Monday, September 30, 2013

Not a Drop To Drink by Mindy McGinnis

Since the time of the Shortage water has been in scarce supply. Times like these, having your own water source is the difference between life and death. That's why Lynn and her mother will do anything to protect their pond. Lynn's earliest memories have everything to do with protecting their water and land. She was taught to shoot. She was taught to hunt. She was taught to kill. And she was taught that the only other person she could rely on was her mother. But then Lynn's mother dies and the teen is left alone to fend for herself. Winter is coming and there are strangers to the south as well as to the east. This time survival will mean more than just defending what's hers. This time Lynn will have to learn who she can trust.

Mindy McGinnis's debut has been gaining buzz for months but I wasn't able to tackle the book myself until this past weekend. Now I finally see what all the fuss has been about!

McGinnis's debut is part frontier survival and part post-apocalypse dystopian. We only get a bit of Lynn's world through the narrative, mainly because Lynn herself is so closed off and because her mother tells her little to nothing about the Shortage. What we do get, though, is enough to set the scene for a none too pleasant future in which potable water is sold at an extremely high price to those fortunate enough to live within a city's walls and isn't supplied at all to those outside.

Lynn and her mother live in the house her mother grew up in. Their nearest neighbor is seen through binoculars - he keeps to himself and Lynn and her mother keep to themselves. Lynn's mother's tactic for protecting their water is ensuring that no one beyond herself and her daughter comes anywhere close to it. (Lynn's mother is all about efficiency and practicality.) Turns out this is fine until Lynn is on her own.

Not a Drop to Drink is really everything you want in a great book. The characters are rich and real, the story is gripping, and McGinnis's writing is truly excellent. What's more, Not a Drop to Drink falls into the ever growing category of teen reads that's appealing to adults as well. I don't know what's in store next for McGinnis but she's made my must read list for sure!

Rating: 5/5

Sunday, September 29, 2013

New Releases 10/1/13

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Seance Society by Michael Nethercott

Mortal Bonds by Michael Sears

Let the Old Dreams Die by John Ajvide Lindqvist

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Red Hill by Jamie McGuire

The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen

Day One by Nate Kenyon

Ghosts Know by Ramsey Campbell

Johannes Cabal: The Fear Institute by Johanthan L. Howard

The Tilted World by Tom Franklin & Beth Ann Fennelly

The Sleep Room by F.R. Tallis

Loss of Innocence by Richard North Patterson

Spider Woman's Daughter by Anne Hillerman

The Last Man Standing by Davide Longo

Three Can Keep a Secret by Archer Mayor

Almost True Confession by Jane O'Connor

The Spymistress by Jennifer Chiaverini

Blowback by Valerie Plame

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Necromancer's House by Christopher Buehlman

Never Come Back by David Bell

The October List by Jeffery Deaver

Six Months Later by Natalie D. Richards

Perfect Ruin by Lauren DeStefano

The Enchanter Heir by Cinda Williams Chima

Endless by Jessica Shirvington

Blackout by Robison Wells

Unbreakable by Kami Garcia

Zom-B Baby by Darren Shan

New on DVD:
Frozen Ground
This is the End

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
Everything You Need by Michael Marshall Smith
Helping the Haunted by John Searles
Never Come Back by David Bell

Friday, September 27, 2013

A Cold Season by Alison Littlewood

After losing her husband overseas, Cass is in need of a change. The advert for the newly renovated mill turned apartment building in Darnshaw comes at the perfect time. Cass lived in Darnshaw for a while when she was a kid and though the memories of the place aren't all wonderful, it seems this is just what she and her son need. They arrive to find that building has stopped on the mill - but for their apartment, the building is empty of tenants and - if the apartment below Cass's is any indication - it'll be a while before that changes. But the other mothers seem welcoming enough and the substitute at her son's school is very supportive. Then the snow arrives. Darnshaw is soon cut off and Cass begins to realize that the village isn't at all what she'd hoped it would be.

I've been looking forward to this debut from Alison Littlewood for quite some time. When it hit shelves in the UK and reviews started popping up online, I immediately added it to my must have list. I'd actually planned to finally order it overseas when I learned it would be part of Quercus's US list, which of course resulted in a big, dorky happy dance.

Littlewood's strength in A Cold Season is atmosphere. From the get go, the town of Darnshaw and the old mill come across with ominous and creepy undertones. As the snow rolls in and Cass starts to become desperate, Littlewood ratchets up these elements appropriately. It helps to build an increasing tension throughout the story, making the reader even more aware of how Cass's situation is escalating into something horrible.

I'd originally thought that Cass's reactions to her son's behavior were odd. I'm not a parent, obviously. It's another piece of the mounting desperation that Littlewood builds in her characters, though. As she tries to excuse his odd outbursts as a result of losing his father and being uprooted, the reader is all too aware that it's something quite different.

A Cold Season is an excellent debut and I'm already looking forward to more from Littlewood. If I had one issue with this book, however, it would simply be that it went by too quickly.

Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Everything You Need by Michael Marshall Smith

Fall is definitely in the air! It's amazing to me how quickly the seasons changed here - September hit and bam (massive deluge aside) it's fall. This is so surreal compared to back home in Louisiana where we have about two seasons: hot and not so hot. And that's totally fine with me except that I actually kind of love fall. Not the cold mind you, just fall. Fall doesn't mean pumpkin lattes for me, it means Halloween and an even more intense craving for horror than I suffer from the rest of the year. ('Cause let's face it, it's always there. At least for me.) So it's perfect that this month marks the release of Earthling Publication's latest collection from Michael Marshall Smith, Everything You Need.

If you've not read Michael Marshall/Michael Marshall Smith before, you are most definitely missing out. While he's been published for years it was actually the release of The Straw Men that caught my attention. It was the first in a trilogy that was released during my bookseller days. Since then, he's penned a number of additional titles including The Servants, Bad Things, and Killer Move. And he's got a new release due out here in the States in February from Mulholland. In the midst of all of that, he's somehow found the time to compile a new collection of shorts featuring a selection of previously pubbed pieces and all new stories (with story notes!!!!) in Everything You Need.

Throughout the years I have become increasingly more fond of short stories and it's all thanks to authors like Michael Marshall Smith. The stories in Everything You Need run the gamut from fun ("The Seventeenth Kind") to freaky ("Sad, Dark Thing," which I had the pleasure of reading last fall) and everything in between. Some, like "The Stuff That Goes on in Their Heads," will make you ponder deeper thoughts while others will scare the ever living crap out of you. They make for dark and dreary bedtime stories - the kind that make you double check locks and turn on lights even though you know it won't help - and that's exactly what I enjoy about them!

Smith conveys so much emotion and detail in each of the stories, something that always amazes me in shorts in particular, how, in just a few pages, the author can ensnare the reader and leave them breathless with anticipation and utterly worn out by the end.

While I did truly enjoy each and every story in this collection, I must say my personal favorites were "Author of the Death," "Unnoticed," "The Woodcutter," and "The Last Barbecue."

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Sequels Ever

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

C is for Corpse by Sue Grafton - so this was the actual first in the Kinsey Millhone series that truly hooked me. I read one a night every night until I caught up!

Embrace the Night Eternal - this second in Joss Ware's Envy Chronicles series ramped up the action and gave a little insight into the whole zombie apocalypse. Plus there was the whole icky cult thing, too.

Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde - there's so much set up and world building in Eyre Affair that it's a bit tough to get through. By the time you get to this second in the Thursday Next series, we're all set in the world and I think it's a much easier read. 

Rogue by Rachel Vincent - this is the same situation as the Fforde above. It took me a while to get into Stray because there was so much set up. By book two, though, all that's out of the way and we're able to enjoy the straight action! I adored this series.

Through the Ever Night by Veronica Rossi - holy moly! I loved this book. I didn't love Under the Never Sky - didn't dislike it by any means but I didn't love it like I did Through the Ever Night.

Frail by Joan Francis Turner - so this is supposed to be the second in a trilogy and while I wouldn't say it was better than its predecessor Frail (which is told from a zombie's perspective) it was pretty awesome and definitely left me anxious for the third and yet-to-be-released installment.

One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson - this second in the Jackson Brodie series proves just how great Brodie as a character really is. The mysteries are clever but the characters are phenomenal!

A Winter Haunting by Dan Simmons - this was a follow up but not exactly sequel to Summer of Night. It's an excellent return to the setting and characters of Summer but also stands great on its own. 

The Twelve by Justin Cronin - Oh, this series! Cronin is just awesome. I don't really know what to say other than the author and the books are awesome!

The Ghosts of Sleath by James Herbert - this one is the second book to feature David Ash. Haunted, the first book, blew me away and Ghosts of Sleath was no exception. The third installment, sadly, left a lot to be desired. 

The Fountain of St. James Court; or, Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman by Sena Jeter Naslund

Morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Sena Jeter Naslund's latest, The Fountain of St. James Court; or, Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman.

I had a very hard time with this book and for that reason I'm going to use the synopsis from the publisher's page:

"Is it a crime to live? To create happiness for yourself through your own work?"

How do writers and painters get their ideas? And what are the hard realities of such seemingly glamorous and romantic lives? In her groundbreaking new novel, New York Times bestselling author Sena Jeter Naslund explores the transformative power of art, history, and love in the lives of creative women.

It's midnight on St. James Court, at the heart of which is a beautiful fountain sculpture of Venus rising from the sea. Kathryn Callaghan has just finished the first draft of her novel about renowned painter Élisabeth Vigée-Le Brun, a survivor of the French Revolution who was hated for her sympathetic portraits of Marie Antoinette. Although the manuscript is complete, its author remains haunted by Élisabeth's experiences, which are revealed in Sena Jeter Naslund's ingenious novel-within-a-novel interleaved with the chronicle of a day in the life of Kathryn Callaghan. Despite being separated by time, place, and culture, Kathryn and Élisabeth possess similar gifts and burdens: uncompromising aesthetic codes, fierce pride in their artistic expression, and unwavering love and sacrifice for their children. And before the next midnight rolls around, Kathryn will have confronted personal danger as frightening as the butchery that Élisabeth faced during the Reign of Terror. Each woman will be called upon and tested; each will, like Venus, rise triumphantly above the expectations of her world.

Abundance was my very first experience with Sena Jeter Naslund's work. It's the story of Marie Antoinette and I really quite adored it. In this latest, the author again returns to the time of the French Revolution with Élizabeth Vigée- Le Brun, an artist who once graced Marie Antoinette's court. But the artist is only part of the story here, her tale appearing as a story within the story in the form of a novel written by Kathryn Callaghan.

I'm not sure why there was such a disconnect between myself and this book but we just did not mesh. It was Élizabeth Vigée- Le Brun that drew me to this novel thanks to Abundance. It's perhaps exactly this that set me up for trouble with the book. Or maybe it was just the wrong time, a good book is a good book regardless of expectations and more often than not I'm able to set those aside eventually and become totally enraptured in a story that ends up being something other than what I'd thought it would be. Either way I struggled and struggled with the book in a way that thankfully I rarely have to.

I do know that part of my problem came about thanks to the format of the book, particularly in the very beginning. The story alternates between Kathryn and her book (not the issue) but in the beginning especially, each alternating chapter is so short that it didn't feel like I was getting a chance to know either character in any real way. I found myself becoming frustrated every time the story would switch back and forth. Dual narratives are never a problem for me, in fact I do enjoy them quite a bit, but I want to really connect with a character from the start and I found that almost impossible with this narrative.

All in all this was clearly not the book for me. I've seen some wonderful reviews on the tour so far, though, and definitely encourage readers to check out those before making an opinion as to whether or not the book might be for them.

Rating: 3/5

To see more stops on the tour, visit the official TLC tour page here. For more on the author, you can like her on Facebook.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Four Summoner's Tales by Kelly Armstrong, Christopher Golden, David Liss, and Jonathan Maberry

One prompt, four authors, four very different stories. This is the concept behind Four Summoner's Tales a collection of novellas featuring Kelly Armstrong, Christopher Golden, David Liss, and Jonathan Maberry. According to the intro, Golden and Maberry conceived of the idea over dinner one evening. Their prompt was just one sentence: A strange visitor comes to town, offering to raise the townsfolk's dearly departed from the dead - for a price. With that in mind, they chose two additional authors and all set out to create their own tales.

In Armstrong's "Suffer the Children" a town devastated by a diphtheria outbreak welcomes a man who claims to be able to raise their children from the dead. But of course it comes at a price. Addie and her foster family are certain that this is no miracle and must discover the truth before the town is too far gone.

Golden's "Pipers" a small Texas town has seen unimaginable tragedy: over twenty people gunned down in an increasingly escalating war with a Mexican drug cartel. Enoch has come to offer them a new option. He can bring back their dead, and with their help, bring down the cartel. 

In Liss's "A Bad Season for Necromancy" In eighteenth-century England, a man has a plan to get out from under his father's thumb. He kills his father, steals his little bit of money, and moves to the city where he now calls himself January. Here is plans to find a wealthy wife and leave his past behind. But his ghosts aren't so happy to be left behind and his plan is ruinously revealed. When he discovers a book that will allow him to raise the dead, he thinks that surely all his problems will disappear. He's greatly mistaken. His troubles have only just begun.

And finally Maberry's "Alive Day" features Captain Joe Ledger on a mission to recover a lost team of soldiers in Afghanistan. The team, codenamed Rattlesnake, went dark while attempting to stop a group of drug traffickers said to be moving more than just opium. Rattlesnake ended up running into something much worse than terrorists, but it isn't until his own team arrives to investigate that Ledger begins to understand. 

Each of these four stories is obvious very different from the others. Not only is it a great collection, but it's a wonderful example of how even one core concept can bring about in quite different results.

Rating: 4/5

Sunday, September 22, 2013

New Releases 9/24/13

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

Cartwheel by Jennifer duBois

The Wedding Gift by Marlen Suyapa Bodden

A Cold Season by Alison Littlewood

The Stranger You Know by Andrea Kane

The Plague Forge by Jason M. Hough

Teatime for the Firefly by Shona Patel

Cut to the Bone by Jefferson Bass

King's Mountain by Sharyn McCrumb

Seven Forges by James A. Moore

Charming by Elliott Hames

Vicious by V.E. Schwab

The Outcasts by Kathleen Kent

The Dead Run by Adam Mansbach

The Bride Wore Size 12 by Meg Cabot

Deadline by Sandra Brown

The Small Hand and Dolly by Susan Hill

Stonecast by Anton Strout

Not a Drop To Drink by Mindy McGinnis

Witchstruck by Victoria Lamb

Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan

Through The Zombie Glass by Gena Showalter

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

A Radiant Sky by Jocelyn Davies

Battle Magic by Tarmora Pierce

The Fallout by S. A. Boden

All the Truth That's In Me by Julie Berry

A Spark Unseen by Sharon Cameron

New on DVD:
Iron Man 3
Room 237
The Kings of Summer
Unfinished Song

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
Four Summoner's Tales by Kelley Armstrong, Christopher Golden, David Liss, and Jonathan Maberry

Thursday, September 19, 2013

To See or Not To See: Twixt

Sooooo, Francis Ford Coppola made a horror movie (wrote, produced, and directed). Twixt was pretty much limited to the festival circuit before a very limited release and I heard nothing about it. Or maybe I just didn't look. I did see the trailer and it did pique my interest enough that I queued it up for dvd release.

Horror author Hall Baltimore (Val Kilmer) is on tour for his latest release when he makes a scheduled stop in a strange little town whose only claims to fame are the seven-sided clock tower (that never has the correct time on any one face) and the fact that Edgar Allan Poe once stayed a night in a local hotel. The hotel, sadly, has long been boarded up thanks to a multiple homicide. It so happens that the town has seen another more recent murder, though. One that the local sheriff thinks would make great fodder for a novel. Baltimore is uninterested until he meets V, a young local who missed his signing and comes to him in a dream. Now inspired, Baltimore sets about penning a new tome based on the town's eerie past and it's latest victim. 

It had promise. Had. First, Val Kilmer. God love him but his good movies are few and far between these days. And that probably should have been a sign. He's joined by Bruce Dern as Sheriff Bobby LaGrange, Ellie Fanning as V, and his old Willow co star Joanne Whalley as his beleaguered wife. Oh, and Ben Chaplin as Poe. And surprisingly, it's not the Poe element that drives this mess off the rails.

Visually there were some interesting things going on. The dream sequences were kind of neat if a little confusing. The writerly bits were actually fun. Overall, though, I'm not really sure what the heck happened. This movie was all over the place! Dream sequences, Poe as Baltimore's muse, murders, immortal goth kids, a weirdo sheriff, and then you get the devil in the clocktower stories and vampires. Yep. Throw in the kitchen sink and you're pretty well covered. (I've left out a few pieces in case you deem this interesting enough to suffer through on your own.)

Oh, and Baltimore's tragic backstory.

I've never been a huge Godfather fan (I know, string me up) so Coppola is a name that I recognize but not someone I idolize. It was surprising, though, that Twixt didn't work on so many levels. Probably the only thing it had going for it was that it was curiously interesting in a confusing enough way to keep me watching just to find out what was going on and that could be chalked up to my craving horror of any kind of late. Ultimately and sadly, the only real horror here was how disappointing Twixt actually was.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Lady's Maid by Dilly Court

Morning, everyone! Today I'm part of the Dilly Court's blog tour with TLC Book Tours. This tour actually features two of Court's books and I'm up this morning with The Lady's Maid.

Two girls born on the same day and set to live very different lives. Josephine, the daughter of a passionate affair between a young Romany and a man of means, has been adopted out to her father's family. After years of trying to conceive, her adopted mother decides this is a fortuitous way to welcome a child into their home but no one can ever know that Josephine is not her own. Kate's mother only admitted that she had no one else to turn to before she died giving birth. A mother fallen out with her family and a father dead in battle has left little Kate alone in the world. Luckily another nearby family had longed for their own child as well. Josephine and Kate grow up alongside one another as friends, but as they become older things begin to change.

I don't think I can really do the book justice with my synopsis but I think you get the gist. When I came to the book it was being promoted for fans of Downton. I'd agree and disagree. It's in no way similar to Downton really, beyond the fact that it's historical fiction, it's set in England, and it's a character driving drama. But for all those reasons it will definitely appeal to Downton fans. Throw in the fact that Dilly Court has created a story woven around a cast of very believable characters and that the book is a true page turner and you have a win for fans of drama/romance in a historical setting. (I hear The Best of Daughters, the other title on this tour is more Dowton-esque in a lot of ways.)

As characters, Kate is definitely the one you root for. Josephine is moody and flightly. She's also spoiled and used to getting her way. For these reasons she's not exactly nice to Kate even though she does go to great lengths for her. It's an odd relationship but in truth it's no different than a lot of young friendships (minus the whole, I've got money and wealth and land and you're a servant thing). And while the reader knows all along that the girls' heritage will somehow come into play in the story, it's more than a little bit of the driving force in the tale so I won't reveal anything along those lines :)

Rating: 4/5

Talk about a total change from yesterday's read, right? My eclectic reading taste can kind of make your head spin, but in all honesty I just really love a wide range of genres and a good story is a good story regardless of whether it's romance or horror, sci fi or mystery.

Dilly Court is published in the UK and her books are now available here in the States in e format, which is fortunate because I plan to read much more of her work in the future! You can read an excerpt of The Lady's Maid here.

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

For more on Dilly Court and her other titles, visit her website here.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Fall TBR

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 in Your Fall TBR. (There are so many, how can I narrow it down?!)

1. S. by JJ Abrams and Doug Dorst - I know there's a lot of hype around this one what with the mysterious book trailer and such but I have a feeling this is going to be super cool!

2. The Abominable by Dan Simmons - it's Dan Simmons. He's a genius jack of all trades.

3. Bellman and Black by Diane Setterfeld - I've been waiting for a new book from Setterfeld since finishing her debut ages ago!

4. Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding - it's about time we get to return to Bridget! I never really thought we'd get another one so this is a bit of a happy surprise. 

5. The Trap by Andrew Fukuda - Oh, I can't wait to see how this story ends!

6. Broken by C.J. Lyons - this is Lyons's teen debut. I do so enjoy her adult fiction. 

7. Perfect Ruin by Lauren DeStefano - because the Chemical Garden trilogy has made me a die hard fan :)

8. Parasite by Mira Grant - anyone who's read the previous trilogy understands why!

9. Dangerous Women ed by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois - the lineup of authors would be enough but the fact that there's another Song of Ice and Fire story makes it an absolute must have. (Technically not really a fall read since it's due out in Sept.)

10. The Lost Girls of Rome by Donato Carrisi - The Whisperer was incredibly dark and creepy. I expect this new one from Carrisi will be equally so.

Like I said, there are so many more!

Help For the Haunted by John Searles

Morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for John Searles's latest, Help For the Haunted!

Sylvie Mason's parents have a strange job. Some call them demonologists, some call them crazy, and some flat out call them liars. But Sylvie has seen some of what her parents can do. She's seen them help people. One evening, after taking a call in the middle of the night, Sylvie's parents pack her up and drive over to the local church, leaving Sylvie in the car to sleep. Just a little while later, Sylvie is woken up by a strange noise. Nine months later Sylvie is the key witness against Albert Lynch, the man everyone believes killed Rose and Sylvester Mason. But Sylvie isn't all that certain what she saw that night and she's already lied to protect her own sister. 

I get chills even thinking about Help For the Haunted. This is one freaking amazingly creepy book! The narrative skips back and forth between Sylvie's present and what she sees as the beginning of the whole thing, carrying the reader through the Mason's story from just a few years before the murders to the event in question.

Sylvie is not only a character you can sympathize with, but because she's a child there's also an innocence to her narration. She's charming in a way and you feel you can trust her but as the story plays out it's clear that she's hiding something from the reader, something that she's not going to reveal until close to the very end. It could be a secret, it could be something she's not yet recognized as being relevant to the mystery she's trying to unravel, or it could just be something she doesn't yet want to face (I won't tell!). I mean, you're halfway through the book before the story about Penny, the doll, becomes clear even though mention of the dolls left in their driveway happens almost at the very beginning of the book. (Oh, that doll!)

In terms of tension and pacing, this is the kind of book you want to gobble up in one sitting but the atmosphere and build are the kind I actually prefer to savor. There's a quiet sort of dreadful eeriness and atmosphere to the story. Searles sort of lulls you into an uncomfortable state of ease even though you know something is coming soon. Readers, Help For the Haunted is truly a book to lose yourself in.

I don't want to give too much away, after all there is a mystery at the heart of the story and the true pleasure comes in watching it unfold. Help For the Haunted is definitely going down on my favorites list this year. It's one that I highly recommend if you're looking for something incredibly creepy this fall!

Rating: 5/5

To see more stops on the tour, check out the official TLC tour page here. For more on John Searles you can like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Elementals by Francesca Lia Block

For many, starting college is an exciting new prospect. For Ariel, it's bittersweet. She and her best friend Jeni had planned to go to Berkeley together. But Jeni is gone, vanished almost without a trace while on a school trip to the campus. And now Ariel's mother is sick, diagnosed with breast cancer and set to undergo surgery and treatment once Ariel is safely off to school. Ariel spends much of her spare time at Berkeley looking for answers in Jeni's disappearance, combing the campus and the surrounding area passing out flyers and asking questions. Then she meets John Graves and his roommates, Tania and Perry. Everything about the three friends captivates Ariel: their lifestyle, their attitudes, the way they embrace life... At first they are a distraction from her obsession with Jeni's fate but as Ariel becomes more a part of their world her life begins to change in unimaginable ways. 

The Elementals is Francesca Lia Block's latest adult release as well as my own introduction to her work. It's a strange read in a lot of ways, described as being a coming-of-age tale with a touch of magical realism, which is actually quite appropriate. Not having read Block before, I was going to describe her style as lyrical but apparently that's used quite often. I'll go one more and say her writing is mesmerizing, entrancing, or any other number of synonyms along that line: I found myself quite unable to set the book down until I got to the end. I needed to see Ariel's story through and find out what was going to happen. There were admittedly times where I was confused or unsure where the story was going and how it would all tie up in the end. I wondered if there would be questions left unanswered, threads just dangling in the wind. Fortunately this is not the case. Everything does come together more or less by the turn of the final page.

Ariel goes through so much more than the general setting off on her own and transitioning to college: she's lost her best friend and she's facing the possibility of losing her mother as well. In fact, for all intents and purposes she has lost her parents to cancer already. Her mother and father are consumed by overcoming it and getting Ariel's mother back to health, leaving Ariel vulnerable and alone.

The blend of elements here works so well it's almost scary. As I mentioned above, it's a coming-of-age tale with a mix of magical realism but it's also a mystery and that magical realism borders on fantasy at it's most striking moments. Fairy tales and folk stories become a bit of a webbing wrapped around the story as a whole and providing an interesting context for a lot of the things that happen in the book. Overall it really is a wonderfully weird and touching book.

The Elementals is out in paperback tomorrow. Block also has a new YA title out now, Love in the Time of Global Warming, and a forthcoming adult title, Beyond the Pale Motel, due out next.

Rating: 4/5

As an afterthought, I feel I should add that we are faring well here. Boulder is just 15 miles away but luckily we had no flooding in our area at all. Friends are all ok as well though some are bailing out flooded basements as a result of the deluge.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

New releases 9/17/13

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Help For the Haunted by John Searles

Seven For a Secret by Lyndsay Faye

Mother, Mother by Koren Zailckas

The Partner Track by Helen Wan

Anarchy by James Treadwell

Delia's Shadow by Jaime Lee Moyer

A Commonplace Killing by Sian Busby

Strange Bird by Anna Jansson

Black Skies by Arnaldur Indridason

Four Summoner's Tales by Armstrong et al

Covet by Tracey Garvis Graves

The Rose and the Thorn by Michael J. Sullivan

The Quest by Nelson DeMille (reissue)

The Fountain of St. James Court by Sena Jeter Naslund

Tropic of Darkness by Tony Richards

Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon

The One-Eyed Man by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

The Final Cut by Catherine Coulter & J.T. Ellison

Who Asked You by Terry McMillan

The Cure by Douglas E. Richards

Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking by Anya von Bremzen

Frozen by Melissa de la Cruz & Michael Johnson

Tumble & Fall by Alexandra Coutts

The Kinslayer by Jay Kristoff

The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason

United We Spy by Ally Carter

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

QB1 by Mike Lupica

The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas

This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

New on DVD:
World War Z
The East
Bates Motel season 1

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
Save Yourself by Kelly Braffet
The Chalice by Nancy Bilyeau
Don't Look Now by Michelle Gagnon

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Waking Dark by Robin Wasserman

Happy Friday the 13th!

When Maureen Johnson came to town this year, she said that if I liked scary stuff I had to read Robin Wasserman's The Waking Dark. This week we've had leaden skies, storms, and even flooding. Definitely the kind of weather for staying indoors and reading something scary.

They called it the killing day. The day when five of Oleander's citizens became murderers. A babysitter, the owner of a drugstore, a high school coach, a preacher, and a tweaker... they had nothing in common except that they all lived in Oleander and they were all killers. And no one knows why they did it. West, Daniel, Ellie, Jule, and Cass all survived that day. None of them imagined ever living through such horror. None of them imagined it would happen again.

I am amazed this is a teen book for a number of reasons, the primary one being the pacing. Paired with the length, The Waking Dark would stylistically seem to be better suited for adult shelves. But I'm glad it's not. As with Rowling breaking down the standard accepted length barriers in kid's fiction, I'm glad that the folks at Random House have gone for such a meaty and slower paced book in a genre where the sad trend seems to be diving as quickly as possible into the action - character, setting, and story development be damned. Unless, of course, you're a fan of the King of horror himself :) and a few other additions of late (Justin Cronin's tomes come to mind). And yes, both of those examples are in adult horror rather than teen. See, Wasserman's style is just atypical of what's previously been presented in much of YA.

All of those things listed above - character, setting, and story development - are spot on in Wasserman's latest. It makes Waking Dark a hefty and dense read, but an ultimately satisfying one.

With one small, minor exception. My one and only complaint is the big reveal. So much time is spent leading up to this and then the explanation comes and goes in the blink of an eye - or the turn of a few pages. Everything else is so well developed and honestly nothing is missing from the reveal it just felt unbalanced in terms of the amount of space given over to it.

The Waking Dark is like the cousin to all those R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike books I read in elementary school and the younger sister of the King titles I started reading just a few years later. In fact, it's exactly what I wanted to get my hands on in the teen section when I actually was a teen. (And it certainly still hits the spot today as well!) Other than the fact that the main characters here are teens, there's nothing incredibly teeny about this book. It's dark and it's pretty violent, well-written and ultimately, I think, appealing to horror fans of all ages.

Rating: 4/5

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Doctor Who: Dark Horizons by Jenny T. Colgan

Good morning, Whovians! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Jenny T. Colgan's Dark Horizons, a new Doctor Who adventure featuring Doctor eleven!

The Doctor is traveling alone and bored. Tired of losing to himself at chess he decides to seek out a possible opponent and ends up traveling to twelfth century Earth, landing on a small island just as a passing Viking ship is being attacked by fire. Yes, fire. The ship in question is transporting their princess and her dowry to her betrothed when they are set upon by a mysterious and raging fire hovering above the water. Freydis is certain it must be the gods saving her from her fate as bride to an unappealing husband. Instead it's the Doctor himself who comes to the rescue. The Vikings are able to take refuge on the nearby island, much to the initial disappointment of the locals who have fallen prey to their new companions' raiding and pillaging in the past. Meanwhile, the Doctor sets about trying to discover the source of the strange attacking fire entity. 

As always, it's fun simply to get a chance at another of the Doctor's adventures. This one comes at a particularly perfect time considering we've still got a few months to go before the 50th anniversary ep, which will sadly mark the end of Matt Smith's reign as the eleventh Doctor.

Colgan does a fantastic job mashing up Vikings and a unique villainous entity for the Doctor to go up against. Dark Horizons is a wonderfully entertaining addition to the Doctor Who universe. As an aside, if I'd not looked her up online I wouldn't have known that Colgan is a prolific writer with a string of novels to her name and nary a sci-fi one in sight. Not that it matters: a writer is a writer and a Who fan is a Who fan. Jenny Colgan is a great writer and a huge Doctor Who fan and it shows in Dark Horizons. She's set to write another Doctor Who tale for 2014 as part of the upcoming e book series Time Trips.

To see more stops on the tour, check out the TLC tour page here. A quick search will lead you to Jenny Colgan's author page and Twitter feed, but she's created a Facebook page specifically for her Whovian matters, which you can like here.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Club Monstrosity and Monsters in Your Neighborhood by Jesse Petersen

Every week Natalie, Alec, Kai, Drake, Linda, Ellis, Henry, Edward, and Bob get together in the Holy Heart Church basement for their support group meeting with Monstofelldosis Anonymous. They all share a difficult and taxing problem - they're monsters. Natalie is one of Frankenstein's creations, Alec is a werewolf, Kai a mummy, Drake is actually Dracula, Linda is a swamp dweller, Ellis the invisible man, Henry and Edward are the two parts of Dr, Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Bob is the blob. All of them have been trying to live normal lives in the human world for ages and the group helps them to do that. Their latest meeting starts a bit strangely with Bob, their fearless leader, and Ellis both missing. At least they think Ellis is missing. No one can be quite sure sometimes. Their fears are realized when Natalie, who works as an assistant at the morgue, discovers that Ellis has been murdered - in the same fashion as his story. When Bob is discovered shortly thereafter, locked in a freezer and very much dead, the monsters all realize that someone is out to get them!

The Monsters in Your Neighborhood picks up about six months later with the monsters having regrouped and now readying to go head to head with the Van Helsings. They've got a couple of new members in Rehu, another mummy, and Pat, a Cthulu who lives in the sewers. But since the events of six months ago, none of them are safe. The Van Helsings have dissolved the brief but tenuous truce that once existed between them and it seems an actual monster attack has recently been caught on tape and gone viral. With their anonymity threatened and a family of historic monster hunters gunning for them, you could say they're all at their wits end.

Jesse Petersen, author of the Living with the Dead books, is back with this latest from Pocket's new e imprint. Club Monstrosity  and The Monsters in Your Neighborhood, with their ensemble cast of literary monsters, are like a snarky younger sibling of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. They're fun and funny, altogether quick and amusing reads that hit the spot for me this week. I actually read right through both books in about a day's worth of reading time.

Petersen has a charming and sarcastic style that I find impossible to resist. It's what drew me in her previous series and these books as well. Pop culture references and the character casting complete with witty banter (and the aforementioned snark) are undeniably and welcomingly reminiscent of Buffy sans a slayer (or, in this case, with the slayer being the enemy).

Ratings: 4/5

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

When Tana was just a little girl, the vampire virus began to spread rampantly across the globe. All it took was one vampire who didn't follow the rules and the delicate balance was tipped in vampires' favor. Those who were bitten became infected or Cold. They could recover but only if they abstained from drinking human blood for eighty-eight days. The hunger associating with being Cold is unbearable, though, and the recovery time brutal and torturous. This is the new reality.

Now a teen, Tana is used to the world that's come up around her as a result of the vampires. She and her friends have overnight parties - locked in from sundown to sunset and safe from any potential roaming vamps - and reality tv shows broadcast from Coldtowns (walled cities for vamps, infected, and people who volunteer their blood for food) offer outsiders a glimpse of the glamorous and sinful times to be had living the life of a vampire. But then Tana's friends are attacked, leaving just Tana and two others alive and able to escape. Tana is afraid that she could be infected and knows that the only solution is to turn herself in at the nearest Coldtown. Eighty-eight days and she can be free again. Eighty-eight days, if she can survive.

It just goes to show you there still is plenty of room for a unique and stand out vampire book! Holly Black's latest is just that - truly unique story with characters and a plot that will surprise you.

First, let me say the premise is wonderful! The opening pages set the tone for a dark and twisted spin on a vampire apocalypse and the people living through it. Tana is a teen like any other teen. When we meet her she's complaining about a problematic ex and she's just about to head home from an all night party when she discovers something shocking: everyone at the party is dead. Almost everyone, that is. She's still alive and her problematic ex is found tied to a bed in one of the other rooms along with a strange companion who turns out to be a vampire himself.

Aiden is Cold and Tana is determined to see him through it. Their new vampire companion is a particularly interesting individual, a vampire who's crazy in the strictest sense of the word. But he's willing to help all thanks to Tana saving him.

Each turn of the story presents something new and somewhat unexpected for a vampire book. Yes, there's a bit of a love story - though it's quite well developed in terms of timing and such (no insta-love here, folks). Yes there are the romanticized vamps (though they don't sparkle) and yes there's plenty of gore. And while I know this is Holly Black's bit of a love letter to vampire books, I found it to be reminiscent of one of my own favorite teen vampire movies, The Lost Boys.

Rating: 5/5

Monday, September 9, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I'd Like to See Made Into a Movie/Show

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 that (in a perfect world) I'd like to see made into a movie or tv show.

Believe it or not, a lot of the books I'd like to see on screen are actually under plans for adaptation - Ben Aaronovitch's Peter Grant books, Justin Cronin's The Passage, Julianna Baggot's Pure, Diane Setterfield's Thirteenth Tale... some of these have yet to happen but others are already greenlighted and/or in production.

1. First and freaking foremost Stephen King's Dark Tower series! Tv show preferably :) A la Game of Thrones

2. The rest of the Wizard of Oz series (Baum). Return to Oz is one of my childhood favorites and combines books two and three in the Oz series (Land of and Ozma of) and it's so wonderfully dark and creepy! I adore the books and would love to see more done. 

3. The Lunar Chronicles books by Marissa Meyer

4. Paul Cornell's London Falling - interestingly this book did sort of start out as a tv pitch.

5. Sarah Zettel's American Fairy series - Dust Girl is in fact influenced in part by an old movie but I think the idea of fairies in the Dust Bowl period is fabulous and I think it would make a great movie!

6. Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone series - and it would have to be all 80's fabulousness!

7. How cool would it be to see Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next world come to life on the big screen? I don't want to see it unless it's in this non existent perfect world we're working under the illusion of here in this TTT, but if done right this would be so awesome to see.

8. The Milkweed Triptych by Ian Tregillis - I love the combination of WWII historical fiction and sci-fi in this trilogy and I love cross genre movies as much as cross genre books.

9. Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone series - because again, if done right, this world would be excellent to see come to life visually.

10. Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld - I adored this book and I do, every once in a while, like movies from the lighter side :)

I can think of a ton more, but then I'd be going on all day!

The Returned by Jason Mott + a Giveaway

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Jason Mott's debut, The Returned.

Jacob was just eight when he died in 1966. Now he's back, alive and well and exactly the same as he was the day he drowned. And Jacob's not the only one; the Returned have been showing up everywhere. Lucille and Harold had heard about the Returned before Jacob arrived. To Lucille it was clear that they must be devils of some kind, at least until her own son turned up. Now she's certain that it's a true miracle. Harold was never exactly sure. They both see the effect of the Returned in their small town of Arcadia, though. Some folks are angry and afraid while others are confused. And some, like Lucille, are simply happy to have their loved ones back. Still there are no answers. No one knows why or how these people have come back. As protests and riots begin to occur all over the world, the government begins to take certain measures. 

The Returned is an amazing book. Really! I've seen similar approaches to this kind of topic before - mostly on screen with the recent In the Flesh (a UK show about a treatment that allows zombies to return home), The 4400 (the USA show from a few years back where 4,400 alien abductees all return at one time in one specific place), and to some extent Heroes considering the public reaction to the new superpower endowed. In The Returned Jason Mott gives us snippets of other Returned interspersed between chapters of the main story concerning Arcadia and the Hargraves. Arcadia, while small, serves as a great microcosm of the event itself illustrating what's happening the world over and also giving the reader a chance to get to know one core set of characters. Compared to the shows I've mentioned above, if you like any one of them you'll certainly like The Returned, but I find that even with similarities Mott's book stands out as being unique both in characters and story.

The public reactions to the Returned are compelling and thought provoking. Perhaps I'm a bit jaded in terms of human behavior but honestly the issues that occur are exactly what I'd imagine happening should something like this ever come about. It added an emotional element to the reading of the book, though, and I found myself at times both saddened and angry while reading.

In spite of the obvious supernatural leanings here, The Returned doesn't at all read like a paranormal or sci-fi only story. Instead, I think it's the kind of book that appeals to readers of just about all genres. I can see how the issues brought up in the book would be great fodder for book group conversations and the story has already been picked up and produced for the small screen, airing midseason on ABC as Resurrection. I'd imagine this will bring in a whole new set of readers curious about the show's origin, though it is obvious from the trailer that the story has been changed at least a little bit.

For those who are interested now but would like a little taste first, there are three short e prequels. In "The First" we meet Edmund Blithe, the first Returned. In "The Sparrow" a young couple finds Tatiana, a girl who died in 1994 (we also meet her in one of the other Returned stories in The Returned as well). And finally, in "The Choice" a husband is faced with a strange decision when his high school sweetheart returns almost twenty years after her disappearance. They're all free and while not at all necessary to the book itself, they're nice little extras. They do each include an excerpt of The Returned as well. ("The Sparrow" was my favorite of the three.)

Rating: 5/5

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

For more on Jason Mott including his current book tour dates and locations (Denver folks, he'll be at the Tattered Cover on Colfax tomorrow. See if he's coming to a store near you!) you can visit his website here. You can also like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

And now for the giveaway: The publisher is offering up one copy of Jason Mott's The Returned. To enter, just fill out the Rafflecopter below before September 23. US/Canada only and no PO boxes please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, September 8, 2013

New Releases 9/10/13

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this month are:

The Edge of Normal by Carla Norton

Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford

W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton

The Wrong Girl by Hank Phillippi Ryan

The Storycatcher by Ann Hite

Rivers by Michael Farris Smith

Darwin's Blade by Dan Simmons (reissue)

The Bones of Paris by Laurie R. King

Second Watch by J.A. Jance

The Thicket by Joe R. Lansdale

New Money by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal

The Hive by Gill Hornby

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Antigoddess by Kendare Blake

The Waking Dark by Robin Wasserman

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Thornhill by Kathleen Peacock

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

Monsters by Ilsa J. Bick

The Chaos of the Stars by Kiersten White

New on DVD:
Star Trek Into Darkness

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
Alex by Pierre Lemaitre
A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny
Human Remains by Elizabeth Haynes
Asylum by Madeleine Roux
Don't Turn Around by Michelle Gagnon

Friday, September 6, 2013

A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny

August 27 saw the release of the latest installment in Louise Penny's beloved Inspector Gamache series and I'm doing my best to catch up. I have a bit of a ways to go considering I've only read books one and five thus far. And now I can add book two to the list as well.

A Fatal Grace begins with a murder. Actually, that's not quite right. It begins with the residents of Three Pines preparing for Christmas. The newest addition to the village, CC de Poitiers, should probably have avoided buying the old Hadley house. People might have warned her but for the fact that CC had a tendency to make enemies wherever she went. She was quite an unpleasant woman by all accounts except her own, so no one is particularly remiss when CC dies. The circumstances surrounding her death are peculiar, to say the least, and so Gamache is sent to Three Pines once again to investigate. He and his team immediately note the fact that no one mourns this woman's passing and are quick to conclude that her death was no accident. But with a town full of potential suspects, Gamache and his team will have their work cut out for them in weeding out the true killer.

While it has taken me a while to get into this series, I do thoroughly enjoy Three Pines and the characters that Penny has created. Were it not for all of the murders (and the fact that the town is fictional) I'd probably move to Three Pines in a heartbeat! Penny's created setting is picturesque and ideal in every way - making it an excellent setting for a mystery series. It isn't hard to believe that a quaint and perfect little town might be hiding so many deep and dark secrets. That's part of what makes the series so deliciously enjoyable!

So far I do feel comfortable in saying that the installments can each somewhat easily be used as jumping off points for the series (so far meaning books one, two, and five). This second in the series does discuss the happenings of book one, however, so there are definite spoilers should you read Still Life after having read A Fatal Grace.

Here's the series list in order:

Still Life
A Fatal Grace/Dead Cold
The Cruelest Month
A Rule Against Murder/The Murder Stone
The Brutal Telling
Bury Your Dead
A Trick of the Light
The Beautiful Mystery
How the Light Gets In

Rating: 4/5

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Lineup by Liad Shoham

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Liad Shoham's Lineup.

While walking home one evening, Adi Regev is attacked and raped. After her parents found her and made her come forward, her father set up camp outside her apartment intent on catching the man responsible. Ziv Nevo was kind of in the wrong place at the wrong time. But even though he's not the man who raped Adi, he was up to something when he was caught in her neighborhood. Inspector Eli Nachum is under pressure to close the case quickly. He's certain that they have their man but when Adi recants her statement, he's not sure what to do next. 

This is the first of Liad Shoham's novels to be translated into English, readers, and I certainly hope it's not the last! Lineup reads at literal breakneck speed. I've read some quick books - and a lot of one sitting books - but this is the first I've read in a while that progressed quite this quickly. I read about 70 pages while hubs watched Colbert last night!

Lineup raises some interesting questions. First, the nosy neighbor who witnesses the whole thing. At what point do you step in? Sure, she's willing to report a guy who doesn't pick up after his dog, but all in all the reader can't totally fault a retiree living on her own who's scared to come forward. But of course what comes later could have been completely avoided if she had. (Slippery slope!)

Second, Adi goes along with both her father and Nachum at first. It's understandable that she so desperately wants to put the whole thing behind her but she makes a pretty grave mistake. Her father's motivations are seemingly pure - he just wants to take care of his daughter, but at the expense of someone else? And Nachum, while he's sure that Ziv is guilty, knows that they don't have the evidence to keep him. Nachum is so convinced, though, that he's willing to risk everything just to close the case with a conviction.

And that's all in the first third of the book!

I loved the alternating viewpoints. I thought Shoham excelled at creating a cast of very different characters with very clearly unique viewpoints throughout the story. Too often I've seen authors try their hand at multiples like this only to result in the same voice out of a handful of people. Definitely not the case here. Adi, her father, Nachum, Ziv, and Amit (the reporter I haven't mentioned until now) each clearly stand out against one another.

Since this is translated from Hebrew, I have to give a little space to Sara Kitai. Her translation here is flawless. It's been ages since I've read a book translated quite this well (no hang ups, no odd phrasing). Lineup reads smooth and easy thanks to her work.

All in all, Lineup is a pretty excellent thriller on all levels. Shoham's research and personal knowledge plays a huge role as well, giving the reader a really fantastic look at how the system works in Israel.

Rating: 4/5

I've got a few extras here for you. First up is an interview Shoham did with PW, offering up some extra insight into Lineup and his work. Second is a Q&A with CBS News.

To see more stops on the tour, check out the official TLC tour page here. You can also like Liad Shoham on Facebook.