for the time of the murder, but the victim was hiding a few secrets that could have prompted the crime. Karlsson ignores orders bringing Frieda in to help only to learn that Bradshaw has launched a recent smear campaign against Frieda and some of her colleagues. But Frieda, still dealing with the psychological affects of her near death, is distracted by an inquiry of her own. 

This third in the Frieda Klein series is yet another fabulous installment! I think what I love most about this series is that while there is certainly a mystery driving the story forward - and in this case two mysteries - the real momentum of the series comes from the characters themselves. Frieda, Karlsson, Josef, Chloë and Olivia, Reuben, and all of the others all have things they're dealing with.

So often, the focus of a thriller/mystery is the individual plot of the book. The characters can get pushed to the side and any real development is almost coincidental. That's not the case at all here. Husband and wife Nicci Gerard and Sean French excel at creating rich and complicated characters whose stories remain central to the series. The fact that they are able to also weave wonderfully plotted mysteries around all of these people and their lives makes this series unique and a true stand out.

I would definitely suggest reading the series through from the beginning as there are a lot of details carried over from book to book. Readers diving in with this third title will likely be confused by these elements (Dean Reeve, Bradshaw's animosity towards Frieda, characters' backstories...). Plus the series just keeps getting better and better!

Rating: 4.5/5

Sunday, April 13, 2014

New Release 4/15/14

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Under a Silent Moon by Elizabeth Haynes

Dead People by Ewart Hutton

All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld

Casebook by Mona Simpson

Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid

The Sea House by Elisabeth Gifford

Baudelaire's Revenge by Bob van Laerhoven

Until You're Mine by Samantha Hayes

Unwrapped Sky by Rjurik Davidson

Chop Chop by Simon Wroe

No Way Back by Matthew Klein

The Steady Running of the Hour by Justin Go

Ember Island by Kimberly Freeman

Blood Always Tells by Hilary Davidson

The Good Inn by Black Francis & Josh Frank

Aunt Dimity & the Wishing Well by Nancy Atherton

The Other Story by Tatiana de Rosnay

Transhuman by Ben Bova

The Forever Song by Julie Kagawa

Frozen by Erin Bowman

The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

All the Boys I've Loved by Jenny Han

Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

New on DVD:
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Philomena

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Pre Pub Book Buzz: The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joël Dicker

Morning, all. It's time to share my latest addition to the wish list!

The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair caught my attention just last month and has rocketed to the top of my must have list, in part thanks to some of the promo the author has been posting on Twitter. (Which so far has included fake newspaper articles as well as other fun teasers.) It doesn't hurt that Gaby Wood at Telegraph calls it the "smartest, creepiest book you'll read this year." Oh, and it's a doorstopper weighing in at 656 pages. With the weather warming up I could definitely use a really great, engaging and LONG read that's both smart and creepy! I'm already daydreaming about getting that fun version of the farmer's tan that results from a long afternoon in the sun reading (you know, cuts off at the forearms thanks to the shade from the book!).

So it's a French thriller, written by a Swiss author, due out in the UK May 1 (from Quercus's MacLehose imprint) and hitting shelves here in the States May 27 (Viking). Here's the description from Goodreads for you:

August 30, 1975: the day fifteen-year-old Nola Kellergan is glimpsed fleeing through the woods before she disappears; the day Somerset, New Hampshire, lost its innocence.

Thirty-three years later, Marcus Goldman, a successful young novelist, visits Somerset to see his mentor, Harry Quebert, one of America’s most respected writers, and to find a cure for his writer’s block as his publisher’s deadline looms. But Marcus’s plans are violently upended when Harry is suddenly and sensationally implicated in the cold-case murder of Nola Kellergan—whom, he admits, he had an affair with. As the national media convicts Harry, Marcus launches his own investigation, following a trail of clues through his mentor’s books, the backwoods and isolated beaches of New Hampshire, and the hidden history of Somerset’s citizens and the man they hold most dear. To save Harry, his writing career, and eventually even himself, Marcus must answer three questions, all of which are mysteriously connected: Who killed Nola Kellergan? What happened one misty morning in Somerset in the summer of 1975? And how do you write a successful and true novel?

Oh, I'm dying to read it! Dying I tell you!

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Collector of Dying Breaths by M.J. Rose - excerpt

Hello, everyone! I'm super excited to be offering up an excerpt from M.J. Rose's latest release, The Collector of Dying Breaths, which just hit shelves this week.

But first a bit about the book:

The Book of Lost Fragrances had Cleopatra. Seduction had iconic novelist Victor Hugo. Now, with The Collector of Dying Breaths, Rose showcases her most fascinating character yet: Catherine de Medici, who infamously spearheaded the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre during her son Henry III’s reign, slaughtering thousands of French rebel Protestants in one fell swoop.

In 1533, an Italian orphan with an uncanny knack for creating fragrance is plucked from poverty to become Catherine de Medici’s perfumer. To repay his debt, over the years René le Florentine is occasionally called upon for a darker purpose: the creation of deadly poisons used to dispatch the Queen’s rivals. But it’s René’s other passion—a desire to reanimate a human breath, to bring back the lives of the two people whose deaths have devastated him—that incites a dangerous treasure hunt five centuries later.

That’s when Jac L’Etoile—suffering in modern day France from a heartache of her own—becomes obsessed with the possibility of unlocking René’s secret to immortality. Soon Jac’s search reconnects her with Griffin North, a man she’s loved her entire life. Together they confront an eccentric heiress whose art collection rivals many museums and who is determined to keep her treasures close at hand, in both this life and the next.

If you've not yet read Rose, you really are missing out. Each new release is rich in historic detail, suspense, and romance. The books are linked via common characters, but each one can easily be read on its own.

And now for your reading pleasure, a piece from The Collector of Dying Breaths:

That night, Jac fell asleep easily, cosseted by the down pillows and comforter. Her dreams were full of the perfumer who had lived here so many centuries ago. In his secret laboratory, she saw him mixing up potions and recipes, stirring, shaking and sniffing. At one point he picked up his head and looked right at her, as if she were in the room with him, as if he could actually see her. And then he spoke to her. All this I do for you. To see you again. To be with you again. Please God, it will work. Because without you I am lost to the world. 

In her sleep Jac felt the power of his words like a perfumed wind, blowing around her, embracing her. The most profound sense of longing overwhelmed her. Jac tried to go to him. Tried to move toward him. Wanted him to take her in his arms. Want to bury her face in his chest and have him stroke her hair. Wanted to feel his rough lips bruising hers. Oh, how she wanted him. But she was a half a millennium away. And they were forever separated by time. 

She woke up suddenly. Soaked with sweat. The perfumer had seemed so familiar to her. Her feelings for him were the same as her feelings for Griffin. Was it possible that-No. She would not entertain the thought. But she couldn't escape it, could she? Jac could almost hear Malachai asking her how she could even question what the dream revealed: that in a previous incarnation Griffin had most likely lived a life as the perfumer. Time was coming full circle again.

M.J. Rose will be live at BookTrib on April 21 at 3pm ET and there are a ton more offerings this month all around the blogosphere so be sure to check them out.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth

I'd planned to read Veronica Roth's Divergent ages ago. I mean I bought the thing in early 2012 and then got Insurgent that same year and Allegiant this past Christmas, so it's not like I didn't have plenty of time! And yet the movie's release rolled around and the trilogy was still waiting in my TBR. So yeah, I saw the movie first. But that's ok. Apparently that was the motivation I needed to finally tackle the books, which I did in a binge this past weekend.

I'm not going to include synopses of the books so if you're a late comer like me you don't have to worry about spoilers. Plus I figure there are enough other reviews of the books out there by now that if you really want a synopsis and in-depth review of each one you can easily find them.

First I have to say that I did rather enjoy the movie. I had a few very minor complaints but overall I thought it was really well done and I was quite happy with the casting, especially after diving into the book. Surprisingly the film adaptation follows the book fairly closely. There were a few changes and most of them seemed logical for the sort of edits necessary in adapting for film (accounting for the length and pacing of a film as opposed to a book). All in all, it's definitely a great adaptation

One complaint that I've seen in reviews of both Divergent and Insurgent is the lack of world building. Why did the world get this way and how did the factions really come to be? There's a very small explanation and now that I've read all three I can assure you that there's a good reason for this. The story behind the factions is a big part of Allegiant so hang in there, you'll get your explanation.

Insurgent was an excellent sequel. There was no lag in story - it picks up immediately after the end of Divergent and maintains the great pacing and action I came to expect after Divergent. There's no second book slump that often happens in trilogies (when we kind of realize that the three books were always meant to be one and the second installment serves simply as a connecting piece between the introductory installment and the actual climax!). Nope, Insurgent moved the story along nicely, building further on Tris and Four's relationship and the conflicts between the factions. In other words it fit and it felt necessary on pretty much all points, rather than being filler.

And Allegiant, the buzz around this one is part of my recent delay in reading the books. Talk about eliciting some passionate responses from readers worldwide. Holy cow! Even halfway through this one I couldn't begin to imagine what Roth had coming that could have angered so many readers!

Then I got to the end.

I get it, I really do. I shed some tears but all in all I have to admit that I'm really not disappointed or angry. The end was the end. It worked.

I kind of zipped through these, it was a bit unavoidable. They just begged to be read in one go but it did kind of mean a bit of a book hangover at the end! It was super hard to transition away from the dystopian built paranoia and into a completely different read (which I did with the Titanic based The Girl Who Came Home). Now I really can't wait to see the other two movies!


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Duke City Split by Max Austin + a Giveaway

Morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Max Austin's Duke City Split. This one is new out from Random House's Alibi imprint and they've got a fantastic giveaway to go along with the tour so be sure to read through to the bottom to enter.

Bud and Mick are bank robbers. They've never been busted and it's likely because they stick to the rules. Rule number one: never hit a bank in your own backyard. But when Johnny Muller approaches Mick with a proposition that's almost too good to be true, the pair just can't pass it up. The Tewa Casino's haul is picked up every morning by an armored truck and while said truck varies its route, it always delivers to the same small bank. A small bank with little security and a vault that stays open all day long. They hit the bank on a Monday and come away with a cool three million, easy as pie. But now they've got the Feds, some Chicago heavies, and a ton of other lowlifes on their tail. What's more, someone recognized Johnny Muller! If they can hang onto the cash everything might end up ok, but that's a big if.

Duke City Split was a fun and easy read. Sure it's a pretty basic heist caper and some of the twists are a little predictable but I think there's a lot to be said for a good page turner and Duke City Split is certainly that.

Max Austin is a pseudonym for Steve Brewer, an author I had the pleasure of meeting back in 2008 at Left Coast Crime. I hadn't realized that this was that same author when I signed on for the tour but I'm glad to have discovered his pseudonym. According to his blog, Duke City Split is the first in a new trilogy.

Rating: 3.5/5

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

And now for the giveaway! To enter simply fill out the Rafflecopter below and do note that this is a tour wide giveaway. Good luck!



Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Girl Who Came Home: A Novel of the Titanic by Hazel Gaynor

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Hazel Gaynor's debut, The Girl Who Came Home.

1912: Maggie Murphy and her aunt, along with twelve others from Ballysheen, Ireland, set off to America on the grandest ship ever to be built: RMS Titanic. Maggie is bereft at leaving behind both her home and her sweetheart, but America means a fresh start and new opportunities. Their trip is an adventure that soon turns tragic, but Maggie survives. Her family knows little about her experiences on Titanic but decades later she's finally ready to share her tale. 

1982: After her father's death, Grace gave up college and a wonderful writing opportunity to care for her mother. But now everyone, including Grace's mother and Grace's great-grandmother Maggie, has decided that it's time for her to move on. And to help her along, Maggie is willing to revisit Titanic

Gaynor's debut is of course based on the 1912 sinking of the RMS Titanic, but the book is specifically inspired by the story of the Addergoole Fourteen, said to be "the largest proportional loss of life from one region." Eleven of the Fourteen died in the event. Gaynor's piece in the PS edition includes information on the girls her characters are derived from as well as additional information for those curious about the Addergool Fourteen.

What is it about this piece of history that still so fascinates us over a century later? Is it the fact that the ship epitomized opulence and grandeur? The way everyone behind it seemed to taunt fate by dubbing it unsinkable? Or is it the ultimately tragic end that keeps bringing us back for more? I think it's all of those things combined with the very personal stories of those who were on board.

I am certainly not immune to the lure of Titanic based tales and had been greatly anticipating Hazel Gaynor's debut. To read that her characters were indeed based on very real people who perished in the ship's sinking made the book that much more enthralling and heartbreaking.

I'm not going to lie, though, I did enter into the book with some trepidation. On the one hand, I'd just spent the weekend bingeing on Veronica Roth's Divergent trilogy so historical fiction was a pretty big change up genre wise. On the other hand, I worried that The Girl Who Came Home might be just a little too reminiscent of the James Cameron film. It's certainly not fair, but I can't deny that at least some part of my brain worried.

I am so completely happy to admit, however, that my fear was definitely not realized. It took less than one chapter to completely draw me in. I enjoyed the dual storyline - 1912 and 1982 - and the varying perspectives - Maggie and Grace but also Lucky Harry, Séamus, and the others we get to see throughout the book. Each section includes actual Marconigram messages sent from Titanic and Carpathia. And of course there are Maggie's journal entries that appear throughout the book. Each element melds perfectly to give a feeling of historical accuracy and illustrates the obvious care and attention Gaynor paid to her subject.

Rating: 4/5

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

For more on Hazel Gaynor and the book, you can visit her on the web here; Hazel blogs at www.whimsandtonic.com. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.


The Venetian Bargain by Marina Fiorato - Excerpt + Giveaway

Today marks the release of Marina Fiorato's latest, The Venetian Bargain. Thanks to the publishers, I've got an excerpt to tease you with and I'm able to offer up one copy as a giveaway as well :)

Here's a bit about the book from the publisher first:

Venice, 1576. Five years after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire at the Battle of Lepanto, a ship steals unnoticed into Venice bearing a deadly cargo. A man, more dead than alive, disembarks and staggers into Piazza San Marco. He brings a gift to Venice from Constantinople. Within days the city is infected with bubonic plague—and the Turkish Sultan has his revenge.

But the ship also holds a secret stowaway—Feyra, a young and beautiful harem doctor fleeing a future as the Sultan’s concubine. Only her wits and medical knowledge keep her alive as the plague ravages Venice.

In despair, the Doge commissions the architect Andrea Palladio to build the greatest church of his career—an offering to God so magnificent Venice will be saved. But Palladio’s life is in danger too, and it will require the skills of Annibale Cason, the city’s finest plague doctor, to keep him alive. What Annibale had not counted on was meeting Feyra, who is now under Palladio’s protection—an impossible woman who’s quite possibly his perfect match.

About the author:
MARINA FIORATO is half-Venetian and a history graduate of Oxford University and the University of Venice, where she specialized in the study of Shakespeare’s plays as an historical source. After University she studied art and has since worked as an illustrator, actress, and film reviewer. She also designed tour visuals for rock bands including U2 and the Rolling Stones. She lives in London with her husband, son, and daughter.

PROLOGUE
Venice
Christian Year 1576

Sebastiano Venier, Doge of Venice, gazed from the stone quatrefoil window, with eyes that were as troubled as the ocean.

His weather-eye, sharpened by many years at sea, had seen the storm approaching for three days, clotting and clouding on the horizon and rolling in across the sickly amethyst waves. Now the maelstrom was here, and it had brought with it something more malign than ill weather.

With his flowing white beard and noble countenance, the Doge had been immortalized by Tintoretto and been compared to Neptune who also ruled a seabound kingdom. He had even, in hushed tones, been compared to the Almighty. A profoundly devout man, the Doge would have been deeply troubled, for different reasons, by each comparison; but today he would have given anything to have the omnipotence to save Venice from her darkest hour.

He watched as six figures, huddled together against the elements, hurried along a dock already glazed with water at every flow of the tide, the ebb tugging at the hems of their black robes. The cloaks and cowls gave them a monastic look, but these six men were men of science, not religion. They dealt in life and death. They were doctors.

As they drew closer he could see their masks clearly; bone-white beaks curving in a predatory hook from the dark cowls. The masks were frightening enough, but the reason for them even more ominous.

They were his Medico delle Peste. Plague doctors.

They were six scholars, men of letters from good families, all schooled at the best medical academies, one for each of the six sestieri of Venice. To see the Doctors together was an ill omen. Doge Sebastiano Venier doubted that they had ever even met together before; and they seemed to him to swoop like a murder of crows at a graveside. Perhaps his own. His shoulders dropped for an instant; he felt very old.

He watched the doctors wade along the peerless Riva degli Schiavoni, one of the most wondrous streets in the world, and knew that any minute now they would enter his great white palace. The Doge’s skin chilled as if sea-spray had doused him. He leaned his head against the cool quarrels of glass, and shut his eyes for one blessed instant. If he hadn’t done so, he might have seen a Venetian galleass sailing swiftly away on the dark and swelling waters; but he did close his eyes for a couple of heartbeats, just to be still and breathe in the salt ether.

The smell of Venice.

Sebastiano Venier straightened up, reminding himself who he was, where he was. He looked at the delicate stonework of his windows, the fi nest Venetian glazing keeping the thunder of the sea from his ears. He looked up, tilting his noble head to the ceiling and the peerless frescoes of red and gold painted over hundreds of years by the fi nest Venetian artists, covering the cavernous, glorious space above. And yet, all the riches and the glory could not keep the Pestilence from his door.

The Doge settled in his great chair and waited for the doctors to be announced. They fi led in, dripping, and semicircled him like vultures, the red crystal eyepieces set into their masks glittering hungrily, as if ready to peck the very flesh of him. But the moment they began to speak, the Doge ceased to be afraid of them.

‘We had expected it, my lord,’ said one. ‘In the botanical gardens of the Jesuiti, there have been of late unusual numbers of butterflies – hundreds upon thousands of them.’

The Doge raised a single, winter-white brow. ‘Butterflies?’

The doctor, failing to register the steel in the Doge’s tone, prattled on. ‘Why, Doge, butterflies are well known to be harbingers of pestilence.’

‘It is true,’ chimed in another. ‘There have been other signs too. There is a bakery in the Arsenale, and when you tear the loaves in twain, the bread itself begins to bleed.’

The Doge rapped his fingertips on the arm of his chair. ‘The fact that the pestilence has arrived in Venice is not a matter for debate. The question is, how to best treat the Plague.’

It was no use. One physician wanted to combat the pestilence by advising his patients to wear a dead toad around the neck. The next advised backing a live pigeon into the patients’ swollen buboes in the groin and armpit, so that the tail feathers could draw out the poison. They began to talk over one another, their beaks almost clashing, the masks now ridiculous; the doctors’ learned, mellow voices raised in pitch until they were quacking like so many ducks.

The Doge, irritated, found his attention wandering. These physicians were charlatans, buffoons, each one more self-important than the next. His eyes drifted to the shadow of an arras, where a man, an old man like himself, stood listening; waiting for the moment when the Doge would call him forth, and tell him why he had been summoned.

And now for the giveaway! To enter simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, April 21. Open US only and no PO boxes please. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, April 7, 2014

Beach Blanket Bloodbath by Mark Henry

Happy release day, Mark Henry! And it's a welcome return to Amanda Feral indeed!

A few notes before I begin: First, as this is the official launch day, Mark has a ton of fun stuff planned. Check out the Beach Blanket Blowout page over on Facebook for that. My second note, this is technically the fourth Amanda Feral adventure but it is also the start of a new trilogy of stories, too. I do highly recommend reading the first three books if you can find them, but you won't be totally confused if you don't (you'll just have missed out on the previous fun).

Amanda, Wendy, and Gil are back and they're off on an epic road trip (another epic road trip). When another of the walking dead steals Wendy's stash (Wendy is now a drug lord), she drags Amanda and Gil along on a retrieval mission. But they have a few things to take care of along the way. 

Their first stop is the tiny town of Las Felicitas where Amanda has a scheduled book tour event. On their way the group manages to piss off a group of evil male strippers called The Golden Boys. (Considering Amanda snacked on one of their own...) With the Boys in their tail, they pull into Las Felicitas just in time to attend the local Miss Sand Flea pageant and witness the odd and brutal murder of its winner. Now it's up to Amanda and friends to find the murderer or risk the wrath of Las Felicitas's local bookstore owner. 

Readers, if you're not familiar with Mark Henry or his Amanda Feral series, I should probably warn you about the fairly raunchy content. But if dark humor, snark, and smut are up your alley then you'll want to add Beach Blanket Bloodbath to the top of your reading list.

Here you have the wit and sarcasm we've all come to love in our zombie fashionista heroine and her cohorts, but you have the added bonus of weresharks (and, um, wereshark sex). It's weird to the extreme, I'll admit, but it's also laugh out loud hilarious - the kind you feel a little guilty about later.

And yes, this is the first in a new trilogy. The road trip will continue in A Night to Dismember and Ship of Ghouls, which means way more fun to come!

Rating: 4/5

Sunday, April 6, 2014

New releases 4/8/14

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Venetian Bargain by Marina Fiorato

Night Diver by Elizabeth Lowell

The Intern's Handbook by Shane Kuhn

Keep Quiet by Lisa Scottoline

The Collector of Dying Breaths by M.J. Rose

Driving Lessons by Zoe Fishman

The Cold Song by Linn Ullmann

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

Up at Butternut Lake by Mary McNear

Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead

In Paradise by Peter Mathiessen

Steles of the Sky by Elizabeth Bear

Robot Uprisings ed by Daniel H. Wilson and John Joseph Adams

Ask Me by Kimberly Pauley

The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

The Nethergrim by Matthew Jobin

Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor

New on DVD:
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
August: Osage County

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Detainee by Peter Liney

"Big Guy" Clancy knows that things are bad. As society declined and debt increased, people looked to those with less means as being responsible for it all: the sick, the elderly, the poor... The Island is their home now. An awful place no better than a literal trash heap, Big Guy and the others like him make do the best they can. Escape is impossible - the punishment satellites are almost always watching - and on those foggy nights when the satellites are out of order, the only hope is to hunker down and hope the other group on the island, the bad and unmanageable ones, don't find you. But one night Big Guy makes a shocking discovery, a woman who lives below the surface. A woman who offers him hope and love in a place where he thought neither could exist.

Peter Liney's The Detainee is futuristic/dystopian that kind of brought to mind Escape From New York setting wise. Here you have the outcasts of society (only slightly different from the prison of Escape) who have been forced to build lives for themselves in the worst of circumstances. There are factions - the Village and the Camp. The haves and the government are conveniently separated and protected from this life as long as they have the means not to be sent there themselves. That's kind of where the similarities end but I'm sure you can see why it brought the movie to mind.

Anywho, I liked Clancy. He's definitely something different, especially compared to a lot of the leads in dystopia lately: an aging heavy who has all but given up given his predicament, until something (or someone as the case is here) inspires him to change. His pal Jimmy, the tech wizard, and Lena, the girl, as well as the other characters we meet are all pretty well fleshed out with backstories and development a plenty - even for the first in a trilogy and a not too hefty read.

The scary thing - and probably what I liked best about the book - is how real it felt and how easy it was to believe (and imagine) that society could get to such a state. There's enough explanation of the circumstances behind the establishment of the Island that I had no problem slipping into this reality and - as I said - believing that it was possible. And again, that's quite scary!

The Detainee is the first in a projected trilogy.

Rating: 4/5

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Guest Post by Katherine Addison

Morning, readers! I am super excited to be hosting Katherine Addison here on the blog today. Her debut, The Goblin Emperor, just hit shelves this week and has been garnering lots of great praise from readers and writers alike.

Here's a bit about the book from the publisher:

The youngest, half-goblin son of the elvish Emperor has grown up in exile, isolated and ignored by the glittering world of the elvish court. After his mother’s death he is prepared to spend the rest of his days in a dreary swamp – until an airship crash kills his father and brothers, leaving him the next heir.

Hastily pulled into the role of the next emperor, he is utterly unprepared for the endless intrigue and complex machinations of life in the capital. Even worse, it soon emerges that the airship crash was no accident – somebody assassinated the emperor, and now he stands between the ambitious plotter and the throne. Surrounded by enemies and potential assassins, an alienated child must step up to the throne and assume power he never asked for.

Katherine Addison brings together fantasy elements, from steampunk airships to the labyrinthine societal complexity of historical empires, to create a world of depth and originality. Under the byzantine tale of political intrigue lies an engaging core: craftily rendered, vulnerable characters that will draw the reader into the world of the Goblin Emperor.

And now to hand things over to Katherine and the inspiration behind The Goblin Emperor!

When I was a kid, I read pretty much everything I could get my hands on. Some of it stuck, and some of it didn't, which is pretty much what you expect. But one of the things that stuck like glue was Jean Plaidy's The Young Elizabeth. (Jean Plaidy was the pseudonym of Eleanor Hibbert, who was also Victoria Holt.) We had both The Young Elizabeth and The Young Mary Queen of Scots, and I certainly read both of them more than once, but Mary Queen of Scots was a little difficult to get behind as a young adult heroine--although that was nothing compared to the difficulties I found in sympathizing with her as an adult--and Elizabeth Tudor might have been designed for the purpose. There's probably a permanent warp in my view of Elizabeth I because of this book, even though I know perfectly well that there is a prodigious amount of spin involved. 

Still. Plaidy vividly captured the anxiety of being Henry VIII's second daughter, sometimes a legitimate heir to the throne, sometimes illegitimate (and the daughter of an executed traitor), depending on how Henry wanted to view the world that week. In favor, out of favor, favorite child, least favorite child. Elizabeth spent part of her childhood at court and part under semi-unofficial house arrest at one or another country estate, and her situation only got more precarious during the reigns of her half-siblings, Edward VI, a sickly puppet for ambitious politicians, and Mary I, who earned her nickname, "Bloody Mary," honestly. But Elizabeth survived to become queen, which, if I recall correctly, is where Plaidy's book ends. 

Given Elizabeth's iron grip on her own PR, it seems highly unlikely that even if she had any doubts about her ability to rule, anyone ever saw them. But the idea dug its way into my imagination. What would it be like to come to the throne only because you'd survived all your siblings? What would the decompression be like, from house arrest to coronation? And that's where I found Maia, The Goblin Emperor's protagonist 

I am not actually all that fond of politics. (To be perfectly honest, I loathe politics with a crimson passion.) I don't like novels about politics, and I certainly never intended to write one. But I outsmarted myself. Because if you want to write that story, you really have to write the politics to go with it. Especially if you reject the deus ex machina of the sword in the stone (the gladius ex saxo, I suppose we might call it) or Divine Right kingship, which of course in fantasy can be literal instead of a convenient piece of ideology. But without those "I'm king because the sword says so!" workarounds, the story of Elizabeth's ascenion to the throne is a story entirely made of politics. 

But from Maia's perspective, the political is intensely personal. Without any of the political knowledge that would allow him to sort people by ideologies, goals, and biases, he can only deal with them as individuals, even though he's painfully aware of the agendas he can't see. So, although I was definitely writing about politics on the book's macro level, I was actually writing about people and relationships. I found some of those people frustrating and stupid, just as I find real politicians frustrating and stupid, but I also found that I was able to be sympathetic to characters whose positions I vehemently disagreed with. It was good practice for real life, just as Maia's determined compassion is an ideal I strive to live up to. 

The Goblin Emperor, obviously, is a mish-mash of inspirations (Tolkien and steampunk and the history of the Industrial Revolution and goodness knows what all); The Young Elizabeth is one that's not immediately obvious, but also very deep rooted. Without Eleanor Hibbert's book, I certainly would not have written mine.

Big, big thank to Katherine Addison for her post today and to the folks over at Tor for arranging everything. Be sure to head over to Katherine's site to read an excerpt of the book and check back here soon for my review of The Goblin Emperor.

About the author:
Katherine Addison's short fiction has been selected by The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror and The Year's Best Science Fiction. She lives near Madison, Wisconsin. You can visit her online at www.katherineaddison.com and find her on Twitter as @pennyvixen.

(Katherine Addison is the pseudonym for Sarah Monette.)