Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Feature: The Queen's Secret by Karen Harper

Happy Book Birthday to Karen Harper whose latest, The Queen's Secret: A Novel of England's WWII Queen, releases tomorrow.

Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

1939. As the wife of the King George VI and the mother of the future queen, Elizabeth—“the queen mother”—shows a warm, smiling face to the world. But it’s no surprise that Hitler himself calls her the “Most Dangerous Woman in Europe.” For behind that soft voice and kindly demeanor is a will of steel.

Two years earlier, George was thrust onto the throne when his brother Edward abdicated, determined to marry his divorced, American mistress Mrs. Simpson. Vowing to do whatever it takes to make her husband’s reign a success, Elizabeth endears herself to the British people, and prevents the former king and his brazen bride from ever again setting foot in Buckingham Palace.

Elizabeth holds many powerful cards, she’s also hiding damaging secrets about her past and her provenance that could prove to be her undoing.

In this riveting novel of royal secrets and intrigue, Karen Harper lifts the veil on one of the world’s most fascinating families, and how its “secret weapon” of a matriarch maneuvered her way through one of the most dangerous chapters of the century.

Karen Harper is a prolific author penning everything from contemporary romance/thrillers to historical fiction focused on the British monarchy, survivors of the Titanic, and even Shakespeare. This, her latest, is about the mother of the current queen. Most of what I know about this woman comes from The King's Speech, so this is a welcome addition to my TBR for sure!

Order it from BookBar!

Friday, May 15, 2020

Short Fiction Friday: An Elderly Lady is Up To No Good by Helene Tursten

In spite of having more books in my TBR than I can possibly even think about finishing at the moment, I'm thanking my lucky stars that I went out and got both city and county library cards before all this mess started. It's meant that I have access to both library systems' online collections for when a wild hair strikes!

I've been reading a lot of Scandi Crime of late and Helene Tursten has been on my list to try for some time now. But while I do actually have books in both of her series on my shelves, it was her collection of short stories that I was craving!

Maud is 88 and still living on her own, thank you very much. Because she's saved carefully, and because there's a clause that allows her to live in her apartment rent free (a clause the powers that be at the building would love to find a way around), she's also able to travel at her leisure.

Maud is also a problem solver. Like when a celebrity moves into the building with an eye to taking Maud's larger apartment for her own. Or when the neighbors upstairs become a nuisance. Maud knows how to fix these things. And the best part about it all is that no one suspects a thing.

Maud is funny and clever. She plays the old lady when necessary, but she's definitely got all of her wits about her! She's also quite devious :) In each of the tales, she's faced with a bit of a problem to varying degrees. And in each tale she comes up with a solution that I think most people would never even consider. And yet, dark as this collection is, it's quite amusing—perfect for me at this moment! And it's quick. I read this in one sitting in my hammock.

Tursten is a Swedish author who apparently worked as a dentist and a nurse before she took up writing. And while her two series focus on detectives, this little collection deviates from that a bit. (I should note that both detectives make a very brief appearance in this collection.)

If crime fiction is your jam but the current predicament is proving to be a bit hard on your reading habits (in other words, you can't read like you normally would—either because of lack of focus or being pulled in a million directions), this is a great one to dive into. And it's a nice way to dip your toe into Tursten's work and/or Scandi Crime as a whole!

Order it from BookBar!

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Feature: The Last Trial by Scott Turow

Happy Book Birthday Week to Scott Turow whose latest, The Last Trial, is out now!

Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

At 85 years old, Alejandro "Sandy" Stern, a brilliant defense lawyer with his health failing but spirit intact, is on the brink of retirement. But when his old friend Dr. Kiril Pafko, a former Nobel Prize winner in Medicine, is faced with charges of insider trading, fraud, and murder, his entire life's work is put in jeopardy, and Stern decides to take on one last trial.

In a case that will provide the defining coda to both men's accomplished lives, Stern probes beneath the surface of his friend's dazzling veneer as a distinguished cancer researcher. As the trial progresses, Stern will question everything he thought he knew about his friend. Despite Pafko's many failings, is he innocent of the terrible charges laid against him? How far will Stern go to save his friend, and--no matter the trial's outcome--will he ever know the truth? Stern's duty to defend his client and his belief in the power of the judicial system both face a final, terrible test in the courtroom, where the evidence and reality are sometimes worlds apart.

Turow is one of those authors all the highly respected authors in his genre frequently recommend. And yet, I haven't actually read any of his work yet. My own uncle has been trying to get me to read Presumed Innocent for ages now and I even bought a copy, but it's been waiting in my massive TBR.

It's not at all that I don't want to read him. In fact, not only to I want to read his work, I feel I have to. I'm a fan of crime fiction, he's an acclaimed writer of crime fiction! I should be reading him, I know!

The Last Trial is, according to Goodreads, the eleventh book in the Kindle County Legal Series. I'm fairly certain that they don't have to be read in any particular order, but just in case, here's the series order:

Presumed Innocent
The Burden of Proof
Pleading Guilty
The Laws of Our Fathers
Personal Injuries
Reversible Errors
The Last Trial

Presumed Innocent is actually sitting on my nightstand as we speak. I really think my respectability as a crime fiction fan is going to be adversely affected if I don't read it soon!

Order it from BookBar!

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Have You Seen Me? by Kate White

Ally Linden is a bit miffed when she realizes she's arrived at work without her key card. No worries, though, a fellow employee lets her in and she can wait patiently for her boss to arrive and let her into her office. 

There's just one problem—Ally hasn't worked in this office for years! She doesn't know why she's turned up here. She doesn't even realize initially that she doesn't work there anymore. But as her memories do start to come back it appears that there are two days in particular still missing. 

As Ally tries desperately to coax the memories to return, she begins to wonder if they could be tied to a trauma she experienced as a child. And as she digs into both that incident and the time surrounding her missing memories, it becomes clear that she's stirred up something. Only by remembering exactly what, though, can she save herself from very real danger!

Kate White's latest stand alone is an entertaining read about trauma and memories.

Ally is a financial expert who lives a fairly normal life. She's happily married, runs a well respected podcast, and is working on a book. She has friends and sees a therapist regularly about pretty run of the mill issues.

In other words, when she realizes she's having memory issues there's nothing that pops out for anyone that would explain the situation.

Except for one thing. When Ally was a child, she witnessed something fairly traumatizing. And that's immediately where her mind goes when she tries to find a reason she could be missing two days of her life.

I liked Ally, she's rational and logical. She enlists the help of her brother and even hires a PI all in an effort to tease out the two days of memories. But as the story played out, I wanted more tension and more surprises.

It felt like White, the author of the very fun Bailey Weggins series and a number of stand alone titles, kind of took the easy way out with this one. There were some half hearted red herrings along the way, but ultimately the book as a whole wrapped up too conveniently for my taste.

I wanted more of the plot line involving her childhood incident and I wanted less obvious sort of foes throughout the book (I will note that I appreciated the way White balanced the characters—they all had faults and felt more human as a result, but each of them could have been explored more deeply for my taste). I think, for me, this particular outing from White could have been made much better with a little simplification. Too many threads just made for a watered down story as a whole this time.

Order it from BookBar!

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier

Just over a year ago, Marin's four year old son disappeared. They were shopping at a crowded market in the days before Christmas and Marin lost him. Cameras show that he was led away by someone in a Santa Claus outfit, carrying a lollipop he'd been begging his mother for only moments before. 

Marin has lived with the guilt ever since. 

Then a PI Marin hired to help find her son reveals that Marin's husband is having an affair. After losing her son, Marin is determined not to lose her marriage as well. And she's willing to do whatever it takes to keep her husband devoted to her. 

Little Secrets is a super fast read. I started on audio and switched back and forth between that and the physical so that I could read through as fast as possible! No childcare has definitely affected reading time and audiobooks from Libro.fm have been an even bigger part of my reading life of late than even before!

We meet Marin on the morning her son is kidnapped. And then we jump forward, sixteen months later. Marin attends a support group for parents who have missing children but otherwise she's tried her best to put her life back together.

Oh, and she's hired a PI that she hasn't told her husband about.

So when she gets a call from the investigator asking to meet, she assumes it means something regarding her son's disappearance has turned up. Boy is she wrong!

The thing is, Marin isn't really all that shocked to learn that her husband has cheated. In fact, she almost blames herself for the distance. Which is sad considering she already blames herself for their son's disappearance. But her solution for the problem...well, it's an avenue most people wouldn't take themselves!

Hillier does a great job of exploring Marin and her emotions. And she does a really good job illustrating just how many different layers there are to actual people. Marin's choices are certainly questionable, but it's easy to empathize with her even if you (hopefully) don't agree. And she's not the only character Hillier gives voice to as the story continues.

Like I said, it's a super quick read and an intense one as well. Perfect for summer hammock reading :)

Order it from BookBar!

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Simon the Fiddler by Paulette Jiles

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Paulette Jiles's latest, Simon the Fiddler.

Simon has long avoided being drafted into service thanks to the fact that he looks young and he plays a mean fiddle. It came close more than once, but it's not until he's harassed by a drunken braggart in a bar in Victoria that the conscription men catch up to him. 

He's drafted into the regimental band and manages to survive the next few weeks of the war. Luckily, the Confederates surrender. And that's when Simon, along with other musicians from both sides, are asked to play a dinner for officers and their wives. A dinner that introduces him to Doris, an Irish girl working for a Union family. 

The two are separated, Doris must work off her debt to the Union family and Simon goes on his own way. But he never forgets Doris. And getting back to her becomes his ultimate goal.

Simon is a schemer and a liar, which is how he survives not just the war but everything. But meeting Doris changes him some and his determination is not only to get back to her but to be the kind of man she deserves. To support her and be with her.

The story is Simon's road to seeing that happen. It's not a quick read, but it is an atmospheric one filled with music and hardship.

Simon's journey isn't easy, but that's to be expected considering the book is set in the aftermath of the Civil War. And it's a nice complement to Jiles's News of the World, which is set in the same time period. But they are very different stories indeed!

Fans of Jiles's poetic style and prose will love this latest!

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

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookBar

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

The Boy From the Woods by Harlan Coben

Hester Crimstein's grandson has asked for help. A girl in his class has gone missing and no one seems to be concerned. And since he's never asked for anything of this kind from her, Hester is inclined to take him very seriously. 

She reaches out to Wilde, her son's best friend. Wilde spent time in the military and also as a PI with a private firm, so he's perfect for the job. Plus, he's her grandson's godfather, which means he too is inclined to believe the boy. 

But there's more to Wilde's past than his work history. Wilde was discovered hiding out in the woods as a boy. No one knows how long he was on his own and no one ever stepped forward to claim him. Wilde grew up an outsider, something he has in common with the missing girl. 

But when the case takes a bizarre turn beyond that of a missing teenager, Wilde and Hester both find themselves in the crosshairs. And the repercussions of this case could have a huge fallout!

Coben's latest is another fast paced and fun read. But this time, rather than his usual ordinary man or woman dragged into extraordinary circumstances, he's created a pretty extraordinary character in Wilde.

One thing I'd hoped was that we would get some sort of explanation or closure in Wilde's actual story. We do not. But the last pages of the book do seem to hint at a possibility of that to come, so we can still hope!

Naomi Pine is bullied relentlessly. But when she doesn't turn up for school for a few days, no one seems concerned. Except Matthew. Matthew feels guilty for not stepping in to defend Naomi. And there's more to it than that. So Matthew turns to the person he knows has enough clout to do something about it: his grandmother, Hester Crimstein. Hester is a well knows lawyer with the platform and the know how to really get the ball rolling on an investigation. And she does exactly that.

Long time readers of Coben's work will remember Hester, considering she's appeared in multiple titles. She's never been a main character herself and I don't recall ever getting any of her backstory before.

She's fun and feisty and it was really great to finally get a book focused around her and her family.

Coben is always a sure bet for me, but I will say that this one didn't feel as strong as some of my favorites by him. There was the dangling thread of Wilde's story, for one, which I do trust is being held for another book. For another, things just seemed to come together a bit too quickly and easily this time around. I wanted to sink further into the story and get depth overall in terms of characters and plot.

I will say that I quite enjoyed the turn the plot took. I won't give it away, but I was surprised that Coben took the story where he did. If you're a longtime reader, you'll love this latest. Don't make the mistake I did, though. Stock up on Yoo-hoo before you start reading!

Order it from BookBar!

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

The Closer You Get by Mary Torjussen

Happy Book Birthday to Mary Torjussen whose latest, The Closer You Get, is out today!

Ruby's marriage has been under strain for some time but falling in love with her boss has prompted her to do something about it. She and Harry are going to be together. They have it all planned out. And on a Friday evening, the plan is set in motion. They're to tell their respective spouses that their relationships are over, meet up at a local hotel where the room is already booked, and start their new lives together. 

But when Ruby arrives at the hotel, Harry is nowhere to be found. She waits all weekend, and Harry never shows. Then, on Monday, she arrives at the office to be told she's being fired. No explanation from Harry at all. 

As Ruby tries to move forward, things get even worse. She's unable to get work at another temp agency. Her funds are low until her house is sold. And it appears Harry has reconciled with his wife. And then things take a darker turn. Someone has been in Ruby's apartment. Someone has gone through her things. Someone is out to get Ruby and it's only a matter of time. 

Mary Torjussen's latest is an absolute page turner. The book is told in multiple perspectives, but we begin with Ruby. And we're given an inside look at her marriage, her hopes about her future, her confusion when things don't go as expected, and her growing terror as her life spins out of control.

It's not hard to guess the motive behind her harassment but this doesn't take away from the experience of reading it at all!

Ruby is immensely sympathetic. Which you might not expect considering she's married and having an affair with her (also married) boss. And this is perhaps down to the fact that we open with her and spend so much time with her at the beginning of the book.

But it's also down to the story!

Torjussen has built narrators that are multi layered and real. The kind of characters that are not all good or all bad. Because of that, The Closer You Get is an easy and fast read! And great fun, if you're into dark reads like I am :)

Order it from BookBar!

Monday, April 20, 2020

Feature: The Book of Koli by M.R. Carey

M.R. Carey, author of The Girl With All the Gifts and the excellent Felix Castor series (as Mike Carey) is back with a new trilogy! The first book, The Book of Koli, is out now from Orbit. Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

Beyond the walls of the small village of Mythen Rood lies an unrecognizable world. A world where overgrown forests are filled with choker trees and deadly vines and seeds that will kill you where you stand. And if they don't get you, one of the dangerous shunned men will.

Koli has lived in Mythen Rood his entire life. He knows the first rule of survival is that you don't venture beyond the walls.

What he doesn't know is - what happens when you aren't given a choice?

The first in a gripping new trilogy, The Book of Koli charts the journey of one unforgettable young boy struggling to find his place in a chilling post-apocalyptic world. Perfect for readers of Station Eleven and Annihilation.

This is one of those books that's either going to perfectly hit the spot for you right now or be completely inappropriate reading for the moment. For me it would be the former as I seem to be finding some solace and distraction in the whole "it could be worse" idea. 

Order it from BookBar!

Friday, April 17, 2020

Feature: Vagabonds by Hao Jingfang

Hi, readers! This week marks the release of Hao Jingfang's Vagabonds. This is Jingfang's first novel and it's a monster of a read, clocking in at just over 600 pages! But it sounds amazing, and long distracting reads are absolutely in order right now!

Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

A century after the Martian war of independence, a group of kids are sent to Earth as delegates from Mars, but when they return home, they are caught between the two worlds, unable to reconcile the beauty and culture of Mars with their experiences on Earth in this spellbinding novel from Hugo Award–winning author Hao Jingfang.

In 2096, the war of independence erupts when a colony of people living on Mars rebel against Earth’s rule. The war results in two different and mutually incompatible worlds. In 2196, one hundred years later, Earth and Mars attempt to initiate a dialogue, hoping a reconciliation is on the horizon. Representing Mars, a group of young delegates are sent to Earth to study the history and culture of the rival planet, all while teaching others about life on Mars.

Narrated from two perspectives: Luo Ying, an eighteen-year-old girl from Mars who has spent the past five years on Earth, and Ignacio, a filmmaker in his late twenties from Earth on a job to document the delegates from Mars. Both Luo and Ignacio are trapped between worlds, with critics all around, and always under suspicion, searching for where they truly belong.

The English translation is done by Ken Liu, so it's a pretty safe bet that if you're a fan of his work or Liu Cixin, Vagabonds should be in your TBR!

Order it from BookBar!

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Conviction by Denise Mina

Happy paperback release day for Denise Mina and Conviction!

Anna McDonald is not having a good day. Her husband has just announced that he's leaving her, for her best friend. In fact, that very day the set off on a trip, taking Anna's two daughters with them and leaving the freshly betrayed woman alone. 

Why didn't she kick up a fight? Because Anna is hiding something. 

That same day, Anna begins listening to a true crime podcast about a family that was murdered on a seemingly cursed yacht. And when she realizes she personally knows one of the victims, someone she considered a friend once upon a time, she becomes consumed by the case. 

With her friend's betrayed husband by her side, Anne sets off to investigate the death herself. But it's more than just a distraction from her separation. The case has a connection to Anna that goes deeper than a passing acquaintance. And her poking around catches the attention of people she really shouldn't be messing with.

I snagged a copy of this one last December on lab day (the day every three months when I am ever so pleasantly reminded that I am not 100% healthy). It was a treat for myself, prompted by the fact that it was a Reese's Book Club pick. But then it languished in my TBR, waiting for my attention.

Then, in need of distraction from our current situation AND looking for a new audiobook to start while prepping my garden on a rare, warm spring day, I decided it was time to dive in.

Holy cow, why did I wait so long?! Not only that, why did I wait so long to read Denise Mina?!

Mina is a Scottish author who's been garnering praise for years. And I've been reluctant to dive in until she started doing stand alones (I've had The Long Drop in my TBR even longer than Conviction). I get it now. I really do!

Conviction is a fast read, made faster by the fact that the plot takes place over the course of just a couple of days. That, and Anna is a pretty explosively fascinating character! (Literally and figuratively, considering her temper!)

This is also the second podcast book I finished in a week (the other review will go live this summer since it was an ARC).

The podcast in question and the case that draws Anna's attention away from her husband's betrayal is also fascinating, centered around the deaths of a man and his son and daughter on a yacht that's rumored to be haunted.

Upon starting the podcast, Anna actually has no idea it's about a man she knows. Of course as soon as that becomes clear, she's hooked. She didn't know he was dead, much less murdered. And she certainly doesn't believe, as the producer of the podcast clearly does, that he could have been responsible.

But as I mentioned, it's more than just clearing his name or keeping her mind occupied that draws Anna into the case.

If you're looking for a quick and incredibly thrilling read, I highly recommend this one. I absolutely loved it and I especially loved the audio version! Cathleen McCarron was such a wonderful narrator that I'm absolutely seeking out more of the audiobooks she has a hand in.

Order it from BookBar!

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

The Ancestor by Danielle Trussoni

Happy Wednesday, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Danielle Trussoni's latest, The Ancestor.

Bert Monte is struggling. After experiencing another heartbreaking miscarriage, she's desperate to move on. And as part of that moving on, she's asked her husband to leave. Trying to get herself used to a new normal has been an ongoing battle. And then she receives something odd in the mail: correspondence from Italy that claims she's the sole descendant of an aristocratic family with an estate in Italy. 

Bert is stunned. She knows little about her background and has no one she can ask. The letter is accompanied, shortly thereafter, by a visit from a lawyer who says Bert must fly to Italy to meet the other lawyers and view the estate. 

Knowing this is the kind of thing that never happens to everyday people, Bert is leery. But a trip to Italy could be just what she needs. When she arrives, however, she discovers that the grand estate has fallen into disrepair and the rumored family wealth is all but gone. But it's the family history that's especially odd. And as she learns more about her heritage, the more she realizes just how odd it is. 

If you're craving something darkly gothic and mysterious, The Ancestor is perfect!

I know a lot of us have been struggling to read of late. I seem to have gotten a little bit of that back, though still not in a work capacity (it's a much different kind of reading). The trick for me has been true escapism reads and narratives that really suck me in. Which tend to lean on the darker side, even amidst this chaos.

Trussoni, who wrote Angelology and Angelopolis, knows how to weave an incredibly engrossing tale!  And this one begins like a fairy tale (just like the book's promotional material promised!). A promise of a new start and a grand inheritance. A past and history that's previously unknown. Of course, gothic tales are really just a darker side of fairy tales in a lot of ways. And it's clear to the reader pretty early on that this is not going to be a sparkly happily every after kind of fairy tale, but rather a monster in the attic gothic story!

Bert's letter is in Italian, a language she doesn't speak or read. So she has to seek help in reading the correspondence. And that help comes in the form of her soon-to-be-ex's great aunt, a woman who never really liked Bert all that much anyway. And she kind of makes it clear why when she conveys the meaning of the letter to Bert.

She and Bert's grandfather, as well as others, immigrated from Italy around WWII from a tiny village near Turin. A cold and desolate place, if she's to be believed, that was also home to a monster that stole children. And when Bert arrives in Italy she discovers a book that tells more about this strange tale and her native land.

But of course Bert doesn't put much stock in mythology and folklore, she's a modern woman and these kinds of things always have a logical explanation!

Are you getting chills yet? Because I certainly was! And all of this happens in the first 50 or so pages!

Like I said, I need escapism right now. Plus, I've always been a fan of gothic reads. Can't get enough of them, honestly! So The Ancestor was a perfect fit for my reading needs.

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

For more on Danielle Trussoni and her work you can like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookBar


Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Stalker by Lars Kepler

Alright, readers. I've tried to write a blurb for this book so many times and it's just not happening. I'll defer to the very vague one that appears on Goodreads:

The police receive a video of a woman in her home. Hours later, they discover her mutilated body. Soon after, the killer sends another tape, taunting the police. He knows there's nothing they can do.

Only Joona Linna and his old friend Erik Maria Bark can stop this cunning predator. But Bark is hiding secrets of his own--secrets the killer knows.

This is a twisted and dark mystery! I'm not kidding. The book opens with one of the victims. She's having a normal night at home, waiting for her husband to get back from a business trip, and there's a killer in her house. You can probably imagine where that's going.

The book offers quite a few different perspectives throughout the book: the main investigator on the case, Margot (who's massively pregnant), Erik, Joona, and various others all offer up bits of the story. In some cases this might adversely affect the flow of the narrative, but that wasn't the case here.

In fact, the story moves rather quickly. Which is good because this is a bit of a doorstopper for a thriller!

The plot is interesting and seriously quirky. I haven't read any of the previous books in the series, so I assume this is a style thing for the authors. Yep, authors. Lars Kepler are a husband and wife writing duo who, as an aside, tried their damnedest to stay anonymous. There was serious fervor in their native Sweden to find out just who was behind the pseudonym!

This should give you a sense of just how mad people are for Lars Kepler! I can't say that I was quite that impressed with the book. I did like it, I just didn't LOVE it. I'll be reading more—I've got The Hypnotist queued up from the library and I am looking forward to it. For me, though, there was something missing in the reading and I think it likely is the fact that this is the fifth book in the series.

Ok, so like I said, I've never read Lars Kepler. This one was the first pick for a new online book club that I joined on Instagram. And it's Scandi-crime. And I was certain that I had the first book in my TBR (I was wrong about that last one, or I just can't find it in the mess of my bookshelves).

Also, the folks who picked it were clear about the fact that it's the fifth book in a series and I can confirm that it's ok to read on its own. For the most part. I personally think I would have had a stronger connection to the characters had I read the other books first. Also, there are two spoilery issues: First, Erik is actually in the first book of the series The Hypnotist. Second, Joona Linna doesn't actually appear until about halfway (maybe not quite that far) into the book because he's in hiding thanks to things that happen in The Sandman (which I actually did already have in my TBR).

Stalker is out now in paperback and the sixth book in the series is out now in hardcover. The full series order, if you're interested, is:

The Hypnotist
The Nightmare
The Fire Witness
The Sandman
The Rabbit Hunter

If you're into Scandi-crime, you should definitely check this series out. My recommendation, though, would be to start at the beginning.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Feature: Something She's Not Telling Us by Darcey Bell

As you can imagine, having a book release amidst a pandemic is not easy. And so, I've been doing some feature posts to highlight some of these new releases that I haven't yet had the chance to read!

Tomorrow is the official release date for Darcey Bell's latest, Something She's Not Telling Us. Bell is the author of A Simple Favor, which was adapted into a film starring Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively. And now, she's back with another juicy thriller that sounds amazing!

Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

Charlotte has everything in life that she ever could have hoped for: a doting, artistic husband, a small-but-thriving flower shop, and her sweet, smart five-year-old daughter, Daisy. Her relationship with her mother might be strained, but the distance between them helps. And her younger brother Rocco may have horrible taste in women, but when he introduces his new girlfriend to Charlotte and her family, they are cautiously optimistic that she could be The One. Daisy seems to love Ruth, and she can’t be any worse than the klepto Rocco brought home the last time. At least, that’s what Charlotte keeps telling herself. But as Rocco and Ruth’s relationship becomes more serious, Ruth’s apparent obsession with Daisy grows more obvious. Then Daisy is kidnapped, and Charlotte is convinced there’s only one person who could have taken her.

Ruth has never had much, but now she’s finally on the verge of having everything she’s ever dreamed of. A stable job at a start-up company, a rakish, handsome boyfriend with whom she falls more in love with every day—and a chance at the happy family she’s always wanted, adorable niece included. The only obstacle standing in her way is her boyfriend’s sister Charlotte, whose attitude swerves between politely cold and outright hostile. Rebuffing Ruth’s every attempt to build a friendship with her and Daisy, Charlotte watches over her daughter with a desperate protectiveness that sends chills down Ruth’s spine. Ruth knows that Charlotte has a deeply-buried secret, the only question is: what? A surprise outing with Daisy could be the key to finding out, and Ruth knows she must take the chance while she has it—for everyone’s sake.

This sounds like a perfect escapism read, and I can't wait to dive in!

Order it from BookBar!

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Feature: Providence by Max Barry

Good morning, readers! Yesterday marked the release of Max Barry's latest, Providence!

This one is still in my TBR since my husband stole my copy :) But I wanted to promote the book on its release week for all of you. To that end, here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

A dazzling, inventive, and thought-provoking new novel from the ingenious author of Jennifer Government and Lexicon.
Gilly, Talia, Anders, and Jackson are astronauts captaining a new and supposedly indestructible ship in humanity's war against an alien race. Confined to the ship for years, each of them holding their own secrets, they are about to learn there are threats beyond the reach of human ingenuity--and that the true nature of reality might be the universe's greatest mystery.

In this near future, our world is at war with another, and humanity is haunted by its one catastrophic loss--a nightmarish engagement that left a handful of survivors drifting home through space, wracked with PTSD. Public support for the war plummeted, and the military-industrial complex set its sights on a new goal: zero-casualty warfare, made possible by gleaming new ships called Providences, powered by AI.

But when the latest-launched Providence suffers a surprising attack and contact with home is severed, Gilly, Talia, Anders, and Jackson must confront the truth of the war they're fighting, the ship that brought them there, and the cosmos beyond.

Mike's thoughts (this is like pulling teeth, people. He says he wasn't expecting to have to give me a book report!): I really liked how the book dealt with AI stuff - the book is about a crew that's put on a ship as PR puppets; the AI is actually responsible for everything. I also really liked the characters, Gilly in particular, and found the book amusing and dark. 

Providence earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly, which stated "Fans of Robert Heinlein open to more nuanced characterizations will be delighted."

Barry himself describes the book as follows, "It has aliens and spaceships in it, which is new for me, and something I’ve wanted to do since… well, since I was about fourteen, probably. Because I really love aliens and spaceships. But it had to be smart and suspenseful and character-driven, too. Hopefully I figured out a way to do that."

Barry also created a Providence Battle Simulator to go along with the book. You can find that online here

Again, this one is still in my TBR, though I was super excited to not only receive a copy, but to receive a personalized letter from the author to go along with it!

Providence is out now from Putnam. Buy it from BookBar today!

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Nothing Fancy by Alison Roman

I've been heading up BookBar's Cookbook Club for over a year now and in that time, I've not been doing many cookbook reviews here on the blog because I've been profiling them elsewhere. Time to rectify that!

Everyone is looking to cook at home more these days. Understandable considering we're all pretty much on lockdown. And while some items have been difficult to find at the store (everyone is baking right now, it seems!), most stuff is still readily available.

Which is where a collection of trustworthy cookbooks and food blogs comes in.

Alison Roman has been on my radar since the release of her first cookbook, Dining In. She garnered so much praise and such a fervent fan base that I knew I had to get my hands on a copy of Nothing Fancy.

I have to say, the fervor is well earned!

Within days of getting my hands on an early copy of this one, I had plans to make over a dozen recipes. The first was the Citrusy Cucumbers with Red Onion and Toasted Sesame. This light and refreshing salad is a perfect example of the bevy of fabulous salads featured in the book. It's also a perfect example of the fact that much of the book is focused on easy to find ingredients that you likely have on hand already.

Yes, there are some specialty ingredients. I discovered I didn't have my trusty jar of harissa anymore, but the new jar has stretched for quite a few recipes now!

Roman's main focus for this book is entertaining. Cooking for guests and crowds. To that end, her goal is not to have you slaving away in the kitchen while everyone else is enjoying themselves. So, many of the recipes actually have make ahead tips!

Another bonus that goes along with the theme, there are tons of recipes for snacks! And I do love a good snack. A binge of Locke & Key was accompanied by Roman's Labne with Sizzled Scallions and Chile (Almost Ranch), a recipe Roman herself actually calls "The Dip." It's wonderful! Even better, if you don't have labne on hand, Roman says you can sub in Greek yogurt, or sour cream.

While we had family visiting, I made a smorgasbord of Roman's snack recipes including: Spicy-Tomato Marinated Feta (there's that harissa), which was a hit with my toddler! We served it alongside Tangy Roasted Mushrooms and fancy bread. Haloumi is a favorite in my family, so the Crispy Haloumi with Honey and Pistachio was a perfect choice. And the Vinegar-Marinated Butter Beans almost take the place of a favorite marinated giganto bean salad I used to buy.

As for main dishes, she doesn't lie calling her lasagna A Very Good Lasagna and the One-Pot Chicken With Dates and Caramelized Lemon is divine!

By no means have I cooked every recipe in the book as of yet, but this is already a favorite in my kitchen, joining the ranks of other fantastic cookbooks of late. Dining In has also joined my collection!

Order a copy from BookBar! And follow the cookbook club too! If you make anything from this one, share a pic and tag us #BookBarCookClub

Monday, March 30, 2020

Guest Post by Jeff Wheeler

I am excited to welcome Jeff Wheeler to the blog today. Wheeler is the author of, amongst other titles, The Killing Fog, the first in the Grave Kingdom series.

Today Jeff is tackling the topic of how to stay productive while working at home, a challenge I know a lot of us are facing at the moment!

Two Bits of Advice for Working at Home during the Apocalypse

By Jeff Wheeler

During the two decades I worked at Intel Corporation, I saw how working from home went from impossible to expected. Back when I first started at Intel in the early ‘90s, if I got sick I couldn’t work from home because my computer was strapped down at a desk in a cubicle. By the time I left in 2014, it was mostly expected that you’d work from home if you had the sniffles.

As a full-time author, I’ve been working from home for almost six years and I know a thing or two about how to stay productive when there are so many distractions—like incoming texts, social media, and now with the fear and uncertainty of a global pandemic. There are two lessons I’ve learned over the years that might be helpful to re-think where you’re at during this crisis.

The first idea came from the business author Jim Collins and it’s about an expedition two explorers made to Antarctica in 1910. If you think social distancing is bad now, imagine being isolated from the rest of the world in a blizzard that lasted 99 days. The other team made it to the south pole but died on the way back. In his book Great by Choice, Collins talks about how the successful explorer used a technique where he set and stuck to a daily goal of moving so many miles. Regardless of weather conditions, terrain, or setbacks, they went at a certain rate—twenty miles a day. Even when the weather was beautiful (for Antarctica) and conditions were easier, they stopped after twenty miles. That was the cadence of their march, day in and day out. It was measurable, doable, and repeatable. The other team, on the other hand, only trekked when conditions were good. On blustery days, they’d hunker down in their tents and wait out storms that could last for days. I’ve found during my writing career that setting and sticking to output goals creates a virtuous cycle of consistent performance. Back when I was working full-time at Intel, raising a family, and holding down significant responsibilities at my church, my goal was one chapter a week, one book a year. Now that I’m writing fulltime, it’s three chapters a week, three books a year. Having a measurable and consistent goal—and sticking to it—is a powerful technique that has helped me remain a prolific writer.

The second idea I learned during a major business downfall at Intel in 2005. The timing is important because it happened right before the last economic downturn when the global real estate market crashed. What we are going through right now is a once-in-a-century kind of social and economic shock, and I’ve lived through major earthquakes, the dot-com boom, and many other downturns, but this one is one for the history books. Back in 2005, an idea began to spread through the company called “Possibility Thinking.” It challenged the status quo with the notion “I know we’ve always done things certain ways, but what is the fastest way we could do this process?” At Intel, we made microprocessors—the computer chips that are the brains of any smart device. They are complex chips that require billion-dollar manufacturing plants to make atoms line up precisely. It took over 40 days to run the processes that would create these chips. Back then the head of manufacturing used possibility thinking by asking what the fastest time they could run the process and produce a chip? They ran some experiments and just gave it a try, which began to break down assumptions and thinking that had been hard-coded in the company since the beginning. The manufacturing process was cut almost in half. Thankfully, these learnings happened just before the global downturn, which enabled Intel to scale down production quickly and then scale it back up again quickly when demand changed. That nimbleness wouldn’t have been possible without possibility thinking. I’ve used this idea for my writing as well. It used to take me a certain number of hours to write a chapter. I’ve learned to cut that time almost by about a third by examining my creative process and learning how to streamline it. I won’t get into all the details, but I’ve examined my writing conditions in great detail to weed out distractions.

We’ve all been given a strange gift of time during the self-isolation caused by COVID-19. As we’ve told our kids, let’s use the time to improve ourselves, to learn more than we might have learned otherwise. To develop new skills, new interests, to read new books, to practice new skills. During this pandemic, I saw a meme which delighted me. In 1665, Isaac Newton had to take a break from the University of Cambridge due to an outbreak of the bubonic plague. He used that time to develop Calculus and his theory of gravity.

How can you improve during this time that will make your life and other lives better in the years to come?

Jeff Wheeler is the bestselling author of The Grave Kingdom series, the Kingfountain series, the Muirwood series, and many other fantasy novels. To learn more about the Antarctica march and possibility thinking, see his book “Your First Million Words: Finding the Story Inside You.” His new book, The Killing Fog, is also available now.

Huge thanks to Jeff for being on the blog today and to his publicist for organizing the post!

Feature: The Killing Fog by Jeff Wheeler

Today I'm lucky enough to be featuring Jeff Wheeler on the blog with a guest post about staying productive in these odd times. But first, I want to showcase his latest release, The Killing Fog, first in the Grave Kingdom series.

Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

Survivor of a combat school, the orphaned Bingmei belongs to a band of mercenaries employed by a local ruler. Now the nobleman, and collector of rare artifacts, has entrusted Bingmei and the skilled team with a treacherous assignment: brave the wilderness’s dangers to retrieve the treasures of a lost palace buried in a glacier valley. But upsetting its tombs has a price.

Echion, emperor of the Grave Kingdom, ruler of darkness, Dragon of Night, has long been entombed. Now Bingmei has unwittingly awakened him and is answerable to a legendary prophecy. Destroying the dark lord before he reclaims the kingdoms of the living is her inherited mission. Killing Bingmei before she fulfills it is Echion’s.

Thrust unprepared into the role of savior, urged on by a renegade prince, and possessing a magic that is her destiny, Bingmei knows what she must do. But what must she risk to honor her ancestors? Bingmei’s fateful choice is one that neither her friends nor her enemies can foretell, as Echion’s dark war for control unfolds.

The Killing Fog is out now from 47North. Book two in the series, The Buried World, releases in June.

Order it from BookBar

Friday, March 27, 2020

Short (Non)Fiction Friday: The Best American Food Writing 2019 edited by Samin Nosrat & Silvia Killingsworth

Food has always been a distraction for me. Not always a comfort (um, cupcake catastrophe at high altitude is all I'm gonna say) but a definite distraction. And while I don't read much in the way of non fiction, food related stuff is pretty much always an exception.

I subscribe to quite a few different venues and read a lot of food essays, when the topic piques my interest: food trends, food culture, histories of various recipes...Usually resulting in my trying my hand at a new dish or trying a different cuisine or checking out a restaurant I haven't yet been to.

Of course the last of that list is only possible as take out these days. And cooking at home is made difficult by food hoarding and empty shelves. But this is supposed to be a distraction!

Houghton Mifflin has been releasing their best of series for years now and officially added The Best American Food Writing to their list in 2018 with Ruth Reichl as the debut guest editor. (Note, this is not to be confused with the previously published Best Food Writing series.)

Last year, Samin Nosrat was chosen to edit (this year it's J. Kenji López-Alt!). And after combing a selection of food writing from a massive selection of publications, she winnowed it down to 25 pieces running the gamut of profiles on specialty food vendors like Rancho Gordo Beans to profiles on the Pom Wonderful folks! There's a piece on Anthony Bourdain and another on Jonathan Gold. There's a piece from Priya Krishna about food safety inspectors and one from Michael W. Twitty on eating in Ghana. The selection ranges from fun to political and cheeky to somewhat depressing, depending on how you feel about some issues.

But the pieces are all fascinating. Every one of them offered up something I previously knew nothing about. And inspired me to try some things I'd never tried (I'm looking at you, scary salty licorice!).

This collection was so much fun to dive into that I picked up the 2018 edition and already have the 2020 in my must have list.

Order a copy from BookBar!

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Dim Sum of All Fears by Vivien Chien

Lana Lee wants out of the family business. It’s not that working at the Ho-Lee Noodle House is bad, it’s just not what she wants to do for the rest of her life. But when her parents announce that they’re going to visit family overseas for an extended period of time and Lana will be in charge of the restaurant, she has little choice in the matter. And when the couple who owns the souvenir shop next door is murdered, Lana has little choice but to get involved!

This second in the series is a delight! Lana Lee is fun and spunky, nosing around in things that definitely aren’t her business and absolutely get her into trouble, much to the disappointment of her potential new beau, the detective actually assigned to the murder investigation.

But Lana can’t help it! City Charms hadn’t been open long but Lana managed to make friends with Isabelle, one of the owners, bonding over their fondness for mystery novels. And while Lana wasn’t a big fan of Brandon, Isabelle’s husband, she can’t imagine why anyone would have murdered them.

Plus, there’s pressure from the manager at the shopping center as well, who’s specifically asked Lana to look into the matter as a personal favor.

So see, she really can’t help it!

This series is so much fun! The family dynamics between Lana, her parents, and her older sister create inherent drama as do the dynamics between the various business owners in the shopping center. And since the last book, Lana has been added to the board, which really does mean that she has a bit of a vested interest in seeing the murder solved. Especially when two different women pop up claiming they have a right to ownership of the store after Brandon and Isabelle turn of dead!

But of course Lana herself is the driving force of the series. Waiting to see what new drama will be inflicted upon her by Chien's pen makes this a series you'll want to come back to again and again. Be warned, though, you'll need some Chinese food to tide you over as you read!

(Apparently I wrote this review quite some time ago and it's been sitting in drafts. Oops!)

Order from BookBar!

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

A Witch in Time by Constance Sayers

Helen Lambert is going on a blind date. In her thirties and fresh off a divorce, she hasn't done much dating. And sadly, the man she meets isn't what she'd call traditionally handsome. Not to mention the fact that his personality puts her off as well. But when he claims he knows her, that he knew her in past lives, Helen is convinced he must be mad!

And then she begins to have dreams. Dreams of France and of a teenage girl in love with an artist. A teenage girl who's mother is so enraged by the relationship that she casts a spell that lasts generations!

Helen is just the latest incarnation of that girl, Juliet LaCompte. And the man she met on that date, Luke Varner, has been with her through every life. As Helen remembers more and more about her past selves—her life as Juliet in nineteenth-century France, her life as Nora in 1930's Hollywood, and her life as Sandra in 1970's California—she begins to fall for Luke. But the curse is always there. And, as Helen soon learns, she has very little time left in this life. 

I was intrigued by the premise of A Witch in Time: A woman bound by a curse that follows her even beyond death. And she forgets her past every time she's born again.

Constance Sayers's debut isn't quite as witch-y as I would have expected. But it is a lot of fun. As Helen dreams of her past lives, the reader is taken on a tour of each of the places Helen has lived throughout time. I especially loved Juliet's chapters!

Sayers's attention to detail throughout the book and depth of characters is fantastic. But the book did feel a little out of balance. Juliet's chapters are neatly and gradually woven into Helen's story but Nora's and Sandra's are less so. In fact, by the time we get to Sandra, her story is basically two big chunks shoved into the last third of the book. And while Helen certainly has less and less time as the story progresses, I think I would have liked Nora's and Sandra's pieces to resemble Juliet's a bit more in terms of being more interspersed within Helen's narrative.

I want to stress again, though, that the depth of each character is wonderful! They're fully fleshed and full of emotion! The particular times and places that each of their stories is set in also comes to life wonderfully! Aside from a hiccup in terms of balance (for my personal taste) this was a really good debut and I'll wholeheartedly be looking forward to more from Sayers!

Order A Witch in Time from BookBar!

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

The Return by Rachel Harrison

Happy Book Birthday to Rachel Harrison whose debut, The Return, hits shelves today! Readers, this is my favoritest book so far this year and I can't recommend it highly enough. If you're looking for a fantastically creepy escapist read right now, this is it!!!

Julie goes out for a hike one day and doesn't return for two years. During that time everyone is certain that she's dead. Everyone except Elise. Even when they hold a funeral, Elise is convinced that Julie isn't gone.

And then Julie comes back.

Elise, Mae, Molly, and Julie plan a girls' weekend at the remote Red Honey Inn. They haven't seen Julie since she came back but they promise they won't ask any questions even thought they're all dying to know what happened.

Elise is the first to arrive. Mae raved about the hotel, even going so far as to choose each girl's room personally. But Elise isn't charmed by the quirky hotel. In fact, she finds it downright creepy. But she's determined to have a good time. Even when she finally sees Julie and realizes that something isn't quite right.

Holy crap this book is good!

Harrison manages, from the very first page, to create the perfect underlying sense of dread. It ratchets up as the book continues, adding a layer of creepiness under the narrative that becomes undeniable as the story reaches it's crazy-pants conclusion!

Elise, Mae, Molly, and Julie have been friends since college. And they each have their own quirks. Elise, has floundered in life, struggling as her friends have each found their place in the world. Which adds to that sense of dread. She can't really afford the trip but doesn't want to complain. And while spending time together used to be natural and comfortable, Elise's current situation is only part of what makes this particular girls' trip...awkward.

Julie is changed. Her appearance is ragged and unhealthy but she puts up a good front of being the same Julie they all once knew. And yet each of the girls noticed little things that are off about Julie.

She has said, as part of the obvious investigation into her missing time, that she doesn't remember what happened. And her friends have vowed not to ask. But as the weekend progresses, they all decide they have to broach the subject somehow. Because they're worried.

Their overall discomfort is only part of it. As I mentioned above, Elise finds the hotel itself unsettling, a feeling that permeates every paragraph of the book. It just oozes weird! And I loved every page!

This is the kind of genre read that gets everyone excited! A perfect debut, a smashingly awesome entry into the horror world, one that I wish I could read again for the very first time!

Order from BookBar!

Monday, March 23, 2020

Backlist Bump: The Black Echo by Michael Connelly

In 1992, Michael Connelly debuted with The Black Echo, his first novel as well as the opening novel to the Heironymous Bosch series (now 20+ novels in). I was 11. At the time, I got most of my mysteries and thrillers from my grandmother and while she did have a few Connelly titles, she didn't have any Bosch books. So my starting this series has been a long time coming! But I did start, at the end. And now I'm working my way back.

Harry Bosch hasn't made many friends inside the LAPD. In fact, after being demoted and transferred, he's made plenty of enemies. So when he's called to the scene of a death everyone is ready to write off as a simple overdose and insists on a full workup, no one is happy about it. What Harry doesn't reveal is the fact that the victim is someone he knows. Someone he served with in Vietnam. Someone who used, but should have been in recovery. And the scene has just enough questionable evidence for Harry to suspect murder. 

Some of you have likely already read this one. It's been out for over 20 years now, after all. But since I've only just really gotten into the Bosch series (by way of the show and now Connelly's new Renee Ballard series), it was time for me to go back to the beginning.

And if you haven't read these but love mysteries, well we've got a pandemic to read through and this backlist is sure to keep you busy! (Also, if you happen to be doing the Popsugar Reading Challenge this year, the advanced section has a Book From a Series With More than 20 Books item.)

If you're a fan of the show, like I am, then this book will ring a little familiar to you. But the producers of the show did change quite a few things. Gone was the connection to Harry's Vietnam days, for one. Also gone is the bank heist subplot I didn't mention in my blurb above.

I love Bosch. He's crusty and grumpy. Even at the start of the series, he's already in his 40s and jaded by the job and by the things he's seen and experienced in his life. Things that are revealed in this book, in terms of his military history, and things I know from having read later books.

His military background in particular is something that I really loved. He's a Vietnam vet and since this book involves a fellow soldier, Connelly delves quite a bit into Harry's Vietnam history. It's something that I think makes him stand out for me (and something you don't see much now—but you definitely did see more of when the book originally released). This part of Harry's past—and the backstory with his mom, which is only briefly touched on in this installment—are such a huge part of what makes the character who he is!

But, as someone reading the series lopsided, he's relatively young here! He doesn't have a daughter yet, for one. He's still actively part of the LAPD, for another (the current books have him retired but still investigating).

I had so much fun doing a deep dive into Harry's history that I've already got The Black Ice and Concrete Blonde lined up and ready to go in my TBR! And again, there's a ton of backlist to dive into, so I'm sure to be busy for a while!

One side: I did find it curious, since I've read some of the books now but am only just reading the start of the series, that Connelly starts Bosch's series midstream in Bosch's career. This installment has references to previous cases that made me wonder if Connelly had ever considered any sort of Bosch prequels. I kind of hope it's something he's thought about because it'd be really cool, especially in this day and age, to get some time capsule Bosch mysteries!

Connelly has a new book hitting shelves in May and the next season of Bosch airs in April.

Order The Black Echo from BookBar!

Friday, March 20, 2020

Short Fiction Friday: Revenge by Yoko Ogawa

I don't recall where I first heard about Yoko Agawa's Revenge, but it was recommended online and I added it to my must have list. When I was in New York in January, I realized I was walking distance from The Mysterious Bookshop, so of course I headed over there as soon as I dropped my stuff off at my hotel! Surprise, surprise, they had Revenge on their shelves :)

If bleak and add are your bag, this is the book for you. It's eleven interconnected short stories, each as bizarre as the next.

In the first story, "Afternoon at the Bakery," we meet a woman who is buying a cake for her son. She waits and waits, but no one comes to help her. Finally, another woman enters the bakery and the two of them talk for a bit. The first woman tells the second woman the story of her son.

Now, I've struggled with this kind of story since the birth of my own son. But something about Ogawa's writing kept me turning pages.

Most of the stories have a bit (or a lot) of tragedy in them. All of them are weird. There's a man who runs a museum full of torture artifacts. There's a writer who spies on her landlord. There's an old post office filled with kiwis!

For a lot of people, I will admit this book is going to be too dark and dismal for distraction right now. But for the right audience, this is going to be just the kind of quirky and bizarre read they'll need to completely forget the real world around them!

This is one of just five of Ogawa's books to be translated into English. I highly recommend it (again, if this is your genre!) for fans of short fiction. Her latest, though, is a dystopian novel called The Memory Police that sounds fabulous! I haven't had the chance to read it yet, but if you're short story averse, that one might appeal!

Order Revenge from BookBar!

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel

Apologies, folks, I had planned to have this posted on Wednesday. Unfortunately for me I wasn't able to finish up the post until today!

Rose Gold Watts was told that she was sick. She was told she was allergic to everything, that she needed a feeding tube, that she needed a wheelchair. Rather, Rose Gold was a victim at the hands of her own mother.

Her mother was sentenced to five years for the abuse Rose Gold suffered. And Rose Gold was the key witness in the trial. But now Patty has served her time. Patty is ready to start again and ready to mend her relationship with Rose Gold. And Rose Gold seems open to healing their relationship as well.

But what Patty doesn't know is that Rose Gold has changed.

From the moment Rose Gold arrives to pick Patty up from jail, the mother isn't sure where she stands with her daughter. And neither is the reader!

The story alternates between Patty's perspective as she's getting out of jail and Rose Gold's perspective beginning when her mother begins serving her sentence. And while I don't want to give too much away, I will say that Rose Gold's evolution is an interesting one. She's been under her mother's control for so long, she's essentially been locked into a permanent childhood. But of course, being raised under questionable circumstances is going to have an impact!

I loved the push and pull between Patty and Rose Gold. Patty thinks things are going to go back to normal. She never really does admit she's done anything to Rose Gold, so the normal she expects is basically a daughter who will cow to her and be her best friend again. And Rose Gold herself is a mom now, so Patty not only has to mend her relationship with her daughter, she has a grandson in the mix too.

I was able to avoid any spoilers on this one even though ARCs started going out this past fall. I want to make sure I give you the same chance in your reading. Hopefully I've piqued your interest without ruining anything, because this is such a fabulous one to dive into that way!

I do want to add that I had the chance to alternate between the physical book and the audio (which gives me a chance to read even when I can't actually read!) and I highly recommend the latter if you're an audiobook listener. Narrators Megan Dodds and Jill Winternitz do a really wonderful job of giving voice to Patty and Rose Gold. You can get it from Libro.fm and support your favorite indie (if you don't have a nearby indie of your own, consider BookBar!).

Darling Rose Gold is out this week from Berkley!

Order from BookBar

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

A Little Post About a Our Big Deal Current Situation

I'm not going to hedge around it, readers, I'm struggling right now. My anxiety is pretty off the charts without a national emergency, so for anyone who's also riding a roller coaster of all the emotions right now, I feel you.

The blog hasn't been quite as active as I would have liked of late. Anyone who knows me personally knows that in addition to the blog, which I started back in 2008 as a way to continue recommending books to people post bookselling life (I also contributed to Bookbitch.com for quite a few years), I have a 15 month old, I'm also an associate agent at a literary agency here in Denver, and I work part time at a local indie bookstore. So yeah, when I say I wear a lot of hats, I really mean it.

This is a weird and super stressful time right now. Because I work in publishing and have for almost 20 years now (god, I'm old!), I'm paying a lot of attention to how this affects the industry. Authors are having to cancel tours and, as a result, new releases in particular are going to be affected.

I'm trying to figure out how I can best help, even if it's just a tiny bit, here on the blog. I'll likely add a few additional kinds of posts, specifically features posts of books I haven't yet had a chance to read for review. We'll see.

In addition to that, BookBar, the store I work for, has opted (along with many other indies), to close to the public right now. That said, the store is continuing to operate and will be there for your book purchasing needs!

They're offering curbside pickup for locals as well as free shipping on orders. 

Because I try to keep all the facets of my life so separate, I usually link to Goodreads in every book cover and leave it at that (with the exception of blog tour required info). But, I will begin to link to BookBar with posts from here on out. If you choose to purchase the book from BookBar, fantastic! I'd encourage all of you to consider them or your own indie as you hopefully stockpile books and other items to keep yourself occupied and sane in the coming weeks.

I will be posting book recs and reviews here and on Instagram. If you don't follow me there yet, the link is in the sidebar here.

Stay sane and buy books, folks!

Little Wonders by Kate Rorick

It's a bleak and dreary Tuesday here, folks, which isn't helping given the current situation. So it's fortunate, then, that I'm on the blog tour for Kate Rorick's latest, Little Wonders, which turned out to be a warm and light hearted read!

Quinn Barrett's perfectly organized life begins to crumble when a moment of rage goes viral on the internet. And new mom in town, Daisy, is the unfortunate cause of it all. 

Quinn had no idea anyone had witnessed her meltdown at the Halloween parade, much less filmed it. But then video of her destroying her carefully crafted costume for her son is leaked and gains national attention. 

Daisy is new to Needleton and still trying to fit in. She hadn't meant to film Quinn's incident. She also never intended for it to be posted on the internet! And now she's doing all she can to make sure no one knows she's responsible. But the more Daisy tries to fit in, the more she and Quinn are thrown together, and the closer Daisy's secret is to being exposed. 

I'm a new mom and, much as I've made efforts to separate all the various pieces of my life so that the blog doesn't become about being a mom or about being someone working in publishing, it gets harder and harder to compartmentalize. Especially when Kate Rorick's books come up for review!

Her last release, The Baby Plan, landed in my lap when I was pregnant. And it was a tough read for me because of that. But now I'm a mom with a toddler and her latest book is all about moms with toddlers!

And oh, how I can relate to Quinn and Daisy! Quinn's need for control and Daisy's feelings as the new mom (we haven't done much socializing as parents, so I also very much feel like an outsider amongst other parents).

Little Wonders was cringe-y at times, reminding all of us parents that none of us is perfect but as long as we try our best, we're doing a good job!

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

For more on Kate Rorick 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 | BookBar

PSA: I'll be adding a link to BookBar for titles featured on the blog. They, along with many indie bookstores, are offering shipping deals during this stressful time and I'd urge you to take advantage of those deals. With most stores closing to the public, online orders are going to be huge for the weeks to come. BookBar is offering free shipping (and if you're local, curbside pickup is an option too) for purchases.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

The Sea of Lost Girls by Carol Goodman

Happy Tuesday, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Carol Goodman's latest, The Sea of Lost Girl.

It's almost 3 am when Tess is awakened by a text from her teenage son, Rudy: Can you come get me?

Later that same day, Tess learns that Rudy's girlfriend has been found dead. What's more, it appears she'd broken up with Rudy just before the accident that claimed her life. But was it an accident at all? The police certainly seem to be entertaining the idea that it could be murder and it appears Rudy is their prime suspect. 

But Tess soon begins to suspect there's something entirely different going on. Something tied to other local mysteries and a local legend surrounding a local landmark called the Maiden Stone. 

Leave it to Carol Goodman to weave a fascinating mystery riddled with folklore and absolutely oozing atmosphere! It's a formula she mastered and perfected in her debut, The Lake of Dead Languages, which released way back in 2002. And it's a formula that's made her books must reads for me ever since!

Imagine your own son has been accused of a heinous crime. Imagine all the evidence, at least according to local rumor mill and possibly even authorities, suggests a member of your family is guilty of this crime. And now imagine how you, as a mother, would feel.

Of course Tess believes her son is innocent. Of course she's willing to do whatever it takes to prove she's right.

But then you throw in Goodman's signature blend of boarding schools and small town folklore. Weirdness ensues! And I love it. I love that she makes you wonder, even just a little, whether the story is seated in something a little off kilter and unnatural. Supernatural.

The Sea of Lost Girls is the latest in a long string of excellent releases from Goodman. Any fan of twisty thrillers should have her at the top of their reading lists—and if you don't, I highly suggest getting on that immediately!

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

For more on Carol Goodman 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

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

The Companions by Katie M. Flynn

In a near future world where concerns about an outbreak keep many restricted to their homes, technology has evolved to allow for the downloading of a person's consciousness in the immediate moments after death. For those people, life continues beyond death as companions.

They're owned by the corporation that "made them" and leased to customers for various uses. Most remember who they are and some even remember their own deaths. This is the case with Lilac, a girl who died in high school and now seeks to find the people she once called friends.

The Companions had so much promise. The premise is a fun one and the introduction of Lilac in the very beginning of the story could have been a great set up for a near future sci fi mystery. Unfortunately, that's not what this book is.

Chapters alternate between a variety of narrators including Lilac, and unfortunately we don't get to really follow her story. At least not in a way that would reveal much about her as a whole.

We're also never given an explanation about the virus that plagues this near future world. And we never get a glimpse at the company that's created the companions either. In fact, the story moves from perspective to perspective so frequently that it soon becomes clear there's no real narrative to follow at all.

It's hard for me to actually pin down what the plot of this book is. A warning of what could come if this kind of technology is ever invented, certainly. An analysis of our culture and it's response to death?

In the end the book lacks too much in terms of plot for me to say that I got much out of it at all.

As much as I truly hate to write a negative review, The Companions was a real disappointment.