Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Time Garden and The Time Chamber by Daria Song

Adult coloring books are all the rage right now, and understandably so - they're fun! I first caught wind earlier this year with an article about Johanna Basford's books, which, at the time, were impossible to get your hands on. Trust me, I know. I ordered two to keep me occupied while hubs was out of town on a shoot but my copies were backordered for two months!

Anywho, that seems to have been remedied now with Basford's books and plenty of others literally everywhere you go. And now that I'm sure many of you have gift certificates burning holes in your pockets (is that just me?) you might be considering snatching up one or two for yourself. From patterns and pop culture to fantasy and more, there's definitely something for everyone.

Daria Song's The Time Garden and The Time Chamber both released this fall and are absolutely gorgeous options. Like the Basford books, they feature beautiful and fantastical illustrations perfect for someone looking to spend some time coloring in a land of whimsy.

The interesting thing about Song's books is that they do feature a bit of a story, each is subtitled (appropriately) A Magical Journey and Coloring Book and A Magical Story and Coloring Book. It begins with The Time Garden and a magical clock that transforms a young girl's world into something quite magical. The tale continues in The Time Chamber, with the red haired fairy who lives inside the clock and her exploration of the outside world.

The illustrations are richly detailed and quite intricate - these aren't quick coloring adventures for the most part, I find it takes me quite a bit of time to get a scene finished to my satisfaction.

But that also means that with each book there are HOURS of coloring time :)

Sample images courtesy of the publisher

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated Releases for the First Half of 2016

I've decided to jump on board with Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the topic is: most anticipated releases due out in the first half of 2016. 

Since we already did 2016 debuts we're most looking forward to, today's TTT choices won't overlap (in other words, Heidi Heilig is on the other one!) I could definitely go on and on beyond 10 for this one, so this is just the first 10 that came to mind this morning :)

Sunday, December 27, 2015

New Releases 12/29/15

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Song of Hartgrove Hall by Natasha Solomons

The Visitors by Simon Sylvester

Vendetta by Gail Z. Martin

After She's Gone by Lisa Jackson

Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard by Lawrence M. Schoen

False Positive by Andrew Grant

The Forgotten Soldier by Brad Taylor

The First Hostage by Joel C. Rosenberg

What's Broken Between Us by Alexis Bass

Hear by Robin Epstein

New on DVD:
A Walk in the Woods
Hitman Agent 47
The Perfect Guy

Friday, December 25, 2015

Short Fiction Friday: The Builders by Daniel Polansky

A mouse, a stoat, a salamander, a possum, a badger, a mole, and an owl walk into a bar...

Sounds like the start of a very odd joke, right? Nope, it's the start of Daniel Polansky's fabulously fun and bloody tale The Builders.

The Captain is getting the group back together for one last job, one that promises vengeance for the betrayal they all suffered five years ago. Many of them have been in hiding since that time, but none of them have forgotten how they were wronged. They lost compatriots, friends, and lovers - some to death and some to the other side - and now it's time for payback. 

So the premise is this: two brothers (twin toads) set to inherit the throne fought for the title for five years. The Captain (a mouse) was a soldier for the Elder's side up until half his team double crossed him and his inner circle in a massive battle. The Captain was thought dead (by the other side) but really he spent five years planning his revenge. And now it's time to execute that plan.

Polansky takes readers along as The Captain tracks down his former men (and women), convincing them to join in. Some are gung-ho while others have fairly enjoyed the quiet life and need a little more convincing. All of them are tired, grizzled, and war weary. And none of them is entirely sure who turned half their team the first time around. This becomes a fairly large part of the tale as the various characters wonder amongst themselves who the turncoat could be considering they'll need to trust one another yet again for a battle that's sure to end in death for more than a few of them.

The Builders is quite a lot of fun. First of all, the characters are all animals but this is definitely not a kiddie tale. They're crude and rude weapons experts and hard core killers, as are the animals they're up against. And while the story has moments of levity, it's also got more than a few sad moments as well. All in all it's a pretty spectacular action packed adventure!

Let me just say, too, without spoilers - THE SKUNK! Worst way for anyone to die ever! That was definitely a part that ripped me to pieces. I was at once sad to see that character go and feeling awful for laughing at the WAY that character went. So awful!

I loved The Builders! Love it! I've not yet read any of Polansky's other work but if I can expect the same combination of whimsy and dark, the same excellent character and world building, and the same overall enjoyment, I'm definitely down for more!

I do hope I've sold you on this one. The novellas coming out from Tor.com Publishing are phenomenal and I want everyone out there to check them out. If I haven't convinced you, though, you can check out an excerpt of The Builders here.

Rating: 4.5/5

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Shelf Control: A Darkling Sea by James L. Cambias

It's Wednesday and that means it's time for a Shelf Control post!

Shelf Control is a weekly meme hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies, giving book junkies like me a chance to highlight some of the lingering titles in our TBR stacks!

Title: A Darkling Sea
Author: James L. Cambias
Published: 2014
Length: 352 pages

What it's about (from Goodreads):

On the planet Ilmatar, under a roof of ice a kilometer thick, a team of deep-sea diving scientists investigates the blind alien race that lives below. The Terran explorers have made an uneasy truce with the Sholen, their first extraterrestrial contact: so long as they don't disturb the Ilmataran habitat, they're free to conduct their missions in peace.

But when Henri Kerlerec, media personality and reckless adventurer, ends up sliced open by curious Ilmatarans, tensions between Terran and Sholen erupt, leading to a diplomatic disaster that threatens to escalate to war.

Against the backdrop of deep-sea guerrilla conflict, a new age of human exploration begins as alien cultures collide. Both sides seek the aid of the newly enlightened Ilmatarans. But what this struggle means for the natives—and the future of human exploration—is anything but certain, in A Darkling Sea by James Cambias.

How I got it:

I swapped someone for it, I think.

When I got it:

Earlier this year.

Why I want to read it:

Let's break this down: (1) deep sea divers (2) in space find an (3) alien race and (4) someone gets murdered (5) setting off possible war. I don't know about you but this one sounds pretty cool. It's a first contact novel, which I'm totally interested in, and I've heard the author's aliens are particularly well written.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Leaving Under My Tree This Year

I've decided to jump on board with Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the topic is: Books I wouldn't mind Santa leaving under my tree.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Goldy's Kitchen Cookbook: Cooking, Writing, Family, Life by Diane Mott Davidson

My grandmother may not have been the one to ignite my reading passion but she sure did feed it regularly. My parents got me started on horror and my grandmother got me started on mystery/thrillers with the likes of Patricia Cornwell, Janet Evanovich, Faye Kellerman, Nevada Barr, and, of course, Diane Mott Davidson.

Anyone who's read Diane Mott Davidson knows that in addition to the fantastic mysteries and getting to know Goldy and her family, there are recipes. It makes sense right? Goldy is a caterer and many of the plots revolve around food in one way or another: in the series debut, Catering to Nobody, Goldy's own ex-father-in-law dies after eating her food and Goldy has to prove that she didn't kill him!

Readers, every time a new Goldy mystery hit shelves I'd borrow my grandmother's copy and tear through it. Throughout the reading I'd slap the recipe pages on the copy machine so I could try them after returning the book to her (or while reading but avoiding splatter). Over the years I've tried recipes like Models' Mushroom Soup, Rainy Season Chicken Soup (an absolute favorite for cold weather eating), Slumber Party Potatoes (three words: THE CHEESE SAUCE!), Penny-Prick Potato Casserole, New Potato Salad ('cause you can never have too many potato recipes in your pocket), Shuttlecock Shrimp Curry, and many others. I even recall with great fondness (and probably still have) recipe promo cards the publisher printed to go with the books.

That shrimp curry, by the way, is to die for. Seriously. In college I started making it with chicken (budget friendly) and it's equally as good.

The Goldy recipes have had pride of place in my collection since I started reading the series, so when I found out that there was going to be a whole cookbook full of them, of course I had to have it!

The book, which came out in September, features almost every single recipe that's appeared in the series. Honestly, without checking against the originals I couldn't even tell you what's missing. All I know is that all of my own personal favorites are featured, along with many others I've meant to try over the years. And best of all? They're all in one place!

Alongside the recipes, the author has included stories about her own family life, writing, and notes on the recipes themselves - origins, tips, etc. Honestly, guys, this is the absolute perfect cookbook for any fan of the series. PERFECT! I don't know anyone who can resist trying Diane Mott Davidson's recipes while reading the series and I bet I'm not the only one with messy copies of these recipes on hand.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

New Releases 12/22/15

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Judgement Day: The Science of Discworld IV by Terry Pratchett

In Constant Fear by Peter Liney

Grudging by Michelle Hauck

This Raging Light by Estelle Laure

New on DVD:

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
The Golem of Hollywood by Jonathan Kellerman & Jesse Kellerman

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Pre Pub Book Buzz: The Children's Home by Charles Lambert

Ugh, it's Saturday and I didn't even realize it. So wrong on so many levels, but mostly because the weeks fly by at a rate that I can't really keep the days straight anymore. I even forgot to post this morning. It's holiday brain, I'm sure everyone is suffering right about now.

Anyway, I came across this little gem at Mountains and Plains this year and have been DYING to share it with you! Readers, if this book lives up to even half of the hype I'll be a happy, happy girl.

Here's the full description from Goodreads:

For fans of Shirley Jackson, Neil Gaiman, Roald Dahl, and Edward Gorey, a beguiling and disarming debut novel from an award-winning British author about a mysterious group of children who appear to a disfigured recluse and his country doctor,and the startling revelations their behavior evokes.

In a sprawling estate, willfully secluded, lives Morgan Fletcher, the disfigured heir to a fortune of mysterious origins. Morgan spends his days in quiet study, avoiding his reflection in mirrors and the lake at the end of his garden. One day, two children, Moira and David, appear. Morgan takes them in, giving them free reign of the mansion he shares with his housekeeper Engel. Then more children begin to show up.

Dr. Crane, the town physician and Morgan's lone tether to the outside world, is as taken with the children as Morgan, and begins to spend more time in Morgan's library. But the children behave strangely. They show a prescient understanding of Morgan's past, and their bizarre discoveries in the mansion attics grow increasingly disturbing. Every day the children seem to disappear into the hidden rooms of the estate, and perhaps, into the hidden corners of Morgan's mind.

The Children's Home is a genre-defying, utterly bewitching masterwork, an inversion of modern fairy tales like The Chronicles of Narnia and The Golden Compass, in which children visit faraway lands to accomplish elusive tasks. Lambert writes from the perspective of the visited, weaving elements of psychological suspense, Jamesian stream of consciousness, and neo-gothic horror, to reveal the inescapable effects of abandonment, isolation, and the grotesque - as well as the glimmers of goodness - buried deep within the soul.

Doesn't it sound fabulous?! The Children's Home isn't due out until January 5 (just in time for those holiday gift cards) but there is a giveaway going on over at Goodreads as we speak so be sure to check it out.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Short Fiction Friday: The Grownup by Gillian Flynn

In my Gone Girl review for Bookbitch.com I noted that "Anyone familiar with Gillian Flynn’s books knows that things are never what they seem at the outset." It's true of Gone Girl. It's true of Dark Places. It's true of Sharp Objects. And it's certainly true of Flynn's latest release, The Grownup.

Originally published as "What Do You Do?" as part of George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois's Rogues anthology, The Grownup has now been released as a stand alone novella from Crown.

In the story, a nameless narrator who makes a living giving hand jobs transitions to psychic readings (the business, Spiritual Palms, offers both) and gets hired to cleanse a house.

Susan Burke isn't like all the other women who come in to have their fortunes told. She's smart, obviously rich but not ostentatious, and believes her life is falling apart. But it's not her marriage or her job. No, it's her new home and what she believes it's doing to her stepson - a teen she's grown wary and afraid of since the move. She's come to Spiritual Palms after discovering a business card in the hopes that they can help. But some things are beyond helping. 

The Grownup is SUPER FABULOUS FUN! I'm not kidding. It's short (under 70 pages) and snappy, a story you can definitely devour in one sitting (another bonus for this time of year). It's deliciously dark, as you'd expect of Flynn's work if you've read her, and twisted, also as you'd expect. And, as I noted above, it's not what you think it is.

I've been busy, busy, busy. I have a new-ish job (I've been there a year but have been promoted) and have been trying to get ready for the holidays. Plus there's been LIFE stuff (not fun LIFE stuff by any means, but responsible grown up LIFE stuff) to deal with. All that's meant to say is that I needed the break The Grownup (and all my other reading) offered. I was guessing all the way to the end, and am still guessing just a little bit. There's wiggle room for theorizing at the end for sure. I'm a little surprised to see the story getting mixed reviews, but honestly Flynn's work has kind of always been like that. For me, it simply (and completely) hit the spot.

Like any Flynn tale, to say too much is to risk giving things away and I definitely don't want to do that. But if you're a Flynn fan - or have a Flynn fan on your holiday gift list - it is definitely a perfect addition to your collection.

Rating: 5/5

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Nele Neuhaus Giveaway

In keeping with Monday's theme, I'm giving away a Nele Neuhaus pack today! Here's a bit about each of the books in today's giveaway (from Goodreads):

The Ice Queen: The body of 92-year-old Jossi Goldberg, Holocaust survivor and American citizen, is found shot to death execution style in his house near Frankfurt. A five-digit number is scrawled in blood at the murder scene. The autopsy reveals an old and unsuccessfully covered tattoo on the corpse's arm—a blood type marker once used by Hitler's SS. Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver Bodenstein are faced with a riddle. Was the old man not Jewish after all? Who was he, really? Two more, similar murders happen—one of a wheelchair-bound old lady in a nursing home, and one of a man with a cellar filled with Nazi paraphernalia—and slowly the connections between the victims becomes evident: All of them were lifelong friends with Vera von Kaltensee, baroness, well-respected philanthropist, and head of an old, rich family that she rules with an iron fist. Pia and Oliver follow the trail, which leads them all the way back to the end of World War II and the area of Poland that then belonged to East Prussia. No one is who they claim to be, and things only begin to make sense when the two investigators realize what the bloody number stands for, and uncover an old diary and an eyewitness who is finally willing to come forward.

Snow White Must Die: On a rainy November day police detectives Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver von Bodenstein are summoned to a mysterious traffic accident: A woman has fallen from a pedestrian bridge onto a car driving underneath. According to a witness, the woman may have been pushed. The investigation leads Pia and Oliver to a small village, and the home of the victim, Rita Cramer.

On a September evening eleven years earlier, two seventeen-year-old girls vanished from the village without a trace. In a trial based only on circumstantial evidence, twenty-year-old Tobias Sartorius, Rita Cramer's son, was sentenced to ten years in prison. Bodenstein and Kirchhoff discover that Tobias, after serving his sentence, has now returned to his home town. Did the attack on his mother have something to do with his return?

In the village, Pia and Oliver encounter a wall of silence. When another young girl disappears, the events of the past seem to be repeating themselves in a disastrous manner. The investigation turns into a race against time, because for the villagers it is soon clear who the perpetrator is—and this time they are determined to take matters into their own hands.

Bad Wolf: On a hot June day the body of a sixteen-year-old girl washes up on a river bank outside of Frankfurt. She has been brutally murdered, but no one comes forward with any information as to her identity. Even weeks later, the local police have not been able to find out who she is. Then a new case comes in: A popular TV reporter is attacked, raped, and locked in the trunk of her own car. She survives, barely, and is able to supply certain hints to the police, having to do with her recent investigations into a child welfare organization and the potenial uncovering of a child pornography ring with members from the highest echelon of society. As the two cases collide, Inspectors Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver von Bodenstein dig deep into the past and underneath the veneer of bourgeois society to come up against a terrible secret that is about to impact their personal lives as well. In Nele Neuhaus's second U.S. publication of her enormously popular series, tensions run high and a complex and unpredictable plot propels her characters forward at breakneck speed. 

Neuhaus made her US debut with Snow White Must Die back in 2013. I thought the book was pretty great, but was surprised to find that it was actually the fourth in her Bodenstein and Kirchoff series. Fortunately, in the time since its release, Bad Wolf and The Ice Queen have also hit shelves here and I Am Your Judge is due out shortly. I can't explain the thought process in the release order or the chosen titles to release here, but I can give you the official reading order:

The Ice Queen (book 3 in the series)
Snow White Must Die
Bad Wolf (book 6 in the series)
I Am Your Judge (book 7 in the series)

Weird, I know.

Anywho, this German series is definitely one that I want more folks to check out so today I'm giving away the first three (US) titles to one of you lucky readers! To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, January 4. Open US only.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

Julie Buxbaum's teen debut may not officially hit shelves until April, but I get a chance to share it with you today!

Jessie's mother has been dead for 733 days and counting and now her father has remarried and moved them both from Chicago to Los Angeles. They're living in the new wife's house, Jessie is attending a posh private school courtesy of that new wife, and even though she has a new stepbrother in the mix, she's never felt more alone and left out. 

Until Somebody Nobody (SN) starts emailing her. He's been watching her - more like keeping an eye out for her - and wants to offer his anonymous friendship in this trying time. And even though Jessie is wary, it turns out he's exactly what she needs. But as their virtual relationship progresses, Jessie begins to wonder just who SN really is - is he her hot co worker, is he her English partner, is he someone she's never noticed before? Will she ever find out just who SN really is? And if she does, will their friendship survive?

Tell Me Three Things isn't Julie Buxbaum's debut novel but it is her first foray into teen fiction and it's fantastic! The story is as heartfelt as can be considering Buxbaum herself lost her own mother at the same age as Jessie. It's actually really sad to think that a story this wonderful has come from the author's own terrible loss, but if the finished book comes with Buxbaum's opening letter to the reader (which I hope it does) then I think everyone will agree she's accomplished what she set out to.

Tell Me Three Things isn't a "dead mom book." It's not depressing, even though there are plenty of touching and tearjerking moments. Instead, it's about a girl trying to fit in and find her way amidst a terrible loss, without the one person she might have relied on to help guide her.

This is a sweet read, one that you'll want to devour and then share with a friend!

Rating: 4/5

(Tell Me Three Things is due out from Delacorte in April.)

Shelf Control: The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

It's Wednesday and that means it's time for a Shelf Control post!

Shelf Control is a weekly meme hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies, giving book junkies like me a chance to highlight some of the lingering titles in our TBR stacks!

Title: The Man in the High Castle
Author: Philip K. Dick
Published: 1962
Length: 274 pages

What it's about (from Goodreads):

It's America in 1962. Slavery is legal once again. The few Jews who still survive hide under assumed names. In San Francisco, the I Chingis as common as the Yellow Pages. All because some twenty years earlier the United States lost a war—and is now occupied by Nazi Germany and Japan.

This harrowing, Hugo Award-winning novel is the work that established Philip K. Dick as an innovator in science fiction while breaking the barrier between science fiction and the serious novel of ideas. In it Dick offers a haunting vision of history as a nightmare from which it may just be possible to wake.

How I got it:

Mike and I went to San Diego this past January, which meant I absolutely had to check out Mysterious Galaxy. I let myself buy two books while I was there (and one more book at a bookstore near our hotel) and this was one of them. 

When I got it:

January of this year.

Why I want to read it:

While I've vowed to try and fit more science fiction into my reading these past few years, I've not succeeded as much as I'd hoped. We already have some PKD titles in the house, including Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (which I now realize SHOULD have been my Shelf Control title because I've had it since high school!) but after watching the pilot for the Amazon show based on The Man in the High Castle, I was determined to read the book before continuing. At the time that would have been easy considering the show wasn't going to continue until this fall. I've yet to actually continue the show because I'm still trying to get to the book :/ 

(Of the three books I bought while in San Deigo - The Man in the High Castle, Alien: Out of the Shadows, and Veronica Mars: Mr. Kiss and Tell - I've only actually read one so far. Alien.)

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Bullet by Mary Louise Kelly + a Giveaway

When Caroline Cashion goes to the doctor complaining of wrist pain, they all think it's just strain or carpal tunnel. But then an MRI reveals something strange: Caroline has a piece of metal lodged in her neck. An x ray reveals the metal is actually a bullet but with no scar or memory of any injury, Caroline has no explanation. 

The discovery of that bullet forces her parents to admit that she was adopted at the age of three. Her birth parents were murdered and little Caroline was the only witness and survivor of that tragic crime.  In the over thirty years since, the case has never been solved. Now, the promise of new evidence, the very bullet buried in Caroline's neck, has prompted the police to reopen the cold case. But someone else wants to make sure that evidence is never recovered.

With an intriguing premise like that, how could I resist this one? Plus, I figured this would be fast paced and suspenseful enough to distract me from the icky, nasty snow this weekend. I was right!

I really liked Caroline. I mean, her life is basically turned upside down with the discovery that not only was she adopted (she's in her late 30s and had never been told) but that her birth parents were murdered in front of her. Of course she has no memory of either event considering she was so young, but still that's a lot for anyone to handle. And of course a fictional character gets to handle it as well as the author can portray it, but I thought Mary Louise Kelly really did a great job in that regard!

When we meet Caroline she's a professor comfortable in her life and her situation. She's single, she's the youngest of three children, she has a great relationship with her parents and her siblings... She's normal in every possible way. Then she finds out she's got this HUGE thing in her past, she's got parents she can't remember, and she has very limited resources in finding out anything at all about them. But she catches two lucky breaks: first, a reporter who covered the original murders is still around and takes an interest in Caroline's story.

The paper covers Caroline's situation, prompting a handful of people to reach out and contact her. That's where Caroline's second break comes in: a detective who worked the case is still with the department and is able to answer at least a few of Caroline's questions.

Caroline doesn't really consider the killer that much. And it's understandable, why would a killer have any interest in a woman who couldn't even testify at the time of the actual murders, right? I can see how and why that would never pop into Caroline's mind. She's coming from the angle of simply wanting to learn more about her past and understands that there's very little chance the killer will ever be caught.

But that's before she realizes she'll have to get the bullet removed, and that it could be analyzed and used as new evidence in the case.

The Bullet is a crazy fast read. I'd been limiting myself to short stories and novellas for the past week just because of all the things I've been working on, but I found that The Bullet was just as perfect a fit for a busy week as any short or anthology was. I read the whole thing in almost one sitting (I had to put it on pause to run an errand but otherwise...). It was exactly what I needed!

Rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher I have two copies of the new paperback edition of this one to give away. To enter just fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, January 4. Open US only and no PO boxes please.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Favorites of 2015

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 Reads of 2015.

I'm not even trying to limit myself to ten. These are ALL of my five star reads of 2015 (and I'll be updating it through the end of the year):

Monday, December 14, 2015

Start a New Series Giveaway

Good morning, readers! I'm cleaning off my giveaway shelves this week. First up, I want you to start a new series :)

Here's what's up for grabs today:

Woman With a Secret by Sophie Hannah - while this one is technically the 9th installment in Hanna's Spilling CID series, it works great as a jumping in point.

You can check out my official review here, and here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

Traffic on Elmhirst Road has come to a halt. The police are stopping cars, searching for something. Nicki Clements waits patiently, until she glimpses a face she hoped she’d never see again. It’s him—and he’s the cop checking each car. Desperate to avoid him, she makes a panicky U-turn and escapes.

But Nicki’s peculiar behavior did not go unnoticed, and now the police have summoned her for questioning. A resident of Elmhirst Road has been murdered—a controversial newspaper columnist named Damon Blundy. The detectives begin peppering her with questions. Why was she seen fleeing the scene? What is her connection to the victim? Why was the knife that killed him used in such a peculiar way? Why were the words “HE IS NO LESS DEAD” painted on the wall of Blundy’s study?and what do they signify?

One simple answer could clear her. But she can’t explain why she fled Elmhirst Road that day without revealing the secret that could ruin her.

Nicki isn’t guilty of murder. But she’s far from innocent . . .

I've also got a copy of Where Monsters Dwell by Jørgen Brekke. This is the first title in Brekke's Odd Singsaker series. It's a dark and twisted debut that's lots of fun. You can check out my official review here. I wasn't at all sure if this was going to be a series at the time I wrote my review but fortunately for all of us Dreamless released in hardcover earlier this year. 

Here's the description from Goodreads:

A murder at the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia, bears a close resemblance to one in Trondheim, Norway. The corpse of the museum curator in Virginia is found flayed in his office by the cleaning staff; the corpse of an archivist at the library in Norway, is found inside a locked vault used to store delicate and rare books. Richmond homicide detective Felicia Stone and Trondheim police inspector Odd Singsaker find themselves working on similar murder cases, committed the same way, but half a world away. And both murders are somehow connected to a sixteenth century palimpsest book—The Book of John—which appears to be a journal of a serial murderer back in 1529 Norway, a book bound in human skin.

To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter for either (or both) title that piques your interest before Monday, December 28. Both giveaways open US only.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

New Releases 12/15/15

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Bone Labyrinth by James Rollins

Warlords & Wastrels by Julia Knight

Forty Thieves by Thomas Perry

Cinnamon Toasted by Gail Oust

Web of Deceit by Katherine Howell

Bryant & May and the Burning Man by Christopher Fowler

The Man on the Washing Machine by Susan Cox

Frozen Tides by Morgan Rhodes

New on DVD:
Scorch Trials
Fantastic 4
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
Ted 2

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
The Day is Dark by Yrsa Sigurdardóttir

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Cocktail Noir by Scott M. Deitche

Morning, all! I've got Christmas gifts on the brain today and wanted to highlight a book that recently landed on my doorstep that's perfect for any reader/cocktail enthusiast on your list. It's Scott M. Deitche's Cocktail Noir: From Gangsters and Gin Joints to Gumshoes and Gimlets.

Deiche brings together the fiction world of hard-drinking private eyes, the authors who created them, and the very real Prohibition history and gangsters to create a book that's packed with fabulous trivia and recipes. From classics like the Bee's Knees and Sazerac to the Tree Line and everything in between, Deitche outlines the history and the making of these drinks and the famous, infamous, and even fictional folks who drank them.

A few tidbits that stand out for me - Deitche highlights famous mafia hangouts throughout the country like Denver's Gaetano's, a restaurant I've personally yet to visit but one my husband raves about. You can tour the place and they even show off the room where they say the Smalldones and their men did their killings. There are apparently a ton of bars in New Orleans that claim mafia ties, too. The La Louisiane still features a Prohibition-themed bar. On a recent trip, my family recommended checking out the Carousel Bar. Though not mafia related, it is located in the Hotel Monteleone and features a true rotating carousel bar. Deitche provides the recipe for their signature Vieux Carré for those of us who haven't yet made it there :)

Probably the biggest standout of the book, for me personally, is the Prohibition history and the drinks that date from that era. I find the history of cocktails to be completely fascinating and love the fact that many of these drinks are coming back into style today. The aforementioned Bee's Knees, for example, is one I'd seen Geoffrey Zakarian make on an episode of Food Network's The Kitchen one recent Saturday morning. I'm not a BIG drinker but I do like a good gin cocktail and immediately made plans to try this one. Deitche also highlights the Ramos Gin Fizz, a favorite of mine after I tried a fabulous local version. (The Ramos is another New Orleans creation, one that dates back to the 1880s according to Deitche.)

Of course no cocktail book relating to the fiction world would be complete without some of the BIG ones. The Vesper Martini recipe is featured as is the fact that apparently James Bond and Hemingway were both fans of Campari. Hemingway does get a few mentions, but his penchant for Cuban travel and drinking and the daiquiri named for him don't appear in the book. I'd assume this is because Hemingway wasn't known for noir works. Something to keep in mind when thumbing through the book - Deitche's theme is quite interesting but this is not by any means meant to be a general cocktail or drinking history.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Short Fiction Friday: My True Love Gave to Me edited by Stephanie Perkins

It's Friday, readers! And only 13 days to go before Christmas. If you're anything like me, that number causes more than a quiver of anxiety - this even though I've finished my holiday shopping! I think it's more the realization that we're that much closer to yet another year gone by.

Anywho, if you're a longtime follower of the blog then you know that holiday-themed reading is pretty rare for me. Unless it's horror, that is. I'm by no means a Grinch. It's mostly that with a stack of titles in the TBR and the fact that I'm an undeniable mood reader, a book that's meant to be read at a certain time of the year is likely to get pushed to next year, and the next year, and the next year in lieu of whatever strikes my fancy instead. So then I have a stack of Christmas reads that sits, waiting and staring at me accusingly for eleven months out of the year!

But the appeal of twelve tales written by some of YA's hottest authors right now was just too much to resist. And that's exactly what My True Love Gave to Me is - as the subtitle says "Twelve Holiday Tales" edited by Stephanie Perkins.

It turns out, this collection was kind of exactly what I needed. Some are straightforward contemporary while others have a bit of a fantasy flare but each story is light and heartwarming, in its own way. I mean, there is a story set around Krampus, soooo.

Here's the full story list:

"Midnights" by Rainbow Rowell
"The Lady and the Fox" by Kelly Link
"Angels in the Snow" by Matt de la Peña
"Polaris is Where You'll Find Me" by Jenny Han
"It's a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown" by Stephanie Perkins
"Your Temporary Santa" by David Levithan
"Krampuslauf" by Holly Black
"What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth?" by Gayle Forman
"Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus" by Myra McEntire
"Welcome to Christmas, CA" by Kiersten White
"Star of Bethlehem" by Ally Carter
"The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer" by Laini Taylor

A few of my personal favorites include Kelly Link's "The Lady and the Fox" in which a young girl meets and falls for an enchanting young man she can only see on Christmas day and only if all the rules are met; Kiersten White's "Welcome to Christmas, CA," a story about magic and healing and food; Holly Black's "Krampuslauf" because it's THE KRAMPUS!; and Matt de la Peña's "Angels in the Snow" a sweet story that finds two college students thrown together by weather, fate, and a calico cat. I could seriously go on and on with favorites here, but I think you get the picture!

If you're craving something sweet and short this holiday season, My True Love Gave to Me will absolutely hit the spot. Even if it's not your normal fare :)

Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Shelf Control: Creepers by David Morrell

It's Wednesday and that means it's time for a Shelf Control post!

Shelf Control is a weekly meme hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies, giving book junkies like me a chance to highlight some of the lingering titles in our TBR stacks!

Title: Creepers by David Morrell
Author: David Morrell
Published: 2005
Length: 388

What's it's about (from Goodreads):

On a cold October night, five people gather in a run-down motel on the Jersey shore and begin preparations to break into the Paragon Hotel. Built in the glory days of Asbury Park by a reclusive millionaire, the magnificent structure - which foreshadowed the beauties of art deco architecture - is now boarded up and marked for demolition.

The five people are "creepers," the slang term for urban explorers: city archeologists with a passion for investigating abandoned buildings and their dying secrets. On this evening, they are joined by a reporter who wants to profile them - anonymously, as this is highly illegal activity - for a New York Times article.

Frank Balenger, a sandy-haired, broad-shouldered reporter with a decided air of mystery about him, isn't looking for just a story, however. And after the group enters the rat-infested tunnel leading to the hotel, it becomes clear that he will get much more than he bargained for. Danger, terror, and death await the creepers in a place ravaged by time and redolent of evil.

How I got it:

I bought it

When I got it:

Oof, I don't remember on this one. My paperback shelves are so out of the way in my actual "book" room that I often forget what I've got. 

Why I want to read it:

Well the premise sounds fantastic. I do love the idea of urban exploration - I think this is likely an offshoot of loving all those books about characters that find hidden treasures in old attics and such. This one also won the Stoker for best novel in 2005.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Inherit the Stars by Tessa Elwood

Happy, happy book birthday to Tessa Elwood whose fabulous debut, Inherit the Stars, hits shelves today!

Fane is out of fuel and food and it's only a matter of time before their enemies learn of their weakness. An alternative to the commonly used Uleum has been developed but early manufacturing in Fane caused massive and fast spreading Blight that contaminated both the land and food supplies, making a bad situation even worse.

Asa, the youngest Fane daughter, was on Urnath with her sister Wren, the Fane heir, when riots broke out over suspected food hoarding. Wren was critically injured and it was all Asa could do to get her off planet and to safety. But Asa's attempt at rescue may ultimately be the cause of Wren's demise.

Six months after the attack Ecoflux has been deemed safe, which means new hope for the people of Fane but food shortages remain a constant issue - in other words, the two systems and twenty-six planets that make up the Fane empire might well starve or come under attack before seeing their revolutionary new fuel alternative come to fruition. Lord Fane has devised a plan to save their empire but it requires bonding his own heir with that of Westlet. Unfortunately Wren remains comatose with no signs of waking, leaving Emmie - the middle Fane child - next in line and Asa fears this will mean Wren's end. So the youngest Fane sets out with her own plan, one that involves bonding herself to the Westlet heir instead. It's an act that could be catastrophic for their system but Asa is confident she can make it work - saving both Wren and Fane.

Whew, that's a lot to get down for a synopsis! So in her debut, Elwood has built a world consisting of three ruling families: Fane, Westlet, and Galton - in that order of strength. Uleum is the fuel used throughout their world but it has to be extracted directly from a planet's core, not something any planet in this world can survive. It's a finite resource and one that we soon learn Galton is willing to take forcefully.

Lord Fane and his daughter Wren have been working on an alternative fuel they call Ecoflux but issues with its manufacturing have had devastating results, leaving Fane weakened and a potential target. But - as we learn in the book - there's one thing keeping the wolves at bay: a lockdown that prevents any news from getting off of Fane. And it's been going on for over a decade when this story takes place.

So you can see that things are not looking good for Fane at all.

Elwood risked quite a lot with such a broad and unique world but I also thought it was a risk that paid off. At first, I really feared this was a world I'd never be able to settle into or fully understand but by the time the book started to reach its end I realized this wasn't the case at all. The intricacies of the world and its politics were neatly woven into the plot. There's a lot of action and the story moves along at a fantastic pace. What's more, there's great character development.

Asa is a fabulous heroine! She's strong, brave, and incredibly loyal - both to her family and her people. And while her decisions are somewhat spur of the moment, her motives are quite admirable. Wren, we think, has stood by her as a steadfast supporter but now it's Asa's turn to protect her big sister and that's where much of the plot of Inherit the Stars begins. (I say we think because we only get her character via Asa.)

There is a romance element but it takes something of a backseat to the rest of the plot in this first outing. In fact, it sort of builds quietly in the background of the story. I have to say, though, that I really loved the way the relationship played out and thought it was quite natural to the tale.

Inherit the Stars is apparently the first in a series, which means there are quite a few things that aren't totally wrapped up by the end. I'm hooked, though. Completely. I can't wait to see more of this world and more from Elwood!

Rating: 4.5/5

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite New-To-Me Authors Read in 2015

I've decided to jump on board with Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the topic is: Favorite New-To-Me Authors Read in 2015.

This was SO hard to keep to just ten. I could have gone on and on and definitely missed a few "faves" putting this together. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Santa Claus Man: The Rise and Fall of a Jazz Age Con Man and the Invention of Christmas In New York by Alex Palmer - Guest Post

Hi, everyone! Today I'm hosting author Alex Palmer as part of the TLC book tour for The Santa Claus Man.

Before I hand things over to Alex, here's a bit about The Santa Claus Man from Goodreads:

Before the charismatic John Duval Gluck, Jr. came along, letters from New York City children to Santa Claus were destroyed, unopened, by the U.S. Post Office. Gluck saw an opportunity, and created the Santa Claus Association. The effort delighted the public, and for 15 years money and gifts flowed to the only group authorized to answer Santa’s mail. Gluck became a Jazz Age celebrity, rubbing shoulders with the era’s movie stars and politicians, and even planned to erect a vast Santa Claus monument in the center of Manhattan — until Gotham’s crusading charity commissioner discovered some dark secrets in Santa’s workshop.

The rise and fall of the Santa Claus Association is a caper both heartwarming and hardboiled, involving stolen art, phony Boy Scouts, a kidnapping, pursuit by the FBI, a Coney Island bullfight, and above all, the thrills and dangers of a wild imagination. It’s also the larger story of how Christmas became the extravagant holiday we celebrate today, from Santa’s early beginnings in New York to the country’s first citywide Christmas tree and Macy’s first grand holiday parade. The Santa Claus Man is a holiday tale with a dark underbelly, and an essential read for lovers of Christmas stories, true crime, and New York City history.

If you were expecting a heartwarming holiday tale, you now know that's definitely not the case!  It's a bit more self explanatory with the subtitle in there, I know.

And now I'll hand things over to Alex Palmer!

How New York Invented Christmas
By Alex Palmer

My new book, The Santa Claus Man: The Rise and Fall of a Jazz Age Con Man and the Invention of Christmas in New York, tells the true story of a colorful huckster who used a Santa letter–answering scheme to make himself rich and famous. But it also tells the larger story of how New York City invented modern Christmas, from the earliest conceptions of Santa Claus as a jolly man in a sleigh to the first Christmas-tree farm in the U.S., here are some of the highlights of how Santa, and Christmas, evolved in New York City:

1804—John Pintard and ten other city elites founded the New-York Historical Society. The group aimed to preserve important documents, as well as to reignite the “virtuous habits and simple manners” of Gotham’s forgotten Dutch culture, including the veneration of St. Nicholas.

1809—Washington Irving publishes A History of New-York under the pseudonym “Diedrich Knickerbocker.” A satire, it adds comical overtones to the ecclesiastical St. Nicholas.

1810—Pintard commissions a woodcut of St. Nicholas, the first known depiction of the character in the United States, and distributes it at the New-York Historical Society’s first annual St. Nicholas Day dinner.

1821—William Gilley publishes The Children’s Friend, the first known depiction of Santa with reindeer (though in this picture book he only has one).

1822—Clement Clarke Moore composes “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” drawing together elements from Irving’s book, Pintard’s woodcut, and The Children’s Friend to create a cheery, merchant-like character. The poem is published the next year in the Troy Sentinel and this version of Santa, and of a domestic Christmas, quickly takes off.

1851—Mark Carr opens the first Christmas tree market in Washington Market. Many additional markets follow, helping spread the popularity of Christmas trees in the home.

1863—Thomas Nast publishes his first illustration of Santa Claus for Harper’s Weekly. It begins a hugely popular annual tradition that will establish his version of Santa Claus, complete with workshop and assistant elves, as the definitive version of the character.

1870s—Earliest reports by newspapers of children using the Post Office Department to send letters to Santa.

1897—Eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon sends letter to the Sun telling of her friends who don’t believe in Santa Claus. Editor Francis Church confirms that “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”

1907—The United States Postmaster General releases Santa’s mail for one holiday season but cancels the practice the following year.

1911—The new postmaster general again releases Santa’s mail. The practice is made permanent two years later.

1912—New York City holds the first city-sponsored public Christmas tree gathering, in Madison Square Park. At least fifty more cities will adopt the practice the next year.

1912—Christmas giving has become so excessive that concerned citizens, including Teddy Roosevelt, form the Society for the Prevention of Useless Giving.

1913—The new parcel post law allows for packages to be sent more cheaply and efficiently, opening floodgates of Christmas gifts. John Gluck launches the Santa Claus Association, charged with answering all of Santa’s New York City mail.

1924—Macy’s hosts the first “Christmas Parade.”

1933—The New York City Christmas-tree lighting moves to Rockefeller Center, the same year the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Show began (which would grow into the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, featuring the Rockettes). While the first lighting occurred at Rockefeller Center in 1931, when demolition workers at the site erected a twenty-foot balsam fir, 1933 was the year the official event left Madison Square Park.

1939—Robert L. May writes Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, which is published and distributed by Montgomery Ward. A decade later, May’s brother-in-law Johnny Marks, working from New York’s Brill Building (named after Santa Claus Association honorary president Samuel Brill’s clothing store on the ground floor), would adapt the book into a song.

1947—Fox releases the film Miracle on 34th Street.

1962—New York City Post Office launches Operation Santa Claus, a formal program to answer the letters Gotham children send to Santa.

2006—Operation Santa Claus goes nationwide, with branches throughout the country.

About the author: Author Alex Palmer has written for Slate, Vulture, Smithsonian Magazine, New York Daily News and many other outlets. The author of previous nonfiction books Weird-o-Pedia and Literary Miscellany, he is also the great-grandnephew of John Duval Gluck, Jr.

Big thanks to Alex for being here today as part of the tour! As a little bonus, he has a great holiday offer for you:

Special blog tour Christmas gift: Get a free Santa bookplate signed by the author, plus two vintage Santa Claus Association holiday seals. Just email proof once you buy The Santa Claus Man (online receipt, photo of bookstore receipt, etc.) along with the mailing address where you'd like the gift sent to santaclausmanbook[at]gmail[dot]com. Email before 12/21 to guarantee delivery by Christmas.

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here. For more on Alex Palmer and his work you can visit his website here. You can also friend him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter

Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble

Sunday, December 6, 2015

New Releases 12/8/15

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Desperate Measures by Jo Bannister

A Dream of Ice by Gillian Anderson & Jeff Rovin

The Absolution by Jonathan Holt

Ashley Bell by Dean Koontz

Once Shadows Fall by Robert Daniels

Secret Sisters by Jayne Ann Krentz

Dark Tides by Chris Ewan

Inherit the Stars by Tessa Elwood

Instructions for the End of the World by Jamie Kain

Wandering Star by Romina Russell

The Trouble with Destiny by Lauren Morrill

New on DVD:
Knock Knock

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Pre Pub Book Buzz: The Taxidermist's Daughter by Kate Mosse

Remember how I'm pretty much guaranteed to read anything compared to Jane Eyre and/or Rebecca? Well especially when it's by Kate Mosse! Her latest, The Taxidermist's Daughter, is already out in the UK but won't hit shelves here in the States until March. Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

A chilling and spooky Gothic historical thriller reminiscent of Rebecca and The Turn of the Screw, dripping with the dark twists and eerie surprises that are the hallmarks of Edgar Allan Poe, from the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of Citadel.

In a remote village near the English coast, residents gather in a misty churchyard. More than a decade into the twentieth century, superstition still holds sway: It is St. Mark’s Eve, the night when the shimmering ghosts of those fated to die in the coming year are said to materialize and amble through the church doors.

Alone in the crowd is Constantia Gifford, the taxidermist’s daughter. Twenty-two and unmarried, she lives with her father on the fringes of town, in a decaying mansion cluttered with the remains of his once world-famous museum of taxidermy. No one speaks of why the museum was shuttered or how the Giffords fell so low. Connie herself has no recollection—a childhood accident has erased all memory of her earlier days. Even those who might have answers remain silent. The locals shun Blackthorn House, and the strange spinster who practices her father’s macabre art.

As the last peal of the midnight bell fades to silence, a woman is found dead—a stranger Connie noticed near the church. In the coming days, snippets of long lost memories will begin to tease through Connie’s mind, offering her glimpses of her vanished years. Who is the victim, and why has her death affected Connie so deeply? Why is she watched by a mysterious figure who has suddenly appeared on the marsh nearby? Is her father trying to protect her with his silence—or someone else? The answers are tied to a dark secret that lies at the heart of Blackthorn House, hidden among the bell jars of her father’s workshop—a mystery that draws Connie closer to danger... closer to madness... closer to the startling truth.

I definitely DON'T want to speed up the months til March, time already flies by like crazy, but I'm dying to read this!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Domnall and the Borrowed Child by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley

The war claimed the best of the fae. Now there are no warriors and no elders with real wisdom. Those who remain do their best and work to train and prepare the young, but with only the fae who weren't strong or brave or smart enough to fight left it means the young are lacking in the better qualities as well.

Domnall isn't going to be the one to fix things. He's an older fae who'd rather avoid responsibility at all cost. Unfortunately, he's one of the few with the knowledge to help when a young fae falls ill, and even Domnall isn't coldhearted enough to risk one of their young!

Domnall knows that the only thing that can truly help is Mother's milk, which means finding a newborn human and swapping the two young ones temporarily. But the locals have taken extra precautions to guard against the fae, baptizing their children just days after the birth. Now will take all of Domnall's wit and cunning to save the young fae. And wit and cunning are key when Domnall's plan goes south fast.

Changelings! And fae! And changelings!

If I could make one request of Sylvia Spruck Wrigley, it would be for more stories set in Domnall's world. The tale is seated firmly in common fairy tale lore, but is told from the perspective of one of the fae.

And that fae is quite a fun one. He'll criticize the direction the other fae are heading but he isn't motivated to do anything about it unless it directly benefits him. His mission is undertaken in part to get others off his back and in part with the knowledge that it might impress a girl. And there's a little niggling guilt about the sick child as well. Like I said, he's not THAT coldhearted.

The story is pretty all encompassing, a wily adventure tale fraught with a little danger and suspense. I would very much like a tale about the war and a tale that takes place after Domnall and the Borrowed Child as well, but the one does stand alone without issue.

Domnall and the Borrowed Child is a story to be gobbled and gulped up in one sitting. I think Domnall himself would agree, considering. He'd also probably like it very much if you told everyone about his adventure.

Rating: 4/5

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes by Peter Meehan

I honestly wasn't planning a cookbook review again so soon. With Thanksgiving thrown in the mix, I didn't actually think I'd have time to adequately test a good enough number of recipes to feel satisfied offering up a review. BOY WAS I WRONG!

Friday night - yes, the night after Thanksgiving - Luck Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes arrived on my doorstep while I was trying desperately to figure out what to have for supper. And no, Thanksgiving leftovers were not appealing at that moment. I realized, though, that I had everything on hand to make all three versions of Onigiri that appear in the book. I settled for two, the umeboshi and the tuna, and made four total, two of which I tried as Yaki Onigiri. And I ate them with the Spicy Cold Celery. Readers, we were off to the races!

Asian food has always intimidated me and I'm really not sure why. Sure, the ingredients can be odd and/or hard to find but I actually live in an area that has two great international grocery stores. Even as a teen I knew where our Asian market was, admittedly spending most of my money there on Botan Rice Candy and melon flavored gum. I think that my biggest issue has been the fear that it just won't taste as good as what I can get at my favorite Asian restaurants. Even after successfully trying my hand at a few Thai dishes, I never really delved into the depths of Asian cooking.

Until now. I should note that the recipes in this book are EASY. Super easy. There are undoubtedly more complex and complicated dishes out there that aren't featured in the book but I think Peter Meehan and the folks at Lucky Peach have gone a long way in offering the average home cook a chance to experiment with Asian cooking in their own home. And yes, some of the dishes are Americanized Asian food - Mall Chicken, for example.

What I realized, too, was that after just one trip to the Asian market, list in hand to make a few specific dishes, I actually had the ingredients on hand to make way more recipes than I'd planned. And since hubs was out snowboarding all weekend, I kept myself occupied making ALL THE THINGS!

Ground pork, tofu, lemongrass, dumpling wrappers, hondashi (think dashi flavored bouillon, which I didn't know they made!), Chinkiang vinegar, a new bottle of fish sauce, and a few kind of noodles along with my already amply supplied pantry got me - Com Tam Breakfast (Thai-style homemade sausage patties with rice, fried egg, and homemade Nuoc Cham); Economy Noodles (which I ate with leftover Spicy Cold Celery and flank steak); Soy 'n' Sugar Cucumber Pickles (maybe my only meh, recipe so far - very soy saucy, which is a little odd with the sweet); Chineasy Cucumber Salad; Silken Tofu Snack (quite good! I loved the lime and the soy sauce in this.); Soy Sauce Eggs (perfect with just about anything); Miso Soup; and two recipes I've yet to make - Lion's Head Meatballs and Dollar Dumplings (I did a deconstructed version of because I was lazy).

I'm dying to try their version of Chicken Adobo, one of my absolute favorite meals, and the Hainan Chicken Rice (though they sadly don't provide a chili sauce recipe for this one). I also have all the stuff on hand to make the Jap Chae (a Korean noodle dish made with sweet potato noodles - my store had them!) and Ms. Vo Thi Huong's Garlic Shrimp, which sound amazing and WILL be supper tonight. (Psst, those links take you to the recipes online!)

See, I told you I want to cook ALL THE THINGS! This is my favorite new cookbook. And I'm not the only one. Check out this piece from Booktrib for another great review and a recipe.

Rating: 5/5

Per Blogging for Books requirements: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Bone Hunters by Robert J. Mrazek

When we met Lexy Vaughan and Steve Macaulay in Valhalla, they were on the run for their lives while hunting for the centuries old body of Leif Erikson. The harrowing adventure was one that had serious national security ramifications and got the attention of some very powerful people in the US government. It's a recognition that has not been forgotten.

Now the government has called on Lexy and Macauley once again.

A new religion is gaining a foothold in China and it's basis is in the long lost body of the Peking Man. The remains, discovered in the 1920s, were thought to be the earliest evidence of Homo erectus. Unfortunately Peking Man was lost during WWII and no trace has been found since. 

The followers of the new religion believe that Peking Man is not only the first human, but a deity who started the human race. His recovery would be a boon to their movement, one the Chinese government will go to any and all lengths to wipeout before it gains further support. And though Lexy's specialty is in Norse history, she and Macauley, along with her mentor, have proven themselves an asset the US government knows they can rely on in tracking the clues that could lead to recovering this historic and monumental treasure. 

The Bone Hunters and its predecessor, Valhalla, are pure adrenaline popcorn fun! They're seriously the reading equivalent of a summer blockbuster. And the best thing is that the basis for the actual archaeology is real.

Robert Mrazek, while admitting he does take a bit of artistic license with the story, uses the very real Peking Man story as the jumping off point for this tale. In fact, the opening chapters involve a US military effort to safely transport the remains out of China before the Japanese can get their hands on it. Those remains have most certainly been lost for good but if anyone were to recover them, I've no doubt Lexy, Barnaby, and Macauley could do it.

These are very plot driven stories. There's not a whole lot of depth to the characters, a smidge of development sure, but much more attention is paid to the overall action. It means that this series features whiplash pacing and lots of danger but little in the way of "real" characters. That's really my one complaint about the series as a whole. Barnaby is a brilliant professor whose tastes are in great excess, Lexy is a brilliant archaeologist with an almost supernatural gut instinct, and Macauley is the action hero ex-military man who's virtually bulletproof (seriously, virtually bulletproof).

Honestly, though, if you're in the mood for something to take your mind off the stress of the holidays and make you feel like you're right in the middle of a dangerous Indiana Jones style archaeological adventure, then Mrazek's books are for you. They're guaranteed entertainment and - even better - there are two. You don't have to read them in order but if you want to see how it all started, Valhalla is the first in the series. The Bone Hunters is brand spanking new out this week.

Rating: 3/5

Shelf Control: The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley

It's Wednesday and that means it's time for a Shelf Control post!

Shelf Control is a weekly meme hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies, giving book junkies like me a chance to highlight some of the lingering titles in our TBR stacks!

Title: The Rose Garden
Author: Susanna Kearsley
Published: 2011
Length: 441 pages

What it's about (from Goodreads):

"Whatever time we have," he said, "it will be time enough."

Eva Ward returns to the only place she truly belongs, the old house on the Cornish coast, seeking happiness in memories of childhood summers. There she finds mysterious voices and hidden pathways that sweep her not only into the past, but also into the arms of a man who is not of her time.

But Eva must confront her own ghosts, as well as those of long ago. As she begins to question her place in the present, she comes to realize that she too must decide where she really belongs.

How I got it:

This was actually one of my first ebook purchases. 

When I got it: 

I'm going to guess sometime in 2012. 

Why I want to read it:

I'd already read Kearsley's Mariana when I bought The Rose Garden. I absolutely loved the gothic undertones and the haunting romance. I've since read a few others and know that this is pretty key for Kearsley's novels - and I love it! Somehow the fact that this one is on my ereader means I keep forgetting about it when it's time to start my next read. I think this might be the curse of the ereader. Am I right?

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: 2016 Debuts I'm Most Looking Forward To

I've decided to jump on board with Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the topic is: 2016 debuts I'm most looking forward to.

Oh, there's only nine! Actually there's a number 10 but it's so newly announced that it doesn't come up: The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney has already been sold to Universal and Ron Howard is set to direct. They're comparing it a bit to Crimson Peak but who knows.

Dig Two Graves by Kim Powers

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Kim Powers's Dig Two Graves.

Ethan "Herc" Holt is known for his 2000 Olympic win, but now he's happy as a professor and widowed father doing his best to raise his daughter, Skip. His latest birthday, also the day he receives tenure at Canaan, ends with an argument that stretches into the following morning when his daughter leaves him on his run with a final flip of the bird. When Ethan arrives home later that day, hoping they can make amends, Skip is gone. 

The police are quick to reassure the father, saying that teens go through this kind of thing and she'll likely be home in a few hours. That is until they see the outline of Skip's body painted in fake blood on her bed. No ransom is requested, though. Instead, the kidnapper has set a series of tasks for the former athlete to complete if he hopes to see his daughter again. The tasks, based on the 12 labors of Hercules, are designed specifically around Ethan's own life history. As the hours tick by and the tasks become more complex, Ethan pushes himself to his limits both physically and mentally but still can't figure out who the kidnapper could be or what fate waits at the finish line for both him and his daughter. 

I must admit that I went into Dig Two Graves with pretty high expectations. I love author blurbs, especially when they come from authors who a. don't hand them out regularly and b. are authors whose work I love, so seeing that Deborah Crombie and Louis Bayard both highly recommended the title meant that the bar was set a little on the high side for Kim Powers. I wasn't surprised, though, to find that Powers lived up to my expectations after such high praise.

Using the labors of Hercules as a plot device while also making them relevant to a 21st century world was quite clever. The twisting of these labors by the kidnapper and how the subsequent tasks will appear are a large part of the tension of the story - what physical and mental gymnastics our hero will have to undertake in order to get one step closer to saving his daughter. Of course the how and why are also a big part of the mystery - how the kidnapper plotted this vengeance and why. And the what, too. What it all means?!

The who is less of a question if you follow Powers's clues. I will admit to having figured that out quite early on but I do think it's one readers are maybe supposed to tease out earlier than Ethan himself all things considered. That doesn't mean there weren't a few twists along the way, and a few red herrings too.

I love that Powers split the narrative, giving Skip a few of her own chapters. Some might say the wondering would be more intense putting us right in the same boat as Ethan, but I think it made Skip more relatable and actually made her potential fate that much more terrifying. Seeing the kidnapper's actions through her eyes, knowing that Ethan is still working to find them and save her - and that saving her might not even be part of the kidnapper's plot... what could be more intense than that?

Dig Two Graves is a great new mystery that pits a pretty much everyman (with the exception of the whole gold medal winning decathlete thing) against tough odds. It's one that will definitely appeal to fans of Linwood Barclay and Harlan Coben.

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here. For more on Kim Powers you can visit his website here. You can also friend him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.