Sunday, June 30, 2013

New releases 7/2/13

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Bat by Jo Nesbo (Harry Hole #1 - FINALLY!)

The Unknowns by Garbriel Roth

The Blood of Gods by Conn Iggulden

The Humans by Matt Haig

Thieves' Quarry by D.B. Jackson

Unseen by Karin Slaughter

The Fire Witness by Lars Kepler

Night Vision by Yasmine Galenorn

Tampa by Alissa Nutting

Lie Still by Julia Haeberlin

Affliction by Laurell K. Hamilton

Loteria by Mario Alberto Zambrano

Safe As Houses by Simon van der Vlugt (UK)

Godiva by Nicole Galland

Stargazey Nights by Shelley Noble

Let it Burn by Steve Hamilton

Don't Let Me Go by Susan Lewis

The Arrivals by Melissa Marr

Truly, Madly, Deadly by Hannah Jayne

This is W.A.R. by Lisa Roecker & Laura Roecker

Awaken by Meg Cabot

A Midsummer Night's Scream by R.L. Stine

Sylo by D. J. MacHale

Shutdown by Heather Anastasiu

Vortex by S.J. Kincaid

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
Safe As Houses
The Geneva Option by Adam LeBor
The Eighth Court by Mike Shevdon

Friday, June 28, 2013

Sea Change by S.M. Wheeler Excerpt + a Giveaway

Hi, everyone! I'm pleased as punch to be offering up an excerpt and giveaway of S.M. Wheeler's Sea Change today.

First up, here's a bit about the book from the publisher:

The unhappy child of two powerful parents who despise each other, young Lilly turns to the ocean to find solace, which she finds in the form of the eloquent and intelligent sea monster Octavius, a kraken. In Octavius’s many arms, Lilly learns of friendship, loyalty, and family. When Octavius, forbidden by Lilly to harm humans, is captured by seafaring traders and sold to a circus, Lilly becomes his only hope for salvation. Desperate to find him, she strikes a bargain with a witch that carries a shocking price. 

Her journey to win Octavius’s freedom is difficult. The circus master wants a Coat of Illusions; the Coat tailor wants her undead husband back from a witch; the witch wants her skin back from two bandits; the bandits just want some company, but they might kill her first. Lilly's quest tests her resolve, tries her patience, and leaves her transformed in every way.

And as an extra bonus:

And now, a little excerpt to give you a taste:

The sash window, oiled, slipped noiselessly open. Beneath it was springy lawn which straightened after she passed, showing no footprints to betray her. When her legs were shorter the path through garden to the slender broken shell path down to the sea had seemed long; now she ran to meet the sea, the salt air scouring off her gentlewoman’s skin. 

The water churned active today, the low sun golden on its whitecaps and the spray hands that reached for her; it was playful in the manner of creatures that ate humans with a smile. Once a water-woman had beckoned her with a scaled hand and a sharp-toothed grin, just like that. 

The path she took she sometimes walked in the late evening when the night slithered in hollows; she had never fallen on it. These steps she knew: over skittering shale with impressions of strange animals and through a tangle of ocher stones, on a sedge-thick strip of land from which one could hear the gulls but nothing more, and down again to a slope of dark stone that plunged into the ocean. She patted the still-hot bun in her pocket, eyes scanning the water for a wake or the break of a smooth burgundy curve; and saw far off a patch of ocean that did not gleam with the sun. Grinning, she waved her arms to him: I’m here, I’m here, come fast. It seemed he dawdled; for some time nothing broke the surface again. 

Until eight slick, suckered limbs weaved from the water, with their immense strength rolling aside the boulders that lay at the bottom of the slope. Behind them came a sleek and rounded shape, ridged in a brow over golden discs of eyes which were bright as the gold crucifix in Father’s study – and held more love than any dead man’s gilded face. She demanded of the kraken, “When did you get so sneaky?” 

“I’ve been hunting seals.” His voice rumbled and sang high at once, wind moaning in cliffs, nipped short in the narrow passages and shaking the larger. “You are troubled.” 

“No, no. —A little. Come close, I have a present for you.” 

To her side the sea creature came in a roil of tentacles. Two of those settled around her feet, the delicate tips curled around her ankles. He loomed well over her, eighteen hands high at his tallest, though at the moment he compressed himself lower to the ground so that he might look her in the eye. “I will return to your troubles.” Then: “A present?” 

With panache she plucked the bun from her pocket and unfurled the napkin around it. Steaming still, citrus-scented, and only lightly squashed, she felt quite proud at this newest offering. 

“The things you humans eat!” He took it with such gentleness that the sugared sides bent only a little. The top of it he stroked. “Sticky. And so soft.” One last pass, and then he tucked it under his bulk. “Stings a little on the inner mouth – and crumbles at the beak. Interesting! What do you call it?” 

“A bun with icing and orange zest.” She rested her hand above his eye. “Should I bring you other desserts?” 

“Oh, yes.” He ruminated a moment, singing faint whale-song under his breath. “Should I bring you a seal?” 

Again she laughed. She did often with him, and rarely at home. “I don’t think my teeth are up to it.” 


“Cannibal,” she replied without the least rancor. He kept a sort of sea monster kosher for her: no men at all nor capsizing of fishing ships for their freight of fishes. 

“Since you’re not interested in a gift from me to match yours, tell me your worries.” He shifted, blocking the wind. 

She flicked a dismissive gesture. “Oh, they come at my age.” 

“They have not for me.” 

His brow-ridges made convenient places to set her hands when she wanted contact. “You’re younger than me. Another year and you will be full of woe with your coming of age.” She shook her head. “Marriage – society – they should be a part of my life, now, but are not. My company consists of yourself, my father’s merchants, my mother’s maids.” Now it was her turn to ruminate; lightly, he pressured her ankle. “The house is restive. They want a more elegant daughter to parade about.” 

“I would parade you in the hall of the monarchs of the ocean, if you could breathe water.” 

“I know.” She tapped her cheek, indicated her wetted feet. “I would suit it, wouldn’t I? But until such a time as I develop magical abilities, I must be canny and fear what they might in rashness do. Marry me to some brave young man willing to take an ugly wife for the sake of my father’s gold, perhaps.” 

“Why would they be foolish? You never spoke of them that way,” said he. 

“They were born country folk,” she said, quiet, “and the fear of failing their nobility is in them. Young ladies are married to young gentlemen, you see, or else become maiden aunts. Or – my father fears that. My mother does not fear or does not show fear, ever.” 

“You don’t speak of these things to me.” Remonstration, there; they could tolerate much from each other but never lies, neither explicit or of omission. Misunderstandings were too potentially dangerous. 

I could only explain them clearly now, I think.” She breathed out, glanced towards the sun riding the horizon. “I’m not used to fearing the future.” 

“Then don’t. You tell me that the future is choice and the present a starting point.” Those words came first from Father but sounded so different in the kraken’s mouth that it might as well have been a different maxim. “Why assume that the present will not give you better choices?” He touched her cheek. “Think of sugared buns and stories and sun dials for now. Brave young men can be met when they come. I could relocate them for you. Does that make you feel better?” 

“However impractical and short-sighted – yes. Now tell me about seal-hunting, Octavius.”

Sea Change is S. M. Wheeler's debut and it's out from Tor now! And speaking of Tor, they're letting me offer up some copies for a giveaway! Fill out the rafflecopter below before July 14 to enter to win one of two copies of the book. US only please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Safe As Houses by Simone van der Vlugt

While I've been doing fairly well on my challenges this year, readers, I have to admit that I wish I was getting more in the translation vein fitted into my reading week! I have some stacked up right now, waiting patiently, including the one I won from Ellie as part of the challenge: Andrea H. Japp's The Season of the Beast. 

This month my pick for the challenge is Simone van der Vlugt's Safe As Houses, due out from Canongate Books on July 4. This is the third of van der Vlugt's books to be translated into English, and the first from Canongate. It was originally released in 2012 as Blauw Water.

Lisa's day started out just like any other. She made breakfast for her daughter, Anouk, - who is home sick with bronchitis - and was out hanging the laundry when a stranger appeared in her yard. With no where else to turn, Lisa ran for home intending to bar the door. Unfortunately she didn't quite make it and the man barged in behind her. Lisa would soon learn that the man is escaped convict and murderer Mick Kreuger. Now she and Anouk are being held hostage in their own home as Kreuger plans his getaway. A passerby is Lisa's only hope, but even that hope dwindles as time passes by. Now all she can do is try to keep herself and her daughter safe as long as possible. 

Safe As Houses is a tense read! Lisa lies to Kreuger, all the while trying to plan the perfect escape, knowing that she's potentially making things worse. Kreuger is unstable but even Lisa doesn't know quite how bad he is at first. She manages to catch snippets of news reports about his crimes but quickly realizes that as long as he's getting his way, she and her daughter are seemingly ok.

There's a bit of a twist in the story in that someone does witness Kreuger in Lisa's home fairly early on. Senta gets lost on her way home and decides to stop and ask for directions - at Lisa's house. Her story is a secondary one that really ratchets up the intensity of the tale.

As a whole, I found the book to be rather short. It's good for a one-sitting read but I kind of wanted more to sink my teeth into. The translation works really well and the plot, while not terribly unique, works for the story.

Rating: 3.5/4

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Doctor Who: Earthworld by Jacqueline Rayner

And for my second stop today, my final post in the Doctor Who 50th anniversary TLC tour, with Doctor number eight and Jacqueline Rayner's Earthworld.

Since I'm crunched for time, I'm going to once again use the book's synopsis:

Anji has just had the worst week of her life. She should be back at her desk, not traveling through time and space in a police box. The Eight Doctor is supposed to be taking her home, so why are there dinosaurs outside? The Doctor doesn't seem to know either, or else he surely would have mentioned the homicidal princesses, teen terrorists and mad robots? One thing is certain: Anji is never going to complain about Monday mornings in the office again. 

I discovered that the original edition of Jacqueline Rayner's Doctor Who contribution (released in 2001) has a much different and slightly spoiler-y synopsis than the new edition. I've used the new edition info above but if you really want to, you can read the old one here. (I think it might slightly spoil the fun, though.)

I would imagine that Doctor Eight is the incarnation that allows authors the most room for creative license - or at least for the folks who first took on writing him. On screen, Doctor Eight was played by the excellent Paul McGann. Unfortunately, he's the shortest lived Doctor in the show's history! His version appeared in a single TV movie that was meant to inspire the return of the series in the 90s.

The movie is fun, even if Eric Roberts is pretty cheesy as the Master, but it's worth seeing as a fan nonetheless.

Since he had such a short run, Doctor Eight's companions here in Earthworld are new to me. Based on the intro from Rayner, they were created for the purpose of the books so there are additional adventures with them if one were inspired to track down the old Doctor Eight publications. As such, there was no history or attachment with them on my part, but I thought they were interesting and I would probably have liked to have seen them had they ever made it to the show (and more Paul McGann, too, if I'm honest. I like him!).

Trivia: Even though McGann had limited screen time as the Doctor, he has had a longer run as the voice of the Doctor, recording a number of audio dramas and new stories as Doctor Eight.

(Extra trivia, McGann has most lately been seen by BBC American viewers on Luther. His younger brother, Stephen, stars as Dr. Turner in Call the Midwife.)

To see all of the stops on the tour and a full list of the anniversary titles, check out the official TLC tour page here.

Together Tea by Marjan Kamali

Morning, all! Today's another two stop day. First, I'm on the TLC book tour for Marjan Kamali's Together Tea.

In 1978, Mina's family left behind the tragedy and turmoil of Iran to start fresh in America. Since then, Mina has always felt like she wasn't either fully Iranian or fully American, but rather something in the middle. She's given up her passion for art in exchange for getting her MBA and she's suffered through enough awkward teas with possible marriage matches to last a lifetime. Then one day, Mina figures it out. She wants to return to her roots and visit Tehran. 

Her mother, Darya, is surprisingly supportive, insisting on accompanying her daughter on what could be a dangerous vacation. Unbeknownst to Mina and the rest of her family, Darya has been homesick for Iran and her family. She too has been struggling to figure out her place in things: all of her kids are grown, her husband has his career, and Darya isn't quite sure where she fits anymore.

At first, I wasn't convinced this was going to be my cup of tea (pun somewhat intended). The first part of the book didn't really grab me at all. Darya and Mina were somewhat interesting but I wondered if they'd really be enough to carry the whole book. Fortunately things picked up after the two women decide to travel to Iran.

The book is split into three sections: 1996, 1978, and back to 1996 with Darya and Mina's arrival in Tehran.

The second section in 1978 is where I really thought the book began to shine. All of the family is there through the previous regime and the overthrow - Mina is ten at the time. Kamali does a really great job of illustrating the struggles of the average person in the country. The family and friends and how they react to what's going on around them - and the family's own losses as a result - force Darya and her family to leave suddenly with the hope that in America things will be better for them. And they have to start from scratch. Darya's husband, a doctor back in Tehran, works at a pizza place while going back to school so that he can practice in the States while Darya herself works full-time at a dry cleaning shop. All so they can give their kids a new life without the restrictions and fear their old one had started to encompass.

The third portion of the book in Iran kept the momentum and appeal of the second section, and there's even a little bit of a twist with Mina's love interest. Unfortunately, throughout the book, I never got as strong of a sense of either character as I had hoped for. Instead, it's their culture and heritage that become the driving force and most appealing aspect of the story.

Rating: 3/5

To see more stops on the tour, check out the official TLC tour page here.

For more on Marjan Kamali, visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Books I've Read (So Far) in 2013

I've decided to jump on board with Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the topic is: Top Ten Books Read in 2013 (So Far).

I'll start the list by saying so far in 2013 I've read 90 books! Yikes, I had a bit of trouble narrowing to just 10 (I'll be in trouble come the end of the year!), so I've limited it to books that were released in 2013. I'll start with the most recent:

1. The Wonder Bread Summer by Jessica Anya Blau - quirky and hilarious! I've got her previous books on my must have list now as well. 

2. Apocalypse Cow by Michael Logan - zombie cows! Of course it would make my faves list. 

3. In the After by Demitria Lunetta - I always enjoy post-apocalyptic scenarios and this one was a bit different than others, which definitely put it a bit above the rest!

4. Poppet by Mo Hayder - Hayder is dark and twisty and always a favorite!

5. NOS4A2 by Joe Hill - ah, Joe Hill! If you haven't read him, you definitely should!

6. London Falling by Paul Cornell - a new urban fantasy series from another Doctor Who alum, and it's a great one!

7. Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines - zombies and superheroes. You really couldn't ask for anything more!

8. Nowhere But Home by Liza Palmer - Palmer hits some touchy subjects but always with a great sense of humor and lightness. I love her work. 

9. The Different Girl by Gordon Dahlquist - YA sci fi from the author of Glass Books of the Dream Eaters. I loved the narrator and the setting!

10. The Uninvited by Liz Jensen - a chilling story in which children become the enemy! (In a nutshell but not 100% accurate.)

11. The Passing Bells by Phillip Rock - a rerelease of a 1970s trilogy. Really an amazing read!

Honorable mentions - these came out in paperback this year but were originally released in 2012:

A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash - phenomenal and atmospheric debut. I can't wait until his next book is released.

Gossip by Beth Gutcheon - an all around great story!

Monday, June 24, 2013

If You Were Here by Alafair Burke

Morning, readers! I'm on the TLC book tour today for Alafair Burke's latest, If You Were Here.

Ten years ago, McKenna Jordan's life was turned upside down when she called it quits as a lawyer after a particularly scandalous (i.e. career ruining) case. Around the same time, her best friend Susan went missing without a trace. McKenna has moved on and while thoughts of Susan have become less and less prevalent, every once in a while something brings her to mind. Since leaving her job with the DA's office, McKenna has turned her eye to writing. She had mild success with a first book and has been hired on as a writer for NYC magazine. McKenna's recent claim to fame is a ten year anniversary piece she wrote on that fateful case, which has led to a possible book deal as well as a growing fan base for her work. All in all, things seem to be going fantastically for McKenna. That is until she sees Susan. 

The story McKenna is covering is that of a teenage boy recently saved from the subway tracks. McKenna knows there's more to the story and her angle includes the woman who saved the kid in question. McKenna tracks down a witness who caught the whole thing on camera. Surprisingly, the woman in the video looks a lot like Susan. Has she returned after all this time or is it all in McKenna's imagination, brought on by rehashing the details of that old case?

Alafair Burke can always be counted on for a gripping page turner and If You Were Here is no exception. From the very beginning, when Nicky Cervantes steals a cell phone from an unsuspecting woman on the subway, the story grabs hold and never lets up. The pacing is quick and the plotting is tight - per usual Alafair Burke standards!

One of the things I really, really love about Burke's work is how unique each book is. Obviously it's something you hopes for in every new book but we all have to admit that there are some authors on our reading lists who can typically be counted on for more of the same old same old. It's not a terrible thing - at least you know you'll like it - but it's much more enjoyable to know you're going to read something fresh and new from a favorite author. And that's what you get from Alafair Burke. Even with her series books, each new case is completely different from the last. The only thing that doesn't change is the fact that I'm up all night reading with each and every new release!

Rating: 4.5/5

If you're looking for a fast paced and intense new read this summer, you really can't go wrong with Alafair Burke! In addition to If You Were Here and Long Gone (her two standalones) Burke is also the author of the Samantha Kincaid and Ellie Hatcher series. Here are the full series lists if you're interested:

Samantha Kincaid:
Judgment Calls
Missing Justice
Case Closed

Ellie Hatcher:
Dead Connection
Angel's Tip
Never Tell

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

For more on Alafair Burke and her books, visit her website (she has a super cool soundtrack for If You Were Here there right now). You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

New Releases 6/25/13

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Mourning Hours by Paula Treick DeBoard

The Raven's Gift by Don Rearden

The Cambodian Book of the Dead by Tom Vater

The Quarry by Iain Banks

The Cleaner of Chartres by Salley Vickers

The Eye of God by James Rollins

The World of the End by Ofir Touche Gafla

A Diet to Die For by Sarah Steding

ID by Madeline Ashby

The Shadow Tracer by Meg Gardiner

Cold Steel by Kate Elliott

City of Hope by Kate Kerrigan

Below by Ryan Lockwood

Everybody Has Everything by Katrina Onstad

Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld

Slingshot by Matthew Dunn

Blood Tango by Annamaria Alfieri

House Odds by Mike Lawson

The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison

Beautiful Day by Elin Hilderbrand

Tell Me Lisa Jackson

Accidents Happen by Louise Millar

Weather Witch by Shannon Delaney

Ink by Amanda Sun

Confessions of An Almost-Girlfriend by Louise Rozett

New on DVD:
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
The Call

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
A Far Piece to Canaan by Sam Halpern
Far Far Away by Tom McNeal

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Eighth Court by Mike Shevdon

It's time for another Courts of the Feyre review!

Beware, if you've not read the earlier books there are spoilers ahead!

When we left off with Strangeness and Charm, the courts reluctantly decided to consider the eighth court as a new addition. The decision isn't unanimous and while the seventh court hasn't had an official presence in ages, everyone knows they'll be the biggest objectors. The eighth court would offer a place to all the human feyre hybrids - those like Niall and his own daughter, Alex - and those recently freed from Porton Down, who have lately caused... trouble. But trouble with the mongrels - as some of the feyre refer to them - is the least of Niall and Blackbird's worries. The wraithkin are up to something and with the High Court split on their decision regarding the hybrids, both Niall and his wife know there's bound to be some big issues to be dealt with. 

I've sung Mike Shevdon's praises here often enough that you are all aware by now of my fan girl status! The Courts of the Feyre series is a win in every way in my humble opinion - the world, the characters, the stories, the setting, the history...

Sadly, all good things must come to an end and it seems this is it for the Courts of the Feyre series. *sniff* I would have loved more closure knowing this is the final installment, but it's been a wild and crazy entertaining ride!

Mike Shevdon catapulted to the top of my favorites list with his debut, Sixty-One Nails. As such, while I'm not sure what he might have planned next, I can guarantee that whatever it is (and hopefully he does have something planned), it'll make it to my must have list as soon as it's announced.

If you're a fan of the series, check out this little piece from Shevdon bidding farewell to the Courts of the Feyre. And, since they didn't make it to the finished book, Shevdon has kindly posted his Acknowledgments and End Notes here.

Rating: 5/5

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Beautiful Heist by Kim Foster

Morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Kim Foster's A Beautiful Heist.

Cat Montgomery is a jewel thief. And a talented one at that! But Cat has recently come under scrutiny by the IRS for not filing taxes. In her defense, she kind of thought the career as a thief thing should be kept under wraps, ignoring the fact that her bosses at AB&T have been running as a completely above board shell operation - filing their own taxes and reporting her income. The news comes just as Cat's about to turn down a side job that's come her way. (AB&T wants all jobs to go through their official channels and accepting could put her position with them at risk - if they find out.) The job in question? Stealing a rare Faberge egg for a guy who claims to be a Romanov. Strapped for cash and with the IRS breathing down her neck, the job is just too good to pass up.

Kim Foster's debut is all over the place! At times, it kind of felt like an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink plot: IRS troubles, a side job that threatens her career, a new FBI agent tasked to property crimes to watch out for, the ex (who also happens to be a fed and the son of a thief himself), the meddling mother, the arch nemesis, family issues beyond the meddling mother...

All that said, and as you might suspect, A Beautiful Heist does manage to be quite entertaining. Cat is certainly engaging - Foster definitely draws inspiration from other favorite genre heroines like Stephanie Plum (you know, if Stephanie was great at her job and had money for nice clothes) - and her multitude of problems elicits more than a few laughs.

A Beautiful Heist is a fun debut and is the latest e only release from Kensington's new digital arm.

Rating: 3.5/5

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

For more on Kim Foster visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

In the After by Demitria Lunetta

Amy Harris is just fourteen when the world as she knew it came to an end. It was a Saturday and she was alone in the house - her mom was at work and her dad had gone out. Something attacked - strange and monstrous creatures that killed everything and everyone they came across. Amy was safe thanks the electric fence her mother insisted upon and the solar panels her father installed. She had electricity and water, food and supplies, and learned to fend for herself by only going out at night and staying as quiet as possible. And alone is how she stayed until she came across "Baby" a toddler who somehow managed to survive amongst the creatures they'd come to know as Floraes. 

Together, Amy and Baby are able to survive in their own created sanctuary but when their home comes under attack from other humans, salvation arrives in a surprising and unexpected way.

Wow! Demitria Lunetta's debut is really quite awesome! I loved Amy - she's hardened and tough but she's also extremely clever.

The first half of the book is very straightforward narrative. Lunetta does something quite interesting with the second part of the book, though, alternating between flashbacks and the present where Amy is in a bit of a predicament without being entirely clear as to how she got there. It's something that she figures out and is revealed to the reader through the flashback portions.

The particular "humanity's downfall" premise here is one that I really, really enjoyed. Especially as we get further into the story. Lunetta throws in more than one twist here, some were expected while others managed to catch me off guard. I'm definitely hoping there will be a follow up and will be looking forward to it with great anticipation.

In the After hits shelves June 25 and is going down as one of my summer favorites!

Rating: 5/5

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Our Love Could Light the World by Anne Leigh Parrish

Morning, all! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Our Love Could Light the World, Anne Leigh Parrish's latest short story collection.

I find a short story collection is really hard to sum up in a synopsis, so here's the back cover copy for you:

You know the Dugans. They’re that scrappy family that lives down the street. Their yard is overgrown, they don’t pick up a fter their dog, their five children run free—leaving chaos in their wake—and the father hasn’t earned a cent in years. The wife holds them together on her income alone. You wouldn’t want them for neighbors—but from a distance, they’re quite entertaining.

Have I mentioned before that I'm a fan of short stories? Of course I have! Many, many times. And for many, many reasons. The biggest reason I'm a fan of short stories - the good ones - is simply because they are good. They also make for great short reads when you're pinched for time. Short stories can be sort of a commitment free way of sampling new-to-you authors. And they're intriguing little snippets of fiction that stand on their own as an entire story with plot and character development. So that last reason that I like them is pretty much that I'm in awe of anyone who can build a short story that makes sense!

In Our Love Could Light the World, Anne Leigh Parrish has put together a collection of shorts that are linked in subject: they're all about the same family - the Dugans. And they're a fantastic set of characters to set stories around. Through Parrish's prose these characters are vivid and whole. They're not pillars of the community but they're not bad folks either. They're just a normal family with normal problems - dad drinks too much, the kids are unruly, and mom longs for something more. Parrish's collection is like peeking through the Dugans' (or any neighbor's to be honest) windows, witnessing pieces of their lives: the crumbling of a marriage, a daughter's disappointing graduation party, the merging of two families, and the pain of being an adolescent.

The stories are funny and heartbreaking, thoughtful and - as the cover copy states - entertaining. Overall, these stories are a great showcase for an author who has a clear talent for storytelling.

Rating: 4.5/5

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

For more on Anne Leigh Parrish and her work, visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books at the Top of My Summer TBR

I've decided to jump on board with Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the topic is: books topping the summer TBR!

My TBR is massive - embarrassingly so in fact, but here are the top ten I'm dying to get to as we speak:

1. Red Moon by Benjamin Percy - I've been trying to squeeze this one in between review books and still have not yet managed. It's driving me bananas!

2. The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon - this one looks super cool and I just received a copy for review!

3. Midwinter Blood and Summer Death by Mons Kallentoft - I do enjoy Scandinavian thrillers and these are the first two in this series (Summer Death was just released in hardcover). I need to catch up before I'm too far behind. 

4. Gameboard of the Gods by Richelle Mead - I've been stoked about this one and just got a copy. Can't wait to dive in. 

5. Carniepunk - this is another one I've been dying to get my hands on and was lucky enough to get one for review. I love anthologies, I love the authors participating in this one, and I love the subject - it's gonna be a winner all around, I guarantee!

6. The Shuddering by Ania Ahlborn - since reading Ahlborn's The Neighbors last fall, I've been looking forward to anything and everything new she releases. I've got an eARC of this one on hand. 

7. Everything You Need by Michael Marshall Smith - Michael Marshall Smith is one of my favorite authors and this immediately went on my wish list. I was again lucky to get a review copy and am so very much looking forward to it. 

8. Songs of Earth and Trinity Rising by Elspeth Cooper - I do actually have A Dance of Dragons but once I'm done I'm going to need some epic fantasy to fill the gap. Elspeth Cooper's series is being touted as the perfect thing for those of us in GRRM withdrawal.

9. Dreams and Shadows by C. Robert Cargill - I've heard wonderful things about this book so far and seriously need to get to it as soon as I have a chance. 

10. A Cat, A Hat and a Piece of String by Joanne Harris - and yes, yet another collection! Harris's first, Jigs and Reels, is still one of my all time favorite short story collections. I had to order this one from the UK but I know it was worth it!

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Geneva Option by Adam LeBor

Morning, everyone! I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Adam LeBor's The Geneva Option today.

Yael Azoulay has made a name for herself with the UN by handling some of their toughest negotiations. Her latest job sends her to eastern Congo to negotiate with a warlord named Jean-Pierre Hakizimani, who has led a campaign of mass genocide against the Tutsi. The seriousness of his crimes is not in question, but his connection to the region and the availability of certain resources means that Hakizimani has a bargaining chip that will save his life. Upon her return, Yael discovers that a private correspondence outlining terms of the agreement, sent directly from her to her boss at the UN, has been leaked and is now front page news. The news means the end of Yael's career at the UN but also leaves her reputation in question and could possibly threaten her safety. As she wonders who could have leaked the info, she also becomes privy to some frightening and highly classified intel sent by an anonymous source, the ramifications of which are too serious to let go. But what can a now former UN staffer do, especially when some of the highest ranking people in the UN are implicated?

I often find that espionage thrillers can be broken down into three categories:

1. The type seem to require an advanced education in political science to understand. These are generally over my head and therefore almost impossible for me to enjoy.

2. The oversimplified sort of cookie cutter Mad Lib thrillers that can be in just about any setting and concern just about any subject - sometimes fun but never overly cerebral.

3. And those that fall in between. Smart and complex but not so much so that the average reader can't still grasp and enjoy the story.

Adam LeBor's The Geneva Option falls in that third category. It could, in all honesty, very easily fall in the first category but for the simple fact that LeBor spends what feels like an adequate (and appropriate since it doesn't really take away from the overall flow of the narrative) amount time explaining the UN and its functions, its various departments, and history that pertains to the story.

I loved the various cast of characters here - even beyond Yael who has a history that's intriguing and hopefully will come to the forefront more in future installments. Sami and Joe-Don, Najwa and the other peripheral reporters, and even poor Olivia flesh out the story in a great way. And that list doesn't even include most of the big bads mentioned throughout.

The Geneva Option is a smart espionage thriller and - I believe - the first in a new series!

Rating: 4/5

To see what others on the tour though, check out the official TLC tour page here.

For more on Adam LeBor and his work, visit his official website here. You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

As an added bonus, you can also download The Istanbul Exchange, a free Yael Azoulay e read from LeBor and HarperCollins, here. It's a short that includes an excerpt for The Geneva Option.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

New releases 6/18/13

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Crime of Privilege by Walter Walker

The Heist by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

Wisp of a Thing by Alex Bledsoe

The Long War by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Favor by Megan Hart

Sea Change by S.M. Wheeler

Killer Ambition by Marcia Clark

Lexicon by Max Barry

The Summer of Dead Toys by Antonio Hill

Reviver by Seth Patrick

Claire DeWitt & the Bohemian Highway by Sara Gran

The Abomination by Jonathan Holt

The 9th Girl by Tami Hoag

Enigma of China by Qui Xiaolong

Instructions for a Heat Wave by Maggie O'Farrell

Island Girls by Nancy Thayer

Before the Fall by Francis Knight

Always Watching by Chevy Stevens

Death of a Dyer by Eleanor Kuhns

Her Last Breath by Linda Castillo

Loyalty by Ingrid Thoft

The Watcher in the Shadows by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Ink by Amanda Sun

New on DVD:
Jack the Giant Slayer

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
The Doll by Taylor Stevens
The Wonder Bread Summer by Jessica Anya Blau
The Execution of Noa P. Singleton by Elizabeth L. Silver
Corrupt Practices by Robert Rotstein

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Pre Pub Book Buzz: Bellman and Black by Diane Setterfield

I've been dying to post this one on Pre Pub Book Buzz and have been waiting for a cover to go up. And now it has! So here it is!

Here's a bit about Bellman and Black from Goodreads:

As a boy, William Bellman commits one small, cruel act: killing a bird with his slingshot. Little does he know the unforeseen and terrible consequences of the deed, which is soon forgotten amidst the riot of boyhood games. By the time he is grown, with a wife and children of his own, William seems to be a man blessed by fortune—until tragedy strikes and the stranger in black comes. Then he starts to wonder if all his happiness is about to be eclipsed. Desperate to save the one precious thing he has left, William enters into a rather strange bargain, with an even stranger partner, to found a decidedly macabre business.

As soon as I heard that there was a release date for a new Diane Setterfield book, I had a total OMG-I-can't-freaking-wait reaction! It's been almost seven years since The Thirteenth Tale came out and considering how much I adored it, anything new from Setterfield is a definite for my must have list. 


Bellman and Black is due out from Atria/Emily Bestler Books in November for those of us in the States. UK readers can get their hands on it a month earlier from Orion. And in other cool Diane Setterfield news, there's a BBC adaptation of The Thirteenth Tale currently under production and set to star Vanessa Redgrave and Olivia Colman.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Corrupt Practices by Robert Rotstein + a giveaway

When I received Robert Rotstein's debut and saw that Sue Grafton was calling it "... a terrific book..." I was immediately on board. I've been reading Sue Grafton obsessively since I was a senior in high school, so her blurb on a book cover (which I don't see a whole lot) is something I take note of.

Parker Stern is a talented lawyer who's been crippled by sudden stage fright. The shock of his boss's suicide left him almost unable to enter a courtroom, much less perform his duties facing a judge. But when one of his old colleagues hires him as his defense attorney, Parker has a hard time refusing. Rich Baxter is accused of stealing millions of dollars from the Church of the Sanctified Assembly, a cult-like organization that Parker himself has a rocky history with. And when Rich turns up dead in his cell the same day he's to appear in court, Parker becomes suspicious. Rich's own father insists that the man didn't kill himself, words strangely echoed by Parker's dead boss's wife with regards to her own husband's death. The connection between the two - The Assembly.

Rotstein's debut is an intriguing and layered mystery. Parker Stern is a great character and as we learn more about his connections to the Assembly, it becomes clear that this group is about as bad as bad can get.

The characters around Stern also get decent "screen time" so to speak. His student, Lovely Diamond, and his old colleague Deanna in particular. Diamond is tackling a controversial case involving freedom of speech, a case that Stern almost reconsiders allowing the student to take on when he realizes just how complicated it really is. What's more, she has a connection to Stern that is revealed further into the story as well.

I have to say, this has been a pretty great reading week! While I wouldn't necessarily categorize Corrupt Practices as a true one-sitting read (it's a bit meaty for that), it's definitely an up-all-nighter like Noa P. Readers who enjoy Michael Connolly's Mickey Haller series will enjoy Parker Stern. Even if legal thrillers aren't your top go-to, you're going to love Rotstein's debut. This is the first in a new series and I for one will be anxiously awaiting the next installment.

For a little extra taste, you can read and excerpt here.

Rating: 4/5

Now for the giveaway! The publisher is offering up one copy of Robert Rotstein's Corrupt Practices (US only). To enter, just fill out the Rafflecopter below before June 30.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Execution of Noa P. Singleton by Elizabeth L. Silver

Morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Elizabeth L. Silver's debut, The Execution of Noa P. Singleton.

I'm going to have to use the "official" copy from Goodreads here again - this is one of those books where I really, really, really don't want to give away anything pertaining to the plot:

Six months before her execution date, Noa is visited on Pennsylvania's death row by a high-powered attorney named Marlene Dixon who initiates a clemency petition on her behalf. Marlene also happens to be the mother of Noa's victim, Sarah, and ten years earlier, she helped cement Noa's fate on the witness stand. What unfolds is the haunting account of Noa P. Singleton, an insular, acerbic thirty-five-year-old woman who agrees to entertain this last-minute appeal because Marlene has unexpectedly reversed her belief in the death penalty.

Marlene wants to know why her daughter died, and she scours Noa's past to reveal the bright loner who took Sarah's life. Haunting those involved is the fact that the motive was never revealed, but Noa doesn't want to fight for her life, and she is only slowly persuaded to tell what happened that day. A character-driven story about two women whose lives are inextricably linked through the law, through shared sentiments of guilt, and through irreversible mistakes, Noa and Marlene's motivations become increasingly nebulous, and in the end they must accept that they are in fact a blurred spectrum of good and evil.

This book has the kind of opening that truly hooks a reader - it's smart, it's intriguing, and it's clear that you're going to be in for an interesting ride. It's also the kind of opening chapter that really sets the tone and gives you a clear idea of Silver's voice and style.

I should point out, though, that while the pacing of the story is quite fast, Silver has a very wordy way of writing. It's not bad, but I did find myself rereading sentences quite often for two particular reasons: 1. the description was so clever that I couldn't help myself and 2. on occasion I found myself lost in a particular sentence and had to read it again to visualize exactly what Silver was describing.

I am a fan of this kind of fiction, to be honest. The main character, in this case death row inmate Noa P. Singleton, isn't quite reliable. She's hiding things from everyone, including the reader. There are hints about this throughout almost every chapter, the kind of hints that will either drive you crazy or force you to stay up all night reading so you can find out what it is (or both!). And once you get into the heart of the story and begin to piece together some of the details that are being laid out, it becomes pretty impossible to stop reading for any reason at all.

Overall, The Execution of Noa P. Singleton turned out to be a really good read and one that I definitely recommend if you're looking for something not quite straightforward in your fiction.

Rating: 4/5

To see more stops on the tour, check out the official TLC tour page here.

For more on Elizabeth L. Silver, visit her website here and the Q&A on Noa here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Beach Reads

I've decided to jump on board with Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the topic is: Beach Reads!

A lot of people tend to define beach reads a bit differently than I do. For me, a beach read is really any great book I can take with me on vacation or read poolside. Sometimes it's a thriller or a horror that makes my hair stand on end (something that's enhanced when reading in warm, sunny weather). Other times it's simply an author whose books always seem to land in my TBR during the summer months. Here are some of the books I've personally enjoyed during those hot and humid summer months - it's a pretty dark list:

1. It by Stephen King - see the hair raising note above! I actually did read this book poolside as a teen over my summer break. 

2. Summer of Night by Dan Simmons - it's a book about summer vacation! Seriously, though, this one and King's It are perfect coming of age horror reads as well as big chunksters that zoom along at a breakneck pace. 

3. The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen - each new release in this series has hit my TBR just in time for summer. This first in the series is excellent, one of my favorites!

4. A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin - some might argue that this is NOT in fact a good beach read precisely because it's so involved. My argument, bring sun screen! I did bring this to the beach for two reasons: first, it's long enough that I felt pretty secure in not overloading my bag with lots of books for once. Second, because I'd been watching the show I thought I'd actually have an easier time reading it. Both were great reasons and I finished with just one day left on my trip.

5. Nocturnes by John Connolly - short stories! And, they're short, creepy stories! 

6. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton - so I bought this book on vacation and then brought it to summer camp. I'm a bit biased because it is one of my favorite books of all time but I'll probably always consider it a summer time read thanks to the circumstances under which first read the book. 

7. The Beach by Alex Garland - I mean really, who could resist bringing this book on vacation?! 

8. Feed by Mira Grant - zombies are always fun to bring along on a trip in my humble opinion. I try to find room for zombies on just about any vacation these days.

9. Social Crimes and One Dangerous Lady by Jane Stanton Hitchcock - these were a lot of fun and coincidentally have both just been rereleased this month. And they're a bit lighter than my other choices on this list so far :)

10. The Ruins by Scott Smith - psychological horror about a bunch of kids on a trip that takes a turn for the worst. Really one of the ultimate summer reads for the same reason as Garland's The Beach.

And a last minute addition: yesterday's The Wonder Bread Summer by Jessica Anya Blau - hilarious in a kind of dark way but a one sitting read that's definitely perfect for summer!

Remembrance of the Daleks by Ben Aaronovitch

Morning, everyone! Today is my third stop on the TLC book tour in honor of the Doctor Who 50th anniversary books. This time I'm up with the Doctor 7 installment (Sylvester McCoy), Remembrance of the Daleks by Ben Aaronovitch.

The Daleks have returned to Earth in search of the Hand of Omega, a powerful Time Lord device that will allow them to better harness time travel. Fortunately, the Doctor and his sidekick, Ace, have arrived just in time to spoil the Daleks' plans. But the Doctor soon discovers that they are in the midst of a confrontation between two different Dalek factions. 

Unlike the first two titles I've done in this tour, this particular entry is actually a novelization of a multi-part episode (Remembrance of the Daleks) that originally aired in the 80s, kicking off the 25th anniversary season of the show. I think it's probably a super fun one (two, three) to view but in novel form I found it quite erratic, jumping from scene to scene without smooth transitions. It made it difficult to follow the plot as a whole. I wish I'd actually been able to just watch the episode instead. I'm actually a big fan of Ben Aaronovitch's Peter Grant series. Huge fan, in fact. But as Aaronovitch points out, this particular Doctor Who novel was his first time writing a novel and it was based on his own script for the show.

I thought it was really cool that the story returns to a previous Doctor Who story - the first story, in fact (according to Wikipedia). And having seen part of the first anniversary special this year I'd actually seen the opening sequence to the original episode where Ian and Barbara follow Susan to the Tardis. This takes place at Coal Hill School (where a set of scientists are monitoring magnetic fluctuations at the beginning of the book). For all it's misses, Remembrance of the Daleks is still a fun Doctor Who outing for fans.

Trivia: According to Who-Ology,  Russell T. Davies had planned to bring Ace (companion to Doctor seven, Sylvester McCoy, from 1987 to 1989 - and here in the book as well) back as a "tough but classy businesswoman" in The Sarah Jane Adventures.

And if Sylvester McCoy looks familiar (to those of us who missed him as the Doctor), it's because he's currently starring as Radagast the Brown in the new Hobbit movies.

Rating: 3/5

To see all of the stops on the tour and a full list of the anniversary titles, check out the official TLC tour page here.

And don't forget, there's still time to enter to win your choice of Only Human by Gareth Roberts (Doctor nine's anniversary installment) or the soon to be released Who-Ology: Doctor Who The Official Miscellany by Cavan Scott and Mark Wright. I'd originally set the contest to end on June 2 but I've extended it out to June 16 and am including it here. Please note, if you've already entered via one of the other tour posts here on my blog, you do not need to enter again. Though the rafflecopter appears on each post, it's one entry form so entering on either post is valid for the whole giveaway.

The publisher is offering up winner's choice of either Gareth Roberts's Only Human or the newWho-Ology. Simply fill out the rafflecopter below between now and midnight, June 16 to enter. This contest is open internationally!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Wonder Bread Summer by Jessica Anya Blau

Morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Jessica Anya Blau's The Wonder Bread Summer.

Allie Dodgson needs to get paid. After loaning her boyfriend all of her savings and the money from her scholarship to fund his bar purchase (he promised a swift return plus interest for her investment and then dumped her), she's flat broke and tuition is due. She's been working in a dress shop but her boss has yet to actually pay her. Fed up and desperate (and under the influence), Allie steals a Wonder Bread bag filled with uncut cocaine. Allie's logic is that she can take just enough to sell for the cash she's due (and pay her tuition so she can continue school) and return the rest, but her boss is none too pleased with this idea. Soon Allie's got henchmen on her tail and her only hope is to get to LA and ask her folks for help. 

Soooo where to begin? I kind of loved this book and I was surprised that it turned out that way. Really, on the first page you have the main character being accosted in a dressing room and tooting lines while customers wait outside the door. But Allie turned out to be a really relatable character and a kind of lovable one at that.

And seeing as how I grew up in the 80s, I really, really loved the setting (both time and place) of this book!

Throughout the story, Allie is faced with some pretty bizarre and ridiculously hilarious and awkward occurrences. (One of my favorites is her impromptu hostessing gig.) She dines with a paraplegic porn producer who turns out not to be so bad. She meets Billy Idol (another of my favorite parts) - and sleeps with him more than once. Her best friend is held hostage over the missing coke and... well, I don't want to give too much away. As her situation worsens, though, the story becomes more and more funny. I was even able to catch some of the Alice in Wonderland nods as well! 

Blau is a new-to-me writer but one I'm sorry to have missed until now. In Wonder Bread Summer she's crafted a darkly funny and somewhat twisted story with a vibrant and believable cast of characters - some you wish you could punch, some you wish you could hug, and some you just want to hang out with. I really can't wait to read more of her work.

I started this book Friday afternoon and finished it within just a few hours, only breaking long enough to find some supper. Readers, if you're a fan of quirky fiction you've got to give this one a try! This is probably going down as one of my all time favorite summer reads!

Rating: 5/5

To see other stops on the tour, check out the official TLC tour page here.

For more on Jessica Anya Blau and her work, visit her website here. You can also friend her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

New releases 6/11/13

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Circle of Shadows by Imogen Robertson

The Last Original Wife by Dorothea Benton Frank

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

The Tower by Simon Toyne

Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh

The Ides of April by Lindsay Davis

Until She Comes Home by Lori Roy

On Thousand and One Nights: A Retelling by Hanan al-Shaykh

The Widow Waltz by Sally Koslow

Shadow People by James Swain

The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan

The Fort by Aric Davis

Astor Place Vintage by Stephanie Lehmann

Bad Monkey by Carl Hiassan

The King's Deception by Steve Berry

Another Little Piece by Kate Karyus Quinn

Rush by Eve Silver

The Registry by Shannon Stoker

Deviant by Helen Fitzgerald

The Sacrifice by Charlie Higson

Far Far Away by Tom McNeal

Dance of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

New on DVD:
Oz: The Great and Powerful
Hansel & Gretel Witch Hunters
The Newsroom season 1

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Pre Pub Book Buzz: Omens by Kelley Armstrong

I've been wondering what Kelley Armstrong would be tackling now that her Women of the Otherworld series has officially ended (as if she isn't busy enough with her teen stuff and the Blackwell Pages with Melissa Marr). Now I know!

Here's a bit about Omens from Goodreads:

Twenty-four-year-old Olivia Taylor Jones has the perfect life. The only daughter of a wealthy, prominent Chicago family, she has an Ivy League education, pursues volunteerism and philanthropy, and is engaged to a handsome young tech firm CEO with political ambitions.

But Olivia’s world is shattered when she learns that she’s adopted. Her real parents? Todd and Pamela Larsen, notorious serial killers serving a life sentence. When the news brings a maelstrom of unwanted publicity to her adopted family and fiancĂ©, Olivia decides to find out the truth about the Larsens.

Olivia ends up in the small town of Cainsville, Illinois, an old and cloistered community that takes a particular interest in both Olivia and her efforts to uncover her birth parents’ past.

Aided by her mother’s former lawyer, Gabriel Walsh, Olivia focuses on the Larsens’ last crime, the one her birth mother swears will prove their innocence. But as she and Gabriel start investigating the case, Olivia finds herself drawing on abilities that have remained hidden since her childhood, gifts that make her both a valuable addition to Cainsville and deeply vulnerable to unknown enemies. Because there are darker secrets behind her new home and powers lurking in the shadows that have their own plans for her.

Omens is due out August 20 from Dutton and is the first in her new Cainsville series.