Friday, October 31, 2014

The Killer Next Door by Alex Marwood

23 Beulah Grove may not be the most charming or quaint home, but it's a home nonetheless. Each of the tenants has their own reason for being there - cheap rent, history, no references required... but all of them share one thing in common: they detest their landlord. Unfortunately it's the price they all have to pay for a rental that suits their needs. And it's the one thing that ties this strange group together. 

What they don't know - what they never suspect - is that one of their housemates is a killer. 

The Killer Next Door is such a multi-layered thriller! Each of the housemates has their own tale: Cher is a teenage runaway; Collette witnessed something that's left her on the run; Hossein is a political refugee... six of them in all, and each with their own unique story to tell. But none of them is in any position to mess with the landlord. And he's a real gem! Randomly raising rents, neglecting upkeep, and worse, the man knows that none of them really has any other option. He's just biding his time, collecting cash under the table, until his elderly, rent-controlled, basement tenant is forced to leave and he can sell the place.

Unfortunately the landlord isn't the worst of the lot. Collette moves in when Nikki disappears. Everyone assumes because she'd struggled with the rent that she up and left. Her quick departure leaves a vacancy that Collette is quick to fill. The reader soon learns, however, that Nikki never left. She's still at Beulah Grove, the latest of a handful of women who have fallen victim to a truly twisted killer. This killer lives alongside Collette and the others, performing his demented rituals behind closed doors while presenting a facade of normalcy to those around him.

The events at Beulah Grove are really a disastrous set of circumstances and the reader does begin with the knowledge that everything is going to come crashing down around the tenants. Playing witness as it all happens is a bit ghoulish, but it's also wickedly suspenseful.

Marwood's latest is a deliciously paced thriller that will leave you on the edge of your seat - and will probably make you look at all of your neighbors just a little differently!

Rating: 4.5/5

Short Fiction Friday: The Whispers by Lisa Unger

Thriller maven Lisa Unger is bringing readers back to The Hollows with a trilogy of novellas this fall. The first, "The Whispers," released on Tuesday and introduces readers to Eloise Montgomery. But not really. Eloise does actually appear in the first Hollows novel, Fragile, but this is the first time we're getting her story.

Eloise's day begins like any other - she wakes her daughters, fixes breakfast, and gets both girls and their father off without a hitch. Almost.  As she races to catch up with them, she has no way of knowing that the delay will lead to tragedy.

Six weeks later, Eloise awakens from a coma and learns that both her husband and her eldest daughter have been killed in a car accident. As she and her remaining daughter attempt to move on, Eloise begins to see things - strange things that can't possibly be there. At first she thinks maybe she's dreaming, but she soon realizes that isn't the case. Somehow, Eloise's accident has left her with the ability to see things others can't. Things she can use to help the people who need it most. 

If you've never read Fragile and are just meeting Eloise and The Hollows, it's a nice prologue for things to come. If, however, you're a fan of The Hollows books and have been antsy to return there, you're in luck!

Much of "The Whispers" is simply set up for Eloise's character: her past, how she got her ability, and her first attempts to make use of that ability. The second eshort, "The Burning Girl," is due out November 25 and is set ten years after "The Whispers." The final story in the trilogy, "The Three Sisters," releases January 5 and brings back yet another familiar face, Jones Cooper!

Fans of Unger's work and The Hollows stories will love getting to know Eloise in more depth. They're also a nice diversion while we wait for Unger's upcoming release, Crazy Love You, which hits shelves in February.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Christmas at Tiffany's by Karen Swan

Morning, all! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Karen Swan's Christmas at Tiffany's.

When Cassie's ten year marriage falls apart in the worst way imaginable, her longtime friends are there to help her pick up the pieces. Each offers up their city and home for four months, giving their friend a full year to travel, work, and find the real Cassie. Her trip begins in New York, where she's thrown headfirst into the competitive and catty fashion industry. From there it's off to Paris and finally London. Along the way she'll find romance, new friends, and a Cassie who's been missing for so many years. 

I know you're probably wondering what I'm doing reading a Christmas book in October. Well, it's not actually a Christmas book - the title is more than a little misleading. Nope, Christmas at Tiffany's is a pretty straightforward lighthearted read for any time of year.

This was the first time I'd read anything by Swan, and I do believe this is her first US release so that would make sense. I really enjoyed it!

First off, the characters are lovely. Cassie and her friends - Suzy, Kelly, and Anouk - grew up together and only really split apart when Cassie married straight out of college (actually quitting before graduation to get married). They lead extravagant lives and they each have very distinct views and personalities - that they inflict on Cassie! But everything they do is out of concern for their friend.

Christmas at Tiffany's is a bit light and breezy. It's on the long side at almost 600 pages but the story moves along so effortlessly that I didn't even notice. In fact, I read all of Cassie's New York adventures in one sitting. When I finally had to set the book down to eat supper, I couldn't wait to get back to it and see what was in store for the friends next!

I do have to point out how fabulous the settings are in this book. In addition to creating a bevy of lovable (and unlovable) characters and a story that really does tug at your heartstrings, Swan so perfectly and elegantly brings to life the various locales Cassie travels through in her journey to find herself. Christmas at Tiffany's is an all around fun and heartwarming read, one that makes me seriously hope that more of Swan's titles will get picked up for US release in the near future.

Rating: 4/5

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

For more on Karen and her work you can find her on the web here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Books to Get You in the Halloween Spirit

I've decided to jump on board with Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the topic is: Books (and/or movies) to get you in the Halloween spirit.

I've done posts like this almost every Halloween since I started the blog so hopefully I can come up with some new suggestions for you guys. If you like, you can check out my suggestions from 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010.

Man v. Nature by Diane Cook

Hi, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Diane Cook's debut collection, Man v. Nature.

Writing a synopsis for a collection is always so tough! I find I really can't do it in a traditional sense so I'm just going to dive straight into my review.

Cook's theme here is, of course, man versus nature, but within this theme the stories themselves run the gamut from man literally versus nature to man versus human nature and everything in between! The interesting and unexpected thing about this collection is that most of the stories are set in post apocalyptic and even somewhat dystopian worlds. Worlds in which spouses are assigned rather than chosen and children are determined to be necessary or not. Worlds overcome by natural and unnatural forces. Worlds in which the unbelievable are everyday occurrences.

Some of Cook's stories are amusing, some are shocking, and most fall somewhere in between. All of them are a bit weird, to be honest, but every one of the chosen pieces for the collection fit together to perfectly illustrate Cook's obvious talent as a storyteller.

A couple of my personal favorites in the collection are "Moving On," where a newly widowed woman faces a new life without her husband, all the while waiting for a new husband to bid for her hand and "Somebody's Baby," a tale that brings to mind legends of changelings.

Man v. Nature is quirky and dark, likely to hit the spot for a particular set of readers, but it's also an altogether fantastic collection.

Rating: 4/5

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here. For more from Diane Cook, you can follow her on Twitter.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

New Releases 10/28/14

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Killer Next Door by Alex Marwood

The Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes

Black Dog by Cailtin Kittredge

The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

The Peripheral by William Gibson

Last Train to Babylon by Charlee Fam

Us by David Nichols

The Wolf in Winter by John Connolly

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas by Stephanie Barron

The Handsome Man's Deluxe Cafe by Alexander McCall Smith

The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man by W. Bruce Cameron

The World of Fire & Ice by George R. R. Martin

Yes, Please by Amy Poehler

Talonby Julie Kagawa

In The Afterlight by Alexandra Bracken

Atlantia by Ally Condie

New on DVD:
Begin Again
Good People

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
Perfect by Rachel Joyce
Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick
A Vision of Fire by Gillian Anderson & Jeff Rovin
Aunty Lee's Deadly Specials by Ovidia Yu

Friday, October 24, 2014

Short Fiction Friday: Flavorwire's 50 Scariest Short Stories

Y'all, this is sooo cool! Monday, Flavorwire put together their list of the "50 Scariest Short Stories of All Time" and it is packed with big names, creepy tales, and online freebies! That's right, they've included links to where you can find 33 of the stories, including one by Neil Gaiman, another by Roald Dahl, and even one by King himself.

Here's the full list to scroll through.

I'd already read a few of the stories listed: "Veldt" by Ray Bradbury, "A Good Man is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor, "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson, "The Willows" by Algernon Blackwood, "Midnight Meat Train" by Clive Barker, Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily," Daphne Du Maurier's "Don't Look Now," and (of course) "The Green Ribbon" by Alvin Schwartz.

But really that's so very few! So I started with story number one, Harlan Ellison's truly bizarre "I Have No Mouth and I must Scream," and am working my way through. So far I have to say that Kelly Link's "Two Houses" is my favorite. (And I know they list her upcoming collection for that one, which isn't due out until Feb, but a version of the story can actually be found in the Ray Bradbury tribute collection, Shadow Show. A fabulous collection, by the way.)

Certainty by Victor Bevine

Good morning, readers. Today I'm part of the TLC book tour for Victor Bevine's debut, Certainty.

William Bartlett is a young lawyer still working to prove himself in his chosen career when he takes on a case that may be more than he can handle. It is the summer of 1919 and a local clergyman, beloved by many, has been accused of a shocking crime. Pressure is on Bartlett to push a plea to a lesser crime, but the ramifications would still be hugely detrimental. Certain that the priest is innocent, Bartlett pushes forward with a trial, intent on proving the man's innocence. But as attention on the case increases the trial becomes more complicated than Bartlett ever imagined. 

I like the idea of Bevine's book - shining light on a really quite shocking piece of history that I'm sure almost no one is aware of. I had some issue getting into the book, though.

We meet Bartlett and Kent immediately, as Bartlett picks Kent up from jail. It's a nice intro to the lawyer with a story about his father's connections and his own first understanding of the law. We then jump back to Bartlett and Kent's first meeting and the beginnings of the plot conceived by certain Navy men to crack down on undesirables in Newport. And I quickly got lost. I trudged through, though, breaking out of the seamen's scheming and back into Bartlett and Kent's tale, relieved to return to the characters I'd connected with initially.

At this point the book takes on a tone akin to any legal thriller. The pacing picks up, the trial begins, the plotting on the part of the characters is revealed...

I share in another reviewer's opinion that this was something of a shocking read. I found myself quite emotionally affected by Certainty, disturbed by the actions of the characters and the case itself. I did find it to be a fair picture of the time - there was much going on in 1919, including the devastating Spanish Flu epidemic - and Bevine takes care in including those aspects of time and place into the overall story of the case itself (this case, by the way, is known as the Newport Navy Vice Scandal if you'd like to read more about it).

Certainty is well written but was, again, hard for me to get into. It was a combination of the subject, keeping the various players organized in my head as I was reading, and simply being unprepared for (or not in the right mood for) such a heavy topic. (Honestly, I'm sure it was more mood than anything as I've been craving more seasonal fare of late.)

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

For more on Victor Bevine you can friend him over on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Land of Dreams by Kate Kerrigan

Hi, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Kate Kerrigan's Land of Dreams, the third part of her fabulous Ellis Island trilogy!

It's 1942 and the now twice-widowed Ellie Hogan has carved out a nice niche for herself in New York. She's raising two adopted sons and is an up-and-comer in the art scene as well. When her eldest boy, Leo, decides to take off for Hollywood in pursuit of fame and glory, Ellie has no choice but to follow. Initially, her plan is to retrieve her son and return to New York, but when it looks as though stardom might be a reality for Leo, Ellie's plans change. 

But Hollywood is a far cry from New York or even Ireland. 

I was so anxious to get to get back to Ellie's story with Land of Dreams. It's been on my must have list since I turned the final page on City of Hope last year. Seriously, I even considered ordering it from the UK so that I wouldn't have to wait!

That said, I was surprised that the first third of the book is basically backstory to get us up to 1942. It glossed over Ellie's years with Charles and Leo all in order to catch us up on what happened after the last book and get us to the point where the story actually begins. It was disappointing and dragged the momentum of the first part of the book quite significantly.

This start was doubly disappointing because I'd found City of Hope particularly easy to get into even if you hadn't already read Ellis Island and I felt that Land of Dreams didn't have that same approachability. I've so adored each part of Ellie's story that it's become one of my favorite things to recommend to readers. But where readers could start easily with either City or the actual first installment, Ellis, I don't think Land would serve well at all as a diving off point.

Now that that's out of the way, I will tell you that I still greatly enjoyed returning to Ellie. She's a character readers can't help but fall in love with! Her struggles in this book are centered around her kids and her identity. She worries about stifling Leo's dreams but Los Angeles proves to be less than inspiring for her own art and that's something that scares her.

I was glad Bridie traveled to LA in Land! Ellie's friends have always played a big role in her story and while she does make friends in California, Bridie is a favorite from the previous installments. She's feisty and funny and I would have missed her and the way she supports Ellie and her family.

Land of Dreams is a nice close to Ellie's tale but I do recommend reading at least City of Hope beforehand.

Rating: 3.5/5

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

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

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Series I'd Like to Start

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 new series I'd like to start.

The Moonlight Palace by Liz Rosenberg

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Liz Rosenberg's The Moonlight Palace.

Agnes has lived all her life in the crumbling ruins of the Kampong Glam palace. The last descendant of the Sultan of Singapore, her history is inextricably tied to that of the island. Agnes and her few remaining relatives - her Uncle Chachi (who is actually her great uncle), British Grandfather, and his wife Nei-Nei Down - rely on the family stipend (which continues due to some accounting error) and British Grandfather's pension from the military, along with income from boarders, to keep themselves afloat. But it's not enough. Agnes is old enough now to help, and that is what she vows to do, all the while hoping that she can save their Moonlight Palace.

I was pleasantly surprised by The Moonlight Palace and Agnes in particular. From the start, her voice rings loud and true, drawing the reader into a story that is rich with both history and emotion. Much of the focus of the story is her coming of age, but I found it to be a rather well-rounded tale as a whole. Though it is a rather short read, Rosenberg did a great job weaving in the history, setting the scene quite nicely for both Singapore in the 1920s and of the raggedy palace. And though Agnes herself is a force, the rest of the characters that surround her are quite nicely developed as well.

Singapore's history is not something I know a terribly lot about but I find it to be utterly fascinating. And while I didn't necessarily plan to follow up one Singapore read with another (this read comes somewhat on the tail of the latest Ovidia Yu in my TBR) I did love going back to it as a setting.

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

Monday, October 20, 2014

California by Edan Lepucki

When Cal and Frida left Los Angeles behind, it was to start fresh - just the two of them. The world has changed and life in the city is all but impossible. Neither of them can afford to live in one of the communities that have cropped up around the country, but Cal has the skills to live off the land and support them both. Then Frida discovers that she may be pregnant. With a third life to consider, the couple decides it might be necessary to strike out and explore their surroundings. For a long time they've known that there are others nearby, but they've avoided all contact until now. 

I wasn't sure how much to share about the overall plot of Edan Lepucki's debut. The ultimate pull of the story is discovery. Discovery of Cal and Frida's story, discovery of the nearby settlement, discovery of the secrets that everyone is living by. To give too much away, then, would ultimately kill the suspense.

I'm also at odds with my own opinion about the story, which obviously makes it harder to review as a whole. On the one hand, the discovery I mentioned above kept me interested. On the other hand, I'm undecided about whether the ultimate revelations were really the pay off I wanted.

The story ebbed and flowed throughout, with high points and lulls. Of course the high points kept me intrigued and drew me through the story. The lulls, though, drove me a bit nuts. I really want to go into more detail but I just don't want to risk giving too much away. I guess I'll limit myself to saying that there are a lot of questions that come up in the book. Lepucki addresses some but not all of them and those that are addressed aren't always done so in a way that was expected nor did some of those questions seem to warrant as much secrecy or tension.

California was a good read and one that I did enjoy, for the most part. I feel I should point out that while it is set in a post-apocalyptic world, and there are a lot of the horrors one would expect with such a setting, it isn't a very action-packed tale as a whole. It's a very character-driven story and much of the tension I spoke of surrounds Cal and Frida and the various choices they're faced with.

Rating: 3/5

Sunday, October 19, 2014

New Releases 10/21/14

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Desert God by Wilbur Smith

Seventh Grave and No Body by Darynda Jones

Sometimes the Wolf by Urban Waite

Fish Tales by Sheri S. Tepper

Wait for Signs by Craig Johnston

Bathing the Lion by Jonathan Carroll

Burned by Valerie Plame

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

Beautiful You by Chuck Palahniuk

Shopaholic to the Stars by Sophie Kinsella

The Ice Dragon by George R. R. Martin

Beware the Wild by Natalie C. Parker

New on DVD:
The Purge: Anarchy
Earth to Echo

Pre Pub Book Buzz: Get in Trouble by Kelly Link

Morning, all. I'm a day late to this party.

As you all know, I'm a sucker for dark fiction. I'm also a sucker for short fiction, which makes Kelly Link's upcoming collection, Get In Trouble, the book I'm most looking forward to this week!

Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

She has been hailed by Michael Chabon as "the most darkly playful voice in American fiction"; by Neil Gaiman as "a national treasure"; and by Karen Russell as "Franz Kafka with a better understanding of ladies' footwear and bad first dates." Now Kelly Link's eagerly awaited new collection--her first for adult readers in a decade--proves indelibly that this bewitchingly original writer is among the finest we have. 

Link has won an ardent following for her ability, with each new short story, to take readers deeply into an unforgettable, brilliantly constructed fictional universe. The eight exquisite examples in this collection show her in full command of her formidable powers. In "The Summer People," a young girl in rural North Carolina serves as uneasy caretaker to the mysterious, never-quite-glimpsed visitors who inhabit the cottage behind her house. In "I Can See Right Through You," a onetime teen idol takes a disturbing trip to the Florida swamp where his former on- and off-screen love interest is shooting a ghost-hunting reality show. In "The New Boyfriend," a suburban slumber party takes an unusual turn, and a teenage friendship is tested, when the spoiled birthday girl opens her big present: a life-size animated doll. 

Hurricanes, astronauts, evil twins, bootleggers, Ouija boards, iguanas, "The Wizard of Oz, " superheroes, the Pyramids . . . These are just some of the talismans of an imagination as capacious and as full of wonder as that of any writer today. But as fantastical as these stories can be, they are always grounded by sly humor and an innate generosity of feeling for the frailty--and the hidden strengths--of human beings. In "Get in Trouble, "this one-of-a-kind talent expands the boundaries of what short fiction can do.

If I succeed in getting just one reader turned onto shorts, I will be a truly happy girl. But hopefully more than one reader will find this one appealing!

Get in Trouble is due out from Random House in February.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Bodies We Wear by Jeyn Roberts + a Giveaway

Imagine a drug that gives its users a glimpse of magnificence. Now imagine that drug can also become dangerously addicting for some of its users. And those who overdose and manage to survive fight its effects for the rest of their life. 

This is Heaven's Dream - Heam. A drug so potent that its very creators succumbed to its temptation. It's only been around for twelve years but it has changed the world in unimaginable ways. Faye's own father was an addict and when he couldn't pay his dealers, they came for Faye instead. She was just eleven when they force fed her Heam and though she survived, her best friend did not. Faye vowed she would get revenge on the men responsible. She's trained every day since the incident and now she's ready. But can she go through with it?

Holy crap this book was good! I've never read Jeyn Roberts before and now I feel like I've been missing out.

The Bodies We Wear is dark, dark, dark. It reminded me a bit (just a bit) of All These Things I've Done and Shovel Ready. Weird connections, I know, but let me explain. All These Things I've Done because of the setting: somewhat futuristic and yet very much like the world today, with very obvious effects of the restrictions/drug (All These Things/Bodies We Wear) and because the drug lord aspect in Roberts's book brought to mind the mob presence in Zevin's. As for Shovel Ready, it's the cult-like aspect of Heam use and the addiction to the limnosphere (particularly the way it's used by Spademan's foe). And again the futuristic setting heavily weighted in the world we know today.

It's probably a stretch for anyone not living in my brain but it seemed all three would live in the same stratosphere of the fiction world. Plus, they're all dark themes! Drugs, vengeance...

I loved Faye. I loved the way Roberts brought her physical and mental struggles into the story. Faye isn't invincible. Yes, she's driven by a desire for revenge - almost blinded by it - but she's not a machine. Even in the first pages, when she's clearly on a mission (what that mission may be is unclear to the reader at that point), she's sympathetic to the girl looking for her brother and she saves a life as well.

This book was like Pringles, once I started I just could not stop. I can't resist mentioning the song, either. Roberts has a playlist in the back of the book, but I didn't realize that until I'd finished. I wasn't terribly surprised to see that "It Can't Rain All the Time" by Jane Siberry was listed, though, as it had been running through my head every single time Faye commented on the rain. Um, any old Crow fans out there? (The walkabouts my head goes on while reading can be a little scary.)

Anyway, The Bodies We Wear was fabulous. Somewhat surprisingly so considering I had no idea what to expect going in. Roberts's previous released are now going in the must have list and I definitely recommend any fans of darker fiction check this one out as well.

Now, thanks to the publisher I get to offer up a copy to one of you lucky readers! To enter, just fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, November 3. Open US/Canada only and no PO boxes, please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Forgotten Girl by David Bell

If there's a new David Bell novel out then it must be October! Am I the only one who seems to mark the passing of the year with authors' latest releases?

Jason Danvers hasn't seen his sister, Hayden, in over five years. And that last visit was a doozy. While on a bender, Hayden stole one of the Danvers's cars and $400. It's understandable then that when Jason thinks he's seen her in town, he's apprehensive about a reunion.

But when Hayden arrives on his doorstep, she appears to have finally turned things around. Clean and sober, she says she's working to make amends. Then she asks Jason and his wife for one favor while she ties up loose ends in town: can they watch her seventeen-year-old daughter for her for just two days? Before the 48 hours is up Jason has heard that Hayden is back with her old crowd and potentially under the influence once again. When she doesn't return to pick up her daughter, he and his wife call the authorities. Hayden's car is found but the only sign of Jason's sister is a bit of blood in the backseat. And then the police discover a body.

One of the things I enjoy most about David Bell's books is the way he makes the reader think one thing and then turns everything upside down. I don't even try to tease out the who, why, or even what any more. Nope, I'm just along for the ride, enjoying every turn of the page.

Early on, Bell establishes a connection between Jason's missing sister and another person who's disappeared from his life - his best friend Logan. The two boys fought after graduation and no one ever saw Logan again. The emotional parallels are easily set, a friend has been looking for Logan and brings it up with Jason, making it fresh on his mind when Hayden makes her appearance and then disappearance. I found, though, that Jason's questioning whether Hayden and Logan had anything to do with one another was a bit forced. To my mind, there was nothing that brought any direct connection between the two. Considering how much musing the characters eventually do over this potential link, I wished the author had done a better job of convincingly setting that up in the story.

The Forgotten Girl fizzled a bit in the end. The build was nice and the pacing was fabulous, but the actual resolution didn't live up to the rest of the book for me. It made what could have been a great read an ok one instead.

Rating: 3/5

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Places Books Have Made Me Want to Visit

I've decided to jump on board with Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the topic is: places (real or fiction) books have made me want to visit.

Angel Killer by Andrew Mayne

Hi, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Andrew Mayne's Angel Killer.

A criminal who calls himself Warlock has hacked the FBI leaving behind a coded message that takes cryptanalysts seven days to decipher. The message leads authorities to a graveyard in Michigan and a disturbing discovery: the body of a girl who appears to have died clawing her way out of a grave. As if that weren't startling enough, the body appears to be that of a girl who was murdered some time ago. And yet she seems to have died just hours before being discovered. 

Jessica Blackwood, a forensic accountant, has no crime scene or homicide experience, but her background as a magician lands her a spot on the team investigating the crime. Her particular talent and training in illusion and misdirection could be exactly what they need to unravel the mystery of Warlock. But will it be enough or will Warlock prove to be smarter than the best the FBI has to offer?

This is a cool concept for a series and series lead! I don't think I've ever come across a magician investigator. Yes, in paranormal mysteries there've been wizards and witches, but I'm pretty sure that Andrew Mayne's Jessica Blackwood is a first. It's certainly the first I've seen, anyway!

I was a tad apprehensive with Angel Killer. With a twist like this I was afraid that the character and her background might overshadow the overall plot but that actually wasn't the case at all. Mayne struck a great balance between the "magic" theme, Jessica's background (which is nicely woven into the story), and the mystery.

And the mystery! Holy moly! I dare anyone to pick up this book and not be immediately sucked in. A body posed as though it's climbing out of a grave. And that's Warlock just getting started. Angel Killer is a dark one, but you know how much I like those!

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

For more on Andrew Mayne you can visit his website here. You can also like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Summer of Long Knives by Jim Snowden

Hi, everyone! Today I'm a part of the TLC book tour for Jim Snowden's The Summer of Long Knives.

Kommisar Rolf Wundt is ready to leave Germany. His political views make him a potential target in spite of having made a name for himself in solving the Dresden Vampire case. To that end, he and his wife have been working to obtain a visa that will allow them to settle elsewhere when another murder shocks the local community. A young girl - a member of the League of German Girls - has been killed, her body carved with a message whose meaning so far eludes investigators. Rolf's boss has requested that he stay long enough to solve the case, but with things growing even more tense in the country Rolf knows staying could mean very real danger for his marriage and his life. 

Snowden's Summer of Long Knives was really an impressive historical thriller. In a lot of ways it brought to mind Tom Rob Smith's debut Child 44. Both deal with countries in the midst of political upheaval. And both deal with police whose jobs are hampered by their respective political atmospheres. While Rolf doesn't toe the party line the same way that Leo does, they do face similar emotional turmoil.

And like Child 44, Snowden's book relies heavily on believable (and hopefully accurate) history of the setting. Readers will recognize many famous names - Rolf and his wife mingle with the upper-crust a bit, which means that many of the BIG NAMES in WWII Germany have cameos. It sets the scene very nicely for both the overall read and the tension that plays such a huge role in the plot. As mentioned, Rolf and his wife are trying to leave the country. It's not a secret that they are at the mercy of those around them.

The case is quite interesting. The carvings on the body, for example, are such that other officers immediately want to turn an eye to a Jewish murderer (Germany in WWII, remember) but Rolf himself points out that the message can be interpreted many ways. It was interesting to see how Rolf's investigation evolved vs the expectations of others in authority. (I should note, too, that a fellow officer's obsession with phrenology is another nice nod to both the time and atmosphere in which the story is set.)

The Summer of Long Knives is a great read for mystery/thriller fans, especially those with a penchant for historical settings. 

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

For more on Jim and his work you can visit his website here. You can also like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

New Releases 10/14/14

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens

Scent of Death by Andrew Taylor

Crooked River by Valerie Geary

War Dogs by Greg Bear

The Free by Brian Ruckley

The Lodger by Louisa Treger

Murder at Brightwell by Ashley Weaver

A Quilt for Christmas by Sandra Dallas

J: A Novel by Howard Jacobson

Riders on the Storm by Ed Gorman

First Impressions by Charlie Lovett

The Counterfeit Heiress by Tasha Alexander

Gretel and the Dark by Eliza Granville

Leaving Time by Jodi Piccoult

The Walking Dead: Descent by Robert Kirkman & Jay Bonansinga

Clariel by Garth Nix

Mortal Gods by Kendare Blake

UnDivided by Neal Shusterman

New on DVD:
X-Men: Days of Future Past

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
The Last Town by Blake Crouch
Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Pre Pub Book Buzz: One Step Too Far by Tina Seskis

So the upcoming title I'm most excited about this week, One Step Too Far by Tina Seskis, also comes with a little announcement. Yes, the folks over at William Morrow are trying to generate a lot of advanced buzz on this one and to do that they're offering up 1,000 advanced reader editions! 

Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

The #1 international bestseller reminiscent of After I'm Gone, Sister, Before I Go to Sleep, and The Silent Wife--an intricately plotted, thoroughly addictive thriller that introduces a major new voice in suspense fiction--a mesmerizing and powerful novel that will keep you guessing to the very end.

No one has ever guessed Emily's secret.

Will you?

A happy marriage. A beautiful family. A lovely home. So what makes Emily Coleman get up one morning and walk right out of her life--to start again as someone new?

Now, Emily has become Cat, working at a hip advertising agency in London and living on the edge with her inseparable new friend, Angel. Cat's buried any trace of her old self so well, no one knows how to find her. But she can't bury the past--or her own memories.

And soon, she'll have to face the truth of what she's done--a shocking revelation that may push her one step too far.

Of course this one caught my attention immediately thanks to the comparison titles, but that also means that it has some big shoes to fill expectations wise. 

Seskis is another self-pub success story in that she did originally publish One Step Too Far on her own. After the amount of attention and accolades it generated, the book was picked up by multiple publishers worldwide and will soon be in our hot little hands here in the US.

As I mentioned above, William Morrow, who will be releasing the book in hardcover in January, is offering up a massive number of advanced reader copies. You can hit the image below to get to the sweepstakes entry. I'll be posting my own review around release time and may have some copies to giveaway at that point as well :)


Friday, October 10, 2014

Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth + a Giveaway

Hi, everyone! I am super stoked to be part of the Bitter Greens blog tour today! You'll likely recall seeing this Rapunzel retelling in my Pre Pub Book Buzz post here, so you know it's been on my radar and is one I've been looking forward to for some time now. Well, now I get to tell you all about it and, thanks to the publisher, I get to offer up a copy to one of you lucky readers as well! (Be sure to read through to the bottom to enter.)

Charlotte-Rose's life at court comes to a quite abrupt end when she is exiled by the King. Forced to join the sisters at the Abbey of Gercy-en-Brie, the stubborn authoress hopes to gain back the King's favor and eventually return to Versailles. Until then, she must endure her punishment as best she can. Life at the abbey is miserable - it's cold, the work is often backbreaking, and Charlotte-Rose's comments and temperament are very unwelcome. Then one of the nuns begins to tell her a story. A story of a young girl with long and lustrous locks of hair. A girl who is stolen from her parents and imprisoned by a wicked sorceress. 

Kate Forsyth hasn't just created a wonderful fairy tale retelling here. Nope, Bitter Greens is also fabulous historical fiction. Before now, I knew "Rapunzel" only as one of the Grimm tales. Imagine my surprise then to learn that the Grimm brothers' story is actually a retelling itself, one based on a French story by Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de la Force. Forsyth heads up Bitter Greens with a note on the history of the tale, attributing the first appearance of "Rapunzel" to Giambattista Basile. The note goes on to explain that no one is quite sure how the story traveled from Giambattista to Charlotte-Rose - Bitter Greens is then Forsyth's imagining of that.

Charlotte-Rose has an interesting story on her own. She was a member of the French court. She was secretly married to a man much younger than herself. And she was banished to a nunnery by order of the King. Forsyth's version of the exile is none too pleasant but the story Sœr Seraphina shares with her does offer her something of a reprieve from abbey life. For someone who spent so much of her time writing, it's easy to see how this would be a welcome and fascinating distraction for the character. (Upon arriving at the abbey, she is relieved of all of her quills, ink, and paper, a punishment that seems to sting for Charlotte-Rose more than anything else.)

I don't know that I'll ever tire of these retellings! If, however, you think you might be nearing the end of your own fascination with the trend, I do highly suggest you make room in your TBR for Bitter Greens anyway. It's such a unique version of the story and, again, a wonderful blend of fantasy, fairy tale, and history!

You can see a full listing of the tour posts over at Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours here.

And now for the giveaway. To enter simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, October 27. US only and no PO boxes please.

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Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Betrayed by Heather Graham

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Heather Graham's latest Krewe of Hunters title, The Betrayed.

When local politician Richard Highsmith disappears while campaigning in Sleepy Hollow, friend and FBI agent Aiden Mahoney is sent to investigate. Highsmith is soon discovered, the victim of a macabre and brutal murder. His head is found on a Headless Horseman statue and his body later discovered laid out in a nearby mausoleum. Were it Highsmith alone some might theorize the killing was politically motivated but when a second headless body and decapitated head - this time an unidentified woman - are discovered, investigators must assume the worst: there's a killer stalking their historic town. The murderer's motive and identity are a complete mystery and would be bad news anywhere, but for a town that thrives on tourism at the height of the Halloween season nothing could be worse. 

Having read this one so close on the heels of The Hexed I found the overall structure of the story to be just a tad bit on the formulaic side. We're introduced to Aiden with his hearing the voice of his friend (similar in a way to our meeting Rocky). Aiden and Mo meeting is kind of similar as well (she falls into him during a hunt for a body while Devin literally runs into Rocky after discovering one). The pairing off of the characters and the evolution of the romance is quite similar too.

All of that said, I still enjoyed this latest from Graham. The characters are by no means cookie cutter copies of Rocky and Devin. And who can resist any story featuring Sleepy Hollow and the legend of the Headless Horseman as elements? The fact that Mo is friendly with Irving's "essence" is a fun bonus and her ghostly pals are amusing (even if they too are reminiscent of Devin's great aunt).

Where Graham really excels in my opinion is in capturing the feel of her setting. As in The Hexed, the attention to detail and the incorporation of history into The Betrayed give it a really excellent context and atmosphere.

The Betrayed is the fourteenth installment in the Krewe of Hunters series. As with The Hexed it can easily be read on its own or as a starting point for readers who may be new to the series.

Rating: 3/5

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

For more on Heather Graham and the Krewe of Hunters, you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick

Britt and Korbie's spring break trip is going to be epic. Britt's been training for it for months and has plans to hike the 40-mile Teton Crest Trail. Korbie plans to spend much of her time lounging in the family cabin making out with her boyfriend. And it's the boyfriend's attendance that prompts Korbie's parents to have her older brother, Calvin, tag along as chaperone. Britt is none too pleased about having her ex along on the trip but won't let it put a damper in her plans. Not even rumors of a killer stalking the woods near where they're staying can do that!

With everything packed and ready to go the two girls take off, planning to meet the boys there. Unfortunately, though the forecast was for clear skies, they're soon trapped in a freak snowstorm and unable to drive any further. Britt convinces her friend that they need to seek shelter and they're lucky enough to stumble upon a nearby cabin. But the two men they find in the cabin are anything but heroes. 

It's clear the men are hiding something and they plan to force Britt to help them trek their way to the highway. Are they the ones behind the recent murder everyone's been talking about? And will they really let Britt go once they make it out of the woods?

Becca Fitzpatrick's latest is a big deviation from her debut, Hush, Hush. Black Ice is a pretty straightforward teen thriller. No paranormal stuff here, just good old chills and thrills. 

It begins with a murder but the official story on this particular girl is that she's gone missing. The only hint the reader is given as to the identity of the killer is that he's a man with a crooked nose and a black stetson hat - the same details given on the person this girl was seen leaving a bar with before her disappearance. And so when Britt and Korbie come across Mason and Shaun in the cabin in the woods, Shaun sporting a distinctly crooked nose and a black stetson, it's understandable that they'd pretty immediately be concerned. 

I'll admit it was a bit too coincidental for me that Mason just happened to be passing through Idaho and the neighborhood gas station while Britt was getting her Slurpee fix and then just happened to be hiding out in this cabin in the Wyoming woods when the girls break down. I kind of wished that had been worked in a bit more fluidly (last chance for gas before heading up the mountain pass, maybe?). I got over that pretty quickly. 

Britt's ordeal is a harrowing one and the book is an intense read. I believed that her training would allow her to survive in the conditions she faced and I was completely convinced this character would face the challenges the way she did. With all the various bits and pieces it might seem like the story is a mish mash of plot elements but I really found that Fitzpatrick wove all the various story lines together in a way that made sense. There is a romance aspect that I thought played out quite well and I really loved the extra wrinkle of the serial killer. 

Black Ice has all the makings of a great teen read. It's a bit horror, a bit mystery, and a lot of action-packed suspense.

Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Books for People Who Like Character Driven Stories

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

To Dwell in Darkness by Deborah Crombie

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Deborah Crombie's To Dwell in Darkness, the sixteenth Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James mystery!

DS Melody Talbot was all set to enjoy her boyfriend's performance. Andy and Poppy were to kick off the musical festivities at London's historic St. Pancras Station. Unfortunately the press and the crowd were a draw for more than just music fans: a protest group planned to use the opportunity to get attention for their cause with an explosive finale of their own. But what was supposed to be a smoke bomb turned out to be a white phosphorous grenade that left one man dead and many others terribly injured. Duncan Kincaid and his team take the lead and quickly find that there's more to the case than a protest gone wrong. 

Meanwhile, Gemma James has an overflowing plate what with a sick toddler, a pack of stray kittens, and a case of her own. While Melody is mixed up with the station incident, Gemma is faced with finding enough evidence to nail a child killer. 

Three books into this long-running series and things are getting much smoother for me! This is, as mentioned above, the sixteenth installment. I'd begun just two books back with No Mark Upon Her noting that while the book works fine for readers new to the series I'd felt I was missing out on the characters' backstories.

The same would likely be the case were I beginning here with To Dwell in Darkness but because I've got a bit of a head start I found I was much more comfortable with everyone. I suspect this will continue to be the case as I read more of Crombie's work (and I definitely plan to do so).

Anywho! Again, if you're willing to forgo some of the character details and ignore the carry overs and references to previous cases (the plot behind Kincaid's transfer, for example) you'll do fine here. The mystery is wonderfully compelling and the history bits that are interwoven into the plot add a depth that any Anglophile will greatly appreciate.

Rating: 4/5

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

For more on Deborah Crombie and her work (including a full series list) you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Feel Good Giveaway for Fall: Spin and Spun by Catherine McKenzie

Morning, all. I've got some big giveaways coming up before the year is out and first on my list is a Catherine McKenzie giveaway pack!

If you're a follower then you'll know that I am a big fan of Catherine's work. This was a banner year for her as she had not one but two releases hit shelves - Hidden and Spun (a novella follow up to her debut Spin). All of Catherine's books are amazing. They're heart warming (and heart wrenching) and feature the kinds of characters anyone can fall in love with. Really she's one of my favorite authors to recommend to readers!

So to kick off this week I'm giving away a Spin/Spun prize pack! To enter just fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, October 20. (Open US only and no PO boxes please.)

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Good luck!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

New Releases 10/7/14

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Spark by John Twelve Hawks

Scarlet Tides by David Hair

Land of Dreams by Kate Kerrigan

The Murder Man  by Tony Parsons

Malice by Keigo Higashino

Brood by Chase Novak

Silverblind by Tina Connolly

Run by Andrew Grant

A Vision of Fire by Gillian Anderson & Jeff Rovin

An English Ghost Story by Kim Newman

The Shotgun Arcana by R. S. Belcher

The Night Garden by Lisa van Allen

Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie

The Forgotten Girl by David Bell

Desert Rage by Betty Webb

The Girl Next Door by Ruth Rendell

The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain

Some Luck by Jane Smiley

A Demon Summer by G. M. Malliet

Cattle Kate by Jana Bommersbach

Deadline by John Sandford

The Delta by Tony Park

Full Measure by T. Jefferson Parker

Closer to Home by Mercedes Lackey

Dark Spies by Matthew Dunn

Reunion by Hannah Pittard

The Boy Who Drew Monsters by Keith Donohue

The Lesser Dead by Christopher Buehlman

Sleep in Peace Tonight by James MacManus

Poison Fruit by Jacqueline Carey

Truth Be Told by Hank Phillippi Ryan

The Question of the Missing Head by E.J. Copperman

Sidney Sheldon's Chasing Tomorrow by Tilly Bagshawe

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams (reissue)

The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams (reissue)

Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek by Terry Shames

The Good Sister by Jamie Kain

The Old Deep and Dark by Ellen Hart

Burying Water by K.A. Tucker

Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

Zom-B Family by Darren Shan

The Invisible by Amelia Kahaney

The Perfectionists by Sara Shepard

Kiss Kill Vanish by Jessica Martinez

Whisper the Dead by Alyxandra Harvey

Emergent by Rachel Cohn

New on DVD:
Obvious Child
A Million Ways to Die in the West

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
Wayward by Blake Crouch
The Banks of Certain Rivers by Jon Harrison

Friday, October 3, 2014

Short Fiction Friday: The Last Illusion by Clive Barker

I just found out that Clive Barker has a new book due out and that said new book brings together Pinhead and Harry D'Amour (I had to Google Harry thanks to my Swiss cheese brain). The Scarlet Gospels isn't due out until May 2015, so I do have time, but it seems some Barker reading is definitely in order as preparation. If you read yesterday's post you'll know the news also comes at a time when I'm craving some good horror movies and once my wholly holey memory was somewhat nudged by Harry's list of published appearances, I realized it had been quite some time since I'd seen any of the movies based on Barker's work. Lord of Illusions (and some others) have been added into the Halloween watch list and I dug out my copy of Cabal for my first Barker tale of the season.

If you've not read Barker before you should know that he is quite graphic and quite gruesome. This little tale even features a demonic band made of body parts!

Harry D'Amour is a PI in New York and has seen things no man can truly recover from seeing. But it's this experience that leads to his latest job - he's to sit with the body of well-known and recently deceased illusionist Swann. The job is weird, but Harry can't resist the mournful pleas of Swann's widow and agrees to take the case. Just a few hours and one very realistic nightmare later, Harry is relieved of his duty. But the job doesn't end there. Apparently, Swann had reason to worry about what would happen to his mortal remains in death and though the widow feels they're comfortably out of the woods, Harry has reason to believe otherwise.

So this is apparently the first time Barker readers met Harry. He would go on to be part of The Great and Secret Show and Everville (the first two books of Art Trilogy), a short story in a long out of print anthology called Cutting Edge (edited by Dennis Etchison), and of course the upcoming Scarlet Gospels. And while I thought I'd read at least The Great and Secret Show, it seems I have not.

Harry is a cool character. A classic PI but one that dabbles in the occult. "The Last Illusion" alludes to a pretty horrific case that launched the supernatural part of Harry's resume, which explains why he isn't too terribly surprised when demons and other stuff start popping up in the Swann case. "The Last Illusion" is disturbing and a bit oh, so 80's in my opinion (it was pubbed in 1985 after all).

I'll have to dive into the as yet incomplete Art Trilogy to see how Harry's character develops, and to be ready for The Scarlet Gospels. Anyone else interested in tackling Harry's evolution can find "The Last Illusion" in Cabal, the sixth title in the Books of Blood series (pictured above. This installment also includes the stories that make up the inspiration of Nightbreed. Interestingly enough, there is a forthcoming anthology set in the Midian world - called Midian Unmade - due out from Tor next year as well.)

I should point out - for any of you who've also seen the movie but haven't read the story - that the film is QUITE different from the short. And yet, Barker himself did write and direct the adaptation. It was odd, though, reading the short without knowing that they differed so.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

As Above, So Below and The Sacrament - A Movie Post

It might seem, because of my lack of movie posts so far, that maybe I haven't been doing my civic duty as a horror fan in watching recent horror releases. You would be mistaken. I have, however, been somewhat meh about the ones that I've seen of late.

Miffed that I'd missed more than one horror release at the theater already, we hit the theater opening day to see As Above, So Below. The trailer promised a movie set in France's notorious catacombs and as such it did deliver.

Buuuut the setting was the best part.

The movie is set around the search for the philosopher's stone, a premise that would have been intriguing had it not felt like an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink hodge podge of world mythology rolled into one story. The characters go on something of a Davinci Code scavenger hunt for clues that eventually lead them to the catacombs where weird stuff starts ensues.

I left the theater with truly mixed feelings. On the one hand, with so little to choose from in the genre of late, I felt almost obligated not to dislike this movie. And yet, I was so underwhelmed and disappointed that I just couldn't force myself to be happy about simply having seen a horror movie in general.

That brings me to The Sacrament, the latest film from Ti West.

West is known for his seventies style House of the Devil, which I quite enjoyed. He's also the director who brought us Innkeepers and The Roost, amongst others. Both of these were ok, I didn't hate them but they definitely didn't live up to the expectations set by House.

So now we have The Sacrament, a movie about a group of journalists who travel to a remote and secret location to find Eden Parish. The Parish is led by an enigmatic leader called Father and is supposed to be a perfect community for his followers, one of whom happens to be the sister of one of the journalists.

And yet, the facade on Eden Parish is thin. The three men soon realize that there's something odd about the Parish even before the shit begins to hit the fan.

Yes folks, considering I was not even a thought in my parents' minds when it happened it did take me til the Kool-Aid scene to realize that The Sacrament is basically the story of Jim Jones and Jonestown.

I actually wasn't terribly disappointed by The Sacrament but I also didn't really walk away from it thinking of it as a horror movie per se. Yes, it is horrific and shocking. Yes, those are two elements of a horror movie, I know. It just didn't hit the spot as far as my horror craving was concerned.

I should point out both of these movies employ the increasingly aggravating found footage gimmick. I hate, loathe, and completely despise found footage films. I've never really liked them but each new movie released using this particular approach pushes me even further to my limit. I'm close to the point of simply turning off the next one without even giving it a shot. I find it highly likely that I would have enjoyed both of these movies more - maybe still not chalked them up as favorites - had they not been shot this way.