Wednesday, May 24, 2023

The Spider by Lars Kepler

Happy Wednesday, readers! Today I'm a stop on the Compulsive Readers tour for the latest in Lars Kepler's Joona Linna series, The Spider

Fair warning: while much of the series can be read out of order without major spoilers (mostly character development stuff), this one does contain spoilers for both Lazarus and The Sandman

Saga is on leave after recent occurrences, but that doesn't mean that a killer can't have her in her sites. And this one is playing a game. 

Saga had received a postcard saying she was the only one who would be able to save Joona Linna. But as time passed, the postcard got pushed to the back of her mind. That is until a tin figure arrives with her name on it. Saga recognizes the figure but only after the person is killed in a  truly horrific manner. 

But, brilliant as she is, Saga very quickly puts the pieces together and is allowed back on the force to assist with the case. Desk work only! And with the first clue, the postcard, she knows there will be nine victims. 

But the killer is one who uses intricate puzzles. And while they provide everything the police need to identify and even save the victims, the killer proves to be faster and perhaps even more clever than Saga and Joona. 

With Joona's life on the line as the ninth victim. Saga becomes increasingly desperate to find the killer—predictably going beyond the bounds of her newfound privileges and making herself the prime suspect. 

If you've read Kepler before, then you know that the husband and wife team are truly masters at plotting! And you know that they write twisted stuff!

If you're new to them: they're masters at plotting and writer twisted stuff!

This latest in the series puts both Joona and Saga in an interesting position. Both are suffering from the fallout of a case involving a killer that almost claimed both of their lives. And both are dealing in different ways. This particular case forces them to reckon with that fallout!

Readers, this is one of the series that got me through 2020. I'm not kidding! Beginning all the way back in 2009 with The Hypnotist, Kepler have proven themselves to be two of the best in the business! And following Joona, Saga, and the others throughout nine books has been an absolute thrill and, in spite of the fact that you might think I'm truly messed up, a pleasure!

The Spider is everything I'd hoped it would be complete with unexpected twists and turns! The authors put their character through the wringer and I am waiting on the edge of my seat for more!

If you'd like to read the series in order, it is:

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

The Spider is officially out tomorrow from Zaffre. (It'll be out in the States in July.)

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Thirty Days of Darkness by Jenny Lund Madsen

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Jenny Lund Madsen's debut, Thirty Days of Darkness!

Hannah is an award-winning author. But while her books are critical darlings, they're not exactly commercial successes. In fact, they're the kind of books people laud but don't actually read. 

Which doesn't keep Hannah from looking down her nose at more popular authors, like crime writer Jørn Jensen. And it's exactly that attitude that has Hannah traveling to Iceland with plans to write a crime novel of her own—in thirty days. 

The hope was that the isolated setting would be the perfect inspiration and atmosphere for conceiving of and writing said novel. But when a very real crime occurs, Hannah finds herself at the center of an investigation that could mean much more than her career and reputation as a writer. 

Thirty Days of Darkness is such a fun plot! A snooty author who talks garbage about a popular author finds herself in a pickle when she's challenged to write her own commercial crime novel in a month. And then gets caught up in a real crime!

I love this kind of book, especially since Hannah brings to mind a few very real authors who have downplayed the effort and talent that go into commercial novels. And she's not easy to like! In fact, as a reader I kind of wanted her to fail just because she was so high on herself! But she made for a fun lead character to follow, that's for sure!

If Thirty Days of Darkness is any indication, we're in store for lots of fun to come from Jenny Lund Madsen. 

And a shout out to Megan E. Turney. Translators don't get enough credit in my opinion, and they're a key part in bringing such a wide range of voices to English speaking audiences!

Huge thanks to Orenda and to Random Things Tours for including me on the tour! 

Thirty Days of Darkness is out now in the UK and will be out in the States in November.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Paradise-1 by David Wellington

Alexandra Petrova screwed up. As punishment she's been tasked with a deep-space mission to check on Paradise-1, a colony her own mother relocated to less than a year ago. Along with a brilliant by troubled doctor, a snarky AI, and their pilot, the small crew is to travel to the planet to find out why there's been no recent contact from the colony.

Unfortunately for the crew, they're awakened from cryosleep only to find that they're under attack and the ship has been severely compromised. 

This is a chonker that clocks in at almost 700 pages, which obviously requires a bit of a commitment. But only a bit because this book moves FAST!

I've been reading Wellington for some time now. I love his Monster Island series, the Cheyenne Clark series, and the Laura Caxton series. So yeah, he's a bit of an auto-buy for me. And he certainly did not let me down with this latest. 

I will warn you, though, this is the first book in a trilogy...

I love the characters and their backstories. Petrova is a member of Firewatch, essentially the police. Her mother was their former head and the new person in charge definitely seems to hold it against Sasha. But it's nothing compared to the training instilled in her by her mother. So though she's not exactly happy about her new assignment, she knows fighting against it is futile. 

Zhang Lei has his own problems to worry about, not the least of which is the fact that he has a government ordered "babysitter" that injects him with drugs any time he gets a little too excited. But he has seen things that no one else can even comprehend. And, as mentioned above, he's undoubtedly brilliant. 

Sam Parker, the pilot of Artemis is an interesting part of the mix because he and Sasha have a past. And neither of them is exactly thrilled to be thrown together now. But they can both be professionals. Mostly. 

There are other side characters that make an appearance, including the ship's avatar. But my favorite character of the bunch is Rapscallion. He's a sentient robot tasked with being part of the mission. He's snarky as all get out but exactly what the crew needs for this mission in particular. 

I don't want to ruin anything but I'll add that this is an absolutely perfect read for fans of sci fi horror (which I adore), anyone who enjoyed Martha Wells's murderbot books, and James S. A. Corey's Expanse series!

Order a copy from Bookshop.org!

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

The Medici Murders by David Hewson

Happy Tuesday, readers! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for David Hewson's latest, The Medici Murders

Marmaduke Godolphin was once well known in certain historical circles. First as a professor with his own group of followers dubbed the Gilded Circle. Then as host to multiple historical documentaries. 

Of late, however, Godolphin's shine has started to wear off. That is until he claims to have made an explosive discovery regarding the assassination of Lorenzino de Medici.

To prove his theory, he's enlisted the help of two archivists in Venice, one of whom, Arnold Clover, was a contemporary of Godolphin's circle. But on the eve of a Carnival celebration, Godolphin himself is murdered. 

The Caribinieri has asked for Arnold's help, as an insider and as an academic. And they have a very short time to come up with an answer or the case will be turned over to another investigator. There are multiple hurdles in their way, not least of which is the fact that Godolphin has made many enemies over the years—including those of his own circle. But does the murder have to do with Godolphin's personal matters? Or is it tied to his so-called discovery about Medici?

The Medici Murders kicks off a new series for Hewson. Book two, The Borgia Portrait, is due out later this year. 

Hewson is something of an expert on Italian history, as is evident here an in his earlier Nic Costa series (which was set in Rome). As a fan of the earlier series, I was very excited to return to Hewson's writing. He has a knack for creating sympathetic characters (Arnold) and plots that are entwined with the most fascinating and little known bits of history. 

But even aside from the points pertaining to the main plot itself, the settings and the little details that flesh them out, make you feel like a bit of an insider. 

Arnold is not Venetian. He's moved there in his retirement and is working as a volunteer archivist who sometimes helps English and American tourists navigate the archives where he works. He's passionate about Venice and history and has learned where the hidden gems are, where the best pasta is, and where to get a great affordable wine. 

I also appreciate that he's a retiree, which honestly brings to mind a bit of an Agatha Christie comparison in reading for me. Arnold, is a great contemporary counterpart of sorts to Miss Marple! (He's much more likable than Poirot!)

The Medici Murders is out now and is a perfect read for fans of historical mysteries (though it is a contemporary setting). I am definitely looking forward to another mystery featuring Arnold!

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Beautiful Shining People by Michael Grothaus

Hi, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things Tour for Michael Grothaus's Beautiful Shining People

After creating a quantum code that tech companies are vying for, John has accepted an offer from Sony. Which is why he finds himself in Japan in an apartment paid for by the company. But until things are finalized, he has a lot of time on his hands. 

Jet lagged and lonely, he wanders into a cafe offering ear cleaning, relaxing him to the point that he gets his first good sleep since arriving. 

Returning to the cafe the following day, he befriends the waitress, Neotnia, eventually winning over the owner and the odd little dog that resides there as well. But as John's friendship with Neotnia blossoms into the potential of something more, AI attacks around the globe begin to hit, taking down major cities in moments. As they watch the happenings, unsure where the next target will be, John learns something about Neotnia that changes everything he believed possible. 

Ok, so this is a hard one to sum up easily. It's also a bit difficult for me to say if you like x you'll like this book because the most obvious comp my brain is fixated on GIVES TOO MUCH AWAY!

This is a very character-driven tale. In fact, it's not until about halfway through the book that the first attack happens and that John begins to learn more about Neotnia. Fortunately, Grothaus has built a small but strong cast of characters you want to follow to the end. 

John is just seventeen, living in our world a few decades from now. He's awkward and doesn't make friends easily. He's also in a country that's foreign to him where he doesn't speak the language. So meeting Neotnia is not only a welcome distraction on that first evening (she admits they were supposed to be closed when he arrived) but the fact that she speaks English is more than he can even hope for. 

The owner of the cafe, and as it turns out one of Neotnia's only real friends, is a former sumo with his own sort of tragic past and reason for disliking people in general. 

They make a motley crew to be sure, but this little found family comes together easily and eventually what seems like a fated purpose becomes clear. 

I've always been drawn to cross-genre stories that are hard to categorize. Because I have broad interests! And this one hits a lot of those for me. First, as I mentioned above, wonderfully drawn and complex characters. Second, the near future setting that closely resembles our own until the smaller details start to reveal themselves (also, the waiters at the burger place make me thing of the Big Hero 6 series!)

The underlying and ominous politics of this world are another draw for me. For John's entire life, there's been a war brewing and though it's not hit the midwestern town he hails from, it's affected him directly in a way that is revealed as he tells Neotnia about himself. 

Of course all of this makes mostly for great world building in the background of the tale. At least until the big reveals start to happen. 

This is, I think, the perfect kind of book. One that has elements that appeal to a very wide range of readers! At heart, it's quite book clubby with LOTS to talk about. It's a bit sci fi, it's a bit coming of age...It's just flat out fabulous!

Beautiful Shining People is out now in the UK and is available for preorder in the US.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Lone Women by Victor LaValle

Adelaide Henry is just one of the women staking a claim in Montana. She's used to hard labor—her family was one of the Black farming families in Lucerne Valley. But Adelaide couldn't stay there. 

Unfortunately for Adelaide, all of the usual hardships of being a lone woman are hers to bear. And being a Black woman doesn't help. But Adelaide has another challenge many have never faced: a curse that's been her family's responsibility all her life. And now it's Adelaide's responsibility. 

Victor LaValle is one of my absolute must-read authors. In fact, whenever he has a project of pretty much any time, I add it to my must read/must watch list. It's been the case ever since The Ballad of Black Tom. And I have a bit of a habit of taking his books on vacation too. 

Which is exactly what I did with Lone Women

I snagged an early copy and brought this to, of all places, Great Wolf Lodge. It was a two night trip and, if you've ever been, we splurged for the room with the kids' alcove complete with bunk beds and a TV. I honestly think that was my kid's favorite part of the whole trip: climbing up and down the bunk bed ladder and having complete (almost complete) control over a TV he could watch IN BED. (Don't we all kind of like that part of hotels?)

The lodge theme seemed like a perfect setting for me to dive into this one and I was not going to miss my opportunity!

Sidebar: I had the chance to meet LaValle less than a month after I read the book. When I told him I took it to a "lodge-themed family resort" he knew exactly what I was talking about—because he and his family went to one for a week! 

Anyway, back to the book. 

Frist, I had absolutely no knowledge whatsoever about homesteading in Montana. I didn't know who was eligible, I didn't know women doing it on their own was common, and I had no idea what it entailed. 

Through Adelaide's eyes, we see what it's like to be one of the lone women. We see what she and the women around her have to endure. 

And then, of course, we also get the extras that come with a LaValle read: that eerie supernatural element that makes homesteading even more horrific than the reality of it already was! 

I loved this latest from LaValle! He's expertly blended fascinating history with a story that is about so much more than survival!

Order a copy from Bookshop.org!

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

The Space Between Us by Doug Johnstone

Happy Tuesday! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Doug Johstone's latest, The Space Between Us

Now, Johnstone is known for his Skelfs series, but this one is a little bit different.

Lennox, Heather, and Ava have nothing in common: a teenager living in a kids home, a divorcee who lost her child to cancer and now suffers the same illness, and a pregnant woman desperate to leave a bad marriage, respectively. But they're linked due to very strange circumstances. All three suffered what could have been fatal strokes—and indeed were for a number of people—but all three miraculously recovered by morning.

In the moments leading up to the stroke, all three saw a light in the sky. And when an odd cephalopod washes up on shore, all three realize it's connected. But when Lennox touches the creature, it speaks to him, and the three find themselves coming together to help this creature. 

Of course there's much more to the story. The three are wanted by the police after Ava's terrible (and terribly connected) husband reports her as being kidnapped. Then in saving the creature more unfortunate circumstances occur. 

Luckily for them, a somewhat jaded reporter was assigned the story of the strokes and wants to help. His feeding them info is one more thing that allows them to stay ahead of the police and other agencies seeking the creature. 

This is a seriously cool book! The perfect kind of read that truly does suck you in from the start, digging into your brain in a way that won't let you stop until you get to the end and find out what will happen!

And it's truly enjoyable as well with fabulous characters and pacing akin to a thriller, even though it's something a little adjacent to that genre. Not quite crime thriller, not quite science fiction, but a comfortable balance of both. 

The Space Between Us is wonderful! And even more wonderful, Johnstone puts his PhD in nuclear physics to use. While I can't swear everything in this book is scientifically accurate, I can promise you that it feels that way, making it even easier to become fully invested!

This one is out now from the fabulous folks at Orenda!