Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Broken Ones by Stephen M. Irwin

Remember how I said I was in the mood for some horror? Yeah, I haven't quenched the craving yet! Two years ago, I was completely blown away by Stephen M. Irwin's debut, The Dead Path. I have been waiting for a new release from him ever since. And this month it finally came! The Broken Ones released on August 7 and I had a chance to dive in -- almost without interruption -- this past weekend.

Oscar Mariani is a Barely. His division, the Nine-Ten -- nicknamed "the Barelies" -- was created in the aftermath of Gray Wednesday. On that day, without explanation, everyone became haunted by a ghost only they could see. The stress of the occurrence led to an increase in crimes that could only be blamed on the mental anguish of having your own personal ghost. Any case thought to be linked to the ghosts falls under Nine-Ten purview. Three years later, the excuse is wearing thin and Mariani's division is on its last leg. But when Mariani's brought in on a case involving a mutilated corpse marked with occult-like symbols, he's adamant that it not be turned over to homicide. After all, the markings alone make it his responsibility. And when the body is accidentally sent to be destroyed before the investigation has gotten off the ground, Mariani becomes dead set on solving it no matter what. 

As with Dead Path, Irwin again proved that he is a master storyteller! The Broken Ones is, at heart, a detective story but the blending of mystery and paranormal is excellent. Not only that, but this future world plagued by ghosts, a failing economy, and a struggling government felt completely real and wholly believable.

The plotting alone is spot on. I was left guessing until the end, carried along in Mariani's investigation every step of the way and unable to unravel the mystery myself. And while it's not necessary to be left guessing in a mystery, it's always fun when an author is able to keep things hidden from the reader until they're revealed to the character.

The Broken Ones is a must read for horror fans, mystery fans, and readers looking for an excellent dark thriller. This book and it's predecessor are so great, I wish I could read them both again for the very first time!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Kill You Twice by Chelsea Cain

Archie, Gretchen, and Susan are back in this fifth installment of Cain's highly twisted and super popular series!

Archie is called to investigate after the body of a man is found hanging from a tree in Mount Tabor Park. They trace the man back to a local girls' shelter where Archie runs into a very familiar face. Then another body is found, this time burned under a local landmark. The only connection between the scenes seems to be the discovery of a white lily. Meanwhile, Gretchen Lowell is up to her old tricks vying desperately for Archie's attention. And when she doesn't get it, she goes after Susan, giving her an exclusive on the very first Beauty Killer murder. In return, she wants Archie to visit promising him an inside scoop on his latest case.

I am definitely a big fan of this series. The interplay between Archie and Susan, Archie and his partner, Archie and Gretchen, and Gretchen and everyone else seems to be so carefully thought out and intricate. I don't know if Cain has threads of plot planned out for subsequent books along the way, but it certainly feels that way. Kill You Twice in particular shows a lot of growth with regards to Archie's character and the way he deals with Gretchen.

Readers be warned, though, you must read these books in order and you should be aware that they are very graphic. Kill You Twice was as dark and disturbing as ever!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Audio Review: Fated by Alyson Noel

Daire has inherited a very powerful gift. She is a soul seeker, able to travel between this world and all others. But Daire knowns nothing of this ability. Now that she's sixteen, she's plagued by strange visions. The doctors aren't able to help and her mother has become desperate. So when they receive a call from Daire's paternal grandmother -- a woman she and her mother have had nothing to do with -- offering to help, they are understandably wary. Paloma is a healer though and the off chance that she can help is enough for Daire's mother to agree. Now, Daire will learn how to control the visions and travel the realms. She'll also learn how to fight an ancient enemy in order to protect those around her.

I really loved the premise of Fated. The combination of Native American and Hispanic mysticism and folklore worked on so many levels. Shamans and spirit animals, the imagery of the different realms, Daire's abilities, all of it melds so perfectly in Noel's created world.

I had the chance to listen to this one on audio -- finishing up the last 1/4 of the book via the physical copy (I was desperate to know what was going to happen!). I have to say, Brittany Pressley did a fantastic job as the reader here. She sounds like a teen, for one. She got Daire down perfectly! Her tone is dripping with sarcasm in all the right places, and Daire's snarky teen attitude really came through in Pressley's narration.

I've seen a few reviews that have taken issue with Daire's attitude. I didn't have any problem with her perhaps because I was a bit of a sarcastic teen myself.

This is the first in Alyson Noel's newest series and is to be followed by Echo in November and Mystic and Horizon next year.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Diving Belles by Lucy Wood

Good morning, all! I'm happy to be part of the TLC book tour for Lucy Wood's Diving Belles today!

This is a bit of an atypical review in that it's a short story collection rather than a novel, so I'll skip my usual synopsis if that's ok with you.

Wood's debut short story collection features tales with a decidedly folkorish tone. In the title story (my favorite by far) a new company offers wives the opportunity to dive down and retrieve their husbands from mermaids. In another story, a woman slowly transforms into a rock. And in yet another, a daughter discovers her mother is not alone at all since her husband left, but has a companion only she can see.

Each of the stories is magical and strange indeed. Wood's style is lyrical and her imagery is amazing, but I did find that I struggled a bit as the book progressed -- I felt as though some of the stories spiraled into nonsense!

I'm also not a huge fan of open ended stories. A few I can handle fine, but I found that the majority of Wood's stories had no real conclusion. I know this is a matter of personal taste and it may very well be one of the things some readers enjoy most about the collection.

I am generally a huge fan of short stories and most definitely encourage readers to dive into a great collection as often as they possibly can. If you're a fan of fairy tales and folklore, Diving Belles should most definitely be on your radar. Give it a try, you may find it's right up your alley in spite of my own complaints. I have to admit that the book first came on my radar thanks to a UK blogger I follow. She absolutely raved about the collection and had none of the issues I did with the book.

For more stops on the tour, visit the official TLC tour page here.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Army of Ten

Gretchen McNeil wants YOU to join the Army of Ten.


Help spread the word about Gretchen's highly anticipated new release, Ten, due out September 18 and you can win cool prizes. There are rankings and there are steps to move up in the ranks as well. First is just a simple tweet about the Army of Ten.

Go here to sign up, get the dets, and get started!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Roots of the Olive Tree by Courtney Miller Santo

Good morning! I am thrilled to be the first stop on the TLC tour for Courtney Miller Santo's excellent debut today!

The Keller women are a strong and hearty bunch. Legend has it it's the olive oil. Anna's father brought his family and his olive trees over from Brisbane to the New World in 1898. They settled in Kidron where the man built the family home and everyone, Anna included, worked and harvested the crop. Today, it is the daughters who still live at the homestead, Anna and the first born of each generation. At 112 years old, Anna is more active and sharp than most at her age. And she says she's darn well going to live another decade -- to ensure she becomes the oldest living person ever! Anna's daughter, Bets, is in her nineties and also in great health, though her husband now lives in an assisted living facility. Her daughter Callie runs the Pit Stop shop alone since her husband died. Deb, the next in line, is the most tragic, having been imprisoned for much of her own daughter's life. And finally Erin, raised by her grandmothers in the absence of her mother. 

Erin recently returned from a gig with the opera in Italy. Anna suspects something is going on -- Erin was contracted to be in Italy for three years and returned to Kidron without so much as a word -- and now they know why. Erin is expecting. Soon there will be six generations of Keller women on the farm. Six women who share Anna's genes. Six women who could be the key to Dr. Amrit Hashmi's longtime search for the truth about aging, and a solution to it altogether. In the Keller's blood, he hopes to find the secret of their longevity, but his arrival stirs up secrets each generation has been careful to keep to themselves. 

First I just have to say The Roots of the Olive Tree is a lush and amazing read. As rich and layered as a good olive oil itself!

Santo's debut features an ensemble cast story -- there is no main character. Instead, the narrator alternates, giving readers a fair amount of each woman's story. Santo does this so well that the reader also gets to learn a good deal about each character in spite of the number of narrators. Not only that, but in handling so many characters, one would think that the different voices of the women themselves might get muddied, but this is definitely not the case.

As the story progresses, even more about the family is revealed. Anna's secret comes earliest in the tale as it's the initial story stirred up by the arrival of Hashmi, the geneticist. And each section of the book ends with a little bit from the doctor himself.

Whether it truly is the olive oil that's the secret to their longevity or simply the bonds of family, I'll leave it to you to discover. Santo's tale is lush in detail and the Keller women completely suck you in. Suffice it to say this is one fabulous story!

Readers who want to sample  a taste of Santo's work should know that HarperCollins is offering a free e prequel, Under the Olive Tree, a short story that takes place two years before The Roots of the Olive Tree, as Erin is preparing to leave for Italy. The story also comes with a sample excerpt of Roots to get you started.

Roots of the Olive Tree officially hits shelves today. I guarantee you'll want to run out and grab a copy after reading the excerpt!

For more on Courtney Miller Santo, visit her official website (above). You can also like her on Facebook, and follow here on Twitter. And finally, if you're on Pinterest, check out her boards!

To see the rest of the stops on the tour, visit the official TLC tour page here.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Breed by Chase Novak

To be totally honest, my horror craving has been sneaking up on me for a while. The cool snap merely pushed it further along! I dove into Scott Spencer's Chase Novak release as soon as it landed on my doorstep, desperate for some gory, well-plotted horror.

The Twisdens had everything except the one thing they wanted the most -- kids of their own. After exhausting every possible avenue, they hear of a doctor in Eastern Europe who's had unprecedented success helping infertile couples conceive. In spite of their fears, Alex and Leslie opt for the treatment and soon their hopes and dreams come true, with nightmarish consequences.

Years later, Alex and Leslie are no longer the couple they once were. The treatment did something terrible to them. Something that has put their own beloved children in danger. And as the kids become desperate, they find their only option lies in escaping from their own parents.

Chase Novak (aka Scott Spencer) makes his horror debut with Breed, a somewhat campy but entertaining and original tale reminiscent of 80s horror. The characters are a bit thin throughout most of the book. My own preference would probably have been to see more of the kids' perspectives here. The post children parents were creepy and odd but I think the book as a whole could have been much more effective in the scare department.

There were also some interesting elements that weren't really played up. I won't delve into which since I don't want to give anything away. Overall though, Breed was a fun read and a unique one at that.

Breed officially hits shelves September 4.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

New releases 8/21/12

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Simple by Kathleen George

Roots of the Olive Tree by Courtbey Miller Santo

Visiting Tom by Michael Perry

One Last Thing Before I Go by Jonathan Tropper

The Map of Lost Memories by Kim Fay

An Echo Through the Snow by Andrea Thalasinos

The Absent One by Jussi Adler-Olsen

A Partial History of Lost Causes by Jennifer Dubois

Trickster's Point by William Kent Krueger

Vacation by Matthew Costello

Hidden Things by Doyce Testerman

The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin

Not My Blood by Barbara Cleverly

The Survivor by Gregg Hurwitz

A Killing in the Hills by Julia Keller

The Devil in Silver by Victor Lavalle

Heaven by Alexandra Adornetto

The Rise of Nine by Pittacus Lore

Possess by Gretchen McNeil (pb)

New on DVD:
The Dictator

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
Whiplash River by Lou Berney
The Calypso Directive by Brian Andrews
Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Friday, August 17, 2012

Autumn: Purification by David Moody

Sorry I've been quiet of late, folks. It's been a kind of nuts week! I've got a BIG project at work that's moving along pretty nicely but I'm beat at the end of the day. Plus, I've been a little blue: all of my sisters are in college now *sniff* -- they're getting all grown up so fast!

Anywho, we've got a nice cool snap that has me in the mood for fall, which puts me in the mood for horror reads! I have some I desperately need to get to really soon, including David Moody's final two Autumn titles.

If you've not read Autumn and Autumn: The City stop now. Beware of spoilers! Here's the link to my post on Autumn: The City if you're interested (no worries, it's parallel to Autumn and won't ruin that one for you.)

The survivors from Autumn and Autumn: The City have finally come together and are holed up in a military bunker. Unfortunately, the soldiers in said bunker have been cut off from the virus and are not immune, making things complicated for the groups. As the dead swarm above, the survivors come to the conclusion that they must soon move on. Their opportunity comes when the soldiers begin a mass attack on the horde outside.

Third in the series of five presents new challenges to the growing group. The interaction with the military was brief. Not sure if this element will return (though they're kind of doomed anyway). The end of Purification was great, though, and I look forward to what comes next for these poor survivors!

Hope everyone has a great weekend and some good books to keep them company through it. I have some grand reads in mind chez moi :)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Whiplash River by Lou Berney

Morning, all. I'm a stop on the TLC tour for Lou Berney's Whiplash River this morning. If you like your mysteries with a whole lot of funny, you need to check out Berney's Shake Bouchon series!

Shake's dreams have finally come true! The ex wheelman is the proud owner of his very own restaurant in Belize. Course he had to take out a pretty big loan from the local drug lord, Baby Jesus, a man who wants his payments no matter what. And it's kind of bad for business when a guy comes in and shoots up the place one evening. But it's even worse when the whole restaurant explodes, leaving Shake with no source of income. Soon Shake finds himself on the run and picking up his old crime boots once again as he joins forces with his ex on a heist that could mean a serious score. 

This is the second book in the series, though I've not had the pleasure of reading book one, Gutshot Straight. And oh, how I wish I had! Don't get me wrong, Whiplash River can definitely be read on its own and as an intro to the series without any issues, but it's clear that Shake has more of a story and now I want to know what it is!

So feel free to start with Whiplash and be prepared to run out and buy Gutshot as well.

Whiplash is sort of a caper mystery. There's a lot of play on Ocean's Eleven (and quite a few mentions of it) and the book is heavy on the humor, which is pretty great in my opinion. In truth, Whiplash River was the perfect weekend read for me. It's silly and a bit WTF?! at a few points, but it's pure entertainment (and would make a fabulous movie! I picture Peter Weller a la Dexter as Quinn!). Berney's dialogue in particular is witty and snappy. Paired with a quick pace it makes for an excellent one-sitting read. I'd recommend fixing up an umbrella drink and finding a good spot in the shade for this one: once you begin, you'll be hardpressed to stop before you reach the end!

For more stops on the tour, visit the official TLC page here. And for more on Berney and his work, visit his website (above). You can also like Whiplash and Gutshot on Facebook.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

New releases 8/14/12

Some of the new releases this week are:

Motherland by Amy Sohn

The Kingmaker's Daughter by Phillippa Gregory

The St. Zita Society by Ruth Rendell

The Traitor Queen by Trudi Canavan

When It Happens to You by Molly Rigwald

Valley of Ashes by Cornelia Read

Crackpot Palace: Stories by Jeffrey Ford

Cascade by Maryanne O'Hara

And When She Was Good by Laura Lippman

The Headmaster's Wager by Vincent Lam

Romeo Spikes by Joanne Reay

The Lost Prince by Selden Edwards

Where'd You Go Bernadette by Marie Semple

Touched by Cyn Balog

The Kill Order James Dashner

New on DVD:
The Hunger Games

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
Death of a Schoolgirl by Joanna Campbell Slan

Friday, August 10, 2012

Hell or High Water by Joy Castro

Nola Cespedes may finally get her break when her boss at the Times-Picayune assigns her a feature story. When Nola hears the actual assignment, though, she's more than a little apprehensive: After Katrina, a number of sex offenders vanished off the map. The paper wants a piece covering locals' thoughts and perspectives on the issue as well as that of convicted sex offenders still living in the city. While Nola would rather do just about anything than interview possibly violent pervs, she knows it's her best shot in making a name for herself and leaving New Orleans behind. Almost simultaneously, news of a kidnapping is making its way through the Crescent City. Connections are made to two recent murders and Nola suspects that it could make a great parallel to her own story.

Joy Castro's plot is really smart but much too complicated to easily sum up. There are a number of threads to the story: Nola's assignment, effects of Katrina, New Orleans itself, the kidnapping, Nola's personal life -- all of it comes together in a somewhat surprising way by the time the story wraps up. In this, Castro has shown herself to be a truly master plotter!

I also loved Nola. She's abrasive and a little off putting in her attitudes and actions, but getting to know her through the book shows that she's a layered character with a lot of things going on. In fact, obvious though it may be, Nola is a huge part of the story.

And finally there's New Orleans itself. Castro's New Orleans is not the happy "laissez les bons temps rouler" New Orleans that some folks focus on. Nor is it a dark and criminally rank cesspool either. It's a pretty fair and accurate portrayal of the city. New Orleans seems to cause authors problems. I'm sure any city is like that for readers who are familiar with them. By that I mean coming across tons of descriptions that either don't do the city justice or are completely inaccurate. I've come across a lot of authors who truly love the cities they are writing about and those authors take care in presenting the city in a way that is fair and truthful. I feel that's what Castro has done here.

I think Hell or High Water is a fabulous thriller and would definitely recommend it to readers looking for a clever and intriguing read.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Thing About Thugs by Tabish Khair

Amir Ali has come to London under the pretense of telling his story to Captain William T. Meadows for study. See, Amir has convinced Meadows that he is a thug. His reasons, as you will learn, are sound but the results are unplanned. During his residence in London, a series of gruesome murders takes place. And while the locals are searching high and low for the culprit, they inevitably begin to turn an eye to the obvious scapegoat -- the confessed thug living in their midst. 

There are a number of really cool things about Tabish Khair's debut -- the setting for one. Victorian London is a fascinating place. The time period lends itself to some really interesting avenues for a writer, like that of phrenology. A truly bafflingly misguided search for answers into a mystery that has plagued people for centuries: is there a quantifiable predictor of behavior. In this case, violent behavior. The idea was basically that a person's skull was evidence of a person's personality. And of course the idea gave way to some pretty ridiculous theories all based in the pseudoscience of the day.

Amir, while he is untruthful, has led everyone to believe that he is a murderous criminal. And being a foreigner to boot -- in a time and a place that was definitely prone to suspecting outsiders simply for being outsiders -- leaves Amir with no choice but to discover the identity of the killer himself.

Which leads to another fascinating aspect of the tale -- Victorian grave robbers. See we come full circle back to my anthropology courses I've discussed here before and common themes that appeal to me in fiction!

I will confess, as I've seen others on the tour do, I did not have much of an idea of the historic use of the term "thug" as it's used here. But Khair does a great job of explaining things in a way that a reader unfamiliar with any of these aspects can still get the gist and enjoy the story. In fact, there's an underlying sense of humor to the tale along with the more serious (if you really think about them) things being discussed.

The Thing About Thugs is an interesting period mystery with a clever plot and a unique structure (which a lot of the other bloggers have mentioned). I had less of an issue with the switches in narrator than some, but will admit there were a couple of places where it became a bit murky for a few lines.

For more stops on the tour, visit the official TLC tour page here.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Death of a Schoolgirl by Joanna Campbell Slan

I adore Jane Eyre. Adore it. So when I had the opportunity to read Joanna Campbell Slan's first in her new Jane Eyre Chronicles, I said of course I was interested! I happily spent my weekend ensconced in Slan's version of Jane's post Bronte world.

In the wake of the events at Thornfield, Jane and Edward have taken up residence at Ferndean. Edward is still recovering from his injuries in the fire and the couple has recently welcomed a new addition to their family -- son Ned. During all of this, Adele has been living in London, a student at Alderton House School for Girls. When a disturbing letter arrives from Adele containing pleas for help and a shocking threat, Jane decides she will travel to London to check on the girl. Edward is under doctor's orders to take it easy for the immediate future and plans to follow Jane at a later date, leaving his new wife to travel alone. But Jane is quite capable of taking care of herself and, in spite of a bad turn en route, she arrives in London ready to help Adele. Jane gets to the school just as the body of a dead student is being carried away. Though the dead girl was originally reported as having died of natural causes, Jane and others are sure there is something more sinister to blame. Coincidentally Alderton is one teacher down and Jane is mistaken as the replacement, which leaves her in the perfect position to investigate the death and the threats Adele has been receiving. But if the death is indeed murder, that means that Jane and Adele could both be in danger. 

I thought Slan did a fantastic job with Jane. She was, for the most part, a pretty convincing continuation of Bronte's heroine. My one complaint concerns the nice and neat wrap up at the end of the story. The build throughout the book was great but then the end -- specifically the unveiling of Jane's attacker -- felt like an unnecessary afterthought.

Overall, Death of a Schoolgirl was a fun period mystery and a welcome return to a cast of much-loved characters.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon take 2

Morning, all. Since I didn't have my book in hand for my original stop on the TLC tour for Carlos Ruiz Zafon's latest, I get a second shot. Happily I do have a copy now. I also had a chance to read the new e prequel as well. "Rose of Fire" is a short little look at the origins of the cemetery of forgotten books and is a free download courtesy of Harper Collins (with an excerpt of Prisoner of Heaven included).

Now if you read my original post, then you know that I'm a big fan of Zafon's work. His writing is nothing short of fantastic (and I should commend his translator as well considering how well the works read in English). Zafon's ability to build amazing atmosphere and an intense and captivating plot filled with wonderfully imagined characters makes his books the kind you can completely lose yourself in. Trust me -- I'd started The Shadow of the Wind on audio to get me through the 20+ hour drive from Louisiana to Colorado back in 2005. While it made the drive infinitely more tolerable, three quarters of the way through a disc turned out to be defective. Fortunately we were almost at our destination and I was able to exchange my audio for a physical copy. Also fortunate that the store had plenty in stock because I'd have gone bonkers waiting for an ordered copy to arrive at that point!

The Prisoner of Heaven is set after The Shadow of the Wind. Daniel and Bea are married and have an infant son. Sempere & Sons has seen better days, but is still hanging on when a mysterious customer arrives and purchases a rare copy of Dumas' Count of Monte Cristo. Lo and behold, the copy is intended as a gift for Fermin. Daniel is skeptical of the transaction and quickly closes up shop, following the man through the city streets in hopes of discovering something to support or disprove his gut feeling that something strange is going on. When Daniel confronts Fermin over the issue, he learns that his old friend is hiding some very strange secrets in his past. And those secrets concern Daniel as well.

For your viewing pleasure (and further enticement) check out the trailer:

I should warn you that you definitely need to read both The Shadow of the Wind and Angel's Game before diving into The Prisoner of Heaven. It's been long enough since reading its predecessors that even I've had a bit of a time reacquainting myself with the characters and the overarching storyline. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed returning to Spain and Sempere & Sons. The Prisoner of Heaven was a fabulous addition to the series! Word has it that Zafon has intended this to be a four parter, in which case I will be waiting in great anticipation to see what comes next!

For more stops on the tour, visit the official TLC tour site here. For more on Zafon and his work, visit his website (above). You can also check like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter (tweets are in Spanish).

Sunday, August 5, 2012

New Releases 8/7/12

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

What In God's Name by Simon Rich

The Iron Wyrm Affair by Lilith Saintcrow

The Viper by Hakan Ostlundh

Death of a Schoolgirl by Joanna Campbell Slan

The Dead Do Not Improve by Jay Caspian King

Sentinel by Matthew Dunn

The Broken Ones by Stephen M. Irwin

I Heart Paris by Linsey Kelk

Bad Little Falls by Paul Doiron

Thy Neighbor by Norah Vincent

Diving Belles by Lucy Wood

Kill You Twice by Chelsea Cain

Black Isle by Sandi Tan

The Prophet by Michael Koryta

The Orchard by Jeffrey Stepakoff

Shunning Sarah by Julie Kramer

Devil's Gate by F.J. Lennon

King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

A Hundred Flowers by Gail Tsukiyama

Glitch by Heather Anastasiu

Wake by Amanda Hocking

Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake

Rift by Andrea Cremer

Rivals and Retribution by Shannon Delany (13 to Life series)

New on DVD:
The Lorax

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
Kill You Twice
Horns by Joe Hill
Whispers Under Ground by Ben Aaronovitch

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis

What if the Germans had a top secret weapon that could trump all the other players in WWII? What if their strange experimentation and attempts to dabble in the unknown had succeeded? In Ian Tregillis's Milkweed trilogy, this is just the case.

Dr. von Westarp is not a name well known outside of Germany. In fact when Lieutenant-Commander Raybourn Marsh first hears of von Westarp and his children, he has no idea what the information will mean for England. Sent to collect a defector with supposed intel that could change everything, Marsh is unprepared for what happens next: the defector bursts into flames and Marsh is barely able to escape with the man's smoldering briefcase. When he and his superior begin to analyze the contents of the case, they realize that they're up against something terrible and amazing. They create a new operation dubbed Milkweed specifically devoted to ferreting out any and all info on von Westarp and his strange creations. In an attempt to understand what their enemy has accomplished -- and to fight against them --  they also call on the help of a secret group of warlocks living in the UK. Now, as magic battles science, the fate of the free world hangs in the balance.

You may recall that I've posted about Bitter Seeds before. I'd purchased the book when it was released in hardcover and then it languished for a period in my TBR before I discovered that the second book had been delayed. Happy days, though, Cold War was released on July 17 and is at the top of my current "To Read" list.

I'd actually hoped to do a bit of a themed run, but am sadly behind. See, Ian Tregillis is part of George R. R. Martin's Wild Cards collective and I'd planned to dig up some other authors and titles and do a whole themed readathon on my end. Sadly my plans have been delayed. But that doesn't mean I'll be holding off on reading Cold War. Nope, I'm dying to know what comes next!

I loved the combination of fantasy and sci-fi wrapped around actual events. Of course a creative mind can do all sorts of thing with any time period, but the blitz was chaotic to begin with. The idea that this group of warlocks is hiding in plain sight in England and working their magic against this troop of engineered super power soldiers works on a lot of levels. You put the two together and it's pretty easy for me to suspend my disbelief and disappear into the story.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

What I Did by Christopher Wakling

I'm part of the TLC tour for Christopher Wakling's latest today.

A morning outing turns devastating for one boy and his family in What I Did. When Billy ran out into the street, his father was understandably concerned and angry. But a passerby witnessing Billy's stern correction soon calls family services on Billy's father. What comes next, though the eyes of Billy himself, is nothing less than heartbreaking as Billy's father and family come to terms with the consequences of that one almost tragic morning. 

I have to say that I really struggled with this book. It was a tough read in terms of subject and style. What I Did is the kind of book that evokes a lot of emotions for me and not always in a good way. I was actually quite angry throughout the story.

My biggest issue though was the way the book was written. Wakling's narrator is a six year old and the book is written very much as if a six year old were writing it. For my brain, it made it really hard to follow. Thoughts jump mid sentence and ramble in ways that had me gritting my teeth trying to connect the actual story points around all the extra babble. In truth, it would almost have worked better had I been reading it out loud! (Which I have had to do before -- Trainspotting.)

I've no doubt that some readers will have no issue with the style at all. In fact, this kind of method can be very effective. Unfortunately I'm just not wired in the right way to be able to get it. I do, in my defense, quite enjoy reading books told from a kid's perspective. I think it lends itself very well to interesting manipulation of the story as well making ordinary elements extraordinary. It's the stream of consciousness via a six year old type of narrative here that threw me for a total loop.

To visit the rest of the stops on the tour, visit the official TLC tour page here.

For more on Wakling and his other works, visit his official website (link above). You can also follow him on Twitter.