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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Trouble by Katja Ivar

Good morning, readers! Today I'm super excited to be part of the Random Things tour for Katja Ivar's latest Hella Mauzer mystery, Trouble

Having recovered from nearly losing her life on her last investigation, Hella has decided it's finally time to face down her own past. 

It's been over a decade since her family was killed in a horrible accident. And Hella has taken great pains to avoid the family home. Until now. Even though she's recuperated, four floors of stairs to her apartment aren't exactly welcome. And the house has been empty all along. 

No sooner has she arrived, however, than her former boss calls her with another case. This time it's a simple background check for the new head of homicide. But it's delicate considering the man was a revered spy. And it probably wouldn't be great for the man's soon to be employees to be doing the investigation either. 

Hella agrees, but only if she's granted access to her family's file. After all, it was only until recently she began to believe their death might not have been an accident after all. 

At first her case is simple and the man seems to be the perfect candidate. But as Hella digs further, she does find something suspicious. Whether it concerns the focus of her investigation or is a coincidence is up to Hella to discover. 

This is such a fun series!

Set in the 50s, this third in the series takes place right on the heels of book 2, which takes place directly on the heels of book 1. That said, each can be read as a standalone (with minor spoilers if you backtrack). 

Hella's father was a top tier spy in his day. In fact, he died just after announcing his retirement. Hella was the only one left, having been sick the day the family took their fateful last outing. 

Working for her old boss again isn't exactly Hella's cup of tea. The last favor she did for him didn't end that well. But hints of something suspicious in her family's file are enough for her to take the job. 

Unfortunately for Hella, her family's file is empty. 

No matter. She sets forth to do her promised job and requests that her old boss look into the file in the meantime. 

And really it should be a simple job. But trouble finds Hella no matter where she goes!

Hella is a fabulous character! A female police officer in Finland in the wake of WWII and Finland's own issues. This third in the series is set in the days after Stalin's death, so things aren't exactly stable around the country. 

And in truth, each book deals with those issues to an extent. Evil Things concerns the body of a dead Russian found just over the border and Deep As Death involves the suspected murders of prostitutes. 

As mentioned, each book can be read as a standalone. And honestly any spoilers are pretty minor. 

Fans of fabulous Nordic Noir should take note, Ivar is an author you definitely need to add to your TBR! It's also perfect for fans of historical fiction and mysteries in general. It's definitely a series I want more people to discover—and I can't wait for another installment myself!

Trouble is out now in the UK and will be out in the US later next month!

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

So Pretty by Ronnie Turner

It's Tuesday! I hope it's warmer wherever you are than it is here!

Today I'm super excited to be part of the Random Things Tour for Ronnie Turner's So Pretty

Now, I have to admit I've been struggling with this review. Every once in a while I'm able to dive into a book with very little knowledge of what I'm in store for and it turns out to be an amazing experience! And that's what happened here. I really don't want to post anything that will prevent another reader from that same surprise. 

So rather than risk ruining it, I'm not penning my own synopsis this time around. Here's the publisher's description:

When Teddy Colne arrives in the small town of Rye, he believes he will be able to settle down and leave his past behind him. Little does he know that fear blisters through the streets like a fever. The locals tell him to stay away from an establishment known only as Berry & Vincent, that those who rub too closely to its proprietor risk a bad end.

Despite their warnings, Teddy is desperate to understand why Rye has come to fear this one man, and to see what really hides behind the doors of his shop.

Ada moved to Rye with her young son to escape a damaged childhood and years of never fitting in, but she’s lonely, and ostracised by the community. Ada is ripe for affection and friendship, and everyone knows it.

As old secrets bleed out into this town, so too will a mystery about a family who vanished fifty years earlier, and a community living on a knife edge.

Teddy looks for answers, thinking he is safe, but some truths are better left undisturbed, and his past will find him here, just as it has always found him before. And before long, it will find Ada too.

Things you should know: you can rely on Orenda for fabulous books! That's just a given. Also, this book is creepy! They're calling it a gothic thriller, and that's definitely the most appropriate genre tag ever!

I'm tempted to say this a bit of a slow burn, but tight, short chapters give the book a great momentum, pulling the reader along as the story alternates between Teddy and Ada's perspectives. And the writing is excellent! I mean really, excellent. With multiple POVs, I think it can be challenging for authors to truly distinguish between the voices but Turner has done a great job. Teddy and Ada, and even the non POV characters that live in Rye, are all so well built and rounded, it makes for such an immersive experience.

Also, shout out to the fact that the author is a bookseller! We're not an exclusive club, but I think any bookseller (former or present) loves to support bookseller authors! At least I know I do. 

If you're a fan of unsettling reads, this is the book for you!!!


Monday, January 23, 2023

Emily Wilde's Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett

Happy Monday, everyone! Today I'm thrilled to be part of the Compulsive Readers tour for Heather Fawcett's latest, Emily Wilde's Encyclopaedia of Faeries. (First in a new series!)

Emily Wilde is young and determined. And also a bit fusty, with a preference for keeping to herself. But absolutely nothing will keep her from learning and documenting as much as she can about the world's fairy folk. 

Which is how she finds herself in the small village of Hrafnsvik. Here she hopes to find evidence of a folk unique to the area. But while she immediately befriends a tree brownie, she clumsily insults the head of the village, leaving her on the outs until her maddening and unwelcome colleague, Wendell Bambleby, arrives. 

Wendell is nothing but supportive and, in truth, wins over the very people Emily put off fairly quickly. But as Emily becomes entwined in the village's issues with the fair folk, she makes more and more trouble for herself. Having Bambleby along proves to be fortuitous in many ways, but Emily has her suspicions about the man and his motives. 

This book was an utter delight!

Told in the form of Emily's journal during her research trip, the book is at once driven by Emily's wonderful voice and truly enchanting world building!

As I mentioned, Emily is a bit...set in her ways. She's not overly social, she doesn't do particularly well with groups of people, and she acknowledges that she has a terrible habit of putting her foot in her mouth. Which she does immediately and with no clue how or what to do to put things right. 

But she is brilliant in the field, has an excellent memory for fairy lore, and proves that she can think quick on her feet in implementing that lore in real life when dealing with the fair folk. 

Which might be why Wendell obviously finds her charming company. And much as Emily hates to admit it, it's clear that she not only views Wendell as a friend, but that he's likely the only one she really has. 

As I mentioned, because this is told in journals, Emily is our narrator (most of the time) and the character we get to know best. And I adore her! I see myself in her, to be honest, an introvert who's happiest with books!

I had the extreme pleasure of listening to this one on audio, narrated by Ell Potter and Michael Dodds. Potter is absolutely perfect as Emily, giving literal voice to our narrator (and offering pronunciations things I would have butchered in my head otherwise).  

Like I said, this was a genuine delight. A completely charming book that has left me anxiously awaiting whatever comes next for our intrepid academics!

Emily Wilde's Encyclopaedia of Faeries is out now in the UK and in the US!

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

The Blue Zones American Kitchen by Dan Buettner

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Dan Buettner's The Blue Zones American Kitchen: 100 Recipes to Live to 100

Many of you might already be familiar with "Blue Zones." After all, this is only the latest title from Buettner about such. 

If you aren't familiar, blue zones are areas Buettner and National Geographic have determined are areas where people live longer. And they attribute this to diet. It's the same philosophy behind other diets as well. And I use diet here not in the crazy fasting or trendy lose weight quick methods but rather in the overall habit of a person's eating. 

Plant based, whole food diets have been proven to be better for your health. They promote heart health and overall wellness. 

Sure, you could go plant based and subsist on french fries and potato chips, but that's not what they mean. Nor is that what this cookbook is all about. 

In this latest, Buettner has focused strictly on the Americas, collecting recipes from home cooks, chefs, and even historians. The result is a collection of recipes and stories that are both appealing and fascinating!

Sections are broken into: Indigenous, Native, and Early American; African American; Latin American; Asian American; and Regional and Contemporary American. There are also guidelines and bios on the contributors. 

But what about the recipes?! I know, as a cookbook junkie it's really the recipes that count! And as someone who has recognized that I need to make healthier decisions (due to family history and other components), the recipes are an even bigger factor!

Paired with fabulous photography, the book is a collection of truly appealing and approachable recipes that can be made (with a few exceptions) with easy to find ingredients and techniques/methods most home cooks will be comfortable with. And while the book isn't necessarily focused on seasonality, it's clear that many of the contributors count this as a factor in creating the recipes. 

In the Indigenous section, for example, the very first recipe in the book is a fantastic recipe perfect for combatting the doldrums of winter: Baked Acorn Squash with Berries (dried blueberries and fresh cranberries)!

The African American section, which does call for Carolina Gold Rice (easy to find online) has multiple recipes particularly suitable for New Year's Day (minus the pork): Hoppin' John With Carolina Gold Rice and Sapelo Red Peas (an heirloom field pea that can be substituted with black eyed peas) and the Spicy Cabbage Salad or you can go an even cozier route with The Last Meal: Sweet Potato and Black-Eyed Pea Soup (paired with the cabbage salad, of course). 

As someone who has a particular affinity for seafood, the Latin American section offered a recipe I admit was the very first to draw me as a must make: Hearts of Palm Ceviche (hearts of palm are wonderful and are not used nearly as much as they should be!). There's also a Jicama "Scallop" Aguachile that's truly amazing!

The Asian American section is a bit of a catch-all, featuring Vietnamese, Indian, Filipino, Korean, etc (there's a lot included in this section, which would be my only complaint as I think each one could fill a chapter themselves!). And while I don't have much of a sweet tooth, the Brown Rice Pudding with Nuts and Cardamom called to me immediately! (I adore rice pudding!) Mayak Gimbap (which no longer intimidate me after making some from Eric Kim's Korean American) and Kimchi Pancakes are two of my favorite easy Korean dishes. And of course there's a Miso Ramen that I think you might find yourself craving on the regular!

Finally there's the Regional and Contemporary American section, which features, amongst others, Cajun recipes! There's no way I can pass up trying plant-based Cajun food. I joke, a lot, but for various reasons it's a cuisine that doesn't necessarily feature much by way of vegetarian or vegan food. And yet, there's a Mushroom Etoufee that's much easier to make in landlocked Colorado than the traditional crawfish! And since it's winter and I'm a fan of all things comfort food, the Modern Borscht is next on my list to make :)

All in all, I think this is a perfect cookbook for anyone looking to go plant based, anyone even remotely interested in adding more plant-based dishes to their meal rotation (me), and especially anyone under the false impression that plant-based meals can't be as exciting and tasty as the dishes they're used to!

Huge thanks to TLC Book Tours for including me on the tour! The Blue Zones American Kitchen is out now!

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Bookshop.org

Monday, December 5, 2022

A Deadly Covenant by Michael Stanley

Happy Monday, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for the latest Detective Kubu mystery, A Deadly Covenant!

A water pipeline could mean great benefit for a the small village in Botswana. But when bones are discovered at the proposed site, the project comes to a screeching halt. 

Detective Sergeant Kubu is sent to the scene along with a pathologist, to observe the recovery. Or at least that was the plan. It doesn't take long for them to realize there are in fact nine bodies at the site. And by all appearances the remains of Bushmen. The fact that the remains are bones means they've been there for some time, but a mass grave definitely warrants investigation. 

Unfortunately, the mass grave isn't the only problem in the area. Kubu learns of not one but two men who went missing right around the same time in the mid 70s and decides to look into the case. But there are more immediate concerns when a local man is murdered in what appears to be a burglary gone wrong. Neither case is exactly under Kubu's purview, but the locals seem determined to settle the blame on a man who very well may be innocent. 

This is the second book in the prequel series featuring a rookie Detective Kubu, following Facets of Death

This is really such a fun series! Whether you've read the early books from later in Kubu's career or are completely new to the books, A Deadly Covenant is a fabulous read!

These particular prequels are set in the 90s, early in Kubu's career. He's still learning the ropes and not quite the pro he'll become. But he is still more driven and more observant than many in his line of work!

One of the many things I adore about this series is Kubu's sense of justice. In this particular outing, when a Bushman appears at the crime scene and is later used as a scapegoat, Kubu is one of the ones determined to see the man freed. Not only does he suspect the man is innocent, but he quickly realizes the local police are willing to do whatever it takes to close the case quickly and easily, without worrying about evidence that goes against their theory. 

Of course politics play a big role as well—both local and wider. The treatment of the Bushmen is already fodder for international news and the story of a massacre and mass grave only make things worse. 

And that's literally just one small facet of what occurs in the book! A huge part of the fun is watching how the story unfolds as the authors weave together multiple threads to form a suspenseful and fascinating mystery!

Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip never fail to amaze me and never disappoint either!

A Deadly Covenant is out in the UK on December 8 from Orenda!

Monday, November 28, 2022

Dragonfly Summer by J.H. Moncrieff

Hello, everyone! We are now in the thick of holiday season. Here's to keeping your sanity!

Today I'm excited to be part of the Random Things tour for J.H. Moncrieff's latest, Dragonfly Summer!

It's been almost thirty years since Jo left the tiny town of Clear Springs. In that time, not only has she never looked back, but apparently she's forgotten most of it. 

Including the disappearance of one of her best friends. 

But someone wants her to remember. She receives an anonymous note with information about a vigil to be held all these years later. And on the note is a message to find Sam. 

Sam's case was never solved. Most assume she died. And while someone wants Jo to find the truth, many want this part of the past to remain buried. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this latest from Moncrieff! A decades-old mystery and the drama of teenage friendships...it had an air of Yellowjackets around it that I am 100% on board for!

Jo has been living in New York City ever since graduating high school. And though her plans to become a writer have fizzled, her interest in investigations can't be denied. Most disturbing though is the fact that when the article about Sam's vigil arrives, Jo has no memory of her at all. 

As the dawning realization hits that this is someone she knew and that this was undeniably a huge event in her life, the prompt to look into it is one that pulls her back to Clear Springs. That and the discovery that the other friend in their old trio has died as well. 

Jo is the only one left who seems to want to find out the truth about Sam. But she can't even trust her own memories, which is something I find absolutely fascinating!

I know for most, comfort reading right now means holiday rom coms. For me, though, Dragonfly Summer is exactly the kind of comfort read I'm looking for! A good mystery, a twisty plot, and a book that I can get cozy and curl up with that begs to be read in a single sitting! 

Dragonfly Summer is out from Flame Tree now! Order a copy today from Bookshop.org!

Friday, November 18, 2022

Short Fiction Friday: Tread of Angels by Rebecca Roanhorse

When Celeste's beloved sister, Mariel, is accused of murder, she's willing to do absolutely anything to make sure her name is cleared. 

Celeste and Mariel are both Fallen. But Celeste can pass as one of the Elect. So much so that her father separated the two, taking Celeste with him to live as one of the privileged while Mariel and her mother were relegated to the Drench. 

And Celeste swore she would never abandon Mariel again. So even though that means aligning herself with the one demon she swore she'd never see again. And even though it means risking her own soul with the Order of Archangels, Celeste agrees to become Mariel's advocate in her case. And she's decided to take it one further and find the real killer, thereby ensuring her sister's freedom. 

But investigating a murder in Goetia, much less the murder of one of the Virtues, is no easy task. And Celeste is about to learn just how little she truly knows her own sister.

It's Friday! (Finally!) 

I haven't been doing much leisure reading of late because I've been working to catch up on client projects. But I have a stack of designated one sitting reads that I've been plumbing for relaxing reading. And I've been taking advantage of audiobooks as well. 

In the case of Tread of Angels, it's both short (just about 200 pages) AND I have the audio from Libro.fm. Add to that the fact that it's Indigenous Heritage Month and that the book released this week, and it immediately made the tippy top of my TBR list. 

This is a little book that FEELS bigger. At least in terms of scope and world! 

Roanhorse mirrors real world class and race issues by packing the pages of this book with a world in which descendants of fallen angels are the lower and lesser class. The setting is Victorian meets Western but wholly unique. 

Celeste is a card dealer at the Eden, where her sister is also a performer/singer. It's a gambling house and drinking hole where knife fights and gun shots aren't completely unheard of. And it's there, during a brawl, that Mariel is dragged off as the prime suspect in a murder. 

But the whole thing stinks of privilege and conspiracy! Of course when one of the elite is killed officials would turn an eye to a Fallen. And they have little to no recourse against the powers that be. 

But that's not going to deter Celeste. Nor are the various tests she must figure out how to trick her way through so she doesn't get caught as a Fallen herself. It's a good thing she has an ally of sorts with a local demon lord! (Not that she really wants to ask for his help.)

This book is tiny but mighty! My only real complaint: I want more of Goetia! Which surprised me a little considering I'd thought I was over anything pertaining to fallen angels. Just goes to show you that a great story can pull you in no matter what!

Shout out to Dion Graham who narrates the audio. He is a delight to listen to! (The audio clocks in at 4 hours 25 minutes.)

Tread of Angels is out now from Saga! Order a copy from Bookshop.org!