Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Bone Seeker by M. J. McGrath + a Giveaway

Edie is spending the nightless summer in Kuujuaq as an interim teacher for the local school. It's supposed to be a break from her home and the memories of her ex stepson's all too recent death. When one of her students goes missing and is later discovered gruesomely murdered, Edie once again gets drawn into the investigation. This time it's at the request of her friend Derek Palliser. With the only other officer in Kuujuaq off for training, the force is grossly unequipped to deal with a murder. His reinforcements - the medical examiner and forensics "team" tasked with the territory are unavailable and Derek knows that every lost minute could be detrimental to such an investigation. What's worse, the locals are all certain the killer is a soldier from the nearby base. The longer Derek takes in solving this one means increased bad blood between the townsfolks and the outsiders.

I was pretty excited to return to Edie after The Boy in the Snow. Before this I hadn't actually read any of the series I'd consider comparable (the Alaska based ones, that is). But even those are Alaska and to my knowledge there aren't any series featuring Inuit. (Flavorwire mentions Smilla of Smilla's Sense of Snow as being part Inuit, which I'd forgotten.) All in all, though, M.J. McGrath's series has a definite exotic flavor considering the setting.

As with The Boy in the Snow, McGrath does a fine job yet again of placing the reader smack dab in the center of this setting. This time it's a quite unforgiving part of the Canadian Arctic. And in the middle of summer with 24 hour sun (though the character's complaints of hot 10 degree C weather - which is about 43 F - made my jaw drop. I'm NOT made for cold weather climate!).

This is a little bit of an issue-y book but it wasn't overwhelmingly so. The incident that inspired part of the plot is outlined a bit in McGrath's afterword and is a nasty bit of history indeed. There's also a lot of attention paid to the relations between the people of Ellesmere and outsiders, which ties directly into the subplot. I've not actually mentioned it in the above synopsis, I think I'll leave it for you to discover, but it's definitely an element that makes The Bone Seeker intriguing from the very start.

One thing I did have a bit of trouble with in this third of the series was a series of sections that seemed to be fairly unnecessary to the overall plot. The appearance of Sammy, for example, did little in the way of helping the story move along. I wasn't even sure why he was there except to possibly add a little emotional turmoil for Edie (though I think she had enough otherwise).

The Bone Seeker is fairly well executed and thoroughly gripping. Like The Boy in the Snow, The Bone Seeker can work quite well for someone new to the series. Do know, however, that there are more mentions of the incidents from White Heat so if you were to go back to that first book later you'd have a handful of those plot points in hand already.

Thanks to the publisher I've got a copy of The Bone Seeker to offer up for giveaway! To enter simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, August 11 (US only and no PO boxes please):

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Lighthouse Island by Paulette Jiles + a Giveaway

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Paulette Jiles's Lighthouse Island.

In the future the city is everything and everything is the city. The old state and city names are gone as are the dates. The same goes for all of the resources. Water is scarce and most people are only allotted a small amount a day. To try to get more is a crime. 

Nadia is born into this world as Raisa but at the age of four she is abandoned. The city takes her in as an orphan renaming her Nadia Stepan - one of many Nadia Stepans apparently. Through it all, though, Nadia remembers her parents' last words to her, words that have led her to dream of the day they might once again be reunited. She's convinced that they are waiting for her and she believes she can find them at the legendary Lighthouse Island. 

There's something of a dreamlike feel to Paulette Jiles's prose in Lighthouse Island. Nadia is an orphan like many other orphans in literature. Her world is a disaster and her lot in life is worse than most as the story begins. She's abandoned, she goes blind for a short period of time, her name is changed, she's shifted around from one place to another. All the while she holds onto a dream of one day escaping to Lighthouse Island and being reunited with her parents.

Jiles, who I've only ever known for her historical fiction, builds a believable and nasty dystopian world in Lighthouse Island. It's the kind of world where your boss can have you seriously punished for the smallest infraction. Nadia is guilty of her own little rebellions, all of which result in demotions and eventually the possibility of arrest. Partway through the narrative those in charge begin turning over the idea of public executions to entertain the public.

There's a sarcasm to the story that's reminiscent of Terry Gilliam's Brazil. Definitely not to the extent of that of the movie, but something in Jiles's tone kept bringing me back to Gilliam's world. It was unexpected but also welcome, something I think works quite nicely to lighten the story just a tiny bit. Most of it comes through Nadia's lies, something she relies on to get by throughout the book.

I have to say, I really had no idea what I was getting myself into with Lighthouse Island. I love dystopian fiction and strong world building is always a must if the setting is to make sense. But in any story you want characters you can get behind and a plot that makes sense. I'd expect any writer worth their salt to be able to do these things regardless of the genre they're tackling but we all know sometimes it just doesn't work.

Jiles pulls it off magnificently! But the book works for me because I was able to really dive in and spend long stretches of time with the book. This is definitely one I'd recommend setting aside time for. Little nibbles of reading would never have gotten me through a book like this and likely would have left me frustrated with the story as a whole. (That dreamlike quality I mentioned above and the author's decision not to use quotation marks...)

Rating: 4.5/5

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

BONUS: I've added a giveaway since the post went live. To enter to win a paperback copy of Lighthouse Island simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, August 11. US only/no PO boxes please.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors Who Take Up My Bookshelves

I've decided to jump on board with Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the topic is: Authors we own the most books by.


I've made a few exceptions - I'm not counting my R.L. Stine or Christopher Pike books. I'm also not including the massive stack of Anne Perry titles I inherited from my grandmother (I've not read ANY of either of her series as of yet).

1. Stephen King - 55 - This was always going to be the top one :)

2. Dean Koontz - 40 - I binge read Koontz one summer as a teen. I did continue reading him for some years after but haven't bought a new one in quite some time. 

3. Mary Higgins Clark - 31+ I do have some newer titles by Clark but haven't read her in quite a while. I had a massive collection of my own but have folded my grandmother's copies in now as well. 

4. Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child - 17 + 5 Child & 3 Preston - you can't separate these two. Yeah, they do their own solo stuff and you can see I have some of those, but even barring those the cowritten titles take up a big chunk of my shelf. 

5. John Saul - 22 - I read most of these around the same time as the Koontz collection. 

6. Some ties at 23 books each - Sue Grafton, Janet Evanovich, Douglas Clegg - I don't think I quite realized how large my Clegg collection is! I'm impressed with myself :) Sue Grafton and Janet E are pretty self explanatory - Grafton's up to "W" in her series and Janet E is up to 21 with the Stephanie Plum series. 

7. Faye Kellerman - 21 - her Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus series caught my attention with Milk and Honey, which I read on my senior trip. I binged the majority of the series after that!

8. Harlan Coben - 20 - 'cause Coben rocks!

9. Another tie at 19 - Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine (14/5) and Michael Palmer - Vine/Rendell has a series and a number of standalones under her belt, all of which are perfect examples of sly British psychological suspense and masterful plotting. As for the Palmer, unfortunately his last book just came out this year. I loved his medical thrillers, though, and started reading them around the time the movie Extreme Measures was released. 

10. And tied with 18 books each - Robin Cook and Peter Robinson - Cook was part of my medical thriller obsession that started in the 90s. As for the Robinson, his newer titles caught my attention and then my grandmother offered up her whole backlist collection. Of course I wasn't going to say no!

The Home Place by Carrie La Seur

Hello, all! Today I'm kicking off the TLC book tour for Carrie La Seur's debut, The Home Place.

It's the kind of phone call no one ever wants to receive: Alma's sister, Vicky, is dead. It's been five years since Alma last saw Vicky. Five years since she was last home in Billings, Montana. Vicky's life hasn't been easy - the three siblings (Pete, Alma, and Vicky) - lost their parents when Vicky was just twelve. Pete was a military man with a drinking problem and Alma, at seventeen, couldn't handle taking care of the family. It fell to their aunt and uncle to raise Vicky. When she got pregnant at sixteen she left their home to live with her boyfriend and has struggled ever since. Drugs, alcohol, money problems... but when the police suggest her death might not be an accident after all, Alma begins to wonder what else Vicky might have gotten herself into after all this time. 

From the very beginning I have to say that Carrie La Seur evokes a very distinct and impressive sense of place. The people, their history and heritage, their lifestyles, all of this is laid out smoothly in Alma's narration. We learn early on about her family's ties to the land, how they got to Montana and what the home place means to them.

We also see the struggles these families face. Lots of drinking, worries about living off the land, coping with the changing times... Alma is at once admired and looked down on for leaving her family behind, breaking out of Montana and making a life for herself. Her own guilt is something that weighs heavy on her.

Much of the story is focused on Alma learning the truth about Vicky's death but this isn't really a mystery. Instead the mystery is an element in a larger story about family. The Home Place is a really fabulous book - an amazing debut, to be quite honest. La Seur writes with an assurance that's unusual for a first novel. This is definitely one I'd highly recommend - and one I'd suggest savoring rather than speeding through.

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

For more on Carrie La Seur you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.


Monday, July 28, 2014

The Girl From the Well by Rin Chupeco

For centuries, Okiku has traveled the world avenging the untimely deaths of children. Okiku is a spirit whose own death was both violent and untimely, but her anger and malevolence has waned and is now under her control. Rather than wreaking unseen havoc and terror, she has a focus and a goal; her vengeance means the release of the young souls she fights to redress. One afternoon, though, Okiku crosses path with a teenager who is still very much alive. His name is Tark and though he still walks among the living, there is something about him that Okiku cannot ignore. 

The Girl From the Well is told from the perspective of a ghost. Okiku's tale - the same ghost who inspired so much J Horror not so very long ago - is a very real ghost story in Japanese folklore. While I always suspected that, for some reason I never looked into it until now. Her story does feature as part of Chupeco's book, however, so I'll leave that for you to discover in the reading.

I liked the narrative style here. Okiku is very detached and unemotional until she meets Tark. Her actual narration evolves to reflect this, moving from very impersonal (referring to Tark and others simply as "the boy" and such) to more personal (Tark as Tark!). Her story is actually just a small part of the overall plot, too. Surprisingly the first third of the book features a kind of astounding amount of action causing me to pretty much barrel through the book in just a few hours. The pacing is quite fast but the introduction of so much intense action early on left me with an undeniable curiosity about where the book would go next. I don't think you could have pried the book from my hands until I was able to see it through to the end! Fortunately it's a bit on the short side and thankfully I didn't start it at midnight.

The Girl From the Well is creepy as all get out. I found it to be way darker than I would have expected for a teen read. Actually, if I'd come across this one as a teen I probably would have been thoroughly freaked and pleased as punch about it, too.

This is, in my opinion, quite an accomplished debut for Rin Chupeco. While not being an overall perfect read, any issues are easy to move past simply because of the unique aspects of the story. It's packed with Japanese folklore the likes of which I personally have never been exposed to before now. It's really fascinating and couched in the context of the book gives the story a depth that would otherwise be sorely missing. And apparently this isn't the last we'll see of Okiku. Chupeco's works in progress page lists a second title in the series as well!

The Girl From the Well actually hits shelves next Tuesday, August 5. If you're a horror fiend I definitely recommend it.

Rating: 4/5


New Releases 7/29/14

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Since You've Been Gone by Anouska Knight

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

The Home Place by Carrie La Seur

The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

Lucky Us by Amy Bloom

The Art of Adapting by Cassandra Dunn

Panic in a Suitcase by Yelena Akhtiorskaya

The Remaining by D.J. Molles

The Wolf by Lorenzo Carcaterra

Back Channel by Stephen L. Carter

This is the Water by Yannick Murphy

The Angel of Losses by Stephanie Feldman

Skin of the Wolf by Sam Cabot (7/31)

Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little (7/31)

The Young World by Chris Weitz

Let's Get Lost by Adi Alsaid

New on DVD:
The Other Woman
Noah

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
Silver Bay by Jojo Moyes

Friday, July 25, 2014

Happenings and Samplers

Morning, everyone! I tell you, this week has been nuts. Hubs was in San Diego - sadly not for SDCC, though if he'd been there without me there would've been a problem. His office also sprung a leak, which has hopefully been fixed now. That involved a whole bunch of book moving, cutting into the ceiling, and patching a pipe. And one of the kitties has to have a tooth pulled. Um, that part of the week has sucked the most. Force feeding a cat meds is an almost impossible chore. For mine, it involved tricking her each time a new dose was due. Tricking her in a different way, mind you, because she figured out the other tricks meant meds!

Anywho, I'm working on some reviews that'll have fun giveaways to go alongside them. Watch for those next week. In the meantime, I wanted to tell you about a few free samplers floating around.

First and foremost is the (drum roll!!!) Simon 451 sampler that's new out this month! Guys, I am super excited about the launch of this line and not only because Gillian Anderson makes her writing debut, but because Simon 451 looks to be releasing some really awesome first titles.

Their lineup (and the titles included in the sampler) are:

A Vision of Fire by Gillian Anderson and Jeff Rovin
The Undying by Ethan Reid
Orbs by Nicholas Sansbury Smith
Orbs II: Stranded by Nicholas Sansbury Smith
The Protectors by Trey Dowell
Styx by Bavo Dhooge

The other two samplers I wanted to share with you today are both from Hachette. They've got a fiction sampler showcasing titles like the two recently Colbert featured titles, California by Edan Lepucki and Sweetness #9 by Stephan Eirik Clark, Megan Abbott's The Fever, M.R. Carey's The Girl With all the Gifts and a ton of others. They've got a non fiction sampler, too, if that's more your style.

All three samplers are (ebooks) free.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Blade of the Samurai by Susan Spann

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Susan Spann's latest in her Shinobi Mysteries series, The Blade of the Samurai.

The shogun's cousin has been murdered in his office and Hiro and Father Mateo have been asked to investigate. They agree, reluctantly, but have hidden the fact that they are both already aware of the murder. In the wee hours of the morning, and just before the body is discovered, Hiro's fellow shinobi Kazu arrived at Father Mateo's residence begging for Hiro's help. The dead man had been murdered with Kazu's own blade! Kazu swore his innocence but Hiro isn't so certain - a shinobi like himself would be trained to lie after all. The shogun gives Hiro and Father Mateo just three days to find the killer. When those three days are up, someone will be punished for the crime whether they've been proven guilty or not. 

This second in Spann's series is my introduction to the story. And while that's mostly fine - the mystery stands alone - the character set up is something I've missed out on.

First, shinobi according to Spann's provided glossary means:

literally "shadowed person." Shinobi is the Japanese pronunciation of the characters that many Westerners pronounce "ninja." ("Ninja" is based on a Chinese pronunciation.)

Second, Hiro's (and Kazu's) real purpose in Kyoto is secret. No one knows they are shinobi. They are there under cover - Hiro is supposed to protect Father Mateo and does so under the guise of being his translator. I do imagine that much of this as well as the development of Hiro and Father Mateo's relationship plays a great part in the plot of Claws of the Cat. In this second outing, though, it's clear that Father Mateo knows Hiro is shinobi and that the two of them have developed a rapport and trust based around his skills and their shared secret. And yet Hiro doesn't know why he's been hired to protect Father Mateo in particular.

Spann spends a good amount of time setting the scene both culturally and historically in the book, but it is fluid and blends naturally into the story rather than sounding like a classroom lecture interspersed in the narrative. Sixteenth century Japan has some quite different rules about class, law, and respect. Most interesting, and a key part of the plot here, is the fact that if Hiro and Father Mateo fail in uncovering the murderer's identity to the shogun's satisfaction, they could actually be held responsible in the killer's stead! At the same time, there's a political based secondary plot that involves the arrival of a neighboring lord and a possible plot against the shogun.

I quite enjoyed my introduction to Hiro and Father Mateo. Spann's setting is unique and the overall tone is somewhat light. I really appreciated the fact that Spann was able to so smoothly incorporate the historical aspects, giving the reader a real understanding of Kyoto in the 1500s. Readers looking for something beyond the usual mystery fare will certainly find the Shinobi Mysteries appealing.

Rating: 4/5

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

For more on Susan Spann and her work, you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

What Strange Creatures by Emily Arsenault

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Emily Arsenault's latest, What Strange Creatures.

Theresa doesn't mind dog watching for her brother's girlfriend for the weekend, but when Monday rolls around with no sign of Kim, Theresa starts to get concerned. A bit of poking reveals that pretty much no one has any idea where Kim is. Just a few days later, though, the hotel Kim stayed at reports her missing and her car is found abandoned. Theresa and her brother begin to do some digging and find that the girl might have been mixed up in something shady. Nothing prepares them for what comes next, however. Kim's body is discovered and Theresa's brother is arrested for murder. Now it's up to Theresa to find out what Kim was really involved in and who might have had reason to kill her.

Arsenault's latest is a puzzle packed with charming characters and intrigue. Theresa is a perpetual grad student working as a copywriter for a votive candle company and delaying her thesis. Her brother, once labeled a genius, never finished college and has been unemployed since losing his job as a school bus driver. Theresa suspects he drinks too much as well. Murder, though, that's one thing she's sure her brother would never be capable of.

Kim is a mystery to them both. They discover some pictures of a local politician on her phone and soon realize that Kim was up to something questionable as pertains to the man. Was she blackmailing him? Was she having an affair? Was he the one that killed her?

I kind of loved What Strange Creatures. And I kind of knew I was going to love it from the start. Theresa drew me in from the opening lines:

What are you supposed to do on the second night your brother is in jail on a murder charge?

Should you watch The Colbert Report? Should you clean the black crud from behind your kitchen faucet? Should you make yourself a smoothing with protein powder?

Her penchant for turning to her thesis subject, Margery Kempe, is also incredibly endearing and quirky.

Overall I found What Strange Creatures to be a fairly light and quick read with the kind of plot and characters that will appeal to a wide array of readers from book clubbers to mystery fans.

Rating: 4/5

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

For more on Emily Arsenault and her work you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook.


Monday, July 21, 2014

Wicked Wildfire Readathon 2014 Update


So as I mentioned last Monday I'm signed on to take part in the Wicked Wildfire Readathon hosted by the gals over at My Shelf Confessions. The readathon runs 7/14-7/24.

These were my planned titles:

Definites:

Bliss House by Laura Benedict - done

A Triple Knot by Emma Campion - done

No Longer & Not Yet by Joanna Claps Herman - done

Traitor's Blade by Sebastien de Castell

What Strange Creatures by Emily Arsenault - 170/366

Blade of the Samurai by Susan Spann 

The Bone Seeker by M.J. McGrath

Maybes:

The Stone Boy by Sophie Loubière - this looks fabulous and will be read sooner rather than later

The Intruders by Michael Marshall Smith - my goal is to read this BEFORE the show starts

Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan - done

I did go off list once already:

The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson - done

Not too shabby but I'm still hoping I can get to quite a few more. As soon as What Strange Creatures is wrapped up I'll be diving into Blade of the Samurai. If all goes well I can finish my definites and get one more maybe in before Thursday is over. (I'm planning for heavy reading and no real tv time tonight and tomorrow.)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

New Releases 7/22/14

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Ice Shear by M.P. Cooley

Hounded by David Rosenfelt

What Strange Creatures by Emily Arsenault

Bravo by Greg Rucka

The Gone Dead Train by Lisa Turner

Valor by John Gwynne

Remains of the Innocent by J.A. Jance

Support and Defend by Mark Greaney (Tom Clancy)

Prototype by M.D. Waters (7/24)

The Bone Seeker by M.J. McGrath (7/24)

The Forsaken by Ace Atkins

Last to Know by Elizabeth Adler

Extraction by Stephanie Diaz

One Past Midnight by Jessica Shirvington

New on DVD:
Transcendence

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
The Best Horror of the Year v 6 ed by Ellen Datlow
One Hundred Names by Cecelia Ahern
Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen

Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan

I'm not a HUGE stand up fan. Yes, I enjoy it. Yes, we frequent our local comedy club (shout out to Comedy Works). And yes, since the launch of 103.1 every trip we take in my husband's car is to the soundtrack of stand up. So when I say I'm not a HUGE fan I mean that for reasons that escape me I don't generally pick up comedians' book releases when they hit shelves. And yet, once upon a time I did read Tim Allen and Paul Reiser as well as a few others (yes, that shows how long it's been!). Plus,  Tina Fey's Bossypants! Even I'm not immune to that.

In a roundabout way, this is my intro to my review of Jim Gaffigan's Dad is Fat and to explain why, even though it might seem an odd choice for me, I chose it as my latest Blogging for Books selection. I've seen Gaffigan's stand up specials and he's really hilarious. I also saw him on The Daily Show when he was original promoting this book, so it's been on my radar for some time.

I didn't quite realize that the whole book was about parenting - this was totally my own fault considering the book is called Dad is Fat and I did watch the above linked interview but apparently didn't pay attention that much. But hey, Jim Gaffigan is known for self-depracating humor in general so I just figured it was a quip about funny (and mean) things kids say amongst other life things. Nope, it's all parenting. And it's all hilarious even for a thirty-something with no kids. Why? Because I think all of us at my age - even the ones with no kids - have some exposure to kids and parents.

Gaffigan's humor is, as mentioned, quite self deprecating. A lot of the jokes in the book are still at his own expense even when it's simple commentary about kids' behavior, watching his wife give birth, or things observed in other parents. If you've ever seen or heard Gaffigan's stand up (and like it, obviously) then you'll not want to miss Dad is Fat. And if you haven't seen/heard Gaffigan, look him up. I recommend this particular Hot Pocket clip (referenced in the intro to the book). And if you do happen to be one of the gazillions of people out there with kids, then you'll probably appreciate this book even more than I did.

Rating: 4/5

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

Friday, July 18, 2014

Bliss House by Laura Benedict

It wasn't Rainey's fault that her husband died. The explosion that killed him and crippled her daughter was nothing more than a tragic accident. And yet, as time passes she finds that she can no longer face her old life. The desire to get away and make a future for her and her daughter drives her to Old Gate and the historic Bliss House. And though no Blisses have owned the house for quite some time, Rainey has come to bring it back to the family and restore it to its former glory. But Bliss House has secrets. Secrets that are begging to be revealed. Secrets that could potentially endanger Rainey and her daughter. 

Laura Benedict has long been a favorite of mine and each new book she releases is immediately on my must have list. I was actually planning to read this one about a month ago - in time to cover it for its release - and things kept delaying me. As annoyed as that was making me, I have to say it was clearly fate's way of telling me to wait. The weather this week was perfect reading for a haunted house story - rare and noisy thunderstorms here in Colorado!

I do so enjoy a good haunted house story and Bliss House is a GOOD haunted house story. As the revelations of the house begin to unfold, it becomes clear to the reader that Benedict has so much more hidden up her sleeve. Even if I didn't know already that she's working on more Bliss House books, I'd have finished with a sneaking suspicion that it wasn't the last we'd see of the creepy abode.

Rainey and Ariel's story is ultimately one of a mother trying her best to care for her daughter. Rainey, an interior designer, is in a way responsible for their current state. She'd purchased an antique stove that wasn't properly installed, causing a gas leak in their previous house. Now, her daughter is scarred to such an extent that she refuses to go out in public. But their move to Bliss House begins to change Ariel, not necessarily in a good way. And Rainey does refuse to see what so many of the locals see in Bliss House. Even admitting at the beginning that the most recent and scandalous events at the house have allowed her to afford buying it isn't enough for her to recognize the ominous stain that permanently mars the estate. Not that she or anyone else really knows the true extent of the story.

There is a secondary story that plays directly into Rainey and Ariel's tale, that of a young woman kidnapped and held in the house at some time prior to when Bliss House takes place. Her story is truly horrific and as we begin with her tale it does set the tone for the book as a whole.

At times Bliss House is a quite nasty book, just in terms of kinds of violence. If you're a sensitive reader, you have been warned. But overall it's not a terribly graphic horror novel. Instead, Bliss House is the kind of horror that relies on overall plot, atmosphere, and characters to provide the necessary thrills and chills of the story. And boy does Benedict build up the atmosphere!

Bliss House is out now and makes for the perfect creepy bedtime read (even if it's not raining!).

Rating: 5/5

Thursday, July 17, 2014

No Longer and Not Yet by Joanna Clapps Herman

Hi, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Joanna Clapps Herman's short story collection, No Longer and Not Yet.

In this interconnected series of stories, Joanna Clapps Herman illustrates the everyday. The pieces of life one might take for granted. The relationships all around us. Tess travels Italy with a new lover, Max. Back home, her friend Naomi makes a big life change. Olivia faces the loss of her brother. Upon their return, Max faces the reality of new love. Clapps Herman offers up a look at these characters and more, giving readers a glimpse into the stories that surround us. 

All of the stories progress in a way that is somewhat atypical of a short story collection. Generally each piece would stand on its own with little or no return to the characters you've met in previous tales. Here we return again and again to the characters already introduced, catching bits and pieces here and there. This is a benefit, I think, to No Longer and Not Yet because otherwise it would be exactly the kind of short stories I don't enjoy. Instead, where there's no question that this is a collection of connected shorts, it can somewhat be read as a novel. You get more of a look at each character along the way. And so a look at the more mundane aspects of life does somehow become a more encompassing look at these people's lives.

Joanna Clapps Herman has a knack for drawing the reader's attention to small details while not being overly verbose (as you might expect by my pointing out the small details). And while there's something there, the collection did miss the mark a bit for me as a reader. I have to say, however, it's been getting really positive reviews on the tour and I'd highly encourage you to check out those other reviews. No Longer and Not Yet is likely a Goldilocks book - for some it'll be too big and others it'll be too little, but for many it'll be just right.  

Rating: 3/5

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here. For more on Joanna Clapps Herman and her work be sure to visit her website here.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Triple Knot by Emma Campion

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Emma Campion's latest, A Triple Knot.

Joan of Kent remembers her father fondly. Unfortunately for her he was labeled a traitor and hanged for his supposed crimes. In the wake of this tragedy, her uncle, King Edward III, agreed to take in Joan and her family as his wards. For Joan this means a life as a pawn to be used to her uncle's advantage; her future depends on his mercy. Torn between love and duty, Joan faces the ultimate sacrifice - abandoning her true love in order to serve the king. But Joan refuses. She marries in secret and thus begins a life filled with passion and scandal. 

Is there any historical fiction reader out there that still holds onto the Disney version of what it means to be royalty? Seriously?!

So Joan of Kent begins her life with a cloud over her head: her father's supposed crimes against the crown, which are somewhat forgiven - immediately after his death. Joan herself isn't allowed to make any of her own decisions. She's just twelve when she meets and falls for her first husband, and yet she keeps the marriage secret because she believes that if discovered her husband will be hanged! Then when she's married off to another man and her actual marriage is discovered, this new husband keeps her captive.

Campion's story ends with Joan's eventual marriage to her cousin, Edward (the Black Prince). A quick read of her history (because I knew nothing of her before reading A Triple Knot) shows that her son with Edward would go onto become Richard II, the king whose reign pretty much leads up to the War of the Roses.

Part of Joan's problem lies in the fact that her uncle was set on claiming the French throne in addition to the English one. His campaign requires support both in arms and money and he plans to use Joan and his own children to gain these things. But Joan's cousin, the heir to the throne, has also made clear that he wants Joan for himself - as early as age eight! Seeing as how their union wouldn't be advantageous to Edward III's plans there's no way he and his wife would allow it. And yet it does come about anyway.

This is Campion's second title to focus on this particular era of the British monarchy. Her debut (as Campion, which is a pseudonym for Candace Robb - author of historical mysteries), The King's Mistress, is the story of Alice Salisbury, Edward III's mistress.

A Triple Knot is engaging both because of the nature of the story (secret marriages, political manipulation... what's not to love?!) and because of Campion's great characterization. I think I would have liked for Joan's story to be brought all the way to its eventual end, but overall this was another historical tale I'd highly recommend to fans of the genre.

Rating: 4/5

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here. For more on Emma Campion and her work you can visit her website here.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite TV Shows

I've decided to jump on board with Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the topic is: other types of stores, i.e. movies or tv shows. I'm going with TV shows! To simplify it, I'm going with shows that are current - it'd be eaten up by stuff like Joss Whedon and X-Files otherwise.


1. Doctor Who - I wasn't even five when I was first introduced to this show. I love it! LOVE IT! Seriously, I'm a bit obsessed I enjoy it so much. 

2. Masterpiece - this is a cheat and a catch all because I do enjoy the classics, Mystery, and contemporary, but I don't watch ALL of them. Of course I'm a HUGE Downton Abbey fan and we devour Sherlock. Silk was fabulous (I hope it comes back) and I'm completely loving Endeavour right now, too. I don't really do Poirot or some of the others, but definitely too many of them to list individually. 

3. Grey's Anatomy - yep, I've been watching since the beginning. 

4. The Walking Dead - do I need to include an explanation?

5. Justified - oh, Raylan! On that note I should just include Luther here as well. 

6. Parenthood - so sad this is coming to an end soon. 

7. Sleepy Hollow - yeah, it's got a certain element of cheese to it but I think it's super fun. 

8. Grimm - oh, I love this one! I can't wait til it comes back next season and we get to see what's up with Nick!

9. Game of Thrones - duh!

10. Ripper Street - a period mystery show starring Matthew McFadyen. I've sung it's praises here before

As you can see, I'm a little bit of a Brit tv addict. I ran out of space before I even got to Orphan Black! Totally binge worthy! I did this post last year on some of my favorite British shows and some book recs too if you're interested. 

Traitor's Blade by Sebastien de Castell - Excerpt

Hello, readers! Today marks the US release of Sebastien de Castell's debut, Traitor's Blade. This one is tops in my TBR right now so I'm super excited to be able to share an excerpt with all of you!

First, though, here's a bit about the book from the publisher:

Falcio had it all: serving as a beacon of justice for the people, two best friends and brothers in arms, fantastic skill with a sword, and a King set on righting the wrong in the world—until it all came crashing down one day.

After the King’s untimely demise, Tristia is on the verge of collapse as each Ducal house vies for supremacy. As chaos descends upon the land, Falcio and the rest of the King’s magistrates, also known as the Greatcoats, are forced to disband and are labeled traitors by the Dukes.

All Falcio has left are his two best friends, Brasti and Kent, the ridicule of the people he once protected, and a mysterious mission left by his beloved King. With his mission as his only solace, Falcio is willing to do anything to see it through—even if it means reuniting the Greatcoats and taking the Dukes head-on.

This book is getting fabulous reviews, like this one from Tabitha over at Not Yet Read. Honestly, if the book hadn't already been in my "must read" plans, Tabitha's praise definitely would have put it there! Niall Alexander over at Tor.com also had quite nice things to say.

I'll be posting my own review here later this week, so be sure to head back and check it out. Until then, here's the excerpt:

Excerpted from Traitor’s Blade by Sebastien de Castell. Copyright 2014. Published By Jo Fletcher Books. Used by permission of the publisher. Not for reprint without permission.

LORD TREMONDI

Pretend, just for a moment, that you have attained your most deep-seated desire. Not the simple, sensible one you tell your friends about, but the dream that’s so close to your heart that even as a child you hesitated to speak it out loud. Imagine, for example, that you had always yearned to be a Greatcoat, one of the legendary sword-wielding magistrates who travelled from the lowliest village to the biggest city, ensuring that any man or woman, high or low, had recourse to the King’s Laws. A protector to many – maybe even a hero to some. You feel the thick leather coat of office around your shoulders, the deceptively light weight of its internal bone plates that shield you like armour and the dozens of hidden pockets holding your tools and tricks and esoteric pills and potions. You grip the sword at your side, knowing that as a Greatcoat you’ve been taught to fight when needed, given the training to take on any man in single combat.

Now imagine you have attained this dream – in spite of all the improbabilities laid upon the world by the ill-intentioned actions of Gods and Saints alike. So you have become a Greatcoat – in fact, dream bigger: pretend that you’ve been made First Cantor of the Greatcoats, with your two best friends at your side. Now try to envision where traitor’s blade you are, what you’re seeing, what you’re hearing, what wrong you are fighting to right—

‘They’re fucking again,’ Brasti said.

I forced my eyes open and took in a bleary view of the inn’s hallway, an overly ornate – if dirty – corridor that reminded you that the world was probably a nice place once but had now gone to rot. Kest, Brasti and I were guarding the hallway from the comfort of decaying chairs taken from the common room downstairs. Opposite us was a large oak door that led to Lord Tremondi’s rented room.

‘Let it go, Brasti,’ I said.

He gave me what was intended to be a withering look, though it wasn’t very effective: Brasti’s a little too handsome for anyone’s good, including his own. Strong cheekbones and a wide mouth clothed in a reddish-blond short beard amplify a smile that gets him out of most of the fights he talks his way into. His mastery of the bow gets him through the rest. But when he tries to stare you down, it just looks like he’s pouting.

‘Let what go, pray tell?’ he said. ‘The fact that you promised me the life of a hero when you tricked me into joining the Greatcoats and instead I find myself impoverished, reviled and forced to take lowly bodyguard work for travelling merchants? Or is it the fact that we’re sitting here listening to our gracious benefactor – and I use the term loosely since he has yet to pay us a measly black copper – but that aside, that we’re listening to him screw some woman for – what? The fifth time since supper? How does that fat slob even keep up? I mean—’

‘Could be herbs,’ Kest interrupted, stretching his muscles out again with the casual grace of a dancer.

‘Herbs?’

Kest nodded.

‘And what would the so-called “greatest swordsman in the world” know about herbs?’

‘An apothecary sold me a concoction a few years ago, supposed to keep your sword-arm strong even when you’re half-dead. I used it fighting off half a dozen assassins who were trying to kill a witness.’

‘And did it work?’ I asked.

Kest shrugged. ‘Couldn’t really tell. There were only six of them, after all, so it wasn’t much of a test. I did have a substantial erection the whole time though.’

A pronounced grunt followed by moaning came from behind the door.

‘Saints! Can they not just stop and go to sleep?’

As if in response, the groaning grew louder.

‘You know what I find odd?’ Brasti went on.

‘Are you going to stop talking at any point in the near future?’ I asked.

Brasti ignored me. ‘I find it odd that the sound of a nobleman rutting is hardly distinguishable from one being tortured.’

‘Spent a lot of time torturing noblemen, have you?’

‘You know what I mean. It’s all moans and grunts and little squeals, isn’t it? It’s indecent.’

Kest raised an eyebrow. ‘And what does decent rutting sound like?’

Brasti looked up wistfully. ‘More cries of pleasure from the woman, that’s for sure. And more talking. More, “Oh my, Brasti, that’s it, just there! Thou art so stout of heart and of body!”’ He rolled his eyes in disgust. ‘This one sounds like she’s knitting a sweater or cutting meat for dinner.’

‘“Stout of heart and body”? Do women really say that kind of thing in bed?’ Kest asked.

‘Try taking a break from practising alone with your sword all day and bed a woman and you’ll find out. Come on, Falcio, back me up here.’

‘It’s possible, but it’s been so damned long I’m not sure I can remember.’

‘Yes, of course, Saint Falcio, but surely with your wife—?’

‘Leave it,’ I said.

‘I’m not – I mean—’

‘Don’t make me hit you, Brasti,’ Kest said quietly.

We sat there in silence for a minute or two as Kest glared at Brasti on my behalf and the noises from the bedroom continued unabated.

‘I still can’t believe he can keep going like that,’ Brasti started up again. ‘I ask you again, Falcio, what are we doing here? Tremondi hasn’t even paid us yet.’

I held up my hand and wiggled my fingers. ‘Did you see his rings?’

‘Sure,’ Brasti said, ‘very big and gaudy. With a stone shaped like a wheel on top.’

‘That’s a Lord Caravaner’s ring – which you’d know if you’d paid attention to the world around you. It’s what they use to seal their votes when they have their annual concord – one ring, one vote. Not every Lord Caravaner shows up for the concord each year, so they have the option of lending their ring to another to act as their proxy in all the major votes. Now, Brasti, how many Lords Caravaner are there in total?’

‘Nobody knows for sure, it’s—’

‘Twelve,’ Kest said.

‘And how many of his fingers had one of those gaudy rings on them?’

Brasti stared at his own fingers. ‘I don’t know – four . . . five?’

‘Seven,’ Kest said.

‘Seven,’ I repeated.

‘So that means he could . . . Falcio, what is it exactly that the Concord of Lords Caravaner is going to vote on this year?’

‘Lots of things,’ I said casually. ‘Rates of exchange, dues, trade policies. Oh, and security.’

‘Security?’

‘Since the Dukes killed the King, the roads have fallen into disrepair. The Dukes won’t spend money or men, not even to defend the trade routes, and the Lords Caravaner are losing a fortune on private security for every single trip they take.’

‘And we care about this why?’

I smiled. ‘Because Tremondi’s going to propose that the Greatcoats become the Wardens of the Road, giving us authority, respect, and a decent life in exchange for keeping their precious cargoes out of the hands of the bandits.’

Brasti looked wary. ‘They’d let us reassemble the Greatcoats again? So instead of spending my life being branded a traitor and hounded from every overcrowded city or Gods-forsaken village the length and breadth of the country, I’d get to run around the trade routes beating up bandits – and I’d actually get paid for it?’

I grinned. ‘And from there, we have a much better chance of fulfilling the King’s—’

Brasti waved a hand. ‘Please, Falcio. He’s been dead for five years. If you haven’t found these bloody “King’s Charoites” by now – and still no one knows what they are, by the way—’

‘A charoite is a gemstone,’ Kest said calmly.

‘Whatever. My point is: finding these gemstones with no clue whatsoever as to where they might be is about as likely as Kest here killing the Saint of Swords.’

‘But I will kill the Saint of Swords, Brasti,’ Kest said.

Brasti sighed. ‘You’re hopeless, both of you. Anyway, even if we do find the Charoites, what exactly are we supposed to do with them?’

‘I don’t know,’ I answered, ‘but since the alternative is that the Dukes hunt down the Greatcoats one by one until we’re all dead, I’d say Tremondi’s offer works for me.’

‘Well then,’ Brasti said, lifting an imaginary glass in the air, ‘good on you, Lord Tremondi. Keep up the good work in there!’

More moaning came from the room as if in response to his toast.

‘You know, I think Brasti may be right,’ Kest said, standing up and reaching for one of the swords at his side.

‘What do you mean?’ I asked.

‘At first it sounded like lovemaking, but I am beginning to think I really can’t tell the difference between these noises and those of a man being tortured.’

I rose carefully, but my battered chair creaked loudly as I leaned towards the door, trying to listen. ‘They’ve stopped now, I think,’ I murmured.

Kest’s sword let out only the barest whisper as he pulled it from its scabbard.

Brasti put his ear to the door and shook his head. ‘No, he’s stopped, but she’s still going. He must be asleep. But why would she keep going if—?’

‘Brasti, move away from the door,’ I said, and threw my shoulder into it. The first try failed, but at the second, the lock gave way. At first I couldn’t see anything amiss in the gaudily appointed room, decorated in what the proprietor fondly believed to be the style of a Duke’s bedroom. Clothes and discarded books were strewn across what had once been expensive rugs but now were moth-eaten and likely homes for vermin. The bed had dusty velvet curtains hanging from an oaken frame.

I had just begun to move slowly into the room when a woman stepped out from behind those curtains. Her bare skin was smeared with blood and, though I couldn’t see her features through the diaphanous black mask that covered her face, I knew she was smiling. In her right hand she held a pair of large scissors – the kind butchers use to cut meat. She extended her left hand towards me, fist closed tight, palm to the ceiling. Then she brought it close to her mouth and it looked as if she might blow us a kiss. Instead, she exhaled, and blue powder billowed into the air.

‘Don’t breathe in,’ I shouted to Kest and Brasti – but it was too late; whatever magic was in the powder didn’t require us to inhale to do its work. The world suddenly slowed to a halt and I felt as if I was trapped between the stuttering ticks of an old clock. I knew Brasti was behind me, but I couldn’t turn my head to see him. Kest was just in my sight, in the corner of my right eye, but I could barely make him out as he struggled like a demon to break free.

The woman tilted her head as she looked at me for a moment.

‘Lovely,’ she said softly, and walked casually, even languidly towards us, the scissors in her hand making a rhythmic snip-snip sound. I felt her hand on the side of my face, then she ran her fingers down the length of my greatcoat, pushing at the leather until she could sneak her hand inside. She placed her palm on my chest for a moment, caressing it softly before sliding it down my stomach and below my belt.

Snip-snip.

She stretched up on her toes and leaned her masked face close to my ear, pushing her naked body against mine as if we were about to embrace. Snip-snip went the scissors. ‘The dust is called “aeltheca”,’ she whispered. ‘It’s very, very expensive. I needed only a pinch of it for the Lord Caravaner, but now you’ve made me use my entire supply.’ Her voice was neither angry nor sad, just as if she were merely making a dispassionate observation.

Snip-snip.

‘I’d cut your throats out, my tatter-cloaks, but I’ve some use for you now, and the aeltheca will keep you from remembering anything about me.’

She stepped back and twirled theatrically.

‘Oh, you’ll remember a naked woman in a mask – but my height, my voice, the curves of my body, these will all slip away from you.’

She leaned forward, placed the scissors in my left hand and closed my fingers around them. I struggled to let them go, but my fingers wouldn’t move. I tried as hard as I could to memorise the shape of her body, her height, the features of her face through the mask, anything that would help me know her if I saw her again, but the images faded even as I watched her. I tried turning the words to describe her into rhymes that I might remember, but those too left me instantly. I could stare right at her, but each time I blinked my eyes, the memory was gone. The aeltheca was certainly effective.

I hate magic.

The woman went back to the curtained bed briefly, then returned with a small pool of blood held carefully in the palm of her hand. She went to the wall opposite us, dipped her finger in the blood and wrote a single word upon the wall. The dripping word was ‘Greatcoats’.

She came back to me once more and I felt a kiss on my cheek through the gauzy fabric of her mask.

‘It’s almost sad,’ she said lightly, ‘to see the King’s own Greatcoats, his legendary travelling magistrates, brought so low; to watch you bowing and scraping to a fat Lord Caravaner barely one step up from a common street merchant . . . Tell me, tatter-cloak, when you sleep, do you imagine yourself still riding across the land, sword in hand and a song on your lips as you bring justice to the poor, wretched people trapped under the heels of capricious Dukes?’

I tried to reply, but despite the effort, I could manage barely a tremor to my lower lip.

The woman brought her finger up and smeared blood on the cheek she had kissed a moment ago. ‘Goodbye, my lovely tatter-cloak. In a few minutes, I’ll just be a hazy memory. But don’t worry, I’ll remember you very well indeed.’

She turned and walked casually to the wardrobe and picked up her clothes. Then she opened the window and, without even dressing, slipped out into the early morning air.

We stood there like tree stumps for a minute or so more before Brasti, who had been furthest away from the powder, was able to move his mouth enough to say, ‘Shit.’

Kest came out of it next, and I was last. As soon as I could move, I raced to the window, but of course the woman was long gone.

I went to the bed to examine the blood-soaked body of Lord Tremondi. She had gone after him like a surgeon and had managed to keep him alive for a long time, somehow – perhaps another property of the aeltheca. The passage of her scissors had for ever imprinted a map of atrocity across the surface of his body.

This wasn’t just a murder; it was a message.

‘Falcio, look,’ Kest said, pointing at Tremondi’s hands. Three fingers remained on his right hand; the rest were bloody stumps. The Caravaner rings were gone, and with them, our hopes for the future.

I heard the sounds of men coming up the stairs, the steady thumpthump of their footsteps marking them as city guards.

‘Brasti, bar the door.’

‘It’s not going to hold for long, Falcio. You kind of broke it when we came in.’

‘Just do it.’

Brasti pushed the door back into place and Kest helped him to shove the dresser in front of it before turning to help as I searched for anything that would link to the woman who’d killed Tremondi.

‘Do you think we’ll find her?’ Kest asked me as we looked down at Tremondi’s butchered remains.

‘Not a chance in any of the hells we’re headed for,’ I replied.

Kest put a hand on my shoulder. ‘Through the window?’

I sighed. ‘The window.’

Fists were banging on the door outside. ‘Goodnight, Lord Tremondi,’ I said. ‘You weren’t an especially good employer. You lied a lot, and never paid us when you promised. But I guess that’s all right, since we turned out to be pretty useless bodyguards.’

Kest was already climbing out as the constables were beginning to force the door of our room.

‘Hang on,’ Brasti said. ‘Shouldn’t we – you know . . .’

‘What?’

‘You know, take his money?’

Even Kest looked back and raised an eyebrow at that one.

‘No, we do not take his money,’ I said.

‘Why not? It’s not like he needs it.’

I sighed again. ‘Because we’re not thieves, Brasti, we’re Greatcoats. And that has to mean something.’

He started making his way out of the window. ‘Yeah, it means something: it means people hate us. It means they’re going to blame us for Tremondi’s death. It means we’re going to hang from the noose while the mob throws rotten fruit at our corpses shouting, “Tattercloak, tatter-cloak!” – And – oh yes it means we also don’t have any money. But at least we still have our coats.’

He disappeared out of the window and I climbed out after him. The constables had just broken down the door, and when their leader saw me there with the wooden sill digging into my chest as I eased myself out of the window, there was the hint of a smile on his face. I knew instantly what that smile meant: he had more men waiting for us below, and now he could rain arrows down on us while they held us at bay with pikes.

My name is Falcio val Mond, First Cantor of the Greatcoats, and this was only the first of a great many bad days to come.

For more on Sebastien de Castell and Traitor's Blade be sure to check out his website here. You can also follow him on Twitter

Monday, July 14, 2014

Wicked Wildfire Read-a-Thon 2014

Morning, all! Today is the start of the Wicked Wildfire Read-a-Thon hosted by the ladies over at My Shelf Confessions. I am super excited that this runs from today (7/14) all the way through next Thursday (7/24) because I will have a have a bit of extra reading time coming up. Plus any excuse to chip away further at my massively overflowing TBR is a good excuse for me!


I do have some titles I'm hoping to get to get to as well as some scheduled review stuff, so here goes:

Definites:
Bliss House by Laura Benedict - I'm late to the party with this one, I'd hoped to read it when it was released last month but just couldn't squeeze it in. This is tops on the list!

A Triple Knot by Emma Campion - blog tour

No Longer & Not Yet by Joanna Claps Herman - blog tour

Traitor's Blade by Sebastien de Castell

What Strange Creatures by Emily Arsenault - blog tour

Blade of the Samurai by Susan Spann - blog tour

The Bone Seeker by M.J. McGrath

Maybes:
The Stone Boy by Sophie Loubière - this looks fabulous and will be read sooner rather than later

The Intruders by Michael Marshall Smith - my goal is to read this BEFORE the show starts

Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan

Some of these are definitely subject to change - depending on my mood :) I think I may squeeze in some shorts and/or novellas as well. We'll see!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

New Releases 7/15/14

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

Seeders by A.J. Colucci

The House of Small Shadows by Adam Nevill

The Bone Orchard by Paul Doiron

Season to Taste by Natalie Young

Traitor's Blade by Simon de Castell

Red Winter by Dan Smith

World of Troubles by Ben H. Winters

The Causal Angel by Hannu Rajaniemi

Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone

All I Love and Know by Judith Frank

Wayfaring Stranger by James Lee Burke

City of Devils by Diana Bretherick

Enemies at Home by Lindsey Davis

Cupcakes at Carringtons by Alexandra Brown

The Butcher by Jennifer Hillier

The Catch by Taylor Stevens

Blade of the Samurai by Susan Spann

Sight Unseen by Iris Johansen

The Last Town by Blake Crouch

The Heist by Daniel Silva

Shots Fired by C.J. Box

The Boleyn Reckoning by Laura Andersen

Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

New on DVD:
Open Grave
Orphan Black season 2
Under the Skin

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains by Neil Gaiman

Pre Pub Book Buzz: My Drunk Kitchen by Hannah Hart

Guys! I'm kind of ridiculously excited about this book. Why? Because I love Hannah Hart. I only discovered her recently thanks to At Midnight, which I do highly recommend to anyone looking for a. funny weeknight entertainment and b. more Chris Hardwick.

Anywho, Hannah's been on the show a few times now but it was Hardwick's mention of her online show My Drunk Kitchen that sent me in search of her YouTube channel. OMG! I find it SUPER freaking hilarious. She's so PUNNY! I don't know how the cookbook will compare, but I'm looking forward to checking it out when it hits shelves this August.

Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads to pique your interest:

One day, sad cubicle dweller and otherwise bored New York transplant Hannah Hart decided, as a joke, to make a fake cooking show for her friend back in California. She turned on the camera, pulled out some bread and cheese, and then, as one does, started drinking. (Doesn't everyone cook with a spoon in one hand and a bottle of wine in the other?) The video went viral and an online sensation was born.

My Drunk Kitchen includes recipes, stories, full color photos, and drawings to inspire your own culinary adventures in tipsy cooking. It is also a showcase for Hannah Hart's great comedic voice. Hannah offers key drink recommendations, cooking tips (like, remember to turn the oven off when you go to bed) and shares never-before-seen recipes such as:

The Hartwich (Knowledge is ingenuity! Learn from the past!) Can Bake (Inventing things is hard! You don't have to start from scratch!) Latke Shotkas (Plan ahead to avoid a night of dread!) Tiny Sandwiches (Size doesn't matter! Aim to satisfy.) Saltine Nachos (It's not about resources! It's about being resourceful.)

This is a book for anyone who believes they have what it takes to make a soufflé for the holiday party and show up the person who apparently has nothing better to do than bake things from scratch. It also recommends the drink you'll need to accompany any endeavor of this magnitude. In the end, My Drunk Kitchen may not be your go-to guide for your next dinner party . . . but it will make you laugh and drink . . . I mean think . . . about life.

If you're curious, you can watch My Drunk Kitchen here. (I highly recommend the Doctor Who themed ep she filmed with Chris Hardwick as well as this particularly fun pizza episode she filmed with John Green.)

Friday, July 11, 2014

Doctor Who Time Trips: A Handful of Stardust by Jake Arnott and The Bog Warrior by Cecelia Ahern

The latest of the two Doctor Who Time Trips e stories wormed their way into my TBR last week! This time it's Jake Arnott and Cecelia Ahern penning the tales.

In "A Handful of Stardust" Doctor number six and his companion Peri find their way to sixteenth century England and come face to face with the notorious John Dee! Dee has discovered something truly magnificent but his thirst for knowledge is literally out of this world. Strangely it isn't Dee or his actions that have drawn the Doctor to earth, but someone (or something) else entirely. 

I won't say this one was my favorite of the series, but it definitely comes close to the top simply because of what the Doctor turns out to be up against. This is Colin Baker's Doctor, another one I'd not actually had the privilege of watching while I was growing up, so my introduction to him here was definitely a welcome one.

Rating: 3.5/5

And finally, Cecelia Ahern's contribution to the series - and the story that drew me to the Time Trips to begin with!

In "The Bog Warrior" Doctor Ten lands smack dab in the center of a Cinderella story. The ball held in the honor of Prince Zircon is meant to ensure peace between his kingdom and the Bog People: at the end of the event, the prince will select a bride from the realm. But Prince Zircon has no desire to marry one of the Bog People, because Prince Zircon is already in love. Unfortunately his direct resistance will mean certain war between the kingdoms. 

This was a fun installment indeed! Never have I ever imagined coming across a Cinderella Doctor Who mashup - but here it is and it worked so charmingly!

Rating: 4.5/5

There's one more story announced in this series, and it's to be penned by Joanne Harris herself. Apparently all of the Time Trips will be collected into a hardcover edition later this year as well.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen

As promised in yesterday's post, I have a follow up review on Lisa Jensen's Alias Hook for you today!

Everyone knows the story of Peter Pan and Neverland - "second star to the right, and straight on till morning" and all of that. And in all the various tellings of the tale there is Captain Hook, the nefarious pirate and sworn enemy of the flying boy. 

But as the saying goes there are two sides to every story and now Hook has been given a chance to tell his.

Ooh, this book was irresistible to me as a reader. Though I have to confess something horrible - I've still never read J.M. Barrie's stories. I know, I know! As a proclaimed Peter Pan fan, it's truly awful! I do have an old copy (a 1950's edition hardcover, illustrated by Nora Unwin) and of course I was raised on the Disney version. Let's not forget Hook either! But I know it's still shameful of a bookworm to admit having not actually read the book they claim to be so fond of. I've got it off my chest, though, and the book IS in the TBR (along with Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson's Peter and the Starcatchers).

But still, I do love the story and immediately had to read Alias Hook when it popped up on the soon to be released lists.

I really liked Jensen's approach with Hook. Rather than the looming baddie, he has a story and a history. He's James Benjamin Hookbridge, the son of a sugar cane plantation owner. James never wanted to live up to the expectations society placed on him and eventually set off to sea to make his name as a hero in the war against France. Unfortunately for him things didn't quite work out that way.

This Hook is somewhat forced into his circumstances both by things beyond his control and by a series of bad decisions, too. After 200 years in Neverland with an ever rotating crew and endless battles with Pan, this Hook is tired of the life. But his curse keeps him trapped until the end of time - or so he thinks. It's the arrival of a woman that begins to turn things around for him, and that's when things get REALLY interesting!

Obviously I can't compare to the "real" Peter Pan mythology having - sadly - still not read the original tale, but I did love Jensen's twists on the story: the Wendys, the truth about the Lost Boys, and Pan as a not quite so great guy here.

Alias Hook is a fun and clever follow up to the classic tale, one I think the kid in all of us can appreciate. (But don't confuse this for a kid's book.)

Rating: 4/5

Don't forget, I'm giving away a copy of Alias Hook. You can enter via the Rafflecopter on yesterday's post.