Monday, October 31, 2016

Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal

As WWI rages on, the Allied Powers have enlisted help of an unusual kind as a secret weapon against their foes. Mediums, like Ginger Stuyvestant, have been recruited to form the Spirit Corps, a group capable of getting key information and final messages from recently deceased soldiers. But when Germany catches wind of the operation, Ginger and the Corps become important targets. And as their enemies attempt to learn the secrets behind the mediums' strategy - in particular their location and the "conditioning" that allows the soldiers to connect to them - Ginger discovers there may be a traitor in their midst. 

Apparently, the idea for this latest from Mary Robinette Kowal, was inspired by a dream - which led to a short story and then a novel. It's a fun outing, one that explores the possibility of mediums and ghosts as military spies of a sort.

Ginger, an American engaged to a British soldier, is at the forefront of the tale. A medium whose Aunt is technically the head of the Spirit Corps, Ginger basically runs the London Branch - the Spirit Corps post and nexus in Le Havre.

But she doesn't run it alone. Helen, who we know very little about in actuality, is Caribbean and unfortunately the color of her skin makes it impossible for her to officially lead the operation. But it's she who created the "conditioning" that allows the whole thing to work. This "conditioning" is something only a few very key personnel are privy to and it's the very information the Germans are desperate to discover. It's what draws the dead soldiers to London Branch's very specific location, allowing them to make their final reports to Ginger, Helen, and the other awaiting mediums. Without it, the operation basically wouldn't exist. And without it, the Germans can't waylay the Allied dead or even form their own Spirit Corps.

As I said above, Ghost Talkers is a fun tale. A paranormal mystery set at the heart of WWI and a stand alone, at the moment. I adore the premise and the setting and quite enjoyed the tale in general, but I think in the end I really wanted more out of the story. More Helen, specifically, more depth even to characters like Ginger and Ben, and more information about the Corps and the other mediums as well.

That said, I understand there's the possibility of expanding this one into a series and I do very much hope that's the case. It would be wonderful to spend more time in this world and have the opportunity to get to know these characters more deeply.

Rating: 3.5/5

Sunday, October 30, 2016

New Releases 11/1/16

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Inherit the Bones by Emily Littlejohn

Her Nightly Embrace by Adi Tantimedh

The Hanging Club by Tony Parsons

Inheriting Edith by Zoe Fishman

Ash Island by Barry Maitland

The Champagne Conspiracy by Ellen Crosby

The Weaver by Emmi Itäranta

In the Blue Hour by Elizabeth Hall

Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror ed by Ellen Datlow

The Twenty-Three by Linwood Barclay

Den of Wolves by Juliet Marillier

Say No More by Hank Phillippi Ryan

 The Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly

The Lost Girls by Allison Brennan

We Are Still Tornadoes by Michael Jun &Susan Mullen

The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid

Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin

A Million Worlds With You by Claudia Gray

Bad Blood by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The Amateurs by Sara Shepard

New on DVD:
Star Trek Beyond
Bad Moms

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
Meat on the Side by Nikki Dinki

Friday, October 28, 2016

October Happenings + a Giveaway

This month has been busy, busy, busy. And you probably noticed that as a result there were less reviews on my end. Well, let me tell you what I've been up to! And at the end of the post, I 'm giving away a copy of Cynthia Swanson's The Bookseller.

Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

Nothing is as permanent as it appears . . .

Denver, 1962: Kitty Miller has come to terms with her unconventional single life. She loves the bookshop she runs with her best friend, Frieda, and enjoys complete control over her day-to-day existence. She can come and go as she pleases, answering to no one. There was a man once, a doctor named Kevin, but it didn’t quite work out the way Kitty had hoped.

Then the dreams begin.

Denver, 1963: Katharyn Andersson is married to Lars, the love of her life. They have beautiful children, an elegant home, and good friends. It’s everything Kitty Miller once believed she wanted—but it only exists when she sleeps.

Convinced that these dreams are simply due to her overactive imagination, Kitty enjoys her nighttime forays into this alternate world. But with each visit, the more irresistibly real Katharyn’s life becomes. Can she choose which life she wants? If so, what is the cost of staying Kitty, or becoming Katharyn?

As the lines between her worlds begin to blur, Kitty must figure out what is real and what is imagined. And how do we know where that boundary lies in our own lives?

A bit more on this particular giveaway choice below.

So the month started off with #DVPit on October 5 and 6th. This was a Twitter pitch event focused on diversity and marginalized voices. This time they split it into two days - the first for YA and younger and the second for adult pitches. And aside from featuring marginalized voices, the only real requirement was that your manuscript be finished and ready to send out.

Y'all. I quite love these pitch events. I signed one of my clients from #SFFPit earlier this year, so they do work. And while watching Twitter and liking posts is fairly easy, the queries I received were pretty fantastic and I had (have) a ton of manuscripts to dive into as a result.

So then that weekend was Mountains and Plains, our regional trade show for indie booksellers, which just happens to be held here in Denver every year. I had a chance to meet up with some small publishers and local Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers folks while scoping out the new, hot titles of the upcoming season.

The following weekend was the Women Writing the West conference in Santa Fe. For this conference, I was taking pitches and participating in an agent panel on querying. And I'd never been to Santa Fe before. Course I failed my uber Geek side by not realizing this is where GRRM's theater is (I mistakenly convinced myself it was in Albuquerque - shame on me!). I heard some really wonderful pitches and the panel went especially well. I also got to hang out with some really fabulous authors over the course of the weekend. And I even had time to explore Santa Fe's downtown area, have excellent enchiladas at The Shed, and visit two bookstores while I was there!

Next up was another Twitter pitch event, #PitDark on October 20. This one is focused on dark fiction for all ages. You guys know how much I LOVE dark fiction! I'm still digging through those queries as we speak because I had to prepare for Saturday's Castle Rock Writers Conference where I was taking pitches and doing 5 page critiques.

I've actually done the Women Writing the West conference twice now and the Castle Rock conference three times. In my past job I worked with quite a few of the authors involved with both, one of whom was a Willa finalist in 2015. Both organizations are wonderful and I appreciate being invited to take part in their annual festivities. And yes, readers, if you're wondering about the effectiveness of conferences, I signed my very first client as a result of last year's Castle Rock.

So, as you can see, I'm not kidding when I say this month has been busy. And that's above and beyond the regular slush pile, edits for clients, and publisher submissions. And honestly, I'm enjoying every minute of it!

Thanks for listening, everyone!

Now in honor of the Women Writing the West's annual Willa awards, and as mentioned above, I am giving away a copy of Cynthia Swanson's The Bookseller today. Swanson's debut was the winner in the Historical Fiction category. Entrants are (per the WWW guidelines):

Books featuring women’s or girls’ stories set in the West before contemporary times. Softcover originals may be entered in this category but the majority of entries are hardcover. WWW defines “historical fiction” as any story set at least 50 years prior to the publication date.

You can see the full list of categories and winners on their site. 

Swanson wasn't able to attend, so I don't have an autographed copy, but she is local here in Denver and I wanted to spread some of the Willa love! (Psst, Swanson is also involved with Lighthouse Writers, another great local writing organization! If you're an author, I highly suggest seeking out any local groups in your own area to see if they might be a fit for you. These groups are fantastically informative and supportive!)

To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, November 14. Open US only. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A Date at the Altar by Cathy Maxwell - Excerpt

Happy release week to Cathy Maxwell whose third title in the Marrying the Duke series, A Date at the Altar, released yesterday. Thanks to the publisher, I have an excerpt to share with you today. But first, here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

New York Times bestselling author Cathy Maxwell’s glittering Marrying the Duke series continues—Twice he has been close to the altar and still no duchess.

Will the third time be the charm? A duke can’t marry just anyone. His wife must be of good family, be fertile, be young. Struggling playwright Sarah Pettijohn is absolutely the last woman Gavin Whitridge, Duke of Baynton, would ever fall in love with.

She is an actress, born on the wrong side of the blanket, and always challenges his ducal authority. She never hesitates to tell him what she thinks.

However, there is something about her that stirs his blood . . . which makes her perfect for a bargain he has in mind: In exchange for backing her play, he wants Sarah to teach him about love.

And he, in turn, has a few things to teach her about men . . .

I think we can all agree that escapist fiction is in order these days! 

A Date at the Altar by Cathy Maxwell, Chapter One Excerpt 

Sarah Pettijohn had vowed she would never play the role of the Siren again . . . and yet here she was, tucked high above the stage behind the proscenium arch so that the audience could not see her, dressed in practically nothing, waiting her turn on stage. From her perch, she watched the teeming mass of male bodies in the audience below and knew they did not bode well for her.

The owners of the theater, Geoff and Charles, were masters at creating a stir. The house was packed with men from every walk of life. The rich, the poor, the old, the young, and the stupid had all paid their four shillings because, as Geoff said, men could never have their fill of “tittie” watching. “No matter how much it costs them, they like to look.” 

Sarah was not showing her “titties.” She wore a nude shift beneath her diaphanous costume. Granted there was little beneath the shift, but she was well covered compared to the other women in the company. She’d insisted upon it. She knew from the last time she had been compelled to play the Siren, six years ago, the male imagination could fill in the details, whether seen or not.

Keeping her identity a secret was important, just as it had been in the past. To that purpose, Sarah wore a bejeweled mask and mounds of face paint and powder to create a fanciful, feminine creature with long lashes and golden skin. A black wig plaited into a thick braid hid her red hair. She’d also refused to attend rehearsals, preferring to practice her act in secret. She was not proud of what she was doing. She had a reputation to protect. 

After all, she wasn’t just an actress. She was a playwright. 

She’d agreed to play the Siren because Geoff and Charles promised to stage her play.

Her play. 

For years, Sarah had rewritten and edited the work of men who used her talent and gave her none of the recognition. This past summer, Colman at the Haymarket Theater where she’d been part of the company for years, had promised to produce one of her plays but when the time came, he’d reneged and put one of his own on the schedule instead. One Sarah had rewritten for him.

Sarah had walked. She’d left his company with her head high, and her pockets empty.

That is when Geoff and Charles had approached her. They were talented theater men who had staged the first Naughty Review in order to raise the funds to build the Bishop’s Hill Theater. It had been a one-night event, just as this was. At that time, Sarah had been desperate for money so that she could provide a home for her half-sister’s orphaned daughter. She didn’t expose her “titties” then, either, but she would have done that and more to protect Charlene. 

What no one had expected was for the Siren to become almost legendary in men’s minds. Even Sarah was astounded and she was thankful that she’d been disguised so no one knew who she was. For months after that first Review, personal notices were run in the papers from men either begging the actress playing the Siren to contact them or looking for information about her. Fortunately, those few people who knew Sarah never betrayed her. 

Now, after years of running their own theater, Geoff and Charles were deeply in debt. They were in danger of losing the Bishop’s Hill and hoped that if the Review worked once, it would do so again. 

“Everyone wants the Siren,” Charles had said.

“You do this for us and we will stage your play. We’ll all have what we want.”

Sarah had reluctantly agreed. She’d had no choice, really. She didn’t have the means to stage the play herself. Charlene was now happily married and living in Boston, an ocean away. The time had come for Sarah to live her own life.

If dancing and singing almost naked would bring her what she wanted, then so be it. A woman alone had to do what she must to survive—and if Sarah was one thing, she was a survivor.

She shifted her weight on the narrow shelf and tightened her hold on the silken rope that would be used to lower her to the stage. The Siren would be the last performance of the evening. She’d secreted herself an hour before the curtain. 

Below her, two female gladiators with swords shaped like phalluses left the stage. William Millroy, an Irish tenor, came out and began singing about being cuckolded by his wife. The audience wasn’t paying attention. They had come for women. Someone threw a cabbage at Will but he ducked. More vegetables and a few fruits were thrown to the delight of the crowd, especially when they hit their target. William scampered off stage to the sound of cheers.

“Where’s the Siren?” someone called out. A chant began. “Siren! Siren!” Sarah shook her head. Men could be so ridiculous. They had been doing this all evening. Her nerves were frayed.

A group of bare-breasted dancers costumed as sheep came out onto the stage and the men forgot their chanting and roared their approval. One gent leaped from one of the boxes upon the sheep nearest him. Sarah knew the girl. Irene. She screamed and pushed his hands away from her breasts just as the bullyboys Geoff and Charles had hired rushed forward to toss the man into the pit. Laughter and ribald comments met his comeuppance. 

The music started and the sheep pranced around while a shepherd ran among them poking them in the bum with his staff. Every time he touched a sheep, she’d cry “Baaa” and the audience started mimicking the sound with an obscenity in place of the “Baa.” 

Sarah had an urge to go down on that stage and lecture the men on manners. If they kept up this rowdiness, her performance would be a short one. 

In fact, she would make it quick.

She would sing one song, escape this theater without anyone being wiser to who she really was, and then she could start living the rest of her life the way she wished. She’d cast her play, The Fitful Widow: A Light Comedy Concerning the Foolishness of Men, and prove that her talent was equal to any male playwright’s— 

Her fierce determination came to an abrupt halt as she recognized one of the men in the very expensive boxes to the side of the stage. Uncertain she could believe her eyes, she leaned forward as far as she dared on the platform for a better view, balancing herself by holding on to the rope. 

It was him. There was no mistaking the broad shoulders or that arrogantly proud tilt of the head.

The Duke of Baynton, that Pillar of Morality, the Nonesuch, the Maker of Ministries was at the Naughty Review. 

Sarah sat back, stunned, and then drew a deep breath. 

Who knew? Baynton was mortal after all. 

Or perhaps he had wandered in by chance? Oh no, he wouldn’t. She distinctly remembered him coolly informing her that he did not attend the theater. Well, he had added, save for the occasional Shakespeare.

This was no Shakespeare. 

And it was intriguing to see him here. 

The duke had once wooed her niece Charlene. When Charlene had run off with another, his twin brother, no less, Baynton had gone after them and Sarah had insisted on accompanying him so that she could protect her beloved niece. 

In the end, Baynton had not won the lady. Charlene had married the man she loved and the duke had been somewhat gracious about it—that is, to everyone save Sarah. Apparently he did not appreciate outspoken women. 

She had little admiration for him as well. Two days of traveling to Scotland with him had convinced her that no other man on earth could be more insufferable or self-righteous than Baynton. At their parting, she had prayed to never set eyes upon him again—except this was good. This was a moment to be relished. 

Watched only Shakespeare. The hypocrite. 

If she’d had a shoe on, she would have thrown it down right on his head. Let him think it was the judgment of God Almighty for being in such an immoral place. Sarah would have adored seeing the expression on his handsome face . . . and he was handsome. Sarah was not blind to his looks. It was the words that came out of his mouth she didn’t like.

But gazing at him, well, that was pleasure. 

In truth, she’d been overjoyed when he’d first called on Charlene. She’d wanted what was best for her niece and the Duke of Baynton was the best London had to offer. He was wealthy, respected, honored, and Char would have made a lovely duchess. 

Sarah could even recall the last words she’d heard the duke speak. Baynton had paid Sarah’s way home from Scotland by private coach rather than endure more travel time with her. He’d mentioned within her hearing that it had been “money well spent. She is too opinionated by half.” Words that Sarah had found surprisingly hurtful, although she’d had her fill of him as well. 

The sheep were almost done with their act. It had gone on overlong. The crowd no longer yelled crudities or baaa’ed. They grew restless. That was the problem with this sort of entertainment. It could never capture the imagination—not in the way a well-written play could. 

The Siren was up next. 

Had Sarah thought to make her performance quick and be done with it? That had been before spying the Duke of Puffed Up Consequence in her audience. 

She stood and wrapped the silken rope around her hand, readying herself to step off the platform the moment the dancers on stage finished. She felt strong, powerful, and inspired to give the performance of her lifetime. 

If Baynton thought his matched set of grays were high flyers, wait until he witnessed the Siren. 

Now, readers, this is the third book in a trilogy and you really should start from the beginning. If you haven't, the titles in order are: The Match of the Century, The Fairest of Them All, and then A Date at the Altar.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Certain Dark Things by Sylvia Moreno-Garcia

Oh man, oh man, oh man! Readers, I absolutely adore those reading days when everything comes into perfect alignment. When a topic you've been dying to read about just happens to be the topic of your next planned read and the writing is amazing and the story is the kind you don't want to put down no matter what else might be going on. That's what happened with Sylvia Moreno-Garcia's Certain Dark Things.

There are no vampires in Mexico City. There haven't been for quite some time. And yet, when Domingo meets Atl, he discovers this isn't quite true. 

Atl has been orphaned thanks to an all out war with a rival vampire family. And she's come to Mexico City in search of something - alone. When she crosses paths with young Domingo, she plans only to pay him for a night of blood. But Domingo has other ideas. 

Meanwhile, Nick Godoy has followed Atl to Mexico City, intent on killing her. But Nick is a loose canon, impossible to control and guaranteed to draw attention to the presence of vampires in the city. Which is exactly what he does and exactly how Ana Aguirre ends up on the hunt. And she's not the only one. 

Sylvia Moreno-Garcia has kind of flipped the vampire genre on its head here, combining Aztec and other lore to create a world with ten different kinds of vampires. And in this world, the vampires have become drug lords - warring against one another and human gangs as well.

Humans control Mexico City and so when they catch wind that the vampires have arrived, it's in their best interests to nip it in the bud as soon as possible. But Ana Aguirre, who came to Mexico City to get away from vamps, isn't sure she wants to align herself with gangs of any kind. This in spite of the fact that even though she's a. a cop and b. a cop with experience hunting vampires, she definitely isn't getting the support she needs from her department.

And then there's Atl and Domingo. Atl is twenty-three, a baby in vampire years. Her family are descended from some of the very first vampires in the world and can live for centuries. She's also a second daughter, which means she was allowed to run around spoiled. But now she's alone. All alone. And in a moment of weakness, she decides to take Domingo on as her companion - her Renfield. Which is cool with Domingo! An orphan himself, kicked out of his home when he was just thirteen, Domingo longs for a friend and is immediately smitten by Atl. Their bond only makes him that much more determined to do whatever he can to help her in her mission.

Drug wars, vampires, Mexico City and a smidge of history besides, and all set in the very near future, Certain Dark Things is a fabulous read. Fabulous! And highly original! And definitely one I'm recommending to EVERYONE!

Friday, October 21, 2016

What I'm Reading: Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff + a Giveaway

Morning, all! It's been a crazy month here - conferences, conferences, conferences, twitter pitch events, and I'm up to my eyeballs with manuscripts to read. And so though I'd planned a review of Gemina today, I haven't quite finished it yet. It is providing some much needed relaxation (i.e. bathtub) reading though :)

Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.

The saga that began with Illuminae continues on board the space station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of BeiTech’s assault. Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter, Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum may be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival. The fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.

But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.

So yes, this is the follow up to last year's Illuminae. And yes, even though this one does focus on two new characters, you do have to read them in order - Kady is present and the story picks up IMMEDIATELY after the events in Illuminae

I love not only the premise of these, but the overall experience of reading them. The story itself is built as a briefing meant to explain what's happened in the wake of an invasion. So rather than a straightforward narrative, the tale is presented as interviews, surveillance footage, chats, emails, etc. And there's a great design element that goes along with all of that as well: pages that shift between the normal white with black text to black with white text, illustrations, and formatting/design elements to indicate what kind of piece you're looking at (an email, chat, that sort of thing).  

And while the books do appear to be behemoths, each weighing in at about 600 pages, the formatting actually makes for a rather speedy read. As with its predecessor, Gemina has some pages that really have very little in the way of text to read at all. Combined with a gripping story (hate to use such an overused word there, but that's what it is), that framework of compiled documents really does allow the story to move quite quickly. 

So yeah, I'm digging it! 

Thanks to the publisher, I am able to offer up one copy of Gemina for a giveaway. To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, November 7. Open US only and no PO boxes please. 

Short Fiction Friday: Everything Belongs to the Future by Laurie Penny

Imagine what would happen if there was a cure for aging. A bit of the worst is exactly what Laurie Penny imagines in Everything Belongs to the Future. 

Aging is no longer inevitable. Not if you have the money for a daily dose of TeamThreeHundred's little blue pills. And of course only the most wealthy can afford them long term. Alex, Nina, Fidget, Margo, and Jasper are one of many groups who believes the current situation isn't fair. To fight a system they know is rigged, they filch and smuggle those blue pills, handing them out to people who would never afford them otherwise, sharing the wealth that is eternal youth. But even that has it's limits. Bringing one of TeamThreeHundred over to their side, though... That would make the whole enterprise much easier. And that's just the first step in upsetting the imbalance of power and youth. 

Unfortunately for them, their enemy knows exactly what they're up to. 

Everything Belongs to the Future is kind of a bleak tale. A future that is much like the present but for the fact that those in power have the added benefit of eternal life and youth on their side. It's not something I like to dwell on - ostrich, head, sand, all that.

Alex is a spy. He's infiltrated the group and weaseled his way into a top position and a relationship. His motives aren't altruistic - he doesn't go by any moral code or belief in the system. Instead, he's motivated by his reward for spying. And it's a skewed motivation all things considered.

Of course that's the point.

Penny's writing and character development are excellent. The story bounces a bit back and forth with letters from an incarcerated character to various others on the team. Those letters begin to make more sense as the story plays out and as the character's identity becomes clearer. Of course, as with Alex, each character has their own different motivation in the story. And each will likely appeal to different readers for different reasons. I, personally, quite liked Daisy. She's no hero, to be sure, but she's got oomph!

If you like your science fiction with a healthy does of too close to home, Everything Belongs to the Future is for you. And while avoiding the discomfort of the real world gets none of us anywhere, if you find you need a bit more escapism, you've been warned.

Rating: 3.5/5

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Fractured by Catherine McKenzie

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Catherine McKenzie's latest, Fractured.

One year ago, Julie Prentice and her family relocated to the charming Mount Adams area of Cincinnati. The move was supposed to be a chance to start over - anonymously. A chance for Julie and her family to feel safe again. 

Julie, author of the massively popular book The Murder Game, gained notoriety not just as an author but as an outspoken victim of stalking. In an era where internet crime is still a strange gray area, Julie's attempts at restraining orders and a lawsuit didn't leave her protected in the least. But her new home, where no one knows her as Julie Apple, and a security system with failsafes to guarantee someone knows where she is and if an alarm has gone off at all times, initially set her at ease. 

Unfortunately, it took less than twelve months for that ease and sense of security to crumble. 

Ooh, I love it! There's something a bit more voyeuristic than usual about this particular release from McKenzie. First, the plot does hit very close to home in the sense that there's been an increase in online harassment in general and in particular in the literary community. But the behind closed doors look inside Julie and her neighbor John's lives, and the way McKenzie has built the story, feels extremely peeping Tom like. There's almost a sense that you're seeing things you simply aren't meant to in these character's stories.

Of course, that's in part thanks to the way the story plays out. Do you root for Julie or John? It's clear from the beginning that their relationship, which starts off somewhat on the wrong foot anyway, has grown contentious. The story bounces between Julie's move in and one year later where it quickly becomes clear that there's some sort of trial beginning.

Fractured is definitely another win from McKenzie. Longtime readers know I'm a total fan girl, though, considering I've loved all of her books and have been singing her praises since Spin! I do love how the kinds of stories she writes are always changing. Her earliest works are a bit light with romantic twists while her latest stuff has provided keen insight into the deepest secrets and fears of relationships and marriages. Fractured is darker than all of her previous works - though not DARK by any means. But, McKenzie did one extra with this one - she wrote The Murder Game as well!

Yes, there's a companion book to Fractured, Julie Apple's The Murder Game, The Book as it's referred to in Fractured, is real and you can read it November 1!

So yeah, Catherine McKenzie wrote two books this round! And I can't wait to read "Julie's" contribution to the thriller world!

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

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

Purchase Links: Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

How to Keep a Boy From Kissing You by Tara Eglington - Excerpt + Giveaway

Hi, everyone! Tara Eglington's debut doesn't officially hit shelves until October 25, but today I have a very special treat for you: an excerpt and a giveaway! But first, here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

Sweet sixteen and never been kissed . . .

That’s Aurora Skye’s big secret. And the way she wants it to stay. She’s not going to give away her first kiss to just anyone. Busy dodging suitors and matchmaking for her best friends, Aurora (not so) patiently awaits her prince.

But everything changes when Aurora is coerced into a lead role in the school production of Much Ado about Nothing. Which means she’ll have to lock lips with her co-star Hayden Paris—the smart and funny boy next door who also happens to be the bane of her existence, always around to see her at her worst.

Now Aurora is more determined than ever to have her first kiss with the one who’s truly worthy of it. But first she’ll have to figure out just who that person is.

How To Keep a Boy From Kissing You (the first Aurora Skye story) originally released in Australia in 2013. Now we get a crack at it here in the States and it sounds fantastic!

As promised, I have an excerpt to share with you today, courtesy of the publisher. 

How to Keep a Boy From Kissing You
by Tara Eglington

(excerpt from chapter 2)

2 􏰀the glide-by

“How do I look?” Jelena asked.

Cass and I carefully studied her as the three of us stood by the school gate the next morning.

“Amazing, as always,” I replied, looking at Jelena’s long, sleek black hair, navy-blue eyes, and alabaster complexion—features that have longing male gazes following her like children after the Pied Piper. Jelena has an exotic air that I’m convinced comes from her Russian ancestry.

“You’re positive?” she said.

Normally Jelena wouldn’t even consider the possibility that she might look anything other than perfect (and with her looks, it’s com- pletely understandable), but today was a crucial day. A day when an outfit could make or break a girl. The first day back after summer break.

Summer is a transformative time for any teen—just consider the movie Dirty Dancing—and there’s always a touch of uncertainty, a hint of fear, the essence of possibility in the air on the first day of the new school year. The entire social structure of a high school can revolutionize itself in those six short hours. I knew that Jelena wanted to be dead certain that her social status was secure for another year.

Jelena possesses such fabulous qualities as confidence, never- ending energy, and an innovative mind, but she has something of an obsession with being popular. Her goal is to be CEO of an inter- national company in ten years, and she thinks Jefferson High is the perfect place to practice using her influence. Ever heard the phrase “an iron fist in a velvet glove”? Well, that’s Jelena. On many an occa- sion I’ve had to talk her out of implementing a system of serfdom. It’s thanks to her that our group is, as she puts it, “akin to reigning tsars.”

Jelena looked at me critically, gesturing at her form-fitting cream- colored dress. Attending a school where free dress is permitted meant the stakes were especially high. “Are you absolutely sure, stake your future on it, that I look like a teen queen?”

“Yes!” I said. “And Cass, you look fab, too.”

Cassie wore dark denim short shorts, a baby-pink top, and a dia- manté headband atop her fairest-of-fair blond curls. Those curls, along with her fawn-colored eyes, petite features, and voluptuous pout, would probably enable Cass to get away with murder. However, she’s as good as she is beautiful.

“So let’s head on in,” I said. I was dying to see what was new on the first day back.

“I don’t know.” Jelena arched a brow. “It’s important to build an- ticipation.”

“Don’t you want to be the first to check out any new talent?” I asked.

If there’s one word that motivates Jelena, it’s first. She views life as a battleground in which she must be the constant victor.

“Let’s go,” she commanded.

We clicked our identity rings together, a gesture left over from primary school but one we can’t help resurrecting every so often. The rings reflect how we like to see ourselves. Cassie’s ring reads “Angel,” Jelena’s is “Power,” and mine, naturally, is “Princess.” Hayden Paris happened to catch sight of the ring years ago and now refuses to call me anything else. Probably in the hope of embarrassing me. There’s no knowing what goes on in that disturbed mind of his.

We smiled at each other and stepped onto the school grounds. Jelena gave a satisfied nod smile as she did a perimeter scan. “Fantastic. There’s no one capable of challenging our status.”

I spotted Hayden sitting among a group of guys underneath the big pine. Two of them were playing guitar. When Hayden caught sight of me, he sent me a cheeky grin.

“Hayden’s looking at you,” Cassie announced in a singsong voice.

I groaned. “Don’t remind me. He’s probably replaying the image of me sitting in that puddle, again and again, like some sweet reverie.” 

Cass, Jelena, and I are really close, but we also have two other girls who make up our group: Lindsay and Sara. They joined us at our surveillance spot at the edge of the school grounds.
Lindsay is petite, with wavy chestnut locks, dark eyes, and year- round bronzed skin, which half the school is jealous of and attempts to replicate with Ambre Solaire, with varying success rates. The other important thing to know about Lindsay is that she’s part of TylerandLindsay, which isn’t two businesses joined into one super- company but a couple who have been going out for so long and so seriously that the entire student body views them as a single entity. I was surprised that Tyler wasn’t glued to Lindsay’s side. I looked around and saw he was sitting nearby. Lindsay was blowing I-can’t- believe-we’re-separated kisses to him, and he was making a show of catching each one in his palm. Oh, brother.

Lindsay’s identity ring will come as no surprise—it reads “Love.” 

Sara was telling some long, involved story, as usual. “And then they told me that they were discontinuing that brand, so I said, ‘Well, how am I going to manage without it? Youths with significant ex- pendable incomes are looking to this pharmacy to provide different options!’ And then he got all self-righteous and so I demanded to see someone more superior and—”

Sara’s ring reads “Diva.” Everything about her is dramatic—from her bright-red hair to the way she handles situations. To get out of PE last year, Sara didn’t complain of PMS or a strained ankle; in- stead, she fainted and had half the basketball team carry her to the nurse’s office while the other half ran for water and smelling salts. It’s virtually impossible to keep up with her constant level of hyste- ria, so I tune her out when she’s not actually experiencing a real crisis. I think most of us do, to tell you the truth.

“HS.” Jelena’s voice was loud and clear.

We had a hottie spotting.

“Where?” Cass glanced everywhere, not so subtly.

“Don’t make it so obvious!” Jelena hissed. “Twelve o’clock!”

We all looked straight ahead, toward a group of guys from our grade. Among them were two new, highly attractive faces. The one on the left had sun-streaked blond hair and a wide grin that displayed dimples in both cheeks. Even from a distance, his baby blues were very striking.

“Potential Prince,” Cass breathed to me.

The guy on the right had something no other guy in the school had: a goatee. That alone was impressive. He leaned against the brick wall, showing off his muscular arms to perfection. Every so often he’d run his fingers through his dark, perfectly styled hair.

“Guy on the right looks potentially egotistical,” I said.

“Girl standing next to me obviously hit her head when she fell last night, because guy on the right is godly,” Jelena replied.

“Exactly—looking down on the rest of us mere mortals,” I re- torted.

“If he’s conceited, he has every right to be,” Jelena said. “Look at him! Should we approach?”

Sara was still going on with her pharmaceutical sob story, and Lindsay had obviously decided she couldn’t take the separation from her beloved any longer, since she and Tyler were now sharing a swing, so the three of us looked at each other and made a decision.

“High heels?” Cass asked.

“Check!” we all cried.

“Time for the Glide-By,” Jelena said.

The Glide-By, like scarlet lipstick, is based on evolutionary tendencies—though it’s likely Darwin never saw this one coming! In the Glide-By, you wear an eye-catching outfit but pair it with loud shoes. This is because, although a guy’s sight is his primary sense when it comes to attraction, you often need to combine the visual with sound to really make an impact. Back in caveman days, men were trained to focus on their direct line of sight in order to spot prey. This evolutionary tendency is still part of the modern man’s makeup, so he might not pick up on your presence, no matter how gorgeous you are, if you happen to be slightly out of his line of sight.

This is where the loud shoes are vital. They announce your pres- ence. The minute a guy hears a loud sound, such as a pair of heels among the near-silent scuffing of sneakers, he will almost always turn his eyes toward it—an instinct from the days when responding to a sound could mean life or death for him and his tribe. Once his eyes are on you, the gorgeous outfit will have its desired impact. And, if your glide-by is successful and he becomes smitten, he may even learn to recognize the exact sound of your particular heels in a crowd, the way penguins recognize a partner among thou- sands of identical birds.

We headed up the path toward the guys, our heels drumming an ancient arrival call. As we hit the spot, five yards away, all eyes lifted from various Hacky Sack games and skateboard tricks. The boys looked at us; we looked at them. There was this moment of intense silence during which we mutually evaluated each other. The Glide- By was running smoothly so far.

Just when it looked like we would attempt an approach, Cass, Jelena, and I smiled simultaneously, turned abruptly, and headed for the history and arts block. We could feel the gazes following us. The Glide-By was a success.

You should never speak too soon.

“Hey, Princess!” Hayden’s voice boomed out across the school- yard, instantly destroying any intriguing aftereffects of the Glide- By. “When am I going to get my jacket back?”

Huge thanks to St. Martins for setting up the blog tour!

For more on Tara Eglington and her work, you can like Aurora's page on Facebook and follow Tara on Twitter.

As promised, I am giving away a copy of How to Keep a Boy From Kissing You today. To enter simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, October 31. Open US only.

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Sunday, October 16, 2016

New Releases 10/18/16

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Tourist by Robert Dickinson

The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa

The Boy Is Back by Meg Cabot

Dear Amy by Helen Callaghan

IQ by Joe Tide

Pharaoh by Wilbur Smith

Paris for One & Other Stories by Jojo Moyes

The Obsidian Chamber by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

The Next by Stephanie Gangi

Seduced by Randy Wayne White

The Starlit Wood ed by Navah Wolfe & Dominik Parisien

The Supernaturals by David L. Golemon

Sun Born by W. Michael & Kathleen O'Neal Gear

Escape Clause by John Sandford

The Girl From Venice by Martin Cruz Smith

Rains by Gregg Hurwitz

Rose & Thorn by Sarah Prineas

Gemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

What Light by Jay Asher

New on DVD:
Independence Day: Resurgence
Alice Through the Looking Glass

New review at Bookbitch.com:
Otherworld Chills by Kelley Armstrong

Thursday, October 13, 2016

News of the World by Paulette Jiles + a Giveaway

Hi, everyone! I'm off at the Women Writing the West conference right now, which makes today's post pretty appropriate :)

Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Paulette Jiles's National Book Award nominated News of the World.

Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd spends his post war days traveling Texas's northern regions and sharing the news. It's a job he enjoys and takes pride in. One that is important to him. But his knowledge of the state, and his experience as a soldier, are exactly what's in need when Johanna Leonberger is rescued from Kiowa captives. The girl, orphaned and being transported to her only living relatives, doesn't remember her life before the Kiowa. Given the choice, she'd return to her adoptive family. But they no longer want her either. 

And so it's up to Captain Kidd to bring the girl from Wichita City all the way south to San Antonio. Their journey won't be an easy one, but hopefully, Kidd can protect the girl and succeed in his mission. 

News of the World is, if you're a fan of them, a western. If you're not a fan, though, trust me when I say that won't matter one bit! It's a story of survival and a story of friendship. The kind of story that, paired with Jiles's writing, defies genre and will appeal to a wide range of readers.

Set in post Civil War Texas, Kidd and Johanna travel the lands I've heard Paulette Jiles herself calls home and often travels by horseback. It's clear she shares a passion for the Lone Star State's history that Kidd himself would admire. In telling his tale, she has carefully researched the era and setting, drawing on real historical figures in her creation of Kidd and the tale. (Britt is real, for example, and, though fictionalized here, Kidd himself is real as well.)

I've not read all of Jiles's work. My own first time reading her was the quite different post apocalyptic Lighthouse Island. So I didn't know that Britt is a returning character. Fans of The Color of Lightning will no doubt be pleased to see him again, brief though it may be.

I loved the scenery painted by Jiles's prose. I am, somewhat, familiar with modern day Texas but admittedly haven't roamed the countryside that much. The land described here is the land my own great grandparents settled once upon a time. While I doubt they shared any adventures akin to that of Captain Kidd, I can imagine them there on their farm just outside of San Antonio, perhaps waving as Kidd and Johanna pass them on their journey.

And now for the giveaway: I have one hardcover copy to give away to one of you lucky readers today. To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, October 24. Open US only.

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To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here. And for more on Paulette Jiles and her work you can visit her website here.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Abandoned Heart by Laura Benedict

Randolph Bliss is warned against building his home on the land he has his heart set on. But Randolph is nothing if not set in his own ways. And so, Bliss House is built, in all its glory and, for some, terror. 

Kiku, Randolph's young mistress, witnesses the home while still in progress. She is brought from New York to Old Gate in the house's early days to provide comfort and more to the rich businessman.  And even though she is set apart from the family and the main house, hidden away in the property's woods in a home of her own, she is still privy to Randolph's deepest and darkest depravities. And she isn't the only one. Amelia, Randolph's first wife, and young Lucy, Randolph's second wife, each become chained to Bliss and victim to his dark appetites and worse.  

Readers, I've been dying to share this one with you! The Abandoned Heart marks the latest in Laura Benedict's twisted and chilling Bliss House series. And it's also the beginning of the house's story, taking readers back to its very earliest days and it's first inhabitants.

Bliss House is a house that was definitely born bad. The locals even warned against the property itself. Not that that would matter, all things considered. Randolph Bliss is not a good man at heart. Of course, if you've read the series then you already know that!

If you haven't read the series, you can very safely start with The Abandoned Heart. As mentioned, it's the earliest story of Bliss House, beginning in the late 1800s with Randolph's first visit to Old Gate. And while the series is focused around a haunted house, it is essentially the story of the various women that have inhabited (and in many cases were victims of) the house.

Here we meet Kiku, a teenaged prostitute purchased by Randolph Bliss. She sees Bliss House as something of a salvation at first. She was kidnapped from her home, brought to the states, and forced into servitude at the brothel where she eventually met Randolph Bliss. Her story begins, for us, with the train ride to Virginia. And of course she quickly comes to learn that Bliss House is no salvation at all.

Amelia was convinced she was bound to be a spinster when she met and was wooed by Randolph. And it couldn't have come at a better time for her parents, who were beginning to be in dire need of funds. But Amelia views her daughter, Tamora, as the punishment she deserves for allowing herself to be drawn in by her husband.

And poor Lucy. The sheltered daughter of the local preacher, Lucy is immediately smitten with Bliss House and its widowed owner thanks to her father forbidding her contact with either. She is, as we soon learn, fairly doomed from the start.

Of course all three are, in the beginning, only introduced to the mostly society accepted behaviors of Randolph Bliss. He hides his deeper evils from all three and what they do witness is shrugged off and excused to varying degrees. Just like Bliss House itself, the facade of Randolph Bliss is one of security and even affection.

The Abandoned Heart is a dark read. The whole series is, if you haven't gathered. It's a worthy end - or beginning - to the series. I had the opportunity to read it over the summer and have had to bite my tongue ever since!

Readers, this series is dark, dark, dark. Twisted almost doesn't begin to cover it. And yet, the allure of the story is too much to resist. Benedict is a wonderful writer, weaving a web of mystery, devastation, and yes, depravity, exploring human and supernatural horrors alike. My only complaint is that there isn't any more to look forward to!

Rating: 5/5

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Yesternight by Cat Winters + a Giveaway

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Cat Winters's latest, Yesternight.

It's 1925 and Alice Lind would love to go to grad school to study psychology. Unfortunately, the path for women scholars isn't an easy one and so she's taken a job with the Department of Education, traveling to various schools in order to test the students and ensure they're getting the educational resources they need. It means a lot of time on the road, but it also means valuable experience she might one day be able to use as ammunition in applying to get her PhD. 

Alice doesn't flinch from difficult cases. In fact, she prides herself on finding the psychological roots to some of the most problematic children's issues. But the tiny town of Gordon Bay offers a real challenge: a seven-year-old girl who claims to remember her past life. The girl's stories are incredibly detailed and come paired with an aptitude for mathematics that Alice believes is genius level. But is the girl really remembering a past life or is someone feeding her stories for attention?

I love Cat Winters. Her combination of eerie supernatural elements and historical fiction make for the kind of books I want to devour in one sitting! And of course then I immediately regret not having more.

Alice is a fabulously enjoyable character. She's a psychologist in 1925! She's got some paranoia issues and a past that she's desperate to keep hidden, all the while trying desperately to understand it. But she's no shrinking violet. She's not afraid to go after what she wants.

Again, Gordon Bay proves to be a challenge for her. Alice doesn't believe in the supernatural one bit. But this case forces her to widen her scope and consider the fact that maybe the girl is telling the truth. But in order to find out as much as she can, she has to find a balance between a father who seems willing to do anything to help his child and a mother who is afraid of losing the girl to an institution.

And the girl's story is a mystery as well. If it's to be believed, a nineteen-year-old was murdered in the tiny town of Friendly, Kansas! In spite of the fact her investigating possible reincarnation could seriously damage her credibility as a psychologist, Alice feels an obligation to help the girl.

Like I said, I love Cat Winters's work and Yesternight proved to be an excellent addition to my growing collection of her titles.

Yesternight is the perfect blend of creepy atmosphere and gothic elements. And the historical aspects are, as always, utterly fabulous!

Rating: 5/5

And now for the giveaway: to throw your name in the hat for a copy of your very own, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, October 24. Open US only.

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

For more on Cat Winters and her work you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Sunday, October 9, 2016

New Releases 10/11/16

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Graveyard Apartment by Mariko Koike

Hagseed by Margaret Atwood

Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta

The Abandoned Heart by Laura Benedict

Crimson Death by Laurell K. Hamilton

A Conspiracy of Ravens by Lila Bowen

A Soldier's Revenge by Matthew Dunn

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

A Terrible Beauty by Tasha Alexander

A Most Novel Revenge by Ashley Weaver

The Comet Seekers by Helen Sedgwick

The Mothers by Brit Bennett

Order to Kill by Vince Flynn

Death Among Rubies by R. J. Koreto

The Witch House of Persimmon Point by Suzanne Palmieri

Treachery's Tools by L. E. Modesitt Jr.

Bridget Jones's Baby: The Diaries by Helen Fielding

Triple Crown by Felix Francis

Beast by Brie Spangler

Black Widow: Red Vengeance by Margaret Stohl

The Midnight Star by Marie Lu

Frost by M.P. Kozlowsky

The Weight of Zero by Karen Fortunati

Still Life With Tornado by A. S. King

The Singing Bones by Shaun Tan

In Case You Missed It by Sarah Darer Littman

New on DVD:
The Legend of Tarzan
The Infiltrator

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
Brain Storm by Elaine Viets

Friday, October 7, 2016

Short Fiction Friday: The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson

Vellitt Boe is quite happy with her life. Her adventuring days long behind her, she now spends her time teaching and molding young minds as a professor at Ulthar Women's College. But all of that changes when one her students disappears. 

Rumors suggest the student has made off with a man from the waking world, and though it's rare for someone from the dream lands to cross into that other plane it seems that's exactly what the student and her beau have planned. Vellitt knows that if they succeed, the results could be quite bad for the college. But it's not until she begins her quest that she learns exactly how disastrous losing this student might be. 

I seem to be in the midst of a stubborn bout of insomnia. Double insomnia - I always have the I'm-asleep-but-not-actually-fully-resting insomnia. Now I'm having some of the I'm-fully-awake-and-can't-fall-back-to-sleep insomnia too. Fun times!

So it was a bit appropriate then that I cracked open this novella at 2am and found that it was set in a fabulously built dream land! The kind of land you want to sink into and never leave. The kind of land (and story) that, in the deft hands of Kij Johnson, makes it a little more ok to be unable to sleep.

Vellitt Boe was, once upon a time, a traveler and adventurer, so it seems she's the obvious choice to head off in search of her missing student. Her plan is to follow the student, in hopes of catching up to her, to a the Gate of Deeper Slumber. If she can stop the young lovers before they cross, all will be well.

And of course, as is the case with any quest, nothing goes as planned.

Fortunately for Vellitt, her experiences on the road and the wisdom gained from her travels, long past they may be, haven't fully left her. As hurdle after hurdle gets thrown her way, she finds solution after solution and is able to continue against all odds. Granted, the possible and likely impending total destruction of your home and everything/one you love is certainly motivation, but Vellitt finds she enjoys the return to the road as well.

Hers is a world that doesn't really afford much freedom for women. Even the college is a luxury that is tenuously allowed. And this is just one of the plays Johnson has made on a tale that is based straight out of Lovecraft.

If you caught my review of Ellen Datlow's new Children of Lovecraft anthology, then you may have seen the interview Johnson and two fellow Tor.com authors did with Barnes and Noble recently on rewriting and reclaiming Lovecraft. Additionaly, Wired recently ran this piece on Johnson and "Spinning Lovecraft Into a Feminist Dream Quest." (There's a link in the piece to the Geek's Guide to the Galaxy podcast featuring Johnson as well.)

The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe is a fabulous and fantastical tale. As I said, the world is amazing - and based on Lovecraft's created world in "The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath," which features Randolph Carter. Don't worry, though, if you haven't read the original tale that so inspired Johnson's recent release. She's taken the world and definitely made it her own, populating it with (as is not the case in Lovecraft) women of great spirit and depth!

I highly, highly recommend this one, even if you aren't sharing in my need for distraction during the wee hours. The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe makes for great reading at any hour.

Rating: 5/5

They Were Like Family to Me by Helen Maryles

Good morning, readers! Today I'm part of the TLC blog tours book blast for Helen Maryles's They Were Like Family To Me.

Here's a bit about the book from the publisher:

Critically praised, beloved by readers, In the Land of Armadillos has an evocative new cover and title, They Were Like Family to Me. Now in Paperback! Available October 4.

1942. With the Nazi Party at the height of its power, the occupying army empties Poland's towns and cities of their Jewish citizens. As neighbor turns on neighbor and survival often demands unthinkable choices, Poland has become a moral quagmire—a place of shifting truths and blinding ambiguities.

Blending folklore and fact, Helen Maryles Shankman shows us the people of Wlodawa, a remote Polish town. We meet a cold-blooded SS officer dedicated to rescuing the Jewish creator of his son's favorite picture book; a Messiah who appears in a little boy's bedroom to announce that he is quitting; a young Jewish girl who is hidden by the town's most outspoken anti-Semite—and his talking dog. And walking among these tales are two unforgettable figures: silver-tongued Willy Reinhart, commandant of the forced labor camp who has grand schemes to protect "his" Jews, and Soroka, the Jewish saddlemaker, struggling to survive.

Channeling the mythic magic of classic storytellers like Sholem Aleichem and Isaac Bashevis Singer and the psychological acuity of modern-day masters like Nicole Krauss and Nathan Englander, They Were Like Family to Me is a testament to the persistence of humanity in the most inhuman conditions.

“One of the most original and consistently captivating short story collections to have appeared in recent years…(They Were Like Family to Me) is a singularly inventive collection of chilling stark realism enhanced by the hallucinatory ingredient of top-drawer magical realism, interrogating the value of art, storytelling, and dreams in a time of peril and presenting hard truths with wisdom, magic, and grace.” —Jewish Book Council

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

For more on Helen Maryles and her work you can visit her website here. You can also follow her in Twitter and Pinterest.

Purchase Links: Amazon | Books a Million | Barnes & Noble

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Devil Sent the Rain by Lisa Turner

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Lisa Turner's second Billy Able mystery, Devil Sent the Rain.

Caroline Lee was something of a society darling. The daughter of a well known and well respected family, and a high priced lawyer to boot. She was also, once upon a time, the woman Detective Billy Able was in love with. 

And now she's dead. Murdered, to be exact, and Billy is on the case. 

It's one that will test the detective and push him to his limits as he tries to separate his personal feelings from the investigation. But as more and more secrets about Caroline's life are revealed, the case becomes more complicated and more twisted than Billy ever would have thought. 

As noted above, this is the second title in Turner's Billy Able series, which kicked off last year with The Gone Dead Train. Fortunately, Devil Sent the Rain does work well as a starting point if you happen to have missed that first outing. There are some allusions to the case featured in that first title, but nothing hinges directly on it or spoils the mystery should you decide to read them in reverse.

I quite enjoyed this one. Turner imbues the story with a wonderful Deep South feel (and the darkness of the Deep South as well). And while Billy Able is billed as the star of the series, his partner Frankie is equally developed and just as fascinating.

Since I haven't yet read Gone Dead Train, I can only assume that Able's past is fleshed out much more significantly in this second outing. The case is intertwined with his own personal history - his father owned a cafe that the Lees frequented throughout the years, which is how he and Caroline initially met. As the case unfolds, so do more of their connected backgrounds, giving readers a look into two very different family histories from two very different sides of the tracks.

Turner does well in organically weaving both the past and present together - for the purposes of the overall mystery, of course, but also giving readers enough information about Able to really make them connect with him. And to want to know more about him! It's something the best series writers are able to do, getting readers invested in the characters so that they want and crave more. And she's certainly accomplished that here - The Gone Dead Train is in my immediate TBR and I will definitely be looking forward to more in this series down the line!

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

For more on Lisa Turner and her work you can visit her website. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Instagram.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Monday, October 3, 2016

Briar Rose by Jane Yolen

Fairy tale retellings may be all the rage right now, but once upon a time - way back in the 80s (wink, wink) - editor Terry Windling conceived of and commissioned a series of retellings for Tor. Each installment in the series was penned by a different author, renowned and admired in the fantasy genre.

Earlier this year, Tor Teen rereleased one of those titles: Jane Yolen's Briar Rose.

Becca grew up with her grandmother's stories but one always stood out amongst the rest - that of Briar Rose, or Sleeping Beauty. The tale isn't quite like that of movie fame. In fact, it seems to have twists to it that are unique to Gemma herself. But just how unique isn't clear until after her death. 

See, in her final moments Gemma insists that she is Briar Rose - a princess who lived in a castle and was the only one to survive a terrible sleeping curse. In the moments before her death, she makes Becca promise she will find the castle and the legacy that is now hers. And it's a promise Becca intends to keep, even when it takes her back to one of the worst atrocities in all of history. 

The new edition includes a foreword by Windling herself and an introduction by Yolen, both of which make it clear exactly how this twist on the classic was conceived. And it's an interesting twist indeed - here, Sleeping Beauty is set not in medieval times but in Poland, during WWII. The castle is real - a schloss that Yolen had read about and fortuitously came across mention of again in the aftermath of Windling's approach about a book. An extermination camp called Chelmno, that apparently only four people survived.

This version of Briar Rose is an awful tale because of the truth in it. But it's also a wonderful retelling, too. And one that makes complete and utter sense in it's conception and execution.

Becca's journey into her own family's history illustrates just how complex a family history can be. They know little about her grandmother's history except when she came to the United States. Of course they're all certain that her insistence she's a real Sleeping Beauty is just a figment of an aging mind. And yet...

Yolen does a wonderful job with a subject that is both emotionally difficult and sensitive. Definitely recommended!!!

Rating: 5/5

It's my understanding that quite a few of the series titles have been rereleased in years since, though sadly at least one appears to be out of print. Here's the full list if you're interested in tracking them down:

The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars by Steven Brust
The Nightingale by Kara Dalkey
Briar Rose by Jane Yolen
Snow White and Rose Red by Patricia C. Wrede
Tam Lin by Pamela Dean
Jack of Kinrowan by Charles de Lint
White as Snow by Tanith Lee
Fitcher's Brides by Gregory Frost

Sunday, October 2, 2016

New Releases 10/4/16

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

News of the World by Paulette Jiles

Feed by Mira Grant

Crosstalk by Connie Willis

Little Boy Blue by M. J. Arlidge

The Trespasser by Tana French

The Wall of Storms by Ken Liu

A City Dreaming by Daniel Polansky

Friday on my Mind by Nicci French

Otherworld Chills by Kelley Armstrong

The Apartment by S.L. Grey

Fractured by Catherine McKenzie

Without Mercy by Jefferson Bass

All Your Wishes by Cat Adams

By Gaslight by Steven Price

Coffin Road by Peter May

The Heavens May Fall by Allen Eskens

Ghost Times Two by Carolyn G. Hart

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple

The Wangs Vs the World by Jade Chang

Vanished by Tim Weaver

Winter Storms by Elin Hilderbrand

Crossing the Horizon by Laurie Notaro

Legacy of the Demon by Diana Rowland

The Rift: Uprising by Amy S. Foster

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

Nemesis by Anna Banks

A Darkly Beating Heart by Lindsay Smith

Goldenhand by Garth Nix

Children of Eden by Joey Graceffa

The Black Key by Amy Ewing

Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig

Black Flowers White Lies by Yvonne Ventresca

Aerie by Maria Dahvana Headley

Something In Between by Melissa de la Cruz

New on DVD:
X-Men Apocalypse
The Purge Election Year
Swiss Army Man
Into the Forest