Sunday, January 31, 2016

New Releases 2/2/16

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Big Rewind by Libby Cudmore

The Good Liar by Nicholas Searle

Ex-Isle by Peter Clines

The Bell Tower by Sarah Rayne

The Killing Forest by Sara Blaedel

A Criminal Magic by Lee Kelly

The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin

Breakdown by Jonathan Kellerman

The Language of Secrets by Ausma Zahanat Khan

Jane and the Waterloo Map by Stephanie Barron

In Another Life by Julie Christine Johnson

The Vegetarian by Han Kang

Written On My Heart by Morgan Callan Rogers

Ginny Gall by Charlie Smith

Winterwood by Jacey Bedford

The Doll's House by M. J. Arlidge

Poseidon's Wake by Alastair Reynolds

The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee

He Will Be My Ruin by K.A. Tucker

Youngblood by Matt Gallagher

The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel

Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson

Remembrance by Meg Cabot

Opening Belle by Maureen Sherry

The Mystery of the Venus Island Fetish by Tim Flannery

The Samaritan by Mason Cross

The Flood Girls by Richard Fifield

God Loves Haiti by Dimitry Elias Léger

Stars Above by Marissa Meyer

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Assassin's Heart by Sarah Ahiers

The Asylum Novellas by Madeleine Roux

Starflight by Melissa Landers

Revenge and the Wild by Michelle Modesto

New on DVD:
Bridge of Spies
Big Stone Gap
The Last Witch Hunter
Man Up
Rock the Kasbah

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
Shade Me by Jennifer Brown

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Pre Pub Book Buzz: Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

Holy cow, readers! Thomas Olde Heuvelt's US novel debut, Hex, sounds absolutely amazing! It's been on my radar for some time but considering it's not due out til April it's been drowned out a bit by more recent releases. Now that we're at least in the same release year, though, I'm starting to get SUPER excited! And you should too.

Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

Whoever is born here, is doomed to stay 'til death. Whoever settles, never leaves.

Welcome to Black Spring, the seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the Black Rock Witch, a 17th century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. Muzzled, she walks the streets and enters your homes at will. She stands next to your bed for nights on end. Everybody knows that her eyes may never be opened.

The elders of Black Spring have virtually quarantined the town by using high-tech surveillance to prevent their curse from spreading. Frustrated with being kept in lockdown, the town's teenagers decide to break their strict regulations and go viral with the haunting, but in so doing send the town spiraling into the dark, medieval practices of the past.

This sounds uber creepy and I can't wait to get my hot little hands on a copy!

If you haven't yet, you should check this guy out. His Goodreads profile calls him a "...prodigy of the fantastic genre in The Netherlands..." and says his first book sold when he was just nineteen. More recently, his short The Day the World Turned Upside Down won the Hugo for Best Novelette! 

Hex is due out in April from Tor.

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos

For as long as she can remember, it's been just Imogene and her father. Sure their small family extended just a few years ago when Immy's stepmother entered the picture, but that didn't take away from the bond she's shared with her dad for so many years.

See, Immy's mother left when she was just two, abandoning her family and disappearing without a trace. But that was ok because Immy and her dad had each other. But now, Immy's dad has gone missing too. Immy thinks she's knows where he's gone, though, and is determined to follow the clues until she finds him - just like the character in the books her dad writes.

I'm still not quite sure how I feel about Rebecca Podos's debut. It's undeniably well written and Immy is a character I genuinely felt for. Her story, though, is heartbreaking bordering on tragic.

Her dad is bipolar and it's quickly discovered that he's gone off his meds and up and left. Yep. He left his teenage daughter who has already been abandoned by her mother. He does leave her in the hands of her stepmother, who's actually the most responsible adult in Immy's immediate circle - so there is that. But still...

Immy decides that her dad must have gone in search of her missing mother and that he must want her to find them. He left her clues - the geode that plays a big role in family lore and the series of mystery novels he's been penning most of Immy's life. And with the help of her steadfast best friend, Immy sets off on her investigation.

What Immy discovers about her own mother is not pleasant. Honestly, if the teen was a real person she'd be way more screwed up than Podos has actually written her. I know plenty of people can come out of situations like this as healthy adults but I've also witnessed enough mess along these lines that I know it's beyond difficult for anybody come out the other side without serious scars.

And I guess that's my real issue with why I can't decide whether I liked this book or not. As a mystery it's great. Immy is wonderful, her best friend is pretty awesome (something Immy does acknowledge herself), and even her stepmother, while still not exhibiting the best judgement for a family therapist, is an admirable character in Immy's life. The family drama, though, is a little to painful to make this a book I'd really enjoy.

Rating: 3/5

The Golden Son by Shilpi Somaya Gowda - Excerpt

This week marks the release of Shilpi Somaya Gowday's latest, The Golden Son. Thanks to the publisher, I have an excerpt to share with you today, but first here's a bit about the book from Goodreads to get you started:

Anil is the cherished son of a large family in rural India. As the eldest boy, he is expected to inherit the role of leader of his clan and arbiter of its disputes, dispensing wisdom and good advice. Leena is his closest companion, a fiercely brave girl who loves nothing more than the wild terrain where they live and her close-knit family. As childhood friends, they are inseparable – but as adulthood approaches, they grow apart.

Anil is the first person in his family to leave India, the first to attend college, the first to become a doctor. Half a world away in Dallas, Texas, he is caught up in his new life, experiencing all the freedoms and temptations of American culture: he tastes alcohol for the first time, falls in love, and learns firsthand about his adopted country’s alluring, dangerous contradictions. Though his work in a gritty urban hospital is grueling, Anil is determined to carve out his own life in America.

At home, Leena dreams of marriage, a strong and true love like the one shared by her parents, and leaves her beloved home to join her new husband’s family in a distant village.

Then things start to go wrong: Anil makes a medical mistake with tragic results, his first love begins to fray and a devastating event makes him question his worth as a doctor and as a friend.

On a visit home, Anil rekindles a friendship with the woman who seems to understand him better than anyone else. But their relationship is complicated by a fateful decision made years earlier. As the two old friends try to understand their feelings toward each other, they must also finally find a way to balance responsibility with freedom and loyalty with love.

The Golden Son is Shilpi Somaya Gowda's second novel. Her first, The Secret Daughter, released in 2010 to great praise and fabulous reviews. The Golden Son promises to be of the same calibre and is already a bestseller in Canada. 

And now for the excerpt:

The Golden Son 
by Shilpi Somaya Gowda 

Excerpt from Chapter 1

Long before this day, before he was the first person to leave his village, before he was the first in his family to attend university rather than farm the rice paddies covering their land, Anil was the first son born to his parents.

Jayant and Mina Patel had four more children—Nikhil, Kiran, Piya, and Chandu. Big families were a way of life in their community. The extended clan—still known by the name of Anil’s deceased great-grandfather, “Moti” (big brother) Patel—owned most of the land for more than ten kilometers in all directions from the Big House. Anil was the latest in the line of eldest sons, including Papa and his grandfather before him, and as such, the expectations of him had always been clear. One day, he would inherit his father’s role as leader of the clan, responsible for farm operations, financial support, and presiding over family disputes. As a boy, Anil had followed Papa into the fields each day, learning to cultivate rice from the paddies, harvest it most efficiently, dry it in the sun, and bundle it in jute sacks to take to the market.

Anil learned quickly, as his teachers pointed out when he began attending the local school. He was the first in his class to read, the first to memorize the math tables. Every day, he left school with a stack of books tethered in twine, which he swung between his thumb and forefinger, creating a deep red indentation he took pride in inspecting after the long walk home. After working with Papa in the fields, he read his schoolbooks late into the evening, borrowing the kerosene lantern that sat on the porch outside for nighttime visits to the latrine. Once, when he forgot to replace it before going to sleep, Nikhil tumbled down the front steps and sprained his ankle, but everyone agreed later that the injury had been for a good cause when Anil took top marks in mathematics. As Anil began to excel in his studies, Papa excused him from his farm duties and, by then, his brothers were old enough to compensate for his absence.

Ever since that day Papa returned with Maya from the clinic, he and Anil shared an unspoken understanding that his path would be different. They became conspirators in building Anil into some- one who could venture beyond Panchanagar and its limited offerings. Anil pored over his science books, studying the human-anatomy figures depicted in them until he could name every organ, muscle, and bone. After he outgrew the resources at school, he sent away for science magazines and ordered the Atlas of Human Anatomy from Jaypee Brothers in Delhi. Whenever Chakroo, the family dog who slept and roamed outside, returned with a dead mouse or rabbit, Anil sat on the porch and carefully cut it open with the smallest knife he could pilfer from the kitchen while the cook napped. By age twelve, he’d given up countless cricket games after school, and lazy summer days. There in the village of Panchanagar, after generations of farmers, surrounded by nothing but agricultural fields, Anil prepared to one day become a doctor. 

Only after he arrived at medical college in Ahmadabad did Anil understand the significance of this feat. His fellow students, from wealthy families in the cities, had been professionally tutored for years: their schools had biology labs with dissection specimens, they had shadowed their parents’ doctor friends in the hospital. All they saw in Anil was a village boy, making him acutely aware of his lack of sophistication in everything from computers to popular music. Anil kept to himself and spent all his time studying, eager to prove himself as capable as his classmates.

The Golden Son is out now from William Morrow.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Summit Lake by Charlie Donlea

Summit Lake, a picturesque town where nothing really bad ever happens. Until now. 

The brutal murder of Becca Eckersley has shocked the community, leaving many wondering just what really happened that terrible night. It's a question Kelsey Castle is intent on answering. 

Recovering from her own ordeal, Kelsey is given the opportunity to travel to Summit Lake on assignment for Events magazine. But her coverage of the case is immediately hampered by local authorities. It seems Becca's own father has had a hand in ensuring that certain information never becomes public. Even the local police chief has been shut out! Area gossip is filled with theory and rumor, but it will take all of Kelsey's talent as a reporter to tease out the true facts surrounding this shocking crime. 

Charlie Donlea's debut is one that is sure to keep you reading through the wee hours!

Chapters alternate between Kelsey's investigation and Becca's own story in the months leading up to her attack. In truth, the who is a little easy to figure out if you're really paying attention. And yet, following the story through to its dark conclusion is still incredible suspenseful.

Becca's story begins over a year before her murder. She's an average college student on her way to law school. She's stressed about grades, law school applications, all the usual stuff. But Becca and her friends have more than the normal stresses of college life to deal with in the coming months.

It's clear from the start that Becca's murder is built around secrets someone - someone other than the murderer, that is - is intent on keeping. Her father is heavy handed in quieting elements of the investigation, but, as mentioned above, Summit Lake is a small town with small town gossip. This gossip does help Kelsey in her own investigation quite a bit, as do local officials who don't exactly like having been left in the dark.

In truth, the way officials share information with Kelsey was just a bit too easy peasy for my own taste, but it didn't detract from the overall suspense or mystery in the end. The alternating chapters and Becca's flashbacks give the book an increased tension that builds wonderfully as the story progresses.

Rating: 3.5/5

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Platinum Doll by Anne Girard

Harlean McGrew, nee Carpenter, never had any big screen aspirations. It was her mother, in fact, who longed for a Hollywood career. But when the newly wed Harlean and her husband Chuck moved to Beverly Hills it didn't take long for the platinum blonde to catch the eye of a studio hot shot. Hers was a legacy in the making, one that would live well beyond her sadly short life and career. 

Jean Harlow's career may have lasted less than a decade, but her name is still known today. Anne Girard gives readers a glimpse inside the world of this Hollywood icon in her latest, Platinum Doll.

I found this book totally fascinating. Prior to this reading, I had zero knowledge about Jean Harlow. In fact, after reading the book I went on an IMDB hunt only to discover that I haven't actually seen any of her films. (That needs to be rectified soon.)

Her life is incredibly interesting: she went to Hollywood as a young wife and teen, got her big break by accident, and ended up starring in some of the top grossing films of her time before passing away at 26. She was married multiple times, turns out one of them was set up by her studio, and engaged to William Powell (of Thin Man fame - see, I've seen that one!) when she died of kidney failure.

It's clear, based on the acknowledgements and author's note, that Girard put a lot of effort into portraying Harlow as realistically and honestly as possible. That effort has paid off in spades and can be seen throughout the narrative. Girard doesn't cover all of Harlow's life or even all of her career, though. She begins her tale with Harlean's new marriage to Chuck McGrew, one that lasted just until 1929, and ends with Harlow leaving her handprints (and pennies) at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in 1933. (There are some fabulous vintage images of that on this site.)

Throughout the book, the reader is given a chance to get to know Harlean - the real person behind the Jean Harlow persona. And while it is a fictional portrayal, I can imagine that Harlean (who was an admitted bookworm) would also agree that it's one done with the utmost of respect and reverence.

Rating: 4/5

For more on Anne Girard and her work, you can visit her alter ego's website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Evening Spider by Emily Arsenault

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm kicking off the TLC book tour for Emily Arsenault's latest, The Evening Spider.

Abby is a new mom with time on her hands. When she first hears the strange noise through her baby monitor, she's quick to attribute it to anything and everything she can. Anything but a ghost, that is. But after eliminating the possibilities, she begins to wonder. 

A history teacher, Abby was charmed by the fact that their house dated back over a century. What's more, the house had been in the same family for much of that time before she and her husband bought it. But now she wonders about the house and the people who lived there. Is it possible that one of them, someone from long ago, never truly left?

I do so love Emily Arsenault's work. She's one of those authors whose new releases will always end up on my must have list! Her stories always have elements of mystery and suspense, but this one is a little different in that it's part historical fiction and part ghost story as well.

Arsenault talks about how stumbling over the very real murder of Mary Stannard inspired part of this story. The Stannard trial is one her other lead character, Frances Barnett, follows in her own day. Abby learns of Frances (and the case) via a journal found in the home years before. But the reader learns of Frances through flashbacks as well - from her time in a mental asylum.

Throughout the story there are really two burning questions: is Frances haunting the house and, if so, what is her intention? The ghost seems to soothe baby Lucy but the first occurrence of the noise is also linked to a mysterious bruise, the first of many, that appears on the child.

Abby is a little off. She's experienced trauma in her past - the second chapter of the book is her discovery of her dead roommate in college! That story is just one of the threads that runs through Abby's part of the book.

As for Frances, the reader isn't quite clear about why she's been institutionalized.

There are a lot of parallels between Frances and Abby and it's easy to sympathize with them both. In them, Arsenault has built two very strong characters whose tales are undeniably gripping. Nineteenth century crime, the treatment of mental illness, and post partum depression are all featured in the book as well, all coming together in yet another thrilling puzzle of a read from Arsenault!

Rating: 4/5

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

For more on Emily Arsenault and her work you can check out her website here. You can also like her on Facebook.

Purchase Links: Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble

Monday, January 25, 2016

Love in Lowercase by Francesc Miralles + a Giveaway

It's New Year's Eve and Samuel is ringing it in alone. Again. His outlook for the coming year isn't great - more of the same in fact, counting down the years, months, days, hours, and minutes until the end of what he expects will be a shorter than average life. 

But the arrival of an unexpected - and uninvited - furry guest changes all of that. 

Mishima, as Samuel decides to call the cat, is just the first in a series of interesting and possibly wondrous changes in Samuel's life. Changes that cause Samuel to begin looking at the things and people around him differently. Changes that could even lead to love. 

Chance encounters, new friends, and old love are just a few of the things the cat prompts in Francesc Miralles's Love In Lowercase.

Samuel's story is a sweet one. A single man, alone with his books and his movies. He teaches literature and keeps to himself, basically going about his daily routine over and over and over. Mishima's arrival, though, seems to be exactly what the man needs to push him beyond that circuitous routine. Especially when, sick with the flu and on an errand for a neighbor, Samuel sees Gabriela. It's a random and chance encounter, one he attributes completely to Mishima. And he's desperate to see her again.


Because Samuel remembers Gabriela from when they were children. A game, a moment, a kiss of sorts that has never left his memory. You see, Samuel loves her. And while searching for her becomes the main focus of Samuel's days, he also finds himself more open to the experiences around him.

This really is a charming book! I loved all of the literary references, the strange philosophical musings, the tour of Barcelona, and (of course) the cat wisdom :) This is the kind of read that warms your heart and is perfect for any reader who craves something romantic but not saccharine or sappy. It's also Francesc Miralles's first title to be released here in the States.

Rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher, I do get to give away a copy! To enter simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, February 8. Open US only and no PO boxes please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, January 24, 2016

New Releases 1/26/16

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett

The Poison Artist by Jonathan Moore

Daughter of Blood by Helen Lowe

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

A Night In With Audrey Hepburn by Lucy Holliday

Platinum Doll by Anne Girard

Summit Lake by Charlie Donlea

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin

A Prisoner in Malta by Phillip De Poy

The Ex by Alafair Burke

Staked by Kevin Hearne

The Golden Son by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson

Sage's Eyes by V.C. Andrews

Roadside Magic by Lilith Saintcrow

Where it Hurts by Reed Farrell Coleman

The Evening Spider by Emily Arsenault

Love in Lowercase by Miralles Francesc

The Case of the Fickle Mermaid by P. J. Brackston

Otherworld Secrets: An Anthology by Kelley Armstrong

Coconut Cowboy by Tim Dorsey

Front Lines by Michael Grant

The Dark Days Club by Allison Goodman

These Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace

The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos

The Siren by Kiera Cass

The Love That Split the World by Emily Henry

Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit

New on DVD:

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
The Winter Girl by Matt Marinovich
Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Pre Pub Book Buzz: The May Queen Murders by Sarah Jude

You may recognize today's title if you had the chance to check out this week's Top Ten Tuesday post. I've talked a bit about my fondness for rural and folk horror, so you probably know that when a book like The May Queen Murders pops up on my radar I'm going to be antsy as all get out to get my hands on a copy.

Rural/folk horror has been for the most part much more popular in British horror. This is understandable considering FolkHorror.com's definition of the sub genre is:

"...horror fiction... characterised by reference to European, pagan traditions. Stories typically involve standing stone circles, earthworks, elaborate rituals or nature deities."

Will Erickson describes it (in part) in his Summer of Sleaze piece on Thomas Tryon as:

...where pagan fertility rituals crash into city slickers with their framed country quilts and adorable folk art museums... a deeper, unspoken fear that these quaint abandoned rituals and declawed traditions might still have a power our plastic world of superhighways and microwave ovens [lack]...

(Do check out the piece, it's highly enlightening and entertaining. I gleefully tracked down an old hardcover copy of Harvest Home as a result even though the good folks at Open Road Media now have that one available as an ebook.)

And while we have historically seen at least a few entries in the sub genre here, Stateside - "Children of the Corn," the work of Thomas Tryon, and such - I'm seriously hoping it's gaining popularity what with recent releases like Kim Liggett's Blood and Salt and Amy Lukavics's Daughters Unto Devils.

And that brings us to Sarah Jude's May Queen Murders. Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

Stay on the roads. Don’t enter the woods. Never go out at night.

Those are the rules in Rowan’s Glen, a remote farming community in the Missouri Ozarks where Ivy Templeton’s family has lived for centuries. It’s an old-fashioned way of life, full of superstition and traditions, and sixteen-year-old Ivy loves it. The other kids at school may think the Glen kids are weird, but Ivy doesn’t care—she has her cousin Heather as her best friend. The two girls share everything with each other—or so Ivy thinks. When Heather goes missing after a May Day celebration, Ivy discovers that both her best friend and her beloved hometown are as full of secrets as the woods that surround them.

I. Can't. Wait. Really I can't.

The May Queen Murders is due out (appropriately) in May from HMH books for Young Readers.

(Note, Jude herself is calling this one gothic fiction. I'm addicted to both folk horror and gothic fiction so I'm good either way!)

Short Fiction Friday: Two From the Expanse Universe

I know, it's actually Saturday again. Oh, well :)

So if you're watching The Expanse over on Syfy, you may have caught a couple of references Amos made to The Churn in this week's episode. What's The Churn, though? Well, I'm glad you asked! Even if you didn't :)

Timmy is new on the job and has already managed to piss off his boss, Burton. But he's useful and skilled so he's given a second chance. He's tasked with protecting Erich, the man who actually brought him into Burton's fold. Erich, too, is useful and skilled. Erich creates fake DNA profiles. And sure, others can do the same, but for now Erich is the one Burton keeps on hand for all his own fake identity needs. 

But when Star Helix officers move in to Baltimore intent on wiping out the local crime network, Timmy gets caught in the crossfire. He and Erich are expendable but if they can survive through the end and stay out of Star Helix's hands, they may have a chance. For Timmy, it also means the ultimate test of his abilities and loyalties. 

"The Churn" offers up not only a glimpse into Amos's ever elusive backstory but also gives readers a not so pretty look at what's happening on Earth these days.

Organized crime is rampant and local law enforcement obviously can't handle it, which is why the big guns at Star Helix are called in. You may recall this is the contract law enforcement group that employed Miller on Ceres.

I loved this tale because until reading it I only had hints at Amos's story. There are some comments made between him and the other Rocinante crew. There are observations made by side characters (like the spy in this week's episode of the show). But aside from all of that Amos has been a mystery.

(What's up with all my mafia-related reading of late?!)

Oh, and the churn refers to, as one character puts it: the rhythms of nature, "its booms and busts."

Rating: 4/5

And while there's still tons of characters and story lines to flesh out, another character you may be rightfully (hopefully) curious about is Fred Johnson. Johnson is known as "The Butcher of Anderson Station" but when we meet him he's focused more on (or so he says) negotiations between the Belters and Earth/Mars. Why the change of heart?

Colonel Fred Johnson was just following orders when the attack on Anderson Station began. The Belters there were angered over a 3% raise on supply transfers - a 3% raise on the food, water, and even air consumed by a workforce barely eking out a living already. The man responsible for the raise was subsequently forced out of an airlock and the workers attempted to take control of the station. 

And that's where Fred Johnson and his men came in. 

In the end, Johnson knew well enough it should have been an avoidable loss of life. But attempts at negotiation, he had been told, had failed. And then he learned the truth. Since that time, Johnson, one of the most decorated soldiers in history, has been in search of something. Something the OPA might be willing to give him.  

So if you've read Leviathan Wakes and have been watching the show then you've got a bit of a piecemeal glimpse at this event already. The Rocinante crew have more of a conversation about Johnson's past in the book than they do when he hails them in the show, but in the episode "Back to the Butcher" we actually get a look at what was going on on Anderson Station itself.

"The Butcher of Anderson Station" not only gives us the full story but also gives us a chance to see Johnson interacting with none other than Anderson Dawes himself.

Rating: 5/5

Both of the stories are excellent additions to the Expanse universe, show and books, and I definitely recommend adding them to your TBR. They are currently available in ebook only, but each includes bonus content ("The Churn" has an excerpt of book four in the series, Cibola Burn, and "The Butcher of Anderson Station" includes a look at Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice.)

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Killing Jar by Jennifer Bosworth

Kenna lives in fear. Fear of touching those around her and causing them harm. It's happened before - when she was just a little kid she killed the neighbors' son. He wasn't innocent, but Kenna knows that no one can ever know the truth about what happened.

But when Kenna returns home one night to find her mother and sister on the edge of death, the restraint she's tried to build for so long breaks. Afraid of what will come next, Kenna's mother brings the teen to the very last place she'd ever expected.

Everyone knows about Eclipse, the nearby community of hippie shut ins. But no one knows that Kenna's own grandmother is their leader. As soon as she arrives, Kenna realizes Eclipse is more than just free love and living off the land. It's a piece of her own heritage. For the first time in her life Kenna isn't worried about her strange power. She isn't worried about anything at all. But even though the utopian-esque community has welcomed her with pretty open arms, there's still something that doesn't quite feel right. And as Kenna learns more about her ability and the people of Eclipse, she wonders if this is truly where she belongs after all.

There's a turning point in The Killing Jar. A point where the story goes from pretty good to pretty awesome. But I feel like I can't point it out or everyone else will miss out on the fabulousness!

I'll hedge as best I can.

So Kenna has the power to suck people's lives from them with nothing more than a touch. Actually, even less than that, as we find out when she gets home from the Folk Yeah! festival. And her ability manifested right around the time she realized the neighbor boy was a psychopath. Not that that's any excuse for what she did, but she was just a child.

Her mother warned her never to use the power again, forcing Kenna to become somewhat withdrawn from everyone around her. How can she be close to anyone when she's constantly afraid of touching them and killing them?

But it turns out her mom knows more about Kenna's power than she's ever revealed, which leaves the teen feeling understandably upset. Eclipse offers her the chance to finally understand and maybe even control this strange ability. What's more, she finds out that the people of Eclipse are immune to her powers! But she also finds out that to stay in Eclipse she has to give up her outside life including her best friend, possibly boyfriend, and her own twin sister.

But it's when she starts to find out the truth about Eclipse and it's followers' power that the book gets SUPERFABULOUSAWESOME! Seriously, the mythology Jennifer Bosworth pulls from for her big reveal is really cool. I started this in the airport and totally expected to sleep through most of the plane ride but ended up awake and on the edge of my seat the whole time.

Folklore, mythology, urban legend... it's all great fodder for fiction and I (along with LOTS of others) gobble it up. The basis for The Killing Jar was one that I know I've seen just one other time but haven't actually read before. So it was unexpected, to say the least. Bosworth adds her own twist but the even crazier thing about this particular piece of legend is that it is indeed based in fact! Yep, you can go ahead and Google it right around the same time our heroine does and find out for yourself. Again, Bosworth does put her own stamp on it. Her creation is purely her own as far as I can tell, but that only makes it that much more fun.

The characters here are excellently established and the pacing is fast. If you're into paranormal reads and are looking for something a little different from the norm this is definitely one I'd recommend. You won't regret it! (And if you happen to need a good airplane read, this one's tried and tested!)

Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Beside Myself by Ann Morgan + a Giveaway

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Ann Morgan's Beside Myself.

It may have been Helen's idea to start the game - switching places with her twin sister Ellie to see if they could trick their mother and others - but when the game was done, Ellie didn't want to go back. Ellie liked being Helen. Helen was the smart one. The pretty one. The one with all of the friends. The one their mother praised. 

The game kept up for years in spite of Helen's attempts to reclaim her identity. And now, when she's tried over and over to rebuild herself and separate herself from her awful past, "Helen" has returned, pulling her right back in. 

Ann Morgan's fiction debut is utterly unputdownable. I know that gets thrown around a lot, but in this case there's just no other word to aptly describe Beside Myself.

Trust me! I tried. I tried to walk away from this book and get on with daily life. I REALLY tried! It was not possible. Not until I reached the end of Smudge's story.

As the tale begins, present day, Helen/"Ellie" has taken to referring to herself as Smudge. She hears voices in her head and lives pretty much in squalor, relying on government assistance for money and support. It's not until her story begins to really unfold that the reader starts to grasp the why and how of Smudge's current situation.

Chapters alternate between Smudge's present and Helen's past, with the past chapters beginning at the game's inception (when the twins are eight). We learn pretty quickly that Helen and Ellie's father is gone but it takes some time for the girls - and by default the readers - to understand that the incident their mother refers to as the "Unfortunate Decision" was actually his suicide. Their mother has clearly been suffering from depression as a result, leaving the girls to fend for themselves much of the time.

And their mother is quite likely the WORST fiction mother EVER! She can't even tell the difference between her children. Not only that, but a big part of Smudge's problem at its core is the difference between the way their mother treated the girls. Twins with very little difference between them, the real Ellie is treated as the slower sister with a family story about being caught in the umbilical story pulled out as the blame any time she does anything "off." We the readers believe this to be true in the beginning as well, though it quickly becomes clear that this is very much not the case. Smudge/Helen herself never even notices until she experiences it herself as "Ellie."

The truth is that Helen was thriving until Ellie took her place. After the switch, Hellie (as Smudge calls her) is the one who thrives with Smudge left in the cold.

Again, worst fiction mother ever.

Beside Myself is a bit dark. Not terribly graphic, but one that deals with some very uncomfortable issues. It's the kind of read that gets you thinking: through Smudge's eyes we see exactly how identity, assumptions, and bad parenting can shape a person. Hers is not a pretty story but it is a compelling one to be sure. (And UNPUTDOWNABLE! Seriously, don't start this one at bedtime!)

Rating: 4.5/5

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

For more on Ann Morgan and her work you can visit her website here. You can also follow her on Twitter.

And now for the giveaway: to enter simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, February 1. Open US/Canada only and no PO boxes please.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Sanctuary Bay by Laura J. Burns & Melinda Metz - Excerpt

And now for the second part of today's blog tour stop - an excerpt from Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz's creepy boarding school thriller, Sanctuary Bay.

But first, here's a bit about the book from the publisher:

When Sarah Merson receives the opportunity of a lifetime to attend the most elite prep school in the country—Sanctuary Bay Academy—it seems almost too good to be true. But, after years of bouncing from foster home to foster home and struggling with the memory of her parent’s murder, escaping to the school’s tranquil setting, nestled deep in Swans Island, couldn't sound more appealing. Swiftly thrown into a world of privilege and secrets, Sarah quickly realizes finding herself noticed by class charmer, Nate, as well as her roommate's dangerously attentive boyfriend, Ethan, are the least of her worries. When her roommate suddenly goes missing, she finds herself in a race against time, not only to find her, but to save herself and discover the dark truth behind Sanctuary Bay's glossy reputation.

Sanctuary Bay is out on shelves today and I hope that I've managed to pique your interest. If you're still on the fence, though, or just want a taste before buying, I do have an excerpt for you courtesy of the publisher:

Daddy pressed his finger to his lips, shushing Sarah quiet as he slid the door to the tunnel back on. She wrapped her arms tightly around her knees and pressed her cheek against her arm, trying to pretend she was back in her own room. But it didn’t smell like her room. Even the spicy smell of Daddy’s cologne had faded now that the tunnel was closed. And grayness was all around her. She was almost four, and that was too old to be scared of the dark. But it wasn’t all dark. It was just gray dark.

She tried not to think of monsters crawling toward her. Daddy said there were no monsters. But monsters liked tunnels. They liked little girls.

Sometimes when she was scared she liked to sing the Maggie song. But that was against the rules. She had to be quiet. She had to be still. She had to wait until Daddy or Mommy opened the door and got her.

Thinking about the rules helped. She could almost hear Daddy saying them, as if he was hiding in the tunnel with her. Even though he was way too big. If something bad happens, wait until the room is safe. If you leave the tunnel, put the funny slitted door back on. Run fast. Find a lady with kids. Tell her your name is Sarah Merson. Merson. Merson. Merson. Merson. Ask for help.

Her nose started twitching, itching from the thick air. Making her want to sneeze. But she had to be quiet.

Then she heard Mommy screaming. Mommy never screamed. Were the monsters out there and not in the tunnel?

On hands and knees she started creeping toward the slits of light, heart pounding.

“Kt85L is our property,” a man said. “You had no right!”

Out there. Mommy on her knees facing the hotel room wall. Someone’s legs. A hand reaching down. A silver bird stared at Sarah from a ring on the finger. Stared with a horrible little black eye. The finger pulled the trigger of a gun.

A bang. Her ears filling with bees. Mommy collapsing on the floor. Red spilling out.

Sarah shoved her fingers into her mouth. Quiet. The rule was be quiet.

Shouting. Daddy’s legs running by, out of the room. The bird man chasing. The door banging closed.

Something bad happening.

The room was safe. The bird man was gone. So she had to get out. Mommy was on the floor. Daddy was gone.

She shoved the door and it fell out onto the floor. Near Mommy. Near the red. But the rule was to put the funny door back on. She picked it up and shoved it over the tunnel like Daddy had shown her.

Sarah didn’t want to look at Mommy. She looked out the window instead. The window was always open and there was never a screen. Daddy’s voice came from the hallway, yelling. Screaming.

Another bang.

Sarah pressing her hands over her eyes. Not looking. Not looking. Something bad happening.

Daddy was quiet now. Something bad. She had to run fast.

Sarah climbed on the chair under the window. The chair always went under the window. She stuck her legs through the window and jumped down. Now run fast.

She ran fast, looking for a lady with a stroller or a kid her age. A mommy would help her. She would say she was Sarah Merson.

Sarah Merson, and something bad happened.

Tell me you are not dying to read more?!

Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz have written many books for teens and middle-grade readers, including the Edgar-nominated mystery series Wright and Wong and the YA novels Crave and Sacrifice. They have also written for the TV shows Roswell, 1-800-Missing, and The Dead Zone. Laura lives in New York and Melinda lives in North Carolina, but really they mostly live on email, where they do most of their work together.

For more on Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz, you can visit their website here. You can also like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter

BUY LINKS: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | IndieBound

Don't forget, you can check out my review and enter to win your very own copy here.

Sanctuary Bay by Laura J. Burns & Melinda Metz + a Giveaway

Hi, everyone! Today I'm part of the Sanctuary Bay blog tour with TWO posts. First up, my review and a chance to win your very own copy. After that, head on over to the second post to read an excerpt and get a taste of what's in store!

Sarah is floored when she's accepted into the exclusive Sanctuary Bay boarding school. An orphan who's been living in the foster system most of her life, she's understandably suspicious considering the school's elite status and the fact that she didn't even apply. Certain it's a mistake, she readies herself to be booted upon arrival but it turns out she is the one and only Sarah Merson the school was interested in.

As Sarah settles in she begins to realize all the opportunities Sanctuary Bay will offer her - a first class education, a ticket into the best universities, not to mention the chance to make friends who see her for who she truly is. But there's something sinister hiding beneath the facade of Sanctuary Bay forcing Sarah to question whether it's all worth it in the end or not.

So on top of being drawn to just about every book with a boarding school or abandoned asylum thread out there (I'm not alone, folks, and this one has both!) the fact that Melinda Metz and Laura Burns cowrote Roswell High and then worked on the show was a HUGE draw for me here. I love, love, loved that show. I'm not ashamed to admit that I still think it's completely fantastic. So yes, the chance to review another title by the minds behind that series was something I definitely was not going to pass up.

It did mean pretty high expectations on my part and I was a bit worried at first that Sanctuary Bay wasn't going to live up to that.

Sarah has a huge chip on her shoulder when she arrives at Sanctuary Bay. It comes out full force any time she interacts with her roommate's boyfriend, Nathan, a boy Sarah believes is little more than a spoiled rich kid unappreciative of the advantages and opportunities life has given him. Even beyond that Sarah is quick to jump the gun assuming that people are judging her based on her history. Understandable considering it's apparently happened to her throughout her life. This aspect of Sarah's personality, though, bordered on becoming a bit too excessive for my taste.

Bordered on. As soon as I thought it was getting to be too much, the secrets of Sanctuary Bay began revealing themselves and we were off!

So the island was home to an insane asylum and then a POW prison. The crumbling ruins of the asylum itself remain, stocked with (we soon find) creepy equipment, dusty bottles, and files (oh to be an urban explorer in THAT world) and the old POW prison cells remain as well. What's more, there are even stories of suicides and ghosts! These pieces of the puzzle that is Sanctuary Bar are both creepy crawly and cool, and were aspects I certainly hoped would pay off before the end. (They do, readers.)

THEN we find out there may or may not be a secret society lurking in the halls of Sanctuary Bay. We find this out very close to the time Sarah realizes her roomies have been frequently ditching her in the middle of the night, headed off together to whereabouts unknown. So yeah, she follows them...

It's clear by the end of the book that there is more to this story. It's not quite clear whether we'll get more (so far there's just the one title listed). A girl can hope, though, right?! I mean Sarah finds out some pretty surprising things by the end. Things that would make a pretty fabulous sequel for all of us to read :)

Rating: 4/5

If you're interested in checking this one out, be sure to head over to today's OTHER post, the one with the excerpt. But before you do, make sure you enter to win your very own copy of Sanctuary Bay courtesy of the publisher.

To get your name in the hat, just fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, February 1. Open US only and no PO boxes please.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Books Recently Added to the TBR

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've recently added to the TBR.

This is a mix of review books and purchased books today, so a few of them aren't out on shelves just yet. I also had to do a little finagling because some of my most recent additions don't have covers on Riffle at the moment.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Our Lady of the Ice by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Hope City, Antarctica was once the tourist destination of tourist destinations. An amusement park filled with wonders and robots. But when the park shut down the workers stayed, making a permanent home for themselves beneath the domes that made this unwelcoming area bearable. 

Eliana Gomez is a private investigator who has lived her entire life under the domes. In truth, she longs to leave for the mainland but the trip is a costly one she's not sure she'll ever afford. That is until Marianella Luna makes a visit to her office. It seems Lady Luna in in possession of some quite damning documents, documents someone has recently taken it upon themselves to liberate her of. She wants them back and she wants Eliana to find them. 

The case turns out to be a rather simple one, but one that puts Eliana and Lady Luna right in the crosshairs of a local mob boss. The very same boss Eliana's lover works for. But the money brought in by the case and those that come after ensure Eliana will finally have the opportunity to leave. If she can survive until Spring. 

I was pretty anxious to read this one from the get go. It sounded like one of the most unique PI novels I'd come across in a LONG time and that definitely turned out to be the case with Cassandra Rose Clarke's latest. 

Not only is the Antarctica setting one I've never seen before, but the subtle twisting of the world was also a stand out. The book itself is not set in our present but instead just a few decades after the park shut down (which was in the 1940s). The world is very insular, all but shutting down outside contact through winter, but there are outside influences from South America. Mostly, though, Hope City is ruled by the "City" powers and the mob. 

Oh, and there are robots. Robots that have started to become sentient. Which is an issue considering it's the robots that maintain the domes that house and protect the people living there. If the domes fail, that's it for Hope City. And during the Last Night celebration (the last night the ships leave for winter, marking the long wait for their return in the spring) the power begins to fail in the domes. 

So the setting here is tense to begin with. There are wealthy folks and criminals who have little to worry about but the rest of the resources are stretched pretty thin. With power beginning to get spotty, everyone in Hope City is on edge. Everyone is looking for someone to blame. The robots are the first ones everyone turns to, but there are other factions at play as well including a group pushing for independence from the mainland. Marianella Luna is a player in the latter, pushing for Hope City to fund agricultural domes that would mean no longer relying on the mainland and the ships for food coming into the city. 

Unfortunately, Marianella Luna's secret, the one she wants Eliana to help her keep, is big enough that it could ruin everything.

Our Lady of the Ice is super cool! If you're into unique settings and well built plots, not to mention fabulously fleshed out characters, I highly recommend checking this one out. It's a bit sci-fi, a bit mystery, and a bit gangster noir, but it's completely unlike anything I think I've ever had the pleasure of diving into!

Rating: 4/5

Sunday, January 17, 2016

New Releases 1/19/16

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Warriors of the Last Storm by Bernard Cornwell

Medusa's Web by Tim Powers

River Road by Carol Goodman

A Song for the Brokenhearted by William Shaw

Moonlight Over Paris by Jennifer Robson

The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth

Betty Boo by Claudia Piñeiro

Real Tigers by Mick Herron

Feverborn by Karen Marie Moning

Orphan X by Gregg Hurwitz

Brooklyn on Fire by Lawrence H. Levy

Even Dogs in the Wild by Ian Rankin

The Forgotten Room by Karen White, Beatriz Williams, & Lauren Willig

Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan

Shade Me by Jennifer Brown

We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

The Rule of Three: Will To Survive by Eric Walters

The Capture by Tom Isbell

The Isle by Jordana Frankel

New on DVD:
The Intern

Thursday, January 14, 2016

White Cat by Holly Black

Cassel is a con artist. He learned from the best, but his family has the added benefit of abilities known as curse work. Unfortunately for Cassel, he isn't so lucky. He has to rely on his wit and charm alone to get by. 

When a bad case of sleepwalking forces his boarding school to kick him out (temporarily) as a potential suicide risk, Cassel has to return to the one place he'd hoped he'd never have to go back to: his childhood home. The home holds nothing but bad memories, including the time Cassel accidentally killed his best friend. 

That's right, Cassel killed his best friend. The daughter of a local mafia boss, the very same boss who employed Cassel's grandfather and now Cassel's brother. The official story is that the girl disappeared, but Cassel knows the truth. Or at least he thought he did. The dream responsible for his sleepwalking was only the start, and the dead girl plays a big role in the now recurring nightmares plaguing him. It's almost as thought she's trying to tell Cassel something...

To dive into this particular series from Holly Black meant, at least for me, a certain amount of confusion at the start. It's one of those dropped in the middle stories where the world is slowly revealed to the reader as the tale unfolds. But it is a bit of an intricate world, one in which certain people are born with abilities that are illegal. Abilities that land people like Cassel's mother in jail. Abilities crime bosses, like the boss who employs Cassel's brother, are more than willing to take advantage of. And it's a little confusing until all of the details are explained.

People in Cassel's world can be tested early on to find out if they have such abilities, which is why Cassel knows he's the only unfortunate soul in his family not to have them. People also wear gloves as a habit and fear the touch of those around them - one touch can mean having your memory wiped, being manipulated in some way, or even death.

It's actually a really cool world blended with a Godfather-like mafioso plot line and a little bit of a mystery as well. And it worked for me all the way through to the end. Which is not to say that the end didn't work, but it came a bit too quick and clean for my taste. An ending wrapped up in a nice, neat bow but for the lead in to the second title. I'd have appreciated a little more complication, a little more grit, just based on the way the rest of the book played out. Nice and neat isn't a deal breaker for me. Most of the book, once the world became clear, was pretty great so I think I can comfortably forgive it. I am intrigued by where the series will go next, and am looking forward to starting Red Glove very soon.

White Cat originally released in 2010 and is followed by Red Glove and Black Heart. Saga Press has very recently released brand new editions of the series titles (the cover included here is the new reprint edition).

Rating: 3/5

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

What She Left by T. R. Richmond - US Release + a Giveaway

Last year I participated in a blog tour promoting the UK release of T. R. Richmond's What She Left, a fabulous suspense read about the secrets uncovered in the wake of a college girl's death. The book is brand spanking new out in the US TODAY and I didn't want any of you to miss out, so I'm reposting that review in hopes you'll run out and buy a copy :)

I'm also giving away a copy so be sure to read through to the end to enter.

When Jeremy Cooke hears about Alice Salmon's tragic death, he is rocked to his core. Once upon a time, Cooke was very close to Alice's mother and felt a fond affinity for Alice as well. Her death can't be her end. 

And so he begins collating material on Alice - Twitter feeds, Facebook posts, texts, journal entries... anything and everything he can lay his hands on pertaining to her life and experiences. A project forms, one with an anthropological basis - a map of Alice's life. But amazingly, what begins as a bit of an obsession and refusal to say goodbye soon transforms into an investigation that could shed light on Alice's final moments. 

What She Left is a great example of storytelling through somewhat unique means. At heart, Alice's death is a mystery. But so is her life. Using letters, diary entries, and all sorts of electronic correspondence as the narrative thread, Richmond builds a tale that not only fills in the gaps of Alice's story, but of her mother's, her friends', and Cooke's as well.

The various pieces form chapters of a sort. Chapters that are short enough to keep the story moving at a fairly quick pace. And yet, though this is described as a thriller and though there is - as I mentioned - a mystery central to the story, the book doesn't really read like a thriller at all. Instead, it's a sort of cross between the aftermath of death and it's effects on the living and a commentary on social media and the electronic stamp one leaves behind these days. (As well as the notion that not all of a person's public facade can truly be trusted.)

Richmond's debut is a fascinating one that will appeal to readers who enjoy unreliable narrators, epistolary novels, and psychological suspense.

Rating: 4/5

And now for the giveaway! To enter simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, January 25. Open US only.

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Top Ten Tuesday: 2015 Releases I Meant To Get To

I've decided to jump on board with Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the topic is: 2015 titles I just couldn't squeeze in no matter how much I really wanted to.

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Best and Lightest by the editors of Food Network Magazine

Well it's January and that means most of us have made some sort of resolution (formal or not) to be a bit healthier this year. I know we have. I've started back at boot camp (as of this morning - and I'm counting on peer pressure to keep me going as long as I don't hurt myself!) and hubs has joined a gym as well. I'm trying my darndest to cook healthier as well.

It's no secret that even though I cook a lot, which is healthier than eating out or eating from a box, I gravitate towards creamy and cheesy recipes as a habit. Winter is particularly hard considering I crave warm comfort food and hate leaving the house to brave the cold!

The editors of Food Network Magazine chose the perfect time to release their latest cookbook, though, and I have to say that even with my own inclinations, there's tons to tempt me in The Best and Lightest: 150 Healthy Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner.

Actually, my first recipe in the book was for a Smoky Pretzel Mix for an afternoon snack break during the holiday (playing Fallout 4 really works up an appetite). A rotisserie chicken then tided us over with multiple recipes: Indian Chicken Wraps, Chicken and Egg Soup with Pastina, and Spiced Couscous and Chicken. I have plans for one more meal with that chicken too - the Chicken and Asparagus Crêpes, which are sure to satisfy my cheesy cravings!

The book is broken into Soups & Stews; Sandwiches; Poultry; Meat; Fish & Seafood; Eggs, Tofu & Beans; Pasta & Grains; Side Dishes; and Sweets and each recipe includes a breakdown of calories, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, fiber, and protein. And even though there's a separate sides chapter, many of the recipes include side components already - Apple Pork Chops with Garlic Potatoes, Lemon Salmon with Lima Beans (and a lemony spiced yogurt topping), and Lamb Steak with Olive Salsa (this one includes grilled peppers too) are just a few examples.

Of course a lot of the recipes feature swaps like Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs. I'm not 100% sold on the spaghetti squash for pasta swap - the texture of the squash itself is always too crunchy for me. That same crunch, though, in the Spaghetti Squash Tostadas provides a nice contrast with the black beans in that same recipe.

All in all I have to say I'm enjoying this one. The recipes are super appealing, the results so far have been consistent and tasty, and the book proves that eating healthy doesn't have to be painful or break the bank!

Rating: 4/5

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