Saturday, May 11, 2019

Pre Pub Book Buzz: The Girl in Red by Christina Henry

Christina Henry's latest have caught readers attention by breathing new life into some of the most famous classics in literature: Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan and now she tackles another, Little Red Riding Hood.

Here's a bit about The Girl in Red from the publisher:

From the national bestselling author of Alice comes a postapocalyptic take on the perennial classic "Little Red Riding Hood"...about a woman who isn't as defenseless as she seems. It's not safe for anyone alone in the woods. There are predators that come out at night: critters and coyotes, snakes and wolves. But the woman in the red jacket has no choice. Not since the Crisis came, decimated the population, and sent those who survived fleeing into quarantine camps that serve as breeding grounds for death, destruction, and disease. She is just a woman trying not to get killed in a world that doesn't look anything like the one she grew up in, the one that was perfectly sane and normal and boring until three months ago. There are worse threats in the woods than the things that stalk their prey at night. Sometimes, there are men. Men with dark desires, weak wills, and evil intents. Men in uniform with classified information, deadly secrets, and unforgiving orders. And sometimes, just sometimes, there's something worse than all of the horrible people and vicious beasts combined. Red doesn't like to think of herself as a killer, but she isn't about to let herself get eaten up just because she is a woman alone in the woods...

I mean, if the animated cover here doesn't make you just HAVE TO HAVE this book, then I certainly hope the description has you sold!

The Girl in Red is due out June 18 from Berkley.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Westside by W. M. Akers

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for W. M. Akers's debut, Westside.

In 1921 New York, Gilda Carr makes a living investigating "tiny mysteries." No murders, kidnappings, or otherwise dangerous investigations for her, just small mysteries that niggle at the back of your mind until an answer is found.

See in New York's Westside, the place Gilda calls home, dangerous mysteries tend to be the norm. Like the mystery her father was investigating when he disappeared. Things aren't normal on the Westside, which is why a fence separates it from the rest of New York. It's also why folks are warned away from the Westside and even the bravest of its residents don't go out after dark.

Gilda's latest case involves a missing glove. Seems simple enough. But in spite of all attempts otherwise, Gilda ends up getting sucked into a much bigger mystery. One that's quite dangerous indeed. One that forces Gilda to look into the one case she's avoided like the plague for over two years: what happened to Virgil Carr.

Westside is one of the most highly imaginative mysteries I've come across in quite some time.

The setting is part oddball supernatural and part early twentieth century New York City. Prohibition is in place. Thugs run the bad parts of town. And people disappear mysteriously on a regular basis. No explanation for the vanishings has ever been found. Nor has there ever been any explanation for the other weird things that happen on the Westside. Food rots and spoils immediately, strange smells emanate from unknown places, foliage grows abnormally huge, and things disappear quite suddenly. Which is why it doesn't seem odd that Gilda's hired to find a missing glove.

But the glove bears a mark that kicks off another mystery. This one connected to Gilda's own missing father, once a cop and investigatory himself. And before that, one of the city's more well known heavies!

Westside was such a fun read! It's grounded in historical New York, but the weirdness is super weird and the mystery keeps growing and growing with each new and odd happening. Gilda is great fun, a woman who is still reeling from the loss of her father and basically trying to keep busy so she can avoid thinking of it. This case, though, forces her to explore her father's fate even as she fights against it.

I loved the grounded sense the "real" setting gave the story but I especially loved each new and strange thing the Westside threw at our heroine and I can't wait to see if Akers will continue exploring this world with further novels.

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here. And for more on W. M. Akers you can visit his website here.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Libro.fm

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

The Elephant of Surprise by Joe R. Lansdale

A storm is brewing and Hap and Leonard find themselves once again in the midst of a storm of their own making. Sort of.

Hap and Leonard are driving along, minding their business, when a girl stumbles into the road. Of course they stop to help and find that her tongue has been mangled, almost cut through. And it doesn’t take long for the men responsible to stumble into the road themselves. Hap and Leonard take off, saving the girl temporarily. They quickly find out the girl is the target of a mob boss whose goons aren’t willing to let anything stand in the way of getting to her - even the worst storm East Texas has seen in ages. 

I am a huge fan of the Hap and Leonard tv show. HUGE! So I was understandably disappointed when it was cancelled three seasons in. Which is why, even though this book is 13 books into the series and I'm generally a staunch read them in order person, I had to dive in.

If I had to choose just one word to describe this series it would be fun. Of course I don't have to choose just one word. And yet, the series is just that, fun! It's also funny, a bit raunchy, and dark. Lansdale does have a twisted sense of humor.

He's also got a fabulous knack for creating a pair of characters so amazingly fabulous that readers keep coming back for more. Hap and Leonard aren't just the good guys, they're good guys!

Hap is a war protester and Leonard is a gay black man who served in Vietnam. And they're best friends. In East Texas. This particular installment is set present day, but the series began in the 80s with Savage Season (which is also the subject of the first season of the show).

There are times when the plot of The Elephant of Surprise gets a bit ridiculous. But Hap and Leonard go along with it swimmingly, making it that much more amusing to read. And having watched the third season so recently, there were times when I felt the storm plot line was a bit too close to the other, but it is East Texas and I'm from Louisiana and storms of the century are more common than anyone down there would like.

This is another one I had the pleasure (and I do mean that) of listening to on audio. The narrator, Christopher Ryan Grant, made me more than a little homesick! I'm a picky audio book listener and he is a wonderful narrator! If audio is your jam, check this one out over at Libro.fm!

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Invited by Jennifer McMahon

After hunting high and low for the perfect home, Helen and Nate are determined now to build their own. They've found a plot of land that fits their needs exactly and have laid the foundation for their future house, but soon find that their dreams could end in nightmares.

The land they've chosen has a bad reputation to begin with but when someone starts stealing items and leaving behind strange and even threatening messages, Helen and Nate have to wonder if it's all worth it.

It turns out, their land was once home to the notorious Hattie Breckenridge, a woman hanged for being a witch after she was blamed for a fire that claimed the lives of several of the town's children. Decades later, her legend still haunts the people of the tiny town where Helen and Nate have chosen to build their home. What's more, Hattie was rumored to have buried treasure somewhere on her property and local treasure hunters are none too pleased with the idea that outsiders might stumble across it.

Helen and Nate spend ample time house hunting but nothing fits the bill. In fact, the only home Helen fell in love with would have required so much work that Nate convinces her it's easier for the two of them to build their own home.

Modeled after the house Helen fell for, their home-to-be isn't overly complicated and they have the funds to build and outfit it exactly how they want, even after buying the land they've chosen to build it on. And the land came at a bit of a steal considering the previous owner lost his wife (literally) there.

But the property has more of a history than that and Helen, a history buff and former teacher, decides to dig into the story just as soon as she hears the first whispers about Hattie Breckenridge.

Helen is drawn to Hattie's story in no small part thanks to the fact that she believes she's seen Hattie herself. And she finds herself mysteriously drawn to items that have a tie to Hattie's story. Which increases her sightings of Hattie exponentially. Much to Nate's displeasure.

There's a pretty big subplot involving a local girl whose mother has left. The girl in question spends her time treasure hunting on Helen's property, convinced if she can find Hattie's treasure then her mother will return.

Jennifer McMahon has been a go to for me since her debut, Promise Not to Tell. Her plots are always intriguing and her writing deliciously creepy as well as clever and suspenseful. And so each new release goes on my must have list just as soon as it's announced and I gobble it up as fast as I can get my book junkie hands on it.

The Invited has all the hallmarks of a great McMahon outing: a questionably paranormal setting, a mystery at the center of the plot, and average folks facing a potential danger that could cost them everything. And yet, something was missing from this latest.

Simply put, the book wasn't as strong as McMahon's previous titles. It's a good read but not a wow one.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World by C. A. Fletcher

Griz's world isn't like our own. There are fewer people now, thanks to the Gelding, a sharp and sudden decline in the ability to have children. Griz lives on an island with family and dogs and they rarely venture beyond their own shores. But when a stranger arrives offering trade, Griz's guard is dropped. Which is why the visitor is able to steal one of Griz's dogs. 

Griz will do anything to get Jess back, including traveling beyond the furthest reaches and into a world that's completely foreign. 

Oh, how I loved this book! I'll admit, a story about a search for a missing dog was maybe not completely in my wheelhouse. But it is a post apocalyptic setting, which is. And after receiving both a physical copy and an audio copy for review, I figured the world was trying to tell me something.

And boy was it! This is hands down one of my favorite books this year!

So the Gelding is, as I mentioned, a sharp (dramatic, drastic, devastating) decline in babies being born. Obviously this isn't an issue for Griz's family as there are a total of four children, one lost in a tragic accident. And the family keeps to themselves. Beyond a trip to the mainland years ago, the family doesn't go far. They subsist off of the resources their island provides and that's about it.

Then Brand arrives. With red sails, which immediately sets everyone at ease. As Griz notes, no one sneaking around would sail with red sails! And yet, Brand makes off with one of Griz's dogs in the middle of the night.

What comes next is a journey of survival and an attempt to save Jess, one of Griz's dogs. Because, as Griz notes, "If we're not loyal to the things we love, what's the point?"

Griz is a fabulous narrator and the time that's passed between Griz's present and our own is quite significant. Griz is a reader so there's no bizarre imaginings of what any remains of our world were used for or mean, but Griz's exploration of that world is fascinating nonetheless. In part because of the lack of people. For much of the book, beyond Brand, the only people Griz comes into contact with are already dead. Which would make this a bit of a lonely book were it not for Jip, Griz's other dog, who is also part and party to the quest to save Jess.

Fletcher's debut is a story about friendship, loyalty, and adventure and it's enormously wonderful. If you're a fan of dog books, post apocalyptic books, adventure books, or any books at all, you should read this one!

And, if you are a fan of audio books, you should absolutely read this one in that format. It's narrated by the author himself who has such a fabulously theatrical voice! Here's a link to the book on Libro.fm.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Indian-Ish: Recipes and Antics From a Modern American Family by Priya Krishna

Hi, readers! I have a new cookbook for you to get excited about! If you’re a foodie, then you should know that Priya Krishna is not a new face in the food world. She’s a food writer whose writing has been featured in Bon Appetit and The New York Times. She was also part of Lucky Peach. And now she’s released a cookbook featuring a bevy of Indian/American blended recipes that perfectly illustrate how easy cooking Indian food in your own home kitchen can be!

I got my hands on an early copy of this one and have been happily testing out recipes since February, and I have honestly loved every dish that I’ve made so far!

First thing to mention is that yes, you do have to buy some specialty ingredients. But, and this is a big bonus, one trip for the essentials is plenty to make a ton of dishes right off the bat! I know because that’s exactly what I did. I hit up our Indian market to buy a few specialty spices like fenugreek, asafetida, and chat masala as well as some fresh curry leaves (this is one of my favorite ingredients - they smell amazing!). I also bought some already made roti (and she does note where you can sub out some of the harder to find things including using tortillas in place of roti). Then I hit up the regular grocery store for a boat load of veggies (tomatoes, cauliflower, chiles, limes, and a ton of spinach) and I was set! 

That weekend I started with the Malaysian Ramen for supper. Oh, man. Some sautéed veggies and a little bit of sauce turned out to be a super tasty and easy way to amp up a packet of ramen. Almost as easy as just eating regular ramen, folks!

We started off the next morning with the Indian-Ish English Breakfast Baked Beans and served them, per her suggestion, with eggs on toast. Holy cow, if you’ve ever turned your nose up at beans on toast, you need to try this dish! But you have to use the Heinz baked beans - they’re tomato based and awesome, especially with Krishna’s twist on them. 

Of course I’m back on caffeine now so I had to try her chai varieties: Cardamom Chai and Ginger-Pepper Chai. These milky tea concoctions are comforting to the max. A perfect way to warm up a cold and nasty day. I also made a batch of the Sun-Dried Tomato, Chile and Garlic Dip, which pairs great with a funky cheese and crackers. And we continued the comfort food trend that evening with Spinach and Feta Cooked Like Saag Paneer (hence the ton of spinach!). I’m actually surprised that I’ve never heard anyone else suggest using feta in place of paneer for this recipe. It works beyond perfectly!

The only unfortunate thing about this cookbook is that there are really only so many dishes you can make in one day! My regular MO when I get a new cookbook is to flag recipes that I want to try and I had a hard time prioritizing which recipes to make - they all look so good and they’re all fairly easy. 

Garlic-Ginger Chicken with Cilantro and Mint with Tomato Rice with Crispy Cheddar are in my plans for this weekend. We’ll also be snacking on the Spicy Chickpea Dip and another batch of the Sun Dried tomato dip too. 

I’m still dying to try the Dosa Potatoes with Lime and Ketchup, which I can then use leftovers of to make the Bombay Toast. Caramelized Onion Dal and Rice Noodle Poha are high on my list to make asap as are the Achari Fish and the Pav Bhaji on Potato Rolls. And that’s just a few! My copy is a flag heaven just waiting for time in the kitchen to play.

So yeah, in reality I have zero complaints about this book!

Krishna says her goal with this book is to prove that Indian food is everyday food and I think she certainly accomplishes this goal. The use of Indian flavors in twists on traditional dishes or as twists on dishes from other traditions, is a great way to introduce people to flavors and ingredients they may not be familiar with!

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

The Last by Hanna Jameson

Jon was attending an academic conference in Switzerland when the news hit. Nuclear weapons had been deployed in multiple countries. Washington is no more. Scotland has been obliterated. His fellow conference attendees decided to try and get out, find a plane or some other way back home. He stayed. 

As a historian, he feels it's his duty to chronicle the happenings for future reference. Even if there won't be any future reference, he prefers to be prepared. He and the fellow survivors holed up in his hotel are stretching their resources, rationing their food, and doing their best to stay alive until help comes. But when a body is discovered in one of the water tanks on the roof, Jon turns his eye from simple record keeping to investigating. 

As time passes, not only does it seem someone might not want Jon to solve what is clearly a murder but their careful semblance of order begins to turn into chaos. Resources are dwindling and there's danger outside the hotel's walls. Not only that, they've come to realize help is probably not coming at all. 

I enjoyed The Last as much as I enjoy any other post-apocalyptic read. And I do still quite enjoy post-apocalyptic reads! 

This one differed just a bit in that it tied current events into the book, making it all that much more unsettling. One of the things with this kind of read is that you can't help but calculate the feasibility of the particular apocalypse chosen by the author and, in this case, that feasibility is definitely high. It's one of the points of tension throughout the book as well as the characters, spread in nationality, turn their eyes to those they think are responsible for this event due to political views. Something I also find quite feasible. 

The addition of the murder is what set this book a bit apart. But the balance seemed somewhat off, as though the story wasn't quite sure what it wanted to be. Is it a post apocalyptic story with a mystery intertwined within it? Or is it a post apocalyptic story showing how quickly the breakdown in humanity occurs? More the latter than the former and yet the focus still wasn't quite as sharp in that regard as I thought it should have been either. 

All that's to say The Last is an entertaining and dark read but not a particularly intellectually deep one. Which is completely fine with me as I'm not sure I could have handled too much deep though with something that hits so close to home politically. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson

Good morning, readers. Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Peter Swanson's latest, Before She Knew Him.

Hen has a history of getting a little... obsessed. Which is why, when she becomes convinced her neighbor might be a killer, her husband and the officials are just a little less than keen to take her totally seriously.

But then one night Hen follows her neighbor and witnesses something horrible. Good news is that now she thinks she has what she needs to get the police to listen. Bad news is that the neighbor sees her!

Hen has issues. She freely admits it. They're new to the neighborhood and it seems their neighbors, Matthew and Mira, might just be new friends in the making. But then Hen sees a trophy in Matthew's office that she's certain is connected to a murder that hit a little too close to home in recent years. Literally. The victim was from the area Hen lived in and she became obsessed with the case. Which is why no one believes her - she has a history of fixation and obsession that even resulted in her leaving school.

The narration alternates between Hen and Matthew so we do find out rather quickly whether or not Hen is onto something. And of course Matthew knows rather quickly that Hen is telling people he's a killer.

Peter Swanson definitely knows how to write a page turner.

Unfortunately I find that his characters and plots lack a depth that I really am looking for in order to truly sink into a story. They're engaging and fun but I find I'm not able to really invest myself in the characters or the plot. It's a bit like popcorn - satisfying but not exactly filling.

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 and Instagram.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Thursday, March 7, 2019

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Lucy Foley's The Hunting Party.

Every New Year, Katie and her friends get together the celebrate the holiday and spend time with one another. It's been their tradition since college. Four couples and Katie, and now an infant as well. It's the one time of the year that they all get together without fail. 

This year, their trip has been planned and booked at a remote lodge in the Scottish Highlands. They were told they'd be the only party there, but a mix up means there's another couple. It definitely doesn't make them happy, but the festivities will go on nonetheless. Until one of the guests at the lodge goes missing. 

By the time the holiday has passed, a body has been found. And it definitely isn't an accident. But who is responsible? Is it one of the close knit group? Is it one of the strangers? Is it one of the two lodge staff members? Or is it the Highland Ripper everyone has been talking about?

I loved Lucy Foley's The Hunting Party! The setting alone makes it immensely appealing: a remote location and a snowstorm that's cut that location off from the outside world. Yes!

Multiple narrators means multiple perspectives as the story progresses. And the timeline bounces back and forth as well, revealing the body and the fact that it's definitely murder before the reader has a chance to really get to know the characters at play.

Doug, the gamekeeper with a dark past, and Heather, the manager with a secret in her own background, have both chosen to live and work at the lodge, voluntarily hiding away from everything and everyone beyond the grounds of the estate. Their perspectives of the group, jaded though they may be, are those of an outsider. Someone not part of the insular group, who doesn't share the history or the inside jokes or the forgiveness that a shared past can give to a person's behavior.

But Katie, Emma, and Miranda each give a different perspective of the group and of themselves. And as the story goes on, two things become very clear: first, this group is absolutely not as close as it once was and second, that most, if not all of them, are hiding things from one another.

But again, who is the killer? And, the thing that's most fun from the start, who is the victim?!

The Hunting Party is fabulous from start to finish and makes for the absolute perfect snow day read!

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

For more on Lucy Foley and her work you can like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

My Fave Kids Books So Far

As much as I read, I never had much reason to delve into kids books before we found out we were expecting. But as soon as that happened, I started exploring picture books at an almost frenzied pace! I had a list of them on our registry, I was given a stack of them at my book themed shower, he's been getting them as gifts, and I've been buying a maybe unhealthy amount of them too. But as an enthusiastic reader myself (my husband reads his fair share, too) of course I want my son to love reading. And I love reading to him!

He's a fairly energetic child, constantly wanting to be on the move, but when we read he locks in on the pictures and seems to really enjoy hearing us tell the tales that go along with them. Here are a few of my personal favorites, mostly text and silliness driven:

Friday, February 15, 2019

The Stranger Inside by Laura Benedict

Kimber was only out of town for a few days but when she gets home she finds her locks changed and a stranger living in her house. When the police arrive, the stranger presents a rent agreement claiming that Kimber invited him to stay. But Kimber never rented out her house. Kimber doesn't know the man. And now she can't get him to leave. 

As Kimber tries desperately to get her house - and her life - back, the stranger counters every attempt. The police aren't on her side and there seems to be little she can do. Anger and frustration, not to mention confusion, have become Kimber's everyday life. And now paranoia had joined the club as she becomes certain the stranger is out to take more than just her home. 

I love Laura Benedict's work. Just flat out love it!

This latest is a bit of a change as it's straightforward thriller with no horror or supernatural aspects, but, if you couldn't tell, it still has a healthy dose of dread and high emotional stakes.

I can't imagine what I would do if I left for a weekend to myself and came back to find my house occupied by someone else. And to find out the police aren't interested in helping! That's the situation Kimber is in when the stranger claims he has a right to be there. And as time goes by, he even gets the police to believe that Kimber is stalking him!

So Kimber's life is not only upside down, she's being treated like a criminal.

But as it turns out, Kimber isn't exactly a great person. She's done some things in the past that reflect a little... poorly on her character. And so she needs to tread carefully where the stranger is concerned. Which makes this a twisty, turny read from the get go. For Kimber and the reader both.

Paranoia is the key here and it comes through on every page of The Stranger Inside. And the questions that drive the plot - Who is the stranger? Why is he out to get Kimber? And what are these shady secrets Kimber is so determined to keep to herself? - are guaranteed to keep readers frantically turning pages until the big reveal at the very end.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Cravings: Hungry For More by Chrissy Teigen

If there’s one thing I love as much as books, it’s food. And so it’s natural that I’d have a bit of an obsession with cookbooks, right?

Glossy pictures of mouthwatering food are just part of it. In order for a cookbook to appeal to me, the recipes have to be enticing and approachable. I’m not a Top Chef, after all. I’m simply a girl with a little more than a working knowledge of my way around a kitchen. By which I mean I have no professional training but I’m beyond “cooking for dummies” level.

I’m also not a food snob. Recipes in any book I add to my collection have to be somewhat budget friendly. Honestly, though, in terms of recipes that are going to appeal to me, they are generally going to be somewhat budget friendly in that I don’t exactly gravitate to caviar and foie gras or wagyu beef (a good filet is fine for me).

Chrissy Teigen’s Cravings: Hungry for More definitely fit these first two requirements. The recipes included run the gamut of junk food (her Mushroom & Crispy Shallot Nachos are amazing!) to fancy dinners (Steak Diane with Crispy Onions, the most complicated dish I’ve made so far and only because frying the onions was a bit time consuming), Asian classics (Beef Randang) and American twists on Asian classics (Lazy Shrimp & Pork “Wonton” Soup) and hearty comfort food (Crispy Bacon & Sweet Pickle Patty Melts are not to be missed). The recipes are about as un-pretentious as you can get - and Teigen comes across the same.

In addition to being a collection of dishes any home cook can make in their kitchen, it’s also a glimpse inside Teigen’s world as well. And dare I say it’s a world you might not expect if you only know of her as a supermodel! Let’s just say she’s not afraid to eat or speak her mind, which I find abundantly appealing. And amusing. Because if you can have fun with your food, all the better!

I’ve done quite a bit of cooking out of this book since getting my hands on a copy last fall. And I’m late in reviewing only because I have a new baby to keep me occupied. And yet, I’ve still been able to cook. Lots of our friends have been amazed by this but nothing I’ve made since bringing the baby home has been overly complicated. And plenty of it has come from Cravings!

King’s Hawaiian Pull-Apart Bacon Grilled Cheese sandwiches were part of our Christmas Eve festivities. Bacony Clam Chowder made for a surprisingly easy and fabulously cozy dinner one snowy evening. Avocado with Toasty Crumbs made for an easy breakfast and a great alternative to avocado toast. Oh, and the Parmesan Minestrone with Chili Mayo Toasts was simple and fabulous, just one of the make ahead freezer meals that I made before the baby arrived for hectic nights after he was here. I've made many more dishes from the book so far and none of them has been anything less than excellent.

Anyone who loves tasty and uncomplicated food should definitely add this book to their collection. It's a go to in my kitchen now for sure!

Friday, February 1, 2019

The Hiding Place by C. J. Tudor

Happy Friday! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for C.J. Tudor's latest, The Hiding Place. 

Arnhill isn't a town Joe would choose to return to without reason. A mining town whose mine has been closed for decades, it's a miserable place to live. But Joe has come home and he does have a reason to be there after all. A very personal reason. One that traces back to his childhood and the fate of his beloved sister. 

Arnhill hasn't aged well in the time that he's been away. And it seems the very things that caused him to leave in the first place might be happening again.

Joe takes a job as a teacher at the very school he once attended. Immediately he recognizes the son of one of his old gang as the local bully, stepping in on his first day as the boy relentlessly picks on another student. And earning himself an enemy for his efforts. But that's just the beginning and the least of Joe's worries. 

C. J. Tudor's latest is dark, dark, dark. Just the opening pages alone are enough to warn away a reader without a strong stomach! Diving into The Hiding Place was like jumping down a rabbit hole of creepy. And considering I started at bedtime... well, it did not make for a restful night!

We don't know from the start exactly what Joe's motives or history are. He alludes to his sister's disappearance, he also alludes to her return, and he outright lies to those around him about what happened to her (which means the reader is in the dark for a good bit as well). We do know he's prompted to return to Arnhill after receiving and email that cryptically says it's happening again. And he chooses to move into a house where a teacher killed herself and her son under incredibly disturbing circumstances.

We also know Joe is on the run and in debt.

And that's it. That's what we start off with. It was enough to hook me, that's for sure! That and, as I mentioned, the incredibly dark and creepy nature of the story. Because even with very little information, Tudor deftly builds an almost overwhelming sense of dread and suspense. I had to know what was going on! What happened to Joe as a teenager? Why is he back in Arnhill? And what does the teacher's death have to do with it all? Agh!

The payoff, the big reveal, and the twists along the way were all worth it! Tudor straddles a fine line between horror and thriller and is a perfect read for fans of both genres. Given, of course, that you can handle the opening pages!

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

For more on C.J. Tudor, you can like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

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

Thursday, January 31, 2019

No Exit by Taylor Adams

Darby Thorne's mother is dying. Which is why the college student is driving during horrific weather from Colorado to Utah when she gets caught in a snowstorm. Taking refuge at a remote rest stop, she and a handful of others are planning to ride out the storm until it's safe to get back on the road. 

But Darby makes a startling discovery: a kidnapped girl locked inside a van. Of course Darby can't let it slide. The girl is in danger, clearly. And someone at the rest stop is responsible. With cell service down and no way to escape, Darby isn't sure exactly what she can do to help. But she knows she has to do something. 

Taylor Adams's debut is a non stop thrill ride. The kind of thriller that should come with popcorn and those new cozy, recliner movie seats. It's reads like it's playing out on the big screen - both in plot and in pacing. By which I mean you really can't put it down once you start.

But it is a little far fetched. More than once I found myself thinking, this is just a bit too much! And yet, it was fun.

Darby wants to ignore the situation. Badly. Obviously she's on her own and stuck. As mentioned, there's no cell service and she doesn't even know who the van belongs to, so she's unsure who she can trust at the rest stop. It's a gamble any way you look at it.

Thankfully our heroine is a heroine and decides she has to so something - anything - to help the girl in question. Which drives the suspense.

Is this a particularly unique or clever read? Meh. Is it a fun read? Most definitely!

Friday, January 18, 2019

The Expedition by Chris Babu

Good morning, everyone. Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Chris Babu's latest, The Expedition.

I've got massive baby brain and am honestly operating on about 2 hours of sleep as I write this, so here's the promotional copy rather than my own synopsis:

They survived the Initiation. Now the real test begins.

Drayden and his friends thought nothing could be harder than the Initiation. Little did they know it had only been a warmup for the challenge that lay ahead.

With New America’s situation dire, Drayden and the pledges venture into the unexplored world beyond the walls, escorted by a team of elite Guardians. The group seeks to contact another civilization in what remains of Boston, but Drayden has secret goals of his own.

Dangers abound in the outside world, including Aeru, the deadly superbug that wiped out humanity. While they battle the elements of a desolate landscape, a power struggle emerges within their ranks. The Guardians seem to be carrying out a covert mission themselves, and the quest turns everything they thought they knew about New America upside down.

I should note this is the follow up to Babu's previous title, The Initiation. The Expedition can be read fairly easily on its own, though there are spoilers for the first title should you dive in with this one. 

Regular followers know I'm a big fan of post apocalyptic books, especially post outbreak ones. As such, I tend to gobble them up. When I read the description of this one, it immediately brought to mind the recent Netflix release of the Danish show The Rain, so I was super stoked to dive into this book as a way to tide myself over in hopes we'll be getting a second season of the show. 

And while comparing it to the rain is somewhat apt - the main characters are teens trying to survive in this post outbreak wasteland - The Expedition also read more than a little bit like the later Maze Runner titles. 

I liked the interplay with the characters. I also liked the mysteries explored throughout the book, not least of which is the truth behind Drayden's mother's exile and the real reason for the Guardians' mission (alluded to in the synopsis, which also captured my attention when I chose to hop onto the tour). 

All in all, of you're a fan of dystopian reads, especially Maze Runner and The Rain (I hear the first one is a bit Hunger Games-ish), you're sure to enjoy Babu's work! 

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

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

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

On the Same Page by N. D. Galland

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Nicole (aka N. D.) Galland's latest, On the Same Page.

Joanna Howes has put her NYC life on hold temporarily to return to her childhood home on the island of Martha's Vineyard. The trip is thanks to her uncle who fell off a roof during a rainstorm and ended up laid up with injuries. And while Joanna definitely doesn't mind helping him recuperate, it unfortunately can't be her sole focus. For one thing, she left too fast to sublet her apartment, thinking she'd be back in just a few days when in fact it seems she'll be on the island for a few months! With rent coming due, Joanna has to find some way to make ends meet. 

Which is how and why she ends up freelancing for both of the island's papers at the same time. Except she can't really freelance for them both as Joanna Howes, which complicates things just a bit. So Joanna Howes writes for one paper and Joe Dias writes for another. 

That scheme alone might be fairly innocent but it's not the only one Joanna finds herself entangled in. Islanders are fighting a seasonal occupant who's decided to put his own helipad on his property. Joanna covers the issue for one paper just fine until she finds herself in a relationship with the very man who's created the issue! As the relationship grows, Joanna begins to find it hard to keep her double life going. And as she falls for the guy further and further, she knows he'd never trust her if he found out the truth. 

Galland's latest is a light and fun look at the lives and politics of small town residents. And it's inspired in part by Shakespeare! Which comes as no surprise to anyone familiar with Galland's historical fiction.

The characters here are quirky and lovable and it's easy to sink into the small town setting and Joanna's worsening situation. All of which come together to create a charming read perfect for anyone looking to recover from a stressful holiday season!

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

For more on Nicole Galland 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

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Ask No Mercy by Martin Österdahl: Excerpt and Giveaway

Hi, everyone! Today I've got an excerpt from Martin Österdahl's Ask No Mercy, first in the Max Anger series and new out from Amazon Crossing, and a chance for you to win a copy of your very own. But first, here's a bit about the book from Goodreads to get you started:

Max Anger is a man on the edge. The former fighter in an elite band of special-ops soldiers in Sweden, Anger is haunted by battle scars, a childhood spent in the Stockholm archipelago, and his own mysterious family past. Now behind a desk at Vektor, a think tank conducting research on Russia, he’s met his match—and fallen in love—with fierce fellow operative Pashie Kovalenko. Like all of Vektor, she’s set her sights on the tenuous future of her country.

When Pashie goes missing in Saint Petersburg, Anger rushes headlong into a volatile Russia, where a new president is about to be elected in the midst of a technological revolution. At the movement’s heart is a start-up Pashie had been investigating, one surrounded by rumors of organized crime and corruption. But the truth is more shocking than Anger could have ever expected.

Now time is running out for Pashie. Racing through a storm of violence and deception, Anger gets ever closer to a sensational secret—and to the Russian madman with dreams of restoring one of the cruelest regimes in the history of the world.

An international thriller, translated and released here in the US for the first time, Ask No Mercy is set in Russia during the 90s. In other words, it sheds a bit of light on certain timely issues. 

And now for a bit of the book itself:

Ask No Mercy
by Martin Österdahl
Translated by Peter Sean Woltemade

Chapter 45

Margarita lay on the backseat of the jeep. Through the windshield, Max saw Ilya say something to the two vory and then point in the direction of the car.

No, don’t bring them over here, thought Max. Are you nuts?

One of the two men, the one with the tattoos, took out a cell phone. He spoke animatedly with someone for a few minutes and then put it away. He looked at the jeep and then at Ilya, who was approaching it.

Ilya knocked on the window on Max’s side. He rotated his index finger, and Max rolled down the window. Ilya reached toward the glove compartment, winking at Margarita. When he realized the glove compartment was empty, he looked at Max, who was holding the Makarov in his hand between the two front seats of the car. Ilya raised his eyebrows and took it from Max.

“Do you think you can drive this heap?”

Max nodded.

“Then I’ll see you back at the hotel.”

“But you can’t still be here when those two realize she’s gone.” 

As usual, Ilya shrugged.

“Don’t worry about me,” he said. “I have this.”

He waved goodbye with the Makarov in his hand, then turned around and started walking toward the vory.

Max wriggled over to the driver’s seat while he watched Ilya’s back recede. Would they ever see each other again? He pushed away such thoughts; he needed to show Ilya the trust he deserved. And get Margarita and her children to safety.

He started the engine and drove away without looking toward the men.

Margarita and Max didn’t talk during the drive into Saint Petersburg. The smell of Margarita’s perfume, a floral chemical scent, mixed with that of the jeep’s exhaust.

She was safe now, at least for the time being; she had been saved from the fate of her Swiss lover, Marcel Rousseau, the man who had played with fire. The feeling of having ensured her safety filled Max with satisfaction.

At least one thing had gone their way.

Pashie had told him that Russian women preferred plastic flowers to real ones. She said that if she were ever to start a new career, it would be selling plastic flowers. They were the perfect product for the new Russia. Russians loved flashiness and beauty but were notoriously bad at maintenance. Real flowers required love and care; plastic flowers lasted forever. They were cheap and elegant; they demanded nothing of you; they were simply perfect. In fact, Max had never heard anyone in Russia express much appreciation for naturalness. On the contrary. Naturalness was associated with poverty and backwardness.

Pashie knew how she would compensate for the plastic flowers’ lack of scent: by spraying them with an artificial violet perfume that would be sure to increase sales. Max imagined this would be like the scent wafting from the backseat.

Max poured coffee until Margarita held up her hand.

“Thanks. That’s enough.”

Max sat across from Margarita and her children. They were occupying four rattan chairs under a reproduction of an old Saint Petersburg streetlamp in one of the hotel’s restaurants.

Above them, light shone in through the domed roof.

“You’re safe here,” said Max. “For the time being.”

Without looking up, Margarita poured sugar into her coffee and stirred the steaming black liquid. “What was it Marcel told you?”

Margarita looked up. For a moment she trembled, but she managed to pull herself together once again. “Why are you doing this?”

“I’m looking for a friend. You know that.”

“I want to leave Saint Petersburg,” she said. “I want to never set foot here again.” 

A waiter came by. Margarita ordered two banana milkshakes.

“Where would you go?”

“I have an uncle in Prague. I want to go there.” 

“Okay,” said Max. “If you talk now, I’ll take care of it.” 

She nodded.

“I know Marcel was employed by a large international company in the auditing sector in Switzerland,” said Max. “Why was he here in Saint Petersburg?”

“Marcel had certain weaknesses.”

“Don’t we all?”

Margarita took a sip of her coffee.

“He was still married,” she said. “Did you know that? He left a family behind in Switzerland.” 

“What brought him here?”

“The Arbeiterjugend,” said Margarita, grimacing.

“In Switzerland?”

Margarita shook her head.

“East Germany. His real name was Günther Baumann, and he was born and raised in Karl-Marx-Stadt. He was an excellent swimmer and a participant in the Festival of Youth and Students.”

Which was to say he’d been involved in the work of the Komsomol, the communist youth organization. The latest festival had been held in Pyongyang, North Korea, in 1989. The next was to take place in Havana, Cuba, in a year. “For anti-imperialist solidarity, peace, and friendship.”

“So he defected to the West? And ended up in Switzerland?” 

“Early in the summer of 1980.”

At that time there would only have been two possibilities. Either he had truly defected, which would have been difficult but had been managed by a small number of elite athletes, or he had been placed in the West by the organization that controlled all young lives and souls: Stasi, the super-effective East German intelligence service.

“And his wife?” asked Max.

“Swiss. All I know about her is that she demanded money. More money all the time.” “And his company, Brice & Stadthaller? And St. Petersburg GSM?”

“I swore I would never tell anyone . . .” She pulled in her quivering lower lip, looked up at the ceiling far above them. Finally, she looked at Max.

She was no longer bound by her oath.

“He said they were old contacts. And they’d made an offer he couldn’t refuse. Exactly what that meant, I don’t know. But I’ve thought about it a lot.”

“What kind of contacts? Political contacts? Military?”

“I don’t know. Marcel was a secretive man in many ways.” “And what was the offer?”

“He said we could live wherever we wanted, anywhere in the world.”

Margarita reached for a napkin lying next to one of the milkshakes that had arrived while she and Max had been talking. She wiped her cheek.

“He was going to leave her.”

“What do you think happened to him?”

“They murdered him.”

Max leaned forward. “Who murdered him?”

“He told me he was going to meet him. I could tell he was nervous about this meeting.” 

“Who is he?” asked Max.

“Marcel didn’t tell me his name. But he’s the leader, the boss.” 

“Can you guess who he is?”

Margarita’s expression changed again. It was as though she disappeared for a moment. Then she shook herself.

“He is the devil. He’s an old, strange-looking man. A large body and a small head. A ghost from our country’s darkest period.”

“Did Marcel call him anything? A nickname or a title?” 

Margarita leaned forward. Her voice was only a whisper.

“Joseph Stalin’s most beloved son.”

And now for the giveaway. To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, January 21. Open US only. 

Monday, January 7, 2019

White Stag by Kara Barbieri

Janneke has been trapped in the Permafrost for almost a century. Thrall to the goblin Soren, she's lived this long through a determination to survive. And it's made her change. Now, as the anniversary of her capture draws near, she finds she's becoming more like the monsters she's been trapped with than the humans she longs to return to. 

The death of the Erlking brings on the Hunt and an opportunity, Janneke thinks, to finally escape. But she must live through the Hunt first. Alongside Soren as his trusted companion, Janneke fights to protect herself, killing as needed. And then she learns a terrible truth, one that might force her to finally decide where it is she really belongs. 

This first in Barbieri's Permafrost series reminded me oh so much of Labyrinth. Obviously the story is quite different: Janneke lives in a village close to the border of the Permafrost and is taken after her village is decimated and she's the only survivor. (Quite different from a petulant teen who wishes her brother would be taken by the goblin king.) But the goblins themselves and the rules of their world brought that classic film to mind in such a fabulous nostalgic way.

The story itself begins a bit bumpy. We're dropped right into it as Janneke is plotting revenge in the Erlking's court and it takes a while for to be able to fully catch up to the politics and the hinted at past that drive the tale. By the time the Hunt actually begins, the story does pick up and both the characters and the plot begin to develop more smoothly, drawing the reader in fully.

The really strong point, though, is the imagery in Barbieri's world. The vividness of the Erlking's court, the Fire Bog, and even the memories of the village Janneke once called home were so well built that I could see them as clear as day.

White Stag is a dark fairy tale great for fans of Labyrinth and the like. It's also, again, the first in a series with at least one more book to go and it'll be interesting to see where Barbieri takes the story.

I should note here that this is a revised and expanded edition. Barbieri originally released the story on Wattpad, gaining a ridiculously fabulous number of reads and prompting a deal with Wednesday books. So if you've heard of it or maybe even read it there, know that there's probably something new here for you.

White Stag officially hits shelves tomorrow.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

New Releases 1/8/19

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Au Pair by Emma Rous

In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire

The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh

The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

The Light Over London by Julia Kelly

Mouthful of Birds by Samanta Schweblin

Freefall by Jessica Barry

Lake City by Thomas Kohnstamm

The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye

Scrublands by Chris Hammer

Looker by Laura Sims

McGlue by Ottessa Moshfegh

The Widows by Jess Montgomery

Cathedral of Myth and Bone by Kat Howard

Sugar Run by Mesha Maren

An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma

Evil Things by Katja Ivar

An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

Darling by Rachel Edwards

Her One Mistake by Heidi Perks

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen McManus

The Wicked by Holly Black

The Slayer by Kiersten White

Analiese Rising by Brenda Drake

White Stag by Kara Barber

The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart