Friday, July 31, 2015

Unwilling Accomplice by Charles Todd

Happy Friday, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Charles Todd's Unwilling Accomplice.

While on a brief leave in London, Bess is asked to accompany a wounded soldier receiving an award at Buckingham Palace. After the ceremony, Bess and the soldier return to their hotel where they are to be met the following morning by an orderly who will accompany the soldier back to the hospital where he's being treated. 

Everything goes according to plan. The soldier has no family to celebrate his award but tells Bess some of his friends might be visiting that evening. When she checks on him before turning in, he's already asleep. Unfortunately, though, when the orderly arrives the following morning, the soldier is nowhere to be found. Bess first searches nearby hospitals fearing the soldier and his friends may have gone out drinking, but finds no evidence of the missing man and is forced to alert the War Office. Now the recently awarded soldier is considered a deserter and Bess his possible accomplice. If  she's to clear her name with both the War Office and the Sisters she'll have to find out first exactly why and when the soldier began planning his escape. Before she can even start, though, it's discovered that the soldier is the prime suspect in a murder!

Ugh, it's so unfair! The Crimson Field was cancelled after just one season over in the UK and said season has just finished airing over on PBS. The show was developed as part of the "BBC World War I centenary season," which apparently will give us programming (and by us I mean the US via whatever will come through BBC America and PBS) through 2018 to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of WWI.

Why do I mention all of this? Well, not only do I quite enjoy the Bess Crawford books, but I went into this latest already craving more WWI stuff. That said, why hasn't the Bess series been considered for this program plan?

It's 1918 by the time this latest takes place and so the war is actually beginning to wind down. Soldiers, like the one she's accompanying here, are receiving awards recognizing their efforts and many are being placed on indefinite leave. (WWI's official end date is November 11, 1918.) It's curious, then, why a wounded soldier who's just been recognized by the king himself would risk so much to escape and murder another man. A man no one is quite sure how the soldier in question ever had a connection to in the first place. Bess has her work cut out for her considering her own good name and career are hanging in the balance as well!

Bess is a definite favorite of mine in terms of both general historical fiction and specifically historical based mysteries. I do love that each installment in this series can basically stand alone. Anyone who hasn't read the previous books would have no trouble at all with Unwilling Accomplice as a starting point. I might sound like a broken record pointing that out so often in series posts but I think it's important to note because so many readers, myself included, might be afraid to start midstream. I'd hate for any potential Bess fans out there to miss out simply because they aren't certain where to start!

Rating: 4/5

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

For more on Charles Todd and the Bess Crawford series, you can visit the authors' website here. You can also like them on Facebook. I'll also be taking part in the upcoming tour for the latest Bess Crawford release, A Pattern of Lies, so be sure to check that out here on September 4.


Short Fiction Friday: Two Mysteries from HarperCollins

Today's a double post day, but it fits because one of the SFF titles I'm posting today ties directly into today's tour post!

Tales by Charles Todd features four stories starring the writing duo's famous leads. In "The Kidnapping," a post WWI Ian Rutledge is on duty at the Yard in the wee hours when a man arrives claiming he's been attacked and his daughter has been kidnapped. "The Girl on the Beach," has Bess discovering the body of a girl on the beach one morning. The only clue to her identity is a newspaper clipping with the obituary of a soldier. "Cold Comfort" brings us to the front lines with Rutledge where he must find out if a soldier's claim of being targeted by allies is true or not. And finally, in "The Maharani's Pearls" we meet a young Bess in India where she plays a pivotal role in protecting both her family and the Maharani herself.

It's a small collection, each short just a sip of a tale really, but it does offer up some nice little extras including pieces of the characters' lives we've seen little of to date: Bess as a chile in India and Rutledge at the front.

Also included in the mini anthology is an excerpt from the upcoming Bess release, A Pattern of Lies.

Tales is out now (eBook) from Witness Impulse.

Rating: 3.5/5

My second short today is just a little extra prequel for the recently reviewed here Andrew Mayne title, Name of the Devil. In the book there's a wisp of an mention of a case Jessica investigated in the bayous of Louisiana - this is that story.

"Fire in the Sky" has Jessica and Nadine teamed up once again, this time to investigate an old man's claims of a fifty-year-old UFO crash. In truth, the case is little more than an attempt to placate a dying man. This time Jessica is the sceptic but Nadine isn't so sure - this far along, the man's been telling the same story in hopes that someone will listen and she thinks it's worth checking out.

To be honest, "Fire in the Sky" adds very little to the overall series. In fact, I found it a little odd that this time Jessica was really only out to prove Nadine wrong in agreeing to look into the case. The short does come with an excerpt from Name of the Devil, though, and is free. Who can complain about that, right? Especially when it gives you a sample of the fabulousness of Name.

"Fire in the Sky" is out now from Bourbon Street Books on all eBook platforms.

Rating: 3/5

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Lissa Evans's Crooked Heart.

Noel and his godmother lived together comfortably. She didn't agree with the war and when the first call for evacuating children from London was made she refused. But Mattie was growing increasingly more forgetful, her health declining with every passing day. When Mattie died, leaving Noel all alone, another round of evacuations proved to be the the chance Mattie's only relatives were waiting for. And so, Noel was sent away, left to be taken in by the likes of Vera Sedge. 

Vee lives in a perpetual state of poverty. Her son, spared from the war by a heart murmur, is listless and often late to his own job. Vee herself works harder than she should and still can't scrape by. But Vee has a plan, one that Noel finds he can be of great help with. Soon the two are conspiring together to take advantage of the war. But they aren't the only ones. 

Crooked Heart reminded me a little of the old Ryan and Tatum O'Neal pic, Paper Moon. Apparently I'm not the only one who thought so - Nick Hornby noted the same thing. It's probably hard not to compare the two considering they're both about a "parent"/kid con artist team. (The comparison is made in the book's publicity material but once I saw this was set in WWII I admit I didn't really read anything more about the book. Yes, I'm that easy.)

It's a little sad how Noel and Vee take advantage of people. And Vee's son isn't much better. Not that any one of them has much of a choice. Given their circumstances, they're all taking advantage of their talents and situations to try and get by. Vee and Noel do manage to capture the reader's heart to some extent, though. It's hard to imagine exactly what you'd do in their situation and the way they work together and help one another is quite appealing. I quite loved Mattie and Mrs. Gifford. Neither is a main character in the least - Mattie is only present in the prologue, in fact - but both of them have such a great effect on Noel as a whole that they felt like much larger characters.

Crooked Heart is kind of a darkly comic and skewed heartwarming read - not your typical feel good book by any means. I'd definitely recommend it to any reader interested in WWII fiction and/or something just a little bit different. (Guys, seriously, everyone loves this book... Jojo Moyes?! Nick Hornby?!... I'm in good company recommending this one.)

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

For more on Lissa Evans and her work, you can visit her website here. You can also follow her on Twitter.


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal

Lars is a chef. Cynthia is a waitress and wine connoisseur. They meet, they fall in love, they get pregnant, and they get married. But Cynthia doesn't want to be a mom. In fact, she thinks she'll be the worst kind of mom. And in Cynthia's opinion, having no mom is better than having a bad mom. So she leaves her little family behind, abandoning Lars and their newborn daughter, Eva. 

Lars is determined that Eva will have all the love he can give her. He'll introduce her to great food, he'll teach her everything he knows, and he won't let anyone tell her the real reason her mother left. Nope. He'll let the blame for that rest solely on his own shoulders. But Lars's plan hits a big road bump early on and Eva's life turns out quite differently than he could have imagined. 

Kitchens of the Great Midwest was NOTHING like I expected it to be. First, the premise is really just the first few chapters of the book. Second, the book reads like a series of connected vignettes with the connections being Eva and food. While I think I might have enjoyed more of a straightforward narrative from Eva's perspective, Stradal's choice here is one that also works very well and is quite enjoyable. In fact, one of the things I quite liked most about the book was the way the author very carefully establishes each character's voice. With so many different narrators that can be understandably difficult to pull off but J. Ryan Stradal does it quite easily.

We meet Lars in his early lutefisk days, follow him through his falling in love with Cynthia, Eva's birth, and his heartbreaking abandonment. Then we meet Eva as a sixth grader. Her cousin Braque, a high school boyfriend, said boyfriend's stepmother, a later boyfriend's brother... these and more are the characters we meet throughout Kitchens of the Great Midwest.

J. Ryan Stradal's debut is one of love, remorse, death, the Midwest, and food. Food, food, food, and lots more food. And while you certainly don't have to be a foodie to enjoy this book, it should be clear that from the lutefisk to Eva's grand finale dinner, Kitchens of the Great Midwest is a true foodie read with heart. (And yes, there are even a few recipes.)

Readers, this is a book that shows immense talent (I feel like I've been reading a lot of those kinds of debuts lately - always a GREAT thing for a book junkie) so I am quite happy to note that the author has sold a second novel. I have no idea what it'll be about (he notes it's set in the Midwest) but given how much I enjoyed Kitchens, it will most definitely be in my reading plans.

Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

When the Moon Is Low by Nadia Hashimi - Excerpt + a Giveaway

Last week marked the release of When the Moon Is Low, the second novel by Nadia Hashimi. So far it's garnered some impressive reviews and praise, earning a starred review in Library Journal and a spot on O Magazine's "The Season's Best: Tales of Ladies on the Move" list. I'll be planning a review post soon, but thanks to the publisher I've got a little excerpt of the book for you today and a copy to give away as well.

First, though, here's a little about the book from Goodreads:

Mahmoud's passion for his wife Fereiba, a schoolteacher, is greater than any love she's ever known. But their happy, middle-class world—a life of education, work, and comfort—implodes when their country is engulfed in war, and the Taliban rises to power.

Mahmoud, a civil engineer, becomes a target of the new fundamentalist regime and is murdered. Forced to flee Kabul with her three children, Fereiba has one hope to survive: she must find a way to cross Europe and reach her sister's family in England. With forged papers and help from kind strangers they meet along the way, Fereiba make a dangerous crossing into Iran under cover of darkness. Exhausted and brokenhearted but undefeated, Fereiba manages to smuggle them as far as Greece. But in a busy market square, their fate takes a frightening turn when her teenage son, Saleem, becomes separated from the rest of the family.

Faced with an impossible choice, Fereiba pushes on with her daughter and baby, while Saleem falls into the shadowy underground network of undocumented Afghans who haunt the streets of Europe's capitals. Across the continent Fereiba and Saleem struggle to reunite, and ultimately find a place where they can begin to reconstruct their lives.


I've absolutely no doubt that When the Moon Is Low will be a powerful and emotional read. 

When the Moon Is Low
A NOVEL
Nadia Hashimi

(Excerpt from Chapter 16)

I had to get my family out of Kabul.

With Mahmood gone, there was nothing left for us. We would almost certainly starve once the money ran out. The imminent arrival of our third child complicated matters.

Samira had not spoken since the afternoon of Raisa and Abdul Rahim’s visit. She gave her answers in nods and gestures. I spoke softly with her, trying to coax the words from her lips but Samira remained silent.

I found Saleem in our bedroom, staring at his father’s belongings. Unaware of my presence, he touched the pants, brought a shirt to his cheek and laid the pieces out on the floor as if trying to imagine his father in it. He picked up Mahmood’s watch from the nightstand and turned it over in his hand. He slipped it on his wrist and pulled his sleeve over it. It was a private moment between father and son so I snuck back down the hall before he realized I’d been watching.

My son thought I was too wrapped up in my own grief to know what he suffered but I observed it all. I saw him kick the tree behind our house until he fell into a tearful heap, his toes so bruised and swollen that he winced with each step for a week. I held him when he allowed me but if I started to speak, he would slip away. It was too soon.

If I thought of my last exchange with Mahmood, so did Saleem. I could see the remorse on his face as clearly as I felt it in my heart. We would have done things differently, Saleem and I. We would have had much more to say.

From what Abdul Rahim was able to gather, the local Taliban had decided to make an example of Mahmood Haidari. The rest of the family would not be targeted, he believed, but no one could say with any certainty. Even in the light of day, there was little certainty in Kabul. The cloak of night made all things possible.

I couldn’t bear to have my children out of my sight. I sent Saleem on errands to the marketplace only when I was truly desperate. Just one month after the news of Mahmood’s assassination, my belly began to ache. At first, I thought it might be the balmy winter air bringing a cramp but as I walked from room to room, the familiar pains became clearer. 

I paced the room, my lips pursed and my steps slow.

“Nine months, nine days…nine months, nine days…” I repeated softly.

Just a few hours later, Raisa coaxed my third child into the world. I named him Aziz.

“Saleem and Samira,” I managed to get out. “Meet your father’s son.” 

Big thanks to the folks at William Morrow for providing the excerpt today! And now for the giveaway. To enter just fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, August 10. Open US only and no PO boxes please.   

Monday, July 27, 2015

Three Rivers by Tiffany Quay Tyson + a Giveaway

Melody's father is dying, so of course she drops everything to return home to care for him. But when she arrives she finds that her mother has left with no explanation. Geneva has been hiding a secret from her family and has finally come to the conclusion that something must be done. What that something is, she isn't quite sure just yet but she knows she can't stay. All Obi wants is to care and provide for his son, but a tragic accident has left him on the run and in search of shelter. It's a search that will lead him straight to Melody, Geneva, and Three Rivers Farm. Though these three people are all on very different paths, they are nonetheless entwined by fate. And with an historic storm headed straight towards them, they could each find themselves swept under by the force of the coming flood. 

I'm afraid that my synopsis doesn't do Tiffany Quay Tyson's book justice. It doesn't contain any of the charm or emotion of the story, for example. Nor does it capture the heart or essence of the characters in any way. It doesn't even express how emotional a read Three Rivers is or how much I thoroughly enjoyed it.

What I do hope that it does, though, is get your attention. I hope that it makes you curious about Three Rivers. And of course I hope that it makes you seek out Tiffany's book and discover just how fabulous it is for yourself.

Tiffany is local to me and so I was able to attend her launch at the Tattered Cover last week. I learned that this story had it's beginning in a terrible story about a baptism that ended in electrocution and death. It was apparently a story that stuck with the author for quite some time and inspired a character and scene in the final book. And while it is a pivotal scene for Melody and her family, it is just a small part of the overall tale.

At times Three Rivers reads as three separate stories. Melody, her mother Geneva, and Obi all begin in different places both in terms of setting and in terms of what's happening in their lives. Melody has been traveling with a band and has been miserable for most of the tour (she snaps in the beginning of the book and it made me love her so!). She and Geneva haven't spoken much and she hasn't visited home for quite some time, so she isn't aware that her mother has left until she arrives home.

Geneva is probably not going to win a lot of points with readers. She's... selfish and quite self centered. That's apparent almost from the moment the reader meets her, or rather learns that she's abandoned her dying husband and her mentally impaired son. And yet her story is undeniably intriguing.

Melody and Geneva couldn't be further from Obi. He's a loving father who finds it hard to fit into conventional settings and society. He and his son have been abandoned themselves and have been living off the land, traveling along the river. We soon learn, though, that Obi is seemingly a man cursed by his circumstances and bad luck.

Through alternating chapters, Tiffany draws all three characters and their stories closer and closer, eventually weaving them together much the way the three rivers of the title intersect in the fictional Mississippi town Tiffany has created for her story.

Three Rivers is the kind of book that's gut wrenching at times and laugh out loud funny at others. It's thoughtful and heartwarming, and a true testament to Tiffany Quay Tyson's talent. Readers, she is an author you will delight in discovering and one that I know we'll be looking forward to reading more of for some time to come!

And now, because I was able to attend the book launch, I thought it would be fun to give away a finished, autographed copy to one of you lucky readers! To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, August 10. Open US only.

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Sunday, July 26, 2015

New Releases 7/28/15

Ugh, sorry guys. If you follow the new releases post I have just a super pared down list for you this week because I didn't get it done early enough. Sorry!

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Crooked by Austin Grossman

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal

The Fall by R. J. Pineiro

The Dinosaur Lords by Victor Milan

The Fifth House of the Heart by Ben Tripp

If I Could Turn Back Time by Beth Harbison

The Toy Taker by Luke Delaney

Midian Unmade ed by Joseph Nassise & Del Howard

Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans

New on DVD:
The Water Diviner

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
Flask of the Drunken Master by Susan Spann

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Pre Pub Book Buzz: The Winter Girl by Matt Marinovich

This year has truly flown by - it amazes me, in fact. I can't understand why as I get older this seems to happen more and more. July is almost over, August is right around the corner, then fall, then winter (ugh), and I seem to be hastening the flow of time even further by looking at books due out in 2016!

In spite of all of that, I must admit that Matt Marinovich's upcoming The Winter Girl sounds so great that I'm kind of looking forward to January even if I do want to hold onto summer a little longer.

A scathing and exhilarating thriller that begins with a husband’s obsession with the seemingly vacant house next door.

It’s wintertime in the Hamptons, where Scott and his wife, Elise, have come to be with her terminally ill father, Victor, to await the inevitable. As weeks turn to months, their daily routine—Elise at the hospital with her father, Scott pretending to work and drinking Victor’s booze—only highlights their growing resentment and dissatisfaction with the usual litany of unhappy marriages: work, love, passion, each other. But then Scott notices something simple, even innocuous. Every night at precisely eleven, the lights in the neighbor’s bedroom turn off. It’s clearly a timer…but in the dead of winter with no one else around, there’s something about that light he can’t let go of. So one day while Elise is at the hospital, he breaks in. And he feels a jolt of excitement he hasn’t felt in a long time. Soon, it’s not hard to enlist his wife as a partner in crime and see if they can’t restart the passion.

Their one simple transgression quickly sends husband and wife down a deliriously wicked spiral of bad decisions, infidelities, escalating violence, and absolutely shocking revelations.

I'm already picturing myself cozying up with this one! The Winter Girl is due out in January from Doubleday. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Material Girls by Elaine Dimopoulos

As the hottest singer out there, Ivy Wilde is a name no one is going to forget any time soon. But now her reign at the top is threatened by a new bright spot in the music industry. Fearing she's destined to become a has been before she's even out of her teens, Ivy begins to take drastic steps.

Marla was lucky to have been tapped for Torro-LeBlanc. Luckier still when she rose to the ranks of the Superior Court. But it looks like her luck may have finally run out when she's demoted - sent to the basement with the drafters. It doesn't take long for the unfairness of it all to really sink in, though, and when that happens Marla finds herself at the center of a revolution.

Elaine Dimopoulos's debut imagines a world where kids are "tapped" at age 12 to become trendsetters for the creative industries. It's a move that was made ostensibly to save the economy and apparently - or we're led to believe - has worked. But it means that those who aren't tapped - like Ivy's own brother - are the only ones who continue their educations and enter the regular workforce. Though these "adequates" are the doctors, scientists, reporters, accountants, etc, so much emphasis is put on the creative industries instead that the adequates are basically the bottom of the barrel.

At first it's an odd premise, and one that we don't get a full explanation on until about halfway through the book. But I do recall a very real story not so terribly long about people who troll college campuses and high schools to see what "the kids are into these days."

Dimopoulos's world isn't rosy and sunshiny, though. And the disappointment isn't felt solely by inadequates either. Marla believes in the system even after she's unfairly demoted. Ivy has every imaginable benefit of this system as well but spends her days popping pills to remain "placid." And once things get set in motion, it becomes very clear that only those at the very top are apparently pleased with the way things have been going.

Material Girls is a fun read. It's dystopian and it's dark, but dark in the way that Kiera Cass's The Selection is dark. Skirting dark, or dark themes bound up in a lighter story than, say, Divergent and Hunger Games. Still, it is thought provoking and probably a bit higher on the I-could-see-this-happening scale than some.

I don't know if this is to be the first in a series - it does work quite well as a stand alone, but I certainly hope we'll get to explore this world more in the future.

Rating: 4/5


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Name of the Devil by Andrew Mayne

Hi, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Andrew Mayne's second Jessica Blackwood mystery, Name of the Devil.

An explosion at a church in the town of Hawkton, West Virginia kicks off a truly odd investigation in this latest from Andrew Mayne.

After her success on the Warlock case, Jessica Blackwood is seeing much more field action these days. She and Agent Knoll have been called in to assist on an investigation in the small town of Hawkton where a church explosion has left little in the way of evidence. At first it's assumed the blast could be an accident, but with no "natural" explanation, gas lines, or such to blame it seems something darker must be at play. Then the first body is discovered - well beyond the blast radius - hung upside down in a tree and etched with what appears to be a Hebrew name for a demon. From there things only get weirder. Bite marks on the bodies contain remnants of a psychotropic that can only be traced to Mexican cartel territory, and the person matched to the bite pattern - Hawkton's own local sheriff - is missing. 

I am truly loving this series! As I said in my post last year on Angel Killer, Jessica Blackwood is, to my knowledge, one of a kind. And even if there is, somewhere in the boundless literary universe, another magician FBI agent, they're still not Andrew Mayne's magician FBI agent.

It's not just Jessica that makes the series stand out either. The plots so far are seriously fantastic. I can't even imagine where Mayne gets his ideas - bizarre headlines would be my first guess. Even still, he's got some seriously creative skills working.

I should add one more note: while I don't doubt there's quite a bit of creative license going on, Mayne's father, a federal agent, and brother, an FBI agent, are both listed in the acknowledgements. So in addition to having the Blackwood magic down, Mayne's got some serious law enforcement resources to pull from, too. All of this is to say that Andrew Mayne's series is super engaging, super odd, and unbelievably believable!

Rating: 4/5

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

For more on Andrew Mayne and his work you can visit his website here. You can also like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.


Movie Star By Lizzie Pepper by Hilary Liftin Giveaway

Happy book birthday to Hilary Liftin whose latest, Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper, hits shelves today!

I think this sounds like the perfect summer read, but you don't have to take my word for it. Here's a bit about the book and the author to tempt your reading palate:

Hilary Liftin is the ghostwriter and cowriter behind numerous celebrity memoirs, ten of which have been New York Times bestsellers. In this, her debut novel, Liftin turns her ghostwriting talent into fictional brilliance with a celebrity “memoir” that is making a splash as the beach-read novel of the year. Dreamt up by Liftin one day when she was fantasizing about the celebrities she would like to ghostwrite for, MOVIE STAR BY LIZZIE PEPPER was born as the story of a beautiful, modestly successful actress who catapults to fame as the wife of Rob Mars, the A-list Sexiest Bachelor of the Year. 

“I’VE HAD A MILLION MEETINGS IN MY ACTING CAREER, AND I HAD NO IDEA THAT THIS WOULD BE THE ONE THAT WOULD CHANGE MY LIFE FOREVER. I WALKED INTO THE ROOM, AND THERE WAS ROB... IN THE FLESH.” 

Swept away by Rob’s romantic courtship, his luxurious life, initiated into the mile-high club, courted by every clothing designer desperate to “dress” her, Lizzie relishes having finally found true love.

But what happens when the dream-come-true fantasy life goes horribly wrong?

“NOW ROB KNEW ALL MY SECRETS. WHAT I DIDN’T THINK ABOUT AT THE TIME WAS THAT HE WAS STILL KEEPING AT LEAST ONE SECRET FROM ME.”

As Lizzie’s perfect Hollywood life unravels, and she is shocked to discover the “real” Rob Mars, Lizzie Pepper finally decides to tell her side of the story. She shares both the good: the million-dollar wedding, the award shows, the designer clothes (that it turns out she gets paid—a lot—to wear), the private jets to private-island vacations, and of course, the birth of their beloved twin boys; and the bad: the secrets, the lies, the locked door in their home that she is never allowed to open, the mind-body group, One Cell, that seems to control their lives, and the ultimate betrayal that leads to their shocking front-page divorce.

MOVIE STAR BY LIZZIE PEPPER reads like a story ripped right from tabloid headlines. Fast-paced and utterly irresistible, it’s a fascinating inside-look at the world of Hollywood celebrities.



I'll have a review for you at a later date, but for now the publisher is offering up some super fun gift packs to go with the book and I get to offer one to you guys!

The gift pack includes: a copy of the book (of course), Lizzie Pepper sunglasses, and popcorn to snack on while you read. 


To enter, just fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, August 3. Open US only and no PO boxes please.

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Monday, July 20, 2015

Clownfellas by Carlton Mellick III + a Giveaway

Happy Monday, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Carlton Mellick III's Clownfellas. Note there is a tour wide giveaway on this one, so be sure to scroll to the end for the Rafflecopter.

Imagine if clowns were crime bosses. Now imagine they aren't even human. This is the world Carlton Mellick III has created in Clownfellas: Tales of the Bozo Family. It's totally bizarre but oddly genius as well!

The book is set as six connected short stories:

In the first tale, "City of Clowns," we meet Earl Berryman, a zoo veterinarian hired to save Don Bozo's beloved lion. But there are two problems here. First, Earl has a serious clown phobia. Second, he's been drawn into a burgeoning gang war! Next up, Vinnie Blue Nose, the Bozo Top Capo, ends up lost in The Sideshow when his boss's son makes a mistake too big to cover up in "The Juggler Brothers." "A Sad Day for a Happy Clown" finds half clown Pinky Smiles preparing to propose to Uncle Jojo's beloved only daughter while "Funny Business" explores the comedy underground. Next up is the tale of "The Unwhackable Bingo Ballbreaker." And then there's "The Wedding," which begins with the ominous first line "There was no son of a bitch in all of Little Bigtop who deserved to be whacked more than Joey "Uncle Jojo" Bozo." And we soon learn why!

As you've probably already surmised, these are far from your average circus clowns. These guys fight dirty with laughing bullets, balloon weapons, and - in the case of Le Mystère - miming. Disrespecting them often comes in the form of not laughing at their jokes, but they have a code as well: rules they and the vanillas (humans) all must play by.  Oh, and again, they're not human! Laughing gas can turn a vanilla into a clown, but beware the 10% who end up relegated to The Sideshow!

I knew I was getting into something weird with Clownfellas. What I didn't realize was that it was going to be brilliant fun! If the idea of a mafia clown family sounds intriguing to you, then you're probably going to enjoy this outing from Mellick as much as I did.

Rating: 4/5

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 above this is a tour wide giveaway hosted by the publisher. To enter simply fill out the Rafflecopter below:

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Sunday, July 19, 2015

New Releases 7/21/15

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

When the Moon is Low by Nadia Hashimi

Believe No One by AD Garrett

The Other Son by Alexander Söderberg

The First Confessor by Terry Goodkind

Speaking in Bones by Kathy Reichs

Between the Tides by Susannah Marren

The Redeemers by Ace Atkins

The Devil's Bag Man by Adam Mansbach

The Other Daughter by Lauren Willig

Three Rivers by Tiffany Quay Tyson

The Flicker Man by Ted Kosmatka

All Together Now by Gill Hornsby

Who Let the Dog Out? by David Rosenfelt

Agents of the Internet Apocalypse by Wayne Gladstone

The Novel Habits of Happiness by Alexander McCall Smith

Movie Star By Lizzie Pepper by Hilary Liftin

The Dead Man's Reach by D. B. Jackson

The New Order by Chris Weitz

Damage Done by Amanda Panitch

Torn by Avery Hastings

Return to the Dark House by Laure Faria Stolarz

New on DVD:
What We Do In the Shadows

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
The Blumhouse Book of Nightmares: The City ed by Jason Blum
The Mall by S.L. Grey

Friday, July 17, 2015

Somebody I Used to Know by David Bell

I made the comment last year in reviewing The Forgotten Girl, that if there was a new David Bell release out it must be October. Bell threw me off this year, though, with a July release! That's ok, Bell can bring a bit of October chill to even the hottest day and he proves that with Somebody I Used to Know.

Twenty years ago, Nick Hansen's girlfriend died in a tragic house fire. Imagine his surprise then when he sees a girl who strongly resembles his long lost love. He approaches the girl just to ask if she might be related but the terrified teen runs away. The following morning, she's discovered dead in a hotel room and Nick is the prime suspect.

Poor Nick. From the start he seems to have been dealt a bad hand. Divorced and separated from his stepson as a result, he almost muddles through life. But when he sees the girl in the grocery store, things take a turn for the worse. Suddenly he's a suspect in a murder and he can't help but wonder if the dead girl is connected to his first - lost - love.

Every time you think you know where Somebody I Used to Know is going, Bell throws another wrinkle into the story. Honestly he kind of pushed the limit as far as coincidences and new plot twists, but it all worked out in the end. It's something of a signature for him, though, the crazy number of plot twists, that is. In rereading my notes on The Forgotten Girl, I realize I'd noted it about that one as well.

Happily, Somebody I Used to Know ends a bit more satisfactorily than Forgotten Girl. Nary a fizzle in sight!

Bell is a solid writer and a must for fans of Harlan Coben, Linwood Barclay, and other "domestic" thrillers. Check him out!

Rating: 3.5/4


Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth + a Giveaway

If you've been following the blog for a while then you might remember how excited I was about Kate Forsyth's Rapunzel retelling, Bitter Greens. And now she's back with the story of Wilhelm Grimm and his wife Dortchen. Thanks to the publisher, I get to offer up a copy to one of you lucky readers. Be sure to scroll through to the Rafflecopter to enter.

Dortchen knew she was in love with Wilhelm Grimm the first time she laid eyes on him. For years, they danced around one another, drawn together by undeniable affection. Sadly, though, Dortchen's own father was against the match and his death didn't make marrying any more of an option. With war surrounding them, the two persevered, living through poverty and French rule. And as Wilhelm and his brother strove to collect and preserve the stories that were their country's legacy, Dortchen and Wilhelm's love for one another never faded. 

We've all heard of Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm. We all know the stories they collected and compiled. But where did those stories come from? Turns out many of them came from Wilhelm's wife and other women like her. Kate Forsyth imagines their years together as a bit of a fairy tale in its own right, drawing from actual historical documents and the earliest printings of the Grimm brothers' stories to bring Dortchen to life for today's readers.

What I love about Forsyth's work is that she's incorporating real history with fairy tales. As was the case with Bitter Greens, her Rapunzel retelling, The Wild Girl combines the history of the era and the documented history of the Brothers Grimm and those around them, to weave together an enthralling tale with a very real backdrop. And though this is less a fairy tale retelling than an all out biographic fiction, it does still have that hint of wonderment we all love about the Grimm tales.

As she points out, much of Dortchen's life is unknown so there's understandably a lot of imagining and reimagining here. What is known, though, is that Dortchen shared some of the most famous Grimm tales with the brothers ("Rumpelstiltskin" and "Hänsel and Gretel," for example) and that Wilhelm and Dortchen did eventually marry. Wilhelm's longtime affection for Dortchen is documented as well. Pairing all of that with the historical happenings around them (Bonaparte's campaign to defeat EVERYTHING and his rule of Hesse-Cassel) makes for a great foundation, but it's Forsyth's true skill as a storyteller that makes this a stand out read.

Fans of historical fiction and fairy tale retellings alike will devour The Wild Girl - and will love every moment of it!

Rating: 4/5

And now for the giveaway! To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, August 3. Open US only and no PO boxes please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Engelsfors Trilogy book III: The Key by Sara B. Elfgren & Mats Strandberg + a Giveaway

You guys!!! I'm super excited that the third book in the fantabulous Engelsfors trilogy is FINALLY out! And you know what? I've got a copy to give away!

If you haven't read the trilogy, I definitely DO NOT RECOMMEND starting with The Key. You have to read them in order or you'll be totally lost! That said, I'm going to give a spoiler-feee review, or as close to, my absolute best shot here.

Here goes!

The Chosen Ones have suffered greatly over the past year and now their circle is down to four. Unfortunately, things are only going to get worse. Through Matilda, the girls learn that the end is truly nigh. In fact, it's said they'll finally be facing the demons in exactly one year. But as Minoo,  Linnéa, Vanessa, and Anna-Karin prepare for their final fight, it seems the Guardians have lost faith in the Chosen Ones and their ability to defeat the demons. If the Guardians are right, then they never stood a chance. But, if the Guardians are wrong, Minoo and her friends are the only thing standing in the way of the apocalypse. 

I've been so looking forward to seeing how this story would end that I kind of forgot this was going to mean saying goodbye to the characters. It's a good thing then that The Key is a chunkster of a read! It meant I got to spend a little more time with everyone before it all came to its conclusion.

I've sung the praises of the authors' character development at length in both of my previous reviews (The Circle and Fire). It's been one of my favorite things about this trilogy - the fact that we've gotten to know these characters in such great detail - and it's no different here in the final book. It's senior year and each of them is unsure what will come after school. If there is an after. Big changes are coming for each of them as are some big revelations that will affect them personally and in their fight to save the world. Frankly I don't envy these teens!

Of course with great characters comes an understandable attachment to them. As such I have to say I was kind of upset about Ida's fate in Fire. I was pleased as punch when The Key began with her, though! It was all I could do not to constantly obsess about what it meant for the group and for her in particular. Go, Ida!

Anyway, I've got nothing but love for these books. I adore them. I'm super jealous that there's now a movie out in Sweden. Not sure when or if it'll make it's way to our shores - I can't even find a trailer with subtitles - but I certainly hope so. In the meantime, I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to get everyone reading this witchy Swedish teen trilogy.

And now for the giveaway! To add your name to the hat simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, August 3. Open US only and no PO boxes please.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Newest Books in My Collection

I've decided to jump on board with Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the topic is: recently acquired books. This one's easy considering last week was my bday!

Orphan #8 by Kim van Alkemade

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Kim van Alkemade's Orphan #8.

Rachel and her brother were orphaned in 1919 after their father accidentally killed their mother. Sam, at 6, was sent to the Orphaned Hebrews Home while Rachel, at only 4, was sent to the Hebrew Infant Home. Rachel has forgotten much of those early years, including the experiments she was subjected to at the hands of two doctors at the home. Until, that is, one of said doctors comes under her care decades later. 

The arrival of Dr. Mildred Solomon on floor five at the Old Hebrews Home, where Rachel is a nurse, is at first a pleasant surprise. Rachel's only real memories of Dr. Solomon are pleasant ones - she'd been kind and gentle to the young Rachel, one of the only ones to do so in fact. But when Rachel begins digging into her own past, she realizes that Dr. Solomon's experiments have had devastating effects. Now, with the tables turned, Rachel must decide what matters more: vengeance or forgiveness.

This was a tough read for a lot of reasons. First, I'm not completely unaware of the questionable ways medical advancements have come about through history. It's kind of one of those things you don't want to think too much about. It's true, too, that some of the most heinous ones that come to mind were at the hands of the Nazis. Orphan #8 reinforces the fact this was not solely the case as well as the fact that not all of these experiments were done with malice in mind. Rachel herself, while angry and afraid, is actually faced with the latter, which makes her own situation that much more difficult.

The circumstances of the book are awful. Rachel and her brother are separated and while their lives at the Orphaned Hebrews Home (where Rachel is finally sent when she's six) aren't terrible, Rachel's time at the Infant Home is very much so. But what makes it so much more difficult of a read is the fact that the author has based a lot of the story on her family's own history.

I don't mean to make the book sound like a big downer. In fact - and much to my surprise - it really wasn't. In starting it, especially on the heels of another somewhat heavy read, I thought I was going to find myself struggling to trudge through. That definitely wasn't the case; I read half of it in one sitting without even realizing it!

What did surprise me was the fact that this is Kim van Alkemade's debut novel. There are a lot of things going on in the book beyond even what I've mentioned above. In retrospect, and again after reading the author's note, I might have worried that she'd bitten off a bit more than she could chew just based on all of the varying influences she mentions but that definitely was not the case at all. All of the various details, the history, and the plot points are woven together quite harmoniously.

So yes, Orphan #8 is tough in terms of subject and I would warn anyone starting that is is not going to be a light read. But it is a very good read!

Orphan #8 is set to hit shelves August 4.

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

For more on Kim Van Alkemade and her work, you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.


Monday, July 13, 2015

More Mini Reviews

And here's another batch of mini reviews for you guys!

First up, The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey. This was part of the 2015 DAC challenge (which I'm lagging seriously behind on).

The war between the Avicen and the Drakharin has dragged on for ages with no end in site. But when Echo, an orphan child who lives among the Avicen, discovers a clue that suggests the mythical Firebird might be real, both races become intent on finding it. 

I liked this one. It's a fun start to a new series, somewhat reminiscent of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, but I thought it could be a stronger debut.

There's a good amount of vivid detail but there's actually very little in the way of world building. Basically it's a pretty story without much depth. We'll see if this is addressed in the next release, which looks to be due out in 2016.

Rating: 3/5

Next up Frost by Marianna Baer - one of my own TBR Tackle titles.

Leena Thomas is looking forward to her senior year at Barcroft Academy, thanks in no small part to her finagling Frost House as a dorm for her and her three best friends. But Leena's plans are sidelined when she learns that classmate Celeste Lazar will be taking up residence there as well. Celeste is odd and neither Leena or her friends are thrilled that she'll be rooming with them. And when strange things start to happen at Frost House, they all wonder if Celeste is somehow responsible. 

Sadly this one didn't hit the spot for me. I'd been looking forward to it for so long, building it up with my own expectations, that I lay the blame in part on that. Only in part, though.

What I wanted when I started Frost was a great haunted house read set at a boarding school (two book buzzes for me). What I got was an open ended book with no real explanation for the possibly supernatural occurrences.

And that would be ok - the characters were, as a whole, pretty great. Leena in particular is pretty fantastically layered. She's almost - not quite but almost - unreliable as a narrator thanks to some of the things she's keeping from those around her. And her arc is great.

But the end... I just didn't want ambiguous. I wanted a haunted house!

Rating: 3/5

Hit by Delilah Dawson is one that I just didn't have time to write a full review on because I had visitors in town.

Valor National Bank has paid off all of the country's debt, basically buying the nation. And now they're calling in payment from all of their own debtors. Patsy's mom is one of these customers - losing her job and then suffered a terrible car accident were bad enough, but now she has cancer and can't pay for treatment. That's ok, though, if Patsy will a agree to be a hit man for Valor all will be forgiven. 

Delilah Dawson is always a pleasure to read. Yes, this one is dark and somewhat bleak - but seriously, still a pleasure!

Dawson has one of the best imaginations out there. I'm not kidding. From her Blud books to Servants of the Storm and now Hit (which does have a follow up planned) she dreams up the creepiest and most fascinating worlds and scenarios. I love her work and think everyone should be reading her!

Rating: 4/5

And finally The Jewel by Amy Ewing, which I covered for Bookbitch.com but never wrote up here. I don't actually know why either considering it was one of my FAVORITE books last year. The second book, The White Rose, is due out in October and I could use a little refresher, though.

Violet Lasting has always known that she'll be sold to a wealthy bidder. She's been trained for this servitude. Violet is to be a surrogate, bought and paid for by a royal family who can no longer have children of their own. It's a life of luxury and privilege, or so they say. In reality, every privilege comes with a price and Violet soon realizes she's nothing more than a prisoner in her new life. 

I love, love, loved this book! Loved it! It's so very dark - very Handmaid's Tale to be honest - but it's oh, so good. Ewing does an amazing job creating tension and suspense in her plot and making the reader really care about Violet. You're along for the ride as she goes through what is a really awful experience. But of course there's hope she'll escape... Amazing read, guys!

It is the first in a trilogy and I've been dying to get back to the world. Fortunately, as I mentioned, we'll all get to return very soon. In fact, sooner than October. There's an e short about Violet's friend Raven, "The House of the Stone," coming out in July.

Rating: 5/5

Sunday, July 12, 2015

New Releases 7/14/15

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Flask of the Drunken Master by Susan Spann

Hostile Takeover by Shane Kuhn

Miss Emily by Nuala O'Connor

Open Grave by Kjell Eriksson

The Poisoning Angel by Jean Tuele

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley

Armada by Ernest Cline

After the Storm by Linda Castillo

Among the Fair Magnolias by Tamera Alexander

The Naked Eye by Iris Johansen & Roy Johansen

Naked Greed by Stuart Woods

A Master Plan for Rescue by Janis Cooke Newman

Bennington Girls are Easy by Charlotte Silver

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Cold Frame by P. T. Deutermann

Once Upon a Crime by P. J. Brackston (7/15)

Follow Me Home by Cathy Woodman (7/15)

Alive by Scott Sigler

Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson

The Key by Sara B Elfgren & Mats Strandberg

New on DVD:
It Follows
Ex Machina
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Clouds of Sils Maria

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Death House by Sarah Pinborough

From her early horror and Torchwood titles to her newer historical mysteries and fairy tale retellings, Sarah Pinborough has proven she really is kind of a jack of all trades when it comes to dark fiction. I love her work and have been hearing praise about her upcoming release since it hit shelves overseas earlier this year. With bday money in hand I was ready to hit "confirm" on a UK copy until I saw that the upcoming Titan edition will be available here soon. Hooray!!!

Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads for you:

Toby's life was perfectly normal... until it was unravelled by something as simple as a blood test.

Taken from his family, Toby now lives in the Death House: an out-of-time existence far from the modern world, where he, and the others who live there, are studied by Matron and her team of nurses. They're looking for any sign of sickness. Any sign of their wards changing. Any sign that it's time to take them to the sanatorium.

No one returns from the sanatorium.

Withdrawn from his house-mates and living in his memories of the past, Toby spends his days fighting his fear. But then a new arrival in the house shatters the fragile peace, and everything changes.

Because everybody dies. It's how you choose to live that counts.

The Titan paperback is due out September 1st. The hardcover is available in the UK and online now.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Twenty Dinners by Ithai Schori & Chris Taylor

Seasonal cookbooks seem to be all the rage these days but what does it really mean for the home cook? Well, it means a focus on quality. It also means an attempt to put together recipes that are appropriate for the season - lighter fare and grilling options for summer, homey comfort foods for winter - all taking advantage of items that are in season and at their peak in terms of flavor and abundance. As someone who lives in an area with a thriving community of farmers' markets and a real focus on seasonal produce, that means more fun for me in the kitchen!

Twenty Dinners by friends Ithai Schori and Chris Taylor, a photographer and musician (respectively), is not only a seasonally built cookbook but it's one focused on dinners for sharing. Most have an appetizer or side, a main, and dessert or drink and include a wide range of types of dishes and proteins, all thoughtfully paired and arranged. The photography is amazing (as would be expected) and the recipes are detailed and easy to follow. All pluses for any good cookbook.

But wait. You might be wondering if this mean that you have to stick to their particular meal plan of Roasted Lamb Chops with Sauteed Ramps, Spiced Carrots and Harissa Yogurt, and Mina's Olive Oil-Walnut Cake (dinner 14) exclusively? Not at all! In fact the authors make a point of stating:

"...take a dish from one menu and serve it with one from another or borrow a component from one dish and put it on another... Cooking isn't about following directions to the letter..."

Using this cookbook to the max takes a bit of creativity, I think. Sure you can follow each dinner to the T and get lots of enjoyment out of the recipes. But to do what the authors really hope you'll do, you need to feel confident to play around with the recipes. This is perfect for someone like me. As I noted above, I do have access to a lot of produce during the summer. The proteins featured in the book, though, are a different matter. My local grocery store might not carry branzino, but trout is abundant in Colorado and makes a fair substitution for the Seared Branzino with Pancetta and Potato Panzanella. I'm also not likely to be roasting an entire pig any time soon but the authors have taken that into account as well, offering up a note on adapting the Whole Spit-Roasted Pig with Mustard Greens using a reasonably sized loin instead.

In my opinion, this is not a cookbook for the unadventurous home cook. Nor is it the right fit for someone looking for quick and easy recipes as whole (though there are definitely some quick and easy dishes featured in the book). But if you're not afraid to cater a recipe to your personal preferences or substitute according to what's available to you, Twenty Dinners is great inspiration in the kitchen.

Rating: 4/5

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

Flask of the Drunken Master by Susan Spann

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Susan Spann's latest Shinobi mystery, Flask of the Drunken Master.

A man has been murdered and Hiro's friend Ginjiro stands accused. The victim was a fellow brewer whose son racked up a hefty debt with Ginjiro. Witnesses reported the seeing the dead man and Ginjiro arguing over exactly that matter the night before the body is found in Ginjiro's alley. Some even say that Ginjiro was heard threatening the dead man! 

Nevertheless, the evidence seems highly circumstantial to Hiro and Father Mateo who are both certain their friend is no killer. Though Hiro is somewhat reluctant to cross the investigating yoriki, the samurai is well aware that the man is more interested in a quick arrest rather than real justice. And since that quick arrest means ruining the life of a friend, Hiro and Father Mateo can't possibly stand by without helping.

Sake politics, a city on high alert for possibly spies, and an investigation with twists galore - all set in sixteenth century Kyoto! This third in Spann's series is clever and intriguing. If you're new to Spann's work, Flask can most definitely work as a stand alone or introduction to the series. And as with any good series you'll want to go back and read the previous installments as well. There are a few references to Blade of the Samurai, but nothing too spoilery should you choose to start with Flask.

Spann is the perfect figurative juggler. This is not only an historic setting, but a time/place/culture that few American readers are familiar with in any way. And it's a mystery. So that means that Spann has to put together a great plot (done), while continuing to grow her series characters (also done), and set a believable tone and setting for her readers (done fabulously). What's more, as I noted with the previous review, Spann's attention to detail is seemingly impeccable.

I don't know of anyone else in the mystery world tackling such an intricate and unique setting right now. If you're a fan of historicals and fun mysteries, I definitely suggest giving this series a try. They're not quite cozy but are light enough to appeal to both cozy and darker fans.

Rating: 4/5

To see more stops on the tour, which also includes posts on both Claws of the Cat and Blade of the Samurai be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here.

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

Finally, if you're in the Denver area Susan will be at the LoDo Tattered Cover for a reading and signing on July 16 and will be attending the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers' Writer of the Year Announcement Party (she's one of the nominees!) at Denver's Bookbar on Saturday, July 18.

Flask of the Drunken Master officially hits shelves July 14.



Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Hyped Books I Haven't Read

I've decided to jump on board with Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the topic is: hyped books I haven't read.

Holy cow there are a lot. I'm not even sure where to start, so I'm going to skew this a bit and do hyped books I don't plan on reading.

A Necessary End by Holly Brown

Hi, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Holly Brown's latest, A Necessary End.

Adrienne and Gabe have tried everything when it comes to starting a family. They've already had one bad experience with an open adoption scam, but when Leah responds to their profile, it seems as though it's meant to be. Leah is nineteen and adamant that she's not ready to be a mother. She even looks like a young Adrienne. All Leah wants is a chance to start over after the baby is born. As her demands on the couple increase, though, Adrienne becomes fearful that the adoption will fall through. And Adrienne can't handle another loss like that. 

So I have to apologize for my late posting, readers, but today has been INSANE. It's my birthday (yay) and our first day back after being away for the holiday. We discovered some new tenants of a sort have taken up residency chez nous and believe me when I say they are very unwelcome. A family of skunks has made our overhang their cool new home, so my morning has been spent trying to find someone to come trap and remove them while also worrying about how to keep the dog out of their range as well.

Like I said, insane. As I write this I can hear one of them scampering around the window well it was unfortunate enough to fall into. Thankfully our heroic pest man will be here tomorrow.

Anyway, back to the book (which would have made a welcome read today to get my mind off of all of this!).

A Necessary End is a little tough to read. Adrienne and Gabe are already in something of a bad spot - her raw need to have a baby only seems to make him want a child less and less. They're both putting up a front for the benefit of everyone around them, but as the reader you get to see what's really beneath the facade. When Leah enters their lives, Gabe is skeptical at best but actually warms up to the girl much faster than Adrienne herself does. Of course this is because Adrienne quickly becomes convinced that Leah will hightail with the kid before the adoption has been formalized. Adrienne is a bit weird and Gabe is kind of a jerk. They're not completely likable, though they are easy to sympathize with as their story progresses.

Of course there's much more to the story than Adrienne's paranoia and Gabe's lack of enthusiasm. More even than Leah's questionable and possibly malicious methods of getting what she wants (you're never quite sure of her motive at any time), but that's where the suspense aspect comes in and I'm not going to be the one to ruin that.

If psychological suspense and less than domestic bliss are up your alley, A Necessary End will hit the spot.

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here. For more on Holly Brown, you can check out her blog here and like her on Facebook.


Monday, July 6, 2015

Those Girls by Chevy Stevens - Excerpt + a Giveaway

Tomorrow marks the release of Chevy Stevens's latest and to celebrate I've got an excerpt to share and a copy of the book to give away to one of you lucky readers!

Stevens is known for her insane suspense and twisted plots, folks, so if you haven't read her you really are in for a treat. Before we get too far, though, here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

Life has never been easy for the three Campbell sisters. Jess, Courtney, and Dani live on a remote ranch in Western Canada where they work hard and try to stay out of the way of their father’s fists. One night, a fight gets out of hand and the sisters are forced to go on the run, only to get caught in an even worse nightmare when their truck breaks down in a small town. Events spiral out of control and a chance encounter with the wrong people leaves them in a horrific and desperate situation. They are left with no choice but to change their names and create new lives.

Eighteen years later, they are still trying to forget what happened that summer when one of the sisters goes missing and they are pulled back into their past.

This time there’s nowhere left to run.


I hope I don't sound too cheesy saying the description alone gives me chills. Frankly, though, that's what I expect out of any book by Stevens, which is why Those Girls is definitely part of my reading plans this summer. 

As promised - and thanks to the publisher, here's a taste of Those Girls to whet your whistle:

THOSE GIRLS 

Chapter One 

July 1997 

We’d only been on the road for an hour but we were almost out of gas. The white line of the highway blurred in front of my eyes, my lids drooping. It was three in the morning and we’d barely slept for days. Dani was driving, her face pale, her long dirty-blond hair pulled under a baseball cap and out the back in a makeshift ponytail, her eyes staring straight ahead. Her name was Danielle, but we just called her Dani. The oldest at almost eighteen, she was the only one who had her license. She’d barely said a word since we left Littlefield.

On my right, Courtney was also staring out the window. When her favorite country song, “Wide Open Spaces” by the Dixie Chicks, came on the radio, she turned it off, then stared back out into the dark night. She brushed at her cheeks and I could tell she was crying. I gave her hand a squeeze, she gripped it back. Her hair was down, one side pushed forward, trying to hide the burn that had left an angry red mark along her jaw line.

None of us had ever traveled this far from home before. We’d found a map at the hardware store—Dani had stolen it while we kept watch—and carefully planned our route to Vancouver. We figured we could make the drive in about eight hours if the truck held up. But we had to stop in Cash Creek first and borrow some money from one of Courtney’s old boyfriends.

It was the middle of July and so hot you couldn’t walk outside without feeling your skin cook. We were golden brown, freckles covering our faces and upper arms—a family trait. Forest fire warnings had been out for a month, a few towns had already been evacuated. Everything was dried out, the fields pale yellow, the weeds in the ditches covered in gray dust. We were in jeans shorts and T-shirts, our skin sweaty even this late at night, and the air smelled hot.

I touched the camera hanging around my neck. My mom had given it to me when I was ten, just before she died. Dani hated it when I took her photo, but Courtney loved it— used to love it. I didn’t know now. I glanced over at her again, then down at my chewed nails. Sometimes I imagined that I could still see the blood under them, as if it had soaked into my skin like it had our floors.

“We’re going to need gas soon,” Dani said suddenly, making me jump.

Courtney turned back from the window. “How much money do we have?”

“Not enough.” Before we left town we’d siphoned a little gas from a neighbor’s truck and gathered what food we could, picking fruit and vegetables from the farm’s fields, taking eggs from underneath the hens and storing them in our cooler. Our cupboards were empty by then—we’d been living on soup, Kraft dinners, rice, and the last few pounds of ground deer meet in the freezer from the buck Dad had shot that spring. We pooled our money—I had a few dollars from babysitting, and Dani had a little money left from when she helped during hay season, but she’d used a lot of it already that year, trying to keep us afloat.

“We could get some money for your camera,” she’d said.

“No way!”

“Courtney sold her guitar.”

“You know why she really sold it,” I said. Dani had gotten quiet then. I’d felt bad but I couldn’t do it, couldn’t give away my one good thing.
“What are we going to do?” I said now.

“We’re going to steal some gas,” Dani said, angry.

Dani always sounded pissed off, but I didn’t pay any attention to it unless she was really mad. Then I got the hell out of her way.

She had a right to be angry. We all did.

From Those Girls by Chevy Stevens, on sale July 7, 2015, from St. Martin’s Press, LLC. Copyright © 2015 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Press, LLC.


Those Girls is out on shelves tomorrow and I sincerely hope you'll be joining me in adding it to your summer TBRs. 

And now for the giveaway! To add your name to the hat, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, July 20. Open US/Canada only and no PO boxes please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, July 5, 2015

New Releases 7/7/15

Some of the new titles hitting shelves today include:

The Insect Farm by Stuart Prebble

Swerve by Vicki Pettersson

The Unnoticeables by Robert Brockway

Time Salvager by Wesley Chu

The Invaders by Karolina Waclawiak

The Captive Condition by Kevin P. Keating

The New Neighbor by Leah Stewart

The Shapeshifters by Stegan Spjut

The Hand That Feeds You by A. J. Rich

The Last Pilot by Benjamin Johncock

Somebody I Used to Know by David Bell

A Necessary End by Holly Brown

Bradstreet Gate by Robin Kirman

Little Pretty Things by Lori Rader-Day

The Secrets We Keep by Stephanie Butland

The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth

Sleeping Dogs by Thomas Mogford

Bell Weather by Dennis Mahoney

Name of the Devil by Andrew Mayne

Queen of Fire by Anthony Ryan

Newport by Jill Morrow

The Fraud by Brad Parks

The Way Things Were by Aatish Taseer

A Paris Affair by Tatiana de Rosnay

The Blumhouse Book of Nightmares: The Haunted City edited by Jason Blum

The Year's Best Science Fiction edited by Gardner Dozois

French Concession by Xiao Bai

The Woman Who Stole My Life by Marian Keyes

Aurora by Kin Stanley Robinson

Dexter is Dead by Jeff Lindsay

Vanishing Games by Roger Hobbs

The Summer of Good Intentions by Wendy Francis

Those Girls by Chevy Stevens

Dark Disciple by Christie Golden

A Study in Death by Anna Lee Huber

The Small Backs of Children by Lidia Yuknavitch

Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich

The Devil's Share by Wallace Stroby

The Hunters by Tom Young

Code of Conduct by Brad Thor

Take Pity by David Mark

Signal by Patrick Lee

Nemesis by Catherine Coulter

The Swede by Robert Karjel

One Way or Another by Elizabeth Adler

Down Among the Dead Men by Peter Lovesey

The Flying Circus by Susan Crandall

Among the Ten Thousand Things by Julie Pierpont

Renegade by Kerry Wilkinson

Heart of Betrayal by Mary E. Pearson

Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George

Faces by E. C. Blake

Survive the Night by Danielle Vega

Hallowed by Tonya Hurley

A Million Miles Away by Lara Avery

Paperweight by Meg Haston

You and Me and Him by Kris Dinnison

The Six by Mark Alpert

New on DVD:
Five Flights Up
Woman In Gold
Kill Me Three Times
Maggie

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
Day Four by Sarah Lotz

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Day Four by Sarah Lotz

With one day left in their cruise, The Beautiful Dreamer passengers are looking forward to celebrating New Year's Eve and returning to port. But this cruise is about to become a nightmare!

A fire in the engine room leaves the ship without engine power and slowly failing back ups. WiFi and communications are out completely and supplies are running low when the Norovirus begins to make its way around the ship. Tempers are running high amongst the passengers, a body has been found in one of the staterooms, and now crew members are claiming to have seen ghosts in the lower levels. Logic says they'll be rescued in no time, but as more time passes with no other ships in site that certainty begins to turn to fear.

This is the kind of book I crave! It's eerie and creepy and impossible to put down. It's also a companion to Lotz's The Three - not a prequel or true sequel, but definitely connected.

Day Four left me with a massive book hangover that couldn't even be combatted by my usual sure fire genre shift. Nope, this cruise ship weirdness left me wanting MORE!

Weirdness is really the only way to describe Lotz's work. If you've read The Three, then you know. Day Four has the same underlying tone of dread but is a much more mainstream narrative style. It's still not 100% typical horror, but I'm totally fine with atypical genre reads. I do think it makes it more appealing to folks who normally wouldn't read horror, too. Go gateway reads!

Human horror is kind of the bigger focus in both The Three and Day Four - how people react to the situation, the things they do to one another, the things they do to themselves. Lotz gives the reader varying perspectives in this one: Maddie, assistant to the famed psychic Celine de Ray; Althea, a steward in the upper decks; Gary, a killer; Helen, one of the passengers whose reason for being on the ship is unlike anyone else's; Jesse, the ship doctor with a past; Devi, one of the ship's security guards; and Xavier, a blogger whose goal is debunking Celine. As things grow worse on the ship, each of these characters is witness and participant.

As with The Three it's not until the end that things begin to become a bit more clear - more clear but not cleared up! -, which means I'm hoping Lotz has more to develop in this world for us. Until then, I've given up trying to combat my book hangover by tackling Lotz's coauthored Downside series (The Mall, The Ward, and The New Girl by SL Grey). If you're looking for some summer horror that's a little atypical of the genre, I highly, highly recommend Lotz's work!

Rating: 5/5