Thursday, April 30, 2015

What She Left by T. R. Richmond

Hi, everyone! This is my second post today as part of the blog tour for T. R. Richmond's newly released debut, What She Left. You can check out the excerpt post here.

When Jeremy Cooke hears about Alice Salmon's tragic death, he is rocked to his core. Once upon a time, Cooke was very close to Alice's mother and felt a fond affinity for Alice as well. Her death can't be her end. 

And so he begins collating material on Alice - Twitter feeds, Facebook posts, texts, journal entries... anything and everything he can lay his hands on pertaining to her life and experiences. A project forms, one with an anthropological basis - a map of Alice's life. But amazingly, what begins as a bit of an obsession and refusal to say goodbye soon transforms into an investigation that could shed light on Alice's final moments. 

What She Left is a great example of storytelling through somewhat unique means. At heart, Alice's death is a mystery. But so is her life. Using letters, diary entries, and all sorts of electronic correspondence as the narrative thread, Richmond builds a tale that not only fills in the gaps of Alice's story, but of her mother's, her friends', and Cooke's as well.

The various pieces form chapters of a sort. Chapters that are short enough to keep the story moving at a fairly quick pace. And yet, though this is described as a thriller and though there is - as I mentioned - a mystery central to the story, the book doesn't really read like a thriller at all. Instead, it's a sort of cross between the aftermath of death and it's effects on the living and a commentary on social media and the electronic stamp one leaves behind these days. (As well as the notion that not all of a person's public facade can truly be trusted.)

Richmond's debut is a fascinating one that will appeal to readers who enjoy unreliable narrators, epistolary novels, and psychological suspense.

As a bonus, the publisher has put together two extras for readers: Alice's Facebook page and Professor Cooke's Tumblr.

What She Left is out now from Michael Joseph.

What She Left by T. R. Richmond - Excerpt

Hello, everyone! Today I'm part of the blog tour for T. R. Richmond's debut thriller, What She Left, which released just last week. And as part of the tour I've got a little treat for you - an excerpt from the book.

I'll be following up later today with a review, but for now here's a bit about the book from Goodreads to get you started:

Gone doesn't mean forgotten.

When Alice Salmon died last year, the ripples were felt in the news, on the internet, and in the hearts of those who knew her best.

But the person who knows her most intimately isn't family or a friend. Dr Jeremy Cook is an academic whose life has become about piecing together Alice's existence in all its flawed and truthful reality.

For Cooke, faithfully recreating Alice's life - through her diaries, emails and anything using her voice - is all-consuming. He does not know how deep his search will take him, or the shocking nature of what he will uncover.

And now for the excerpt!

Prologue

Article in the Arts Council magazine, 
The Operative Word, 2001 

What’s in a name? That’s the question we asked teenagers to answer in 1,000 words for this year’s New Talent competition. Here’s the winning entry from fifteen-year-old Alice Salmon. 

My name is Alice.

I could leave it there. I know what I mean by that. I’m me, Alice Salmon. Tall, average-looking, big feet, hair that goes wavy at the mere mention of water, a bit of a worry bear. A massive music fan, a proper bookworm, loves being outdoors, though dies at the sight of a spider. 

Mostly it’s Alice people call me, although occasionally I’m Al or Aly or Lissa, the last one of which for the record I hate. When I was a kid I used to have squillions of nicknames like Ali Baba and Ice and, my favourite of all, especially when my dad called me it, Ace. 

My uncle calls me Celia, which is an anagram of Alice, although I get the word ‘anagram’ muddled up with ‘anachronism’. ‘That’s what I am,’ my dad always says if anyone says ‘anachronism’, although the word ‘dad’ is actually a palindrome. I learnt that yesterday. 

I like knowing this stuff, even if my best friend Megan says I sound as if I’ve swallowed a dictionary. It’s not that I like showing off, but you’ve got to if you’re going to study English. If I get the grades, I’d love to go to Exeter or Liverpool, but as long as it’s a long way from Corby I don’t mind, although wherever you go there are probably people trying to get away from there. I’ll be honest, I can’t wait to move out; my mum’s constantly poking her nose into my business. She reckons it’s because she cares, but it’s not fair it’s me who suffers because she’s paranoid. I obviously put that last line in after she read this and she’ll never see it because I’m bound not to win. 

Maybe what’s in my name is the music I like (have listened to ‘Dancing in the Moonlight’ about 400 times today) or the TV I watch (you’re looking at the world’s biggest Dawson fan) or my friends or the diary I keep? Maybe it’s the bits of all of that stuff I can remember, which isn’t much because my memory’s lousy. 

Perhaps it’s my family? My mum and dad and brother who used to called me ‘a lice’ or ‘Mice’ or ‘Malice’ as if it was the funniest joke ever cracked in the history of the world. Maybe it’ll be my kids, not that I’m going to have any, no thank you: all that yuck and puke and poo. I haven’t even got a boyfriend, although if Mr DiCaprio is reading this, I am free on Friday . . . 

‘You’ll change your mind,’ Mum says about the babies, but she said that about asparagus and I haven’t. 

Perhaps it’s the things I plan to do, like travel, or the nicest thing I’ve already done, which hands down was that day’s volunteering at the deaf place (can you see my halo shining?) or possibly the worst (no way am I fessing up to that!). 

I could tell you about my best day ever. That’s a toughie, maybe it was when Meg and I went to see Enrique Iglesias or I met J. K. Rowling or my gramps took me on that surprise birthday picnic, but the thing about ‘ever’ is that it only takes you up to now, and tomorrow can be better so I ought to talk about ‘so far’ rather than ‘ever’. 

There again, sometimes you can explain what an object is by pretending not to talk about it (I’ve just googled that, it’s ‘apophasis’) so maybe what’s in my name are the things I could be doing instead of this, like my maths homework or taking Mr Woof for a walk. 

I used to wish more famous people were called Alice. Not, like, mega famous because then whenever anyone said it, it would be them who everyone thought of – like if you’re called Britney or Cherie – but semi famous. There’s Alice Cooper but he’s a man and that’s not even his real name. There’s Alice in Wonderland, too, which used to get quoted at me a lot, stuff like being curiouser and curiouser, though my favourite line was always the one about not being able to explain yourself because it’s not actually yourself you see, even if I never understood it. 

I suppose I am what I’m writing here, too, which might be rubbish. I asked my mum to read this – only to check the spelling – and she said it was great, even if the first and last lines did make me sound like an alcoholic, but that’s just how she interpreted it. 

Mum said there were a few bits I should reconsider, but there’s no point submitting it if it’s lies, although I did agree to knock out the text speak and swear words and there were lots of them in the first draft (this is the seventh!). I also use too many brackets and exclamation marks but they’re staying in, otherwise (again) this wouldn’t be me. 

‘At times it terrifies me how much we are alike,’ Mum said after she read it. Well, she’s not the only one. Some days, even though she tries to hide it, she mopes around the house like the world’s about to end. (Yes, this line went in after she vetted it, too – talk about the thought police!) 

Dad reckons I must have been dropped on my head as a baby, because me and him have hardly anything in common, although we both love salmon, which is funny because you could say that makes us cannibals. 

My name is Alice Salmon. Five words out of my 1,000. I hope I’m more than 200 times those five words. Even if not now, I hope one day I will be. 

I will finish this now and stand up and ask myself who I am. I do that a lot. I’ll look in the mirror. Reassure myself, scare myself, like myself, hate myself. 

My name is Alice Salmon.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Dark Screams vols 2 & 3 edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for volumes 2 and 3 of the Brian James Freeman & Richard Chizmar edited Dark Screams e collections. Do note that there is a tour wide giveaway on this one, you can enter via the Rafflecopter below.

Shorts, shorts, shorts. Even when there's really no time to read, I think there's still time for shorts!

Dark Screams volume 2 features five tales of very different sorts of horror - a little something for everyone. Literally. Here's the full TOC:

Robert R. McCammon: The Deep End
Norman Prentiss: Interval
Shawntelle Madison: If These Walls Could Talk
Graham Masterton: The Night Hider
Richard Christian Matheson: Whatever

As with volume 1, this collection is a mix of new and old - McCammon's tale of underwater terror originally appeared in 1987 and Richard Matheson's odd story of a rock band's rise and fall first appeared in 1997. The remaining three are new to the collection: "Interval" features a demon that feeds on tragedy; "If These Walls Could Talk" forces a TV producer to face down her dark past; and Masterton's tale is woven around a very famous wardrobe.

Like I said, a mix of all sorts of horror. I must admit that McCammon's story is by far my favorite in this particular installment - it would be, I have a serious fear of underwater creepy crawlies!

In Dark Screams volume 4, the editors bring together more thrills and chills with a super fun mix of horror big wigs and two ladies who are best known for their paranormal tales! They do hold their own quite well, I have to say! Here's the full TOC:

Peter Straub: The Collected Short Stories of Freddie Prothero
Jack Ketchum: Group of Thirty
Darynda Jones: Nancy
Jacquelyn Frank: I Love You, Charlie Pearson
Brian Hodge: The Lone One and Leven Sands Stretch

Straub's tale of a boy who seemingly foretells his own death first appeared in the 2013 Cemetery Dance collection, Turn Down the Lights. The remaining stories are all brand spanking new to the collection. Ketchum's piece is about an author who comes head to head with a strange set of fans (hopefully this one isn't the least bit autobiographical!) while Darynda Jones gives us a fabulous ghost story. Frank's "Charlie Pearson" is a twisted tale of love and obsession, and Hodge forces us to consider whether urban decay might be catching. 

Brian Hodge and Darynda Jones take the top spots in this one for me. Seriously, ghosts and the end of the world? I'm down for that!

Note: Volumes 1 and 2 are both out now. Volume 3 is set for release May 12.

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

And now for the giveaway! As I mentioned above, this is a tour wide giveaway courtesy of the publisher. To enter simply fill out the Rafflecopter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon

Hi, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Bryan Reardon's Finding Jake.

Simon has always tried to be the best parent he can be. Early on, he and his wife agreed that he would be the stay-at-home dad while she continued her career as a lawyer. It meant being home with first their son and then both their son and daughter, day in and day out. He was part of everything. He saw everything - all of the firsts, all of the events... And so when his son Jake is thought to be a suspect in a tragic school shooting, Simon is forced to question everything he knows. 

I think I'm still reeling from this read. It's my second school shooting book in about a month (Silent Alarm by Jennifer Banash was the other one) and as I mentioned in that review, it's just a tough subject overall.

Although both books are ultimately very different, Finding Jake does have some similarities to Silent Alarm. There the story is narrated by the sister of the school shooter. Here the story is narrated by the father of a suspected school shooter. And of course a lot of the emotions and the events going on around both characters are going to be along the same lines. And it's so frustrating!

It's frustrating to connect with a character - Simon - and his family and then face the same fears, concerns, and questions as that character. Was Jake involved? How could Simon have missed that in his own son? Is it somehow Simon's fault? Could Simon have prevented this atrocity? And most importantly where is Jake? Because Jake is missing throughout the story, having disappeared the day of the shooting.

Simon retraces memories of his time spent raising his son. Interactions between the two of them that might lead to some clue or give him insight into the son he thought he knew. All the while Simon is also dealing with the aftereffects of the shooting, watching his family crumble around him, and trying to find some clue as to Jake's whereabouts.

I think you'll understand when I say that Finding Jake is an emotional read!

Rating: 4/5

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here. For more on Reardon and his work, you can like him on Facebook.


Monday, April 27, 2015

No One Gets Out Alive by Adam Nevill

Stephanie is desperate - she's got very little money, no real job prospects, and nowhere to go. Her latest rental was a place she jokingly called "the cell," so the room for rent at 82 Edgehill Road is a bit of a dream come true. Sure it's a little rundown and the landlord something of a creeper, but it's well within her budget and spacious to boot. And the ad said women only, which sets Stephanie's mind at ease at least a little bit. 

But when Stephanie begins to hear and see things that are beyond explanation, she knows she has to get out of the house on Edgehill Road. Even when the landlord refuses to refund her deposit, she gives herself until the end of the weekend to find a friend who will let her crash. But making it through the weekend is a tougher order than she thought it would be. 

You can probably tell by my reviews and reading taste that it takes a lot to shake me up reading wise, but Adam Nevill did manage to do so with No One Gets Out Alive. Holy moly did it freak me out! Honestly, I was reading LATE at night and had to force myself to set it aside with just 150 pages to go because I thought it might actually give me nightmares.

Stephanie's story is bleak and dark. She's young and fairly well educated but has had to leave school because of lack of money. Her parents are both gone and her stepmother was a step monster she was glad to leave behind, so there's really no one she can turn to in her time of need. And this is a time of need if ever there was one!

The landlord at Edgehill Road immediately rubs her the wrong way but she takes the room anyway, that's how desperate she is. But even she has her limits - and weird noises in her bedroom, a crying neighbor, and a complete lack of sleep as a result are it. Things only get worse the longer she's in the house, which does turn out to be both haunted and extremely dangerous.

And then the story takes a turn. A really unexpected turn, to be honest. And it's fabulous!

As much as I enjoy horror, haunted houses are by far my favorite but it's usually a lot of same old same old. Any time an author can surprise me they get super major points in my book and Nevill gets LOTS of points for this one. LOTS! Even I was a little concerned, though, that this one was going to end up being just a bit too dark for my taste given what goes on at Edgehill Road, and it very likely will be for some readers, but this beast of a book ended up being an almost one-sitting read for me and even when it was majorly creeping me out I could not put it down. Well, except for my own sleep's sake, as I mentioned above. But I did literally pick it straight up as soon as I woke up. Didn't even shower or start my day until I was done!

I could probably go on and on fangirling over this one but let's recap real quick:  No One Gets Out Alive is a unique spin on a haunted house story that kept me up all night and freaked the crap out of me. Yeah, this one's definitely one I happily recommend for horror fans and the 4th entry on my 2015 favorites list!

Rating: 5/5

No One Gets Out Alive is out tomorrow in the US.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

New Releases 4/28/15

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

No One Gets Out Alive by Adam Nevill

Depth by Lev AC Rosen

The Dismantling by Brian DeLeeuw

Charm by Sarah Pinborough

The Last Bookaneer by Matthew Pearl

Black Run by Antonio Manzini

The Children Return by Martin Walker

Early Warning by Jane Smiley

Mirrorworld by Jeremy Robinson

The Doll Maker by Richard Montanari

Your Next Breath by Iris Johansen

The Vorrh by Brian Catling

The Silence that Speaks by Andrea Kane

The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough

Death Wears a Beauty Mask by Mary Higgins Clark

Gathering Prey by John Sandford

Grave Consequences by David and Aimée Thurlo

The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley

Rogue by Julie Kagawa

The Secrets We Keep by Trisha Leaver

New on DVD:
The Gambler
Paddington
Inherent Vice
Accidental Love
The Boy Next Door

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
Hush Hush by Laura Lippman

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon

It's Saturday, what are you doing? I'm reading! Mike's class just happens to coincide with the Dewey's 24-Hour Read-a-Thon and while I'm not certain I can do all 24 hours, I can definitely commit to 12 :) So here goes.

I'm pairing this a bit with cleaning out my e reader. First up are:


Dark Screams v 2 edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar
Dark Screams v 3 edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar
The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris

(These shouldn't take long, the two Dark Screams anthologies are about 200 pages combined and Loki is close to that. I'll add more to the list as the time goes by.

And for the opening meme ('cause I just woke up):

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

Colorado - just outside Denver, to be specific

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

Right now, Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

No clue, this is a totally spur of the moment thing for me.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

Hm, I'm a total book junkie whose backlog of TBR titles is getting out of hand. I prefer physical books to e books, so my e reader gets seriously neglected when I pick new reads. Hence my attempt not only to take advantage of my husband being away by taking part in the read-a-thon but my focus (at the start at least) on e titles in particular for the day. 

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

This is my first Dewey's read-a-thon and I am most looking forward to seeing how many books I can read before the end of the day!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Lowcountry Boneyard by Susan M. Boyer

Hi, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Susan M. Boyer's third Liz Talbot mystery, Lowcountry Boneyard.

The disappearance of Kent Heyward has been all over the news of late. And when Liz is hired to dive into the investigation, she's both apprehensive and excited. Kent, a twenty-three-year-old working in advertising, recently graduated from college. She also recently announced her relationship with FIG head chef, Matthew Thomas, something her upper crust parents have been less than keen about. Given the circumstances and lack of evidence otherwise, the police have determined that Kent left of her own accord. But her family disagrees. Now it's up to Liz to either find the evidence to support the police department's determination or find the missing heiress.

I had two concerns going into Lowcountry Boneyard: first that it would be a bit too cute for my taste. I do love a good PI mystery, but I'm not a HUGE cozy fan. I mean I'm not opposed in general, but they are usually just too darn cute for me. My second concern was that with this being the third in a series I might be a bit lost. In spite of these, though, (suck up moment) I love what Henery Press is doing and have been interested in reading more of their titles so I figured it was worth a shot.

Fortunately, mystery fans, neither of these potential issues turned out to be issues at all. What I got from Lowcountry Boneyard was a super fun - and yes, a little cute - mystery packed to the brim with southern charm. There were indeed some references to previous cases, but nothing about this title was overly dependent on those previous installments - at least not to the point that it hindered my enjoyment anyway.

Liz is insanely likable and battling with an issue that pits her loyalty to home against her partner/lover - this made for a great subplot to the book and a little conflict as well. She's got a guardian spirit by her side to help her out (yeah, that was a little cutesy), but she's a good PI as PI characters go in my opinion.

The best part, though, is the strong sense of place. The series is set in Charleston, much of it focused on the fictional island of Stella Maris. Boyer spends such a great amount of time building the little details of Liz's life here that it not only feels like a real place, it feels as though it could be one of the characters.

Lowcountry Boneyard is a solid mystery and a great introduction to Liz and Stella Maris - it's sold me on this being a nice new PI series to add to my to read list as well.

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

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


Thursday, April 23, 2015

What You Left Behind by Samatha Hayes

The village of Radcote is still reeling from a recent spate of suicides when another teen is determined to have taken his life. DI Lorraine Fisher isn't there to investigate, however. Nope, Lorraine is on a much-needed vacation visiting her sister. They're to spend the week as a family seeing the sites and enjoying each other's company. 

But Lorraine's hopes for a quiet and work-free week are dashed when she catches wind that this latest suicide might be anything but. And when another suicide is discovered and her own nephew disappears, Lorraine knows she can't sit on the sidelines any longer. 

Samantha Hayes's latest is a return to DI Lorraine Fisher of last year's Until Your Mine, but it's a spoiler-free return.

The book begins with this latest suicide, which the reader is well aware is actually an accident. And it's a pretty jarring opening. The plot moves quickly forward with Lorraine's arrival in Radcote and Hayes setting the scene for a promisingly tense family reunion. Not only do we know that the house in Radcote is the same Lorraine grew up in, but that her sister's ownership of the house was something of a hoped-for source of contention on the part of Lorraine's mother. And that's not even getting into the actual atmosphere of the house when Lorraine arrives, with her nephew being relentlessly bullied and her sister newly separated.

Whew! Like I said, Hayes sets the scene for a tense reunion.

Even those who haven't read Until Your Mine (like me) are quickly made aware of the fact that Lorraine is a driven cop who's often at risk of putting her cases before her own family. What's more, it turns out she has very real reason to be concerned about the local investigation thanks to her work experience. She's not quite tough-as-nails, though her sister might tell you otherwise, but Lorraine thankfully does not take any crap.

In other words, she's a heroine I can definitely get behind!

Hayes throws a few red herrings out, but I don't think I'm wrong in saying that a seasoned reader is unlikely to fall for them. Fortunately Lorraine is such a strong character that she easily carries the plot, making What You Left Behind (aka Before You Die) a pretty fun read over all.

Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Threshold by G.M. Ford

Hi, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for G.M. Ford's latest, Threshold.

Mickey Dolan is going through what some might call a rough patch. The detective has recently been popped for excessive force on two occasions and his personal life is quite out in the open - like PSA open. So his boss assigning him a touchy case is something of a second chance. 

A local politician's wife has disappeared with their two children. The wife is said to be suffering from some mental health issues and has lost custody of the kids, but some think they could be hiding out at a local battered women's shelter. Unfortunately, Dolan soon learns that this isn't simple custody case at all. The wife and children allege that the politician has been abusing them but that the reports have been covered up because of his position. And the politician isn't going to let things rest. 

Threshold is a bit of an odd duck. Ford alternates clipped bits of story beginning with a potential hostage situation in a hospital but before the reader has much information about what's going on, the scene switches to Mickey Dolan. And the story continues to play out in this manner for the entire length of the book - Ford feeding the reader bits and pieces of two alternating story lines, inching them both forward.

Threshold is a quick read and even though I was confused for the first 50 pages or so, I have to admit my interest was piqued even early on. Readers who can stick it through these opening sections will likely enjoy the read as a whole. There's a second storyline involving a woman who has the ability to bring people out of comas. She was a somewhat more intriguing element to me than Dolan and his case, but combined their plots - and crossover - do make for an interesting and suspenseful read.

Rating: 3/5

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


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: All Time Favorite Authors

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 all time favorite authors.

This was a tough one! I feel like I have about six solids and the rest were whatever the heck I felt like were my favorites in the moment. Oh, well. 

Pleasantville by Attica Locke

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Attica Locke's latest, Pleasantville.

It's 1996 and Houston is in the midst of a heated campaign that could result in its first black mayor: Pleasantville's own Axel Hathorne. When a Pleasantville girl goes missing while reportedly working for the campaign itself, though, things turn sour quickly. Hathorne's team denies any connection to the girl, claiming she was never an employee and definitely wasn't out on campaign business when she disappeared, but that doesn't keep Hathorne's team clear of suspicion. 

Jay Porter has been representing the people of Pleasantville in a big case against a nearby chemical plant. It's his only case at the moment and he plans to keep it that way; Porter aims to retire once the case has wrapped up. But the missing girl isn't the first to disappear in the area and when his clients ask for his assistance, Jay can't help but become involved even if it means once again returning to the courtroom.

Locke's latest involves everything from politics and race relations to environmental issues and, of course, a mystery. And this isn't her first Porter tale. Porter's previous outing, Black Water Rising, released in 2009 and was nominated for a number of awards including the Edgar. No worries, though, Pleasantville easily works as a stand alone.

The family dynamic is a big part of this story - not only in terms of the main plot, but for our lead character in particular. Jay's wife died while he was working a big trial and he's been plagued by guilt ever since. It's prompted his desire for retirement and his attempts to keep even his latest case (the one against the chemical plant) out of court. He's now a single father raising a teenage daughter and a young son. The relationships between the three, and between Jay and his friends, colleagues, and clients are all incredibly well drawn, adding further texture and substance to the story as a whole.

And yes, there's a lot of politics in Pleasantville. If you've ever read Locke (and I definitely suggest that you do, you can read my review of The Cutting Season here) then you'll know that this is to be expected. Fortunately, the politics don't overwhelm the story as a whole - and by that I mean a. you don't have to be an expert on regional politics and b. at no point does the story become dry or bogged down by this element of the book. Not at all, in fact. Locke does a fabulous job of weaving these aspects into the story while still maintaining a pacing and momentum that any suspense fan can appreciate.

Rating: 4/5

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

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

Bonus: Locke is on NPR today talking about the book.


Monday, April 20, 2015

Short Fiction... er... Monday: Dark Screams vol 1 edited by Brian James Freeman & Richard Chizmar

It's Monday! I've spent the weekend reading some things that I have to hold a bit for review and this Friday has a tour post scheduled, so I'm posting a short fiction Friday post on a Monday! Gasp!

Readers, I've been super busy, which is amazing because to the outside world it would seem I have lots of free time. But I am doing a few publishing things that I won't yet mention. I've also been trying desperately to do some spring bookshelf cleaning. That plus the handful of things that I've read ahead on have bumped some short collections up in my TBR. Short collections like Dark Screams volume 1.

So author Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar of Cemetery Dance have put together a series of horror e anthologies for Random House's Hydra imprint. Cool right? Volume one released in December, two released in March, three is set for May, four is due out in August, and five is TBD. (I'll be reviewing vols 2 and 3 here on April 29 for TLC book tours.)

Each collection features a handful of horror's best and a combination of new and old tales. This first, for example, features one of King's earliest and new tales from the other four contributors. 

Here's the full TOC: 

Stephen King: Weeds 
Kelley Armstrong: The Price You Pay
Bill Pronzini: Magic Eyes
Simon Clark: Murder in Chains
Ramsey Campbell: The Watched

Each of the stories is very different - there's no overarching theme to the collection except the genre itself - but each is a fun taste of terror. In "Weeds" a man is transformed after coming into contact with a meteorite. "The Price You Pay" is literally about the price you pay for certain deeds in life. "Magic Eyes" finds a man recounting how he ended up in the loony bin while "Murder In Chains" finds a man trapped in truly deadly circumstances. Finally, "The Watched" features a young boy caught in the middle of a revenge plot that could have deadly consequences.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

New Releases 4/21/15

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Blondes by Emily Schultz

Within These Walls by Ania Ahlborn

The Invention of Fire by Bruce Holsinger

Positive by David Wellington

The Edge of Reason by Melinda Snodgrass

When We Were Animals by Joshua Gaylord

Pleasantville by Attica Locke

A June of Ordinary Murders by Conor Brady

The Machine Awakens by Adam Christopher

Reykjavik Nights by Arnaldur Indridason

Pirate's Alley by Suzanne Johnson

GBH by Ted Lewis

The Silver Witch by Paula Brackston

The Bone Tree by Greg Iles

War of Shadows by Gail Z. Martin

God Help the Child by Tony Morrison

Memory Man by David Baldacci

Sophomore Year is Greek to Me by Meredith Zeitlin

Becoming Jinn by Lori Goldstein

City Love by Susane Colasanti

Things We Know By Heart by Kessi Kirby

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke by Anne Blankman

New on DVD:
Little Accidents

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Perfect Egg by Teri Lyn Fisher and Jenny Park

Readers, if you enjoy tasty and playful food you need to check out the Spoon Fork Bacon blog. Go ahead, check it out. It is one of the most fun food blogs around in my opinion - I've been following (and drooling) since about 2012.

So far the authors, Teri Lyn Fisher and Jenny Park, have penned two cookbooks together: the 2012 release, Tiny Party Food, and the very newly released The Perfect Egg: A Fresh Take on Recipes for Morning, Noon, and Night. So yeah, I like the blog, I like to cook, and I do LOVE eggs for every meal. The cookbook made my wish list as soon as I heard about its release.

The authors begin with a breakdown on eggs: types, anatomy, basic cooking techniques, etc, and then jump into the fun stuff - the recipes! Sweet Rolls, Arepas, pastas, and quiches... if you can do it with an egg it's probably in this book. Some of the recipes are to be expected - various deviled eggs, frittatas, and such - but the authors include lots of different recipes as well. Things you likely wouldn't expect to see in an egg cookbook: bibimbap, kaya toast, savory French macarons... Are you seeing now why I had to have this book?!

As usual when I add a cookbook to my collection, I whip out the stack of post it flags and begin marking stuff to try. This week I've been flying solo for most meals, which was actually really nice with this particular cookbook as many of the recipes were fairly easy to pare down.

The first dish on my list to try was an olive and grainy mustard variation on classic egg salad - my own basic egg salad is mixed with mayo, pickles, jalapeños, and red onion (as my favorite now defunct lunch place used to serve it), so I was anxious to see how the authors' version would stack up. Their classic egg salad includes mayo (of course), mustard, and a splash of cider vinegar, which is actually a pretty amazing addition. As for the olive and grainy mustard combo - it made for an incredibly easy and tasty lunch, a win in my opinion!

Next up: Green Onion Fried Black Rice, which was awesome and I ate way too much of it as a result;  the Egg Bhurji, a tasty Indian scrambled egg dish that's hearty and perfect for any meal of the day; and the Avgolemono to get me through a cold and rainy lunch. The Sausage, Fennel and Arugula Frittata is next up in my plans and the weekend might just call for some Mediterranean-Style Baked Egg Boats as well.

Obviously I haven't tried ALL of the recipes yet but everything so far has been amazing. What's more, the instructions are easy to follow even for a less experienced home cook and the ingredients, for the most part, are either plain old panty staples or readily available at your local grocery store. For the few ingredients that aren't, the authors do have suggestions on where to find them.

The Perfect Egg lives up to its promise of "perfect egg" recipes for "morning, noon, and night" and has earned its spot on my eclectic cookbook shelf as a definite go to!

Rating: 5/5

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

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Ivory Ghosts by Caitlin O'Connell + a Giveaway

Hello, all! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Caitlin O'Connell's Ivory Ghosts. Note there is a tour wide giveaway on this one, so be sure to read through to the bottom for the Rafflecopter.

Catherine Sohon has just taken a new job in Namibia, undercover as a census pilot counting and tracking elephants and elephant mortality. In fact, Catherine is there to spy on the growing poaching and illegal ivory trade in the area. 

Everyone claims there is no poaching issue here - that that's an East Africa problem and that here their issue is in fact wildlife management. But Catherine soon discovers the area's poaching trade is alive and thriving. So much so that even local officials have their hand in the business. Unsure who to trust, Catherine must keep her cover if she is to make it through this job alive. 

Caitlin O'Connell's fiction debut is quite an admirable one - she's created a great lead character, plopped her down in a fabulous setting, and wrapped a plot around a genuine and disturbing world issue. You might think that this last part in particular would be a recipe for a less than successful suspense read but that's definitely not the case in O'Connell's hands.

Africa is a setting that I find greatly appealing in fiction. It's probably the main reason this particular book came onto my reading radar. Unlike the Africa of, say, Natasha Mostert's Windwalker (which is also set in Namibia), O'Connell focuses on the Caprivi Strip. In addition to poaching and wildlife, she does touch on local politics and the affects of nearby countries' politics on the area as well.

Ivory Ghosts is a solid start to what could be a great series - and I do hope we'll get to see more of Catherine.

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. As I mentioned, this is a tour wide giveaway hosted by the folks at Alibi. To enter simply fill out the Rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway




Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Alien: Out of the Shadows by Tim Lebbon

So I came across this article online the other day and it got me thinking. At first I thought there really wasn't anything that I read that I feel guilty or ashamed about. And yet, it turns out that's not entirely true. There is one thing. When I was younger, I had a penchant for buying books based on screenplays. Ugh. I know! They're not even books movies are based on - they're books written based on the screenplay for a movie. And I had some awful ones - anyone recall the Christian Slater/John Travolta movie Broken Arrow? Yeah, I bought a book based on that movie! There were LOTS of others, too. My mom recently sent me all of my boxed up books from before my move and they were all in there. We had a good laugh about them as well.

And while I do feel guilty about those, I don't feel guilty about reading books based on movie or series worlds. Sometimes a movie or a series is just that good and you want to continue - Buffy novelizations, anyone?

So when I came across a new trilogy of Alien books, set in the Alien universe between Alien and Aliens and written by some of my favorite horror authors, I kind of had to have them. I did wait just a bit - I haven't had a chance to mention it here before now but hubs and I went on a little vacation to San Diego in January and my only (ONLY) request was that we make a trip to Mysterious Galaxy, where I bought the first two Alien titles AND (thanks to the pilot) Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle. (I later hit up an indie in Coronado for the second Veronica Mars book as well - when in Rome and all.

Mysterious Galaxy is a great store so if you ever have a chance to check them out I highly suggest that you do.

I spent the rest of my downtime in San Diego diving into the world of Alien: Out of the Shadows.

A Kelland Mining Company team working planet LV178 makes a startling discovery. Before the Marion crew can be alerted to the find, though, both teams of miners make and emergency return to the ship - carrying dangerous cargo. 

Meanwhile, Ellen Ripley's escape pod has picked up a signal and takes her straight to the Marion. Straight back to the enemy she only very narrowly escaped on Nostromo

Soooo. I love Alien. I love it! And I was super excited about this book - but I wasn't so jazzed about the inclusion of Ripley. It just doesn't fit - yes, they do find a way of explaining how she's encountered the Xenomorphs and The Company yet again with no memory of it by the time Aliens begins (this story is set 37 years after Alien and you may recall Ripley's been floating in space for 57 years by the time she's rescued in Aliens) - but I didn't think she was necessary to this story. 

Out of the Shadows does follow a bit of the same format as the rest of the Alien franchise films. How can you not, right? Hoop and his team are great and Lebbon does a good job fleshing him out in particular. There's lots of gore and lots of action (YES!). And lots of insight into Ripley's own mental struggles.

As for how well Lebbon does with the sci-fi heroine, I thought he did a good job. She's still the Ripley we know and love. Much of her story revolves around fears pertaining to the daughter she left behind before Nostromo and it worked just fine. Even the oh, so convenient way of squeezing this tale in between the first two movies made sense. I just thought it would have worked fine without her. And I probably would have liked it more if it hadn't.

In spite of that, I did have a good time with this book. There are two additional installments in this "official" new Alien trilogy: James A. Moore's Alien: Sea of Sorrows and Christopher Golden's Alien: River of Pain - all of them have been shamelessly included on my bookshelves. I'm hanging onto my Alan Dead Foster novelization of Alien as well :)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight

Hi, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Kimberly McCreight's latest, Where They Found Her.

Molly Anderson doesn't normally cover front-page news and certainly not the crime beat. She's an arts writer for the local Ridgedale Reader, but when the regulars are out of pocket she's tasked with covering a truly disturbing headline. Early one morning, the body of a deceased infant is found on university property, the cause of death and the exact timeline are uncertain thanks to recent weather. Molly wants to prove herself as a journalist, but her own recent loss makes this a particularly tough assignment. Though the authorities are seemingly helpful, sharing information and taking the time to answer questions for the "local" media, the case is considered to be a pretty limited matter. But Molly's research quickly uncovers a deeper issue in Ridgedale's local crime - a series of unsolved sexual assaults linked to the campus. Whether the crimes are connected remains to be seen, but emotions are running high and the citizens of Ridgedale are demanding answers. 

Where They Found Her is not an easy book to sum up but as with her debut, Reconstructing Amelia, McCreight grabs hold of the reader from page one! The discovery of a dead baby is a pretty tense way to begin any tale, but when you throw in a leading lady with emotional issues, a missing woman, a couple of problem teens, and a bevy of secrets just begging to become local gossip, you've got a sure fire recipe for a winning suspense read.

The book does grind to a screeching halt at the end. As happens occasionally, the resolution doesn't quite live up to the build. The various threads of the story are all resolved, but a bit too quickly and neatly for my taste considering how dark and messy those threads are to begin with. Honestly, though, the ride is so intense that I didn't find the soft end of the last few pages to be that much of a let down. Where They Found Her is still a fine second release for McCreight and yet another read you won't want to put down until you've turned the final page.

Rating: 4/5

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

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



Monday, April 13, 2015

Medium Dead by Paula Paul

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Paula Paul's Medium Dead. There is a tour wide giveaway on this one, so be sure to read through to the bottom for the Rafflecopter.

The village of Newton-upon-Sea is rocked to its core when a woman is found murdered in the local cemetery. Turns out the woman was a noted medium who claimed expertise in contacting the dead. Villagers soon begin to report strange sightings at the crime scene, including Her Majesty Queen Victoria. And as the village doctor soon discovers, those visions - strange as they might seem - could be quite accurate. But why would the Queen be in Newton-upon-Sea to begin with and what could she possibly have to do with the murder of a medium?

Medium Dead is a light and fluffy sort of historical mystery. Alexandra Gladstone, her assistant Nancy, and the other villagers make for an interesting cast of characters but none of them really shines or feels fully rounded. That could be in part because this isn't the fist Alexandra Gladstone tale, something I wasn't aware of in the reading.

In terms of the mystery, things roll along at a nice pace but become more than a bit convoluted towards the end; what was meant to be a twist was more confusing than surprising.

Medium Dead does work as an introduction to Alexandra and Newton-upon-Sea and Alexandra herself - a female doctor in an era when women weren't even supposed to get a basic eduction much less become physicians - is generally appealing, but unfortunately the book as a whole is kind of underwhelming.

Rating: 2.5

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

As I mentioned above, there is a tour wide giveaway here. To enter simply fill out the Rafflecopter below:


Sunday, April 12, 2015

New Releases 4/14/15

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

A Crown for Cold Silver by Alex Marshall

The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy

Masque of Murder by Susanna Calkins

Diamond Head by Cecily Wong

The Silence by Tim Lebbon

The Given World by Marian Palaia

Window Wall by Melanie Rawn

What You Left Behind by Samantha Hayes

The Thunder of Giants by Joel Fishbane

You Can Trust Me by Sophie McKenzie

Oh! You Pretty Things by Shanna Mahin

The Beekeeper's Daughter by Santa Montefiore

Postcards From the Past by Marcia Willett

The Dream Lover by Elizabeth Berg

Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight

Every Fifteen Minutes by Lisa Scottoline

Aunt Dimity & the Summer King by Nancy Atherton

Whispering Shadows by Jan-Philipp Sendker

Language of the Dead by Stephen Kelly

The Winter Family by Clifford Jackman

The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma

Denton Little's Deathdate by Lance Rubin

Mapmaker by Mark Bomback & Galaxy Craze

All the Rage by Courtney Summers

Dream a Little Dream by Kerstin Gier

The Wondrous and the Wicked by Page Morgan

New on DVD:
Big Eyes
The Babadook
The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death

Friday, April 10, 2015

Every Fifteen Minutes by Lisa Scottoline + a Giveaway

Hi, all! Tuesday marks the release of Lisa Scottoline's latest thriller, Every Fifteen Minutes, and to celebrate the good folks at Macmillan Audio are giving away Lisa Scottoline prize packs every fifteen minutes starting at 11:00 am (EST) on April 14.

I'm giving away an audiobook prize pack that includes Every Fifteen Minutes and Look Again, and I'll be announcing the winner of that prize pack in the 1:15 pm (EST) slot on Tuesday.

Before we get to the giveaway, I have a couple of things for you - first, a bit about the book from Goodreads:

Dr. Eric Parrish is the Chief of the Psychiatric Unit at Havemeyer General Hospital outside of Philadelphia. Recently separated from his wife Alice, he is doing his best as a single Dad to his seven-year-old daughter Hannah. His work seems to be going better than his home life, however. His unit at the hospital has just been named number two in the country and Eric has a devoted staff of doctors and nurses who are as caring as Eric is. But when he takes on a new patient, Eric's entire world begins to crumble. Seventeen-year-old Max has a terminally ill grandmother and is having trouble handling it. That, plus his OCD and violent thoughts about a girl he likes makes Max a high risk patient. Max can't turn off the mental rituals he needs to perform every fifteen minutes that keep him calm. With the pressure mounting, Max just might reach the breaking point. When the girl is found murdered, Max is nowhere to be found. Worried about Max, Eric goes looking for him and puts himself in danger of being seen as a "person of interest" himself. Next, one of his own staff turns on him in a trumped up charge of sexual harassment. Is this chaos all random? Or is someone systematically trying to destroy Eric's life?

Holy crap! How awesome does that sound? Lisa Scottoline is a phenomenal author, a perfect read for anyone who loves thrillers with smart plots and a fast pace. Both Look Again and Every Fifteen Minutes are stand alones, but if you love them Scottoline has a whole backlist of titles to dive into after you're done.

Up next, the folks from Macmillan Audio have provided a little taste of the audiobook for you:



And now for the giveaway: To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before 1:15 Tuesday, April 14. US only and no PO boxes please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you want to try your hand at other prize packs, here's the full list of participating blogs:

Traveling with T
Liz & Lisa
Silver's Reviews
Harlequin Junkie
Good Books and Good Wine 
kritters ramblings
Anita Loves Books
Booking Mama
A Southern Girl's Bookshelf 
Life is Story
Jenn’s Bookshelves

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Intern's Handbook by Shane Kuhn

HR, Inc. is not exactly the best solution for your staffing needs. Yes, their interns can file and make coffee, but that's not really their end goal. See, the folks HR, Inc. trains and sends your way aren't really there to learn job skills that can lead to a career; they already have a very special set of skills and they're there to take someone out. Literally. HR, Inc. specializes in highly trained and skilled assassins. Killers like John Lago, who is on his final assignment before retirement at age 25. 

John's great at what he does, but from the beginning nothing about his last assignment is typical of an HR, Inc. job. To start, intel on his target - a partner at a prestigious law firm - is limited to such an extent that John must first determine exactly which partner is actually his target. And then John discovers that the feds are also on the job. Now he has to complete the job and elude the FBI at the same time.

The Intern's Handbook plays out as a document prepared by John for other HR, Inc. employees. And we know the feds are on the hunt for intel on HR, Inc., including John Lago and the identity of his targets, because the prologue sets the premise that the feds have John's handbook in hand.  

Kuhn quickly establishes a voice and style filled with snark. Lago is a smartass - he's an orphan with a dark background and a fondness for films, which means lots of pop culture references and sarcastic wit. And it works. Paired with a plot that's borderline ridiculous it's so out there, The Intern's Handbook becomes a darkly comic romp through the life and assignments of a young corporate hit man.

If you enjoy twisted humor a bit a la Dexter or even John Wick, then The Intern's Handbook is definitely for you! And while you read, you might want to picture Dave Franco as Lago - he's apparently on tap for the movie version currently in the works.

Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen

Sarah's father is finding it hard to cope ever since her mother left them. And so he decides it's best for Sarah if he takes her to live with her grandparents for a while. But their house isn't exactly warm and cozy. And Sarah's grandmother isn't the caring, motherly type. As for Sarah's grandfather, well he's a little different as well. 

Turns out Sarah's family is plagued by a curse that has transformed her grandfather into a beast. Her grandmother must care for him because to leave him would mean her own certain death. Sarah's father has already begun to suffer the effects of the curse and Sarah herself is likely in line for the same fate. Unless she can find a way to break it once and for all. 

I didn't love Beastkeeper but I very much wanted to. It's a dark tale much in the tradition of the classic fairytales we all know and love. And Sarah is a spunky and clever heroine if ever there was one.

My issue was with the execution of the tale. There was a bit of repetition in the story and some confusion on my part both because of the repetition and because it sometimes felt like details were left out altogether. And no, this wasn't simply because some of the characters themselves were withholding information. It just seemed like the organization in the writing went a bit off the rails at times.

Granted it's not enough to make me outright dislike Beastkeeper, but going in I was aware of the very positive reviews it had been getting and did have high expectations. For me it was an ok read and a fun story for a cold afternoon but not one I'd likely return to down the line.

Rating: 3/5

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Orient by Christopher Bollen

Good morning, readers! Today I'm kicking off the TLC book tour for Christopher Bollen's Orient.

The village of Orient is divided into two factions: the year-rounders and the outsiders. Fearing they may one day become the next Hamptons - taken over by big money and tourists - natives hold tight to their land and their closed community. So when one of their own, an architect who lives in the city and spends weekends at his family mansion, brings Mills, a foster kid, as his guest just before the summer ends, many are immediately suspicious of the boy. The most outspoken neighbors claim Mills will be a bad influence, attributing all sorts of trouble to the teen before he's even settled in. And when the death of the town caretaker follows close on the heels of Mills's arrival, the gossip and speculation only worsens. Before long, the whole town is up in arms and more deaths quickly follow. With few allies on his side Mills knows the best thing he can do is help solve the spurt of crimes, but in a town where any outsider is the enemy Mills's little investigation may not clear his name at all. In fact, it might make things worse. 

Orient is a town filled with secrets, lies, and paranoia. A town ripe for murder, in other words! And murder does come fairly quickly. At first the death of the town drunk, who also serves as caretaker to many of the homes in town, is believed to be an accident. At least one person in Orient believes otherwise, though, and this is when the real trouble seems to begin.

Mills has never really felt a sense of belonging anywhere, but Orient is meant to be a place for him to get away from the city and get his life together. At least that's what Paul Benchley promises when he invites him to his home there. Mills does form a few solid friendships but he's not immune to the critical eye of Orient's most unwelcoming residents. The loudest of whom just happens to live right next door and she's a real doozie. Almost everyone hates the woman - understandable considering she  seems to hate almost everyone around her - and she is the source of much of the gossip against Mills.

Her fears - and truly the fears of just about everyone else in Orient - seem to lie solely in the fact that they're afraid of losing their tight knit village life. And it's true that Orient has already seen an influx of second home buyers - artists and other sorts that the good folk of Orient believe will soon take over everything. The Orient Historical Board riles people up regularly, fear mongering being a big tactic in their campaigning, and the death of one of its board members only spurs things on more.

Before long, it seems everyone in Orient has motive for murder and Mills is the perfect scapegoat.

Orient is a barrage to the reading senses: Bollen is very heavy on the description, introducing the reader to character after character after character, digging deep not only into every aspect of these fictional individuals' lives but the town they inhabit as well. It makes the novel a meaty read, to be sure, but also cements for readers the true insularity of Orient. It is one that I'd recommend reading when you have time to really settle in - for me the pacing started to lag a bit around the 100 page mark but I barreled through to find that it improved greatly soon thereafter. I finished the book in a marathon reading session, desperate to see exactly how things would wrap up (and it wasn't exactly what I'd expected either!).

Orient is due out on shelves May 5 and is perfect for fans of doorstopper reads and mystery/thrillers!

Rating: 4/5

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


Monday, April 6, 2015

Girl Underwater by Claire Kells

Avery is on her way home for the Thanksgiving holiday when her plane crashes somewhere in the Rockies. She, one of her fellow swim team members, and three young boys are the only ones who survive. But with winter storms rolling in and few resources on hand, the longer the rescue takes the worse things get.

This is an incredible and emotional read! We know from the outset that Avery survives: her story plays out in alternating chapters, opening with the crash and leading into her waking in the hospital on December 10. The fate of the other survivors is eventually revealed as Avery struggles with the aftermath of the ordeal. And it is a harrowing ordeal!

Avery and Colin, two of the three college teammates who were on the flight from California to Boston (the third we find out pretty immediately is killed in the crash) are surprisingly - but believably - resourceful. Avery's father, an ER doctor, taught her all kinds of basic survival skills useful in the wilderness. But two teenagers against mother nature means they do have very little time if they can survive. And it's not until the end of the book that we find out the whole story about their time out there in the woods.

Meanwhile, Avery is understandably having a hard time transitioning back into regular life. She's closemouthed about what happened after the crash - for multiple reasons - and that's not just with the reporters who are hounding her from the moment she wakes up. Nope, Avery doesn't want to talk about what happened with anyone including her family, her boyfriend, or her teammates.

Kells's portrayal of the teen is truly heart wrenching at times, but the depth of emotion she injects into Avery's character was definitely a big draw for me in the reading. Girl Underwater unfolds quickly with the reader alongside Avery every step of her horrific adventure.

This is Claire Kells's debut release, and it's a solid favorite of mine for 2015! (Which means I'll have my eye out for more from Kells down the line as well.)

Rating: 5/5

Sunday, April 5, 2015

New Releases 4/7/15

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Other Side of Midnight by Simone St. James

A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley

Compulsion by Allison Brennan

Superposition by David Walton

Blood on Snow by Jo Nesbo

Emma by Alexander McCall Smith

The Warring States by Aidan Harte

Read Bottom Up by Neel Shah & Skye Chatham

Double Vision by Colby Marshall

Dream Stalkers by Tim Waggoner

The Children's Crusade by Ann Packer

Jinn and Juice by Nicole Peeler

Disciple of the Wind by Steve Bein

Predator One by Jonathan Maberry

Garden of Dreams & Desires by Kristen Painter

The Returned by Seth Patrick

A Slant of Light by Jeffrey Lent

All Involved by Ryan Gattis

Pride v. Prejudice by Joan Hess

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

The Arc of the Swallow by S.J. Gazan

Sisters of Heart and Snow by Margaret Dilloway

A Scourge of Vipers by Bruce DeSilva

A Deadly Affair at Bobtail Ridge by Terry Shames

One Mile Under by Andrew Gross

The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu

Scent of Murder by James O. Born

Bittersweet by Susan Wittig Albert

I Refuse by Per Petterson

Killer, Come Hither by Louis Begley

Hot Pursuit by Stuart Woods

Ask the Dark by Henry Turner

Skandal by Lindsay Smith

Don't Stay Up Late by RL Stine

Miss Mayhem by Rachel Hawkins

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens by Becky Albertalli

New on DVD:
The Voices
A Most Violent Year
Home Sweet Hell
The Immigrant

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
The Doll Collection ed by Ellen Datlow
The Cemetery Boys by Heather Brewer

Friday, April 3, 2015

Short Fiction Friday: The Demon by Douglas Nicholas

I did warn y'all that I would be binging on this series this week! Overkill or not, I also read this little e short this week. It's fun - doesn't add much to the series as a whole, but it is a nice bonus. Plus, it's free and includes a sample of The Wicked to give you a further taste of Nicholas's work.

The knights of Castle Blanchefontaine have been tasked with a possibly deadly mission: a merchant passing through the area reported that he and his guards were set upon by a great demon and his minions. They ran, leaving behind their wagon, and sought shelter at Blanchefontaine. Now, the castellan and his man must confront this evil head on if their lands are ever to be safe again. 

Again, this one serves as just a freebie bonus. It's super short on its own - even with The Wicked sample it's only around 40 pages in length. It was nice to see the men-at-arms of Blanchefontaine and Sir Balthasar in action.

I really wanted to include it this week for those of you that might be on the fence and curious about the series - it's a no risk sample :)

You can download "The Demon" from any e book retailer here.

Throne of Darkness by Douglas Nicholas + a Giveaway

Hi, all! It's been a fabulous reading week chez moi. I'm hoping it continues beyond this week, but I am ending on a high note with the third title in Douglas Nicholas's excellent dark fantasy series, Throne of Darkness. And thanks to the publisher I'm able to offer up a copy of this latest release to one of you lucky readers. (If you haven't read Something Red or The Wicked just yet, I am giving away a copy of Red here.)

Molly and her troupe find themselves in an odd situation, conscripted by none other than the Roman Catholic Church to deal with issues involving King John. Seems the nation's ruler has enlisted the help of a sorcerer who leads a group of shapeshifters intent on ridding the country of John Lackland's northern enemies. These shapeshifters, two hundred in number, would decimate the northern lords, including Sir Jehan and Sir Odinell. Having heard of their past deeds involving issues of a more otherworldly and evil nature, the Church hopes that Molly, Nemain, Jack, and Hob can rid the country of these monstrous beings and the magus who controls them. In exchange for their help, the Church's representative promises their support for Molly and also swears forgiveness of her heathen ways. 

So Molly and all are blackmailed into service, so to speak. If they are successful in their task, Molly won't burn at the stake (according to the Pope's man) and if they aren't, they'll most certainly be dead anyway. But how can Molly and team refuse when to do so would greatly impact their friends and supporters in the north?

While Nicholas doesn't delve too deeply into the history of the time, Throne of Darkness is woven around the unease and restlessness of England in 1215 and the signing of the Magna Carta. King John (for those of us who can't keep the monarchies straight) is the very same of Robin Hood fame. He's also the king who lost Normandy to France causing all sorts of upheaval. And he did indeed war with Pope Innocent III but no mention of attempted alliances with Muslim nations.

There's quite a bit of folklore in Throne of Darkness, indeed in the series as a whole. The bouda, magical white cows, and of course the Irish mythology with Molly at it's center. For a book I'd been so greatly anticipating, Throne did not disappoint. I had hoped, though, that we would finally get Molly's story in Ireland. I don't know if that's in future plans at all but I do know that I for one would welcome another installment!

Rating: 4/5

And now for the giveaway: to enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, April 20. US only and no PO boxes please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Wicked by Douglas Nicholas

It's been a little over a year since Hob, Molly, Nemain, and Jack helped free Castle Blanchefontaine from the wrath of a murderous beast. Their efforts have earned them friends and patrons in the lord and knights of Blanchefontaine, and notoriety for being the only ones able to fight the evil that plagued those parts. And so, on one of their returns to the castle, they are informed that an acquaintance of Sir Jehan's, one Sir Odinell, now has a problem that Molly and her caravan might be able to help with. 

It seems Sir Odinell has a new neighbor, a lord whose lands have been appointed by the king himself. The neighbor is odd and his arrival has brought much trouble to the area, leaving Sir Odinell certain that the cause lies at the feet of said lord. But dealing with the issue is problematic for two reasons: first, the lord's connection to both the king and the pope makes him virtually - and officially - untouchable; second, Sir Odinell believes this lord's power to be most unnatural and evil. Sir Odinell once fought alongside Sir Jehan and trusts him when he says that Molly is his best chance. In return for her help, he promises he will also become a patron and ally when Molly returns to her native land to claim her place as queen of her clan. Though the task set forth is a difficult one, Molly is certain it is the fate of her family to intervene. But what she discovers when they arrive is an evil worse than any she's encountered. 

If you read my review of Something Red last week, then you know that I was quite anxious to return to these characters. And what a rewarding return it was! While The Wicked is equal in atmosphere and detail to Something Red, the pacing on this second book in the series is much faster. Within just a few pages, Molly and her group are on their way to Sir Odinell's stumbling upon dead bodies and fighting off minions sent by the wicked Sir Tarquin.

Nicholas seems to really have found his groove with this one! Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy Something Red quite a bit. But where I enjoyed that one, I loved this one! I don't know that I can honestly say that I've ever read a thirteenth-century dark fantasy based book in one sitting, until now. And as with Something Red I turned the final page on The Wicked desperate to get to the next installment, Throne of Darkness, an undeniable indication of just how well this author has hooked me.

The Wicked is dark and suspense driven. It also clues us in further on Molly and Nemain's powers and history. Nemain and Hob's relationship really blossoms in this second title as well, which is nice since they're betrothed at the beginning. Hob's come into his manhood quite nicely and proves to be even more of an asset to the group as well, something Molly apparently foretold when they enlisted him into their family in the first place.

You can absolutely read The Wicked without having read Something Red first, but if I've piqued your interest at all (and you haven't read the Something Red review) you can hit the link above and throw your name in the hat to win a copy of Nicholas's first outing. Be sure to check back tomorrow as well for my review of Throne of Darkness and a chance to win that one as well!

Rating: 5/5