Friday, January 30, 2015

Short Fiction Friday: The Three Sisters by Lisa Unger

Eloise's granddaughter, Finley, - her only relative who shares her ability - has moved in while attending college. But while it's nice to have another person who understands what Eloise experiences, she can't help but worry about how it all affects Finley. When an ominous woman in black begins to appear, Finley is somewhat unsettled. 

Eloise soon discovers that the woman may have some connection to her own family's ancestors, three Hollows sisters who were burned at the stake in the 1600s. Three sisters Finley seems to know an awful lot about in spite of not having grown up in The Hollows. But before Eloise can investigate the woman in black or Finley's connection to the three sisters, Jones Cooper has another case for her attention: a drowning victim whose father is convinced the killer has walked free. And Eloise understands all too well the desire to avenge a loved one taken too soon. 

This might be my favorite of the three Whispers stories. Getting to know more about where Eloise and Finley's power comes from and how their own history ties into The Hollows history was really great. Plus, the fact that Jones Cooper (from Fragile and Darkness, My Old Friend) makes an appearance made it that much more fun for me.

I know that these three Hollows shorts tie in with Unger's upcoming Crazy Love You but I honestly am not sure exactly how. I have to admit that the wondering is making me even more anxious to finally read it when it hits shelves on February 10. Until then, all three Whispers stories are available through etailers. And of course you can always revisit (or discover) The Hollows through the Jones Cooper stories and In the Blood.

Rating: 4/5

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Chaos by Lanie Bross

Hi, everyone, it's sequel time! Yep, Lanie Bross's follow up to last year's Fates is out and that means poking through my terrible Swiss cheese brain to try and recall details from my reading a year ago. Fortunately this was one that stood out a bit for me and I did recall the basics.

Jas is home but Luc isn't so sure her safety is guaranteed. An attack by two Executors cements his concerns but he needs to find a way to try and save Corinthe before it's too late. Considering Jas has no memory of her time with the Blood Nymphs, Luc believes she'll be safe hidden away with their aunt until he can return. But as he travels again to the worlds accessed via Crossroad in search of a way to bring Corinthe back from the dead, Jas is searching for something too: the truth about what happened during the two days she seems to have completely forgotten. Jas's quest brings her straight to Ford and right back into the crosshairs of the Executors.

As with the first book, Bross's breathtaking world building is the true stand out here. All of the little details that bring these varying settings to life are so vivid and unique. And yet again I wished we could spend more time in them. In Chaos we travel to a library of the dead, where each tome is the story of someone's life; Aetern, a world made of glass; and Pyralis, both past and present.

What I didn't love in this second installment was the really heavy handed instalove. I'm not as down on instalove as some, but it does have to have SOME set up. The way Jas just falls for Ford just by laying eyes on him was a definite stretch for me.

That said, I loved Jas's part of this story. In fact, I found her to be somewhat more intriguing than Luc's bouncing around trying to figure out how to manipulate time. Jas has manifested powers thanks to drinking from the Flower of Life. She also finds out something very interesting about her and Luc that could have big repercussions down the line.

All in all, Chaos was a fun follow up to Fates, but a bit more development of the romance would have been nice.

Rating: 3/5

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Girl Before a Mirror by Liza Palmer - Excerpt

Hello, everyone! Yesterday marked the release of Liza Palmer's latest, Girl Before a Mirror, and thanks to the publisher I get to share an excerpt here with you guys.

Here's a little bit about the book from Goodreads before we dive into the excerpt:

An account executive in a Mad Men world, Anna Wyatt is at a crossroads. Recently divorced, she’s done a lot of emotional housecleaning, including a self-imposed dating sabbatical. But now that she’s turned forty, she’s struggling to figure out what her life needs. Brainstorming to win over an important new client, she discovers a self-help book—Be the Heroine, Find Your Hero—that offers her unexpected insights and leads her to a most unlikely place: a romance writers’ conference. If she can sign the Romance Cover Model of the Year Pageant winner for her campaign—and meet the author who has inspired her to take control of her life—she’ll win the account. 

For Anna, taking control means taking chances, including getting to know Sasha, her pretty young colleague on the project, and indulging in a steamy elevator ride with Lincoln Mallory, a dashing financial consultant she meets in the hotel. When the conference ends, Anna and Lincoln must decide if their intense connection is strong enough to survive outside the romantic fantasy they’ve created. Yet Lincoln is only one of Anna’s dilemmas. Now that her campaign is off the ground, others in the office want to steal her success, and her alcoholic brother, Ferdie, is spiraling out of control. 

To have the life she wants-to be happy without guilt, to be accepted for herself, to love and to be loved, to just be—she has to put herself first, accept her imperfections, embrace her passions, and finally be the heroine of her own story.

Readers, I seriously love Liza Palmer's work. Total fangirl love! So of course I'm super excited to be able to share a bit of her new book with you, to hopefully entice you to go out and buy it and experience the fabulousness of her work for yourselves!

Girl Before A Mirror (Excerpt)
Liza Palmer

"I don't understand what Bruce Springsteen has to do with why you haven't been on a date in over a year," Hannah says. 

"You haven't heard the 'Thunder Road' story?" Michael laughs. 

"Everybody has a 'Thunder Road' story," I say, smiling at the approaching waiter as the single candle flickers in the scoop of very pink gelato. My friends sing me "Happy Birthday" and I can't help but smile. They're off-key and terrible. 

"Make a wish!" Allison says. 

A moment. I close my eyes and breathe in. 

You can wish for anything, Anna. You're forty now. Forty. 

My mind riffles through the wishes I have for this next year as if they're in a virtual photo album: me atop mountains, the breeze blowing my hair back. The pages flip and now we're in Paris, meandering through a farmer's market. Flip. Drinking a pint of Guinness overlooking all of Dublin. Flip. A red gingham tablecloth, a picnic, and the Jefferson Memorial. The flips are growing more manic. A gray-shingled cottage in a small beach town along the California coast. Flip. Fresh, lavendery linens, a perfect Sunday morning with nowhere to go, and a muscular chest beneath my cheek. Flip. I'm dressed to the nines and accepting the Clio. Flip. I'm lying on the grass and covered in squirming golden retriever puppies. 

I open my eyes. Everyone is staring at me. Concerned. 

"It's just a wish, not an exorcism," Ferdie says, taking a swig of his beer. My mind goes blank and I blow out the candle. I'm forty years old and I have no idea what to wish for. 

My friends clap as I pull the candle from the gelato and lick the end. Raspberry. The other desserts arrive and we all dig in. 

"So, the 'Thunder Road' story," Allison asks, pulling the chocolate monstrosity she and Michael ordered closer to her. 

"I went out to dinner with this guy who worked in my building. He seemed nice enough." 

"Seemed being the operative word," Nathan adds. 

"Never a good sign," Hannah says, taking Nathan's hand in hers. He makes no attempt to hold Hannah's hand back. She smiles and picks up her fork, digging into her tiramisu. We all let her think we didn't see. We've been not seeing Nathan's annoyance at Hannah for years now. 

"Dinner is fine. Not terrible. Worthy of a second date, anyway, and as we're driving home, 'Thunder Road' comes on the radio," I say, stopping to take a bite of my gelato. 

"That's such a great song," Ferdie says. 

"Somehow I don't think that's where the story is headed," Hannah says, laughing. Nathan rolls his eyes. 

"I just wanted to put it out there. It's not the song's fault," Ferdie says. 

"Always the protective brother," Hannah says. 

"He's being protective of the song, not me. So," I say, nudging Ferdie. "So this guy starts singing along—not really knowing the words, but enough. Enough for me to think better of him, you know?" 

"Knowing the lyrics to 'Thunder Road' is a definite plus on a first date," Michael adds. 

"Right? And it was one of those beautiful D.C. nights right before the summer turns evil and there we are: windows down and singing along with The Boss. Then we get to that part—" Allison pulls her cardigan over her face, attempting to shield herself from what's coming next. Michael barks out a laugh and she continues to cringe as if both I and the story I'm telling are some kind of horror film. "We get to that part, 'you ain't a beauty, but hey you're all right.'" The table gasps in unison. I continue, "And the bastard motions to me." I raise my eyebrows and hold my hand aloft. "You ain't a beauty, but hey you're all right." And then I just sit back and nod. 

"Your wedding vows are writing themselves," Michael says, cracking both of us up. 

"No. That . . . that didn't happen," Hannah says. 

"Oh, yes it did," I say, taking another bite of my gelato. "And he just . . . he just kept singing?" Hannah asks. 

"Like nothing had happened. Like he was just hilariously acting out the song," I say. 

"No no no no no," Hannah says, picking up her wineglass. 

"And it was right then—and you know I don't care about looks, but I sure as hell know that the person you're dating should think you're the most beautiful woman in the world," I say. I catch Michael gazing at Allison as she finishes off their chocolate cake. Hannah and Nathan can't make eye contact. 

Ferdie gives me that sheepish grin of his. I know he hates this story, but telling it helps. "I needed a break. Ever since the divorce, I'd been way too focused on moving on with the wrong kind of men. But in that moment, I knew enough to know I was nowhere near ready for the right one." 

"So you put yourself—" 

I interrupt Hannah. "On a Time-Out, yes." "Since when?" she asks. 

"It was just before summer last year, so—" 

"A year? You've been doing this for over a year?" she asks. "I needed to take some inventory," I say. 

"You needed a training montage. We get it," Michael says. "A training montage?" I ask, laughing. 

"Yeah, you needed to run through North and South Philly while being thrown oranges and then hit sides of beef," Michael says absently. We all just look at him. He finally notices our expressions. "Please tell me you know what I'm talking about." 

"Oh, we know," Ferdie says. "Oh, we got it," I say. 

"Thank God, I thought I had to get a new group of friends there for a minute. Who doesn't know about Rocky?" Michael asks. 

"The question is: Are you at the Philadelphia Museum of Art yet?" Allison asks, clearly more used to Michael's Rocky analogy than the rest of us. 

"That's the only question?" I ask. She laughs. 

"No, I get it. Are you ready for the fight? Ready to step into the ring?" Michael asks. 

"I think you're taking this whole Rocky thing a bit too far," I say.

I will be taking part in the TLC book tour for this title, so be sure to come back on February 3 to check out my review.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

One Step Too Far by Tina Seskis

Happy US Book Birthday to Tina Seskis today!

Guys, this is one of the books I've been most looking forward to sharing with you and now that it's finally out on shelves, I can!

Emily has left her family. She's starting over - a new place, a new job, and even a new name. But just what would cause a happily married woman to abandon everything she's ever known? As the anniversary of the event that started it all grows closer, it becomes harder and harder for Emily to ignore the life she left behind. And just when she thinks she's made it, new life starts to crumble. 

It's true that in reading One Step Too Far a lot of energy is spent trying to figure out the puzzle behind Emily's choice. Seskis deftly weaves together past and present story lines until the two finally catch up and collide, revealing the horrible event that Emily has been hiding. I did have my suspicions, readers, but while I wasn't too far off the mark I definitely did not see it coming!

But the book is somewhat less about said event than you would think. Instead, the story is really about the various characters and how they deal with the various bad things they've each faced in their lives. Everyone from Emily and Ben to Caroline, the twins' parents, and Angel have things that they're trying to overcome. And each of them deals with it all in very different ways.

One Step Too Far has the definite pacing and tension of a thriller, but there's a human aspect to it that I'd typically ascribe to a heartfelt drama. It's a great mix, though, and an obvious testament to Seskis's talent as a storyteller.

Rating: 4/5

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I'd Love to Read With My Book Club, If I Had a Book Club

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'd Love to Read With My Book Club. And while I don't actually belong to any official book clubs, these are a few titles I'd love to read with one if I was part of one.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Deviation by Heather Hildenbrand

Good morning, readers! Today I'm taking part in a review blitz for Heather Hildenbrand's latest, Deviation. This is the follow up to Imitation, so if you haven't read that one yet you may want to avoid this post as there could be spoilers. (You can jump over here if you want to check out my review of that first installment.)

Now that that's out of the way I have to tell you that I was really looking forward to this one. When we last left Ven, she was in a bit of a precarious situation having discovered that her Authentic's boyfriend was in fact working against RogenCorp and trying to free the rest of the Imitations. 

With Daniel under lock and key and Titus Rogen dead set on learning his secrets, Ven finds herself even worse off than before. Her Authentic's father is putting increased pressure on the Imitation to find out where the rest of the rogue clones are being held and Ven knows it's only a matter of time before he decides she's no longer of any use to him. Ven has no choice but to continue living as Raven and pretending to be on Titus's side - not only does her own life depend on it, but she's the only real hope for both the escaped clones and the ones still remaining at Twig City. 

Sooo, I kind of didn't realize that this one wasn't the last one. As I got closer and closer to the final page I kept thinking there was NO WAY things were going to be resolved and of course they weren't. Deviation had just as much - if not more - of a cliffhanger ending than its predecessor! And there's no release date listed for the next book as of yet. Argh!

Ok. I'm good. Seriously, though, with much of the early character introduction and world building/set up out of the way, Deviation is pretty much all action. Hildenbrand ratchets up the tension by revealing a few key pieces of information that increases the danger for Ven and the other clones, accelerating their plan timeline and really launching the pace of the story into the stratosphere. The way the plot develops in this sequel is really great. Her relationships with the characters around her continue to evolve and Ven also finds a few new allies, which makes her own situation a bit less bleak and gives both the characters and the reader hope for what might come next. 

And I'm dying to know what that might be!

I think I actually found Deviation to be a bit more satisfying than Imitation. While the first book left me interested in reading more, this second has left me completely on the edge of my seat in anticipation of future Clone Chronicles titles. This is definitely a fun series, one that seems to be getting better with each new book. 

Rating: 4/5

For more info on Heather and her work (including news about a potential TV show and a giveaway), be sure to head over to Heather's site here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter

Sunday, January 25, 2015

New Releases 1/27/15

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Girl Before a Mirror by Liza Palmer

The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly

One Step Too Far by Tina Seskis

The Kings of London by William Shaw

The Secrets of Midwives by Sally Hepworth

The City Stained Red by Sam Sykes

The Grown Ups by Robin Antalek

The Sasquatch Hunter's Almanac by Sharma Shields

Ourselves by S. G. Redling

War of the Wives by Tamar Cohen

Breaking Creed by Alex Kava

Shark Skin Suite by Tim Dorsey

The Jaguar's Children by John Vaillant

Fairest by Marissa Meyer

The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon

Playlist for the Dead by Michelle Falkoff

I Was Here by Gayle Forman

Tear You Apart by Sarah Cross

A Cold Legacy by Megan Shepherd

New on DVD:
Before I Go To Sleep
The Judge
Book of Life

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Pre Pub Book Buzz: The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy

So Benjamin Percy got a lot of attention with last year's Red Moon, which means anticipation for his next book is pretty darn high. (Especially MY anticipation!) The Dead Lands isn't due out until April but at least we all have something to look forward too, right?!

Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

In Benjamin Percy's new thriller, a post-apocalyptic reimagining of the Lewis and Clark saga, a super flu and nuclear fallout have made a husk of the world we know. A few humans carry on, living in outposts such as the Sanctuary-the remains of St. Louis-a shielded community that owes its survival to its militant defense and fear-mongering leaders. 

Then a rider comes from the wasteland beyond its walls. She reports on the outside world: west of the Cascades, rain falls, crops grow, civilization thrives. But there is danger too: the rising power of an army that pillages and enslaves every community they happen upon. 

Against the wishes of the Sanctuary, a small group sets out in secrecy. Led by Lewis Meriwether and Mina Clark, they hope to expand their infant nation, and to reunite the States. But the Sanctuary will not allow them to escape without a fight. 

Um, "a post-apocalyptic reimagining of the Lewis and Clark saga" - yes, please! That sounds way too cool to miss!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Short Fiction Friday: Oasis of the Damned by Greg F. Gifune

Heather Richter was lucky to have survived the helicopter crash, but it seems her luck may have run out there. Richter doesn't know that yet, though. Another survivor from an earlier crash comes to her rescue and leads her to a nearby abandoned military post. But what at first seems to be a welcome oasis to wait out rescue is soon revealed to be the ultimate nightmare. Here Richter and Owens will have to fight to survive as the post withstands nightly attacks from a gruesome and never ending enemy all the while fighting to overcome their own demons as well. 

This latest from Gifune is short, coming in at just around 75 pages, but packs a wallop! It's the kind of tale that continues to stick with you well after reading, and I found myself going over and over the various layers of the tale in the days after I finished.

At the forefront is of course the main horror - Richter and Owens, trapped in the desert and forced to fight daily for their survival. But beyond that, each character is fighting other horrors as well: Owens has lost the rest of his crew in this nightly onslaught and Richter is plagued by memories of her brother. Their physical enemies force the two to face down the enemies they hold within themselves - their doubts, fears, and regrets - and it seems there may be no escape from any of it.

Oasis of the Damned is a dark tale and one I enjoyed immensely for its complexity. It was certainly unexpected to some extent simply because the story was so short, but given that Gifune is regularly praised by followers of the genre I have to admit I did have some grand expectation for my first reading of his work. I was not let down in the least!

Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Baltimore Blues by Laura Lippman

Good morning, everyone! Today I am super stoked to be part of the TLC book tour for Laura Lippman's very first Tess Monaghan mystery, Baltimore Blues. With the twelfth installment of the series set to hit shelves just next month, this seems like the perfect time to revisit this first of the series, something I've been meaning to do for quite some time anyway.

Twenty-nine-year-old Tess Monaghan is unemployed and unsure what she wants to do next. She spends her time freelancing here and there (mostly for her uncle, who doesn't really need her) and working at her aunt's bookstore. All of this because the paper she was writing for folded and the Beacon Light didn't hire her on. 

But one of Tess's friends has a proposal for her. Fellow rower Darryl Paxton, aka Rock, thinks his fiancĂ© has been acting strange. He wants to hire Tess to follow her and find out what's going on. Unfortunately, Tess's first foray into the investigating business leads to murder and Rock as the prime suspect. Now Tess has to find out who's really responsible and clear her friend before the case goes to trial. 

This Tess is so much lighter and less hardened than she becomes later on. In fact, she's almost a bit flighty - she comes face to face with the fact that she's been hanging onto the past (her career as a journalist) rather than moving on with her life.

Of course this book takes place before Tess officially hangs her shingle as a PI. She makes some rookie mistakes here, mistakes she definitely learns from. She also makes a few new friends who will come to help her along the way.

As a series kick off, it works perfectly. Tess is engaging and stands out - an athletic and inquisitive woman who's more than a bit judgmental but incredibly clever. It's been absolutely ages since I read this one, but I can see in going back just how much the character has grown and evolved. For readers who have been with the series for some time, it has been a few years since Tess's last appearance (though there's word of her in After I'm Gone). As I mentioned above, she's returning just next month in Lippman's latest, Hush, Hush.

While I haven't read all eleven of the current titles, I have read more than a few. Revisiting her start here has been a bit like reading it again for the first time, but if this is your first introduction to Tess, I kind of envy you. The full series listing (including the upcoming release) is as follows:

Baltimore Blues
Charm City
Butchers Hill
In Big Trouble
The Sugar House
In a Strange City
The Last Place
By a Spider's Thread
No Good Deeds
Another Thing to Fall
The Girl in the Green Raincoat
Hush, Hush

Be sure to check back here on March 3 when I'll be posting my own review of book twelve. And who knows, I might even have a chance to give away a copy of Baltimore Blues soon, too!

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

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

Sunday, January 18, 2015

New Releases 1/20/15

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Twisted Fate by Norah Olson

Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen

Perdita by Hilary Scharper

Fear the Darkness by Becky Masterman

Dead Red by Tim O'Mara

Before He Finds Her by Michael Kardos

Unbecoming by Rebecca Sherm

Glow by Ned Beauman

Cane and Abe by James Grippando

Migratory Animals by Mary Helen Specht

The Same Sky by Amanda Eyre Ward

If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie

Blood Drenched Beard by Daniel Galera

First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

A Small Indiscretion by Jan Ellison

Burned by Karen Marie Moning

Tides of Maritinia by Warren Hammond

Sweetheart by Angelina Mirabella

Serpents in the Cold by Thomas O'Malley

Puzzled Indemnity by Parnell Hall

My Father's Wives by Mike Greenberg

A Bad Character by Deepti Kapoor

Watch Me Go by Mark Wisniewski

See How Small by Scott Blackwood

The Ghost Shift by John Gapper

Veronica Mars: Mr. Kiss and Tell by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham

Polaris by Mindee Arnett

New on DVD:
The Zero Theorem
The Drop
White Bird in a Blizzard

Friday, January 16, 2015

Guest Post by Hilary Scharper

Good morning, readers! Today I am happy to be hosting author Hilary Scharper whose debut novel, Perdita, is out on shelves Tuesday, January 20. The publisher is offering up three copies of the book in a giveaway - you can find the Rafflecopter to enter at the bottom of this post.

Before I hand things over to Hilary, here's a bit about the book from the publisher:

Marged Brice is 134 years old. She’d be ready to go, if it weren’t for Perdita . . .

The Georgian Bay lighthouse’s single eye keeps watch over storm and calm, and Marged grew up in its shadow, learning the language of the wind and the trees. There’s blustery beauty there, where sea and sky incite each other to mischief… or worse…

Garth Hellyer of the Longevity Project doesn’t believe Marged was a girl coming of age in the 1890s, but reading her diaries in the same wild and unpredictable location where she wrote them might be enough to cast doubt on his common sense.

Everyone knows about death. It’s life that’s much more mysterious…

And now over to Hilary!

I am a Canadian author, living in Toronto. I am also a book-lover and “officially” a cultural anthropologist and university professor. Recently I’ve become a novelist.

“Perdita” is my first novel and writing fiction is probably one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. But best of all is that I love it—I’ve discovered how much I love the hard work of writing fiction.

Now when I hold a book in my hands, I can imagine all the work, dedication and discipline that went into it. Now I know firsthand how much sweat equity goes into making prose seem so effortless and fluid. Yet I am still always surprised at how flippant some of my colleagues are about novels: they see them as recreational things (by definition) and the writing of them—well, that’s something to be done in your “spare” time.

There’s a wonderful story attributed to Canadian author Margaret Atwood which captures the false but somewhat commonplace idea that writing fiction is merely a leisurely activity. She was having dinner with a neurosurgeon and at one point he turned to her and remarked (rather condescendingly we can presume) that when he retired he was planning to become a novelist. Atwood shot right back, “That’s funny, because when I retire, I’m planning to become a neurosurgeon.”

Finding the time to write—especially given that many writers like myself have other professions—can be difficult. I tend to write late at night, usually between the hours of midnight and 3 a.m. (In fact, it is 12:49 am as I write this!) I’ve become very interested in other writers’ writing habits…discovering all kinds of wonderful advice and insights. Women of course tend to write in very different patterns than do men—but this is not owing to biological differences! The various social roles for and expectations of women continue to shape how we “manage” our writing time. 

In A Moveable Feast Hemingway wrote:

“Sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it going, I would sit in front of the fire and squeeze the peel of the little oranges into the edge of the flame and watch the sputter of blue that they made. I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, ‘Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.’”

There’s no doubt that the bit about writing a “true sentence” is very good advice, but I can’t help but be struck by Hemingway’s mention of “the fire: and “the roofs of Paris.” To me, where an author writes and with “whom” is equally important, whether it is a softly burning fire, or Paris’ sea of roofs, or the lighthouse at Cabot Head and a wild and moody Georgian Bay.

More on the writing of “Perdita” at http://perditanovel.com/writing-with-the-wild/

About the Author: Hilary Scharper, who lives in Toronto, spent a decade as a lighthouse keeper on the Bruce Peninsula with her husband. She also is the author of a story collection, Dream Dresses, and God and Caesar at the Rio Grande (University of Minnesota Press) which won the Choice Outstanding Academic Book Award. She received her Ph.D. from Yale and is currently Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology at the University of Toronto.

Huge thanks to Hilary for being on the blog today and to Sourcebooks for arranging the post. And now for the giveaway:

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham

Well yes, I was quite late coming to the Veronica Mars party. Embarrassingly late, in fact. The very passion that prompted fans to fully fund the Kickstarter for the film in record time was enough to convince me my pop culture education was lacking, though.

And so I binged it. BINGED!

And then watched the movie. And then, after all of that, bought the first book with bday money :)

After her reunion, Veronica decides to pass on the NYC lawyer gig and stick around Neptune as a PI. Cases have been slim, but when a college coed goes missing during spring break and the sheriff blows it off, the Chamber of Commerce steps in requesting Mars Investigations's assistance. With Keith still out convalescing, that means Veronica's on the case. And when a second girl disappears, Veronica makes a surprising discovery. 

How can you not love a Veronica Mars book if you love the show, right? You kind of can't. And all of the nods to the show are there. All of the characters we know and love are here. There are little references back to old cases. There's even some revisits to unresolved little story lines.

My only complaint is minor and it's  pet peeve of mine: the recaps. Every time a character is introduced they come with their backstory from the show. It felt a little like when I was a kid and every Babysitters Club book had the same catch-you-up-to-speed how-the-BSC-was-founded info dump. Fortunately these little recaps were pretty small. They just felt a bit unnecessary all things considered.

The Thousand Dollar Tan Line is definitely a plot worthy of Veronica's investigative skills. I'd heard it was originally to be the plot of the movie, but I think it worked out better this way (with the movie what it was and with this being the first book). And I'm SUPER glad that the books are giving us more Neptune and more Veronica! Of course the second book is due out very shortly here and I've got plans to dive in pretty immediately now.

Rating: 4/5

(Definitely recommended for fans, not recommended as a starting point if you missed the show.)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

City of Liars and Thieves by Eve Karlin + a Giveaway

Hi, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Eve Karlin's City of Liars and Thieves. There is a tour wide giveaway on this one, so be sure to read through to the end to enter.

On a cold and snowy night, young Elma Sands set off supposedly to wed her sweetheart. But when he returned home alone, claiming they'd not had plans that evening, Elma's cousin, Caty, becomes concerned. As days pass with no sign of Elma, some claim she may have run off or even tried to kill herself. But Caty knows her cousin would do neither of those things. No, Caty fears something much more sinister. 

And twelve days later her fears would prove to be correct.

I was immediately intrigued by the fact that this book is based on an actual case. As the author outlines on her website, it's said to be "the first recorded murder trial in US history..." and of course it also involves two of the most famous personalities of the time: Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. The case is referred to as the Manhattan Well Murder. There are various pieces about it online, but I found this one particularly interesting as the famed well is still in existence. It's a macabre tourist attraction, that's for sure.

Eve Karlin's spin on the historic murder (one I'd not heard of before) is an intriguing read. The story unfolds via Caty's perspective, making the tale both suspenseful and emotional. Caty's fear, remorse, and frustration can be felt intensely throughout the tale. The theory set forth by the author in her imagining of the murder isn't without merit and Karlin does a great job weaving together her fictional accounts with actual historical ones. As an added bonus, Karlin's afterword does outlines various historical references and the fates of many of the real life players in the case. It's a quite interesting read (as is the book for that matter).

I would have liked for certain aspects of City of Liars and Thieves to have been further fleshed out. The time leading up to the murder moves by quite quickly and a little more time and attention to the characters' lives and motivations would have been welcome. Even without that, though, the book proves to be a pretty darn good read.

Rating: 3.5/4

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here. For more on Eve and her work, you can find her on the web here. You can also like her on Facebook.

And now for the giveaway.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Island Fog by John Vanderslice

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for John Vanderslice's short story collection, Fog Island.

John Vanderslice's collection features eleven tales centered around the island of Nantucket and the people who live there. The first half are historical, the rest are set present day (more or less) and all of them excel in giving the reader a strong sense of the island and its residents.

From early whalers and their widows, Quakers, Congregationlists, and Native Americans to a widowed plumber, an expectant father, and more, Vanderslice offers up snapshots of life through the eyes of a variety of Nantucketers. Stories like "On Cherry Street" and "Morning Meal" offer up nice parallels - in the former, a wife resigns herself to widowhood and finds that she's maybe not as stricken about it as she should be. In the latter tale, however, a man reexamines and possibly refuses to accept the realities of his own widowhood.

I liked some stories more than others - "Guilty Look" was a personal favorite - but all of them are strongly character driven. Even the island itself becomes a character of a sort as the overall theme and connection between each piece.

Island Fog feels a bit voyeuristic in its offerings (like peeking through a neighbor's window or reading someone's diary). It's also a thought-provoking read, especially in the case of stories like "King Philips War." With the collection, Vanderslice proves he is a strong writer with a talent for connecting his readers to his characters.

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

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Meant to Read in 2014

I've decided to jump on board with Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the topic is: 2014 titles I meant to get to but didn't.

Monday, January 12, 2015

A Fine Summer's Day by Charles Todd

War is on the horizon but for Ian Rutledge of Scotland Yard it's business as usual. Almost. The Inspector has just proposed and is experiencing the early days of wedding parties and planning in addition to his work for the Yard. 

Rutledge is called to investigate a number of odd cases - all of them in different villages throughout England and none of them seemingly connected. Or at least not at first. In each case a man has died under mysterious circumstances. The men vary in age and background but they all have one thing in common: it seems each death can be blamed on a laudanum laced glass of milk. In spite of his superior's opinion, Rutledge is set on discovering the connection between these cases, certain that once he finds it he'll be able to solve them all. But pressure for swift closure and growing concern over his family obligations cause Rutledge to doubt his chosen path.  

I loved this book! And for more than one reason. The primary reason is that it serves as something of a fresh start for readers like me who haven't been with the series from the very beginning. A Fine Summer's Day takes readers back to the start of WWI and a Rutledge so far free of the scars of that battle. (Undoubtedly a welcome look back to this early Rutledge for fans of the series as well!)

This Rutledge is still introspective, but his concerns here are with regards to his fiancĂ©, his future family, and his obligations towards his sister. He finds himself becoming concerned that policing - a job that is causing him to be away quite a bit of late - might have been a selfish choice. His frustrations lie in being unable to be there for his sister (who is still struggling with the death of their parents) and with his boss who is so unimaginative (as one character puts it) that he seemingly can't see what Rutledge sees in his cases. War is on the midst but still so far beyond Rutledge's reality that it hasn't yet really dawned on him to be a concern at all. 

My second reason for loving this book is the care and attention to detail - something I've noticed in each of the Charles Todd titles I've read so far. Characters are incredibly well drawn, the plot is tight and complex, and the setting is well established and supported by both grand and subtle elements alike. With A Fine Summer's Day, the authors succeed fully in immersing the reader in pre-WWI England and in Ian Rutledge's early life. 

If you're looking to start a new series and can't get enough of WWI-era England, I suggest snatching this one up ASAP!

As a bonus, if you're in the Denver area the mother and son team that are Charles Todd will be at the Colfax Avenue Tattered Cover this Wednesday, January 14! Event dets can be found here

Sunday, January 11, 2015

New Releases 1/13/15

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Devil You Know by Elisabeth de Mariaffi

An Appetite for Violets by Martine Bailey

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Ice Queen by Nele Neuhaus

The Just City by Jo Walton

The Deep by Nick Cutter

Cold Cold Heart by Tami Hoag

The Magician's Lie by Greer Macallister

Gretel and the Case of the Missing Frog Prints by P. J. Brackston

The Last American Vampire by Seth Grahame-Smith

In Some Other World Maybe by Shari Goldhagen

The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zahanhet Khan

Near Enemy by Adam Sternbergh

Unbreakable by W. C. Bauers

The Providence of Fire by Brian Stavely

Saint Odd by Dean Koontz

Bonita Avenue by Peter Buwalda

Amnesia by Peter Carey

The Curse of the House of Foskett by M. R. C. Kasasian

West of Sunset by Stuart O'Nan

Done in One by Grant Jerkins

Wild Cards IV: Aces Abroad ed by George R. R. Martin (new edition)

Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall

New on DVD:
Gone Girl
A Walk Among the Tombstones
Men, Women & Children
Young Ones

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga
Game by Barry Lyga

Friday, January 9, 2015

Bred to Kill by Franck Thilliez + a Giveaway

So you might recall that last week I reviewed a little book called Syndrome E. And I was totally blown away by it. Well, this week marks the release of the follow up title, Bred to Kill, and thanks to the publisher I'm able to offer up a copy of that new release to one of you!

In the year since their investigation of the mysterious Syndrome E, Sharko and Hennebelle have dealt with some huge emotional blows. Shortly after coming together, they were separated by a tragedy neither of them will likely ever overcome. Sharko has taken a voluntary demotion, which has placed him back on the streets. His latest case involves a grad student found dead at a primate research facility. The only witness - and suspect - is a chimp trapped in the pen with the dead body. Before Sharko can solve the murder, though, it becomes clear that he'll have to delve into the mystery of the student's research as well. And it's precisely this that brings Sharko and Hennebelle together once again.

At one point Franck tells Lucie that they are both cursed and when Syndrome E ended it surely seemed that way. The beginning of Bred to Kill picks up immediately after and explains what's happened before jumping ahead one year. Readers new to Thilliez can read on without fear, you can certainly start Bred to Kill without having read Syndrome E.

Once again, Thilliez presents a weird and fascinating premise - evolution and violence in this case - and again backs up the plot with enough science based theory to make the story seem believable. (I certainly don't have the chops to confirm or disprove it.) It makes for a meaty thriller, the kind you can sink your teeth into and really savor!

Thilliez isn't afraid of gore or violence - I probably should have pointed that out in my coverage of Syndrome E - so if any of you are feint of heart and took a chance with it, ending up grossed out as a result, I do apologize. For any of you who don't mind dark, twisty, and bloody I highly recommend both books!

This author is a bona fide new favorite of mine. I hope it doesn't take another two+ years for another of his titles to be translated and released Stateside. But I'll be waiting patiently even if that does turn out to be the case.

Rating: 5/5

And now for the giveaway: to enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, January 26. (Open US/Canada only and no PO boxes, please.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, January 8, 2015

White Plague by James Abel

A sub on fire in the Arctic as a infection rages its way through the crew would be a disaster in and of itself. But when the sub is a new design carrying highly classified tech and weapons, that's a disaster of national proportions. 

The battle for the waters of the North Pole has already begun with nations claiming rights to minerals, oil, and passages newly opened thanks to ice cap melting. It's not inconceivable that one of these could stumble upon the sub and that's exactly what our government would like to avoid. Joe Rush and his team are sent out on a rescue mission with two objectives: first and foremost, they must keep the sub and its tech out of the hands of our enemies. Second, they must try and save the crew and prevent further spread of the infection. But in order to succeed, Joe must first identify the pathogen and its origin.

Why do I keep doing this to myself, readers? As I write this it's a bone chilling 11 degrees outside and though the thermostat is set much higher here in my house it doesn't seem to matter: my second cup of hot coffee has been downed and my toes are supposedly wrapped in micro fleece but I still feel like a Becky popsicle.

And yet for the second time in as many weeks I've picked a snow and ice driven story from the TBR. I should be reading books about the tropics to warm my brain!

I was drawn to this one for a lot of reasons even though initially it sounded like it was going to be maybe a little too similar to The Last Ship (the show, I've not actually read the book). And yeah, that similarity both drew me to and somewhat turned me off of White Plague. (Reading dilemmas.) In the end, my penchant for medical thrillers and my own curiosity won out, moving this one to the top of the pile. And boy am I glad! White Plague was a blockbuster worthy read. Further poking led to a nice discovery on my part, too. James Abel is a pseudonym for an author I've read and enjoyed before.

This is the first book featuring Joe Rush, a character whose job is focused on bioweapons/biowarfare, which means lots of fun possibilities (and I mean "fun" in a kind of twisted way). A keen medical thriller/viral history reader will probably have their suspicions about the particular enemy Rush is fighting here - I certainly did and without revealing it to the rest of the potential readers out there I'll just say you're probably right in those suspicions. And I loved how the history was tied in! (Just a little history, and a little conspiracy theory.)

Readers, Abel's/Reiss's debut/latest hit all the right notes for me in terms of action and suspense and I can't wait to see what Rush will be up against next.

Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A Circle of Wives by Alice LaPlante

When noted plastic surgeon John Taylor dies in a hotel room in Palo Alto, the initial suspicion is natural cause. But evidence soon proves this may not be the case. A spike in potassium and a puncture wound are certainly suspicious, as is the fact that Taylor was apparently a bigamist! With three wives to his name - and at least two of them unaware of the others - it's no wonder someone might have snapped and offed the man. 

The case is assigned to Detective Samantha Adams, a young officer used to busting drunken college kids and handling mostly minor crimes. Taylor's murder is her first big case and one she's determined to solve no matter what. 

What a hot mess! Not the book - that's excellent! No, the victim is a hot mess. As the story unravels, and more and more is learned about Taylor and his wives and I found myself kind of unsure who to sympathize with. In truth, by the time the case was solved it was even harder! It was interesting, though, how my perceptions of the characters, the case, and the story changed throughout as each of those elements developed.

Though Taylor is dead from the start, LaPlante paints him as something quite different than I'd expected. Chapters alternate between each of the wives and Samantha, and LaPlante offers up a great view of each of the various characters through all of their eyes. This adds a fabulous layer of complexity to the story (and the characters, obviously) that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Circle of Wives is a great puzzle of a read. I had my suspicions about who was behind the murder. In the end I was right, but LaPlante still surprised me in revealing the actual plotting. All in all it's an excellent mystery with psychological suspense leanings.

Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Wildalone by Krassi Zourkova

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Krassi Zourkova's debut, Wildalone.

Thea Slavin always knew her family was hiding something, but it's only when she's ready to head off to college that she discovers exactly what that is. Looking back, Thea recalls how the family piano was locked away until she discovered it by accident. Her parents allowed her to play, reluctantly. And it's with reluctance that they now allow her to move to the US for college. When she chooses Princeton for her studies, the family secrets slowly begin to reveal themselves. Being a freshman in a new country is enough to deal with, but the myths and legends that surround Thea and her family are amplified at the historic university. As Thea struggles to reconcile her new discoveries with her day to day reality, she meets a man who will cause her to fall head over heels in love. And it's a love that could overwhelm them both. 

Wildalone is really hard to sum up without giving anything away. I apologize then if my synopsis is stunted or odd, but I struggled with how much to tell and how much to keep back from the reader.

This debut was one that I'd really been looking forward to. The promise of mystery and Balkan folklore drew me to it, as did the premise and the comparisons (The Secret History and Jane Eyre). In truth, those comparisons turned out to be just a smidge beyond being truly appropriate.

Let me first say that Krassi Zourkova writes quite beautifully. Her description is poetic - fitting considering how much of the story does rely on classic poetry. Sadly, though, the book didn't hit the spot for me.

My issue with Wildalone was the fantasy aspect. It was what I'd craved in the story but mid way through I'd resigned myself to it being maybe a more of a psychological read rather than a mystical one. And then the book shifted - just a little - and the fantastic became part of Thea's normal. Amidst the somewhat heavily philosophical classroom discussions and the eventually tiresome boyfriend issues, this little taste of magic wasn't really enough to make the book a win in my opinion.

Ugh, and the boyfriend issues! This isn't normally an issue for me but in this book it definitely grated on me. And it was the driving force of the story! Even when all was revealed, I didn't have much sympathy for Rhys. What's worse, I liked Thea fine until her entanglement with him so overpowered the rest of the book. By the time we roll to the end of the tale, I felt more than a little lost, unable to grasp what had really happened or what Thea's choice ultimately ended up being. (Though I know what I WANTED it to be at that point and I definitely don't think the author had THAT in mind.)

Ah, well. Wildalone had a lot of promise but sadly just didn't quite work for me.

Rating: 2.5/5

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

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Body Electric by Beth Revis

Ella Shepherd and her mother are lucky - they live comfortably in New Venice where her mother has just opened the Reverie Mental Spa, a place where people can relive their best memories. But even with their relatively tranquil existence, the Unified Countries and the Secessionary States coexist in a tense and fragile peace. When the UC begins to suspect there is a spy in their midst, they turn to Ella for help. It seems her mother's technology might be useful in determining whether someone is collaborating with the enemy. When Ella slips into the dreams of one of the UC's politicians, though, she discovers something strange - visions of her father who seems to be speaking directly to her and visions of another man who says he knows Ella though she has no memory of meeting him before. Both are impossibilities in a reverie. Before she can attempt to find the meaning in this mystery, New Venice is attacked and Ella finds herself caught in the beginnings of a new war.

I hadn't realized when I started this one that it was actually a companion to the Across the Universe trilogy. I was already stoked about a new book by Revis to begin with but that discovery really made The Body Electric that much more fun.

You don't have to have read all or any of the trilogy - this is the story of what's been going on back on Earth while Godspeed has made its journey. There are a few mentions of the ship and its mission but nothing that really gives anything away.

All of that said, The Body Electric is a pretty great read on its own. The premise and the scientific concepts are fascinating and Revis manages to once again weave in a story featuring rich and real characters around these almost mind boggling theories. In truth, there came a point in the story where I felt like maybe I was losing my grasp on the science (I won't go into details in an attempt to avoid spoilers) but the characters always managed to pull me back.

The world building is excellent. Revis provides enough detail and backstory to make New Venice and this future world it exists in believable and easy to picture. My only complaint there is that there was a bit of repetition in explaining some of those details, almost as if the author forgot they had already been touched on earlier in the story.

Revis is one seriously cool author in my opinion and while I'm not sure what she has up her sleeve writing wise, I know I'm always going to be on board. One piece I'd love to see more of if she continues in this universe are the Lunar Colonies and their stories. In the meantime, I'll be waiting along with every other fan to see what comes next!

Rating: 4/5