Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Poison Thread by Laura Purcell

Dorothea believes wholeheartedly in charitable works. And if her chosen focus—the conditions at Oakgate Prison—just happen to allow her to explore her passion for phrenology, all the better. 

When Dorothea meets Ruth Butterham, she is simply desperate to get at the girl's skull. Ruth's crime is a heinous one and Ruth's confession upon their first meeting that she has killed many, intrigues Dorothea even more. But Ruth's supposed crimes are of a peculiar sort. Each time they meet, she tells more of her tale to Dorothea and it's one woven with oddities that the society woman immediately writes off as superstition. The more she learns of Ruth and her victims, however, the more Dorothea questions whether there's something more than imagination to the tale. 

If Victorian gothic is your jam, Laura Purcell needs to be in your reading plans!

Dorothea is a practical woman and she is a staunch believer in phrenology. This is the terribly maligned belief that people once held regarding the connection between behavior and skull shape. Really, it was an attempt to assign a biological explanation as to why people do the things they do. Obviously, it was short lived as a historical note in criminal justice, but it is alive and well in Dorothea's world!

Poor Ruth is just sixteen as the story takes place and the tale she recounts to Dorothea begins when she's just thirteen. She's the bullied only daughter of a former society woman who was cut off after marrying beneath her station. And they've all suffered for the sin ever since.

Things get worse for the family when Ruth is taken out of school to help her mother's knitting and sewing work so they can afford the addition of a new member to their family, something Ruth is initially resentful for even though it takes her beyond the clutches of her tormentors.

But Ruth has a talent with a needle that is the envy of even her own mother. And soon Ruth comes to believe her talent extends beyond simply creating clean stitches and beautiful patterns.

Ruth is a pitiable character. She suffers so much and the reader can't help by sympathize with her. Even Dorothea finds herself sympathizing with the girl, though she analyzes every statement with an understandable reservation. On the one hand, she believes in verifiable facts. And there are many, many verifiable facts to Ruth's story as well as logical explanations for the more fantastical parts. The story causes her to evaluate her own situation more than she'd like as well considering she's been carrying on with an illicit affair under her father's nose.

As with her debut, The Silent Companion, the thread of potential supernatural forces throughout the book remains something both Dorothea and the reader question as a reality throughout the book. And the pacing is deliberate, which, paired with a quieter sense of dread throughout, means this is a slow burn.

But what a read it is! If you have the patience and the time to really dive into Purcell's work, it is so rewarding! The creep factor ratchets up with each new chapter. The story becomes darker and darker as Ruth's story comes closer to it's end. And the unexpected (but strongly hinted at) twist is so satisfying!

I loved this book immensely and highly recommend it for fans of creepy classic gothic historicals!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Vox by Christina Dalcher - paperback release + a Giveaway

Happy Paperback Release Day to Christina Dalcher!

I reviewed Vox when it was new out in hardcover, but I'm reposting today to promote the paperback release of this explosive and terrifying debut. I'm also offering up one copy in a giveaway so be sure to read through to the end to enter!

Imagine if you were restricted, by law, to just 100 words a day. You aren't allowed a job, a career, of any kind. Your money is controlled by someone else and your privileges as a member of society have been reduced to daily tasks and chores only.

In Christina Dalcher's debut, this is the reality of the new America and the life women are forced to live when an evangelical-led government comes into power and decides it's time for a change.

Jean lives in this reality. She can recall a time when this wasn't the case - when she was allowed to speak as much as she wanted, when she held a job she was proud of, when she didn't have to constantly worry about her own daughter facing the painful consequences of speaking too many words in one day. And Jean is a linguist, so she worries about the overall effect this limit will have on her daughter as she grows, not just in terms of changing social norms but in terms of education and development.

But for now, this is Jean's reality.

And then things change. Jean's expertise is requested by none other than the president himself, giving Jean the bargaining chip she needs to garner some bit of freedom for herself and her daughter. But she soon learns that her own freedom will come at great cost.

This book. This book! Yes, it's one of those reads. The kind that shakes you to the core. The kind that's all too close to reality. The kind that gives you the chance to see just how something so horrific and previously unimaginable could actually happen. And it's terrifying, to be totally honest!

I liked this book in the same way that I liked The Handmaid's Tale, which is to say that experience reading it was tempered by the constant and overriding fear that this could indeed one day happen. And we'd all like to say, never. Or at least, never hear. And yet...

Vox is a great read if for no reason other than it will get people talking. TALKING! So even if you're potentially turned off by the fact that it definitely does hit a bit too close to home these days, it is absolutely thought provoking and may even get people thinking about just how close to a precipice we are and what we need to to do make sure something like this never happens!

And now for the giveaway! Thanks to the publisher I've got one copy up for grabs. To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, July 29. Open US only and no PO boxes please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Theme Thursday: Airplane Reads

Am I the only one who notices weird commonalities in my books. They pop up all the time for me, unplanned generally. But it got me thinking and I've decided to do a new occasional post series of recommendations along a theme.

For my first pick, I'm doing airplane reads. And no, not just books that are good to read on a plane. I mean books that have something to do with planes. Inspired by last week's read of David Bell's Layover, Carter Wilson's brand new release The Dead Girl in 2A and his post here, as well as the news that broke last week that my first pick is being adapted for TV!

The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian. From Goodreads: Cassandra Bowden is no stranger to hungover mornings. She's a binge drinker, her job with the airline making it easy to find adventure, and the occasional blackouts seem to be inevitable. She lives with them, and the accompanying self-loathing. When she awakes in a Dubai hotel room, she tries to piece the previous night back together, already counting the minutes until she has to catch her crew shuttle to the airport. She quietly slides out of bed, careful not to aggravate her already pounding head, and looks at the man she spent the night with. She sees his dark hair. His utter stillness. And blood, a slick, still wet pool on the crisp white sheets. Afraid to call the police—she's a single woman alone in a hotel room far from home—Cassie begins to lie. She lies as she joins the other flight attendants and pilots in the van. She lies on the way to Paris as she works the first class cabin. She lies to the FBI agents in New York who meet her at the gate. Soon it's too late to come clean—or face the truth about what really happened back in Dubai. Could she have killed him? If not, who did?

The Flight Attendant has been in my TBR for a while, patiently waiting for me to squeeze it into my reading time. Guess I'll need to get to it sooner rather than later so I can read before the show airs!

Next up is one I have read, and oldie but goodie in my opinion, Mayday by Nelson DeMille and Thomas Block. From Goodreads: Twelve miles above the Pacific Ocean, a missile strikes a jumbo passenger jet. The flight crew is crippled or dead. Now, defying both nature and man, three survivors must achieve the impossible. Land the plane.

I mean, this book is a little crazy, it's basically realistic zombies on a plane. But boy is it fun!!!

And finally, I had the pleasure of listening to this one on audio Flight or Fright: 17 Turbulent Tales edited by Stephen King and Bev Vincent. From Goodreads: Welcome to Flight or Fright, an anthology about all the things that can go horribly wrong when you’re suspended six miles in the air, hurtling through space at more than 500 mph, and sealed up in a metal tube (like—gulp!—a coffin) with hundreds of strangers. Here are all the ways your trip into the friendly skies can turn into a nightmare, including some we’ll bet you’ve never thought of before... but now you will the next time you walk down the jetway and place your fate in the hands of a total stranger.

Featuring a collection of tales, new and old, all centered around airplanes, this is the perfect read for the paranoid flyer. Or not.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Salvation Day by Kalli Wallace

Happy Book Birthday to Kalli Wallace whose latest, Salvation Day, hits shelves today!

Zahra and her people just want to be left alone. Which is why their leader formed a plan, and the goal is a place all their own. That place is House of Wisdom. Abandoned years ago after an outbreak blamed on biowarfare—an act Zahra’s own father was supposedly responsible for—House of Wisdom has been completely off limits ever since. But Zahra and her group have all been immunized against the virus that claimed the inhabitants of the ship and they see no reason why it can’t be theirs.

Jas has finally returned to space and has big plans for life-changing research. But those plans are significantly sidetracked when he and his fellow students are kidnapped by Zahra and her team. And now Jas is returning to the ship that claimed his mother's and father’s lives. The ship that he barely escaped himself. And as it turns out, the things everyone thinks they know about the fate of House of Wisdom are all very, very wrong.

Whoa! Kali Wallace's first adult release is exactly what I needed! A perfect blending of all of my favorite things—a mysterious illness, an abandoned ship, a bonkers cult leader, government secrets, and more! Oh, and I loved every page!

The book alternates between Zahra and Jas's points of view. Zahra is part of a group that wants no part of the current governing body (the Councils) and while her leader very clearly comes across to the reader as a classic cult leader in every way, Wallace also makes it pretty clear why Zahra and her family joined him in the first place. Mistrust of the government comes natural when your father has to take the blame for a massively horrible crime.

It's through Zahra that we learn about Jas initially. Jas is the only surviving member of House of Wisdom. Which makes him essential to the group's plans and also ratchets up the tension of the book big time. His last moments on the ship were with his mother, who promised to follow him as she loaded him into an experimental ship to escape into the nothingness of space. And he never saw her again. Not only that, but he's never revealed to anyone what he witnessed while he was on board in those final hours.

Cue the  duh duh duuuuuh sound! There are brief missives from the caption and other little communications along the way that hint at what happened on board, all of which draws the reader further into the mystery.

Of course the biggest draw for me with this book was the combination of science fiction and horror elements. I crave the blending of these two genres and it doesn't always work out as well as I'd like. Salvation Day, though, works! And I'm all the happier for it!

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Death By Dumpling by Vivien Chien

Lana Lee is recently single and recently unemployed. Which is why she's waiting tables at her family's restaurant, the Ho-Lee Noodle House. It's not a bad gig. Not what she wants to do permanently, but it pays the bills and keeps her busy. And when the property manager for the shopping center Ho-Lee calls home dies, she becomes even busier.

Mr. Feng died thanks to an allergic reaction to shrimp dumplings. From Ho-Lee Noodle House! Everyone knew Mr.  Feng was allergic to shrimp, which was why there was a great big warning about it at the restaurant. But somehow, his daily order of dumplings was served up with shellfish and Mr. Feng's epi-pen was apparently nowhere to be found. And, since Ho-Lee delivered the deadly dumplings, suspicion immediately turns to the restaurant's chef, Peter, and Lana herself for making the delivery!

Lana had no issues with Mr. Feng and she's certain Peter isn't responsible either. But it looks bad for Ho-Lee Noodle House. So Lana takes it upon herself to find out who might have wanted Mr. Feng dead. Unfortunately, whoever did it is willing to do whatever it takes to make sure their secret stays buried!

Vivien Chien's debut is a fun cozy perfect for any fan of culinary mysteries.

Lana is great heroine to get behind. She's at a point in her life where her loyalty to her family is warring with her indecision about what she wants to do with her life. That and being single are the two biggest issues she faces. It's safe to say she's killing time at Ho-Lee Noodle House, but that doesn't mean she isn't invested in its success—and in keeping it's name clear of any connection to the death of one of its patrons!

But Lana has no idea how to investigate a murder. This is the first in the series and, thus, Lana's amateur sleuth origin tale!

If contemporary cozies are your jam, you need to add Death By Dumpling to your TBR! It's a wonderful light and breezy read, featuring a great cast of characters and a charming lead you'll absolutely adore. And once you've gobbled up this first in the series, you'll be happy to note that there are two more books out on shelves now and two additional titles due out in the coming months!

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Layover by David Bell

Happy Book Birthday to David Bell whose latest, Layover, hits shelves today!

Joshua Fields flies a lot for work. It's all routine at this stage, down to the xanax and alcohol he uses to curb his anxiety about flying. But a run in with an enigmatic stranger changes all of that.

They met in the gift shop, waiting in line. She seemed completely uninterested to the point of jetting at the first opportunity. But when they ran into each other again, she relented and agreed to a drink. They talked, unimportant stuff and nothing terribly personal, but Joshua felt a connection nonetheless. Which was why when she disappeared after kissing him, he decided to change things up following her to Nashville.

When they see each other again, though, Morgan Reynolds says she’s not who he thinks she is. In fact, she says she’s never met him before. Confused and embarrassed, Joshua decides to write the whole thing off until he comes across notices that Morgan is missing.

Determined to unravel the mystery surrounding Morgan, Joshua unknowingly places himself in very real danger.

Unputdownable is a word that's used to describe thrillers a lot. But sometimes there really is no better word. And in the case of David Bell's books, it's the most appropriate one for sure!

Bell excels at building plots that instantly suck the reader in. I consider myself to be the most introverted of introverts, but even I have had strange encounters in airports. And even if it's not an airport, random encounters with strangers happen everywhere. So Joshua's story begins in a way that I'd guess everyone can instantly relate to.

Now, where it goes from there, not so much. I, for example, actually haven't even had drinks with a stranger in an airport. Much less changing travel plans on a whim (oh, the anxiety that would cause me) to stalk said stranger (which is essentially what Joshua does). And that's where the book gets really good!

What is Morgan's story? Joshua just has to know and so does the reader!

Layover is the perfect kind of thriller. One that lets you escape reality for a bit and become entangled in a tale that wants to be read in one sitting!

Thursday, June 27, 2019

The Islanders by Meg Mitchell Moore

Hi, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Meg Mitchell Moore's latest, The Islanders.

It's summer on tiny Block Island. Anthony Puckett, son of famed thriller writer Leonard Puckett, is spending his summer house sitting on the island. It's a chance to get away from the shadow that's been hanging over him. A chance to try to put his life and career back on track. 

For Joy Sousa, Block Island is home. It's where she runs her whoopie pie shop. But her business is threatened when a new food truck rolls into town affecting her usually booming summer sales, and just when her landlord has decided to raise her rent astronomically. 

Lu Trusdale and her family are renting a cottage on Block Island for the summer, thanks to her in laws. While her husband is away working in the city, Lu is supposed to be the perfect stay at home mom, which is why she keeps her side gig a secret from absolutely everyone. 

These three, strangers to one another when the summer begins, become inextricably tied together as the weeks roll by. And by the end of the summer, they're linked by a secret bigger than any they'd ever imagined. 

Set during summer and on a beach resort island, The Islanders is a summer beach read if ever there was one!

Although some of her backlist is in my TBR, this is actually my first read by Meg Mitchell Moore. Trust me, after this one those previous titles have been catapulted to the top of my list, The Islanders is that good!

This is a more character driven novel than I claim to enjoy, but the characters here are the kind that immediately draw me into a story.

First off, there's an author, a baker, and a stay at home mom who's clearly longing for more, characters that touch on interests of mine in every way.

Second, there are secrets. From the outset, it's clear that Anthony is hiding from more than just the expectation that he'll be as successful an author as his father. Something's happened. Something big. Something that's left him bereft and intent on keeping his identity secret while he's on Block Island. The desire to see his story play out was enough alone to keep me reading. But there's more! Let's secret is fairly easy to figure out, but waiting to see what would happen when everyone else found out... yeah.

The pacing is great, the story progressing in a way that never felt bogged down or slow. It's tightly woven and moves along quickly, holding your attention through every single line.

Obviously I was sold within the first few pages, readers. And I think you will be too! If The Islanders wasn't already in your summer reading plans, I hope it is now!

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

For more on Meg Mitchell Moore and her work you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Instagram.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Suspicious Minds by Gwenda Bond

It's almost time for the return of Stranger Things! I couldn't be more excited. In fact, I'm planning to binge the first two seasons again to refresh my memory before July 4. And you can forget any Independence Day celebrations, it's going to be all Stranger Things chez moi!

If you're like me and you just can't get enough of this show, then you probably know that the amazing Gwenda Bond penned the first tie-in novel that released earlier this year. If you haven't read it yet, now is the perfect time!

It's 1969, Vietnam is in full gear but so far Terry Ives is only marginally affected. A college student in Indiana, she's more focused on how to make ends meet. Which is why she jumps at the opportunity to take part in an experiment that pays participants per session. 

But as innocent as the experiment seems at first, Terry soon realizes that there's something very wrong. There's a definite layer of secrecy she didn't expect surrounding the whole thing. If it was just that, she could probably shrug things off. But she isn't entirely sure she should trust Dr. Martin Brenner, the man running things. And when she discovers a kid hidden away behind the walls of Hawkins National Laboratory, her suspicions take a very dark turn. Things are further complicated when Terry realizes she's pregnant, something she's certain she should hide from Brenner as long as possible. 

This is Eleven's mom's story and it's fabulous!

First, we see the beginnings of the experiment and how Terry became involved in the first place. Meeting her and getting to know her, finally, makes her story in the show that much darker! We see her experiences first hand. We get her side of the story. And that makes what happens to her that much more emotional watching Eleven find her the second time around.

Second, we see even more of how underhanded and slimy Brenner is. Oh, man. It doesn't seem as though this guy was ever anything but bad. Again, reading this and then rewatching means you're even more aware of that fact.

And third, we meet Kali as a child! Kali, who made her appearance in season 2, deepens the story even further. And it makes me wonder if we'll see any other participants in the experiment as well.

All of this is a fun bonus for any fan of the series, more layers of the story that add to world we love and want more of. I especially appreciated the continued attention to cultural and pop culture details of the time (the characters are reading this great new book, Lord of the Rings!), which base the story so strongly in "reality."

There are two more tie-in novels this year, Darkness at the Edge of Town, which is Hooper's story, and Runaway Max, about - you guessed it - Max's past. Both titles are out now for anyone else looking to tide themselves over for the next couple of weeks.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Kid Gloves by Lucy Knisley

In 2016, cartoonist and author Lucy Knisley welcomed her son into the world. As she did with her books Relish and Something New, she decided to tell the story in her latest book, Kid Gloves.

I loved Knisley’s Relish, which I read, coincidentally, while we were trying to get pregnant, and having just had a baby I was looking forward to Knisley’s latest. And it’s good. A very personal look at her journey to motherhood, miscarriages and all.

Of course having had a kid myself and not that long ago, there are things that probably hit me harder than some while I was reading the book.

Knisley talks frankly about her own experiences. Which includes, unfortunately, problems with preeclampsia that went unnoticed and/or ignored by her doctors during her pregnancy. And it kind of ties in perfectly with the history of women's health and pregnancy that runs throughout the book and an overall theme that this area of medicine is still misunderstood and pushed to the sidelines!

On the one hand, considering the miscarriage stuff in the book and the things that went on with me while I was pregnant, it was kind of a good thing that I didn't read this until AFTER my son was born.

But on the other hand I kind of think if I'd had the opportunity (the book didn't publish until after I'd had my baby) it would have been helpful to read this while I was pregnant. Preeclampsia was a huge concern amongst my doctors. And it was an annoyance for me. It meant extra doctor's visits and more stress on my part. But having read what happened to Knisley, I was struck by a sudden gratefulness for the amount of attention and care my own team was paying to me that was lacking in Knisley's care. Which also made me incredibly sad because I did come across a ton of pieces concerning exactly the same thing she experienced. And it's terrifying to think that women can be in such danger in our country due to what seems to be an overall ambivalence about women's healthcare in general.

Fortunately that wasn't the case with me. Fortunately.

Kinsley's book is sweet and scary and full of emotion, just like pregnancy. I appreciated the unflinching honesty of the book and the camaraderie of feeling just a little bit more connected to another mom in the early stages of parenthood.

Friday, June 21, 2019

The Triangle by Dan Koboldt, Mindy McGinnis, and Sylvia Spruck Wrigley

Planes and ships have historically gone missing in the area dubbed The Bermuda Triangle, but until now no explanation has ever been found.

When a Navy ship goes missing during a storm, it's the last straw. A team of experts is assembled and an investigation is launched. But the team itself is soon swept out to sea as well, landing on an island that shouldn't be there. What they discover is a secret that's been brewing for decades, one that could leave them stranded until their dying days unless they can unravel the secrets of The Triangle!

This was my first Serial Box experience and I have to tell you, I am sold!

Each week, a new episode is released and readers have the option of listening to the audio production (and it is a production, with sound effects and everything!) or reading the installment instead. The episodes are about an hour a piece, some longer, and each is written by one of the contributing authors. In this case, Dan Koboldt penned the first, Mindy McGinnis the second, Sylvia Spruck Wrigley the third, and so on.

The story comes together seamlessly, you'd never know that three very different authors had a hand in putting it together. And it is such a fabulously fun story.

Of course I've always been drawn to stories about The Bermuda Triangle. The fact that I have huge water phobias only adds to my curiosity about any kind of water based mystery or horrors and The Bermuda Triangle is undoubtedly the biggest of them all!

In The Triangle, a retired Naval officer, a computer analyst, a conspiracy theorist, and an NTSB investigator come together to solve the mystery of a missing ship. Two things conspire to put them out on the water itself: the discovery of a survivor of a plane that recently went missing the questionable area—the first survivor ever to be found, in fact; and coordinates that could lead straight to the missing Naval ship and officers. But before they make it, they're boarded by a dogged investigator who wants answers.

Soon enough, the team and the cop find out exactly what fate has befallen all the other missing ships and planes. Virtual strangers, they are forced to trust one another and work together not only to solve the growing mysteries of the island but to survive and hopefully make their way home again.

The Triangle is incredible fun and a perfect summer read! Maybe don't dive in while your airborne though that's exactly what I'd do if I had a vacation planned :)

Check out The Triangle now over at serialbox.com!

Thursday, June 20, 2019

The Cutting Room by Ashley Dyer

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Ashley Dyer's latest, The Cutting Room.

When the host of a popular true crime show disappears, Ruth Lake and Greg Carver suddenly find themselves in the midst of a twisted investigation. 

With no body, it's not certain whether Professor Mick Tennant, host of Fact or Fiction, is dead but mounting evidence certainly seems to point in that direction. And the man's disappearance comes straight on the heels of the show seemingly debunking a new criminal urban legend, that of The Ferryman. 

Now, a killer with a definite chip on his shoulder and something to prove is making his way throughout Britain with a series of increasingly gruesome crimes meant to attract as much attention as possible. Lake and Carver are still recovering from their last case, but there's no time for R&R—even for the beleaguered Carver whose head injury is still causing issues—because The Ferryman's fan base is ever growing and the public's demand for more is one the killer is all too willing to continue performing for!

Ashley Dyer is the pseudonym for co authors Margaret Murphy and Helen Pepper. This is the second book in their Carter and Lake series, following Splinter in the Blood.

While there are absolutely allusions to the crime that takes place in the previous novel, don't let that keep you from diving in with this second in the series. It stands fantastically well on its own and is utterly impossible to put down.

From the start, the play on the current trend in true-crime shows and podcasts makes this a timely and intriguing reader. And it's clear from almost the beginning that the show in question and the missing host are seen to have been taunting The Ferryman out of hiding. Indeed, the narrative itself proves that by very quickly giving the readers a first-hand account from the killer himself. Small chapters from his prospective are sprinkled throughout, making it clear exactly how twisted his motives are.

But of course that's for the readers eyes only. The killer does draw out the police through his use of social media, however, even using his growing platform to promote his gruesome art.

Lake and Carver surely do have their job cut out for them and while I do miss the introduction to and development between the two of them that I assume is in the first book (which is currently in my TBR), I had no other issues starting midstream as it were with their second investigation.

The Cutting Room is a twisted and dark procedural and my introduction to a series I am super excited to continue!

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here. And for more on Ashley Dyer and her work you can visit her website here.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Thursday, June 13, 2019

The Summer Country by Lauren Willig

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Lauren Willig's The Summer Country.

Emily Dawson's grandfather has died. As expected, he's left his shipping business to her cousin, Adam, the male heir of the family. Surprisingly, though, Emily has been left something as well - Peverills, a sugar cane plantation in Barbados. 

When the cousins make the trip out to the island to see the property, however, they're shocked to discover fields of long-dead plants and a main house that's been burned beyond repair. And the locals say it's been that way for almost forty years. Confused as to why her grandfather would have bought the property only to leave it in such a state, Emily is determined to learn more about her family's history and the long-buried secrets of Peverills.

Lauren Willig's latest features dark history amongst a lush and tropical setting.

The history of Barbados is an integral part of The Summer Country. And the story itself was inspired by one Willig heard on her own tour of Caribbean plantations on a trip she took a while ago. She says, in her acknowledgements, that it took her two years of research before she felt ready to tackle the project that had been percolating since that trip. And it shows! Her attention to detail and the history of the place and the era are carefully wrought and integrated into the story fluidly, making for a smooth and enthralling read.

I don't want to give too much away, but the story does alternate between Emily's trip in 1854 and Peverills in 1812 and leading up to the fall of the plantation. As Emily makes her own discoveries about her family history, the reader sees that same history unfold as it happens as well.

For me, personally, I felt Willig did a great job of building believable characters with obvious care towards paying heed to a history that many aren't aware of. And I think she's done a fair job of showing that history through the experiences of the many characters she's built for the book. She has a great historical note detailing the various resources she used in creating these characters as well as suggested further reading.

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

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

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The Summer Guests by Mary Alice Monroe

A storm is brewing and that means a host of evacuees making their way up the coast from Florida to safer areas. Grace Phillips offers her farm to a few close friends and their various animals, which is fortunate because they have the space and the means to put up a number of people, dogs, and, thankfully, horses. But throughout the week, the stress and tension of close quarters and worries over the storm play havoc on the farm and its residents. As the storm tears through its path, they all find that while they may be physically safe, the hurricane will tear through them emotionally. By the end, friends and lovers will find the closest of relationships stressed to the max. Whether they'll come out of it intact is the real question. 

Talk about a book I can empathize with. Growing up in southwest Louisiana, I was no stranger to hurricanes, storm preparations, and evacuations. My final years of college were the worst with storm after storm threatening the area and dissipating before hitting, causing all of the local businesses and the schools to wan in their response levels with each new storm.

So yeah, I can understand stress centered around leaving your home, wondering if your home will make it, worrying about animals, and even the friction it all causes among groups of people sheltered together.

Of course in The Summer Guests, the farm these folks have evacuated to is HUGE! There's the main house, the barn, and two "cottages," which are anything but the small abodes I imagined they would be. So there's plenty of space for these folks to all spread out and ignore one another. But they don't. In part because of Grace and their relationships with her.

While the various guests all vaguely know one another, some simply due to being part of the horse world, the one person they all know is Grace. And she'd like nothing more than for all her close friends to get along with one another. But tension and stress definitely don't bring out the best in people. You can imagine the strength of the emotional storm brewing is as strong by the time it figuratively hits as the hurricane they're all bracing for!

One thing I'm not familiar with is horses. I rode, more regularly than most, but it was limited to summer camps and trips to dude ranches. Dressage and jumping, maintenance, sales, etc are all foreign to me. But they are a central portion of The Summer Guests. This was an interesting aspect of the book and one that's threaded throughout, giving the reader a sense of familiarity from the start even if you know literally nothing about horses at all.

The Summer Guests is the kind of read you can sink into and the characters are the kind you can call friends by the end. I thoroughly enjoyed it, even more so now that I no longer live along the coast and have to worry about storms that are already earning names this calendar year!

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Those People by Louise Candlish

The neighbors at Lowland Way are happy with their little suburban paradise. Until the owner of number 1 passes away and her nephew inherits. The first things the neighbors notice are the renovations. The knocking down of a wall they’d tried so hard to preserve kicks off a string of construction, none of which they're certain the man has permits to do himself. Then it’s the cars, so many of them that the neighbors can’t keep track. And he’s selling them out of his home! In addition to that, the neighbors immediately around number 1 can’t sleep for the loud music and TV noise coming from the house at all hours.

Complaints don’t work - the new owners of number 1 don’t care and the council doesn’t have the resources to do anything. But when it all culminates in a horrible accident, it’s the police that finally get dragged in. But was it an accident at all?

Oh, Louise Candlish must have lived in my neighborhood to prompt this book! Well, except that our neighbors weren’t so disturbing as to have been approached about all of it, so I don’t know how they would have reacted. The rest of us certainly didn't conspire against them. But the number of cars! And the tow trucks constantly delivering more. And the weekends spent working on diesel engine vehicles backfiring at random moments. Ugh.

So yeah, I understand this book! Anyone who’s ever dealt with annoying neighbors understands this book!

Those People is domestic drama and dark thriller all rolled up in a tight ball. It makes for great tension - Candlish throws a police investigation at you from the very start with neighbors giving door-to-door testimony at the beginning of each chapter, but then catapulting the reader back to the arrival of the new owners of number 1 and tracking occurrences right up to the “accident” that we all know is coming. She almost lulls you into a complacency, making you wonder just how bad things could possibly get, but with that reminder that they apparently do get REALLY bad.

Like her previous book, Those People is an examination in pushing people to their limits. And in how they'll react when it feels like no one is on their side at that point - both the protagonists and the antagonists!

Monday, June 10, 2019

Flask of the Drunken Master by Susan Spann - paperback release

The third book in Susan Spann's amazing Shinobi series is finally out in paperback tomorrow! It's been a long time coming, folks. This book released in hardcover in 2015, which is when this post originally ran. I'm reposting here, though, to highlight the paperback release and to show of the brand spanking new cover, which is, I think you'll agree, pretty fantastic!

A man has been murdered and Hiro's friend Ginjiro stands accused. The victim was a fellow brewer whose son racked up a hefty debt with Ginjiro. Witnesses reported the seeing the dead man and Ginjiro arguing over exactly that matter the night before the body is found in Ginjiro's alley. Some even say that Ginjiro was heard threatening the dead man! 

Nevertheless, the evidence seems highly circumstantial to Hiro and Father Mateo who are both certain their friend is no killer. Though Hiro is somewhat reluctant to cross the investigating yoriki, the samurai is well aware that the man is more interested in a quick arrest rather than real justice. And since that quick arrest means ruining the life of a friend, Hiro and Father Mateo can't possibly stand by without helping.

Sake politics, a city on high alert for possibly spies, and an investigation with twists galore - all set in sixteenth century Kyoto! This third in Spann's series is clever and intriguing. If you're new to Spann's work, Flask can most definitely work as a stand alone or introduction to the series. And as with any good series you'll want to go back and read the previous installments as well. There are a few references to Blade of the Samurai, but nothing too spoilery should you choose to start with Flask.

Spann is the perfect figurative juggler. This is not only an historic setting, but a time/place/culture that few American readers are familiar with in any way. And it's a mystery. So that means that Spann has to put together a great plot (done), while continuing to grow her series characters (also done), and set a believable tone and setting for her readers (done fabulously). What's more, as I noted with the previous review, Spann's attention to detail is seemingly impeccable.

I don't know of anyone else in the mystery world tackling such an intricate and unique setting right now. If you're a fan of historicals and fun mysteries, I definitely suggest giving this series a try. They're not quite cozy but are light enough to appeal to both cozy and darker fans.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Short Fiction Friday: Skidding Into Oblivion by Brian HodgeA

I first discovered Brian Hodge in 2012 with Stephen Jones’s fantastic anthology A Book of Horrors. In an anthology full of truly excellent short stories, Hodge’s “Roots and All” was hands down a favorite and put him immediately on my list of authors I needed to read more of. The only problem was that much of his work was out of print at the time. So I sought out more anthologies!

“Root and All” just happens to be the opening tale in his latest collection, Skidding Into Oblivion, which released earlier this year. And trust me when I say that opening with that tale is a great indication of what’s to come. The entire collection is amazing! And mostly new to me (two Lovecraftian tales were the only others I was previously familiar with, though one was in a collection I was never able to get my hands on).

Hodge’s work runs the gamut from folklorish nightmares and creepy kids to cosmic horror and demons. Each story is a perfect short, a fully encompassed tale with a fully realized world and fully developed characters. He is, in my opinion, one of the best horror writers of the moment and one of the best short story authors I’ve ever read.

Yes, I know I’m fangirling a bit, but one of my favorite things about diving into any anthology is the promise of discovering a new-to-me author. And for seven years now I’ve never once read a story from Hodge that I didn’t love. They’re creepy but also, sometimes, pack an unexpected emotional punch as well. “We the Fortunate Bereaved” and “One Possible Shape of Things to Come” hit me hard as a new parent.

“Eternal, Every Since Wednesday” (a definite favorite of this collection) also had a bit of an emotional punch for me, but stands out simply because I abhor the cold and the snow! And yet I live in Colorado, which also happens to be where Hodge lives (and says he loves the snow). So the story hit close to home for that reason as well!

Any fan of the genre will be doing themselves a real treat in reading Skidding Into Oblivion. I highly, highly recommend it!

Here's a list of all of the stories included in the collection. Note, only "One Last Year Without a Summer" is new to the collection. All of the other stories have previously appeared elsewhere and are collected together for the first time here.

Roots and All
This Stagnant Breath of Change
Scars in Progress
Just Outside Our Windows, Deep Inside Our Walls
Eternal, Ever Since Wednesday
Let My Smile Be Your Umbrella
We, The Fortunate Bereaved
One Possible Shape of Things to Come
Cures For a Sickened World
The Same Deep Waters as You
One Last Year Without a Summer

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The Worst is Yet to Come by S.P. Miskowski

Tasha has never had a best friend. Until she met Briar. 

Tasha officially meets the new girl at school while saving her from bullying between classes. They skip out, wandering the town of Skillute and immediately bonding.

Tasha’s mother isn’t a fan of Briar, convinced she’s not the right kind of friend for her daughter. Her husband feels differently, glad their daughter finally has a friend at all. What neither they nor Tasha and Briar know, though, is that Skillute has a dark history that preys on the vulnerable. And Briar is very vulnerable.

Briar and Tasha are everyday teens, for the most part. But as the story progresses it becomes clear that neither of them has had what would be considered a truly normal childhood.

Tasha is a bit overly protected by a mom who tries too hard to be her best (and only) friend. And Briar has been moved around so much lately thanks to her mother's new boyfriend that she hasn't been able to set down roots at all. So they're both outsiders, to an extent. Which makes both of them perfectly matched in the friend category.

I wanted to love this short horror novel. Miskowski draws admirable reviews from big names in the horror genre, which was how I discovered this book to begin with.

And there’s lots to like in The Worst is Yet to Come. Lots. But overall I couldn’t love it. It felt disorganized, with dangling threads that never panned out and too many questions left by the end.

I used to hate stories with no explanation. No neatly tied up end. I’m ok with that now, but there was too much gray area at the end of this one for my taste. And maybe some of that is because Miskowski has explored Skillute in prior novels and stories that I’ve yet to read. Maybe I’m missing out on some of those threads because they’re part of previous Skillute installments.

The book alternates between various viewpoints, including Tasha, Briar, Tasha's parents, and one of Briar's neighbors who offers up some of the weirder elements of Skillute's history. And it's these elements that I really wanted more of - and again acknowledge that I'm likely missing due to not having yet read the other Skillute based tales. But I also think that a book should stand on its own to a large extent and, Skillute's twisted background aside, The Worst is Yet to Come simply feels incomplete.

It's not the lack of explanation about what's happening to the characters, which I won't spoil. But it's the various pieces that are introduced here that never come to anything. Two side characters, a brother and sister, keep a close eye on Briar in the beginning, murmuring cryptically to one another about things that never quite make sense. And then they vanish. Their part in the story is just one example of things that never quite fits comprehensively into the story.

So again, I liked this book. It hit all the right notes in terms of dark story and creepy setting. It also touches on some things that terrify me to no end as a new parent as much of the story is focused on the horrors of parenting today! But I couldn't love it, simply because I felt like I was missing too many pieces to truly get it.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Blade of the Samurai by Susan Spann - paperback release

Good morning, everyone! As I mentioned last week, the first three books in Susan Spann's fabulous Shinobi series are finally being released in paperback! Book one came out at the end of last month and book two, Blade of the Samurai, releases today. Though I reviews Blade and the follow up, Flask of the Drunken Master, back when they released in hardcover, I'm reposting my reviews of them now featuring the brand new - and amazing! - covers.

This review was originally posted back in 2014.

The shogun's cousin has been murdered in his office and Hiro and Father Mateo have been asked to investigate. They agree, reluctantly, but have hidden the fact that they are both already aware of the murder. In the wee hours of the morning, and just before the body is discovered, Hiro's fellow shinobi Kazu arrived at Father Mateo's residence begging for Hiro's help. The dead man had been murdered with Kazu's own blade! Kazu swore his innocence but Hiro isn't so certain - a shinobi like himself would be trained to lie after all. The shogun gives Hiro and Father Mateo just three days to find the killer. When those three days are up, someone will be punished for the crime whether they've been proven guilty or not. 

This second in Spann's series is my introduction to the story. And while that's mostly fine - the mystery stands alone - the character set up is something I've missed out on.

First, shinobi according to Spann's provided glossary means:

literally "shadowed person." Shinobi is the Japanese pronunciation of the characters that many Westerners pronounce "ninja." ("Ninja" is based on a Chinese pronunciation.)

Second, Hiro's (and Kazu's) real purpose in Kyoto is secret. No one knows they are shinobi. They are there under cover - Hiro is supposed to protect Father Mateo and does so under the guise of being his translator. I do imagine that much of this as well as the development of Hiro and Father Mateo's relationship plays a great part in the plot of Claws of the Cat. In this second outing, though, it's clear that Father Mateo knows Hiro is shinobi and that the two of them have developed a rapport and trust based around his skills and their shared secret. And yet Hiro doesn't know why he's been hired to protect Father Mateo in particular.

Spann spends a good amount of time setting the scene both culturally and historically in the book, but it is fluid and blends naturally into the story rather than sounding like a classroom lecture interspersed in the narrative. Sixteenth century Japan has some quite different rules about class, law, and respect. Most interesting, and a key part of the plot here, is the fact that if Hiro and Father Mateo fail in uncovering the murderer's identity to the shogun's satisfaction, they could actually be held responsible in the killer's stead! At the same time, there's a political based secondary plot that involves the arrival of a neighboring lord and a possible plot against the shogun.

I quite enjoyed my introduction to Hiro and Father Mateo. Spann's setting is unique and the overall tone is somewhat light. I really appreciated the fact that Spann was able to so smoothly incorporate the historical aspects, giving the reader a real understanding of Kyoto in the 1500s. Readers looking for something beyond the usual mystery fare will certainly find the Shinobi Mysteries appealing.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Claws of the Cat by Susan Spann

Hello, everyone! If you've followed the blog for long, then you know I'm a fan of Susan Spann's fabulous Hiro Hattori series. Today I get to do something super fun and introduce you to the first in the series, Claws of the Cat, which, has just recently been released in paperback with a gorgeous new cover treatment. (Book two, Blade of the Samurai, is also out next week in paperback and book three, Flask of the Drunken Master, is out in paperback June 11.)

It’s early morning when visitors arrive at Father Mateo’s home. Early enough that Hiro, the samurai tasked with protecting Father Mateo, is immediately on guard. And his caution is well placed. A samurai has been murdered and the accused murderer herself has requested Father Mateo.

The crime is a brutal one and the authorities, led by the son of the murdered samurai, are certain the girl accused of the crime is responsible. But Father Mateo is equally certain she cannot be. And the evidence, including the manner of death, seems to point to her innocence as well as far as Hiro is concerned. But solving crimes isn’t Hiro’s job. Nor is it Father Mateo’s, for that matter. And yet, solving the crime is the only way to save an innocent girl and that is something Father Mateo is rather intent on!

The duo are given just two days to prove the girl’s innocence and find the real killer. If they fail, the son of the dead man vows to kill both the girl and Father Mateo.

While I’m normally a staunch reader of series in exact order, I came to these books with book two. Which actually worked out ok. Spann does a wonderful job of plotting and writing each installment so that it stands completely on its own or as a great starting point to the series.

But there is a running mystery through the series and that is who hired Hiro and why. Also, starting from the very beginning gives you the benefit of seeing the relationship between Hiro and Father Mateo build and grow as the series continues.

So the re-release of the first three books, is the perfect opportunity for me to back track and see what I've been missing - the introduction of Hiro and Father Mateo and their very first mystery together!

I've sung Spann's praises here time and time again and I don't think I'll ever stop. She is passionate about her subject and so carefully plots and details these books so that 1. the mystery is compelling and 2. every detail is true to the time and setting of the stories. Threads are subtly placed to carry the series from one story to the next, even though (as I already mentioned) they each stand alone. And the characters are so well rounded and richly built that spending time with them in each new book is a true treat!

If you're a mystery fan, do yourself a favor and dive into this series as soon as possible!

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