Monday, August 31, 2015

The Captive Condition by Kevin P. Keating

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Kevin P. Keating's The Captive Condition.

Normandy Falls is not a nice place to live. A dry college town with few job prospects, low average incomes, and very little to do, the locals are left with little to fill their time. But gossip still runs rampant and almost everyone must know about the affair going on between Emily Ryan and her next door neighbor. Well, everyone except their spouses. And when Emily turns up dead on her thirtieth birthday, it kicks off a series of events that leaves few in Normandy Falls untouched. 

I've mulled over how to sum this book up and review it for some time and have yet to come up with the perfect solution. I fear my attempt won't be truly appropriate but barring a lightning bolt of brilliance this will have to suffice.

I had issues with the book, mainly due to my perceived, inappropriate, and possibly unfair expectations. See, the actual description of Kevin Keating's The Captive Condition somewhat implied (in my mind) that this is a horror novel set in a town that's akin to Sunnydale or Castle Rock. Even the prologue of the novel sets it up as such, with our narrator being told of the horrid and unspeakable crimes rumored to have taken place in Normandy Falls in decades past.

In truth it's nothing of the sort. In fact, while some might fairly call The Captive Condition horror, it isn't a horror novel in the way you might think. Yes, horrible things happen there. The town is destitute and the characters are all facing pretty insurmountable odds - mostly thanks to their own actions. None of them are good people, they're motived by selfishness, obsession, superstition, and plain old stupidity in some cases. And yes, there are some supernatural events that do occur as well. In reality, though, the horror is pretty human.

To explain more might be to give away the story and I don't want to do that because Keating's work is quite enthralling. His prose is melodic and dark and the downward spiral of the characters is hard to step away from. But to approach the story with the wrong expectation likely won't lead to a satisfactory experience.

So no, folks. Don't make the mistake that I did in thinking this is going to be a gory tale of paranormal horror, odd experimentation, or a story set in a "nexus of horror." Instead, go into this story expecting to discover a new author with a unique voice and a tale of human crime and atrocity.

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here. And for more on Kevin P. Keating and his work, you can follow him on Twitter.


Sunday, August 30, 2015

New Releases 9/1/15

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Supersymmetry by David Walton

The Drafter by Kim Harrison

The Death House by Sarah Pinborough

The Sparrow Sisters by Ellen Herrick

The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Lagercrantz

Paulina & Fran by Rachel B. Glaser

The Blue Between Sky and Water by Susan Abulhawa

Hollow Man by Mark Pryor

A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

Chapelwood by Cherie Priest

The Desert and the Blade by S. M. Stirling

Is Fat Bob Dead Yet? by Stephen Dobyns

The Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

All the Difference by Leah Ferguson

The Gilded Hour by Sara Donati

Archmage by R. A. Salvatore

The Solomon Curse by Clive Cussler

The Man Who Fell From the Sky by Margaret Coel

The White Ghost by James R. Benn

The Darkest Day by Tom Wood

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

The Dogs by Allan Stratton

Catacomb by Madeleine Roux

The Shepherd's Crown by Terry Pratchett

The Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

The Copper Gauntlet by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare

Hunter by Mercedes Lackey

Hello, Goodbye, and Everything In Between by Jennifer E. Smith

Firewalker by Josephine Angelini

The Curious Tale of the In-Between by Lauren DeStefano

Cut Both Ways by Carrie Mesrobian

New on DVD:
The Harvest
Mad Max: Fury Road
Gemma Bovary

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
The Uninvited by Cat Winters
X by Sue Grafton

Friday, August 28, 2015

Short Fiction Friday: Cold Alone by Laura Benedict

This has been a pretty wet summer here in Colorado, folks. And the showers we've been getting of late have brought little snaps of cold with them. It's given me in a pretty unquenchable craving for horror - yes, more so than normal. Fortunately, just as this was hitting, Laura Benedict released this little gem in the Bliss House series!

Nicole Martin isn't especially scared of haunted houses. Yes, she was in pretty desperate need of a job when she applied for the cleaning position at Bliss House, but really it's not the so called ghosts creeping her out so much as her weird boss!

Nicole has the whole inn to herself for the night and with a snowstorm on the horizon and no guests allowed, Nicole has invited her roommate over to keep her company. As the night progresses and her friend is still a no show, though, Bliss House finally starts getting to Nicole. And that's exactly what the house wants.  

(Note: if you have read Bliss House, then you know how things end for Nicole's bosses.)

"Cold Alone" has two of of my all-time favorite horror elements: atmosphere and ghosts. Seriously, it's no secret that a good haunted house story is my favorite kind of horror story. Benedict spends just the right amount of time building up the tension and setting the tone for the story so that by the time things start to go south for Nicole - and we all know it's going to go south! - I was questioning the noises in my own house. (Yes, I was reading it in the middle of the night while I was home alone. That's the best way to tackle any creepy read!)

Nicole starts our rather bravely in this story. She's strong and seemingly unshakable. But it turns out it's not just Nicole and the ghosts trapped in the house together during the snow storm; Nicole is shouldering some pretty hefty guilt. Sadly for Nicole, Bliss House is just not the place you want to be if you've got anything weighing on you. Hell, even if you've got all your shit together you probably still don't want to be stuck in a place like Bliss House!

Readers, you do not have to have read Bliss House to read "Cold Alone." In fact, if you've been curious about Bliss House or Benedict but haven't yet taken the plunge, "Cold Alone" can be your gateway read. The e short comes with excerpts of both Bliss House and Charlotte's Story as a nice little bonus, too. Give it a shot and find out why Laura Benedict is one of my favorites!

Rating: 5/5

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Andersonville by Edward M. Erdelac + a Giveaway

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Edward M. Erdelac's Andersonville. There is a tour wide giveaway on this one courtesy of the folks over at Hydra, you can enter via the Rafflecopter at the end of this post.

Barclay Lourdes was trying to run when he accidentally fought his way onto the train going to Andersonville prison. Or at least that's what he said. 

In fact, Andersonville is exactly where Barclay wants and needs to be. 

It seems something fishy is going on at the prison camp. Something beyond the conflict of war. Something truly evil.

It might not surprise readers to learn that Andersonville was a very real place and that there were horrors aplenty there.

Erdelac weaves a story of supernatural horror around the very real events and people of Andersonville; the raiders, the regulators, Father Whelan, and Big Pete are all taken from actual history. Henry Wirz, the commander of the prison, was also real and was convicted of war crimes as a result of the heinous treatment of the soldiers imprisoned there.

Military horror is kind of hard to come by, but it is a natural combination (I think) and one that amplifies all of the scary bits in a lot of ways. Nothing is more horrific than war and the Civil War is one that's still a sensitive topic for many. Erdelac combines the sentiments of the day with the very real Andersonville history (as mentioned above) and other fabulous aspects of the time as well - the First Lady's fascination with otherworldly issues, Pinkertons, Union/Confederate spies... throwing in a main character whose roots make him the perfect hero for this particular story.

Because Barclay is there under false pretenses, his own story is revealed to the reader in pieces as the tale progresses. Through his eyes we witness the awful atmosphere of the prison as he investigates the true cause behind it all. He's an interesting character both because of his skills and because of he is a free man from New Orleans. Erdelac does go into some of the politics of the war - how could he not - especially where Barclay is concerned. It makes Andersonville a more layered read than one might expect. And honestly, it was a welcome experience. 

Rating: 4/5

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

For more on Edward M. Erdelac and his work you can visit his blog here. You can also like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

And now for that giveaway. Again, this is tour wide so you can enter via any of the stops on the tour. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

X by Sue Grafton

Wow! 24 books in and Sue Grafton still manages to make each new installment feel fresh and new. Readers there are a lot of long running series that have fallen by my reading wayside but the Kinsey Millhone series has never been one of them.

Kinsey is flush with cash for probably the first time in her career. Not only does this mean she can stress less about new clients, but it means she can spend some time on some lesser and pro bono investigations as well.

Two decades ago Hallie Bettancourt put her son up for adoption. She followed his story when he was busted for bank robbery and now that he's being released she wants Kinsey to find contact information for him. Hallie claims she wants to help in any way she can - if he's interested. The case is pretty cut and dry and Kinsey files her report just a few days later. But it doesn't end there. 

Hallie Bettancourt doesn't exist. Not only that, the money she paid Kinsey with is marked. The loss isn't great but Kinsey is determined to find out who hired her and why. 

Meanwhile, Pete Wolinsky's widow is facing an audit and IRS claims that the former PI hadn't filed returns for years. It's her hope that Kinsey may have come across something in her search through Pete's files after his death. Unfortunately for Ruthie no financials are in evidence, but something rather odd does pop up. Kinsey is certain it's another of Pete's schemes but soon learns this may not be the case at all. Could she have been wrong about Pete? 

We are nearing the end, folks, and just the thought makes me want to cry. Honestly, reading these last few is somewhat bittersweet. I adore the series but I almost want to hold onto these last few indefinitely so that it doesn't really end! It's true I sat on W is for Wasted for a ridiculous amount of time, too. I just couldn't wait with X, though, and that won out over my hoarding tendencies with later series titles.

I nerd out about these books big time. Grafton is one of my favorite authors to recommend to readers looking for a great mystery and one of the reasons for that is exactly what I mentioned above - each new installment is fresh and new. Kinsey still grows as a character, the cases never feel like repeats, and while I feel like it has to be a massive effort on Grafton's part to ensure that this is the case with each new book, the finished product is always a smooth and effortless read.

Because of my fondness for this series and all of the characters, I do recommend starting from the very beginning. I have to admit, though, that X wouldn't make a bad diving in point if you you absolutely must go with the latest.

(X is officially out on shelves tomorrow.)

Rating: 5/5

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Girl in the Glass by James Hayman

Hi, everyone! Today I'm kicking off the TLC book tour for James Hayman's The Girl in the Glass.

Veronica Aimée Whitby had everything going for her: valedictorian of her graduating class, a noted athlete, artist, and an undeniable beauty, not to mention heir to the Whitby fortune. But then Aimée is found murdered on the very evening of her graduation party. 

McCabe and Savage catch the case, well aware that all eyes are on them as they investigate. They soon find that the Whitby golden girl may have been anything but. And strangely, her murder mimics that of her namesake - a crime that's over a century old. 

This is the latest in Hayman's McCabe and Savage series - the first of which, The Cutting, was a favorite read of mine back in 2009.

The Girl in the Glass actually begins with the 1904 murder of Aimée's great-great grandmother. An artist herself, the early Aimée was found near death at the bottom of a cliff with a stab wound to her abdomen and the letter "A" carved into her chest. All reports from that era claim that she was killed by her lover, Mark Garrison, an artist commissioned by Aimée's own husband to paint her portrait. Garrison committed suicide that same day.

Interestingly, as Aimée's case unfolds the reader is treated to another perspective of that earlier Aimée's story in the form of journal entries written by her bereaved husband. How the story pertains to the present-day murder is a mystery even to the reader throughout much of the story. This is something McCabe and Savage have to figure out as well when they realize their case mirrors that early one down to even the smallest details.

I somehow missed the books in between Cutting and Girl but for all the time that's passed I may very well have been starting over fresh with McCabe and Savage here. Not that it mattered all that much. The Girl in the Glass made me feel like I'd missed nothing but for a few failed relationships on McCabe's part. (I know that's definitely not the case but I never felt like there were gaping holes in my reading memory.)

I'd noted in my long ago review of The Cutting that readers would never tire of this kind of thriller as long as writers like Hayman continued to come up with such gripping plots. The Girl in the Glass most definitely reinforces that.

Rating: 3.5/5

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

For more on James Hayman and his work you can visit his website here. You can also like him on Facebook.


Top Ten Tuesday: If I Taught Horror Apocalypse Survival 101

I've decided to jump on board with Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the topic is: Top Ten Books That Would Be On Your Syllabus If You Taught X 101. I'm in a definite horror mood of late (what's new, right?). I started to pick Women of Horror, 101 but I think I'll save that for a future post. Instead I was leaning towards Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse, 101 (hey, Fear the Walking Dead started this week!) but then I thought I could widen that a bit. So here we go, the books I'd have on my syllabus if I taught a class on surviving the horror apocalypse:

Monday, August 24, 2015

Hostile Takeover by Shane Kuhn - Excerpt + a Giveaway

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of reviewing Shane Kuhn's snarky debut, The Intern's Handbook. It was a match made in book junkie heaven, let me tell you. It was dark and funny, much in the way we all came to love Dexter (the show this time around, 'cause Kuhn is a little... edgier... than I remember the Dexter books).

And now the sequel is out! To celebrate, I'm giving away one copy of The Intern's Handbook.

Be warned, there will be spoilers here if you haven't yet read The Intern's Handbook. I suggest you skip straight to the Rafflecopter if that's the case! Also be warned, if you prefer your books squeaky clean then this is not the read for you.

Here's a bit about Hostile Takeover from Goodreads:

At the end of The Intern’s Handbook, John tracks down his nemesis Alice but instead of putting a bullet in her head, he puts a ring on her finger and marries her. Together, they execute a hostile takeover of Human Resources, Inc., the “placement agency” that trains young assassins to infiltrate corporations disguised as interns and knock off high profile targets. As HR’s former top operatives, they are successful until conflicting management styles cause an ugly breakup that locks John out of the bedroom and the boardroom.

But when Alice takes on a new HR target, John is forced to return to the office battlefield in a role he swore he would never play again: the intern. What starts out as a deadly showdown turns into the two of them fighting side by side to save HR, Inc.—and their marriage.


Hm, sounds like things are getting even more... challenging for Lago!

The Intern's Handbook
Shane Kuhn

Prologue 

Federal Bureau of Investigation—National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC), Quantico, Virginia Present day

This is the first day of the rest of your life, I think to myself as I squint under the bright fluorescent lights in a windowless interrogation room. In the reflection of the yellowy two-way mirror, I look like a bug in a jar, quietly waiting for a mentally disturbed five-year-old to fill it with water and watch me stiffly gallop to a slow and painful death. But my executioner doesn’t come in the form of a bored suburban brat. He comes in the form of Assistant Director Winton Fletcher—a fifty-something FBI poster boy with a scrubbed red face (Ivory soap), machine-precision haircut (Floyd the barber), cheap, ill-fitting suit and prep school knockoff tie (Joseph A. Bank), and high-polish wing tips with skid-proof rubber soles (Florsheim).

“Fletch,” as I like to call him, embodies the clean-cut, red- blooded American values invented by square ad execs and political campaign managers of the 1950s. All of it amounts to an intentionally colorless persona designed to put even the hardest criminals at ease and seduce a full confession. If I wasn’t an honored guest of Uncle Sam—top hat, tails, orange jumpsuit, maximum-security cuisine, and lethal injection for dessert—I might mistake him for a Lutheran minister or an aluminum siding salesman from Wichita. He saddles up on his high horse across the table from me.

“I’m Assistant Director Fletcher,” he says.

“Hi, I’m Dr. Rosenpenis,” I reply in homage to Fletch, the worst most quotable movie ever made.

He smiles at me, uncertain how to take what I’ve said, but jaded enough not to give a shit. Someone with his tenure in this place has pretty much seen it all . . . until today. He pulls a crisp new yellow legal pad from his briefcase and begins to awkwardly rummage through it, looking for something else.

“Your pen is in your side suit jacket pocket, Fletch,” I offer. “You probably put it there so the guards wouldn’t hassle you about bringing a potentially deadly weapon into a room with a homicidal maniac.”

He smiles again and pulls out the pen.

“I’m impressed,” he says, carefully placing his legal pad on the table next to a thick file folder with my name emblazoned on the tab in institutional block letters: john lago.

“You should be,” I say menacingly.

He doesn’t look at me or react. He’s been trained not to react to any negative fluctuations in emotion, only positive. He’s been trained to keep all exchanges under complete control. Interrogators can never be looked at as people with personal lives and weaknesses. They are like Fletcher, unassuming and understated in every way, well-spoken robots who do their jobs with immaculate precision. On that note we have at least one thing in common.

Fletcher pulls a clear plastic evidence bag from his briefcase and lays it on the table. Inside is a bloodstained composition book with the following title scrawled in Sharpie on the cover:

The Intern’s Handbook.

My original manuscript. First edition. I smile at it like a father would smile at his newborn baby after coming home from a long combat tour. He sees my smile and makes a mental note that I am probably not going to feel any remorse for my sins.

“I’d like to talk about this, John.” 


“Have you read it, Fletch?” 

“Several times.”
“And?”

“And what?”
“What did you think?”

“Well, I have a lot of questions about—”
“No, what I meant was, did you like it? Was it a good read? Would it pair well with box wine at your wife’s book club?”

He puts on reading glasses, another disarming tactic. Grandpa wants you to sit on his lap, enjoy a butterscotch candy, and shoot the breeze. Here comes the pedantic grin. The feds are also masters of making you feel like you are sick or abnormal. Why do you think they attempt to look so militantly normal? Because to the criminal mind, they strive to be the foil, the mug shot frame that forces you to look at yourself and ask, What’s wrong with this picture?

“I found it very interesting.”

Interesting is another word for irrelevant in this context. Probably thinks Reader’s Digest and Parade are cultural oracles. I hate him for evading and I hate myself for caring.

“Like I said, I’d like to talk about it,” Fletch reiterates. 

“What do you want to know?”
“Is it all true?” he asks.
“Every fucking word.”

“You said that you wrote it to help other young people who had been put in the same position as you. Is that the only reason?”

“That was why I started writing it. After a few chapters, I realized I needed to write it more for myself than for anyone else.”

“You needed to get some things off your chest?”

I exhale a sigh heavily laced with annoyance. It’s time to mess with Fletch a bit. He’s too into his routine, and I need to jam the signal. I lean in like a film noir confidant, the devil on his shoulder.

“I’m sure you can relate, Fletch. A man in your position. So many secrets. So many things you wish you could undo. For years you’ve lived in the pressure cooker—but you can’t go home and talk to the missus unless you want to put a target on her back. Let’s face it, you can’t talk to anyone, because what you know is like a plague that needs to be buried or burned with the rest of the bodies. But they don’t stay buried, do they, Fletch? Eventually you just . . . unload, like emptying a full magazine into someone’s face. It’s a bit messy, but undeniably cathartic.” 

The consummate professional, Fletch leans in as well, playing off my vibe, showing me he’s a regular guy. It’s like when a pasty executive who’s been clipped by life tries to shoulder up at the airport bar to exchange war stories when he’s never even been in a fistfight.

“Is that why you wanted to talk to me today, John? You have something you need to unload?”

“In a manner of speaking.”

“I’m all ears.”

No shit, I think, they’d love those jug handles in my cell block, Opie.

“May I have a cigarette, Fletch?”

“There’s no smoking in here.”

“Okay. Maybe I’ll go back to my cell.” I yawn. “Salisbury steak and potatoes au gratin tonight. After cobbler some of the boys are going to give me a jailhouse tramp stamp.”

He lights me one of his own cigarettes. Marlboro Red—the Budweiser of cancer sticks. I draw on it greedily. The nicotine rush dulls the pain in my head but fires up the maddening itch that I cannot scratch under the plaster cast that covers my leg from ankle to arse.

Some of my new cell mates—around eight or ten ’roid-raging lifers who could bench-press two of me—had heard about my former profession and took me for a test-drive my first day inside. I tore most of them shiny new assholes, but they managed to jack up my leg and rearrange my face before the crooked guards stepped in and pretended to give a shit. I try to scratch inside the cast again. No dice. I get all Zen and try to make it go away with my mind but end up looking like I’m having a mild seizure.

“John, do you fully understand your rights and the nature of this interview?” he asks, gently raising a condescending brow.

“No. Where am I again?” I laugh, blowing smoke in his face. 

He lights a cigarette of his own to show me he’s just doing his job. 

“I need to be sure you’re of sound mind,” he says politely.

I laugh for an awkwardly long time. Just for fun.

“I thought you said you read my book.”
“I did.”
“Then you just proved that there is such a thing as a stupid question.”

He ignores me and writes on his pad like an actor on one of those cheesy legal shows.

“When they brought you in, you had been shot and you had a cocktail of narcotics in your blood that would have been lethal to a man twice your size. On your first day with the general population you assaulted numerous prisoners and two guards before they beat you unconscious and shattered your leg. Quite frankly, John, I can’t believe you’re still breathing, let alone coherent enough to undergo an interview.”

“Is that what you call this? An interview?”

“Yes. What do you call it?”

“A bad joke with a jaw-breaking punch line,” I say and stub the cigarette out in the palm of my hand.
It’s subtle, but I see a slight twitch in his lip, an involuntary reaction. He’s beginning to get the picture:

John Lago is in the building.

“That’s the kind of thing that might give me the wrong impression about your mental state,” he says calmly.

“Why is that?”

“Most people use an ashtray.”

“I’m not most people. But you already knew that.”

He writes notes, buying a little time to figure out how to regain control of the exchange, but I’m not about to let him start thinking for himself. I’m here for one reason, and it’s time to cut to the chase. 

“You’re not going to find any answers on that legal pad, Fletch. If you’re uncomfortable speaking to me, perhaps you should bring in someone with a more expensive tie.”

He leans forward on his elbows. Alpha posturing. He’s angry. I can see that, at one point in his life, he might have been intimidating. He doesn’t realize that he no longer possesses that quality.

“John, there’s one very important rule I need you to follow if this is going to work.”

“No sex in the champagne room?”

“Don’t fuck with me,” he says, lightly threatening. “I’ve seen a lot of guys like you on that side of the table—all with the same attitude, full of themselves. You might think you’re special because of who you were out there. But in here, you are a man that needs to convince me not to stick a needle in your arm and put you down like the family dog. Am I making myself clear?”

“Let’s not fight,” I say.

He settles back, proud of his steely delivery and strategic deployment of the F word. Probably a Brando fan. Loves the smell of testosterone in the morning.

“I just want to make sure we understand each other,” he says, dialing back the aggression so my anger doesn’t make me shut down. 

I smile back at him but the light goes down in my eyes and I know that to him I look like a demon in an orange jumpsuit. Intimidation has been my occupation since I hit puberty, and this meat balloon is no different from my other marks. His look of surprise at my sudden change in demeanor is tantamount to a flinch.

“Fletch, if you know anything about me, you know that death is the least of my concerns. Compared to what my enemies are going to do to me, long before I ever make it into a courtroom, your little needle is more like summer vacation with the family dog. Forget about what you think will motivate me because I can pretty much guarantee you I’m nothing like the others that have sat across this table from you. And just so we understand each other, I didn’t ask to speak to you because I feel guilty and want to rock floor seats with Jesus at the resurrection. I’m going down—so far I may never hit bottom—and the only thing I care about is making sure I don’t go alone.”

Now he really is all ears.

“Who do you want to take with you?”

“Alice.”

He pauses as a jolt of electricity charges the room.

“You know where she is?”

“I can find her.”

“Where?”

Fletch is drooling. Clyde just offered to drop a dime on Bonnie. 

“Do you actually think I’m going to bend over for you without asking for a bit of a reach around?”

“We don’t negotiate, John.”

“Then this conversation is already over.”

He is uncomfortable. This is not going as he planned. I get the impression he swaggered around the firing range earlier this week and bragged to the other mustaches about how he was going to school John Lago at his own game. It’s laughable. So, I laugh.

“I’ll do my best within my authority,” he almost whines. “But I’m not making any promises. What do you want in exchange?”

“I want to see her.”

“Excuse me?”

“It’s pretty simple, Fletch. If I help you bring her in, I want to see her, in the flesh, one last time. Until you can agree to that, we have nothing more to discuss.”

“I’ll see what I can do.” 


An hour later I’m back in my six-by-six cell reading the fan mail my fellow cons have written on toilet paper, candy bar wrappers, and anything else that will hold ink and slipped under my door. Of course, every celebrity, even a D-lister like me, has to deal with the entire spectrum of the limelight. Sentiments range from guys telling me they’re going to skull fuck me and cut me up into little pieces to guys wanting to pay me to teach them how to skull fuck someone and cut them into little pieces. Then, of course, there are the guys who want to be my bitch or my bride and vice versa.

But unlike most minor celebrities, I’m not delusional enough to think I’m a household name and deserve recognition as such. For those of you who don’t know me, let me smoke the tires a bit and get you up to speed. I am a killer, professional variety, assassin species. Hey, don’t hate the playa. You might have taken this gig too if, like me, you were born with one foot in the grave. But my childhood is a morbidly hilarious story for another day.

Until recently, I was employed by Human Resources, Inc.—a front for one of the most elite contract assassination firms in the world. Our specialty was our cover: the internship. HR, Inc. would place us in companies as interns, the bottom-feeders of the corporate world, and we would use our wallflower anonymity to slither up the corporate ladder like ninja black mambas and smoke heavily guarded, high-value targets—mostly well-heeled Fortune 500 golf zombies who won’t be missed at the church picnic.

It was actually a genius concept and the perfect cover for wet work, if you’re into that sort of thing. To quote Bob, my former and thoroughly dead boss, “Interns are invisible. You can tell executives your name a hundred times and they will never remember it because they have no respect for someone at the bottom of the barrel, working for free. The irony is that they will heap important duties on you with total abandon. The more of these duties you voluntarily accept, the more you will get, simultaneously acquiring trust and access. Ultimately, your target will trust you with his life and that is when you will take it.”

Kind of makes you think twice about fucking with the little people, right?

I’m sure you’re wondering why the hell someone would choose such a vocation. And if you aren’t, then you’ve got serious problems. But I like to say that this is the kind of work that chooses you. Just like with money-grubbing religious cults and the Malaysian sex trade, the trolls of the world are always cruising the gutter for disenfranchised youth, such as yours truly. They know you’ve got no options. They also know you’ve got no outside support in the form of parents or even a half-assed state-assigned guardian. When you’re on your own as a youngster, you’re fresh meat and there’s a line of cannibals just waiting to fire up the grill. So, instead of becoming a drug mule or getting sold as a chicken dinner for pedophile conventioneers, I got recruited into the highly unglamorous yet hella lucrative world of contract killing. I have half a brain and I’m fairly athletic, so they applied my talents to the job, scrubbed away any pesky human emotions or empathy that might get in the way, and put a gun in my hand before I had even figured out how to find my dick with it. I was twelve years old when HR, Inc. got its hooks in me and I stayed there for thirteen years.

Three years ago, at the ripe old age of twenty-five, I was about to retire. Bob’s philosophy was that anyone accepting an internship past that age would be labeled a slacker by established employees and draw the kind of attention that could jeopardize assignments. Which was fine with me. I was happy to wash my hands of the whole affair, but before I could ride off into the sunset, I had one last job. I should have known not to take it because one last job in the movies is always the first step to total annihilation. Always. In the film Seven, Morgan Freeman takes one last case and ends up in the seventh circle of Hell. Or how about Harrison Ford in Blade Runner? Guy comes out of retirement to bag one last skin job and finds out he’s a skin job! Jesus, I should have seen this coming!

Anyway, all I wanted was to move on and try to live something other than a kid-on-a-milk-carton life. I wanted baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and fucking Chevrolet. God knows I earned it! You know the mortality stats for someone in my line of work? Nearly 100 percent. It doesn’t matter how deadly you are because, unless you’re the Terminator, eventually one of those bullets coming down like cool November rain is going to find you and paint the world with your insides.

It’s only a matter of time.

And I had done my time . . . in spades. I should have bounced when I had the chance. Of course I didn’t. Instead of getting my gold retirement watch and landing on my feet with a white picket fence and a satellite dish, I ended up base-jumping from the kettle into the fire. All because of one last job. But what’s done is done. If you’re interested, you can read about the whole hot mess in The Intern’s Handbook. You won’t find it at Barnes & Noble, but I hear the feds have a few copies lying around, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you could download it for free on Russian iTunes. I’m told it’s an excellent beach/airplane/bathroom/killing-time-after-a-motel-tryst read.

But that was then and this is now. I’m twenty-eight years young and I’ve ripened like nightshade berries or pungent French cheese. Since having my ass handed to me three years ago, I tried valiantly to leave my foul-mouthed, trigger-happy alter ego behind. Greener pastures were my original destination, but there truly is no rest for the wicked (despite our infectious charms), and I ended up being railroaded into a collision course with, you guessed it, Act Two of my tragic life story. I thought I’d nearly seen it all, but this not only takes the cake, it kidnaps, tortures, and dismembers the pastry chef.

So Kumbaya your asses round the campfire for a little prison bedtime story. If you’re already a member of the John Lago fan club, then none of what I’m about to tell you will come as a shock. After The Intern’s Handbook, you’re used to being bound, horse- whipped, and hung from the nearest tree by the prodigious yarns I’m apt to spin. In fact, if this were a movie sequel, it would be The Godfather, Part II—better than the original. For all you John Lago virgins, welcome to the party—a raucous affair where they dose your wine cooler with angel dust at the door and you wake up playing a supporting role in a ritual killing somewhere in a swamp outside Tampa.

I guess the best place to begin is with Alice—the beautiful and charming love of my life who deceived me in every conceivable way, beat me senseless, shot me, ripped my heart out and stomped it to bits, and burned everything important to me to the ground. Some of you know about her and can’t wait to get your fingers in the dirt, of which there is a veritable truckload. For those who don’t, she’s just like me—a killer who thought she was heartless but found out the hard way she wasn’t when Cupid, that fat, cheeky bastard, shot a 600-grain carbon fiber arrow with a bone-splitting broadhead right through her love muscle, and life as she knew it bled out onto the floor.

When Bukowski said, “If there are junk yards in hell, love is the dog that guards the gates,” he wasn’t kidding.

Copyright © 2015 by SK Media LLC

And now for the giveaway! To enter to win a paperback copy of Shane Kuhn's first Lago thriller, The Intern's Handbook, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, September 7. Open US only. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

New Releases 8/14/15

Some of the new titles hitting shelves are:

The Drowning Ground by James Marrison

X by Sue Grafton

Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny

A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan

The Taming of the Queen by Philippa Gregory

End Time by Keith Korman

Candy Corn Murder by Leslie Meier

Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore

Last Ragged Breath by Julia Keller

A Good Family by Erik Fassnacht

Iron Wolf by Dale Brown

Ally Hughes Has Sex Sometimes by Jules Moulin

You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine by Alexandra Kleeman

Hide and Seek by Jane Casey

Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray

Another Day by David Levithan

New on DVD:
Two Days, One Night
Lila & Eve
Citizenfour
Aloha

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
Little Girls by Ronald Malfi

Friday, August 21, 2015

Short Fiction Friday: Blonde Hair, Blue Eyes by Karin Slaughter

Happy Friday, everyone! Today I'm taking part in the online party for Karin Slaughter's brand new e short, "Blonde Hair, Blue Eyes."

Julia Carroll's imagination has a tendency to go a bit overboard. But she hasn't imagined the recent disappearance of a fellow coed in town. Nor has she imagined the fact that one of the regulars where she volunteers has also disappeared. Julia knows that she needs to be careful on campus and around town, that's just the way things are. And she wants to write a piece about the recent disappearances. In order to do so, she begins to look into other missing girls but all her research and reading has her worried that the footsteps she hears behind her and that frisson of fear she feels when walking around campus alone might be more than her imagination this time around.

"Blonde Hair, Blue Eyes" is actually a prequel to Slaughter's upcoming Pretty Girls and there's an excerpt of the book included at the end the e short.

The story is set in 1991. As I mentioned in my synopsis, a local girl has recently gone missing and Julia is becoming more and more obsessed with the story. Julia is your everyday, average college student. She's living alone for the first time, sharing a dorm room with her best friend. Said friend is getting somewhat irritated by Julia's paranoia about things like walking home alone at night, but otherwise everything at college is great. She even has a new boyfriend.

But in spite of that normalcy, Julia is still very aware of - and intrigued by - the fact that a girl like her can simply disappear. Who took the girl? Is she alive? Why is she being kept? And could this happen to Julia?

After reading Julia's story, I am SUPER excited to get to Pretty Girls! The excerpt was more than enough to make waiting pure torture at this stage too!

I should note for anyone familiar with Slaughter's work who might be wondering, Pretty Girls is a stand alone (with the exception of the short, that is).

"Blonde Hair, Blue Eyes" is out now. Pretty Girls is due out from William Morrow on September 29.

(To anyone who came across this post before I edited it, I do apologize. Apparently the publisher's giveaway ended BEFORE my agreed upon post date for the promotion. Sorry, sorry. It wasn't me!)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Woman With a Secret by Sophie Hannah

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Sophie Hannah's latest, Woman With a Secret (aka The Telling Error in the UK).

Nicki has a secret, one she'll do just about anything to keep. But when that secret lands her in the center of a murder investigation, her life starts to crumble around her. 

Nicki had been good for over three weeks. Ever since her run in with the cop, in fact. But a small errand for her kids puts her back in the sights of that same policeman when she stumbles into what appears to be a traffic stop in town. Desperate to avoid recognition, she decides to risk it and turn around. What Nicki doesn't know is that the traffic stop is part of the investigation into the murder of a controversial columnist with a string of enemies. And Nicki's attempt to avoid confrontation with the officer in question leads investigators to wonder if she could be involved in the crime.

Whew! Nicki has dug herself a hole that keeps getting deeper and deeper and deeper. We don't know what her issue with this cop is at the beginning of the book, so we don't really know if her actions that kick off this whole thing are warranted in any way or not. We do know that she's highly paranoid and, as we soon learn, that she does have things to hide.

This is the latest installment in Hannah's long running Spilling CID series, featuring Simon Waterhouse and Charlie Zailer. Fortunately, as has always been my worry since I've only read Little Face before now, you don't have to have read the previous books to be able to enjoy Woman With a Secret. Like the Deborah Crombie series I've recently become a fan of, the main plot of Woman is the individual case - Nicki's story and the murder of Damon Blundy - and while the main characters of the series have their own story (something's up with Charlie's sister and Gibbs), it's more of a continuing development of the characters than a main focus. In other words, Woman doesn't overly rely on the characters' backstories or previous cases and can essentially work as a stand alone.

Woman With a Secret is something of a polarizing read, at least based on what I've seen. And it's all thanks to Nicki. I'll admit I didn't like her. She frustrated me to no end. If she was a person I knew, I'd grab her by the shoulders and shake her all the while screaming "What is WRONG with you?!" That said, reading about her descent was highly entertaining in way that almost made me feel guilty. Her secrets are revealed a little at a time as the investigation progresses and you start to feel like there's just no way things are going to end well for her even if she is, as Gibbs thinks to himself "...more like a desperate idiot than an evil genius."

Rating: 4/5

If you haven't yet read the series and want to read them in order, the full series list is as follows (UK title/US title):

Little Face
Hurting Distance/The Truth-Teller's Lie
The Point of Rescue/The Wrong Mother
The Other Half Lives/The Dead Lie Down
A Room Swept White/The Cradle in the Grave
Lasting Damage/The Other Woman's House
Kind of Cruel
The Carrier

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

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


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Mall by S.L. Grey

So remember how I said that Sarah Lotz's Day Four gave me a massive book hangover? Well I decided not to fight it. I had to have more! Fortunately, before The Three and Day Four, Sarah Lotz teamed up with Louis Greenberg to pen three books (as S.L. Grey) set in a parallel world called Downside: The Mall, The Ward, and The New Girl. They were only released here last year and I just got the third one for my bday!

Rhoda only went to Highgate to score. It's not like she intentionally lost the kid - she left him in the bookstore and told him not to leave. But leave he apparently did and now Rhoda has to find him. Not that mall security is any great help. In fact, they're treating Rhoda more like a criminal than seriously searching for the kid. And the guy at the bookstore doesn't help the situation any by lying about the whole thing - Rhoda knows for a fact that he saw her come in with the kid in tow. 

Dan didn't lie on purpose, but when he sees a kid running through the mall tunnels he does finally put it together. Not that he wants to get involved. But he doesn't have much of a choice when Rhoda attacks him as he's leaving for the night. Now she's dragged him back into the tunnels, intent on having him show her where he last saw the kid. As they make their way deeper into the warren of back halls, though, Dan realizes that they've somehow become lost. When they finally emerge, the mall looks quite different from the one they're used to. 

Downside is a place where pretty much everything is literal and your fate is decided by Management, who've had their eye on Dan and Rhoda for some time. In fact, they're watching as Dan and Rhoda try to escape the tunnels, make their way into the Downside Mall, and stumble their way through this parallel world, taunting them the whole time.

At first I thought the book started a little too quickly for my taste and had a hint of cheesiness that I was sure couldn't possibly be a good sign. I was so wrong, The Mall is brilliant fun! Not only do Lotz and Greenberg bring the horror, they bring it with a definite dark humor. And they do it while poking fun at consumerism and mall culture as a whole. It might sound like a silly premise - two people lost in a parallel mall where people literally shop till they drop - but Lotz and Greenberg pull it off. Not only that, but in their hands the story is fantastically creepy!

The Mall definitely hit the spot! I think book hangovers are probably going to be a given with each new Lotz/Grey title I tackle though. (Psst, there's a fourth S.L. Grey title out now - Under Ground - that isn't part of the Downside series.)

Rating: 5/5

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Martian Giveaway

I am a huge book junkie, but I'm also an equally huge movie enthusiast. (It's probably fitting considering I work in publishing and my husband works in film!) Anyway, every year I have a list of hugely anticipated movies and, after reading Andy Weir's phenomenal debut last December, The Martian adaptation made that list.

The movie isn't due out in theaters until October, but there are finally trailers and clips for people like me to feast their eyes on while waiting for that release date. And for any of you who haven't yet read the book, there are multiple editions available!

Today actually marks the release of the pretty new movie-tie-in edition featuring Matt Damon as our hero, Mark Watney. (And he's PERFECT for the role!) I just happen to have one of these handsome editions in hand to give away today, too!

Don't know what the book is about? Well, here's a bit about it from Goodreads:

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him & forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded & completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—& even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—& a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

(I've also included the link to my review from December if you want to check that out.)

Haven't seen the awesome-sauce trailer? Well, I've got that for you here too! 


This is going to be one seriously fantastic movie, y'all! And take it from me, you do want to read this book before you see it. It's that great! 

And now for the giveaway: to enter simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, August 31.  Open US only.

Top Ten Tuesday: My Auto-Buy Authors

I've decided to jump on board with Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the topic is: Auto-Buy Authors. In other words, those authors I'll buy no matter what comes out! I could go on and on and on with this list. I couldn't even limit myself to ten! I did rein myself in at 13 but I still had more I could have included - George R. R. Martin, Dan Simmons, Sue Grafton...

Monday, August 17, 2015

Between the Tides by Susannah Marren

Ugh, it's Monday. Even with a more flexible schedule, Mondays are still HARD. We had quite an eventful weekend over here, too. I had family visiting until the middle of last week, I had an event Friday, then we spent Saturday at a wedding for my husband's side of the family. It was a gorgeous spot and - after some threatening looking clouds passed over - a really great evening for an outdoor wedding. Plus we got to visit with even more folks from out of state.

Needless to say, with all of this going on getting an any reading time can be a challenge. It makes it much easier, then, when you have something that takes little effort to get into - like Susannah Marren's debut, Between the Tides.

Lainie loves the water. An artist whose work is so seated in the element, she lives for her time near the streams, rivers, and sea. But then her husband receives an offer to head up the orthopedic surgery department of the well-respected Elliot Memorial, in Elliot, New Jersey. Inland, and with no water in sight. Charles argues that the city and its waters are only an hour away by train, but Lainie knows it will never be the same. 

And it's more than the lack of water that makes Lainie feel truly out of her element in their new hometown. It's the expectations that come with being the wife of a department head. It's the way Lainie's clothes, car, and demeanor don't quite fit in with the other Elliot mothers. And it's the way Charles has started to look at her with disappointment because of it all. 

The book begins with Lainie telling her children a story about a selkie whose coat is stolen by a fisherman who then makes her marry him and live on land. I think I knew from the beginning that this story was foreshadowing, but as the book progresses it becomes more and more obvious. The very early fate of Lainie's most famous work is another tell-tale sign that things are headed downhill for Lainie.  It was actually a bit hard for me to truly connect with Lainie. I couldn't understand how or why she and Charles had managed to be together for so long. Obviously the move to Elliot changed them both, but it seemed that his lack of understanding and support had to have been present in some form or another during the fourteen plus years they had been together! Oh, I sympathized with her for sure and I've no doubt every reader out there will as well.

I didn't mention Jess at all in my synopsis. Sections of the book alternate between Lainie and Jess, giving the reader pieces of the story from both of their perspectives. What we learn from the beginning is that Jess and Lainie go way back. Their backstory stretches through the novel, though, so we don't know exactly what went down between the two. And while Lainie might suspect that Jess has ulterior motives when she takes the newly displaced artist under her wing, we - the readers - are quite certain that Jess is holding a major grudge.

I don't want to give any more away about the book. It is a story that pulls you in like the tide. And like the tide, there's no point in trying to swim against it. But why would you want to?

Rating: 3.5/5

Sunday, August 16, 2015

New Releases 8/18/15

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Intruder by Håkan Östlundh

Zer0es by Chuck Wendig

Deceptions by Kelley Armstrong

Hostage Taker by Stefanie Pintoff

The Reckoning by Carsten Stroud

We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The Girl From the Garden by Parnaz Foroutan

Zero World by Jason M. Hough

Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh

A Pattern of Lies by Charles Todd

The Paradox by Charlie Fletcher

The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard

No Other Darkness by Sarah Hilary

Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford

Last Words by Michael Koryta

The Trials by Linda Nagata

Darkness the Color of Snow by Thomas Cobb

The Ripper Gene by Michael Ransom

Gone Cold by Douglas Corleone

Friction by Sandra Brown

Nightwise by R. S. Belcher

Harriet Wolf's Seventh Book of Wonders by Julianna Baggott

The Murderer's Daughter by Jonathan Kellerman

Slasher Girls & Monster Boys ed by April Genevieve Tucholke

A History of Glitter and Blood by Hannah Moskowitz

Court of Fives by Kate Elliott

The Legacy of Kings by Eleanor Herman

Shackled by Tom Leveen

The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle

Sophomores and Other Oxymorons by David Lubar

New on DVD:
Riot Club
Strangerland

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
Love is Red by Sophie Jaff
Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Stepdog by Nicole Galland

Happy Thursday, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Nicole Galland's latest, Stepdog! (You can check out an excerpt and enter to win a copy here.)

When Rory gets fired, it should be a bad thing. But instead it turns out to be quite a pleasant ordeal. It is, after all, the reason he gets to kiss Sara, his boss. And it's also the reason they start dating. But when Rory is offered a shot at a series lead, his immigration status presents some problematic issues. In other words: no green card, no job!

Rory has a marriage offer already on the table courtesy of his cousin's widow. It would be a paper marriage, but it would definitely hinder his burgeoning relationship with Sara. So Sara offers to marry him instead. And Rory finds that being married to Sara isn't all that bad except for the fact that a relationship with Sara comes with one big, hairy, attention-hogging dog. It's not that Rory doesn't get along with Cody, but living life around the dog grates on the former bachelor. And when Cody is kidnapped, thanks to Rory, it's all he can do to get her back and save his relationship with Sara. 

Sooo, first off this is a very cute book and, I might add, a successful change of pace for Galland. I should actually point out that it's a change in setting only, though. Rory, Sara, and Cody might all be in the here and now but Galland's wit, charm, and poetic prose are all present regardless of the fact that this isn't an historical novel. Rory even has a penchant for picking Shakespearean roles, as a little nod to Galland's backlist!

I felt for Rory. I've never quite experienced the feeling of being second to my husband's dog (yes, I have a stepdog and she did treat me as such for the first few years! We get along perfectly now.) but I've certainly known people who seemed just a bit... hm... Sara like. I've also been accused of loving my cats more than a boyfriend (I didn't, until he said it. Being with a person who's jealous of your pet is not pleasant.) So you can see, I sympathize with Sara, too!

There's a bit more to the story but Stepdog is basically about a new couple trying to figure out their relationship under atypical circumstances. And of course every new relationship comes with hurdles, which is why Rory and Sara are so relatable and likable. It probably helps to some degree that this was a bit of a personal story for Galland as she herself did go through SOME of the same things Rory and Sara did.

Stepdog is great fun, readers. Seriously, great fun! Galland, as always, is a pro and I think Cody and her humans are going to win over even the most anti dog readers out there!

Rating: 4/5

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

For more on Nicole Galland and her work, you can visit her website here (I love the header "Historical Novelist now moonlighting in contemporary fiction"). You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Everyday Detox by Megan Gilmore

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of food. It's probably not a surprise then to learn that I don't quite eat as healthy as I should. I lean towards creamy, cheesy, carb loaded dishes probably 95% of the time and I kind of hate dieting and exercise. Not a great combination.

While I do realize that getting healthy is a process - that there's no magic pill to make it all come together - Megan Gilmore's Everyday Detox: 100 Easy Recipes to Remove Toxins, Promote Gut Health, and Lose Weight Naturally does make it all seem a little more approachable and easy.

The book is built on the Gilmore's concept of food groupings - fresh fruit; starches; animal protein; nuts, seeds and dried fruit; and non starchy vegetables - and that by grouping foods in this way and eating within one group for each meal you're basically doing your body a favor, making it easier to digest and process the foods to your benefit. There are six groups total, the ones I've mentioned above and a neutral group. Neutrals can be eaten with any meal.

What I like about this book is the fact that it can be used as a starting off point: once you've got the categories down, you can start creating your own dishes and meals within Gilmore's guidelines. I also loved the fact that the recipes appealed to me - she uses cheese!!! - and that she includes menus as guides as well. So if you're craving Mexican, for example, she suggests pairing her Classic Guacamole, the Mexican Butternut Pilaf, and the Enchilada Stuffed Cabbage Rolls for a healthy Mexican fiesta.

I appreciated that Gilmore included recipes for making a lot of base recipes like your own coconut milk, almond milk, and tahini. I'm not quite motivated enough to go that far with the book, but I think anyone with a real desire to have a 100% hands on approach to their cooking will find this quite appealing. For my own purposes, I actually just relied on store bough versions of those items, paying special attention to the labels when selecting which one to buy.

What I didn't so much love about this book was the fact that you need special equipment for some of the recipes. You need a juicer and a high speed blender to create almost all of the "Liquid Nourishment" recipes, for example. I did manage to find a couple of cheats, though. Considering I didn't have a high speed blender that could reliably incorporate chia seeds, I was a bit pleased to stumble upon already ground chia seeds at my local grocery. This made the "Chocolate Chia Shake" doable even with my measly blender.

Another issue I had with the book was the "animal protein" grouping and what I realize now is a heavy leaning towards those proteins in pretty much all of my meals. While in theory the book sounds great and I honestly have no issue at all with going meat free on occasion, I did find that as time progressed I gravitated more and more to the animal protein recipes in lieu of others. Honestly, I missed meat on my pizza and the vegetarian "Italian 'Meatloaf' Muffins" weren't quite enough of a convincing substitute for my palate. (That recipe, by the way, was actually an "animal protein" dish that included both cheese and eggs, but still no meat in the meatballs themselves.)

Everyday Detox is kind of a mixed bag. It's definitely not going to appeal to everyone out there, but if you're motivated enough and willing to be experimental with your food while trying to adapt to an overall healthier approach to eating, I think you'll find some useful recipes and information in Gilmore's book.

Rating: 3/5

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

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Dark Screams vol 4 ed by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for the latest Dark Screams anthology, Dark Screams vol 4. As with the previous installments, there is a tour wide giveaway thanks to the folks over at Hydra. You can enter via the Rafflecopter at the end of this post.

These horror short collections are really fun, guys. The editors have chosen fantastic authors and pieces, combining new and old to create some truly creepy collections here. You may have seen my previous posts on the series, if not here are the links for volume 1 and the combined post for volumes 2 and three.

Volume four includes the following:

The "Departed" by Clive Barker, a story that proves a mother's love lives on even after death. This one originally appeared in the New York Times back in 1992 as as "Hermione and the Moon."

"The New War" by Lisa Morton is new to the collection. In this story, an aging vet is haunted by a strange presence and has trouble accepting the time that's passed since his tour in WWII. 

"Sammy Comes Home" by Ray Garton is also new to the collection and is a terrifying tale centered around a young boy's affection for his dog Sammy.

"The Brasher Girl" by Ed Gorman, reprinted from 1995's Cages, is a bit of an homage to Stephen King.

And finally there's "Creature Feature" by Heather Graham. This is a fun one about a horror convention and Jack the Ripper. This one does tie into Graham's Krewe of Hunters series and features both Maureen and Aidan of The Betrayed. Aside from the obvious spoilers/revelations that these two end up together and survive the book, you don't have to have read Betrayed or any of the other Krewe books to enjoy this story.

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

And now for the giveaway: Again this is tour wide courtesy of the publisher. To enter simply fill out the Rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway



Sunday, August 9, 2015

New Releases 8/11/15

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Uninvited by Cat Winters

Fearless by Elliott James

Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner

In the Dark Places by Peter Robinson

The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham

A Remarkable Kindness by Diana Bletter

The Race For Paris by Meg Waite Clayton

The Lightning Stones by Jack Du Brul

Black Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

The Blue by Lucy Clarke

The Year of Necessary Lies by Kris Radish

Silver Linings by Debbie Macomber

Fool's Quest by Robin Hobb

The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips

The End of All Things by John Scalzi

Dead Soon Enough by Steph Cha

Long Upon the Land by Margaret Maron

Devil's Bridge by Linda Fairstein

Trap by Robert K. Tanenbaum

Between the Living and the Dead by Bill Crider

The Darkest Heart by Dan Smith (8/15)

The Killing Room by Christobel Kent (8/15)

You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day

Reawakened by Colleen Houck

New on DVD:
Hot Pursuit

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
Name of the Devil by Andrew Mayne

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Pre Pub Book Buzz: The Great Forgetting by James Renner

I love it when an author completely blows me away. And when it's a new-to-me author I can add to my absolutely-must-have-everything-they-ever-release-list, even better. James Renner earned himself a spot with his absolutely phenomenal debut novel, The Man From Primrose Lane. If you haven't read it, stop what you're doing and order a copy. It's weird and out there and seriously one of the absolute best cross-genre mystery/sci-fi reads in existence, in my opinion.

It's been a while since that one hit shelves but I've kept my eye out and now it's finally almost time for another new Renner title to hit stores!

Here's a bit about The Great Forgetting from Goodreads:

A new genre-bending novel from the author of The Man from Primrose Lane 

In The Man from Primrose Lane, James Renner fused time travel with serial-killer thrillers, resulting in what the Associated Press called "a superbly crazy and imaginative story." Now, in The Great Forgetting, he blends science fiction and conspiracy thrillers with a touch of pure fantasy, and the result is just as crazy and imaginative.

Jack Felter, a history teacher, returns home to bucolic Franklin Mills, Ohio, to care for his father, a retired pilot who suffers from dementia and is quickly losing his memory. Jack would love to forget about Franklin Mills, and about Sam, the girl he fell in love with, who ran off with his best friend, Tony. Except Tony has gone missing.

Soon Jack is pulled into the search for Tony, but the only one who seems to know anything is Tony's last patient, a paranoid boy named Cole. Jack must team up with Cole to follow Tony's trail-and maybe save the world. Their journey will lead them to Manhattan and secret facilities buried under the Catskills, and eventually to a forgotten island in the Pacific-the final destination of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

When Jack learns the details about the program known as the Great Forgetting, he's faced with the timeless question: Is it better to forget our greatest mistake or to remember, so it's never repeated?

What do you think? As I said, I've already got to have it but I may - MAY - have done my dorky book junkie happy dance when I read the book's announcement. 

The Great Forgetting is due out in November from FSG's Sarah Crichton Books. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War - Cover Reveal, Excerpt, + a Giveaway

As you can tell from my recent Charles Todd post and today's Cat Winters post, I'm one of many readers who finds WWI (and WWII) an irresistible subject/setting in novels. Which is why I'm taking part in today's cover reveal for next spring's Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War.

Thanks to the publisher, I've got not only the cover to show you but a bit about the book to share (with preorder links):


Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War 

by Heather Webb, Hazel Gaynor, Beatriz Williams, Jennifer Robson, Jessica Brockmole, Kate Kerrigan, Evangeline Holland, Lauren Willig, Marci Jefferson 

William Morrow Trade Paperback; March 1, 2016; $14.99; ISBN: 9780062418548 

Top voices in historical fiction deliver an intensely moving collection of short stories about loss, longing, and hope in the aftermath of World War I—featuring bestselling authors such as Hazel Gaynor, Jennifer Robson, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig and edited by Heather Webb.

A squadron commander searches for meaning in the tattered photo of a girl he’s never met…

A Belgian rebel hides from the world, only to find herself nursing the enemy…

A young airman marries a stranger to save her honor—and prays to survive long enough to love her…The peace treaty signed on November 11, 1918, may herald the end of the Great War but for its survivors, the smoke is only beginning to clear. Picking up the pieces of shattered lives will take courage, resilience, and trust.

Within crumbled city walls and scarred souls, war’s echoes linger. But when the fighting ceases, renewal begins…and hope takes root in a fall of poppies.

and an excerpt: 


Excerpt from “Hour of the Bells” 


A short story included in Fall of Poppies 

Beatrix whisked around the showroom, feather duster in hand. Not a speck of dirt could remain or Joseph would be disappointed. The hour struck noon. A chorus of clocks whirred, their birds popping out from hiding to announce midday. Maidens twirled in their frocks with braids down their backs, woodcutters clacked their axes against pine, and the odd sawmill wheel spun in tune to the melody of a nursery rhyme. Two dozen cuckoos warbled and dinged, each crafted with loving detail by the same pair of hands—those with thick fingers and a steady grip.

Beatrix paused in her cleaning. One clock chimed to its own rhythm, apart from the others.

She could turn them off—the tinkling melodies, the incessant clatter of pendulums, wheels, and cogs, with the levers located near the weights—just as their creator had done before bed each evening, but she could not bring herself to do the same. To silence their music was to silence him, her husband, Joseph. The Great War had already done that; ravaged his gentle nature, stolen his final breath, and silenced him forever.

In a rush, Beatrix scurried from one clock to the next, assessing which needed oiling. With the final stroke of twelve, she found the offending clock. Its walnut face, less ornate than the others, had been her favorite, always. A winter scene displayed a cluster of snow-topped evergreens; rabbits and fawns danced in the drifts when the music began, and a scarlet cardinal dipped its head and opened its beak to the beauty of the music. The animals’ simplicity appealed to her now more than ever. With care, she removed the weights and pendulum, and unscrewed the back of the clock. She was grateful she had watched her husband tend to them so often. She could still see Joseph, blue eyes peering over his spectacles, focused on a figurine as he painted detailing on the linden wood. His patient hands had caressed the figures lovingly, as he had caressed her.

The memory of him sliced her open. She laid her head on the table as black pain stole over her body, pooling in every hidden pocket and filling her up until she could scarcely breathe.

“Give it time,” her friend Adelaide had said, as she set a basket of jam and dried sausages on the table; treasures in these times of rations, yet meager condolence for what Beatrix had lost.

“Time?” Beatrix had laughed, a hollow sound, and moved to the window overlooking the grassy patch of yard. The Vosges mountains rose in the distance, lording over the line between France and Germany along the battle front. Time’s passage never escaped her—not for a moment. The clocks made sure of it. There weren’t enough minutes, enough hours, to erase her loss.

As quickly as the grief came, it fled. Though always powerful, its timing perplexed her. Pain stole through the night, or erupted at unlikely moments, until she feared its onslaught the way others feared death. Death felt easier, somehow.

Beatrix raised her head and pushed herself up from the table to finish her task. Joseph would not want her to mourn, after two long years. He would want to see her strength, her resilience, especially for their son. She pretended Adrien was away at school, though he had enlisted, too. His enlistment had been her fault. A vision of her son cutting barbed wire, sleeping in trenches, and pointing a gun at another man reignited the pain and it began to pool again. She suppressed the horrid thoughts quickly, and locked them away in a corner of her mind.

With a light touch she cleaned the clock’s bellows and dials, and anointed its oil bath with a few glistening drops. Once satisfied with her work, she hung the clock in its rightful place above the phonograph, where a disk waited patiently on the spool. She spun the disk once and watched the printed words on its center blur. Adrien had played Quand Madelon over and over, belting out the patriotic lyrics in time with the music. To him, it was a show of his support for his country. To Beatrix it had been a siren, a warning her only son would soon join the fight. His father’s death was the final push he had needed. The lure of patrimoine, of country, throbbed inside of him as it did in other men. They talked of war as women spoke of tea sets and linens, yearned for it as women yearned for children. Now, the war had seduced her Adrien. She stopped the spinning disk and plucked it from its wheel, the urge to destroy it pulsing in her hands.

She must try to be more optimistic. Surely God would not take all she had left.

Reprinted Courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers


Given not only the subject but the fabulous list of contributing authors, you can probably tell that this is one that's already on my list of books to buy for 2016! 

Now, it is quite a while before the book is out but the publisher is offering up a great giveaway to celebrate the reveal. This is a reveal wide giveaway so you can enter on any of the participating blogs. Good luck!