Saturday, April 22, 2017

Pre Pub Book Buzz: Bloodprint by Ausma Zehanat Khan

Man, Harper Voyager is just killing it lately with the must reads! Today's title is a bit of a change for the author. You may know Ausma Zehanat Khan for her Rachel Getty/Esa Khattak series, and so it may surprise you to find out that her next release isn't in fact book four of that series, but the beginning of a completely new fantasy series.

Here's a bit about Bloodprint, book one in the Khorasan Archives series, from Goodreads:

A dark power called the Talisman has risen in the land, born of ignorance and persecution. Led by a man known only known as the One-eyed Preacher, it is a cruel and terrifying movement bent on world domination—a superstitious patriarchy that suppresses knowledge and subjugates women. And it is growing.

But there are those who fight the Talisman's spread, including the Companions of Hira, a diverse group of influential women whose power derives from the Claim—the magic inherent in the words of a sacred scripture. Foremost among them is Arian and her apprentice, Sinnia, skilled warriors who are knowledgeable in the Claim. This daring pair have long stalked Talisman slave-chains, searching for clues and weapons to help them battle their enemy’s oppressive ways. Now, they may have discovered a miraculous symbol of hope that can destroy the One-eyed Preacher and his fervid followers: The Bloodprint, a dangerous text the Talisman has tried to erase from the world.

Finding a copy of The Bloodprint promises to be their most dangerous undertaking yet, an arduous journey that will lead them deep into Talisman territory. Though they will be helped by allies—a loyal ex-slave and Arian’s former confidante and sword master—both Arian and Sinnia know that this mission may well be their last.

This sounds beyond amazing! 

Bloodprint is due out in October from Harper Voyager, but it is available for preorder online now!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Ragdoll by Daniel Cole

William "Wolf" Fawkes is notorious for taking down the bad guys. And not in a good way. After a suspect Fawkes was convinced was a serial killer was handed a verdict that would allow him to walk, Fawkes attacked the man. It would have meant the end of his career had the man not been caught shortly after the assault standing over another victim. 

Fawkes's vindication was bittersweet considering it meant the loss of a child. And though that vindication meant some leniency for the officer, Fawkes's actions couldn't go unpunished. 

Now, back on the job and under a very watchful eye, Fawkes is called to a bizarre and twisted scene: a body, posed in a building overlooking Fawkes's own apartment, stitched together from pieces of six different victims. In the hours after the discovery, Fawkes's own ex wife, a well known reporter, is handed a list of targets the killer will go after next. With the clock ticking, Fawkes and the rest of the London Met team will have to piece together the clues to identify the initial six victims in hopes of finding something that will lead them to the killer - all the while trying to keep more targets safe under lock and key. 

I wanted to love Daniel Cole's debut. It's dark and gritty and features a number of flawed characters, not the least of which is Fawkes himself.

Unfortunately, the characters, with the exception of one, felt thin at best. And each time I thought we'd get deeper into their individual stories and motivations, Cole pulled back. For me, it seemed too much of the focus was on shocking the reader with the next twist and the next bloody bit of evidence, rather than building a cast of characters interesting enough to carry a series.

Now, don't get me wrong. I do love dark twists, and Ragdoll has them in spades. From the discovery of the first crime scene all the way to the very end, Cole does a great job with all that darkness. But the true shocks sadly fall flat because I couldn't rally behind the characters. I needed that extra piece - that depth - to truly invest myself in the book. And the twist, while I thought it was a great one, came too late to be all that believable or effective for me.

Ragdoll had a lot of promise and it is the first in a series. I liked it well enough to read more, but I do hope the next book will pack more of an emotional punch.

Rating: 2.5/5

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Ararat by Christopher Golden

When an earthquake reveals a hidden cave high on the side of Turkey's Mount Ararat, historians and explorers are certain it could finally mean the discovery of the Ark of legend. Meryam and Adam are willing to put off planning their upcoming wedding to be the first to the cave, securing the discovery and its documentation as their own.

But the adventure and find of a lifetime take an odd turn when the crew uncovers remains that defy all explanation. Specialists, including Ben Walker - a member of the National Science Foundation (a front for his real position at DARPA) -, are flown in to help just before a looming storm is set to hit. With everything Walker has seen and experienced, he considers himself a pro at handling strange. But Ararat is unlike anything he's ever experienced.

As the weather descends, the crew begins to turn on one another. Is it the madness and obsession that comes with such a massive discovery? Or something else?

I was dying to get my hands on a copy of Christopher Golden's latest. Pitched as the perfect read for fans of Dan Simmons's The Terror, it certainly seemed right up my alley.

And it was, to an extent.

The mountain setting, the pending storm, the avalanche that sets everything up, not to mention obvious tension between the Turkish guides and Meryam and Adam. Oh, and tension between Meryam and Adam themselves... It was a perfect set up for a chilling and tension filled tale.

And that's all before our super secret DARPA spy arrives.

Ararat was guaranteed to be fun and it definitely delivered in that regard. But, I wanted so much more! I wanted more depth and more detail. I wanted more atmosphere. I even wanted more horrific happenings!

While I enjoyed Ararat, I didn't love it. It felt like a story that had been stripped down the bare bones, blockbuster style (you know, like a 120 minute film cut down to 90 to suit a short attention span). I wanted to meat and the fat, all the details that would have fleshed out the characters, the setting, and the evil hiding inside Ararat.

Rating: 3/5

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Forbidden Garden by Ellen Herrick + a Giveaway

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Ellen Herrick's latest, The Forbidden Garden. I'm also giving away a copy of the book today, so be sure to read through to the Rafflecopter to enter.

No on can deny that Sorrel Sparrow has something of a magic tough when it comes to plants and gardens. It's evident at the nursery she and her sisters share. It's evident at their home garden as well. And it's even more evident in the demand for her handiwork throughout their small New England village. It's this notoriety that catches the attention of Sir Graham Kirkwood. Kirkwood doesn't live in Granite Point, or even in the US, but his sister does, and it's she who sends word about Sorrel as Graham searches for someone to help with his estate's famed Shakespeare Garden. 

But what Graham doesn't tell Sorrel when seeking out her help is that the garden has long been rumored to be cursed. In fact, Graham has sought out Sorrel specifically so that he can keep his wife, who grew mysteriously ill after taking on the garden's revitalization project, out of the garden's snare. 

But even as Sorrel faces her first big trip away from her sisters and her home, she is drawn to the mysterious walled garden. She's also increasingly drawn to Graham's surly brother in law. Will her talents be enough to overcome both the plagued garden and the equally emotionally plagued Andrew? 

It's been over a year since Herrick's debut introduced readers to the Sparrow sisters: Sorrel, Nettie, and Patience. Together, they run a nursery known throughout the area surrounding Granite Point for its gorgeous blooms that last well beyond the season. But in The Sparrow Sisters, tragedy strikes their small town and suspicious eyes turn on the sisters, Patience in particular.

Though the town has healed and has turned out to support the sisters once again, when The Forbidden Garden begins, the sisters are still reeling from the fallout. And so, though Sorrel has never traveled overseas or spent any significant time away from her home or her younger sisters, she finds herself somewhat in need of a change of scenery.

And the idea of the Shakespeare Garden is too intriguing to resist, in spite of her apprehension about being away from home and the nursery for so long. I can empathize, the garden and it's secrets was too much to resist for me as a reader too! Throughout the narrative, there are allusions to a great Kirkwood secret that has plagued the family for generations. And it's directly tied to the garden, as Graham Kirkwood himself admits that the bare patch has been a dark spot on the estate that many have tried, and failed, to conquer.

I was glad to see Sorrel get her own story. Of the three sisters, I felt she was the one who remained the most closed off to readers in Herrick's debut. Her story was as much of a draw for me as the mysterious garden. She's taken out of her comfort zone and thrown in with a family she barely knows (because there is that Granite Point connection with Fiona, Graham's sister). But she acclimates easily to her new setting, set on bringing life to the ancient garden.

As with The Sparrow Sisters, The Forbidden Garden features fabulous imagery and detail. The hints of magical realism throughout (maybe more than hints, but by no means overwhelming) make it even more of a (sorry for the pun) enchanting read.

You do not have to have read The Sparrow Sisters in order to enjoy Sorrel's story. That said, you are missing out on quite a bit of character development and scene setting for where she is when The Forbidden Garden begins. And of course I quite enjoyed that first outing with the sisters, so I do recommend it!

And now for the giveaway! To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter before Monday, May 1. 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 Ellen Herrick 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, April 17, 2017

Gone Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen + a Giveaway

Happy Monday, readers! I hope you all had a fantastic weekend! I spent mine hanging with friends and enjoying the fantastic weather here. Oh, and reading of course :)

One of the books on my weekend reading roster was Mary Torjussen's debut, Gone Without a Trace.

Hannah has spent weeks preparing for a big meeting in Oxford, and it's well worth it. By the end of the day, it seems she's on the fast track for promotion and she's ready to share the news with her boyfriend, Matt. But when Hannah arrives home, Matt is gone. As is every trace that he's ever been there. What's more, her phone and tablet have been wiped clean of him as well: no calls in the log, no number or email address, no texts, no photos... everything is gone. 

Hannah doesn't know what to do or where to turn. As she tries desperately to find out what happened to Matt, her life begins to spiral out of control. She's slipping at work, she's hardly able to pull herself together, and she believes someone has been coming into her home when she's not there. Is she going mad or is Matt playing with her?

Gone Without a Trace was almost painfully tense. I knew there had to be a twist coming but I could not for the life of me figure out what it was going to be. It was fun, but almost agonizing as well!

Hannah is, at times, infuriating. When she discovers Matt's gone and claims she has no way of getting in touch with him because she no longer has his phone number... I really wanted to scream at her! But I sympathized with her as well - I know plenty of people who would be in this boat, sadly. And she's genuinely confused and devastated over the whole thing.

It's understandable considering Matt has literally wiped away all trace of himself and their history together. That takes time and planning, all of which Hannah was apparently oblivious to. It makes the reader really begin to wonder what's going on here. Was it Matt at all? The texts and the fact that Hannah believes someone has been in her house really ratchet up that suspense too.

I was afraid that with all of that build up, the end would potentially fall flat. I have to say, though, that I really appreciated the twist when it did arrive. It was unexpected, that's for sure, and turned the story on its head. More surprisingly, even with the crumbs I now see were left as hints, I never saw it coming! It's a twist that I think is going to stick with me for a while.

Gone Without a Trace officially hits shelves Tuesday, but I'm also giving away a copy here on the blog. To enter to win, fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, May 1. Open US only.

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Sunday, April 16, 2017

New Releases 4/18/17

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Fallout by Sarah Paretsky

The Secret Room by Sandra Block

Gone Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen

Change Agent by Daniel Suarez

Forgotten Worlds by D. Nolan Clark

Legent Has It by Elliott James

Underground Fugue by Margot Singer

The Color of Our Sky by Amita Trasi

Bang by Barry Lyga

New on DVD:

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Pre Pub Book Buzz: Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

I mentioned yesterday that Mira Grant's novella Rolling in the Deep now has a sequel hitting shelves. And, as promised, today I'm sharing that one with you - so you can all add it to your TBRs and/or preorder the ever living crap out of it!

Here's a bit about Into Drowning in the Deep from Goodreads:

Seven years ago, the Atargatis set off on a voyage to the Mariana Trench to film a “mockumentary” bringing to life ancient sea creatures of legend. It was lost at sea with all hands. Some have called it a hoax; others have called it a maritime tragedy.

Now, a new crew has been assembled. But this time they’re not out to entertain. Some seek to validate their life’s work. Some seek the greatest hunt of all. Some seek the truth. But for the ambitious young scientist Victoria Stewart this is a voyage to uncover the fate of the sister she lost.

Whatever the truth may be, it will only be found below the waves.

But the secrets of the deep come with a price.

I mean, who wouldn't be dying to read more, right!? It makes my list for any number of reasons, including how much I enjoyed Rolling in the Deep, how big of a McGuire/Grant fan girl I am, and again with those water phobias and draw to stories that play on that. I know, it's a thing.

If you haven't read Rolling in the Deep yet, there's plenty of time - Into the Drowning Deep is due out from Orbit in November.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Short Fiction Friday: Rolling in the Deep by Mira Grant

The Imagine Network made a name for itself with cheesy genre pics, which is why some were surprised by the "documentary block. " Some even predicted it would be the network's downfall. Padded with a generous amount of manipulated and outright fictional footage and "facts" the series, beginning with Loch Ness: A Historical Review, was a resounding success. Which is why a group of scientists, a performing troupe of mermaids, and crew found themselves on the Atargatis tasked with a search for proof of real, live mermaids.

The disastrously fated ship was set to travel to the Mariana Trench in search of the mythical creatures. Their footage was all that remained by the time the ship was recovered. Aired just once, the pieced together doc revealed tragic but still confusing occurrences on board the ship. 

Some have called it a hoax, but one thing cannot be denied: not one person on board the Atargatis has ever been recovered.

So I just found out that there's a sequel to this little novella due out this fall from Orbit! Squee!!!

Rolling in the Deep is pure fun. A story about killer mermaids has to be, right?

The story is framed as a documentary cobbled together from recovered footage found on the ship. Imagine Network interjects disclaimers and other bits not covered by the "footage." The scene is set, the characters are introduced, and the reader gets to sit back and watch (read) as it all begins to fall apart.

Grant, as you know, is the alter ego of Seanan McGuire, author extraordinaire! I will admit that Rolling in the Deep isn't as thought provoking or even tug at your heartstrings as McGuire's Wayward Children novellas. We also don't get to know our characters as deeply as in the McGuire tales or even the Grant full-length novels. That said, Rolling in the Deep wins for being, as mentioned, oh, so freaking fun! (I know I'm not the only one who needs some fun these days.) And if you're like me and suffer from water phobias (and strangely enjoy reading nautical based horror as a result) Rolling in the Deep will definitely set your hair on end!

Oh yeah, and let's reiterate the whole upcoming sequel thing... It takes place after the disappearance of the Atargatis when a team returns to the site of the incident. I'll be doing a post on that one tomorrow, but I'm definitely dying to get a chance to read more!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Unearthly Things by Michelle Gagnon

Readers, if you were to do a quick search for Jane Eyre on my blog, you'll see that I'm maybe a fan...

Who am I kidding, I'm definitely a fan and a sucker for anything paying tribute to, retelling, or just plain compared to the gothic classic. So when Michelle Gagnon's newest teen tale turned out to be a modern retelling, I was all over it!

Janie Mason has lost everything. Orphaned and alone, she's shipped from her home in Hawaii to live under the care of one of her father's oldest friends in San Francisco. And while initially the Rochesters are welcoming enough - well except for not even being home when she arrived, that is - things quickly go off the rails.

The youngest Rochester, a boy who seems ignored and neglected by everyone but the elderly maid, is insistent that his dead twin sister is still hanging around. His older sister is none too pleased about having to share her home or school with Janie unless it means spending more of her daddy's money. Oh, and Mrs. Rochester makes no bones about the fact that Janie is a HUGE inconvenience. But it's the strange noises in the mansion at night and the appearance of the never mentioned elder Rochester son that really get Janie's radar going.

That and someone in the Rochester house - real or spectral - seems intent on making sure Janie knows her place!

Janie Mason is definitely a modern girl. A surfer used to spending every spare hour on her board, she grew up in a loving household with strained finances. And though the Rochesters seem to have more money than Midas, their house is about as warm as the mythological king's must have been.

The relationship between the Rochester patriarch and his family is ice cold. In fact, Janie soon realizes that most of the people in the household do their best not to upset the man. And he gives off some majorly odd vibes as far as Janie is concerned. But he's sweet as pie when she first arrives, making him pretty much her only ally in the house.

Well, excepting six year old Nicholas.

Nicholas is in fact the only Rochester in Janie's welcoming party. Up past bedtime and anxious to meet her, he lets slip a tiny detail about his dead twin sister that nags at Janie as the story progresses.

And it nags at the reader as well.

What I love most about Jane Eyre is the underlying atmosphere, and this element is something Gagnon stayed especially true to in Unearthly Things. The noises at night, the happenings in the house, and the very hush hush story about the dead Rochester girl all give the tale a great creepy undertone.

My only real complaint about Unearthly Things was that it was too short. I could have spent quite a while more in this tale, and I think the characters and their relationships, as well as the setting, would have benefitted from just a bit of extra development overall. That said, the story is a successfully fun twist on Bronte's creation that also stands well on its own.

Rating: 3.5/5

(Oh, I've got my hands on another retelling due out next month as well! See, I can't pass it up!)

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Miss You by Kate Eberlen

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Kate Eberlen's Miss You.

If a girl and a guy meet time and again, does it mean something? Is it fate pushing them together? Are they meant to be?

This is the question regarding Gus and Tess as their lives cross paths time and again. It begins in Florence when they're both eighteen, Tess is on a post graduation trip while Gus is traveling with family. Their encounter isn't an encounter at all but a brief notice on behalf of one on another as they each move along their own travels. And it happens like this time and again as their lives progress. So are they meant to be? Will they ever meet? Will either of them heed the call of fate? 

Miss You is being compared to Day One all over the place. I haven't read Day One so I'm not sure. Honestly I expected something bit more like Rosie Dunne (aka Love, Rosie), without the childhood friendship of course.

Miss You is literally the story of Gus and Tess - not Gus and Tess the couple but Gus... and Tess, individually. Chapters alternate between them as they age and move on in life. Occasionally their stories intersect, but they don't necessarily realize it.

Eberlen does a wonderful job getting the reader invested in each of these characters. Their stories are familiar - that of two young adults finding and making their way through life events and decisions. Some of them quite difficult. But I know I'm not alone in that for me the book was basically a big WHEN ARE THEY GOING TO MEET!? sort of frustration.

Frustration at times, wonderful anticipation at others. A definite combination of the two. I wanted to reach my hands into their stories and just push them into one another, forcing what I felt was an inevitable meet cute. And yet, whether they ever end up together is the drive of the story - and I won't tell you if they do.

Miss You is, at times, quite a heart wrenching read. I'd recommend having the tissue box close for sure!

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

For more on Kate Eberlen and her work you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Pre Pub Book Buzz: City of Brass by S A. Chakraborty

Readers, listen up. City of Brass is an absolutely amazing book. Amazing! This debut fantasy blends Middle East history with fantasy and folklore in one of the most enchanting and unputdownable reads I've had the pleasure of diving into. 

It's already garnering praise and landing on must read and must have lists. And the best news, it's the first in a trilogy!

Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of eighteenth-century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles and a reliable way to survive.

But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought existed only in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her an extraordinary tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire, and rivers where the mythical marid sleep; past ruins of once magnificent human metropolises, and mountains where the circling birds of prey are more than what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass—a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.

In Daevabad, behind gilded brass walls laced with enchantments, behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments are simmering. A young prince who will never be king dreams of rebellion. When Nahri decides to enter this world, she learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences.

After all, there is a reason they say to be careful what you wish for. . .

If you're not sold yet, the good folks over at io9 shared an excerpt this week. You can check that out here

City of Brass doesn't hit shelves until November, but if you're in the New York area, the author already has events lined up. If you have a chance, you should definitely attend. And if, like me, you're not in the NYC area, add this one to your must buy list and pre order it as soon as you possibly can!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Brimstone by Cherie Priest + a Giveaway

Cherie Priest's latest is out on shelves, readers! I mean, a new Cherie Priest release is always cause for celebration, right? I certainly think so.

Alice Dartle has a gift. It's this gift that has brought her to Cassadega, Florida, where she hopes others like her will help her hone her skills. Cassadega offers Alice not only a chance to learn, but a chance to finally fit in. To feel at home amongst those who share abilities akin to her own. But while there, Alice begins to tap into dreams of fire. Dreams that belong to a widowed war veteran who is haunted by the events of his past.

Tomás dreams of fire, but the fire isn't confined to just his dreams. The fires have spread into real life. As the damage intensifies and begins to threaten others, Tomás is convinced it must be the ghost of his dead wife. But Alice isn't so sure. Together they'll have to find the root of these conflagrations if they're to survive.

So not only is Brimstone set during the 20s, which is super cool, it's set around the very real Cassadega Spiritualist Camp, which still exists today. Called "the psychic capital of the world" Cassadega is, according to Wikipedia, "... a small, unincorporated community located in Volusia County..." According to the website, the camp is over a century old and still offers readings and other services including history tours.

So yeah, a super cool setting x 2. And it's a setting - both time and place - that Priest brings to life beautifully!

The narrative is split between Alice and Tomás, the latter of whom is a lonely haberdasher in Ybor City. Alice, of course, is psychically gifted - something that runs in her mother's family (prior generations of women in the family have been burned or hanged for such gifts). Surprisingly, though, it's Alice's father who offers her the most support.

Tomás himself has a good support system, but he know full and well that no one is going to believe that his dead wife is haunting him. Which is why he not only undertakes his own experimentation in secret, but contacts the spiritualists at Cassadega as well. And it's Alice's name that speaks to him, leading to their finally meeting.

As the story progresses, the creepiness increases dramatically. What, for Alice, begins with a tenuous connection to someone else's dreams, becomes a very real threat to her personally. And of course Tomás stands to lose everything if he can't find the true cause of the haunting and stop the fires.

I love Cherie Priest's work and look forward to each new release with great anticipation. So of course there's a lot of expectation for each new book to bear. Fortunately, she has yet to disappoint! Brimstone is no exception, proving once again that Cherie Priest is one of the best and brightest in speculative fiction!

Thanks to the publisher I do get to offer up one copy of Brimstone here on the blog! To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, April 17. Open US only and no PO boxes please.

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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Jessica Shattuck's The Women in the Castle.

Before the war began, Marianne von Lingenfels's husband was one of those who predicted how bad things would become. Along with Marianne's longtime friend, Connie, and a band of others, the men planned an attempt on Hitler's life; Marianne promised take care of the wives and children if anything went wrong. 

By the end of the war, the castle the von Lingenfels line once called home is a crumbling mess. But Marianne and her children have taken up residence there nonetheless. It's the perfect base for her mission - searching out any of the remaining family of those who were involved in the failed assassination. Difficult as it is, her efforts are not in vain. She's managed to find Connie's wife and son - Benita and Martin - and the wife and two sons of another conspirator as well - Ania, Wolfgang, and Anselm. But the women are keeping secrets. And as Marianne attempts to hold them all together, those secrets threaten their new bond. 

While The Women in the Castle is the latest in a string of WWII fiction, it is definitely amongst the best of the trend. And it offers up a look at German life during the war, which I've not actually come across prior to this. German life from the viewpoint of three very different women.

Marianne is idealistic and strong in her beliefs. So much so that she becomes more than a little too staunch, maybe, in her judgement of her fellow Germans. Not all by any means, but a few specific cases. Her own thoughts on Hitler's stance were middling at times, until faced with the true horror of the atrocities going on around her, that is, which is likely why she's so hard on others.

Her views on Benita are more that of looking down on a child than a fellow widow. And unfortunately Benita doesn't do much to change this. Ania, meanwhile, holds everything close. She's a practical woman, something Marianne respects.

Each of them has suffered. Each of them has witnessed truly awful things. And each of them has regrets. But they each have children to think of as well. And having come out of the war alive and together, they find the strength necessary to carry on.

In spite of the way I've portrayed her, Marianne is my favorite of the three. She's strong and idealistic, but also flawed. Her tenacity, though, makes her a natural leader of the group. I feel to say much more about the women would give away too much of their story. As dark as the book unavoidably is, I did enjoy getting to know them and their families.

The Women in the Castle is, as mentioned, darker than The Chilbury Ladies' Choir, for example, but both offer up an authentic and engaging look at life during the war. Shattuck's book most definitely joins the ranks of some of my favorites focused on this era, alongside Chilbury and Jennifer Cody Epstein's The Gods of Heavenly Punishment (another one that, I should add, offers a different perspective than most).

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

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

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Sunday, April 2, 2017

New Releases 4/4/17

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

Miss You by Kate Eberlen

Brimstone by Cherie Priest

American War by Omar El Akkad

The Forbidden Garden by Ellen Herrick

The Romance Reader's Guide to Life by Sharon Pywell

Winter Tide by Ruthann Emrys

End of the Day by Claire North

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

My Last Lament by James William Brown

Feral by James Demonaco & B.K. Evenson

The House of Binding Thorns by Aliette de Bodard

Bad Seeds by Jassy Mackenzie

Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel

Sympathy by Olivia Sudjic

Gauntlet by Holly Jennings

Perfect by Cecelia Ahern

Geekerella by Ashley Poston

Give me a K-I-L-L by R.L. Stine

Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray

But Then I Came Back by Estelle Laure

New on DVD:
Rogue One
Office Christmas Party

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Pre Pub Book Buzz: There's Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

It might surprise you to know that Stephanie Perkins is a horror fan. Yep, she is. Each year there's a 31 Days of Horror Challenge throughout the month of October and Perkins is a regular participant. So it didn't surprise me one bit to find out that Perkins was writing a horror novel. And of course I immediately added it to my must have list.

Here's the tiny bit you can find out about it over on Goodreads:

Scream meets YA in this hotly-anticipated new novel from the bestselling author of Anna and the French Kiss.

One-by-one, the students of Osborne High are dying in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasing and grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and the hunt intensifies for the killer, the dark secrets among them must finally be confronted.

International bestselling author Stephanie Perkins returns with a fresh take on the classic teen slasher story that’s fun, quick-witted, and completely impossible to put down.

I'm dying to read this, folks. Dying!

There's Someone Inside Your House doesn't hit shelves until September, but the cover went live yesterday along with this piece over at EW about the design. Check it out!

Friday, March 31, 2017

Short Fiction Friday: A House at the Bottom of a Lake by Josh Malerman

It's not the first time Amelia has been into James's father's store, but it is the first time he's gotten up the nerve to ask her out. And he's hoping the date he has planned will be a win: his uncle has a canoe and beyond the lake, there's a second secret lake they can explore minus any crowds. 

But as it turns out, there's an even more secret lake beyond that. One that James and Amelia have all to themselves. And in that lake, lying just below the placid surface, is a roof. A roof topping a house that's impeccably preserved under the water. A house James and Amelia have decided to explore...

I love, love, loved Josh Malerman's debut, Bird Box. I've bought it as gifts and recommended the ever living hell out of it. It's that good. And, like everyone else who fell in love with it, I've been waiting for anything and everything Malerman might write next. That includes the upcoming Mad Black Wheel, the quirky short "Ghastle and Yule" - a tale of two warring filmmakers, and the new novella A House at the Bottom of a Lake. Which I was lucky enough to snag for Christmas.

A House at the Bottom of a Lake is an odd one. Stylistically it's got vivid - and incredibly creepy - imagery. It's timeless in the sense that there is no real telling detail about when the story might take place. Which actually adds to the eeriness of the story.

It's something of a quiet tale, luring readers into a story of first love and first dates - those early days when everyone is on their best behavior trying to impress one another and overthinking each and every detail. Will he or she like me? Did I say something stupid? Will we have a second date? A third? It's something almost everyone experiences and is, as such, incredibly relatable.

But as we're drifting into this story alongside James and Amelia, Malerman carefully builds an underlying sense of dread. The discovery of the house is as exciting for us as it is for James and Amelia, but we have the foresight of knowing that something is going to happen. As their obsession with the building grows, we're treated to more and more details of the house with each new exploration. But that sense that something might be waiting - lurking - just around the corner is always there.

It makes for a deliciously tense read in my opinion!

That said, as with Bird Box there is no final explanation. Is the house real? Why has no one discovered it before? Or have they? These questions burn beyond the final page, making A House at the Bottom of a Lake the kind of horror that stays with you long after you finish.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Eggshells by Catriona Lally

Happy Wednesday, y'all! Today I'm part of the TLC blog tour for Catriona Lally's Eggshells.

When Vivian was little, her parents said they thought she was a changeling. Not only that, but they told her they tried to get their real daughter back. 

Out of work for six months, Vivian wanders the streets of Dublin. It's not random, it's planned and she maps her travels. She also visits site and museums, listing butterflies, treasures she discovers on the beach, and other things she sees in her wanderings. Of special interest, signs with missing letters. 

Then one day Vivian decides she'd like to make a friend. Not just any friend - a friend named Penelope. So she makes an advert. Lo and behold, a Penelope answers!

Eggshells is a bit of an odd read. Catriona Lally has a very different and distinct style and voice, creating in Vivian a whimsical character who most definitely lives outside the bounds of what one would consider normal.

Vivian's travels and interactions with others only cement this further. At one point, a man on a bus asks her for money and she hands him lemons. Her logic, the lemons are worth so much and so he only needs to seek out the difference. Needless to say, her lemons are not accepted with gratitude.

In another scene, Vivian has decided to have a blue day and heads to the store to buy appropriate materials. The clerk mistakenly believes it's for a child's birthday and Vivian does nothing to dissuade this idea, instead informing the clerk that yes, she's planning a party for her six year old sons. Who are at home alone. But it's ok because they can't get out of their wheelchairs.

This is a telling scene for a few reasons. First, Vivian definitely doesn't think about the repercussions in taking this farce as far as she does while she's doing it. But she does quickly realize her mistake. So we know that she knows, for example, that leaving six year old wheelchair bound children at home alone is not acceptable. She even goes so far as to wear a disguise later, in case anyone from the store who over heard is nearby.

There's never an explanation about Vivian. Is she simply given to flights of fancy and happy as such. Or is there an actual reason for the way she is. We don't know. There were a few instances where it seemed she might be OCD, mentally repeating "safe" when going to a new shop, for example. But other than those hints, the reader is left to wonder.

I have mentioned before that I lean more towards plot driven rather than character driven novels. A book like Eggshells is the exception. While it is a strange read, following Vivian around on her day to day explorations and such, she is the kind of character who drives a story through her oddness. And so I was curious to see where Vivian would take me next and stuck with her.

In the end I did, however, wish for more plot, more actual happenings, and even more on Vivian's life before the book began.

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here. And for more on Catriona Lally and her work you can follow her on Twitter.

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

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Simple Favor by Darcey Bell

Hi, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Darcey Bell's debut, A Simple Favor.

Stephanie and Emily are friends, as are their sons. And it's not unusual for Emily to occasionally ask Stephanie to pick up her son after school on the rare day when his after school nanny isn't available. After all, the boys are friends and play dates are good for all of them. So there's nothing unusual about Emily asking Stephanie to do the same this time. Until Emily fails to pick her son up. One night, two... Stephanie starts to wonder if she misunderstood the request. But when Emily's husband returns from a trip overseas, it becomes clear nothing about this is normal. 

I find frequently that without planning or knowing it's a possibility I end up reading things back to back that share themes or elements. Not obvious ones, I mean. For example, I might be in the mood for dark crime fiction or unreliable narrators and read a few of those back to back; that's not what I mean. What I mean is the unexpected appearance of the same element that I didn't like in yesterday's book rearing it's head in today's book. Is incest a trendy subject all of the sudden? If so, it really shouldn't be.

Sorry I had to get that out of my system, it had been nagging at me. I will do my very best now to review A Simple Favor without spoilers.

We begin with Stephanie. Her blog to be exact. She's worried and becoming frantic because her best friend has apparently gone missing. And that's the only explanation she has for the fact that a simple favor - picking up Emily's son, Nicky, from school and letting him play with her own son, Miles, for the afternoon - has turned into an overnight sleepover. And another overnight. And another.

It turns out Stephanie may have misunderstood. She reaches out to Emily's husband, who's out of town for business, and is told Emily will be gone for a few days. But, as mentioned above, when Sean returns and Emily is still gone it becomes clear to both of them that this wasn't the planned trip he thought it was.

The police become involved.

The narration shifts, giving readers a chance to see bits of the story from Emily's and Sean's perspectives in addition to Stephanie's. And secrets are revealed.

I liked the way Bell played with persona - the pieces of the characters that are kept personal and the pieces that are doled out to those around them, the edited for public consumption parts if you will. And of course it makes for unreliable narrators and multiple twists in the story.

A Simple Favor has earned quiet a bit of comparisons to some of the more popular unreliable narrator/domestic thriller/psychological suspense tales to be released of late. The comparisons are pretty unavoidable, all things considered, and frankly to even mention them is a bit spoilery. But which I mean A Simple Favor doesn't necessarily stand out as original or unique in the growing trend.

That's not to say that I didn't like A Simple Favor. It was a decent read - good entertainment for an evening at home alone while hubs was teaching. Had it come first, it would have packed a bit more punch. But it didn't. If you're a fan of the trend (as am I) and are looking for more in that same vein, A Simple Favor is a great one to try. If you're looking for something that'll knock your socks off (which I was), this one likely won't do it for you.

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here. And for more on Darcey Bell and her work you can follow her on Twitter.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

It's a new week, readers! Today I'm part of the TLC blog tour for Amy Engel's latest, The Roanoke Girls.

For sixteen years, Lane dreamed of the house named after her mother's family. Her mother never told her anything about the place where she grew up. Never told Lane anything about her parents. Never told her why she left in the first place or why she avoided any mention of the small Kansas town where she lived before. And then Lane's mom committed suicide. 

At first, it seemed like life at Roanoke would be ok. But then Lane discovered the secret her mother lived with all those years. 

A decade later, Lane's cousin has gone missing and Lane finds herself once again pulled to Roanoke. 

Um. This is a tough one to review. At it's most basic, Amy Engel's writing is great. Her prose reads easily, pulling you into the story from the start with Lane's narration. And I admit I really did like Lane. She's tough and she's clever and her determination to find out what happened to her cousin is admirable.

Chapters alternate between "Then" - Lane's first arrival at Roanoke as a teen, "Now" - her return after learning Allegra has gone missing, and interspersed chapters on the other Roanoke girls going back to Lane's grandfather's sisters.

As Lane's cousin reveals, none of the Roanoke girls lasts long. It didn't take but a few pages for me to draw my own conclusion about what the dark secrets of Roanoke might be. And that suspicion was confirmed shortly thereafter. I was actually a bit disappointed when it turned out I was right - first because it seemed too obvious, or just too easy a choice. Second because had I known from the start that's what the book was about, I likely wouldn't have read it at all.

As I said, the reveal comes early so the why of the Roanoke girls' stories lacks suspense and twists. The only real reveals left concern Allegra's fate, which for some might be enough of a draw. If you're a frequent visitor to the blog, then you know there's not much subject wise that I shy away from and I'm a fan of dark. This one, though, was just too much for me.

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

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

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

Sunday, March 26, 2017

New Releases 3/28/17

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Satanic Mechanic by Sally Andrew

Almost Missed You by Jessica Strawser

The Fire Child by S. K. Tremayne

Conviction by Julia Dahl

The Night Mark by Tiffany Reisz

It Happens All the Time by Amy Hatvany

A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi

100 Hours by Rachel Vincent

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Just Fly Away by Andrew McCarthy

Dream Forever by Kit Alloway

Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

The Ship Beyond Time by Heidi Heilig

New on DVD:
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
A Monster Calls
Why Him?

New reviews at
The Dime by Kathleen Kent

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Pre Pub Book Buzz: Three Titles From Putnam

So this week I'm doing something a little different with the pre pub book buzz post - I'm featuring three titles rather than the usual one. Which is not to say that each of these books doesn't deserve their very own highlight post! Rather, I was invited to an event this week that featured all three.

The good folks at Putnam put together a pre pub tour this week for three of their summer authors: Jill Santopolo, Courtney Maum, and Bianca Marais - and the second stop on this tour just happened to be Denver. And I got an invite.

The group included editors, publicists, booksellers, and sales reps, all mingling with the authors over Mexican hors d'oeuvres and drinks. It was a fabulous time and it gave us all the chance to hear a bit about the books from each of the authors too.

And Now I want to share them with you!

First up, Jill Santopolo's The Light We Lost, which is due out in May. Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

Lucy is faced with a life-altering choice. But before she can make her decision, she must start her story—their story—at the very beginning.

Lucy and Gabe meet as seniors at Columbia University on a day that changes both of their lives forever. Together, they decide they want their lives to mean something, to matter. When they meet again a year later, it seems fated—perhaps they’ll find life’s meaning in each other. But then Gabe becomes a photojournalist assigned to the Middle East and Lucy pursues a career in New York. What follows is a thirteen-year journey of dreams, desires, jealousies, betrayals, and, ultimately, of love. Was it fate that brought them together? Is it choice that has kept them away? Their journey takes Lucy and Gabe continents apart, but never out of each other’s hearts.

The Light We Lost sounds like a heart wrenching read. And a bit nostalgic too (for me anyway) considering we meet the characters in college at the same time I myself was there.

Next up is Courtney Mauam's Touch, which hits shelves in June. Here's the Goodreads synopsis:

Sloane Jacobsen is the most powerful trend forecaster in the world (she was the foreseer of the swipe), and global fashion, lifestyle, and tech companies pay to hear her opinions about the future. Her recent forecasts on the family are unwavering: the world is over-populated, and with unemployment, college costs, and food prices all on the rise, having children is an extravagant indulgence.

So it s no surprise when the tech giant Mammoth hires Sloane to lead their groundbreaking annual conference, celebrating the voluntarily childless. But not far into her contract, Sloane begins to sense the undeniable signs of a movement against electronics that will see people embracing compassion, empathy, and in-personism again. She s struggling with the fact that her predictions are hopelessly out of sync with her employer's mission and that her closest personal relationship is with her self-driving car when her partner, the French neo-sensualist Roman Bellard, reveals that he is about to publish an op-ed on the death of penetrative sex a post-sexual treatise that instantly goes viral. Despite the risks to her professional reputation, Sloane is nevertheless convinced that her instincts are the right ones, and goes on a quest to defend real life human interaction, while finally allowing in the love and connectedness she's long been denying herself.

I'll be honest, this one sounds a bit like a lighter Black Mirror kind of tale. The dangers of technology and all. I'm quite looking forward to it!

And finally, due out in July, is Bianca Marais's debut, Hum If You Don't Know the Words. Here's what Goodreads says:

Life under Apartheid has created a secure future for Robin Conrad, a nine-year-old white girl living with her parents in 1970s Johannesburg. In the same nation but worlds apart, Beauty Mbali, a Xhosa woman in a rural village in the Bantu homeland of the Transkei, struggles to raise her children alone after her husband's death. Both lives have been built upon the division of race, and their meeting should never have occurred . . . until the Soweto Uprising, in which a protest by black students ignites racial conflict, alters the fault lines on which their society is built, and shatters their worlds when Robin s parents are left dead and Beauty s daughter goes missing. 

After Robin is sent to live with her loving but irresponsible aunt, Beauty is hired to care for Robin while continuing the search for her daughter. In Beauty, Robin finds the security and family that she craves, and the two forge an inextricable bond through their deep personal losses. But Robin knows that if Beauty finds her daughter, Robin could lose her new caretaker forever, so she makes a desperate decision with devastating consequences. Her quest to make amends and find redemption is a journey of self-discovery in which she learns the harsh truths of the society that once promised her protection.

I'm not going to lie, this book sounds amazing! I wish you all could hear Marais talk about the inspiration behind this story! 

Huge thanks to the Putnam team and the authors for putting together this tour and for the invite. I had a wonderful time! I hope you'll all add these titles to you must have lists for this summer and if any of the authors are in your area for book tours, definitely don't miss the chance to see them!!!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Last Days of Magic by Mark Tompkins PB Release + Giveaway

You may recall seeing Mark Tompkins's The Last Days of Magic on the blog before, but today I want to revisit that post and let you all know that the paperback is now out in the world! To celebrate, the publisher is letting me give away a copy of said paperback as well as a set of custom tarot cards! Be sure to read through to the end for the Rafflecopter.

Sara Hill always loved the books and fairy tales her grandmother shared with her. What she didn't know was that those tales were steeped in a history and reality that stretched back to the days of Adam and Eve. And that her grandmother had been hiding a secret so dangerous it put them all at risk.

In the earliest days of man, the angels came together with humans in a union unsanctioned by their creator. The beings that were born of that union became the creatures we know today as the Nephilim and their offspring split into varying lines of Sidhe. Many of them made their home in Ireland and the Middle Kingdom, and their presence - along with the goddess Morrigna - on the Emerald Isle kept it protected from its enemies.

But in the late fourteenth century, a schism between the Sidhe led to a revolt against the Morrigna and the death of one of her human aspects. That death was just the start of what would become a battle between the Sidhe, the Celts, and Ireland's own enemies. It was a battle that would lead to the end of magic itself.

Mark Tompkins's debut is an interesting blend of folklore and theology. In his world, the Sidhe are descended from the Nephilim - the offspring of angels and man. This combination is suited to the story considering much of the conflict is between the Church and those who believe in and follow magic.

The story is populated by some of the most fabulous beings in all of fairy tale lore including the well-known gnomes, brownies, and pixies and the possibly lesser known (at least by me) beings in Irish folklore like the fomorians and skeaghshee. And that's just a small taste. Tompkins has seriously combed through the plethora of magical beings and the annals of history to create one of the most unique twists on fae legend and magic I've ever come across!

That said, though, I would haver loved it if the story had been told in more of a linear timeline. The frequent time jumps (back and forth) through history made it hard to keep the various threads of the story straight at times. I found myself getting hooked on one storyline and character only to realize that they may not appear again for quite some time. This is a pretty typical fantasy tendency, switching back and forth through a handful or characters, but the gaps between some of the characters' appearances were sometimes a bit too long and I found myself losing track of their stories. (Blame it on my Swiss cheese brain at least in part.)

What is really cool about The Last Days of Magic, in addition to the beings portrayed, is the way Tompkins twists the actual history to suit his tale. The story is set in the time of Richard II who did indeed invade Ireland and while I'm almost certain that Isabella and her kin were not part of a high coven it is said that Richard's own grip on reality was slipping in his final days...

Mark Tompkins's debut is not an easy read. It's a dense tale packed with history (maybe overpacked) but if you have the patience for a bit of a slower read I think you'll find it's quite fascinating.
And now for the giveaway! To enter to win a copy of the brand new paperback edition and that fabulous tarot deck, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, April 3. Open US only and no PO boxes please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Wallflower Blooming and Best Laid Plans by Amy Rivers

Happy Wednesday, readers! I have two reviews for you today as part of the TLC blog tour for Amy Rivers's latest, Best Laid Plans!

Wallflower Blooming and Best Laid Plans are the first two titles in a planned trilogy featuring cousins Val and Gwen. And while you can read them out of order, they do take place consecutively, which means you'll already know some of the events of Wallflower if you read Plans first. So I read them in order :)

Wallflower Blooming is Val's story.

Val has no interest in getting involved in politics. Especially in light of the fact that her own father's business went under when he threw his support behind a local candidate years ago. But when her cousin Gwen decides to run for office in Cambria, Colorado, Val can't say no.

She should have been in the background, quietly running Gwen's PR campaign. But instead, Val finds herself in the spotlight when she falls for a local reclusive, but highly sought after, bachelor. And that's not all, history may be repeating itself when Gwen's competition begins bullying Val's clients. Now with her business at risk and her love life the talk of local gossips, the normally grounded Val is finding it hard to keep it together.

I loved Val! She is so fun. She's focused and driven, but hasn't had much luck in love. Which is why it comes as such a surprise that John Hatfield could possibly be interested in her. As their story progresses, she's equal parts irked and smitten.

Of course work complicates things. Again, she's driven. And her fear of falling into the same trouble that led to her father's business closing begins to affect all aspects of her life. She's the kind of character you want on your side. And the kind of character you want to rally for when the going starts getting rough.

And the same can be said of Gwen! Best Laid Plans follows right on the heels of the events of Wallflower Blooming.

When Gwen won the election for Mayor of Cambria, she figured she was on the fast track to her ultimate goal: becoming the youngest Governor of Colorado. But one year into her term, her plans are starting to go awry. 

First, it appears she's being bullied by certain figures in local government. Then it appears she's picked up a stalker, too. As she tries to juggle mayoral responsibility with her other obligations, it also seems her relationship with Jason could be nearing its end. It'd been rocky already, considering some question the ethics behind the mayor dating one of the city's finance folks, but it becomes worse when Jason bends to pressure and takes another job. One that has him traveling a lot and seemingly getting cozy with a new female coworker. As the uncertainty weighs on Gwen, she begins to wonder if her plans are all for naught. 

Oh, Gwen! The title of her book is quite perfect. Of course one could say that she brings some of it on simply by setting so much stock in her careful plans.

As much as I liked Val's story, I honestly think Gwen's was even better. Or maybe I just identified with Gwen a bit more.

Gwen, like Val, is also driven. And like Val she also hasn't had much luck in love. But unlike Val, Gwen doesn't consider bowing under pressure. Where Val, when faced with a bully who threatens her business, seriously considers bowing out as Gwen's PR manager, Gwen, when faced with an overly zealous city manager, gets snarky. And I loved it!

I should pause to mention the men in these stories, because the books are equally as much theirs. John and Jason each get their own chapters in the respective books, giving readers a chance to see the relationships and happenings from their eyes as well. At times the two seemed a bit too similar for my taste, causing me some confusion at times in remembering which one was paired with which cousin. An argument could be made that because they grew up together and are friends that they are indeed similar, gravitating together as friends do. It didn't detract from the reading, but my Swiss cheese brain did have to do a double take occasionally when they shared a scene.

Together, Rivers's two books make for an easy, breezy pair of fun reads. Each is fairly short, too, so you can literally zip through them back to back.

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

For more on Amy Rivers and her work you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter and Goodreads.

Purchase Links: Amazon

If you're local to Colorado, you can also find Amy's books at BookBar and Boulder Bookstore!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Mississippi Blood by Greg Iles

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm kicking off the TLC blog tour for Greg Iles's Mississippi Blood!

For those of you who haven't read the first two books, Natchez Burning and The Bone Tree, you should probably skip this post. Instead, check out one of the previous reviews (depending on whether you've read any of them) and run out to your bookstore!

Penn Cage is suffering and desperate - desperate for vengeance. His girlfriend is dead, as is the reporter who was set on outing Mississippi's Double Eagles. And Penn's father has an undeniable link to the minds behind some of Mississippi's most brutal hate crimes. But that connection still isn't clear. As Dr. Tom Cage awaits trial for the alleged murder of his one time assistant and possible lover, Penn is determined to see the Double Eagles fall and clear his father's name. But the lies and secrets of Mississippi's history run deep and have already claimed so many lives. Will Penn's be next?

Greg Iles's explosive trilogy comes to a close with this final installment. (Note, this trilogy is part of the larger Penn Cage series.)

This trilogy is really an epic - and successful - attempt to fairly and accurately cover what is such a dark piece of southern history. In a recent article in Mississippi Today, Iles speaks to some of the inspiration and drive in telling these stories.

And while it should never be mistaken that this - the tale told throughout the three books - is indeed a story, its roots are definitely in the troubled history of the south. As I mentioned in the Natchez Burning post, Sexton was based on an actual reporter whose mission was one and the same - uncovering crimes that have thus far been swept under the rug.

While it's impossible to write a review of Mississippi Burning without some spoilers of the other two, I definitely don't want to ruin your experience with this third and final piece. Especially since it just released TODAY! I will say that all of the points I made about the previous two - the careful attention to detail, the intricate plotting, the almost ridiculously fast pacing (in a good way) - still apply. And all of the threads and questions of the previous two installments are brought to a satisfactory close.

The characters that have taken us through these tomes - all 2,299 pages - are wonderful. They're rich and flawed, drawn with such depth that they literally leap off the pages. And honestly, they'd have to if you're going to stick with them for that much reading time! (I should mention too that while you're reading those pages, Iles himself spent eight years writing them.) Trust me when I say it's well worth it.

If you haven't read Iles before, you are missing out. If you haven't read any part of the trilogy - then what are you doing still reading this post?! - hit up your local bookstore and buy all of them, or any of them you're missing, today!

And if you're determined to start at Penn's beginning (you can definitely read the trilogy without having read the first few Penn books) here's the full series list for you:

The Quiet Game
Turning Angel
The Devil's Punchbowl
Natchez Burning
The Bone Tree
Mississippi Blood

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

For more on Greg Iles you can visit his website here. You can also like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Pre Pub Book Buzz: Dear Reader by Mary O'Connell

Books about books, books based on books, retellings of other books... All things that catch my attention! So of course Mary O'Connell's Dear Reader immediately set off my must have radar.

Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

For seventeen-year-old Flannery Fields, the only respite from the plaid-skirted mean girls at Sacred Heart High School at is her beloved teacher Miss Sweeney’s AP English class. But when Miss Sweeney doesn't show up to teach Flannery's favorite book, Wuthering Heights, leaving behind her purse, Flannery knows something is wrong.

The police are called, and Flannery gives them everything—except Miss Sweeney's copy of Wuthering Heights. This she holds onto. And good thing she does, because when she opens it, it has somehow transformed into Miss Sweeney's real-time diary. It seems Miss Sweeney is in New York City—and she's in trouble.

So Flannery does something very unFlannery-like: she skips school and sets out for Manhattan, with the book as her guide. But as soon as she arrives, she meets a boy named Heath. Heath is British, on a gap year, incredibly smart—yet he's never heard of Albert Einstein or Anne Frank. In fact, Flannery can't help thinking that he seems to have stepped from the pages of Brontë's novel. Could it be?

With inimitable wit and heart, Mary O'Connell has crafted a love letter to reading, to the books that make us who we are. Dear Reader, charming and heartbreaking, is a novel about finding your people, on the page in the world.

Everything about Dear Reader sounds magnificent and I truly can't wait for a chance to read it!

Dear Reader is due out in May from Flatiron Books.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Short Fiction Friday: Brother's Ruin by Emma Newman

Charlotte Gunn has great talent. Yes, as an illustrator, which is how she makes a secret living. But also as a mage. And while neither is something she wants revealed to even those closest to her, the latter of the two secrets is the one that's most dangerous.

It's 1850 and anyone with a whiff of magic in their blood is required to report to the Royal Society of the Esoteric Arts. Not only is magic supposed to be used for the betterment of society, rumor has it that a mage without training can turn wild, becoming a danger to themselves and everyone around them. But members of the Royal Society aren't allowed to marry or have careers outside of the Royal Society. If Charlotte were discovered she would lose her fiance and her living.

But it's not Charlotte the Royal Society comes for in the end. It's her brother. And it's his wish, as well as her father's, that he'll test high enough to save their father from debtor's prison. Only Charlotte knows that the debt collectors her father owes have a fate much worse than that in mind.

Brother's Ruin marks the first in Newman's latest series. It's a fun novella and a good introduction to Charlotte and her world, though in this case I actually wish we'd had a full first novel to tear into.

While there's a decent bit of world building and character development for Charlotte as well as those around her, Brother's Ruin never loses the feel of being a prequel or prologue to a longer tale.

It is a fun start to the series, certainly. And, as intended, it left me wanting more. That said, I think I would have been happier with it's follow up in hand for immediate gratification!

Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

I'm Traveling Alone by Samuel Bjørk + a Giveaway

Good morning, readers! One of my absolute favorite reads of 2016 is out in paperback this week and I get to give away a copy!

Here's my review from last Feb:

Mia is ready to end it all. She's counting down the days, in fact. But her plans go awry when her old boss, Holger Munch, pays her a very important visit.

A six-year-old girl has been found hanging from a tree. The body has been carefully cleaned and dressed, posed with a schoolbag full of books and a sign reading "I'm traveling alone" placed around her neck. Once upon a time, Mia was part of an elite investigative squad whose job was to handle cases exactly like this. But scrutiny on a particularly touchy and personal case caused the squad to be disbanded and its members scattered. In spite of all of that, Mia's skills have never been in doubt and it's her insight the police need now. Unfortunately, Mia can't offer a quick solution or the killer's head on a silver platter. What she can offer is worse: the assurance that this is just the first in what will surely be a string of child murders.

A crime so egregious means even those most staunchly against reuniting Munch's crew have to admit that the squad - including Mia and led by Munch - is their best chance to solve this case and hopefully prevent more death. But can Mia overcome her own personal issues in order to be of any use?

I'm Traveling Alone kicks off what I expect will be a quite exciting new Scandinavian crime series! The plot is twisted and extremely well built, worthy of characters like Mia, Munch, and the others. In fact, while Mia and Munch quickly shoot to the head of the list as possible main characters, Bjørk's debut features the team as a whole (with admittedly heavy focus on Mia and Munch) rather than a true lead character.

It's a fun way to set up such a series because it gives the author a chance to highlight each character's skills.

One downside to this is that Bjørk switches narrators quite frequently, not limiting himself even to the team. Various players and witnesses are introduced throughout the novel to show different aspects of the growing mystery. It's a method that can quite often work against the author and reader, making the story harder to get fully engrossed in. I have to say, however, that in this instance I thought it worked. Each new narrator, rather than taking me out of the story or jarring the narrative, offered a new layer to the overall plot.

I'm Traveling Alone is out in paperback as of yesterday and the follow up, The Owl Always Hunts at Night is due out in June.

To enter to win a copy of your very own, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, March 27. Open US only and no PO boxes please. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Dishing up the Dirt: Recipes for Cooking Through the Seasons by Andrea Bemis

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Andrea Bemis's Dishing Up the Dirt: Recipes for Cooking Through the Seasons.

What began as a joke between Bemis and her then boyfriend (now husband) over a bag of organic blueberries led to a massive life change for the couple: the decision to run a farm of their own and become self-sufficient.

For most this would be an even more difficult decision than it was for these two, Taylor grew up on a 60-acre farm in Massachusetts (the origin of the life changing blueberries). So the two packed up and returned to the Bay State to learn the ropes. Four years later, the couple returned to Oregon where they purchased the land that would become Tumbleweed Farm. And Bemis chronicled every step on her blog, Dishing Up the Dirt!

Which is how the cookbook, Dishing Up the Dirt, was born.

Bemis recaps much of the early years in the intro to the book, recounting the good and the not so good. Bemis herself had no experience farming or really cooking and says it was "Baptism by fire..." But throughout it all, even the difficulties of starting their own farm, they were successful. The goal of the blog (and now book) is to

...offer an honest glimpse into life on our six-acre farm in rural Oregon. It's a story about love, community, farming, and, most important, the food that we grow, eat, and share around the table with family and friends.

And, oh the food!

The book is divided by season, offering up recipes featuring produce at their peak. Because as we've all learned, fruits and vegetables do taste better when they're in season! And while the calendar hasn't technically reached spring, here in Colorado the weather certainly has. With that in mind, and with a fridge already stocked with strawberries, cauliflower, beets, and herbs, I went to town bookmarking recipes to try.

It was a dreary Saturday, our coldest of late considering we've seen abnormally warm weather these past few weeks, so I kicked off the morning with Bemis's Honey Cardamom Latte. Our local Colorado honey blended quite nicely with some (also local) almond butter and the rest of the ingredients to make a cozy and warming start to the morning as I planned the rest of the weekend's meals.

Next up: Strawberry Salsa (remember those strawberries in the fridge, 'cause there were w lot of them), which we ate as a snack while I made lunch on that icky Saturday. The salsa was easy and offered up familiar flavors of cilantro, jalapeño, and red onion, with just a pinch of salt and lime juice. The addition of a bit of honey and the bright sweetness of the strawberries was wonderful. Even my husband, who'd admitted to being leery of strawberries in salsa, enjoyed it so much he complained I was eating more than my fair share without saving some for him!

I did skip ahead to Summer to make Bemis's Crispy Smashed Potatoes with Herbed Butter. They paired nicely with another recipe I'd had planned, making a fairly healthy dinner that still incorporated my favorite carb (potatoes, yum!) for meatless Monday.

Baking is a bit of an issue at high altitude, so I've held off so far on the Honey-Roasted Strawberry Muffins (which sound DIVINE), but the Chocolate Chip & Real Mint Cookies are just too tempting to pass up. These are next in my roster considering I beelined to the store to grab a new bag of flour, semi-sweet chips, and the mint in question! (Which means I also have all the ingredients on hand to make the Strawberry Mint Smoothie that'll be today's breakfast.) And dinner tonight? Penne with Parsley Pesto, White Beans & Parmesan. And I may just have to get over my tahini issues in order to try the Cauliflower Tahini Dip. (I'll admit it, while I love hummus, I hate tahini!) But I've been eyeballing the Simple Cauliflower Soup as an alternative too :)

The best thing about the book so far: I had literally 90% of the ingredients on hand already to try the dishes I've already tried and the ones I still have planned for the next few days. The only thing I had to buy: the mint, the parsley (because the parsley I thought I had turned out to be a third bunch of cilantro!), and the baking stuff for the cookies.

I should note that while Dishing Up the Dirt is not a vegetarian cookbook, the vast majority of the book is veggie forward. In fact, there are just a few meat focused meals in the whole book: Lamb Lettuce Wraps with Mint Yogurt Sauce, Venison Stew, Farmers' Market Burgers with Mustard Green Pesto, Tumbleweed Farm Spaghetti and Meatballs, and Chicken and Chickpea Pesto Summer Salad, just to name a few (actually there are only 2-3 others I didn't mention). And honestly, even though I'm not vegetarian, I'd never turn my nose up at a tasty veggie-focused dish. Considering there are enough of those throughout the book, I wouldn't have complained if this were a 100% vegetarian cookbook.

(There are a fair amount of vegan friendly recipes throughout the book as well.)

Considering the book arrived just Friday evening, I think I've tested enough recipes thus far to put my hearty stamp of approval on this one! The recipes are easy, there are no odd or hard to find ingredients, and the dishes taste fantastic.

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

For more on Andrea Bemis and Tumblweed Farm you can visit her blog here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Instagram.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble