Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

Liesl grew up on tales of the Goblin King. Tales spun by her grandmother and built on an old system of beliefs Leisl's own parents have long snubbed. 

But when Liesl's own sister is taken by the Goblin King himself, she realizes the tales are all too true. Now it's up to her to sacrifice everything to save her beloved sister. But how can she outwit the ultimate trickster, much less one intent on finding and keeping a bride?

S. Jae-Jones combines elements of Labyrinth and the Persephone myth in her masterfully unique debut. But she turns both on their heads, basing it in an actual historical setting - well an actual historical setting for the pieces that take place in the "real" world, that is. And it's pretty cool, as well. Steeped in historical Austrian culture and music, the story makes use of folklore with a definite David Bowie leaning.

Liesl is the daughter of husband and wife innkeepers/musicians. But her father has long given over his own talent in lieu of the bottom of a bottle. Now the family fame and fortune rests squarely on the shoulders of Liesl's little brother, who is set to audition for a musician of extraordinary talent.

But Liesl has her own musical aspirations. Aspirations she keeps under lock and key and secret from everyone except her brother. Her hidden talents are what the Goblin King thirsts after. As it turns out (we learn in the prologue but it takes Liesl some time to remember), Liesl has known the Goblin King since she was a child.

But the Goblin King is a trickster. Liesl is the one he wants, but takes her sister as bait.

The imagery in Wintersong is amazing! The Underworld is at once beautiful and creepy, as evidence by the far away vs close looks at the decorations in Liesl's own chambers there. And again, the Goblin King is a trickster. But he allows Liesl herself to see the truth of things, increasing the horrors of the world tenfold.

For someone who grew up watching Labyrinth, the idea of a sort of Labyrinth retelling is awesomely appealing, but with understandable reservations. Readers, I have to say that S. Jae-Jones does the world and the legend justice, all the while making it 100% her own!

Wintersong is chillingly cool with just the right blend of dark fantasy and steamy romance to appeal to a broad audience. It doesn't officially hit shelves until next week, but trust me you'll want to hit your local bookstore that day to snatch up a copy!

For more on S. Jae-Jones and Wintersong, be sure to check out her website - especially this post about the origins of Wintersong.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

Single mom Louise has met a man. Sadly, after an evening's flirtation she discovers not only that he's married but that he's her new boss. Awkward! Embarrassed, Louise is determined that it go no further than the one kiss on the first night. After an unfortunate incident that involved hiding from his wife in the office bathroom, Louise stresses to David the two of them should be no more than boss and secretary. 

And so when she accidentally runs into the glamorous and surprisingly friendly Adele, even learning that she's David's wife doesn't deter Louise from becoming her friend. And the more she gets to know Adele, the more she gets to know a side of David that's quite different from the persona he displays in the office. As Louise is pulled further and further into relationships with both of the spouses, she is forced to decide where her loyalties actually lay. She's also forced to face the fact that either David or Adele - or both - are not quite what they seem. 

I've been quite a fan of Pinborough's work for quite some time now, readers. Some of you know this and some of you (hopefully more than the one I know about) have sought out her work.

If not, you probably will now.

Behind Her Eyes is poised to be Pinborough's real break into the US mainstream readership. I normally wouldn't say that, but it's clear from the marketing this one is getting that that's the expectation. And I'd be pleased as punch if that ended up being the case!

A love triangle, a tale of manipulation, and something more spoilery if I were to mention it, Behind Her Eyes is part psychological suspense and all Pinborough!

The story alternates between Louise and Adele, giving readers an opportunity to see both sides of their story. It also alternates timelines a bit, offering a then and now look at Adele. And as the story progresses it becomes more and more twisted, leaving the reader quite unsure who to trust in this narrative.

You may have noticed another part of the marketing for this one involves the hashtag #WTFthatending. So I'd gone into this one knowing something super messed up was in store. And I thought I'd figured it out. Nope! I was happily and partially wrong about the twist this one was taking, which of course I loved.

Pinborough is a master talent. Her writing is fun and snarky, twisted and manipulative, and oh, so freaking smart! Smartly plotted and smartly paced - grabbing the reader and pulling them along into stories that start off (in cases like this one) fairly innocently before becoming a dark rabbit hole of secrets and surprises.

I can't recommend this one highly enough. If you've read her, you'll not be disappointed. If you haven't discovered her, you'll (hopefully) become as big a fan as I am!

An added bonus on my end, I had the chance to listed to part of this one on audio and I have to say the narrators are wonderful! You can check out a sample of that audio here.

Rating: 5/5

Sunday, January 29, 2017

New Releases 1/31/17

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

Things We Have In Common by Tasha Kavanagh

The Odds of You and Me by Cecelia Galante

My Husband's Wife by Jane Corry

I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiasch

4321 by Paul Auster

The Girl in the Garden by Melanie Wallace

Killing Kate by Alex Lake

The Night Bird by Brian Freeman

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Wait For Me by Caroline Leech

The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles

Silver Stars by Michael Grant

How to Break a Boy by Laurie Devore

Blood of Wonderland by Colleen Oakes

The Careful Undressing of Love by Corey Ann Haydu

New on DVD:
Queen of Katwe
Masterminds
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

Friday, January 27, 2017

Short Fiction Friday: Passing Strange by Ellen Klages

Helen Young is on a mission, a final mission before she dies. It's a secret she's held close for many years, one born of love and magic. A secret rooted in a promise made one night, long ago, in San Francisco.

The year was 1940 and the time was not kind to Helen and her friends. But San Francisco allowed them some freedom, especially a bar called Mona's. There, Helen and her friends could enjoy drinks and entertainment alongside the tourists who came to see the novelty of women dressed as men. The Circle - Helen, a lawyer; Franny, a mapmaker with more than a little magic on her side; her lover, Babs; Haskel, an artist known for pulp magazine covers; and Emily, aka Spike, a singer - knew all too well the difficulties and politics of their era. But none of them expected a very real threat to one of their own. And so, they banded together to form a plan. A plan that wouldn't come fully to fruition until generations had passed.

Passing Strange is a tale about love and the lengths you'll go to to protect the ones closest to you. But it's also an homage to the history of San Francisco.

Set against the backdrop of the World's Fair, Klages deftly brings this bygone era of The City by the Bay to vivid life. Through the eyes of Helen, Haskel, and Emily, Klages gives readers a taste of the magic of the fair, Chinatown, and even the food (oh, the food!) as well as the social atmosphere of the day.

And while magic plays a role in the tale, it takes a bit of a backseat to the rest of those elements. In particular the rules and restrictions the group live by day to day. Today, we're lucky enough to realize these laws are unfair, to say the least, and actually pretty ridiculous by any standard. But to break these rules and get caught was a risk for anyone in their position. The women, all lesbians or at least bi, were considered deviants by society's mores, which we know wouldn't begin to change during most of their lifetimes.

And yet, it doesn't stop them from living their lives.

And it's just one of the facets of these characters, one piece of the whole that Klages has built for each of them. Helen, as mentioned, is a lawyer at a time when women definitely weren't respected in that profession (or most any). Polly, who we meet later on in the story, is Franny's cousin, an obviously brilliant girl who wants to study science but is limited to universities that will actually admit women. Haskel practices her profession anonymously, as time makes it clear, with most assuming the artist responsible for her work was a man.

I loved these characters and their story. To be honest, though, they had to win me over a bit. We meet Helen at the start, in present day, and it's clear she's up to something. Something in no small part that includes a bit of revenge. And I adored her! Just absolutely adored her! I was prepared to spend the whole novella alongside her, and was a bit disappointed when that wasn't the case. Bravo to Klages for introducing a character that elicited that strong of a response pretty immediately! Fortunately it didn't take long for me to realize that each of Klages characters would win me over the same way Helen had.

There are dark undertones to Passing Strange. And not subtle ones either. But like the magic, they take something of a backseat to the endearing love story that's at the heart of the tale.

Rating: 4/5

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking

It's a well-known fact that the Danes are some of the happiest people on the planet. No, really. It's been tested and proved time and again. One of the reasons can be attributed to hygge - pronounced hoo-ga.

But what is hygge? It's a noun, verb, and adjective that basically boils down to "...a sense of comfort, togetherness, and well-being."

In The Little Book of Hygge Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, has set out to share the idea of hygge with the world and spread the happiness that is so prevalent in Denmark. And while the idea is hard to translate 100%, my own take on it is basic coziness.

The idea is to create spaces and situations that exude comfort. Whether that's curling up with your favorite book and a warm blanket or inviting a few friends over to share a meal by the fire is up to you and your needs at the time.

Hygge isn't an idea that's new to me. I'd first come across the concept in an article about how Danes get through long, dark winters. As someone who suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder, I can't even imagine living in a place where winters are more miserable than Colorado. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of people who enjoy winter - and Colorado is by no means the worst place to experience it. Personally, though, I'd be happiest if I could spend all of my time on a tropical, sunny island with frequent rain storms!

You can imagine, then, that the idea of incorporating elements of hygge into my own life are appealing, to say the least.

I do wish that I could go out and buy an entire house worth of Danish furniture to really max out the hygge feeling in my abode. Fortunately, while that's not an option for me, it's also not necessary. While Wiking does advocate for comfy chairs and various design elements, he also explains that hygge can be as simple as lighting candles at the end of your work day and treating yourself to a nice piece of chocolate. Game nights, movie nights, and potlucks with friends or coworkers (hygge in the office!) are all other suggestions as are outdoor activities. In other words, attainable things for all of us.

The Little Book of Hygge is a fun and inspirational. Less a book to sit down and read and more a simple collection of suggestions for personal comfort and well-being - something I have no doubt many people can benefit from right about now. It's certainly got me thinking about things I can do here to make the cold months and short days a bit less daunting! And of course, as a total book junkie, I can definitely get behind anything that advocates for books as comfort :)

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

This Is Not Over by Holly Brown

Hi, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Holly Brown's latest, This is Not Over.

Dawn and her husband are frequent users of Getaway.com. For Dawn, staying in someone's home, rather than a hotel, allows her to imagine this is her life. It allows her to fully immerse herself in the trip and enjoy all her own getaway has to offer. Until the vacation is over, that is. But her experience in Miranda's Santa Monica home was less than stellar. So when she receives a snide email from Miranda, stating that due to a rather large stain left on the bedsheets, Dawn will be losing half of her deposit, Dawn is immediately offended. 

For Miranda, the Santa Monica home is more than just a little extra income. She is, after all, the wife of a doctor. No one would expect that she'd need money on the side. But Miranda has been funneling the money into an effort to care for her son - in secret. So when Dawn's anger pushes her to leave a three star review, Miranda begins to worry it'll drop her reservations. But every attempt to convince Dawn to take the review down is met with increasing anger and as the situation spirals out of control, Miranda is forced to consider extreme measures. 

I love the premise of This is Not Over. The prevalence of short term rentals as an alternative to hotels has undoubtedly become hugely popular. And yes, it does allow for a certain amount of homeyness that a hotel doesn't. But you know, those drab cookie cutter hotels do have regulations, and managers, and places you can take your complaint should something like being charged an exorbitant amount for a set of replacement sheets should happen...

I have to say I really did not like Dawn or Miranda. These are two women who, if met in real life, would drive me out of my mind! And watching them go to war was less of the thriller I'd expected and more annoyed amusement - honestly (and I kind of hate to admit it) waiting for each of them to get what they deserved for spending so much time bullying one another was part of the best anticipation of the read.

In both cases, their story starts out simple. Dawn is married to a patient and supportive man who encourages her to go back to college. They rent, he works for the family business, and Dawn is allowed to focus all of her efforts on school. So their trips are real treats for themselves. And Dawn does take offense to what she believes is a stab at her quality of person and life when Miranda implies they've ruined a set of sheets in her rental.

Miranda, a respectable doctor's wife and volunteer, has taken sole responsibility for her parents' old home in the wake of her father's death and her mother's need for assisted living. And because of a strained relationship between her son and her husband, it does allow her the freedom to lend the boy a hand every now and again. Plus, she really couldn't see herself selling the abode - it meant so much to her parents. With so many glowing recommendations for her rental, though, Dawn's review stings more than just a little.

Of course as the story continues we get to know these characters more fully. Neither is a pillar of their community - they each have flaws and quirks in their own right. And they each nag at one another, making the situation much worse than it needs to be. And then things around each of them, beyond their own picking at one another, begin to crumble.

I did quite enjoy the build of this tale. Brown, a marriage and family therapist, adds to each character in layers, revealing their secrets and their proclivities more fully in each chapter. There is no good guy here. Nor is there really a bad guy. Just two sides of an argument spun madly and wildly out of control. And they both seemingly realize it, considering they keep much of what's happening to themselves, adding to the mess.

So the moral of the story, kids, is this: focusing all of your effort and attention on ruining someone else's life is bad for you!

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

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Sunday, January 22, 2017

New Releases 1/24/17

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The House of Fame by Oliver Harris

The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry

The Fifth Letter by Nicola Moriarty

This is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

The Girl Before by J P Delaney

Clownfish Blues by Tim Dorsey

No Man's Land by Simon Tolkien

Eleventh Grave in Moonlight by Darynda Jones

Department Zero by Paul Crilley

A Night In With Grace Kelly by Lucy Holliday

Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson

The Skill of Our Hands by Steven Trust & Skyler White

Death's Mistress by Terry Goodkind

City of Saints & Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson

The Ethan I was Before by Ali Standish

After the Fall by Kate Hart

New on DVD:
The Monster
Sugar Mountain
Inferno
The Light Between Oceans
The Handmaiden

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Pre Pub Book Buzz: When the English Fall by David Williams

Earlier this month, BN posted a list of "19 Science Fiction Debuts We Can't Wait to Read in 2017." And while there are a few titles on the list that were already on my radar, many of the titles were new to me - and I quickly added them all to my must have list :)

One of those is a debut called When the English Fall by David Williams. Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

When a catastrophic solar storm brings about the collapse of modern civilization, an Amish community in Pennsylvania is caught up in the devastating aftermath. Once-bright skies are now dark. Planes have plummeted to the ground. The systems of modern life have crumbled. With their stocked larders and stores of supplies, the Amish are unaffected at first. But as the English (the Amish name for all non-Amish people) become more and more desperate, they begin to invade Amish farms, taking whatever they want and unleashing unthinkable violence on the peaceable community.

Seen through the diary of an Amish farmer named Jacob as he tries to protect his family and his way of life, When the English Fall examines the idea of peace in the face of deadly chaos: Should members of a nonviolent society defy their beliefs and take up arms to defend themselves? And if they don’t, can they survive?

You know I'm never one to pass up a post apocalyptic tale, so when I had the chance to get my hands on a copy of this one for review, I pounced. And while I almost never have the chance to read this early, I couldn't resist diving in this week. 

Readers, it doesn't hit shelves until July, but it is pretty fantastic! Definitely one to watch for this summer. (And hopefully a good sign for the rest of the titles on the list!)

Friday, January 20, 2017

Short Fiction Friday: Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

Jack and Jill's parents had certain expectations about parenthood. Unfortunately, this meant that for much of the girls' early lives their parents enforced their own ideas about who and what they each should be: Jacqueline was to be neat, tidy, and pretty - a perfect daughter for a society driven mother; Jillian (their parents didn't believe in nicknames) was sporty and active - the son her father was disappointed not to have. They were not coddled, they were not loved, they were not even encouraged to find solace and comfort in each other. And so it's no surprise that their door appeared, whisking them away to the Moors. 

The Moors was not a welcoming place. In fact, it was one filled with monsters and evils. Some of them less obvious than others. There, the girls defied their raising. One taking up residence under the roof of a scientist, the other becoming the groomed heir to a Master who reigned with nothing less than terror over the surrounding village. But they were there because they wanted to be. 

Until their door appeared once again. 

So obviously if you've read Every Heart a Doorway, then you know this is a prequel story. Jack and Jill are already in residence at Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children when Nancy arrives in the aforementioned story. If you haven't read it, no fear you can start here!

This is the story of Jack and Jill's door. The world they disappeared into before being sent to Eleanor. And what a world it is! It's the stuff of Universal monster movies, literally. Vampires, werewolves, a mad scientist, and sea creatures galore. It's a dark and dreary world, one that only the most miserable children would see as a salvation from the real world.

And miserable is a good way to describe Jack and Jill.

Sure they have a decent life. They're provided for and live in comfort. But they're not allowed to be themselves. They're not allowed to even discover who the real Jack and Jill are or could be. This is what life in the Moors allows them.

In a series with infinite possibilities, Down Among the Sticks and Bones is a worthy and wonderful follow up to Every Heart a Doorway!As with the previous installment, McGuire once again wows with rich and detailed world building and characters that are full of depth and emotion.

If you haven't had the chance to start this series, now is the perfect time. You can dive in with either tale and join the crowd of readers now desperately looking forward to the third installment!

Rating: 5/5

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Edgar Nominees Have Been Announced!

Readers! The 2017 Edgar Award Nominees have been announced!

Here are a few of the categories:

Best Novel:
The Ex by Alafair Burke 
Where It Hurts by Reed Farrel Coleman 
Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye 
What Remains of Me by Alison Gaylin 
Before the Fall by Noah Hawley 

Best First Novel:
Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry 
Dodgers by Bill Beverly 
IQ by Joe Ide 
The Drifter by Nicholas Petrie 
Dancing with the Tiger by Lili Wright 
The Lost Girls by Heather Young 

Best Paperback Original:
Shot in Detroit by Patricia Abbott 
Come Twilight by Tyler Dilts 
The 7th Canon by Robert Dugoni 
Rain Dogs by Adrian McKinty 
A Brilliant Death by Robin Yocum 
Heart of Stone by James W. Ziskin 

Best Short Story:
"Oxford Girl" – Mississippi Noir by Megan Abbott 
"A Paler Shade of Death" – St. Louis Noir by Laura Benedict 
"Autumn at the Automat" – In Sunlight or in Shadow by Lawrence Block 
"The Music Room" – In Sunlight or in Shadow by Stephen King 
"The Crawl Space" – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Joyce Carol Oates 

Best Juvenile:
Summerlost by Ally Condie 
OCDaniel by Wesley King 
The Bad Kid by Sarah Lariviere 
Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand 
Framed! by James Ponti 
Things Too Huge to Fix by Saying Sorry by Susan Vaught 

Young Adult:
Three Truths and a Lie by Brent Hartinger 
The Girl I Used to Be by April Henry 
Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse 
My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier 
Thieving Weasels by Billy Taylor 

Congrats to all the nominees! Embarrassingly I have to admit I've not read many this year. Guess that means I need to play catch up :)

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Travelers by Chris Pavone

Will Rhodes has a great job. Well, a good job with great perks. As a writer for Travelers, Will gets to travel the globe exploring vacation destinations middle-class America only dream about. But on a trip to Paris, Will meets a woman who tempts him in a way he almost can't resist. When he runs into her again in Argentina, their liaison ends with Will on the hook for favors to the CIA!

As Will becomes further entrenched in a life of secrets and espionage, he begins to realize the game he's been recruited into means something much more dangerous than a potential failed marriage. And as each new travel destination becomes another mission, Will Rhodes is forced to question the loyalties of even those closest to him.

As with Pavone's previous two thrillers, The Expats and The Accident, The Travelers is brimming with action and suspense. But unlike the others, I had a bit of a harder time begin pulled into this one.

We begin with a scene in Argentina where Will is attacked and blackmailed. Then we jump back five weeks, into a scene where Will is getting ready to leave for his latest assignment after returning late from a night out, and apparently pissing off his wife. His job has put a strain on their marriage, as has (we learn) their lack of funds, the house they're renovating, and the fact that they're trying to have a child.

And Will is a bit of a complainer when it comes to his relationship. He wants it all to be perfect, he somewhat recognizes his faults, but his eye is turned quite easily when he meets an attractive Australian journalist in Paris.

Tsk, tsk, Will!

Intermittent scenes include a man who works in an intel center tracking certain passports entering and exiting the country, a female assassin, and mysterious behavior from the POV of Will's boss, amongst other things. So the beginning of a book is a bit of a mish mash of scenes that test the reader's patience. And patience is what it takes if you're to stick around and see how these pieces all begin to come together.

As the story progresses, the inevitable paranoia and suspicion of Will's life as a spy ratchets up the intensity of the tale and the pacing reaches and almost frenzied height. But again, it does mean getting through a good bit of confusion first.

The Travelers, once the real story begins to pull together, is an excellent addition to Pavone's growing list of thrillers. It's also apparently been optioned for film - and it'll certainly make a cool one at that!

The Travelers is out in paperback now.

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

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Dry by Jane Harper

Aaron Falk hasn't returned to Kiewarra for twenty years. But when his childhood friend commits suicide after murdering his wife and son, Aaron is forced to return. It's not obligation or memory to his friend. No. It's a summons from his friend's father, a threat or claim to knowledge regarding a secret long kept. 

But Luke's dad isn't interested in blackmailing Aaron. Instead, he wants Aaron to look into his son's death. To prove that the murder/suicide the officials stamped on the case isn't true and to find out what really happened to Luke and his family. 

But even if Luke's father isn't interested in that long held secret, lots of other folks are. Not only is Aaron Falk a reminder of a dark piece of Kiewarra's past, it's also the reason he and his father left. And more than a few people think Aaron Falk should have stayed far away from their farming community. 

I first learned about Jane Harper's debut quite a while back thanks to Reese Witherspoon's interest in the book. Since then it's just been a matter of waiting for the Australian release to land Stateside, which it finally did this past week thanks to the folks over at Flatiron Books.

The story starts with great intensity: an eagle eye view of a murder scene on a dry and dusty farm and a baby crying. It gives me chills even just recalling it for this review!

Aaron Falk, as mentioned above, has been summoned to the Hadler funeral. He and Luke had stayed in touch, even though it's been twenty years since they shared a hometown, but Aaron had never met Luke's wife and children. And though the news of Luke's death (and that of his wife and son) are shocking, it's doubtful even that would have prompted Falk to return to Kiewarra.

Instead, it's a plea from Luke's father, which at first seems to be more of a threat to reveal the fact that he knew Aaron and Luke lied about something two decades ago. Something big enough to make Aaron listen to the threat.

It's quickly revealed that Luke's father has no interest in spilling the beans about this particular secret. It was simply a means to get Aaron, a Federal Agent, to come to the funeral and hear him out. He's certain Luke didn't pull the trigger that killed his wife and son. Certain his son could never have done that to his own family. And as the evidence begins to stack up, Aaron begins to believe the man.

But Kiewarra is the last place Aaron Falk wants to spend any significant amount of time. It's clear no one really likes him, and it soon becomes clear exactly why that is. Twenty years ago, a girl died in Kiewarra. A girl who had been friends with Luke and Aaron. And many people in town have long believed that Aaron played a part in the girl's death.

The longer he stays in town, the more tense the atmosphere becomes. This is a farming community suffering massively from drought and lack of funds. People are losing their livelihoods and with no way to rail against nature itself, many begin to turn their eye to Aaron. After all, the death of that little girl has remained unsolved all these many years...

Harper does a wonderful job ratcheting up the suspense in The Dry. As the story continues the tension in town increases exponentially, leaving more and more victims (and suspects) in its wake. That tension adds a layer of undeniable urgency to the tale, which means an equally urgent pacing. And the plot lives up to that pacing, drawing readers further and further into a tale that twists in a way I definitely did not see coming!

Considering how this one played out, it's no wonder I'm already anxiously awaiting more from Harper - as I suspect many are now! I'm certain we can expect wonderful things from this author in the years to come!

Rating: 4/5

Monday, January 16, 2017

As Red as Blood by Salla Simukka - new edition

I'm reposting this from back in 2014 because today marks the release date of Crown's new edition. And it means a perfect opportunity for me to finally dive into the second and third titles in the trilogy!

Lumikki spends much of her time trying to be completely invisible. But when she stumbles on a stash of bloodied money in her school's dark room, she's forced to change her tactics. The kids who found the money know that Lumikki knows their secret and when one of them becomes the focus of a kidnapping attempt, they quickly recruit her in their efforts to find out what's going on. Lumikki's years of practice at going unnoticed are exactly what they need, but her investigation doesn't stay as secret as they'd all hoped.

I'm a bit at odds with this one. Overall it was an ok read. It wasn't bad but I wasn't blown away. And I really wanted to be. It is, as far as I can tell, my first Finnish read and it's yet another translated teen read, which I think we need far more of. My biggest issue is with Lumikki herself and the lack of development.

But that's not exactly true either. Lumikki is actually pretty well developed as a character. The author gives us a great sense of her and her quirks: she's a teen who's living alone in a small apartment, something she's facilitated so that she can attend a magnet school in another town; she's also an outsider and there's a definite reason for it, a reason that is again facilitated by Lumikki herself. But in giving us a good picture of Lumikki, it's clear that there's so much more to her that we've not yet seen. Obviously this is because it's meant to be the first in a series - which would make stretching Lumikki's story necessary - so maybe my issue is that I can't move directly onto the next book.

The main plot of As Red as Blood does stand pretty well alone (which also lends to my character issues considering this is an otherwise a complete story on its own). Lumikki is wrangled into a plan that involves tracing a mysterious bag of money that some of her classmates stumble upon after a party. The first thing they have to find out is who the money is intended for. Once they've got that down, they have to figure out where it came from. And that's the biggie because it means infiltrating a local drug ring.

While I admittedly didn't LOVE this one, I am looking forward to reading book two. If I'm lucky, that one will tie up a few things and push me from meh to wow for these.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

New Releases 1/17/17

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Indelible by Adelia Sounders

Little Deaths by Emma Flint

Heartstone by Elle Katherine White

Martians Abroad by Carrie Vaughn

This is Not Over by Holly Brown

The Fire By Night by Teresa Messineo

Empire Games by Charles Stross

Feversong by Karen Marie Moning

The Futures by Anna Pitoniak

The Believer by Joakim Zander

The Wicked City by Beatriz Williams

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney

The Nowhere Man by Gregg Hurwitz

The Rising by Heather Graham & Jon Land

Homesick for Another Land by Odessa Moshfegh

The Man Who Shot Out My Eye Is Dead: Stories by Chanelle Benz

K Street by M.A. Lawson

Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth

History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

New on DVD:
The Girl on the Train
Come and Find Me
Ouija: Origin of Evil
The Free World

Friday, January 13, 2017

Short Fiction Friday: Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day by Seanan McGuire

Jenna is one of the many ghosts who walk the streets of New York City. She died in 1972, before her time, when she ran away rather than face the grief of losing her sister, Patty. Since then she's spent her nights earning the time it'll take for her to reach her natural death day - the day she can return to Patty. See, ghosts can take time from the living. A few minutes, a few hours, a few days, or more, it pushes the ghost closer to their end and gives the living a burst of youth in exchange. Which is why ghosts have to watch out for those who would take advantage of that ability. 

Of course, they can give time too, so you don't piss them off!

Seanan McGuire is one of those authors who leaves me completely in awe of the seemingly endless worlds of their imagination! Zombie apocalypse, doors to fairy tale worlds, Symbogen, October Daye, Incryptid, and more, McGuire and her alternate author existence as Mira Grant are quite simply amazing. And the amount of work she's populated the reading sphere with is astounding! Her short stories alone seem to be almost countless and she's constantly releasing more.

Which, for a greedy little book junkie like me who also happens to be a fan, means plenty of reading material to keep me busy!

Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day may be a small read but its world is so big! This latest novella features ghosts and witches. Ghosts who can take and give time and witches of every variation you can imagine - corn witches, steel witches, rat witches... Witches and ghosts are natural enemies in this world, with witches keen to take advantage of the fountain of youth ghosts can offer them. Jenna takes care around the witches of New York, the ones she knows of, but has yet to run up against any trouble.

Instead, she spends her days as a barista and her nights as a suicide hotline operator, in hopes she can help those who need it most.

But Jenna's quiet existence is shaken when the ghosts of NYC begin to disappear in droves.

I love the details of this world, the rules of the ghosts' existence and the witches' powers. The quiet links to folklore and burial traditions. And the subtle idea that the knowledge behind these traditions might be fading some. Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day is fabulous!

Rating: 5/5

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Warden's Daughter by Jerry Spinelli

Imagine not only growing up without your mother, but growing up in a prison. This is Cammie O'Reilly's life. Her father is the warden at Hancock County Prison.

The story of Cammie O'Reilly's mother's death is the stuff of legend. And Cammie knows the story well even though she was just an infant when it happened. But after almost thirteen years without a mom, she's decided now is the time. She's chosen her candidates well: a trustee at the prison who takes care of the warden's apartment (and Cammie) during the day, whose crime Cammie still hasn't gotten out of her, and another prisoner in for shoplifting. But as days go by and Cammie's plan to recruit a mom seems to be failing, her resolve becomes even more steadfast. 

You might think a story about a girl in search of a mom would be a sad one. You wouldn't be wrong. A lot of it is a subtle sad, the kind you get pondering over Cammie's problem and the obvious effects. Of course there's plenty of real sad as well. Cammie herself might not admit to being sad. Cammie would say she's angry.

Her anger manifests in a lot of ways, but it's clear most of that anger is honed and focused on her task. She longs for a motherly figure, attention, and, surprisingly, discipline! There's an almost heart wrenching argument that occurs at one point between Cammie and her best friend, Reggie, who, in somewhat insulting Eloda, gets Cammie to admit her goal of making Eloda her surrogate mother. But at the same time, as sad as Cammie's predicament is, it shows such a wonderful strength in her that is truly admirable!

While there were admittedly plenty of parts of The Warden's Daughter that left me misty eyed, it's really not all sad. Nor is it overwhelmingly so. It's impossible to read Cammie's story without a preponderance of hope for the girl. Cammie is strong willed and free spirited and guaranteed to win over each and every reader.

There's a great element of nostalgic fun to The Warden's Daughter too. Set in 1959, the story features a strong sense of innocence - amongst the children and, to some extent, the world via the small town of Two Mills. Cammie bikes throughout town, treats herself to her favorite meal at the local diner (she LONGS for scrapple night and day!), and has fairly free run of the prison itself, mingling with and befriending the female prisoners.

Pop culture references of the time are peppered throughout, especially in the music Cammie and her friends listen to (Reggie's dream, which is fulfilled, is to appear on Bandstand). 

That said, I feel there's a dark undertone to the tale as well, though. Darker than the grief that Cammie is feeling. A sense that the innocence mentioned above is coming to an end. It's maybe a sense too of the possible future for Cammie and the potential for parallels to some of the other characters in the tale. To say more might give something away, but I can say I walked away from this one with a sense of fulfillment regarding Cammie's story.

Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The River at Night by Erica Ferencik + a Giveaway

Hello again! As promised, I'm following up this morning's excerpt of The River at Night with a review and giveaway!

Wini, Pia, Rachel, and Sandra have always taken trips together, but white water rafting is a new one for them. At Pia's insistence, the four women are heading off on a five day trip that'll be packed with camping, hiking, and rafting - on a river very few have the opportunity to ride. And in spite of her many reservations, Wini agrees to go.

Unfortunately, an accident on the river turns their vacation into a dangerous fight for survival.

Oh, Wini. You're something of a creature after my own heart. I am notorious amongst our friends for being a bit of a stick in the mud when it comes to outdoor activities. I'm not into camping at all and frankly I'm a bit too out of shape to really enjoy hiking. Nope, I'm happy at home with my books - where it's warm and not icky.

And that brings me to rafting and why my friends would hate that I even read this book. Our good friends are rafting guides! And they're constantly trying to get me out on the river! And it's one thing I might actually do - if we were canoeing the mellow Whiskey Chitto back home, that is.

So see, Wini and I are simpatico!

The River at Night begins with a bit of a Descent feeling to it. Which I loved! Pia is gung ho for the trip: Pia chose everything, including the guide (the son of her father's friend). And the fact that it's a river many don't raft (because of the access to a put-in, supposedly) is a big red flag for the reader. And then there's a weird run in with an area hunter before they arrive at their destination, emphasizing again the fact that almost no one rafts this river...

But it turns out the river may not be their biggest concern. With all kinds of beasties and creatures roaming the wilds of Maine, there's plenty for Wini to fear.

Things get off to a good start for the women. In spite of reservations, they're in high spirits and excited to spend time together. Of course things go downhill fast. Just one day into the trip, in fact.

I loved The River at Night! I thought it was a fabulous debut and absolutely great page-turning fun! The characters are fabulously drawn, as are the relationships between them. These are women who have known each other for over a decade - the best of friends - but as with all friends there's an underlying tension between them. I think Ferencik captures that well, illustrating the bonds and friction that make up close relationships. And while there's not much time to focus on each woman's background (it is a rather slim read - just under 300 pages - and there's the whole rafting trip gone wrong to focus on), I found that Ferencik did manage to inject quite a bit of detail (subtle and otherwise) about each of them and their histories. I felt comfortable with these women, like I knew them and knew them well!

Of course all of that adds to the overall experience of this read, and again it was a page-turning one. The story is packed with tension and action, enough so that I desperately wanted to finish in one sitting - I was close, up again and finishing at 5 am!

Rating: 5/5

And now for the giveaway: To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, January 23. Open US only and no PO boxes.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Purchase Links: AmazonSimon & SchusterBarnes &Noble

The River at Night by Erica Ferencik - Excerpt

Good morning, everybody! Today I have two posts for one of January's most anticipated thriller debuts, Erica Ferencik's The River at Night. First up, an excerpt to give you a little taste.

But before we dive in, here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

Winifred Allen needs a vacation.

Stifled by a soul-crushing job, devastated by the death of her beloved brother, and lonely after the end of a fifteen-year marriage, Wini is feeling vulnerable. So when her three best friends insist on a high-octane getaway for their annual girls’ trip, she signs on, despite her misgivings.

What starts out as an invigorating hiking and rafting excursion in the remote Allagash Wilderness soon becomes an all-too-real nightmare: A freak accident leaves the women stranded, separating them from their raft and everything they need to survive. When night descends, a fire on the mountainside lures them to a ramshackle camp that appears to be their lifeline. But as Wini and her friends grasp the true intent of their supposed saviors, long buried secrets emerge and lifelong allegiances are put to the test. To survive, Wini must reach beyond the world she knows to harness an inner strength she never knew she possessed.


The River at Night hit shelves just yesterday, and it's an IndieNext pick!

The River at Night
by Erica Ferencik


Early one morning in late March, Pia forced my hand.

A slapping spring wind ushered me through the heavy doors of the YMCA lobby as the minute hand of the yellowing 1950s- era clock over the check-in desk snapped to 7:09. Head down and on task to be in my preferred lane by precisely 7:15, I rushed along the glass corridor next to the pool. The chemical stink leaked from the ancient windows, as did the muffled shrieks of children and the lifeguard’s whistle. I felt cosseted by the shabby walls, by my self-righteous routine, by the fact that I’d ousted myself from my warm bed to face another tedious day head-on. Small victories.

I’d just squeezed myself into my old-lady swimsuit when the phone in my bag began to bleat. I dug it out. The screen pulsed with the image of Pia Zanderlee ski-racing down a double black diamond slope somewhere in Banff.

My choices? Answer it now or play phone tag for another week. Pia was that friend you love with a twinge of resentment. The sparkly one who never has time for you unless it’s on her schedule, but you like her too much to flush her down the friendship toilet.

“Wow, a phone call—from you!” I said as I mercilessly assessed my middle-aged pudge in the greasy mirror. “To what do I owe the honor?”

Of course I knew the reason. Five unanswered texts.

Pia laughed. “Hey, Win, listen. We need to make our reservations. Like, by tomorrow.”

I fished around in my swim bag for my goggles. “Yeah, I haven’t—”

“I get it. Nature’s not your thing, but you’re going to love it once you’re out there. Rachel and Sandra are chomping at the bit to go, but they have to make their travel plans. We all do.”

With a shudder, I recalled my frantic Google search the night before for Winnegosset River Rafting, Maine.

No results.

“Just wondering why this place doesn’t have some kind of website. I mean, is it legit?” I asked, my voice coming out all high and tinny. Already I was ashamed of my wussiness. “I’d hate to get all the way up there and find out this is some sort of shady operation—”

I could feel her roll her eyes. “Wini, just because some place or something or someone doesn’t have a website doesn’t mean they don’t exist.” She sounded windblown, breathless. I pictured her power walking through her Cambridge neighborhood, wrist weights flashing neon. “It’s a big old world out there. One of the reasons this place is so awesome is because no one knows about it yet, so it’s not booked solid before the snow’s even melted. That’s why there’s space for the weekend we all want, get it? This year, it’s the world’s best-kept secret—next year, forget it!”

“I don’t know, Pia . . .” I glanced at the time: 7:14.

She laughed, softening to me now. “Look, the guy who runs the white-water tours is a good friend of my dad—he’s my dad’s friend’s son, I mean, so it’s cool.”

“Can’t believe Rachel would want to—”

“Are you crazy? She’s dying to go. And Sandra? Please. She’d get on a plane right now if she could.”

With a wave of affection I pictured my last Skype with Sandra: kids running around screaming in the background, papers to correct stacked next to her. When I brought up the trip, she’d groaned, Hell, yes, I’m game for anything—just get me out of Dodge!

“Wini, listen up: Next year—I promise, we’ll go to a beach somewhere. Cancún, Key West, you choose. Do nothing and just bake.

“Look, Pia, I’m at the pool and I’m going to lose my lane—”

“Okay. Swim. Then call me.”

I tucked my flyaway dirty-blond bob—the compromise cut for all hopelessly shitty hair—under my bathing cap, then hustled my stuff into a locker and slammed it shut. Do nothing and just bake. Did she really think that was all I was interested in? Who was the one who rented the bike the last time we went to the Cape? Just me, as I recalled, while all of them sat around the rental pouring more and more tequila into the blender each day. And my God— we were all pushing forty—shouldn’t awesome and cool be in the rearview mirror by now? 




I crossed the slimy tiles of the dressing room and pushed open the swinging doors to the pool. The air hit me, muggy and warm, dense with chlorine that barely masked an underwhiff of urine and sweat. Children laughed and punched at the blue water in the shallow end as I padded over to my favorite lane, which was . . . occupied.

It was 7:16 and frog man had beat me to it. Fuck.

For close to a year, this nonagenarian ear, nose, and throat doctor and I had been locked in a mostly silent daily battle over the best lane—far left-hand side, under the skylights—from 7:15 to 8:00 each weekday morning. Usually I was the victor, something about which I’d felt ridiculous glee. We’d only ever exchanged the briefest of greetings; both of us getting to the Y a notch earlier each day. I imagined we both craved this mindless exercise, thoughts freed by the calming boredom of swimming and near weightlessness.

But today I’d lost the battle. I plopped down on a hard plastic seat, pouting inside but feigning serenity as I watched him slap through his slow-motion crawl. He appeared to lose steam near the end of a lap, then climbed the ladder out of the pool as only a ninety-year-old can: with careful deliberation in every step. As I watched the water drip off his flat ass and down his pencil legs, I realized that he was making his way to me, or rather to a stack of towels next to me, and in a few seconds I’d pretty much have to talk to him. He uncorked his goggles with a soft sucking sound. I noticed his eyes seemed a bit wearier than usual, even for a man his age who had just worked his daily laps.

“How are you?” I shifted in my seat, conscious of my bathing cap squeezing my head and distorting my face as I stole the odd glance at the deliciously empty lane.

“I’m well, thank you. Though very sad today.”

I studied him more closely now, caught off guard by his intimate tone. “Why?”

Though his expression was grim, I wasn’t prepared for what he said.

“I just lost my daughter to cancer.”

“I’m sorry,” I choked out. I felt socked in the soft fleshy parts; smacked off the rails of my deeply grooved routine and whipped around to face something I didn’t want to see.

He took a towel and poked at his ears with it. A gold cross hung from a glimmering chain around his thin neck, the skin white and rubbery looking. “It was a long struggle. Part of me is glad it’s over.” He squinted at me as if seeing me for the first time. “She was about your age,” he added, turning to walk away before I could utter a word of comfort. I watched him travel in his flap step the length of the pool to the men’s lockers, his head held down so low I could barely see the top of it.

My hands trembled as I gripped the steel ladder and made my way down into the antiseptic blue. I pushed off. Eyes shut tight and heart pumping, I watched the words She was about your age hover in my brain until the letters dissolved into nothingness. The horror of his offhand observation numbed me as I turned and floated on my back, breathing heavily in the oppressive air. As I slogged joylessly through my laps, I thought of my own father rolling his eyes when I said I was afraid of sleepaway camp, of third grade, of walking on grass barefoot “because of worms.” As cold as he could be to my brother and me, not a thing on earth seemed to frighten him.

I had barely toweled myself off when my phone lit up with a text from Pia. A question mark, that was it. Followed by three more. Methodically I removed my work clothes from my locker, arranging them neatly on the bench behind me. I pulled off my bathing cap, sat down, and picked up the phone.

My thumbs hovered over the keys as I shivered in the over- heated locker room. I took a deep breath—shampoo, rubber, mold, a sting of disinfectant—and slowly let it out, a sharp pain lodging in my gut. I couldn’t tell which was worse, the fear of being left behind by my friends as they dashed away on some überbonding, unforgettable adventure, or the inevitable self-loathing if I stayed behind like some gutless wimp—safe, always safe—half-fucking- dead with safety. Why couldn’t I just say yes to a camping trip with three of my best friends? What was I so afraid of?

Pool water dripped from my hair, beading on the phone as I commanded myself to text something.

Anything.

I watched my fingers as they typed, Okay, I’m in, and pressed send.

And I'm in too! Be sure to head back here in a bit to see my review of The River at Night (psst, there's a giveaway too!). 

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

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson

Happy Tuesday, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Peter Swanson's latest, Her Every Fear.

Kate Priddy is a bit paranoid. She's knows it, it's something she's dealt with all her life. The fact that she was once held captive by her ex boyfriend hasn't helped. So her parents are surprised when she agrees to a six month house swap with her cousin in Boston. He'll live in Kate's flat in London while working a new job and Kate will be visiting the US for the first time while also attending an art class. But when she arrives and learns that the girl in the apartment next door has gone missing, Kate immediately imagines the woman dead. And she's right. 

As Kate learns more about the dead girl, she realizes that the people around her are hiding things. Could her cousin have been involved? What about the nice man who lives on the opposite side of the building? The police are investigating, but Kate's closeness to the crime compels her to search for answers. In spite of the fact that it could lead to very real danger. 

I can sympathize with Kate - I'm a bit of the same way when it comes to imagining worst case scenarios. It comes naturally, and my imagination does spin terribly out of control!

Despite Kate's past, I was glad that she wasn't actually a fragile and paranoid creature. Yes, she imagines terrible things. But she's taken a leap and traveled to another continent in the interest of breaking her habit of avoidance. And she handles the murder next door quite well!

Swanson offers readers glimpses into a few different characters' heads: Kate, of course, her neighbor Alan, her cousin Corbin... So there really aren't any big twists in the end. Instead, as Kate tries to tease out answers in her own investigation, the reader is given full insight into the minds of the other people (and suspects!) around her. So the tension comes from wondering what will happen to Kate and whether she'll figure out who the killer is in time.

And Kate is in real danger, there's no doubt about that. For someone who's experienced very real terror in her own life, her desire to move past that almost becomes her worst enemy.

Her Every Fear was a fun one - a quick read with an appealing heroine and a ton of suspense!

Rating: 4/5

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

For more on Peter Swanson and his work you can visit his website here. You can also follow him on Twitter.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Sunday, January 8, 2017

New Releases 1/10/16

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Little Heaven by Nick Cutter

Dragon Springs Road by Janie Chang

The Burning Page by Genevieve Cogman

A Perilous Undertaking by Deanna Raybourn

The River at Night by Erica Ferencik

Two Days Gone by Randall Silvis

Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson

The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian

Burning Bright by Nicholas Petrie

Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran

The Midnight Cool by Lydia Peelle

Where I Can See You by Larry D. Sweazy

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin

The Second Mrs Hockaday by Susan Rivers

The Butcher's Hook by Janet Ellis

The Dry by Jane Harper

Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day by Seanan McGuire

The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson

Duplicity by Ingrid Thoft

Ring of Fire by Brad Taylor

Frostblood by Elly Blake

You Don't Know My Name by Kristen Orlando

Windwitch by Susan Dennard

RoseBlood by A. G. Howard

Beheld by Alex Flinn

Poison's Kiss by Breeana Shields

New on DVD:
The Accountant
Deepwater Horizon
The Birth of a Nation

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Caliban's War by James S. A. Corey

So I promised a review of Caliban's War last week, and here it is!

Warning: if you haven't read Leviathan's Wake, there will be spoilers!

It's been months since the news about Venus, and while the UN, Mars, and the OPA keep a close eye, life goes on. Holden and the crew of the Rocinante have been working for Fred Johnson, keeping the peace throughout the system as enforcers for the OPA but when a fight goes down on Ganymede between Martian and UN forces, it looks like it's time for more than playing space cop. 

When they arrive, they find that things are definitely fishy. Ganymede is dying and the people are starving in spite of ships full of food destined for other planetary shores. Holden and his team are trying to find some evidence about the start of the skirmish, but instead find themselves roped into a search for a missing child. As Holden increasingly channels his own inner Miller, more and more about the search begins to resemble Miller's own investigation, including a sneaking suspicion that the protomolecule currently wreaking havoc on Venus could again be involved. 

I'd been in a bit of a reading slump for a while, in part because I was in the mood for more Expanse and had to keep setting the reads aside. (I'd promised I would start this one for the Thanksgiving holiday and obviously didn't get to it for a month!) As the craving for more Expanse increased and my excitement for season two continued to grow, though, I couldn't put it off any longer. Nothing was going to hit the spot until I did!

Surprisingly, though Caliban's War is a doorstopper like the rest of the series, it was a pretty quick read for me. And while I'd thought returning to Holden and his crew would be bittersweet considering my favoritism over Miller in Leviathan, it was a welcome return indeed!

Holden isn't faring well since his run in with Miller and the protomolecule. What he witnessed has been weighing on him heavily. So much so that his crew have noticed him taking on the worst traits he used to call Miller out for. Without noticing. And when a scientist on Ganymede approaches the crew, begging for help finding his missing child, Holden can't help but get involved.

As I said last week, I love this world! I love the characters! I love everything about it! And strange though it may seem, comparisons to George R. R. Martin's high fantasy epic are not unfounded. As is the case with the Song of Ice and Fire series, The Expanse is epic in scope and fabulous in its world building. There's a deep and rich history to the world of The Expanse, a history that weighs on the story taking place present day.

Mars and the UN have been at each others' throats for ages. Earth is suffering from a number of issues we all see coming and Mars wants none of it. And for the first time in the series, we're seeing that via characters directly associate with those groups. Sure Holden and Amos are both from Earth and Alex is from Mars, but they have no real vested interest in those entities. As such Leviathan's Wake is mostly a Belter story - partly an OPA story.

If you follow the show, you've already met one of the biggest players in Caliban's War - Avasarala. There she introduces Earth's and the UN's POV, but we don't actually meet her at all until this second installment of the books. She's fabulous! A grandmother and a loving wife at home, but a savagely-tongued and chillingly clever woman at work, Avasarala plays the political game better than most. She's none too pleased when she learns that UN forces are gearing up for something big in retaliation against Mars for an incident they still don't have a clear understanding of. That's in addition to the fact that after the discovery of the protomolecule, neither the UN or Mars is quite sure who is responsible and so blames the other.

The other big character we meet here is Bobbie Draper. Bobbie is a Martian soldier stationed on Ganymede when everything literally goes to hell. As the only survivor of the so-called battle between Mars and the UN, she's also the only witness who can provide a true and accurate account of the events.

If you stuck around this far in spite of my warning at the top and haven't actually read any of The Expanse series yet, I highly, highly recommend you fix that. The same applies if you've read the books but haven't watched the show. You're really missing out on some fabulous storytelling in both regards if you haven't tried them.

Oh yeah, and then there's that ending!?

It'll be interesting to see how the second season of the show comes together. When we left off we were basically at the midpoint of Leviathan's Wake. We already know based on the trailer that Bobbie is introduced in season two, but I'm wondering if we're meeting Bobbie prior to the events on Ganymede that kick off Calinan's War. Just a few more weeks to find out!

Rating: 5/5

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Fireman by Joe Hill + a Giveaway

Good morning, readers! Today kicking off the TLC blog tour for Joe Hill's latest, The Fireman.

It was a plague unlike any other before. A spore that infected and spread, causing its victims to smoke and heat until they burned. Harper Grayson, a nurse, witnessed her first death by fire while the schools were still open. They closed that very day. After that, the hospitals became overrun, the power went out, food became scarce, and Harper herself became infected. 

But Harper has a reason to live. A reason to fight. A life growing inside her that all evidence says can survive this thing - if Harper herself can live until the birth. With her deranged husband intent on ending them both and a government tracking down all those infected, she'll have her work cut out for her. But she's not alone. She has a an ally by her side, one who wants to see them all through this thing. 

Wow! I've been a fan of Joe Hill's work for quite some time and one thing I've definitely learned is that each and every new piece - whether it be a novel, a novella, or a short story - is going to be something completely different from the last. And, as was the case here, something completely unexpected. That said, Hill's work is such a must read for me that I admittedly go into them without even really reading what they're about. So I had no idea this one was about a plague that caused spontaneous combustion. Or that it was basically a viral apocalypse novel.

Harper is wonderful! I loved her from the very first page. A school nurse who placates crying children with candy, a radish, and a potato! A nurse who is willing to risk her own life to help others.

These two things combined are what leads to the rest of her story. As a volunteer in a hospital - one of those overrun by people infected with Dragonscale (aka Draco Incendia Trychophyton) - Harper steps in to help a desperate fireman. This act earns her a respect and protection that she doesn't even realize she has until she so desperately needs it. And of course her desire to help people leads to her infection. The fireman is oh so cool and fabulous. Or, maybe not cool in the literal sense. But you have to find that out for yourself. But, unlike the title would lead you to believe, Harper is the star of the show!

The Fireman is dark and bleak at times, but that our heroine loves Julie Andrews, and Mary Poppins in particular, should be a clue to the fact that all is not doom and gloom here. There are some great moments of dark humor and a ton of fantastic pop culture references. It makes for such a fabulous chunkster of a read, perfect as a first book of the New Year!

The Fireman is out in paperback today, so if that holiday gift card is burning a hole in your pocket...

And now for the giveaway! To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, January 16. 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 Joe Hill and his work you can visit his website here. You can also like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter and Instagram. And if you're on Litsy, you can find him there as joe_hill.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Monday, January 2, 2017

The Ice Beneath Her by Camilla Grebe

When the beheaded body of a young woman is found in the house of notorious "Fashion King" Jesper Orre, suspicion immediately turns to the man. Peter Lindgren and Manfred Olsson land the case and really can't be blamed for suspecting the Clothes & More CEO. Orre has, after all, been the focus of a number of headlines concerning the beleaguered company thanks to poor treatment of workers and even possible misuse of funds. Oh, and Orre is missing too. 

But there are a few wrinkles, the main one being a similar case from ten years ago in which a murdered man was found in very similar circumstances. Hanne Lagerlind-Schön was a consultant on that case and Olsson believes she could be of help again. But Hanne is in the beginnings of a dementia diagnosis, fighting a losing battle where time is her enemy. And yet, being part of the new case could be exactly what she needs to give herself a new feeling of confidence. But being part of the case also means reuniting with Peter...

I wanted to love The Ice Beneath Her. It had all the right elements of a great thriller: a twisted case, a cop with a complicated background, and points of view from a number of characters, any of whom could be of questionable believability. 

And yet, I found that I struggled to stay in the story. 

For one, Peter Lindgren comes off just a tad too similar to Jussi Adler-Olsen's Dept Q lead - and I much prefer the latter. 

Peter is not a nice guy. He has a son he never sees, because he believes he's a bad dad (uh, yeah), leaving sole responsibility on the shoulders of his ex, a woman who comes across as either a saint or an idiot depending on your opinion. And he and Hanne have a history too. 

His selfishness and neglect of others isn't really balanced by any positive or potentially likable personality aspects until we get close to the end of the book. And again I couldn't help comparing him to Carl Mørck who did manage to charm me within a few pages of his own book, in spite of being a grouch who everyone hates. Plus, he's balanced by a cast of equally intriguing and fabulous characters, which Peter doesn't really have in The Ice Beneath Her.

That said, Hanne could have been a real stand out. Had we been limited to her side of the story I actually would have been much more satisfied with the book. Her struggle with her illness and the limits she knows it's going to set on her don't break her determination to do something other than lie down and take it. And while we get good insight into this aspect of her life and her obsession with Greenland and Inuit culture, we don't get much in the way of her actual job. Which is unfortunate as it would have made both the mystery and her character more interesting. 

The story does alternate between Peter, Hanne, and a third character, Emma. Emma takes us back to about two months before the murder, offering us a bit of background on Jesper Orre. And we soon learn she is a possible ID for the dead body as well. 

All in all The Ice Beneath Her wasn't a bad book, it simply fell short of comparable titles. Which is a shame considering I'd hoped it would be one to add to my growing list of Scandi faves.

Rating: 3/5

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Releases 1/3/17

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Everything You Want Me To Be by Mindy Mejia

Different Class by Joanne Harris

Silverwolf by Jacey Bedford

The Heart of What Was Lost by Tad Williams

An Unsettling Crime for Samuel Craddock by Terry Shames

Dead Man's Steel by Luke Scull

Battle Hill Bolero by Daniel Jose Older

The Elusive Elixer by Gigi Pandian

The Last Sacrifice by James A. Moore

Mrs. Sherlock Holmes by Brad Ricca

The X-Files Origins: Agents of Chaos by Kami Garcia

The X-Files Origins: Devil's Advocate by Jonathan Maberry

Life In a Fishbowl by Len Vlahos

Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken

Freeks by Amanda Hocking

The Witch's Vacuum Cleaner & Other Stories by Terry Pratchett

The Warden's Daughter by Jerry Spinelli

New on DVD:
Denial
Blair Witch