Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Royal Nanny by Karen Harper

Hi, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Karen Harper's The Royal Nanny.

Charlotte Bill knew that working as a undernurse for the royal family was going to be an exciting change. But she never anticipated that it would be her literal life's work. 

Arriving at York Cottage at just eighteen, Charlotte, nicknamed Lala by the young heirs, was to help with the care of David and Bertie, grandsons of the Prince of Whales, and take primary care of their newborn sibling as soon as he or she arrived. But the undernurse soon found her responsibilities much increased when she witnessed the appalling behavior of the head nurse, earning her top spot in the boy's care and the unwavering affection of both boys, not to mention the trust of their parents. From that day forward, Lala's sole focus was on the growing family, the youngest of whom would demand more than any before. 

Karen Harper's latest is a fictionalized account of the life of Charlotte Bill, nanny to two kings and the "lost prince." Much of the story and specific details are based in fact, creating what Harper fondly calls "faction" a term coined by author Alex Haley to describe a fiction based strongly in fact.

So while we can't know the intimate thoughts or many of the literal conversations and such that took place during Charlotte's role as royal nanny, facts and actual accounts have been used to build a story that provides a look inside her life and world.

Hers is a fascinating story, one that (as mentioned above) includes the direct care of two kings - King Edward VII, who reigned for less than a year and abdicated the throne rather than break with his American lover, and King George VI, father of Queen Elizabeth II and the subject of The King's Speech. She cared for both brothers and all of their later siblings including Prince John who suffered from epilepsy (and now theorized to have been autistic as well) and was eventually settled at Wood Farm with Lala, away from the royal family.

All of that aside, Charlotte lived through spectacular times. The fall of Nicholas II in Russia and Kaiser Wilhelm in Germany, both of whom were direct relations to the royal family, and WWI all occurred during her time as nanny. For all intents and purposes, the story essentially ends with the death of Prince John, but Harper does provide both a prologue and an end chapter to wrap up Lala's story, giving readers a bit of closure in knowing that she remained connected to the family even after the death of her youngest charge.

Anglophiles and historical fiction fans will definitely enjoy getting to know Charlotte. In life and in fiction she is truly a person to be admired!

(Psst, Karen stopped over at the blog just last week with a guest post on The Royal Nanny. Be sure not to miss it.)

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

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

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Disappearance at Devil's Rock by Paul Tremblay

Good morning, everybody! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Paul Tremblay's latest, The Disappearance at Devil's Rock.

When the phone rings in the middle of the night, Elizabeth knows it can't be anything good. 

It's her son's friend, Josh, asking if Tommy has returned home. The teen was supposed to be on a sleep over at Josh's house with their friend Luis, but after a late night trip to the local state park Tommy took off running into the woods. The police are called, a search team is sent out, and still no sign of Tommy. But as days pass, Elizabeth starts to see things she thinks are signs: pages from Tommy's journals start to appear in her living room and she swears she's seen his shadow. And as more time goes by, everyone begins to wonder if the boys are really telling the truth about the night Tommy disappeared. 

Paul Tremblay is the man Stephen King says "...scared the living hell..." out of him. You don't get any better horror endorsement than that in my opinion!

I love how slowly Disappearance at Devil's Rock plays out, and paired with the slow build is an urgent and increasing sense of dread. From the moment Elizabeth's phone rings, the reader knows well that nothing good is going to happen. And yet you do hold out hope, along with Elizabeth's daughter, Kate, that Tommy will be found. Elizabeth herself becomes convinced early on that Tommy has died and her reason for this belief is one of the many elements that adds to the tense atmosphere of the story.

Bits and pieces of the family's life come into focus as the story progresses, including the rather strange circumstances of Tommy's father's death. Tommy himself is shown to have become increasingly curious and possibly even obsessed about his father's final days, adding to the many questions surrounding his disappearance.

I have a small confession to make at this time - I had expectations of Disappearance at Devil's Rock that I thought were completely my own. The title and premise reminded me so much of Picnic at Hanging Rock that I entered into Tremblay's tale anticipating some common themes. And I thought it was all in my head. As it turns out, I wasn't wrong in my preconceived notions. Tremblay stated himself that, "Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock is one of three Australian films that heavily influenced the novel." This makes a horror fan happy indeed.

That quote comes from Tremblay's June 26 blog post, a post he calls his liner notes for Disappearance. I'll link that for you here but do be warned, it is spoilerific and should not be read until you've completed the book.

Disappearance does, for the most part, fall into a much quieter horror category. One whose focus is on atmosphere and unanswered questions. This is no splatterpunk gore fest but rather a tale that will haunt you with its unease and subtleness.

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

For more on Paul Tremblay and his work you can visit his website here. You can also like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Monday, June 27, 2016

Woman in the Photo by Mary Hogan

Happy Monday, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Mary Hogan's The Woman in the Photo.

Lee was adopted eighteen years ago and the only thing she and her family knew about her biological mother was that she'd drowned. But a letter claiming new genetic information available to her on her eighteenth birthday is the promise of discovery and the chance to finally learn more. 

The information, a genetic heritage and a photo, is enough of a starting point for Lee. It's a search that will lead her to her great, great, great grandmother and a legacy that's tied to one of history's biggest disasters. 

I love that Mary Hogan refers to The Woman in the Photo as "Downton Abbey meets Titanic!" If that's not enough enticement for any historical fiction fan, I don't know what is. I didn't realize, though, in starting The Woman in the Photo that it was indeed based on a very real event: the 1889 flooding of Johnstown, which is the focal point of just one of the two story lines of The Woman in the Photo.

Chapters alternate between socialite Elizabeth Haberlin, her family's trip to the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, and the eventual flood and Lee's present day search for her biological history. The two of them couldn't live in more different circumstances: Elizabeth - a doctor's daughter - is almost stifled by wealth, privilege, and connections while Lee's family has lost everything in a risky investment scheme, leaving her and her mother residing in a moldy pool house as live-in help. And yet, in spite of the social differences and the years that separate them, Elizabeth and Lee (also an Elizabeth) are linked by a genetic heritage that's as strong as ever.

As is sometimes the case with multiple narrators, I did find myself more drawn to one than the other (Elizabeth rather than Lee). As a result, I spent much of Lee's story anxious to return to Elizabeth's. Part of this is definitely due to my own curiosity about the flood and I did love the way Hogan weaved that into the tale. Research into the event was obviously of large focus to Hogan and I think that paid off in spades, making that part of the story in particular both fascinating and richly detailed.

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

For more on May Hogan and her work you can visit website here. You can also follow her on Twitter.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Sunday, June 26, 2016

New Releases 6.28.16

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

A Certain Age by Beatriz Williams

The Big Sheep by Robert Kroese

All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

In Twenty Years by Allison Winn Scotch

Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner

The Curse of the Tenth Grave by Darynda Jones

The Nightmare Stacks by Charles Stross

Collecting the Dead by Spencer Kope

First Comes Love by Emily Giffin

Invincible Summer by Alice Adams

We Could Be Beautiful by Swan Huntley

First Strike by Ben Coes

Conrad & Eleanor by Jane Rogers

The Charmers by Elizabeth Adler

The Age of Myth by Michael J. Sullivan

Never Missing, Never Found by Amanda Panitch

And I Darken by Kiersten White

United As One by Pittacus Lore

Shadows of the Dark Crystal by J. M. Lee

New on DVD:
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Food Swap by Emily Paster

Today seems like a good day to go ahead and post a review of Emily Paster's Food Swap: Recipes and Strategies for the Mist Irresistible Gourmet Foods to Barter and Share. Whew, that's a mouthful!

Why is it a good day for this post? Well because tomorrow is the next scheduled meet up for the Mile High Swappers Boulder Food Swap I sometimes participate in! It's even better timing considering our swap is one of the many featured in the book.

Our swap has been around since 2011, something I learned in the book, but I only started attending sporadically in 2014. And I love it! It's a gathering of passionate foodies and a chance to trade homemade goods for other tasty homemade goods. My usual go to: bread! I don't bake it, having been scarred by other baking attempts here, so I always try to make a good trade for a delectable loaf. I always come away with something fabulous, though, whether it's homemade goat cheese, super secret BBQ rub, pickle soup, homemade vinegar, or green chile salsa.

My own contributions usually include some kind of simple syrup (cinnamon is one of my faves, but I've done lavender, mint, and even a gingerbread), a dip of some sort, and an entree when I can (I like the idea that someone can come away from the swap with dinner!). I even made ice cream one year. And I'm always on the hunt for new things that might go over well at the swap, which is why I was quite excited to get my hands on Food Swap!

The book features tips and instructions on arranging and managing your own swap, profiles of swaps around the country, and, of course, recipes! And with those recipes are packaging suggestions, alterations, tips for sampling (because you have to have samples at a swap!), and canning and storage instructions as well.

The recipes (provided by swappers!) range from candies and baked goods to preserves and absolutely verything in-between. A few I plan to try my hand at: Creamy Ricotta, Honey Cinnamon Compound Butter, Beet-Tahini Dip, Blueberry Port Mustard (I'm big on condiments), and Limoncello. Yum!

I love the idea of this book and think that it succeeds in delivering everything it promises. Admittedly I would have loved for the whole thing to be recipes and swap ideas, but that's because I've already got one to attend. If, however, you like the idea of a Food Swap but don't have one in your own hometown, definitely seek this one out, it has absolutely everything you need to start your own. And if you're a swapper looking for new ideas and inspiration, there's plenty here for you too.

Pre Pub Book Buzz: A World Without You by Beth Revis

Beth Revis blew me away with her Across the Universe trilogy. Blew. Me. Away. I mean, c'mon! The first book is essentially a sci-fi murder mystery on a spaceship. That's freaking awesome! And the momentum and excitement of that first book kept up through the series - novels, ebooks, and connected stories (The Body Electric) as well. So yeah, I'm stoked that she has a new book due out soon.

Here's a bit about A World Without You from Goodreads:

Seventeen-year-old Bo has always had delusions that he can travel through time. When he was ten, Bo claimed to have witnessed the Titanic hit an iceberg, and at fifteen, he found himself on a Civil War battlefield, horrified by the bodies surrounding him. So when his concerned parents send him to a school for troubled youth, Bo assumes he knows the truth: that he’s actually attending Berkshire Academy, a school for kids who, like Bo, have "superpowers."

At Berkshire, Bo falls in love with Sofia, a quiet girl with a tragic past and the superpower of invisibility. Sofia helps Bo open up in a way he never has before. In turn, Bo provides comfort to Sofia, who lost her mother and two sisters at a very young age.

But even the strength of their love isn’t enough to help Sofia escape her deep depression. After she commits suicide, Bo is convinced that she's not actually dead. He believes that she's stuck somewhere in time — that he somehow left her in the past, and now it's his job to save her.


Doesn't it sound awesome!? 

A World Without You is due out next month from Razorbill.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Guest Post by Karen Harper

Hello, everyone! Today I am happy to welcome author Karen Harper to the blog. Karen is the author of the very newly released The Royal Nanny, which I will be reviewing as part of the TLC blog tour next Thursday, June 30, so do be sure to check back here for that post. In the meantime, however, and to whet your appetite before turning things over to Karen, here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

April, 1897: A young nanny arrives at Sandringham, ancestral estate of the Duke and Duchess of York. She is excited, exhausted—and about to meet royalty....

So begins the unforgettable story of Charlotte Bill, who would care for a generation of royals as their parents never could. Neither Charlotte—LaLa, as her charges dub her—nor anyone else can predict that eldest sons David and Bertie will each one day be king. LaLa knows only that these children, and the four who swiftly follow, need her steadfast loyalty and unconditional affection.

But the greatest impact on Charlotte’s life is made by a mere bud on the family tree: a misunderstood soul who will one day be known as the Lost Prince. Young Prince John needs all of Lala’s love—the kind of love his parents won’t…or can’t…show him.


The Royal Nanny is based on a true story - one that I was aware of thanks to the Masterpiece Theater airing of The Lost Prince. That and a brief bit of delving into other such history connected with the royal family (the current queen had two nieces hidden away in a mental institution if I remember correctly) aside, however, I've done very little deep reading on the subject of Prince John. And so, you can imagine how intrigued and excited I have been about delving into Karen Harper's latest. Again, I'll be posting my own thoughts next week. 

But now, without further ado, I'll hand things over to the author herself:

I have been a rabid Anglophile from way back so, though I am a life-long Ohioan, many of my novels have been faction (yes, fact plus fiction) focusing on fascinating British royal women. But the focus of THE ROYAL NANNY is not only the royal family of the Victorian and Edwardian eras—think Downton Abbey—but on the lower class Cockney girl who became their royal nanny. Remember the BBC series Upstairs, Downstairs? The heroine of this novel is caught between those two very British worlds.

Charlotte Bill, whom the children she tended called “Lala,” observes the sins and secrets of the rich and royal ‘Buck House’ set of that day. Because their mother was quite hands off, and their father was overbearing and eccentric, the six royal children Lala reared relied on her for love and protection.

That truth about the royal, noble and wealthy astounded me: The movers and shakers of the British Empire allowed lower class nannies to raise their children. This sad reality was amazingly widespread. When Winston Churchill died, the only picture on his bedside table was not that of his wife or daughter but of his long-dead nanny.

Lala became the emotion mother to David, later King Edward VIII/The Duke of Windsor; Bertie, later King George VI (of the movie The King’s Speech); three others and an epileptic and autistic boy, John, sometimes called ‘The Lost Prince.’ John’s medical conditions were not well understood, and his parents King George V and Queen Mary, grandparents of the current queen, tried to hide the child.

The family cousins and their stories also appear in the novel: Willie, the infamous Kaiser Wilhelm and Nicky, the doomed Czar Nicolas. What a family, what an insider’s view Charlotte, alias ‘Lala,’ provides.

I loved doing research for this novel. Another trip back to England, this time to tour Buckingham Palace and to revisit the Victorian and Albert Museum. I’m now hard at work on another novel of the same era, this time focusing on two notorious sisters…so, I’d better get back to work and to the U.K. again!


About the author: NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY bestselling author Karen Harper is a former university (Ohio State) and high school English teacher. Published since 1982, she writes contemporary suspense and historical novels about real British women. Two of her recent Tudor era books were bestsellers in the UK and Russia. A rabid Anglophile, she likes nothing more than to research her novels on site in the British Isles. Harper won the Mary Higgins Clark Award for DARK ANGEL, and her novel SHATTERED SECRETS was judged one of the Best Books of 2014 by Suspense Magazine. The author and her husband divide their time between Ohio and Florida. For more information please visit: www.karenharperauthor.com

Big, big thanks to Karen Harper for being on the blog today and to the folks at William Morrow for arranging the post. The Royal Nanny is out on shelves now!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Keep You Close by Lucie Whitehouse

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Lucie Whitehouse's latest, Keep You Close.

It's been years since Rowan last saw Marianne, but she still knew her better than most. And so when Marianne falls to her death off a slippery roof everyone knew she frequented, Rowan questions the accident. 

Then Rowan learns that Marianne had been concerned about break ins at her home, claiming her sketches had started to go missing. While no evidence was ever discovered, the family does worry about leaving the home empty in the wake of Marianne's death. Which is how Rowan ends up living in her former friend's abode, a perfect opportunity to see if her suspicions about Marianne's death have any merit at all. 

Early this month I read and reviewed K.A. Tucker's He Will Be My Ruin, a thriller wherein a woman is called to clean out the apartment of her estranged friend in the wake of said friend's suicide. And of course the main character believes her friend would never have killed herself and becomes determined to find out the truth.

It's probably clear to frequent visitors of the blog that I do often choose books with similar themes. And while it's true that if you give ten authors the same topic or prompt, you'll end up with ten vastly different stories, it's sometimes not such a great thing to read too similar titles too close together.

Ugh. My fault.

Reading Keep You Close so closely on the heels of Tucker's title proved to be more than a little challenging for me at first. Fortunately, Tucker's and Whitehouse's stories and overall writing styles are actually quite different. In fact, Whitehouse is much more of a slow burn, drawing the reader in more gradually and laying out a tale that has twists you probably won't see coming.

Rowan, the narrator, split with Marianne ages ago and doesn't reveal why to the reader for quite some time. This disagreement fractured their friendship, leaving Rowan to find out the happenings of Marianne's life the way her fans did - through newspapers and such. And even though Rowan has kept up, nothing could have prepared her for the things she discovers after Marianne's death, least of all the fact that Marianne had apparently been ready to talk to Rowan after so many years of silence.

One of the reasons Rowan is suspicious about Marianne's death is due to the fact that Marianne, a famous artist whose career was still growing, suffered from terrible vertigo. Yes, she frequented the roof from which she fell, but Rowan knows she'd never have been close enough to the edge to fall.

By the end I was glad that I'd barreled through Keep You Close. It's the kind of ending that makes a book oh so worthwhile. The build to that end is, as mentioned though, a definite slower and more deliberate pace. Readers looking for a quick read will be disappointed but those willing to immerse themselves and take their time will be rewarded.

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

For more on Lucie Whitehouse and her work you can like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Purchase Links: Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Gail Z. Martin's Hawthorn Moon Sneak Peak Blog Tour: Excerpt + a Giveaway

Morning, everyone! All around awesome author Gail Z. Martin has two new releases out and I'm lucky enough to be taking part in the blog tour to promote them today.

Here's more about the tour from Gail herself:

From June 21-June 30 I'll be doing my annual Hawthorn Moon Sneak Peek Event blog tour, and I hope readers will stop over to my website, find out what all is going on and where to find the posts, giveaways, contests and fun events. And of course, please look for The Shadowed Path at your favorite bookseller!

The Hawthorn Moon Sneak Peek Event includes book giveaways, free excerpts, all-new guest blog posts and author Q&A on 22 awesome partner sites around the globe. I'll also be hosting many of my Modern Magic co-authors guest posting on my DisquietingVisions.com blog during the tour. For a full list of where to go to get the goodies, visit www.AscendantKingdoms.com.


So today I have an excerpt of The Shadowed Path, a link to a second excerpt for you to check out, and a fantastic giveaway as well (be sure to read through to the end to enter). But before we dive into The Shadowed Path, which is part of the Chronicles of the Necromancer series, here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

These are the untold tales of Jonmarc Vahanian, hero of Gail Z. Martin’s best-selling Chronicles of the Necromancer series.

Jonmarc Vahanian was just a blacksmith’s son in a small fishing village before raiders killed his family. Wounded and left for dead in the attack, Jonmarc tries to rebuild his life. But when a dangerous bargain with a shadowy stranger goes wrong, Jonmarc finds himself on the run, with nothing ahead but vengeance, and nothing behind him but blood.

Soldier. Fight slave. Smuggler. Warrior. Brigand lord. If you’ve met Jonmarc Vahanian in the Chronicles of the Necromancer and Fallen Kings Cycle books, you don’t really know him until you walk in his footsteps. This is the first segment of his journey.


The Shadowed Path is out now from Solaris.


An Excerpt from Raider’s Curse, part of The Shadowed Path
By Gail Z. Martin

Jonmarc took off running. At fifteen, he was tall, just a bit over six feet. Years of working alongside his father in the forge had given him a strong back and muscular arms. A mop of chestnut-brown hair hung in his brown eyes, and he pushed it out of the way as he ran.

A worn path led to the open shed that was his father’s forge. Jonmarc could hear the steady pounding of his father’s hammer on the anvil. The sound echoed from the hills, steady as a heartbeat. He skidded to a stop just outside the doors.

Anselm Vahanian swung a heavy hammer in his right hand while his gloved left hand turned the piece of metal on the anvil. Sparks flew around him, landing on the long sleeves of his rough-woven shirt, his gloves, and his leather apron. The forge smelled of coal, iron, and sweat. To one side lay two swords Anselm had completed for a client in the village. On a table lay a variety of farm tools—iron pots and pans, and hoops for the cooper’s barrels. Jonmarc had helped to forge several of the pieces, though he longed to work on swords, like his father.

“Mother said to tell you to wash up for dinner,” Jonmarc shouted above the clanging.

Anselm stopped and looked at him. “I’ll eat supper later. You know I can’t stop in the middle of something when the iron is hot.”

Jonmarc nodded. “I know. I’ll tell her to put a plate aside for you.” He paused, and Anselm looked at him quizzically, waiting for the unspoken question.

“Have you talked to any of the fishermen lately?” Jonmarc tried to make the question sound off-handed, but Anselm frowned as if he caught the undercurrent of concern.

“You mean the talk about raiders,” Anselm replied, and struck the iron he was working.

“Do you think it’s more than just talk?”

Anselm didn’t answer until he put the iron bar back into the furnace to heat up. He was Jonmarc’s height, with a head of wiry dark hair and brown eyes that glinted with intelligence. A lifetime in the forge had given him broad shoulders and a powerful physique. His profession also showed in the small white burns that marked his hands and arms, scars too numerous to count. Jonmarc had gained a few of those burn scars too, but not nearly as many as his father. Not yet.

“Maybe,” Anselm replied. “The real people to talk to are the traders. Their ships go up and down the Northern Sea coast, stopping at all the villages. I always get news when I trade iron with them.”

“Have you heard anything?”

Anselm turned the iron rod in the furnace. “Some. One of the villages on the other side of the bay burned. Everyone was gone when the traders came. No way to know why or how. Eiderford, down the coast, did have a run-in with raiders a few months ago.” He eyed the iron, and turned it one more time.

“So there are raiders,” Jonmarc replied.

Anselm shrugged. “There are always raiders. But there’s less to attract them here in Lunsbetter than in Eiderford. We’re not a proper city, and we’re as like to barter as deal in coin, so there’s less to steal.”

Unless they want food, livestock, or women, Jonmarc thought. And there are enough people who trade with the ships that there’s probably more coin here than anyone wants to admit.

“There’s a garrison of the king’s soldiers beyond Ebbetshire,” Jonmarc replied. “Can’t they stop the raiders?”

Anselm shrugged. “They can’t guard every village along the coast,” he said. “And they’d have to know for certain when a raid was planned.” He shook his head. “No, we’re on our own.” He paused.

“Don’t worry yourself about it,” Anselm said, drawing the rod out of the furnace and placing it on the anvil. “We’ve doubled the patrols, and the fishermen are on alert.” He grinned. “And tomorrow, those swords are going down to the constable and the sheriff. We’ll be fine. Pump the bellows for me. The fire’s grown cold.”

Anselm stood in front of a large open furnace filled with glowing coals. Jonmarc pumped the bellows that were attached to the back of the furnace, and the coals flared brighter, flames licking across their surface. Anselm lifted his hammer to strike the iron. “Now get back up to the house. Your mother’s waiting. Just save some for me.”

“I’ll make sure of it,” Jonmarc replied. The clatter of the hammer drowned out anything else he might have asked. He stepped out into the cool night, and started back up the path to the house. His stomach rumbled and he fancied that he could smell the stew. But the worry he felt when he went to the forge had not lifted; if anything, his father’s comments increased Jonmarc’s concern than the warnings about raiders were not mere tales.

If father says the men are keeping their eye out for trouble, then that’s the end of it, he thought. Naught I can do. But he remembered his comment to Neil about keeping the axe sharpened, and on the way back to the house, he detoured into the barn. Thanks to his father’s craft, they were well-stocked with farm implements.

He walked over to the space his father used to butcher meat. Butchering wasn’t a pleasant job, but it was necessary, and a task with which Jonmarc was well acquainted. He had learned the craft from his father, practiced enough that it no longer made him lose his dinner to be awash in blood and entrails. His father had taught him to strike swiftly and cleanly, to block out the death cries of the terrified livestock, to go to a cold place inside himself until the job was done. He had even learned a few tricks of the trade, like how to hamstring a panicked animal that was likely to kick or buck. But nothing about how to fight men.

On the wall hung an impressive variety of knives. He selected a large butcher knife with a wicked blade as well as a smaller boning knife, and made his way around to the back door, hiding the knives among his mother’s herbs before going in for supper. Tonight, when everyone was in bed, he would come back for them—one for him, and one for Neil. Just in case the men were wrong.

If you want to see more stories about Jonmarc Vahanian, check out The Chronicles of the Necromancer series and The Fallen Kings Cycle books, as well as the Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures on ebook.

©2016 Gail Z. Martin all rights reserved. No duplication or reprint without written permission.


As for Gail's second new release, she's part of a fantastic new collection: Modern Magic: Twelve Tales of Urban Fantasy edited by Christopher Golden. This is an ebook box set featuring twelve different authors, including Gail whose contribution is Trifles and Folly - 10 Deadly Curiosities Adventures short stories collected together for the first time!

Here's a smidge about the collection from the Goodreads description:

12 complete book-length works by masters of dark urban fantasy … a walk on the wild side, into the shadows, where things go bump in the night and the hour of the wolf never ends. Featuring NY Times Best-Sellers, USA Today Best-Sellers, Bram Stoker Award Winners, Nominees, and Amazon Best-Sellers like Christopher Golden, Rick Gaultieri, Jennifer St. Giles, Julie Kenner and Gail Z. Martin! 

As promised, Gail has provided a link to an excerpt from Trifles and Folly, which you can find here.

About the Author: Gail Z. Martin is the author of The Shadowed Path (Solaris Books), Vendetta: A Deadly Curiosities Novel in her urban fantasy series set in Charleston, SC (Solaris Books); Shadow and Flame the fourth and final book in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga (Orbit Books); and Iron and Blood a new Steampunk series (Solaris Books) co-authored with Larry N. Martin.

She is also author of Ice Forged, Reign of Ash and War of Shadows in The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, The Chronicles of The Necromancer series (The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven, Dark Lady’s Chosen); The Fallen Kings Cycle (The Sworn, The Dread) and the urban fantasy novel Deadly Curiosities. Gail writes three ebook series: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures, The Deadly Curiosities Adventures and The Blaine McFadden Adventures. The Storm and Fury Adventures, steampunk stories set in the Iron & Blood world, are co-authored with Larry N. Martin.

Her work has appeared in over 30 US/UK anthologies. Newest anthologies include: Robots, The Big Bad 2, Athena’s Daughters, Heroes, Space, Contact Light, With Great Power, The Weird Wild West, The Side of Good/The Side of Evil, Alien Artifacts, Cinched: Imagination Unbound, Realms of Imagination, Gaslight and Grimm, Baker Street Irregulars, Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs. Aliens.

Find her at www.AscendantKingdoms.com, on Twitter @GailZMartin, on Facebook.com/WinterKingdoms, at DisquietingVisions.com blog and GhostInTheMachinePodcast.com, on Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/GailZMartin and free excerpts on Wattpad http://wattpad.com/GailZMartin.

Now, as promised, there is a BIG giveaway here courtesy of Gail. I get to offer up two copies of The Shadowed Path and two copies of the Modern Magic collection today! So that means four winners total! 

To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopters below before Monday, July 4. And yes, you can enter to win both titles. (Open US only.) Good luck!


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Girl From the Savoy by Hazel Gaynor + a Giveaway

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Hazel Gaynor's latest, The Girl From the Savoy.

Dolly Lane longs for something great. Or maybe just something more. And even the failed auditions and open calls with no call backs haven't yet managed to wear her down. 

Her new job as a maid at the Savoy hotel promises to bring her one step closer to her greatest wish. But it's not until she stumbles upon an ad for a musician seeking a muse that the world she's always dreamed of finally opens up to her. With all she's ever wanted right at her fingertips, though, Dolly will be faced with a heartbreaking decision: leave behind the girl who was Dolly Lane or cling to a past that made her who she is.

Hazel Gaynor's The Girl From the Savoy is a lot of things. A story about the stage and theater in the early twenties, a glimpse inside the budding world of the "Bright Young Things," the beginnings of the Roaring Twenties... But it's also an apt look at the struggles of women (and men) post WWI. In particular the women, considering they'd launched themselves equally into the war effort, taking up jobs previously relegated to men, only to find themselves set aside again once the war was over. Many lost loved ones, lovers, and husbands. For others, their betrothed may have returned a different person than the one who'd left for battle. Every one of them, though, was undeniably affected and changed by the war.

Our two leading ladies, Dolly and Loretta, may come from vastly different circumstances but it doesn't take long to realize the parallels between them. Dolly is weighed down by her past and a secret she needs to keep buried. Loretta has a devastating secret of her own. Neither is married, both volunteered during the war, and both eventually become connected through Loretta's brother, the musician who placed the ad Dolly eventually answers.

There are more connections and more to the story, all of which I want you to discover on your own - because that's where the magic is!

And it is magic, indeed. Hazel Gaynor has a true talent for bringing her chosen setting and characters to life. This is, of course, a testament to her fabulous skills as a writer but also her attention to detail and research on the era in question. All three of these things combine to create a world and story that affects you emotionally and feels tangible and real. As if you could reach out and touch one of Loretta's fabulous gowns, down a gin fizz, and dance alongside Dolly and Clover!

Rating: 4/5

And now for the giveaway: I have one copy of The Girl From the Savoy up for grabs! To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, July 4. Open US only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

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

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Monday, June 20, 2016

Little is Left to Tell by Steven Hendricks

Happy Monday, everybody! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Little is Left to Tell by Steven Hendricks.

Readers, I rarely rely on the official copy for the synopsis part of my posts, preferring to build my own instead. Sometimes, however, I'm left, as was the case with this book, feeling as though the whole thing just flew right over my head. So to start, I defer to the official copy:

Little Is Left to Tell is the haunting novel by master fabulist Steven Hendricks. Enter a nocturnal world where the unreal is seen on a liminal horizon of fading memory, illuminated by partial understanding and lyrical fictions. Virginia the Wolf writes her last novel to lure her daughter home. A rabbit named Hart Crane must eat words to speak, while passing zeppelins drop bombs. Mr. Fin tries to read the past in marginalia and to rebuild his son from boat parts. A novel that bridges between dreamscape and reality, Little Is Left to Tell is entrancing and enthralling.

So yes, many of the characters in Hendricks's debut are animals. And at least a few of those animals are named after famous literary figures. Their stories, too, take inspiration from their namesakes. And yet, I'm not familiar enough with those figures to catch all of the references. Instead, it was the author's acknowledgements that lit that lightbulb for me. 

I'd thought this was a book that I would quite love but perhaps the above mentioned lack of literary clout in my past reading was in part to blame. Not that I think the author went about creating a book that wouldn't be accessible for those who hadn't read Woolf, Crane, and others. But I think it would certainly have made it more enjoyable for me. It would have made me "get" what I was reading. 

The animals do lend a bit of a fable feel to Little is Left to Tell, an element I did quite enjoy. It does, as the Kirkus review acknowledges, lighten what is in reality a much darker story. It won't be everyone's cup of tea but I think for the right reader Little is Left To Tell will be a quite moving tale.  As for me, it was a struggle but in the end I muddled through. Now it's on to the next thing.

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

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound


Sunday, June 19, 2016

New Releases 6/21/16

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Disappearance at Devil's Rock by Paul Tremblay

Waypoint Kangaroo by Curtis C. Chen

Pressure by Brian Keene

The Royal Nanny by Karen Harper

Rise by Mira Grant

Since She Went Away by David Bell

Burn What Will Burn by C. B. McKenzie

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

Born of Legend by Sherrilyn Kenyon

The Pursuit by Janet Evanovich & Lee Goldberg

The Bourne Enigma by Eric Van Lustbader

Mirror in the Sky by Aditi Khorana

Never Ever by Sara Saedi

New on DVD:
Midnight Special
Knight of Cups
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Pre Pub Book Buzz: Ninth City Burning by J. Patrick Black

This September marks the release of the first installment of what sounds like an amazing new series! J. Patrick Black's Ninth City Burning is already drawing crazy attention, including a recent feature on EW.com and a blurb from Patricia Briggs. It's also being touted as a great new read for fans of Red Rising and Ender's Game. That's some pretty big claims, as I'm sure you know, but I think maybe this one might be able to live up to the expectation.

Here's a bit about the book courtesy of the publisher:

Centuries of war with aliens threaten the future of human civilization on earth in this gripping, epic science fiction debut...

We never saw them coming.

Entire cities disappeared in the blink of an eye, leaving nothing but dust and rubble. When an alien race came to make Earth theirs, they brought with them a weapon we had no way to fight, a universe-altering force known as thelemity. It seemed nothing could stop it—until we discovered we could wield the power too.

Five hundred years later, the Earth is locked in a grinding war of attrition. The talented few capable of bending thelemity to their will are trained in elite military academies, destined for the front lines. Those who refused to support the war have been exiled to the wilds of a ruined Earth.

But the enemy's tactics are changing, and Earth's defenders are about to discover this centuries-old war has only just begun. As a terrible new onslaught looms, heroes will rise from unlikely quarters, and fight back.


What do you think? I think it's going on my "must have" list immediately! 

Now, I do have one more little taste of Ninth City Burning to share with you today - an excerpt from the publisher to whet your appetite:

The Valentine War, Earth 500 Years Ago

It starts with the world how it used to be, with countries and billions of people living everywhere. Back then there was no such thing as thelemity, and people built houses and machines sort of like they have in settlements today, but all of that changed when the Valentines came. 


The reason we call them the Valentines is that the day they first attacked, February 14 on the old Western Calendar, was called “Valentine’s Day”. We still don’t know what the Valentines call themselves, because we’ve never been able to talk to them. We don’t even know what they look like. People had all sorts of different names for them early in the war, but “Valentine” is the one that ended up being the most popular. It used to mean something totally different, but not many people remember that now.

We never saw them coming. All at once cities just started disappearing. A city would be there, everything totally normal, and then it would be gone, nothing but rubble and a cloud of dust. By the time we figured out we were under attack, half the cities in the world had already been destroyed. We tried to fight back, but the Valentines had thelemity, and our strongest weapons were next to useless. They probably would have killed every single person on the planet, except for one thing: It turned out we could use thelemity too.


Ninth City Burning hits shelves September 6, courtesy of Ace, and is now available for preorder everywhere.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Short Fiction Friday: The Emperor's Railroad by Guy Haley

In the not so distant future, in a world where the dead walk and the angels rule everything, a boy and his mother undertake a treacherous journey to find their only living relative. The only thing standing between them and an army of zombies (and worse) is a knight who refuses to wear his badge.

Quinn is an agent of the angels, one of the only remaining knights in existence. But in the wake of the war and following the death of the Emperor, there's not much for a knight to do - officially. Which is fortunate for Abney and his mother. After their town was decimated, they took to the road to find Abney's mother's cousin, in the hopes that he'll offer them safe haven. But it's been some years since they last heard from the man and the journey will take them through some of the most dangerous landscape in their region.

The story is actually told from Abney's perspective some years after the events take place: he's now an older man, recounting the tale and preserving a piece of Quinn's history and legend. Which is a fabulous way to begin the Dreaming Cities series and a great premise overall - a chronicle of a man who has become legend in a world that's more akin to our own pioneer times. With zombies and monsters, of course.

The world is quite intricate and we aren't really given a full idea of the how or why of their situation. We know there was an epic battle between two groups of "angels." We also know that the angels have quashed pretty much all technology and education, infrastructure has fallen - even architecture is only to be gleaned from the remains of the Gone Before, and folks like the Emperor are controlled and eliminated if and when the angels decide they've outgrown their usefulness or become too dangerous.

Quinn, we find out, is reluctant to talk about his position. He doesn't hide it - it's quite obvious that he's a knight, but he doesn't display his badge (which shows which faction of angels he's technically tied to). The reason for this is part of Quinn's overall tale but not the focus of this particular piece.

I don't know at this time how many installments are planned for the Dreaming Cities series. I do know there is a second installment (which I've already read and have tried SO HARD not to let influence this review - because we learn more about the world) due out in July. I have my own suspicions about the angels and the truth behind this word, I'm not sure if I'll turn out to be correct or not but I think that's going to be part of the fun in reading more of this series - seeing the world unfold in the same way a mystery might. And of course learning more about Quinn, his past, and his ultimate goals!

Rating: 4/5

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry + a Giveaway

Nora and Rachel had planned to spend the weekend together. Nora would take the train from London, meeting Rachel either at the station or at Rachel's home. Dinner was planned, though Nora couldn't remember exactly what Rachel said she'd cook, and they'd go over potential rentals in Cornwall for the trip they were going to take. At least, that's how it was supposed to happen. 

But when Nora arrives at Rachel's house, she immediately knows something is wrong. Her fears are soon realized when she finds both Rachel and her dog have been murdered. The police have no leads, no suspects, just the discovery of a hide out with empty bottles and cigarettes behind Rachel's home and the knowledge that Rachel had been attacked once before. When Nora finds out Rachel had been trying to find her attacker, she picks up the investigation herself, convinced the two are connected and obsessed with finding Rachel's killer. 

Under the Harrow is a debut that packs a real punch. Flynn Berry's style is just that, punchy, with short chapters and somewhat sparse prose. And yet there's a depth to the story that's almost unexpected considering the style and the fact that the book weighs in at just over 200 pages.

Those short chapters drive the pace, launching the reader through the story as Nora digs into friend's, neighbor's, and stranger's lives, while also considering the events of fifteen years ago that she believes could have led to her sister's death.

Nora and Rachel shine as strong and determined characters. Rachel is a nurse with a temper, one who kept secrets even her sister didn't suspect. Nora is, especially in the wake of Rachel's murder, both cautious and reckless. She fears almost everyone she meets is a suspect, but throws herself into investigating nonetheless.

It's interesting that in a recent LitHub.com piece Berry admits to having scared herself while researching and writing the book. As unfortunate as that is, and any woman knows that fear to some extent, I think it likely added to the overall feel of Under the Harrow. I'd imagine it's impossible to keep that kind of emotion bottled up and not have it affect your writing! Either way, Berry has created a book that definitely weighs on you, leaving its mark and niggling at the corners of your brain long after reading. It's also, read in the safety of your home, an excellent and tense thriller of the highest caliber!

Thanks to the publisher, I am able to offer up a copy for one of you lucky readers. To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, July 4. US only and no PO boxes please.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Hi, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Neil Gaiman's preferred author's edition of Neverwhere.

Now, I rarely ever get time for rereading; my plate is pretty much always full. But when given the opportunity to hop on board with this tour I realized that back when I originally read Neverwhere, I didn't actually cover it here on the blog. So this seemed like a prime opportunity to remedy that and dive back into a beloved favorite!

Richard Mayhew is a normal everyday guy and is completely fine with that. But when he meets a girl in need of help, a damsel in distress, all of that changes. He takes her in, lets her stay for the night, and helps her on her way the following morning. 

Unfortunately his stint as good samaritan turns his world upside down. Now, no one remembers Richard. It's as if he never existed! He's got no job, no money, his apartment is being leased out from under him, and, worst of all, his fiancee has no idea who he is. And the last thing the girl said to him before she left him that morning was a remorseful sorry. An apology for this, Richard realizes. Now, if he's to have any hope of setting things right, he'll have to track her down. But finding one girl in all of London with very few clues to go on certainly wouldn't be easy under normal circumstances. And this girl is anything but normal.

Anyone who's ever read Gaiman knows his work is some of the most brilliantly conceived and realized prose out there. His ability to create worlds that are vivid and wholly unique, worlds that draw you in and wrap you up inside of them, worlds that are peopled by characters and history that are massive in scope and so completely real that to leave them behind is almost painful, is impressive beyond words. Gaiman inspires readers and writers everywhere with his stories and creations and this is why.

Neverhwere is a bright and shining example of this talent. A tale set in modern day London (and below) that's full of whimsy and magic. It's essentially, and I've said this before, a fairy tale for adults.

Interestingly, Neverwhere is often credited as the first urban fantasy. It's also, I was surprised to find out when I originally read it, Gaiman's debut novel. Sure, he'd paired with Terry Pratchett prior to this for Good Omens, but amazingly this was actually his very first novel on his own. And it didn't begin life as a novel at all, but a mini-series Gaiman wrote for BBC.

If you've never read Neverwhere, now is a great time. And if you've read it before, revisiting the story in this edition is definitely recommended. Not only does the "Author's Preferred Text" include the short story "How the Marquis Got His Coat Back," it also includes a previously cut second prologue (introducing Croup and Vandemar). And of course it's the "Author's Preferred Text" meaning there's bits and pieces that are different than the previous edition. Why the tinkering? Well, as Gaiman explains in the intro, there was a UK edition then a rewritten US edition, and this one combines the two, minus redundancies, for what Gaiman considers a definitive new edition.

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

For more on Neil Gaiman and his work you can visit his website here. You can also like him on Facebook and follow him on Tumblr and Twitter.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Julia Vanishes by Catherine Egan

Earlier today, author Catherine Egan was kind enough to stop by with a fabulous guest post about where the idea for her latest, Julia Vanishes, can be traced to. As promised in that post, I'm following up now with my own review of this fantastic and witchy summer read!

Julia is not just any ordinary girl. Orphaned at a young age, she and her brother were taken in by a family of thieves for hire and trained to be part of their group. Now, both Julia and her brother, Dex, use their talents to earn money in less than honest, but certainly profitable, ways. 

Julia's current assignment is a post in the home of one Mrs. Ochs. As Ella, Julia toils away as a maid, given almost free reign of Mrs. Ochs's house. Which is good considering her client wants to know all the ins and outs of the home and the secrets its tenants are keeping. And those secrets, as Julia soon learns, are many. But who is her client and what is their end goal? And is it really in Julia's best interests to complete the job at hand?

Julia is a thief and a spy, one whose talents are singular when you consider she has the ability to make herself unseen. Not invisible exactly, and it's a power that eludes her amongst certain people - like her current employer Mrs. Ochs -, but it's an ability that does certainly help with her chosen occupation.

Of course in this world, one fraught with fear of magic and witches, it's paramount that Julia keep her ability an absolute secret. To be discovered could mean suffering the same fate as her mother, a convicted witch killed before Julia's very eyes.

Egan's created world is quite fantastic: an alternate France ruled by a king determined to weed out all of the witches in his lands. It's a dangerous time for magic and those so inclined. The witches in question can't burn and set their spells by writing them, which also means that the ability to read and write is something of a danger itself - Julia speaks of witches discovered by accident as they learned to write!

There is, as the officially synopsis (on today's earlier post) states, a subplot concerning a serial killer. A killer searching for something that could in reality be very close indeed to Julia's current position. Julia quickly becomes aware of this as she traces the killer's path of victims straight to Mrs. Ochs's newest boarder. And because we're given a glimpse inside the killer's world, we the reader know that the killer's intent is quite specific. And that the killer won't let anyone stand in the way of their goal.

Julia Vanishes is a bit of a spellbinding read, if you will. The world is so unique, Julia is likable and ballsy, and the plot is - if you hadn't noticed - quite intriguing: witches, magic, witch hunts, and murder... who can resist a well drawn plot with those elements? Certainly not this reader!

Guest Post by Catherine Egan

Good morning, everyone! Today I am super excited to be hosting Catherine Egan, author of the very newly released Julia Vanishes.

Before I turn things over to Catherine, here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

Julia has the unusual ability to be…unseen. Not invisible, exactly. Just beyond most people’s senses.

It’s a dangerous trait in a city that has banned all forms of magic and drowns witches in public Cleansings. But it’s a useful trait for a thief and a spy. And Julia has learned—crime pays.

Her latest job is paying very well indeed. Julia is posing as a housemaid in the grand house of Mrs. Och, where an odd assortment of characters live and work: A disgraced professor who sends her to fetch parcels containing bullets, spiders, and poison. An aristocratic houseguest who is locked in the basement each night. And a mysterious young woman who is clearly in hiding—though from what or whom?

Worse, Julia suspects that there’s a connection between these people and the killer leaving a trail of bodies across the frozen city.

The more she learns, the more she wants to be done with this unnatural job. To go back to the safety of her friends and fellow thieves. But Julia is entangled in a struggle between forces more powerful than she’d ever imagined. Escape will come at a terrible price.

Julia Vanishes is first in the Witch's Child series and I have been dying to read it for ages now! I'm super stoked to dive in. I will be posting my own review of the book later today, so do be sure to check that out. 

And now, here's Catherine Egan!

Where did the idea for Julia Vanishes come from? 

My favorite answer to the question “Where do you get your ideas?” comes from Emma Donoghue (who wrote Frog Music and Room, among many other amazing books). She says, “It's like asking someone where they picked up a cold.” Sometimes you know exactly where you got it. Other times, you have no idea. It could have come from anywhere.

I can’t pin down a single moment of inspiration, but I can trace parts of Julia Vanishes from a few directions:

1. A failed book

While I was pregnant with my first child, I started writing a middle-grade novel about a stolen jewel with magical properties, the children of a witch, a professor with amnesia, and a crew of scabby, nefarious pirates. Our apartment was filling up with new and bewildering objects: a crib, a baby car seat, boxes of diapers, piles of swaddling blankets. I sat with my back to these things and wrote my story as if it was the last thing I’d ever be able to write. It was a very bad book.

2. A failed short story

In that first chaotic year of parenthood, I didn’t do a lot of writing. At some point, in a sleepless haze, I wrote a short story about a woman who runs away from her own life. I called it Julia Vanishes. It was cathartic to write but it wasn’t a good story. I liked the title, though.

3. My lost freedom

I got pregnant again when my first child was a year old and finally napping predictably – giving me an hour a day to write. I opened the file of my jumbled magic-jewel-heist book. I went salvaging for parts: witches who can only cast spells by writing them down, a brother blighted by a horrible plague, a fanatical, witch-hunting prime minister. I put a child in danger, and a mother powerless to protect him, because that was the nature of my deepest nightmares now. I was still stuck on the title Julia Vanishes, and so I made the protagonist a girl who can (sort of) vanish.

Julia herself appeared as I started to type and I can’t say for sure where she came from, except that at this point in my life I was less free than I had ever been, and remembering how I used to look at the adult lives around me and see no desirable path for myself. Julia was someone who could blaze her own path, no matter what the world put in her way. She was freeing and exhilarating to write – perfect, thrilling escapism at a time when I was feeling so confined. Writing her energy, her hedonism and daring got me through those sleepless, relentless years with tiny children, and for that I am forever grateful to her.

About the author: CATHERINE EGAN grew up in Vancouver, Canada. Since then, she has lived on a volcanic island in Japan (which erupted while she was there and sent her hurtling straight into the arms of her now-husband), in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Beijing, on an oil rig in the middle of Bohai Bay, then in New Jersey, and now in New Haven, Connecticut. She is currently occupied with writing books and fighting dragon armies with her warrior children. You can read more about her at catherineegan.com. Follow her on Twitter at @ByCatherineEgan

Big, big thanks to Catherine for being here today and for the folks at Knopf for setting up this post. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Wrong Highway by Wendy Gordon

Happy Monday, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Wendy Gordon's Wrong Highway.

Erica Richards is a suburban housewife who has everything she could ever want - except excitement. A stay-at-home mom of four, Erica and her family live in West Meadow, Long Island. The suburbs. Her daily routine includes a morning workout class (sometimes), shuttling the kids to and from school and other activities, occasionally fielding her sister's latest perceived disaster, and having dinner on the table by the time her husband gets home. If all goes well, that is. If the car hasn't broken down. If there isn't a prior engagement planned. If her husband isn't traveling. 

And then her nephew begins acting out and bruises start to appear all over her sister. At Debbie's request, Erica tries to strike up a conversation with her nephew and find out what's going on. But her attempts to help start to turn her life upside down, leaving Erica unsure what to do next. 

Wrong Highway is oh, so eighties and I love it! With nods to the era's pop culture, Wendy Gordon's suburban heroine navigates the highways and byways of her life as a mom, a wife, and a woman struggling to stay on the right path. But that "wrong highway" becomes too tempting for Erica to resist.

Erica's frequent reminiscing about her time as a nurse - when faced with her sister's hypochondriac melodrama, when talking to people she feels she needs to validate herself to, even when considering her husband's success - is just one sign of her on discontent. Motherhood is her job and she feels pressure and judgment in that regard when she's amongst her husband's peers, for example. But she's also bored. Her career was challenging and stimulating and that stimulus is missing in her current situation, or so she believes.

Jared, her nephew, offers a release. Something new. And something thrilling. She helps him in covering with his parents, who she makes no bones about losing respect for throughout the story, and ends up using him to find her own excitement.

Of course Erica's dabbling with the dark side starts to catch up to her.

A running subplot of the story is Erica's belief that her sister may be a victim of abuse. I hadn't realized that the set time of the story (1986) was the beginning of domestic violence as an actual legal offense and crime that could finally be punishable by law. Erica's suspicions, founded or not, do lead to her discovering just how difficult making a case for abuse still was, though.

Wrong Highway is a quick and engaging read - and a character driven one for sure, which is usually not my cup of tea. The combination of setting (the eighties) and Erica herself had me completely hooked, though, and hers was a story I definitely wanted to see through to the end.

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here, and for more on Wendy Gordon you can visit her website here. Be sure to check out the playlist she's created for the book - it's sure to put you in the right mood and mindset for this fun debut!

Purchase Links: Amazon | Itasca Books | Barnes & Noble


Sunday, June 12, 2016

New Releases 6/14/16

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Stiletto by Daniel O'Malley

The Crow Girl by Erik Axl Sund

The Girls by Emma Cline

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

Spells of Blood and Kin by Claire Humphrey

The Mermaid's Secret by Katie Schickel

The Shadowed Path by Gail Z. Martin

Widowmaker by Paul Doiron

Field of Graves by JT Ellison

The Tumbling Turner Sisters by Juliette Fay

Marked for Life by Emelie Schepp

League of Dragons by Naomi Novik

Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry

The Devil's Cold Dish by Eleanor Kuhns

Los Nefilim by T. Frohock

Brighton by Michael Harvey

I'm Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid

The Woman in the Photo by Mary Hogan

Foreign Agent by Brad Thor

Charcoal Joe by Walter Mosley

The Space Between Sisters by Mary McNear

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

Here's to Us by Elin Hilderbrand

Radio Girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford

If I Forget You by Thomas Christopher Greene

The Long Cosmos by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter

Barkskins by Annie Proulx

Gifted by H.A. Swain

The King Slayer by Virginia Boecker

Sea Spell by Jennifer Donnelly

New on DVD:
10 Cloverfield Lane
Get a Job
Hello, My Name is Doris
Eddie and the Eagle

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Pre Pub Book Buzz: Stranded by Bracken MacLeod

ZOMG! This book sounds freaking fabulous, folks!

Here's a bit about it from Goodreads:

In the spirit of John Carpenter's The Thing and Jacob's Ladder comes a terrifying, icebound thriller where nothing is quite what it seems.

Badly battered by an apocalyptic storm, the crew of the Arctic Promise find themselves in increasingly dire circumstances as they sail blindly into unfamiliar waters and an ominously thickening fog. Without functioning navigation or communication equipment, they are lost and completely alone. One by one, the men fall prey to a mysterious illness. Deckhand Noah Cabot is the only person unaffected by the strange force plaguing the ship and her crew, which does little to ease their growing distrust of him.

Dismissing Noah's warnings of worsening conditions, the captain of the ship presses on until the sea freezes into ice and they can go no farther. When the men are ordered overboard in an attempt to break the ship free by hand, the fog clears, revealing a faint shape in the distance that may or may not be their destination. Noah leads the last of the able-bodied crew on a journey across the ice and into an uncertain future where they must fight for their lives against the elements, the ghosts of the past and, ultimately, themselves.

Stranded is due out in October from Tor.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The View From the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman

Hi, everybody! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Neil Gaiman's latest, The View From the Cheap Seats.

Warning, this is going to be something of a fan girl post.

The View From the Cheap Seats is, if you didn't know, a collection of nonfiction essays by Gaiman - some you may have seen before and some you may not (it includes speeches, introductions, etc). And no, essays aren't normally what I review, but it's Gaiman and he's brilliant and he has brilliant things to say. Seriously. I've had the pleasure of attending multiple local events he's participated in (one of the perks of living in a place that has a phenomenal indie bookstore selection) and am not really joking when I say I'd probably read his grocery list if he were to publish it online. Of course, if you don't know Gaiman at all, let me tell you that even his grocery list would likely be eerie and whimsical and wonderful.

Gaiman is an advocate for literature in every form. He's a huge supporter of libraries, bookstores, other authors, and readers and much of The View From the Cheap Seats is focused on that advocacy in one way or another. Beginning with his Intro and intro into the "Some Things I Believe" section, all the way through "A Slip of the Keyboard: Terry Pratchett" - an emotionally tough piece to read all things considered - he reinforces his own passion for fiction and inevitably instills the same in the reader.

The book is divided into sections including the above mentioned "Some Things I Believe" (which features his Newbery speech and one of my favorite overall pieces "Ghosts in the Machine: Some Hallowe'en Thoughts"), "Some People I have Known," "Introductions and Musings: Science Fiction," "Films and Movies and Me," "On Comics and Some of the People Who Make Them," "Introductions and Contradictions," "Music and the People Who Make It," "On Stardust and Fairy Tales," "Make Good Art" (with just the one piece entitled the same), and "The View From the Cheap Seats: Real Things."

Gaiman talks of author whose work he enjoys and respects (guaranteed to make you seek out some of these folks work if you haven't read them already), issues close to his heart (beyond reading and literacy), his work, his family, and everything in between. And again, while this may seem like an odd choice for me as a reader (because you very rarely see anything non fiction, much less essay, here - though I do read them) The View From the Cheap Seats is highly enjoyable.

Whether you're a Gaiman fan or not (and if you're not, I assume you just haven't read him), as long as you're a reader I guarantee you'll find something to appreciate in The View From the Cheap Seats!

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

For more on Neil Gaiman and his work you can visit his website here. You can also like him on Facebook and follow him on Tumblr and Twitter.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Sweet by Emmy Laybourne

Solu is supposed to be a wonder sweetener - a weight loss miracle that lets you continue to eat everything you want while the pounds simply melt away. Such a wondrous creation deserves no less than a wondrous release and that's exactly what the Cruise to Lose is meant to be. Laurel is comfortable with her weight but her best friend, Viv, is exactly the kind of person Solu is aimed at. And her father has the money to pay for both teens to take part in the week long cruise.

Tom Forelli isn't on the cruise to try out Solu, but has been hired as a celebrity spokesperson instead. And the job could mean big things for Tom's career, which has stagnated since his childhood days on screen. But, career or no, he's started to wonder if hawking Solu is really a good thing. And as the cruise continues, he realizes his misgivings have grave merit to them.

Emmy Laybourne's Sweet is confectionary fun with a dark licorice twist.

Weight loss is a big issue and America (the world?) is constantly searching for a quick fix, a wonder drug or diet that will do exactly what Laybourne's fictional Solu will do. But as Laurel quickly comes to find out, anything that seems to good to be true is. I can absolutely believe that something akin to the Cruise to Lose fiasco could happen. As one character points out, Solu isn't a pharmaceutical, it's a supplement, leaving it free of the testing and restrictions an actual medication would have. And we've seen everything from embarrassing to bad side effects of attempted sweetener/supplements before! Maybe not this bad, though.

Of course as the story progresses, the Cruise to Lose takes a very dark turn, leaving Laurel and Tom to essentially fend for themselves. Laurel is fabulous - a teen who is, as mentioned above, comfortable in her skin. But we see her friend Viv and get little tidbits about her home life that explain why the two girls feel so differently. And honestly, I, like many girls, fall into the Viv camp. It would be great if I could be a Laurel, and hindsight definitely makes me wish I had been at her age!

I didn't love Tom, though. He's a bit too workout obsessed, which no one really mentions can be an equally bad thing if taken too far. It made me wonder if some alternate version of the story had him hitting a breaking point and losing it while madly hitting the treadmill! (My mind goes there. Sorry.) But he likes Laurel in spite of the fact that his handlers tell him not to - she's a no one. So I liked him for that!

Sweet didn't necessarily blow me away, but it was immensely entertaining and had some deliciously cheesy moments. Like a bag of chips (cause it's Doritos not Oreos for me), once I started I couldn't stop and considering there was no shame to be had in gobbling it up in one sitting, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it!

Rating: 3.5/5

As an added bonus, Emmy Laybourne did pen an e short prequel to Sweet featuring Dr. Elise Zhang.

Li Jing has created a miracle drug. A sweetener that allows you to eat whatever you want and still lose weight. But before she can break the news about her creation, it'll have to undergo years of testing. And Li isn't willing to wait that long. Unbeknownst to her graduate advisor, Li seeks out someone willing to test the product themselves - and the results are nothing short of miraculous. But when the school catches wind of Li's extracurricular activities, they are none too pleased.

I did love this extra taste of Sweet. It serves as a prequel, but I think it works better as a post-Sweet read considering it does kind of hint at some of the Solu side effects. It does also give a lot of insight into the personality of Solu's creator. Both could be considered kind of spoiler-y, all things considered.

And while it's absolutely not necessary to read "Expelled," that insight into Zhang was quite welcome on my part. She plays a fairly small role in Sweet as a whole, sidelined by the other characters in the story, so this is really our only chance to get to know her at all.

Overall, "Expelled" is a welcome addition to the world of Sweet.

Rating: 4/5