Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson + a Giveaway

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Jennifer Robson's debut, Somewhere in France.

With war looming, Lilly Ashford longs to do her part. The daughter of an earl, she's been raised to accomplish nothing more than land a worthy husband. But that's not the life Lilly wants. She wanted to travel and to learn. Unfortunately Lilly's own hopes have been hampered by her mother's restrictions and her family's expectations. And so she takes matters into her own hands, first learning to drive and then breaking with her family to set off on her own. With the urging of her brother and his best friend, Robbie, Lilly applies for work with the newly appointed WAAC - Women's Army Auxiliary Corps. Lilly is quickly drafted to the ambulance drivers' pool and sent to the front where she shuttles injured men to the local trauma center. Her job has her working alongside Robbie and their friendship quickly becomes something more. But Robbie is terrified of having Lilly so close to danger.

I quite enjoyed Jennifer Robson's debut. It was a bit lighter than I'd expected, which I know some readers have not particularly liked about the book. With two leading characters both sitting on the front lines of a brutal war, there's very little of the actual horrors of said war described in the book. Robson does discuss them but doesn't really delve into them very deeply. It's actually not something that bothered me as a reader but I do like to see what others are saying about books and it's something I've noticed popping up. In reading these comments, though, it struck me that there is likely a much larger readership that would enjoy Robson's book all the better for this. More graphic and tragic descriptions of such an event would otherwise turn off the readers I think are prone to shy away from such a thing whereas Robson's approach, which is basically a love story set around the war and the social changes that it brought about, likely makes it a more appealing historical novel for a broader audience.

If you're looking for more on the brutalities and horrors of WWI I'd suggest reading Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front but if you enjoyed Phillip Rock's recently rereleased Passing Bells trilogy, as I did, I definitely recommend Robson. The author has obviously gone to great lengths to ensure historical accuracy and it is apparent in the reading.

Women's roles in WWI are particularly interesting and not something I've read much on before now. The WAAC is most prevalent here but the author does include other avenues through which women helped the war effort as well.

According to her website, Robson is working on a follow up to Somewhere in France. I'll be very much looking forward to this. It looks as though Charlotte will be front and center as well, which makes me even more excited about the book. Charlotte is a bit of a side character in Somewhere in France, Lilly's former tutor and a friend who also supports her in joining the war effort. It's through Charlotte that we get a glimpse of the other roles women played in the efforts back at home.

Rating: 4.5/5

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

For more on the author, head over to her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Thanks to the publisher, I'm able to offer up a copy of Somewhere in France to one lucky US winner (no PO boxes). To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before January 20.

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Top Ten Tuesday and 2013 Wrap up: 2013 Favorites

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. 

I decided to go ahead and make this a 2013 wrap up post as well. So first, I can't narrow down to 10. I read a total of 212 books in 2013 and there were too many fantastic ones to narrow down to just 10 (I actually did a really brutally cut version of the below list with just 10 picks for Bookbitch.com so you're getting the full favorites list here.) 

Here they are in the order they were read. 

The Uninvited by Liz Jensen

The Different Girl by Gordon Dahlquist

Nowhere but Home by Liza Palmer

Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines

London Falling by Paul Cornell

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

Poppet by Mo Hayder

In the After by Demetria Lunetta

Apocalypse Cow by Michael Logan

The Wonder Bread Summer by Jessica Anya Blau

The Last Word by Lisa Lutz

Carniepunk by Rachel Caine et al

Prep School Confidential by Kara Taylor

Help For the Haunted by John Searles

Everything You Need by Michael Marshall Smith

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

The Bones of You by Gary McMahon

The Lost Girls of Rome by Donato Carrisi

Dreams & Shadows by C. Robert Cargill

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

I signed on for two year long challenges, the 2013 Debut Author Challenge and the 2013 Translation Challenge. I did finish the DAC challenge. I was one book from finishing the Translation challenge - I didn't finish my October book for that one :(

Monday, December 30, 2013

Wicked as They Come by Delilah S. Dawson + a Giveaway

I'm sure a lot of you have already discovered Delilah S. Dawson and her Blud series. You may recall, though, that her contribution to Carniepunk was my first time reading her. I swore then that I would be tackling the series shortly. I desperately had to have more of this world! And now's the perfect time. Pocket has a brand new e short due out Jan 6 and the third Blud title, Wicked After Midnight, hits shelves on Jan 28.

Sick as I've been this Christmas holiday (as in sick the entire freaking time!) it hasn't kept me from tackling the TBR. And so on Christmas day I dove into Dawson's first Blud book, Wicked as They Come.

Tish Everett is a hospice nurse who spends her time making her patients' final days on this earth as comfortable as they can be. While she had spent a lot of time with Mrs. Stein, she never saw much beyond the woman's bedroom. The estate sale is Tish's first opportunity to explore the house. Though her recent breakup hasn't left her with much space or extra money for curios and what not Tish isn't going to pass up the chance to shop around for treasures like the locket she finds hidden in one of Mrs. Stein's old books. The locket turns out to be much more than a piece of nice jewelry, though. When Tish falls asleep wearing it, she awakens in a world very unlike her own. In this world animals feed on blood and vampires, or people very much like the vampires, exist. Criminy Stain is one of them. A bludman and a magician who heads up a traveling circus, Stain created the locket to seek out his true love. But when Tish sleeps in Stain's world, she returns to her own. The dual life seems possible until the locket is stolen leaving Tish trapped in Stain's world. Now the two must brave the many perils of this world in order to find the man responsible or Tish may never be able to return to her real life. 

While Carniepunk gave me just a taste of Dawson's created world, Wicked as They Come fully submerged me in it. And it was everything I hoped it would be! There are ghosts and vampires (bludmen) and crazy clockwork technology as well as magic and curses and all that fun stuff. There's a bit of steamy romance, enough, I think, to satisfy a true paranormal romance fan but not too much to overwhelm a reader who likes their romance to take a bit of a backseat to the rest of the story as well.

Each installment in the series seems to focus on a new set of characters, which I find particularly appealing as it leaves much more room for developing the world and a wide variety of characters. I cheated and read the sample of book two, Wicked as She Wants, and am dying to get to it now as it introduces a character from a whole 'nother part of Stain's world that's only alluded to in Wicked as They Come, as well as giving more "screen time" to a character we meet and get to know pretty well in the series intro.  (I'm not telling who, though you can always read the book's description on Goodreads to find out.)

Rating: 4/5

And now, thanks to the publisher, I have an extra copy of Wicked as They Come to give away, giving one of you a chance to start off this fabulous series and discover how wonderful it is yourself! To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, January 13. US only please.

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Sunday, December 29, 2013

New releases 12/31/13

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Starter House by Sonja Condit

Alice Close Your Eyes by Averil Dean

Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson

Deadshifted by Cassie Alexander

Greed by Dan O'Shea

Dead Man's Fancy by Keith McCafferty

The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles by Katherine Pancol

Unleashing Mr. Darcy by Teri Wilson

Hunted by Elizabeth Heiter

The Kill Order by Robin Burcell

And Then She Was Gone by Rosalind Noonan

The Purity of Vengeance by Jussi Adler-Olsen

The Cormorant by Chuck Wendig

Rosarito Beach by M. A. Lawson

Rebel Spring by Morgan Rhodes

The Offering by Kimberly Derting

Afterparty by Ann Redisch Stampler

Warrior by Ellen Oh

New on DVD:
Last Love
Don Jon

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

Kirby Mazrachi barely survived the attempt on her life. Just a few years later she begins an internship at the Chicago Sun-Times with the very reporter who once covered her story. Dan doesn't work the crime beat anymore but Kirby doesn't care, she believes that he can help her in tracking down the man who almost ended her life. See, Kirby is convinced that she wasn't the first victim. She believes her would-be murderer is a serial killer who has struck before and will strike again. And Kirby is right. What she doesn't know, however, is that Harper Curtis's victims are spread throughout decades of Chicago's history. Harper Curtis has traveled back and forth through time stalking his victims from the Depression era all the way to Kirby's present in 1993. 

The Shining Girls is such a perfect blend of mystery, thriller, and science fiction... I loved this book much in the same way as I loved James Renner's The Man From Primrose Lane, which is to say completely and utterly without complaint!

The house, the time loops, and the mystery all work together perfectly, something wholly down to Lauren Beukes's extremely tight and careful plotting. And the variety of characters! Holy cow! Beukes introduces a whole cast of victims, essentially offering up a short story to represent them each, detailing a host of facets of each of their lives just before handing them over to her twisted killer. It's a powerful aspect (and definitely something missing from many books), I think, when the author is able to fully build peripheral characters in addition to allowing the main characters to carry the story and all without hampering the pacing of the book. Really it's amazing!

I was so blown away by this book that I really just did not want it to end. I was also so blown away by it that I don't think it's possible for me to do it justice in my review. (D'oh!) Beukes does have two other titles out that I've not yet read but have earned her the highest of praise. I'll be adding them to my TBR very, very soon. I highly suggest checking out this latest, though, and sooner rather than later!

Rating: 5/5

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Revolution 19 by Gregg Rosenblum

The robots were built as weapons, meant to fight in place of human soldiers as part of the War of 2023. But something went very wrong. The machines became self-aware and turned on their human creators. They call it the Great Intervention but to the humans who were lucky enough to survive it was a nightmare. Now civilization is under their control and the few remaining outposts eking out an existence in hopes of avoiding capture are dwindling everyday. Nick, Cass, and Kevin grew up in one of those outposts, free from the bots but ever watchful in case of being discovered. And then one day the worst happens: their home is ransacked and they are separated from their parents. Their only hope is to infiltrate one of the nearby Cities in hopes they might find and free their parents. But the Cities are ruled by the machines and Nick, Cass, and Kevin are just kids.

Revolution 19 was a blast! I started off the weekend reading a much heavier book that started to really wear me down. And so I turned to Gregg Rosenblum's debut looking for a break and some fun. The book really delivered.

First you should know that I'm kind of a sucker for tech gone wrong plots. I'm a big Terminator fan and threaten to join the Resistance any time my computer starts to piss me off. So it was kind of a given that I would enjoy this one. Apparently Rosenblum paired with Howard Gordon and James Wong to put this together (the minds behind Homeland and Final Destination, respectively). As such, Revolution 19 does kind of have the pacing and plotting more suited to those mediums.

There is very little in the way of actual world building - it is somewhat left to the reader's imagination. But seeing as how this is the first in a series I do expect we'll get more of that in the next release Fugitive X. And honestly, any flaws were fairly minor in my personal opinion. I felt the momentum of the plot and the development that were there was enough to support the story; at no time while reading did I really feel there was anything missing. It's only upon reflecting on the book at this point that it comes to mind.

So yes, Revolution 19 is a fun and quick read that's highly entertaining though not particularly deep. I'm very much looking forward to the next book and would recommend this first outing to folks like me (robot revolution fans) in a heartbeat.

Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Silent Wife by A. S. A. Harrison

I mentioned The Silent Wife the other day on my list of 2013 titles I'd wanted to get to before the year was out, saying that I'd actually started the book the night before posting the blog. I can now cross it off my list but I have to admit that this is one that didn't totally go over well for me.

Jodi and Todd have been together for decades. She supports him wholly even going so far as to look the other way when he strays. In the end she knows that he will always return to her. Their relationship survives by unspoken agreement - transgressions will not be spoken of. And Jodi gets her revenge in small ways. For Todd, Jodi is his rock. She's dependable and solid. But when one of Todd's affairs goes too far, Jodi is pushed to the brink.

A. S. A. Harrison has written a book that really took a lot of out of me in the reading. My emotional response to this was pretty off the charts. One could say that the author has succeeded then in drawing me in and eliciting such a reaction, but it wasn't pleasant. I don't think I can say I enjoyed the majority of The Silent Wife.

The writing is wonderful and Jodi and Todd are perfectly built. I found them both so dislikable that I would go so far as to say their behavior is reprehensible. Yes, I know readers are comparing this to Gone Girl and I loved Flynn's latest. In fact, as dislikable as the characters truly are in Flynn's release, I would actually say that I had moments of liking them. They were agreeable at times even when the reader knows they're untrustworthy. Here, though, Jodi and Todd both drive me batty! Her sitting by and watching as he continues to manipulate and take her for granted and his almost simpering way of praising her all the while rationalizing his behavior towards her.

To discuss much more in terms of the specifics would give away the story but suffice it to say that while The Silent Wife is worthy of all of its praise and I would very much have loved to see more from Harrison, who sadly passed away this year, it wasn't until the final third of the book that I felt like it was really paying off. Anyone who has read it can probably figure out the exact turning point for me and it was kind of the book's saving grace. I was all set to really dislike this one completely until that point in the story.

I'd recommend this one to readers who aren't afraid to dive into a book with the kind of characters I've summed Jodi and Todd up to be and fans of twisted psychological suspense.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Bringing Me

I've decided to jump on board with Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the topic is: Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Bringing Me.

1. S by Doug Dorst and JJ Abrams - this looks simply awesome!

2. Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding - the third Bridget Jones book has been on my wishlist since they announced it was under contract. I don't know how it will compare but for nostalgia's sake alone I'm dying to read it. 

3. The Scarlet Tides by David Hair - if Santa wanted to ship this from the UK I wouldn't mind one bit :)

4. Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith - even if I didn't know JK Rowling was behind this, the reviews would have pushed this to my must have list. 

5. Thornhill by Kathleen Peacock - if we weren't so close to Christmas as is, I would buy this one - I don't know why I waited but I've got a self-imposed book buying restriction in place at least until the New Year (and then depending on the state of the TBR).

6. Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch - see note on #3

7. Longbourn by Jo Baker - P&P from the servants' perspectives. It's been recommended for Downton fans, too. 

8. Turn Down the Lights by Richard Chizmar et al - a new collection of shorts from Cemetery Dance with an excellent contributors list!

9. The Memory of Trees by F. G. Cottam - I would not say no to more horror reads this holiday season. 

10. Blythewood by Carol Goodman - I somehow missed all mention of Goodman's debut teen release so it's a fairly new addition to my wish list. I love her adult books, though, and am looking forward to a chance to read this one. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Sometimes I really hate being late to the party when it comes with books. It seems like everything's been said!

With the release of Bitter Kingdom and the host of praise I've seen on the trilogy all over the internet, I decided it was time for me to dive in. I brought The Girl of Fire and Thorns with me on my little trip (one of four - I read two) and read most of it while trying to tune out a screaming toddler on the plane.

Once every hundred years, a person is chosen for greatness. They bear the Godstone and are destined to serve. Elisa isn't sure why she was chosen, she's always felt that it must be a mistake. But now her will and her strength will be put to the test. Unbeknownst to her, forces are aligning to seek out the bearer. Her father arranges a marriage with the king in nearby Brisadulce as an opposing army plans for war. The marriage is meant to keep Elisa and the kingdom safe, but even as her journey begins the enemy grows ever closer. 

From the start, Carson's heroine is one who is easy to identify with and empathize with. She's a fish out of water - a bit awkward but highly intelligent and thoughtful. And she's brave! Elisa is strong in character and humility. She's a natural leader but she's also not without flaws and her true test is in attempting to overcome her weaknesses. Carson throws more than one obstacle in her path and as the story progresses Elisa really comes into her own. (Which of course is the point!)

In terms of plot there's a lot of political scheming going on in this first installment. This is a point that I think can easily become overwhelming and dry if not handled well but I really felt that Carson did a wonderful job. By setting Elisa up as a character who is already well read on military history and the like it's quite easy to believe that she'd be regarded as well as she is by the king, his peers, and others later on.

I'll be jumping into the second and third books very shortly so I do want to leave some things like the worldbuilding for later posts, but all in all this is a wonderful start to the trilogy and one I highly recommend to readers (teen and adult) looking for a great fantasy read.

Rating: 4.5/5

Sunday, December 22, 2013

New releases 12/24/13

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are (another slim week):

The Bourne Retribution by Eric Van Lustbader

The Spider by Jennifer Estep

Ashes to Ashes by Melissa Walker

Control by Lydia Kang

New on DVD:
Insidious Chapter 2

Friday, December 20, 2013

Book Junkie Problems: Missed Books of 2013

With the end of the year drawing nigh I'm faced with an annual issue - the stack of this year's releases I now feel guilty about not having read! I know, such a minimal problem. If only this was the biggest thing to face each year :) (And it's not like I don't get a second chance when they're released in paperback.)

But with just under two weeks left and some time off to come I'm scrambling to try and squeeze in as many of the reads as I can. Here are some of the titles on my list:

The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell - I bought this one a few weeks after it released and the raving reviews have had it front and center for when I have time. But I've sadly yet to have time. 

The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison - this has been in the TBR a relatively short period of time and I actually did start reading it last night. 

The Orphan by Christopher Ransom - hubs got me this one as a late bday gift and it's horror - you'd think I'd have forced this one into the reading schedule by now but alas it has yet to happen.

Red Moon by Benjamin Percy - another from the bday haul. 

Night Film by Marisha Pessl - and yet another bday gift. Again one I haven't had very long since I held onto a gift card until October but it's burning a hole in my bedside table. 

The Shining Girls by Lauren Buekes - this (and the next) may possibly be the two books I feel most guilty about not having read. We'll see if I can get them done next week. 

Joyland by Stephen King - how have I not read this yet?!

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion - I've only had it for a few weeks but I know it's going to be a quick read. I'm kind of saving it for when I need something in this vein. 

Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield - again, not out very long but considering how long it's been since her last and how much I was anticipating it...

and finally Scarlet by Marisa Meyer - I preordered this book! It's been on my shelf since February! The first one took me literally the time it takes to fly to Houston to read! Agh!

Part of the guilt comes from knowing that there will be just as many title I'm anticipating in 2014. Roll overs from this year will have to find space amongst the new batch of titles I just have to have (book junkie, I know). 

So yeah, I'm trying to fit in as many of these as I can in my time off over the holidays. We'll see how many I can get to. It would go a long way to making me feel less like I've neglected my bookshelf this year. 

What about you, readers? Were there any books you were desperate to get to in 2013 that you just haven't quite managed yet? What's in your TBR stack for the holidays?

The Creature Department by Robert Paul Weston

This'll be a short one today mostly because I have a lot of catching up to do in the wake of my impromptu trip this past week. Christmas is right around the corner and we have family coming in through New Year so things will be crazy, crazy on my end. Which means it was the perfect time to dive into some kids books!

In all the years that Elliot's uncle has worked for DENKi-3000 he's never offered his nephew a tour around the place. Until now. Archie invites Elliot and new-girl-in-town Leslie to visit the facility, giving the two kids a chance to see something no one has ever seen before: the Creature Department. But DENKi-3000 is on the brink of closure, which means the creatures who man the department are at risk. If the department can't come up with something truly, wonderfully magnificent, it could mean the end for them. 

This latest from Robert Paul Weston (my first time reading him) is a fun middle grade read that even us older folks can appreciate. It's filled with fabulous illustrations and design elements by Zack Lydon, a fun addition to the overall quirky and cute story.

Weston really brings the setting and characters/creatures to life in this tale! With the added bonus of the illustrations, I think you'd be hard pressed to find a reader who isn't charmed by this book.

The really cool thing, though, is the pairing with Framestore on this project. The effects studio has contributed to films like Gravity, Where the Wild Things Are, and the upcoming Secret Life of Walter Mitty, just to name a few. And they've helped create The Creature Department site as well. I definitely recommend checking it out!

Since the holidays are upon us and The Creature Department only just released last month, I do have to say that if you're looking for a last minute gift for a middle grade reader who likes adventure stories, this book would be high on my suggestions list :)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Dreams and Shadows by C. Robert Cargill

Last fall I ventured out to see a new horror film on my own - not a rare occurrence for me. The film was Sinister and for the first time in a very long time I walked out of the theater feeling very unsettled. It's one of the reactions I hope to have to a good horror movie but often times realize is far beyond reach even when the movie in question might actually be a worthwhile watch.

We rewatched it for Halloween as part of my annual Halloween tradition, fudging a little because I try to find a movie I've never seen - but hubs had yet to see it so I made an exception :) I realized that co writer C. Robert Cargill sounded really familiar. When I couldn't place him I did a quick search and realized why: he had a book released this year, one that was getting quiet praise amongst some of the blogs and sites that I frequently peruse. My quick trip this past week proved to be the perfect opportunity to check it out (and it was fortunate I did as Cargill's dark fantasy kept me distracted during the mess of flight changes at the airport).

Colby and Ewan have led very different lives. Colby, a much ignored only child, spends his time playing in the local woods. It's up to him to entertain himself while his mother is otherwise occupied by drink or men. But Colby has his imagination and playing alone isn't a problem. When he meets Yashar everything changes. Yashar is a djinn and he offers Colby a wish that will allow him to see the world as he's never seen it before. 

Ewan was unfortunately snatched from his parents very shortly after being brought home. A replacement for a changeling, Ewan has been raised as part of the fairy world. His best friends are the seelie and unseelie who call Austin and the nearby area home. Colby and Ewan meet and become fast friends, but this friendship will affect their lives and alter the fairy world in ways no one predicted.

Dreams and Shadows is dark and surprisingly gruesome. (Thanks to Cargill I'll never think of David the Gnome in the same light again!) These fae are all pretty bad. Even the ones who are supposedly "good" fae are dangerous to humanity. Much of the lore is classic but there are some deviations (interesting ones at that) such as the above mentioned gnomes (red hats).

There are so many things to praise about this book but highest on my list is simply the fact that it's so wonderfully imaginative. And dark. I have to point that out because while this is fantasy, the detail at some points really does border on horror. In fact, I think it could safely be considered a horror/fantasy cross genre, not so bizarre amongst books and I think appealing to readers of both genres in general.

Cargill is garnering comparison to the likes of Neil Gaiman and I find it quite fitting. Gaiman via Texas maybe. I adored this book. It gave me chills and left me desperate for more in the same vein. It'll be a little bit of a wait, though, as the follow up, Queen of the Dark Things, is due out in hardcover next May.

Rating: 5/5

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: New to Me Authors Read 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: New to Me Authors Read in 2013.

Wow, I read a ton of new to me authors this year. Here are ten:

1. Jessican Anya Blau - her Wonder Bread Summer blew me away! 

2. Wiley Cash - I finally read A Land More Kind Then Home and absolutely loved it. His 2014 release, This Dark Road to Mercy is at the top of my review stack as we speak.

3. Joshilyn Jackson - while her work has long be on my radar, this year was my first time reading her. I adored "My Own Miraculous" and Someone Else's Love Story. I'll be reading more from her very soon.

4. Brandon Sanderson - I know he has a huge following thanks to his earlier work and his contribution to the Wheel of Time series, but Steelheart was my first by him... and definitely not my last!

5. Gayle Forman - yes, I was super late to this bus but I had a chance to participate in one of Gayle's events and zipped through both Just One Day and Just One Year in preparation. Oh, so amazing books! I've got another of hers in my TBR now and have already recommended her to my sister, too.

6. Gary McMahon - this is another author I've been aware of for quite some time but hadn't read until this year's The Bones of You. Given my fondness for horror I've since added more than a few of McMahon's titles to my must have and TBR lists.

7. Delilah S. Dawson - this is a bit of a cheat but Dawson was one of the few contributors to this year's Carniepunk that I'd not read before. I loved the world in her Blud story and immediately had to buy the first book in the series, Wicked as They Come. 

8. Peter Clines - Clines's Ex-Heroes debuted this year from Crown but was originally released in 2010 by Permuted Press. Clines is another I'd heard wonderful things about but this year proved to be my year for reading him.

9. Paul Cornell - Oh, my GOD. London Falling was super amazing and I can't wait for more! This was, I believe, Cornell's debut novel but he's written plenty prior to this. The book popped up on my radar thanks to a piece I came across on some similar titles.

10. Karen Marie Moning - I finally, finally read the first book in the Fever series! 

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Sweetest Thing by Cathy Woodman

Morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Cathy Woodman's The Sweetest Thing.

Oh, readers! This book hit the spot. As much as I liked my first outing with Woodman and Talyton St. George with Country Loving, I actually enjoyed The Sweetest Thing even more! Perhaps it was Jennie and her cakes, or the added personalities of her kids, I don't know (they do all play a role in Country Loving as well but this is THEIR story). And honestly I had some reservations after meeting Guy in Country Loving. He struck me as being a little... difficult based on his interactions with Stevie and her father. No spoilers but Stevie's dad didn't make it easier. Guy comes off just as - dare I say snobby? - when he meets Jennie in the beginning of The Sweetest Thing as well, though, so it's not just Stevie's increasingly senile father that set him off.

But I should probably tell you about the book :)

After being essentially traded in for a younger model, Jennie finds herself a single mother to her three children. Having always been the stay at home wife and mother, she now finds herself in need of a fresh new start. And so she buys a run down (but charming) home in Talyton St. George and plans to open her own cake shop. She knows baking is her forte but now it's up to her to prove it to the villagers, many of whom aren't too happy about an outsider horning in on the local baking market. Plus she's got the kids to contend with as well as promises of a pony and a new dog. Then there's her neighbor, Guy Barnes, owner of Uphill Farm and previous owner of the very home Jennie purchased. Guy, like others in Talyton St. George, is certain city girl Jennie won't be able to cut it in the country but as time passes he seems to warm to her. Is Jennie ready for a new love on top of it all?

I think maybe this one appealed just a tad more than Country Loving simply because Country Loving is actually a later book in the Talyton St. George timeline. If, as it was with me, it's the first of Woodman's books you read or simply one you read prior to Sweetest Thing it means that you've already met Jennie and Guy. So you're not only returning to the setting once again and seeing all the peripheral characters that make up the scenery, you're actually getting to know Jennie and Guy in depth.

This really is a sweet book as well as one that will have you craving sweets (you have been warned).

Rating: 4/5

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

For more on Cathy and her books, be sure to visit her website here. And for excerpts and more be sure to visit Great British Reads.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

New releases 12/17/13

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are (super low release week):

When It's a Jar by Tom Holt

Murder and Moonshine by Carol Miller

The Redhead Plays Her Hand by Alice Clayton

Shadowdance by Kristen Callihan

Murder as a Second Language by Joan Hess

What We Lost in the Dark by Jacquelyn Mitchard

New on DVD:
Ghost Team One
The Family
Ain't Them Bodies Saints
Kick-Ass 2
The Lone Ranger

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Seduction of Miriam Cross by W.A. Tyson

And my second tour post of the day is The Seduction of Miriam Cross by W. A. Tyson. This is the first of Tyson's Delilah Percy Powers mysteries.

Famed author Miriam Cross has been murdered but thus far there's been surprisingly little coverage. In fact, PI Delilah Percy Powers didn't even know of Miriam's death until the author's niece - a former Percy Powers client - hires her to look into it. It seems Miriam, who had a knack for rubbing people the wrong way with her books, had been living under an alias in the suburbs when she was brutally killed. The author's niece knows of no one who might have a motive but she's noticed something strange of late: lots of hang up calls and the sense that she and her sons are being followed. Delilah is concerned enough that she agrees to take the case and as they learn more about the mysterious Miriam Cross she and her team realize that the author was into some nasty business indeed.

This latest from Tyson - who also wrote Killer Image - is quite dark. You may recall (or if you just clicked the link, you saw) that I did mention Killer Image was surprisingly darker than I'd expected, but even that didn't prepare me for The Seduction of Miriam Cross. I like dark so Tyson's latest was still on par with my personal taste but I like to give fair warning to readers out there who might have lighter preferences :)

Like Killer Image, The Seduction of Miriam Cross introduces a bevy of characters. Delilah runs a PI firm manned by three additional employees - Margot, a seventy-two-year-old former nun; Barb, a suburban mom who's married to a copy; and Natasha, a former working girl with a young son. All three offer up something different to the team and, as such, something different to the narrative. Delilah is forced to bring on a new hire as well, a former journalist and hacker named Matthew Anderson - or Anders.

The book starts light enough with Delilah turning down a case involving a former classmate and proposed entrapment of her husband. Tyson gives us a chance to settle in and get to know the Percy Powers ladies before getting down the dark and gritty parts of the Miriam Cross case. I rather liked the way it played out, all things considered. It did mean a slower development in the mystery but it also made the revelations about the case that much more unexpected. Tyson again did a great job of keeping me guessing until the very end.

Mystery fans, look out! Wendy Tyson should be on your radar if she isn't already.

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

For more on Wendy Tyson and her work visit her website here. You can also like her onFacebook and follow her on Twitter.


The Spirit Keeper by K.B. Laugheed

Morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on two TLC tours. First up is K.B. Laugheed's The Spirit Keeper.

Katie O'Toole longs to escape her life: a father who drinks, a miserable mother, and an overcrowded farm where she seems to take the brunt of punishment and ridicule is almost too much to bear. She's finally packed a bag with plans to to run off to the city when the family farm is ransacked by natives. Fortunately for Katie, two of the men seem to have established themselves as her protectors. Katie calls them Syawa and Hector and soon learns that she is part of a vision quest Syawa set off on over two years before. He calls her the Creature of Fire and Ice and believes she will bring a gift to his people. Katie agrees to accompany the men and the trio soon grows very close. But danger awaits them on their long quest and Katie worries that she may not be the person Syawa believes she is.  

K.B. Laugheed's debut is a story of survival and love on the frontier but it's also a story of acceptance and understanding. Katie knows little of the world beyond Pennsylvania with the exception of the stories she's been told about the old country. Syawa and Hector, on the other hand, know little of the world beyond the other tribes of the Americas. Together they teach one another about the culture and histories of their people. I thought Laugheed admirably handled this aspect of the tale, outlining things like the difference in trade (and the understand of wealth), religion, and mythology wonderfully between the characters.

The Spirit Keeper is told from the perspective of Katie as she recounts their journey. In truth, by the time I reached the end of the tale I realized it was only half of her story and I did wonder if we'd see more of her tale to come. (Supposedly we will - in an interview with the author over on Qwillery, Laugheed noted that she is working on part two.) That said, Spirit Keeper is a story in and of itself - I don't want to give the impression that this first cannot be read and enjoyed completely on its own, simply that returning to the story would be welcome indeed.

The Spirit Keeper is a quick read and one that's both exciting and - at times - a bit heartbreaking. I had a few teary moments while reading, I must admit. I definitely look forward to more from this author and these characters!

Rating: 4/5

To see more stops on the tour, check out the official TLC tour page here. For more on the author and her work be sure to visit her website here.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Books in My Winter 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 My Winter TBR.

Ooh, there are a bunch. Most of them are titles I missed throughout the year, though, and want to try to squeeze in last minute!

1. The Shining Girls by Lauren Buekes - a dark thriller with a time traveling serial killer

2. The Purity of Vengeance by Jussi Adler-Olsen - latest in the Department Q series

3. Dreams & Shadows by C. Robert Cargill - co writer and co director of Sinister?! Of course I need to read his book!

4. The Ghost Hunters by Neil Spring - a UK horror title just released this October. 

5. Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes - teen fantasy that I feel like everyone but me has read already!

6. Fire and Thorns trilogy by Rae Carson - now that all three are out I want to binge read them!

7. Night Film by Marisha Pessl - I bought this one with b-day money but have yet to squeeze it into my reading stack. I'm desperately trying so I can see what all the fuss is about!

8. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion - everyone loves this book, why haven't I read it yet?!

9. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer - considering how badly I had to have this one when it came out, I'm kind of embarrassed that I haven't read it yet. I will most definitely get to it this month, though.

10. Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi - I was lucky enough to get a review copy and will definitely be reading it before it comes out. So looking forward to it!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Game by Anders de la Motte

It begins easily enough, a phone on a train and a question: Wanna play a game? Course HP wasn't thinking about games when he found the sleek new cell phone apparently forgotten on the seat next to him. When the text appears again, this time calling him out by name, he finds it hard to resist. He's certain it has to be a joke - someone watching nearby, waiting for him to fall for it. The game starts with a stolen umbrella. After successfully completing this task, HP is let in and the points begin to rack up. The tasks escalate but HP doesn't think much of it until his own sister is injured as part of the game. Still he wants to continue in spite of being kicked out. But HP will soon learn that the game isn't a game at all and the consequences are far more dangerous than he could ever anticipate.

This first in a new trilogy by Anders de la Motte initially struck me as being very similar to Ursula Poznanski's teen thriller Erebos. True, both books do concern a suspicious game that has real life consequences, but ultimately that's where the comparison ends.

Game divides its time between HP, Henrik Pettersson, and Rebecca Normén, a member of Sweden's Security Police. Much of the beginning of the book is propelled by the story of the game itself and HP's participation. Rebecca's portions in this early part are her work and her development as a character, which makes for a nice set up once her story begins to intersect with that of HP.

Game is an intriguing premise and I've no doubt that it's one that could really happen. The author has some interesting things to say about his inspiration here - things I agree with on a lot of levels - but I'll let you hear it straight from him in this video from the publisher:

Tech meets conspiracy theory all wrapped up in a tense and action packed plot - with more than one twist as well. Game is hard to resist! Since this is the first in a trilogy, it's to be expected that there are still some questions yet to be resolved. The second release, Buzz, is due out Jan 7, and the final title, Bubble, is due out Feb 4.

I should also point out that while this is a translated work, beyond the fact that it's set it Sweden I don't think I would have had a clue that a translator was involved. The narrative flows incredibly easily. Frankly I was kind of amazed.

Rating: 4.5/5

Sunday, December 8, 2013

New releases 12/10/13

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Once Upon a Lie by Maggie Barbieri

Heirs of the Body by Carola Dunn

Innocent Blood by James Rollins & Rebecca Cantrell

Kaleidocide by Dave Swavely

Kiss of the Night by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Year's Best SF 18 ed by David G. Hartwell

Innocence by Dean Koontz

New on DVD:
Doctor WhoL The Day of the Doctor
Despicable Me 2
Fast & Furious 6
Touchy Feely

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
The Pursuit of Mary Bennet by Pamela Mingle
The Farm by Emily McKay

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Red Phone Box ed by Salomé Jones + a Giveaway

Morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Red Phone Box edited by Salomé Jones, out now from Ghostwoods Books.

I have to start off by saying that I loved this book! I loved the structure (fairly short pieces) and the concept (twenty-eight different authors but all the stories are interconnected) and found that the overall execution was pretty phenomenal. While my fondness for short stories continues to grow (and I'm a pretty huge fan of them these days) I still really adore the idea of a themed collection. I think it makes it easier to get into even for folks who don't like shorts since the collection can somewhat be considered a longer piece. It's true, though, that there are a number of different characters and a slew of things going on in Red Phone Box so it's still very much a short story collection, just a little... different than usual.

Here's the publisher's description from Goodreads to give you a little bit of a better idea:

Shatter a mirror, and rearrange the pieces. What shapes will you find in the splintered glass?

Sinister forces roam London’s streets, skulking through the neon-lit rain. They are not alone. Haunted by memories of the man who abandoned her, Amber goes walking in the deep night. The phone box she enters takes her on a journey she could never have imagined, one in which the past and the future will be rewritten. Others follow in her footsteps, their lives intertwining, and the fate of the world hanging on their dance. Safran, pawn of unfathomable powers. Jon, who has lived and died and lived again. Gloria, who only intended to annoy her daddy. Cory, from a different world, on a desperate quest for allies. They and others will find themselves swept up as the playthings of gods who have managed to get along peacefully for millennia — until now.

Red Phone Box is a darkly magical story cycle, a network of interweaving tales by a dazzling range of masterful authors, including Gun Machine’s Warren Ellis. Let them take you to a very different London — one that hides on the other side of the fractured glass.

Red Phone Box is waiting for you…

It's amazing that with so many contributors this story cycle - as they call it - (I like that!) doesn't really feel disjointed. Instead, I found each author's piece flowed easily into the next. And with the stories as short as they are I was sucked into this collection much the same as I would be with a full length novel. Don't get me wrong, each contributor does have a very distinctive voice of their own but I think the central connection of the phone box itself really propelled each story into the next. There are also a few recurring characters and stories throughout the collection that gives it an overall momentum as well.

This is definitely one I recommend to anyone willing to try out something a little different - and a little dark. This is, as the cover says, a darkly magical read. There are bits of fantasy and bits of horror and lots of weird!

(I used a red phone box and survived!)

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here. I also encourage you to visit Ghostwoods Books's website to see more of their titles. I expect we'll see some great things to come from these guys!

Now for the giveaway: the publisher is offering up one copy of Red Phone Box for giveaway - US/Canada and no PO boxes please. To enter please fill out the Rafflecopter below before Wednesday, December 18.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: 2014 Releases I'm Dying to Read

I've decided to jump on board with Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the topic is: 2014 releases I'm dying to read.

1. Wolf by Mo Hayder - Hayder always tops my must have list!

2. The Scarlet Tides by David Hair - the first one is still fresh on my mind and I'm dying to see what happens next. This one is out in the UK but the first just released here in the States this fall. 

3. Bliss House by Laura Benedict - I already featured this one on my Pre Pub Book Buzz Saturday post, but I had to include it here again since it is most definitely one of the top titles I'm looking forward to next year!

4. Armada by Ernest Cline - super far out there in 2014 but I just found out this one was on the upcoming release list. Ready Player One was fantastic and I expect this one will be as well. 

5. Robogenesis by Robert H. Wilson - agh! I can't wait! I didn't even know a sequel to Robopocalypse was planned so I was definitely stoked to come across this listing. 

6. The Mirk and Midnight Hour by Jane Nickerson - Strands of Bronze and Gold was really wonderful and the description of Nickerson's next title has me super intrigued - Civil War and fairies!

7. The String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones - this one is also out in the UK but due out in the States next July from Mulholland. Sounds horrifically fabulous!

8. Hidden by Catherine McKenzie - her books are just so charming and fantastic. I'll read anything she puts her stamp on!

9. The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings - uh, "blood soaked" thriller. For sure! This is Cummings's debut and I've been looking forward to it for ages now.

10. Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige - another one that intrigues me completely! 

There are a TON more but I figure the first ten I come up with are a good top ten :)

Monday, December 2, 2013

Country Loving by Cathy Woodman

Morning, all! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Cathy Woodman's Country Loving!

Stevie is shocked to hear of the state of the family farm. Her relationship with her father has been rocky ever since she left for London at eighteen, but in the months since her mother's death they've barely talked. It's still a surprise to hear that he's recovering from a stroke and that the farm is suffering for it. After warnings from the local vet Stevie's father is threatened with losing Nettlebed Farm and worse: possible imprisonment for animal cruelty. Stevie'd planned to help out for a weekend but ultimately decides to leave behind the big city and take up the reigns managing the farm herself. With plans to diversify and hopefully save the family business, Stevie's ruffled more than a few feathers in Talyton St. George. She can count at least one ally on her side, though, the same vet who once vowed to see her father behind bars. 

Based on Cathy Woodman's title list it would seem there's an abundance of vets in Talyton St. George! This is my introduction to her work, though, and I must say it was quite a charming read. It did bring to mind a lot of the city slicker trendy films of the 80s (Diane Keaton's Baby Boom in particular though Stevie isn't quite a fish out of water) and even hints of Doc Martin (without the crazy medical cases and weirdo villagers).

This one was quite fun. First, I never knew that much about cows. Haha! Second, Stevie takes each challenge in stride and is admirable in both her tenacity and her dealings with her father (and the locals). And finally, her relationship with Leo builds nicely - not too quickly or unbelievably.

The town and the story are filled with a number of other characters and Woodman spends a good amount of time fleshing them out as well, giving the reader a chance to sort of feel like they actually are experiencing the real village life: waiting in traffic behind crossing cows, eating one of Jennie's droolworthy cakes, guarding themselves from Bear's teeth... maybe not so much the grueling farm work, though. I don't think anyone can truly understand that unless they've got the sore muscles to go with it.

Woodman now has seven titles set in Talyton St. George. I realized as well that Sweetest Thing is Jennie and Guy's story - they're Stevie's neighbors in Country Loving. It'll be nice to return to the village again in a few days with their tale.

Rating: 3.5/5

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here. Check back here on December 16 for my review of The Sweetest Thing.

For more on Cathy and her books, be sure to visit her website here. And for excerpts and more be sure to visit Great British Reads.

The Pursuit of Mary Bennet: A Pride and Prejudice Novel by Pamela Mingle

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Pamela Mingle's The Pursuit of Mary Bennet: A Pride and Prejudice Novel. If you missed last week's excerpt and giveaway post, go ahead and check it out - I'll wait :)

Mary, the overlooked Bennet sister, finally gets her day in the spotlight! With beautiful and witty Jane and Elizabeth ahead of her and loud and boisterous Kitty and Lydia behind her, Mary has always been just Mary: somewhat irksome, somewhat stoic, always essentially overlooked. Certain she'll end up a spinster, Mary gets the surprise of her life when one Henry Walsh begins to pay attention to her. Surely he can't actually be interested, though. After all, no one expects Mary to catch a man's eye. 

You know, I can't think of a more perfect Bennet sister to get her own spin off. Mary is such a side role in P&P and the attention she does get doesn't paint her in a very good light.

Mingle's Mary is incredibly likable (in my opinion - she's quite feisty and a bit snarky, which I find pretty appropriate for the Mary I imagine a few years post P&P action) and easy to sympathize with. I liked that she gets emotional about her treatment, that she does take the reigns and decide to start making her own decisions in spite of her supposed lot in life. As the story is told from her point of view, Mingle allows the reader to really get to know this new version of Mary all the while staying true to the part she plays in the earlier Bennet timeline (this is post P&P in case I hadn't mentioned).

I was quite pleased with Pamela Mingle's version of the Bennets here. I thought it was a very honest and heartfelt homage to Austen's original. The Pursuit of Mary Bennet was still very much in the spirit of the original - nothing too crazy or out there in comparison to the original. And I rather liked being able to see Mary grow beyond her small parts in P&P.

Considering this was my post Book Thief read and my post Turkey day meal read as well, The Pursuit of Mary Bennet was just what the doctor ordered - a warm and fuzzy feel good read to relax with!

Rating: 4/5

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

For more on Pamela Mingle and her work visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

New releases 12/3/13

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Game by Anders de la Motte

Something More Than Night by Ian Tregillis

The Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly

Malice by John Gwynne

The Chosen Seed by Sarah Pinborough

The Bourne Retribution by Eric Van Lustbader

Staged to Death by Karen Rose Smith

The Prince of Risk by Christopher Reich

Going Dark by James W. Hall

The Spook Lights Affair by Marcia Muller & Bill Pronzini

Command Authority by Tom Clancy

Ten Lords A-Leaping by C. C. Benison

Dangerous Women ed by Gardner Dozois & George R. R. Martin

Rain of Ghosts by Greg Weisman

Rebel Spring by Morgan Rhodes

Deadly by Sara Shepard (Pretty Little Liars)

New on DVD:
The Wolverine
Drinking Buddies
Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
The Lost Girls of Rome by Donato Carrisi
Once We Were Brothers by Ronald H. Balson
Someone Else's Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson