Sunday, April 30, 2017

New Releases 5/2/17

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

Invisible Dead by Sam Wiebe

The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion

Goodnight From London by Jennifer Robson

I'll Eat When I'm Dead by Barbara Bourland

Skitter by Ezekiel Boone

What My Body Remembers by Agnette Fries

The Original Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig

The Jane Austen Secret by Kathleen Flynn

The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman

My Life With Bob by Pamela Paul

The Boy on the Bridge by M. R. Carey

The Baker's Secret by Stephen P. Kiernan

The Scattering by Kimberly McCreight

The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

Dreamfall by Amy Plum

Kill All Happies by Rachel Cohn

The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein

Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith

New on DVD:

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
The Last Night at Tremore Beach by Mikel Santiago
Gone Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Pre Pub Book Buzz: Y is for... by Sue Grafton

Holy moly it's almost time for another Kinsey Millhone mystery! Of course that means we'll be one more title closer to the series ending, which makes me sad. But I still can't wait to get my hands on this one.

Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

The darkest and most disturbing case report from the files of Kinsey Millhone, Y begins in 1979, when four teenage boys from an elite private school sexually assault a fourteen-year-old classmate—and film the attack. Not long after, the tape goes missing and the suspected thief, a fellow classmate, is murdered. In the investigation that follows, one boy turns state’s evidence and two of his peers are convicted. But the ringleader escapes without a trace.

Now, it’s 1989 and one of the perpetrators, Fritz McCabe, has been released from prison. Moody, unrepentant, and angry, he is a virtual prisoner of his ever-watchful parents—until a copy of the missing tape arrives with a ransom demand. That’s when the McCabes call Kinsey Millhone for help. As she is drawn into their family drama, she keeps a watchful eye on Fritz. But he’s not the only one being haunted by the past. A vicious sociopath with a grudge against Millhone may be leaving traces of himself for her to find…

Oooooh, the darkest and most disturbing!? I've fangirled over this series since the blog started, so hopefully each and every one of you has sought out Grafton's mysteries by now. But if you still haven't, Y isn't due out until August...

My bookseller pitch for these was always this: Sue Grafton said when she started the series, fresh off a divorce, all she could think about were all the ways she wanted to kill her ex. And so she began writing. 

The series is set in the 80s and features Kinsey Millhone, a clever and feisty PI with a penchant for quarter pounders and pb and pickle sandwiches. Each and every installment is brilliantly plotted - trust me, when I began them my senior year in high school I'd start one at midnight and turn in around 2 or 3 am when I'd finished, diving into the next one that very night! It's my very favorite series and while I used to have some comps (Linda Barnes, Jan Burke, and early Janet Evanovich), these days nothing new has come along to quite fill the Kinsey void that's coming. 

Friday, April 28, 2017

Short Fiction Friday: All Systems Red by Martha Wells

Tuesday marks the release of All Systems Red, the start of Martha Wells's newest series, The Murderbot Diaries. And if the name of the series isn't enough to catch your attention, maybe this review will!

It calls itself Murderbot. A SecUnit, assigned to protect a group of scientists involved in mapping and studying a mostly unknown planet, Murderbot spends her ample downtime binge watching shows. Of course, in order to do that in the first place, this unit had to hack her governor module. Which means it's pretty much autonomous - something its clients and the company can never find out.

Built for protection and defence, the SecUnit is a combination of organic and mechanical parts. Typically, orders and upgrades are downloaded directly, much as that of a computer. But because Murderbot has hacked its system, it can pick and choose. Which may choose to be a saving grace for both Murderbot and its humans.

All Systems Red immediately caught my attention. The synopsis, the cover art, and the always present fact that the Tor.com novellas have in large part been some of my favorite reading of late. The promise was one of fabulousness and Wells definitely came through.

Murderbot is an android. It has human pieces and robot pieces and, as we learn, a mind of its own. The people around it, as we learn, don't really understand what the 'droids are or what they're capable of. And it's clear that Murderbot's own owners (the Company) are in the same boat.

Whether others are capable of the same is unclear as Murderbot is our narrator. What is clear is that in this case, the people its been tasked to protect are a bit unlike others its worked with before. And when Murderbot saves one of them, they begin to warm to it in ways its not sure it really likes.

Of course part of the fun in this tale is the fact that Wells humanizes Murderbot. I mean, it binge watches TV! And it forms its own opinions - opinions about the people it's tasked to protect, people it's worked for in the past, even the situation on the planet. Some of that is programmed, sure, but it does become very clear early on that Murderbot has thought and even emotion capabilities well beyond what can be explained by simple programming.

I loved All Systems Red and certainly don't want to spoil the fun for you! Murderbot definitely joins the ranks of favorite 'droids and bots in SF, though, and I'm dying to read more of its "diaries."

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Red Leaves by Paullina Simons

Hello, all! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Paullina Simons's latest, Red Leaves.

I'm short on time so I have to go with the Goodreads synopsis here:

As the star player of Dartmouth College’s women’s basketball team, Kristina Kim is beautiful, intelligent, and fearless. But though she’s just 21, Kristina has already had her share of heartache, loss, and dark secrets that haunt her. She’s best friends with Conni, Albert, and Jim, but the only one who seems to really know her is Albert. With long dark hair, tattoos, and a rebellious streak, Albert doesn’t fit in with the rest of the clean-cut Ivy Leaguers. Like Kristina, he has his share of secrets—secrets that are beginning to unravel this intimate circle of friends.

One wintry Thanksgiving weekend tragedy strikes...

When Detective Spencer O’Malley goes to investigate something suspicious at the foot of a steep hill on Dartmouth’s campus, he doesn’t expect that the frozen, naked body found in deep snow would belong to Kristina Kim—the remarkable young woman he met recently who entranced him. Now Spencer will never know if the chemistry he had with her was real. All he can do is find her killer.

Spencer is pulled into the strange, complex web of the surviving friends. Many important questions about Kristina’s murder cannot be answered, such as: why did none of them report her missing for nine days before her body was discovered? The more Spencer digs, the more clear it becomes that each of the three has a motive for killing Kristina. And as Spencer, seeking justice for a dead girl, is led down a labyrinth of deceit, every new revelation proves more shocking than the last….and more dangerous.

This is a bit of a break from what you might have read by Simons before: a mystery set around the death of a star college basketball player.

Kristina Kim is talented and pretty, a college student at Dartmouth who works part time at a facility for pregnant teens. To an outsider, she seems to have it all, but as the reader learns pretty immediately, she's got plenty of secrets.

Her friends are the prime suspects when Kristina turns up dead, and Detective Spencer O'Malley is determined to the point of stubborn doggedness to fine out who killed her. As the story progresses, it seems each of the other members of Kristina's close knit group could have been the one who murdered her.

I was excited at the prospect of a suspense thriller from such a beloved author, but I'll be honest, this one just did not work for me. The prose felt wooden and overly worked. There was so much minutia throughout that I found myself drifting as I was reading, unable to concentrate and never sucked into the story.

We are given an in depth look into Kristina, Spencer, and the three friends/suspects throughout the book. Simons does a good job of twisting the story in a way that the ultimate reveal is a surprise, but it was slow going to the point of being dry getting there.

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

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

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Doctor Who + Roger Hargreaves

Oh, you guys! Doctor Who is back and I could not be happier. We're two eps into the new season (as well as the brand new spin off Class) and it's fab so far - as is the Doctor's new companion, Bill Potts! Oh, the anticipation of hearing her observation that the TARDIS is BIGGER ON THE INSIDE!

This week marks another new addition to the Doctor Who universe, these tiny little beauties from Penguin:

The series kicks off with these four installments, but not to worry there are four more due out this year (Doctors two, seven, eight, and nine, in fact).

The books are written and illustrated by Adam Hargreaves, in the style of his father, Roger Hargreaves, and the Mr. Men series and there's a ton of merch beyond the books (check out the BBC store). I'd love to get my hot little hands on some plushies... but if you happen to know me, a shirt would be a great bday gift (hint, hint, family).

If you know someone who needs a little Doctor Who happiness in their life, these cuties are perfect for big and little Whovians alike and feature a plethora of sidekicks and villains. I especially love how true the little stories are to each of the Doctor's various personalities!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Guest Post - Alyssa Polombo + a Giveaway

Happy Book Birthday to Alyssa Polombo! Her latest, The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence: A Story of Botticelli officially hits shelves today and I am pleased as punch to be able to welcome her to the blog today!

I am giving away a copy of The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence as well, so be sure to read through to the end to enter to win.

Before I hand things over to Alyssa, though, here's a bit about the book to whet your appetite:

A girl as beautiful as Simonetta Cattaneo never wants for marriage proposals in 15th Century Italy, but she jumps at the chance to marry Marco Vespucci. Marco is young, handsome and well-educated. Not to mention he is one of the powerful Medici family’s favored circle.

Even before her marriage with Marco is set, Simonetta is swept up into Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici’s glittering circle of politicians, poets, artists, and philosophers. The men of Florence—most notably the rakish Giuliano de’ Medici—become enthralled with her beauty. That she is educated and an ardent reader of poetry makes her more desirable and fashionable still. But it is her acquaintance with a young painter, Sandro Botticelli, which strikes her heart most. Botticelli immediately invites Simonetta, newly proclaimed the most beautiful woman in Florence, to pose for him. As Simonetta learns to navigate her marriage, her place in Florentine society, and the politics of beauty and desire, she and Botticelli develop a passionate intimacy, one that leads to her immortalization in his masterpiece, The Birth of Venus.

Alyssa Palombo’s The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence vividly captures the dangerous allure of the artist and muse bond with candor and unforgettable passion.

Historical fiction fans, this should definitely be your next read!

And now over to Alyssa!

As you can probably tell, based on the settings of my first two novels, I really love Italy. This love, for me, comes from a few different places, because truthfully I loved Italy way before I ever went there.

Based on my last name, I’m sure it’s no surprise that I am of Italian descent myself. I don’t know too much about the Italian side of my family – they didn’t talk much about their roots – but I know we are from northern Italy somewhere and that my great-grandparents came to the US through Ellis Island before WWII. So certainly a part of my interest in Italy comes in part from the fact that I have roots there, and that its history is my heritage. I keep meaning to start a genealogy project of some kind to learn more about my Italian ancestry – someday soon I will make the time!

Obviously, I’ve always had an interest in history, and my interest in Italian history specifically came about in my later teens. I had read all about the Tudors by then – so much that I started to get kind of sick of them – and so began reading a lot of historical fiction set in other eras. A few books set in Italy during different periods really sealed the deal for me, and from there I sought out nonfiction about different periods and historical figures in Italian history. What I found is that Italian history – especially of the Renaissance period – is absolutely fascinating. It’s peopled with ruthless politicians like Lorenzo de’ Medici, Niccolo Machiavelli, and Rodrigo and Cesare Borgia; the great artistic masters like da Vinci, Michelangelo, Botticelli, and Raphael; and exceptional and powerful women like Caterina Sforza and Isabella d’Este. There’s more sex and scandal and violence to be found than in Game of Thrones. I was completely engrossed in the history I was reading, and found it to be both informative and entertaining.

In addition, as a musician – I did a music minor in college and focused on classical voice – many of my favorite composers are Italian, and indeed opera was created by the Italians. This gave me another avenue through which to explore Italy’s history and legacy.

Then, of course, I started writing The Violinist of Venice and did a lot of research into 18th century Venice and composer Antonio Vivaldi, and Italian Baroque music more broadly. This is a period of history I didn’t know too much about prior to doing research for the novel, and I found Venice to be a place that completely captured my imagination.

It wasn’t until I was between the second and third drafts of The Violinist of Venice that I finally went to Italy, the country I’d been dreaming about for years by that time. I went to Venice, of course, to gather information for the novel, but on that same trip I also went to Florence and Rome as well. I’ve been back to both Venice and Florence since – the former simply because it is my absolute favorite place in the world, and the latter to do research for The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence – and I am still completely enamored of Italy. I love the language – I know enough to make my way around, order food, and also to have a very operatic and dramatic lovers’ quarrel if need be – I love the people, I love the landscape and the way each city and region is so individual and unique, I love the architecture, and of course I love the food and wine. But I also really love that Italy is a country with such a deep appreciation for its history, and for its exceptional artistic legacy.

Modern-day Italy is certainly a country with many problems, as in truth is any nation. Yet it is very much a place that inspires me and that I feel a deep connection to, and I am proud to be Italian myself. 

About the author: ALYSSA PALOMBO is also the author of The Violinist of Venice. She has published short fiction pieces in Black Lantern Magazine and The Great Lakes Review. She is a recent graduate of Canisius College with degrees in English and creative writing, respectively. A passionate music lover, she is a classically trained musician as well as a big fan of heavy metal. The Violinist of Venice is her first novel. She lives in Buffalo, New York.

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

Huge thanks to Alyssa for being here today and to the publicist for setting up this guest post!

The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence is out on shelves now.

And now for the giveaway: to enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter before Monday, May 8. Open US only.

Good luck!

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Monday, April 24, 2017

The Day I Died by Lori Rader-Day + a Giveaway

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Lori Rader-Day's latest, The Day I Died.

When a young child and his mother go missing, the police ask for Anna Winger's help in analyzing the note left behind. A handwriting specialist, Anna often helps with human relations and what she calls her lonelyhearts - those asking for Anna's opinion on a loved one's handwriting. It happens less often, but it's not rare for Anna to consult on a criminal investigation. 

What is rare is for Anna to get wrapped up in said investigation. But something about this one nags at her - the missing mother, the most obvious suspect in what the police are calling a kidnapping, is a woman who reminds Anna of herself. A woman Anna hopes got away from whatever her handwriting indicated she was frightened of. What Anna isn't so sure of is whether the mom took the toddler with her. And when the toddler's babysitter turns up murdered, she suspects the worst. 

Anna is an interesting character. She's jumpy and easily shaken, moving her little family of two around at the earliest sign of discovery. Discovery of her true identity, that is. See Anna is running from something herself. Something that forces her to pick up and relocate frequently.

But while Anna is mostly happy in her life, her thirteen-year-old son is not.

So Anna has complications in her personal life already when she's asked to consult on this case. And again, she makes great effort not only to not get involved, but to not get attached. She has no real friends and nothing ever tying her to any one place.

As the story unfolds, we learn more about Anna (Leeanna) her reason for constantly moving starts to become more clear, as does her increasing certainty that the mother in the missing child case isn't the culprit. But as the case progresses, her son Joshua begins acting out more and more and Anna's concentration is wavering. She thinks it's time to move again, she's sure her secrets have been found out, and it begins affecting her ability to do her job.

Of course the case becomes more complicated (see dead babysitter) and then the local sheriff begins asking for more and more of Anna's time.

Handwriting analysis is something I've come across only a few times so far. It's a fascinating science, one that adds to Anna's fearfulness - imagine if you could see anger and frustration otherwise hiding in those around you? Anna even takes pains not to look at her own son's handwriting. And to be fair, he takes pains not to let her see it - as do others - out of obvious fear of what Anna might glean.

I quite enjoyed this latest (my first) from Rader-Day. The pacing was great, a bit more of a slow burn than I'd expected but it worked perfectly for the story. There were, I felt, a few hiccups in the plot. Places where various threads came together a bit too fast and without being fully developed, but not to the point that it affected my overall enjoyment of the read.

All in all, The Day I Died is a solid thriller with a great heroine and Lori Rader-Day is definitely someone I'll be reading more of!

And now for the giveaway: to enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, May 8. Open US only. Easy peasy!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

For more on Lori Rader-Day and her work you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Sunday, April 23, 2017

New Releases 4/25/17

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

I Found You by Lisa Jewell

Burntown by Jennifer McMahon

Beartown bt Fredrik Backman

The Ship by Antonia Honeywell

Dogs of War by Jonathan Maberry

The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence by Alyssa Palombo

The Whole Thing Together by Ann Brashares

North of Happy by Adi Alsaid

New on DVD:
The Girl With All the Gifts
Underworld: Blood Wars
La La Land

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Pre Pub Book Buzz: Bloodprint by Ausma Zehanat Khan

Man, Harper Voyager is just killing it lately with the must reads! Today's title is a bit of a change for the author. You may know Ausma Zehanat Khan for her Rachel Getty/Esa Khattak series, and so it may surprise you to find out that her next release isn't in fact book four of that series, but the beginning of a completely new fantasy series.

Here's a bit about Bloodprint, book one in the Khorasan Archives series, from Goodreads:

A dark power called the Talisman has risen in the land, born of ignorance and persecution. Led by a man known only known as the One-eyed Preacher, it is a cruel and terrifying movement bent on world domination—a superstitious patriarchy that suppresses knowledge and subjugates women. And it is growing.

But there are those who fight the Talisman's spread, including the Companions of Hira, a diverse group of influential women whose power derives from the Claim—the magic inherent in the words of a sacred scripture. Foremost among them is Arian and her apprentice, Sinnia, skilled warriors who are knowledgeable in the Claim. This daring pair have long stalked Talisman slave-chains, searching for clues and weapons to help them battle their enemy’s oppressive ways. Now, they may have discovered a miraculous symbol of hope that can destroy the One-eyed Preacher and his fervid followers: The Bloodprint, a dangerous text the Talisman has tried to erase from the world.

Finding a copy of The Bloodprint promises to be their most dangerous undertaking yet, an arduous journey that will lead them deep into Talisman territory. Though they will be helped by allies—a loyal ex-slave and Arian’s former confidante and sword master—both Arian and Sinnia know that this mission may well be their last.

This sounds beyond amazing! 

Bloodprint is due out in October from Harper Voyager, but it is available for preorder online now!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Ragdoll by Daniel Cole

William "Wolf" Fawkes is notorious for taking down the bad guys. And not in a good way. After a suspect Fawkes was convinced was a serial killer was handed a verdict that would allow him to walk, Fawkes attacked the man. It would have meant the end of his career had the man not been caught shortly after the assault standing over another victim. 

Fawkes's vindication was bittersweet considering it meant the loss of a child. And though that vindication meant some leniency for the officer, Fawkes's actions couldn't go unpunished. 

Now, back on the job and under a very watchful eye, Fawkes is called to a bizarre and twisted scene: a body, posed in a building overlooking Fawkes's own apartment, stitched together from pieces of six different victims. In the hours after the discovery, Fawkes's own ex wife, a well known reporter, is handed a list of targets the killer will go after next. With the clock ticking, Fawkes and the rest of the London Met team will have to piece together the clues to identify the initial six victims in hopes of finding something that will lead them to the killer - all the while trying to keep more targets safe under lock and key. 

I wanted to love Daniel Cole's debut. It's dark and gritty and features a number of flawed characters, not the least of which is Fawkes himself.

Unfortunately, the characters, with the exception of one, felt thin at best. And each time I thought we'd get deeper into their individual stories and motivations, Cole pulled back. For me, it seemed too much of the focus was on shocking the reader with the next twist and the next bloody bit of evidence, rather than building a cast of characters interesting enough to carry a series.

Now, don't get me wrong. I do love dark twists, and Ragdoll has them in spades. From the discovery of the first crime scene all the way to the very end, Cole does a great job with all that darkness. But the true shocks sadly fall flat because I couldn't rally behind the characters. I needed that extra piece - that depth - to truly invest myself in the book. And the twist, while I thought it was a great one, came too late to be all that believable or effective for me.

Ragdoll had a lot of promise and it is the first in a series. I liked it well enough to read more, but I do hope the next book will pack more of an emotional punch.

Rating: 2.5/5

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Ararat by Christopher Golden

When an earthquake reveals a hidden cave high on the side of Turkey's Mount Ararat, historians and explorers are certain it could finally mean the discovery of the Ark of legend. Meryam and Adam are willing to put off planning their upcoming wedding to be the first to the cave, securing the discovery and its documentation as their own.

But the adventure and find of a lifetime take an odd turn when the crew uncovers remains that defy all explanation. Specialists, including Ben Walker - a member of the National Science Foundation (a front for his real position at DARPA) -, are flown in to help just before a looming storm is set to hit. With everything Walker has seen and experienced, he considers himself a pro at handling strange. But Ararat is unlike anything he's ever experienced.

As the weather descends, the crew begins to turn on one another. Is it the madness and obsession that comes with such a massive discovery? Or something else?

I was dying to get my hands on a copy of Christopher Golden's latest. Pitched as the perfect read for fans of Dan Simmons's The Terror, it certainly seemed right up my alley.

And it was, to an extent.

The mountain setting, the pending storm, the avalanche that sets everything up, not to mention obvious tension between the Turkish guides and Meryam and Adam. Oh, and tension between Meryam and Adam themselves... It was a perfect set up for a chilling and tension filled tale.

And that's all before our super secret DARPA spy arrives.

Ararat was guaranteed to be fun and it definitely delivered in that regard. But, I wanted so much more! I wanted more depth and more detail. I wanted more atmosphere. I even wanted more horrific happenings!

While I enjoyed Ararat, I didn't love it. It felt like a story that had been stripped down the bare bones, blockbuster style (you know, like a 120 minute film cut down to 90 to suit a short attention span). I wanted to meat and the fat, all the details that would have fleshed out the characters, the setting, and the evil hiding inside Ararat.

Rating: 3/5

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Forbidden Garden by Ellen Herrick + a Giveaway

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Ellen Herrick's latest, The Forbidden Garden. I'm also giving away a copy of the book today, so be sure to read through to the Rafflecopter to enter.

No on can deny that Sorrel Sparrow has something of a magic tough when it comes to plants and gardens. It's evident at the nursery she and her sisters share. It's evident at their home garden as well. And it's even more evident in the demand for her handiwork throughout their small New England village. It's this notoriety that catches the attention of Sir Graham Kirkwood. Kirkwood doesn't live in Granite Point, or even in the US, but his sister does, and it's she who sends word about Sorrel as Graham searches for someone to help with his estate's famed Shakespeare Garden. 

But what Graham doesn't tell Sorrel when seeking out her help is that the garden has long been rumored to be cursed. In fact, Graham has sought out Sorrel specifically so that he can keep his wife, who grew mysteriously ill after taking on the garden's revitalization project, out of the garden's snare. 

But even as Sorrel faces her first big trip away from her sisters and her home, she is drawn to the mysterious walled garden. She's also increasingly drawn to Graham's surly brother in law. Will her talents be enough to overcome both the plagued garden and the equally emotionally plagued Andrew? 

It's been over a year since Herrick's debut introduced readers to the Sparrow sisters: Sorrel, Nettie, and Patience. Together, they run a nursery known throughout the area surrounding Granite Point for its gorgeous blooms that last well beyond the season. But in The Sparrow Sisters, tragedy strikes their small town and suspicious eyes turn on the sisters, Patience in particular.

Though the town has healed and has turned out to support the sisters once again, when The Forbidden Garden begins, the sisters are still reeling from the fallout. And so, though Sorrel has never traveled overseas or spent any significant time away from her home or her younger sisters, she finds herself somewhat in need of a change of scenery.

And the idea of the Shakespeare Garden is too intriguing to resist, in spite of her apprehension about being away from home and the nursery for so long. I can empathize, the garden and it's secrets was too much to resist for me as a reader too! Throughout the narrative, there are allusions to a great Kirkwood secret that has plagued the family for generations. And it's directly tied to the garden, as Graham Kirkwood himself admits that the bare patch has been a dark spot on the estate that many have tried, and failed, to conquer.

I was glad to see Sorrel get her own story. Of the three sisters, I felt she was the one who remained the most closed off to readers in Herrick's debut. Her story was as much of a draw for me as the mysterious garden. She's taken out of her comfort zone and thrown in with a family she barely knows (because there is that Granite Point connection with Fiona, Graham's sister). But she acclimates easily to her new setting, set on bringing life to the ancient garden.

As with The Sparrow Sisters, The Forbidden Garden features fabulous imagery and detail. The hints of magical realism throughout (maybe more than hints, but by no means overwhelming) make it even more of a (sorry for the pun) enchanting read.

You do not have to have read The Sparrow Sisters in order to enjoy Sorrel's story. That said, you are missing out on quite a bit of character development and scene setting for where she is when The Forbidden Garden begins. And of course I quite enjoyed that first outing with the sisters, so I do recommend it!

And now for the giveaway! To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter before Monday, May 1. Open US only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

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

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Monday, April 17, 2017

Gone Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen + a Giveaway

Happy Monday, readers! I hope you all had a fantastic weekend! I spent mine hanging with friends and enjoying the fantastic weather here. Oh, and reading of course :)

One of the books on my weekend reading roster was Mary Torjussen's debut, Gone Without a Trace.

Hannah has spent weeks preparing for a big meeting in Oxford, and it's well worth it. By the end of the day, it seems she's on the fast track for promotion and she's ready to share the news with her boyfriend, Matt. But when Hannah arrives home, Matt is gone. As is every trace that he's ever been there. What's more, her phone and tablet have been wiped clean of him as well: no calls in the log, no number or email address, no texts, no photos... everything is gone. 

Hannah doesn't know what to do or where to turn. As she tries desperately to find out what happened to Matt, her life begins to spiral out of control. She's slipping at work, she's hardly able to pull herself together, and she believes someone has been coming into her home when she's not there. Is she going mad or is Matt playing with her?

Gone Without a Trace was almost painfully tense. I knew there had to be a twist coming but I could not for the life of me figure out what it was going to be. It was fun, but almost agonizing as well!

Hannah is, at times, infuriating. When she discovers Matt's gone and claims she has no way of getting in touch with him because she no longer has his phone number... I really wanted to scream at her! But I sympathized with her as well - I know plenty of people who would be in this boat, sadly. And she's genuinely confused and devastated over the whole thing.

It's understandable considering Matt has literally wiped away all trace of himself and their history together. That takes time and planning, all of which Hannah was apparently oblivious to. It makes the reader really begin to wonder what's going on here. Was it Matt at all? The texts and the fact that Hannah believes someone has been in her house really ratchet up that suspense too.

I was afraid that with all of that build up, the end would potentially fall flat. I have to say, though, that I really appreciated the twist when it did arrive. It was unexpected, that's for sure, and turned the story on its head. More surprisingly, even with the crumbs I now see were left as hints, I never saw it coming! It's a twist that I think is going to stick with me for a while.

Gone Without a Trace officially hits shelves Tuesday, but I'm also giving away a copy here on the blog. To enter to win, fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, May 1. Open US only.

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Sunday, April 16, 2017

New Releases 4/18/17

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Fallout by Sarah Paretsky

The Secret Room by Sandra Block

Gone Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen

Change Agent by Daniel Suarez

Forgotten Worlds by D. Nolan Clark

Legent Has It by Elliott James

Underground Fugue by Margot Singer

The Color of Our Sky by Amita Trasi

Bang by Barry Lyga

New on DVD:

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Pre Pub Book Buzz: Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

I mentioned yesterday that Mira Grant's novella Rolling in the Deep now has a sequel hitting shelves. And, as promised, today I'm sharing that one with you - so you can all add it to your TBRs and/or preorder the ever living crap out of it!

Here's a bit about Into Drowning in the Deep from Goodreads:

Seven years ago, the Atargatis set off on a voyage to the Mariana Trench to film a “mockumentary” bringing to life ancient sea creatures of legend. It was lost at sea with all hands. Some have called it a hoax; others have called it a maritime tragedy.

Now, a new crew has been assembled. But this time they’re not out to entertain. Some seek to validate their life’s work. Some seek the greatest hunt of all. Some seek the truth. But for the ambitious young scientist Victoria Stewart this is a voyage to uncover the fate of the sister she lost.

Whatever the truth may be, it will only be found below the waves.

But the secrets of the deep come with a price.

I mean, who wouldn't be dying to read more, right!? It makes my list for any number of reasons, including how much I enjoyed Rolling in the Deep, how big of a McGuire/Grant fan girl I am, and again with those water phobias and draw to stories that play on that. I know, it's a thing.

If you haven't read Rolling in the Deep yet, there's plenty of time - Into the Drowning Deep is due out from Orbit in November.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Short Fiction Friday: Rolling in the Deep by Mira Grant

The Imagine Network made a name for itself with cheesy genre pics, which is why some were surprised by the "documentary block. " Some even predicted it would be the network's downfall. Padded with a generous amount of manipulated and outright fictional footage and "facts" the series, beginning with Loch Ness: A Historical Review, was a resounding success. Which is why a group of scientists, a performing troupe of mermaids, and crew found themselves on the Atargatis tasked with a search for proof of real, live mermaids.

The disastrously fated ship was set to travel to the Mariana Trench in search of the mythical creatures. Their footage was all that remained by the time the ship was recovered. Aired just once, the pieced together doc revealed tragic but still confusing occurrences on board the ship. 

Some have called it a hoax, but one thing cannot be denied: not one person on board the Atargatis has ever been recovered.

So I just found out that there's a sequel to this little novella due out this fall from Orbit! Squee!!!

Rolling in the Deep is pure fun. A story about killer mermaids has to be, right?

The story is framed as a documentary cobbled together from recovered footage found on the ship. Imagine Network interjects disclaimers and other bits not covered by the "footage." The scene is set, the characters are introduced, and the reader gets to sit back and watch (read) as it all begins to fall apart.

Grant, as you know, is the alter ego of Seanan McGuire, author extraordinaire! I will admit that Rolling in the Deep isn't as thought provoking or even tug at your heartstrings as McGuire's Wayward Children novellas. We also don't get to know our characters as deeply as in the McGuire tales or even the Grant full-length novels. That said, Rolling in the Deep wins for being, as mentioned, oh, so freaking fun! (I know I'm not the only one who needs some fun these days.) And if you're like me and suffer from water phobias (and strangely enjoy reading nautical based horror as a result) Rolling in the Deep will definitely set your hair on end!

Oh yeah, and let's reiterate the whole upcoming sequel thing... It takes place after the disappearance of the Atargatis when a team returns to the site of the incident. I'll be doing a post on that one tomorrow, but I'm definitely dying to get a chance to read more!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Unearthly Things by Michelle Gagnon

Readers, if you were to do a quick search for Jane Eyre on my blog, you'll see that I'm maybe a fan...

Who am I kidding, I'm definitely a fan and a sucker for anything paying tribute to, retelling, or just plain compared to the gothic classic. So when Michelle Gagnon's newest teen tale turned out to be a modern retelling, I was all over it!

Janie Mason has lost everything. Orphaned and alone, she's shipped from her home in Hawaii to live under the care of one of her father's oldest friends in San Francisco. And while initially the Rochesters are welcoming enough - well except for not even being home when she arrived, that is - things quickly go off the rails.

The youngest Rochester, a boy who seems ignored and neglected by everyone but the elderly maid, is insistent that his dead twin sister is still hanging around. His older sister is none too pleased about having to share her home or school with Janie unless it means spending more of her daddy's money. Oh, and Mrs. Rochester makes no bones about the fact that Janie is a HUGE inconvenience. But it's the strange noises in the mansion at night and the appearance of the never mentioned elder Rochester son that really get Janie's radar going.

That and someone in the Rochester house - real or spectral - seems intent on making sure Janie knows her place!

Janie Mason is definitely a modern girl. A surfer used to spending every spare hour on her board, she grew up in a loving household with strained finances. And though the Rochesters seem to have more money than Midas, their house is about as warm as the mythological king's must have been.

The relationship between the Rochester patriarch and his family is ice cold. In fact, Janie soon realizes that most of the people in the household do their best not to upset the man. And he gives off some majorly odd vibes as far as Janie is concerned. But he's sweet as pie when she first arrives, making him pretty much her only ally in the house.

Well, excepting six year old Nicholas.

Nicholas is in fact the only Rochester in Janie's welcoming party. Up past bedtime and anxious to meet her, he lets slip a tiny detail about his dead twin sister that nags at Janie as the story progresses.

And it nags at the reader as well.

What I love most about Jane Eyre is the underlying atmosphere, and this element is something Gagnon stayed especially true to in Unearthly Things. The noises at night, the happenings in the house, and the very hush hush story about the dead Rochester girl all give the tale a great creepy undertone.

My only real complaint about Unearthly Things was that it was too short. I could have spent quite a while more in this tale, and I think the characters and their relationships, as well as the setting, would have benefitted from just a bit of extra development overall. That said, the story is a successfully fun twist on Bronte's creation that also stands well on its own.

Rating: 3.5/5

(Oh, I've got my hands on another retelling due out next month as well! See, I can't pass it up!)

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Miss You by Kate Eberlen

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Kate Eberlen's Miss You.

If a girl and a guy meet time and again, does it mean something? Is it fate pushing them together? Are they meant to be?

This is the question regarding Gus and Tess as their lives cross paths time and again. It begins in Florence when they're both eighteen, Tess is on a post graduation trip while Gus is traveling with family. Their encounter isn't an encounter at all but a brief notice on behalf of one on another as they each move along their own travels. And it happens like this time and again as their lives progress. So are they meant to be? Will they ever meet? Will either of them heed the call of fate? 

Miss You is being compared to Day One all over the place. I haven't read Day One so I'm not sure. Honestly I expected something bit more like Rosie Dunne (aka Love, Rosie), without the childhood friendship of course.

Miss You is literally the story of Gus and Tess - not Gus and Tess the couple but Gus... and Tess, individually. Chapters alternate between them as they age and move on in life. Occasionally their stories intersect, but they don't necessarily realize it.

Eberlen does a wonderful job getting the reader invested in each of these characters. Their stories are familiar - that of two young adults finding and making their way through life events and decisions. Some of them quite difficult. But I know I'm not alone in that for me the book was basically a big WHEN ARE THEY GOING TO MEET!? sort of frustration.

Frustration at times, wonderful anticipation at others. A definite combination of the two. I wanted to reach my hands into their stories and just push them into one another, forcing what I felt was an inevitable meet cute. And yet, whether they ever end up together is the drive of the story - and I won't tell you if they do.

Miss You is, at times, quite a heart wrenching read. I'd recommend having the tissue box close for sure!

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

For more on Kate Eberlen 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: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Pre Pub Book Buzz: City of Brass by S A. Chakraborty

Readers, listen up. City of Brass is an absolutely amazing book. Amazing! This debut fantasy blends Middle East history with fantasy and folklore in one of the most enchanting and unputdownable reads I've had the pleasure of diving into. 

It's already garnering praise and landing on must read and must have lists. And the best news, it's the first in a trilogy!

Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of eighteenth-century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles and a reliable way to survive.

But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought existed only in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her an extraordinary tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire, and rivers where the mythical marid sleep; past ruins of once magnificent human metropolises, and mountains where the circling birds of prey are more than what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass—a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.

In Daevabad, behind gilded brass walls laced with enchantments, behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments are simmering. A young prince who will never be king dreams of rebellion. When Nahri decides to enter this world, she learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences.

After all, there is a reason they say to be careful what you wish for. . .

If you're not sold yet, the good folks over at io9 shared an excerpt this week. You can check that out here

City of Brass doesn't hit shelves until November, but if you're in the New York area, the author already has events lined up. If you have a chance, you should definitely attend. And if, like me, you're not in the NYC area, add this one to your must buy list and pre order it as soon as you possibly can!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Brimstone by Cherie Priest + a Giveaway

Cherie Priest's latest is out on shelves, readers! I mean, a new Cherie Priest release is always cause for celebration, right? I certainly think so.

Alice Dartle has a gift. It's this gift that has brought her to Cassadega, Florida, where she hopes others like her will help her hone her skills. Cassadega offers Alice not only a chance to learn, but a chance to finally fit in. To feel at home amongst those who share abilities akin to her own. But while there, Alice begins to tap into dreams of fire. Dreams that belong to a widowed war veteran who is haunted by the events of his past.

Tomás dreams of fire, but the fire isn't confined to just his dreams. The fires have spread into real life. As the damage intensifies and begins to threaten others, Tomás is convinced it must be the ghost of his dead wife. But Alice isn't so sure. Together they'll have to find the root of these conflagrations if they're to survive.

So not only is Brimstone set during the 20s, which is super cool, it's set around the very real Cassadega Spiritualist Camp, which still exists today. Called "the psychic capital of the world" Cassadega is, according to Wikipedia, "... a small, unincorporated community located in Volusia County..." According to the website, the camp is over a century old and still offers readings and other services including history tours.

So yeah, a super cool setting x 2. And it's a setting - both time and place - that Priest brings to life beautifully!

The narrative is split between Alice and Tomás, the latter of whom is a lonely haberdasher in Ybor City. Alice, of course, is psychically gifted - something that runs in her mother's family (prior generations of women in the family have been burned or hanged for such gifts). Surprisingly, though, it's Alice's father who offers her the most support.

Tomás himself has a good support system, but he know full and well that no one is going to believe that his dead wife is haunting him. Which is why he not only undertakes his own experimentation in secret, but contacts the spiritualists at Cassadega as well. And it's Alice's name that speaks to him, leading to their finally meeting.

As the story progresses, the creepiness increases dramatically. What, for Alice, begins with a tenuous connection to someone else's dreams, becomes a very real threat to her personally. And of course Tomás stands to lose everything if he can't find the true cause of the haunting and stop the fires.

I love Cherie Priest's work and look forward to each new release with great anticipation. So of course there's a lot of expectation for each new book to bear. Fortunately, she has yet to disappoint! Brimstone is no exception, proving once again that Cherie Priest is one of the best and brightest in speculative fiction!

Thanks to the publisher I do get to offer up one copy of Brimstone here on the blog! To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, April 17. Open US only and no PO boxes please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Jessica Shattuck's The Women in the Castle.

Before the war began, Marianne von Lingenfels's husband was one of those who predicted how bad things would become. Along with Marianne's longtime friend, Connie, and a band of others, the men planned an attempt on Hitler's life; Marianne promised take care of the wives and children if anything went wrong. 

By the end of the war, the castle the von Lingenfels line once called home is a crumbling mess. But Marianne and her children have taken up residence there nonetheless. It's the perfect base for her mission - searching out any of the remaining family of those who were involved in the failed assassination. Difficult as it is, her efforts are not in vain. She's managed to find Connie's wife and son - Benita and Martin - and the wife and two sons of another conspirator as well - Ania, Wolfgang, and Anselm. But the women are keeping secrets. And as Marianne attempts to hold them all together, those secrets threaten their new bond. 

While The Women in the Castle is the latest in a string of WWII fiction, it is definitely amongst the best of the trend. And it offers up a look at German life during the war, which I've not actually come across prior to this. German life from the viewpoint of three very different women.

Marianne is idealistic and strong in her beliefs. So much so that she becomes more than a little too staunch, maybe, in her judgement of her fellow Germans. Not all by any means, but a few specific cases. Her own thoughts on Hitler's stance were middling at times, until faced with the true horror of the atrocities going on around her, that is, which is likely why she's so hard on others.

Her views on Benita are more that of looking down on a child than a fellow widow. And unfortunately Benita doesn't do much to change this. Ania, meanwhile, holds everything close. She's a practical woman, something Marianne respects.

Each of them has suffered. Each of them has witnessed truly awful things. And each of them has regrets. But they each have children to think of as well. And having come out of the war alive and together, they find the strength necessary to carry on.

In spite of the way I've portrayed her, Marianne is my favorite of the three. She's strong and idealistic, but also flawed. Her tenacity, though, makes her a natural leader of the group. I feel to say much more about the women would give away too much of their story. As dark as the book unavoidably is, I did enjoy getting to know them and their families.

The Women in the Castle is, as mentioned, darker than The Chilbury Ladies' Choir, for example, but both offer up an authentic and engaging look at life during the war. Shattuck's book most definitely joins the ranks of some of my favorites focused on this era, alongside Chilbury and Jennifer Cody Epstein's The Gods of Heavenly Punishment (another one that, I should add, offers a different perspective than most).

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

For more on Jessica Shattuck and her work you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Sunday, April 2, 2017

New Releases 4/4/17

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

Miss You by Kate Eberlen

Brimstone by Cherie Priest

American War by Omar El Akkad

The Forbidden Garden by Ellen Herrick

The Romance Reader's Guide to Life by Sharon Pywell

Winter Tide by Ruthann Emrys

End of the Day by Claire North

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

My Last Lament by James William Brown

Feral by James Demonaco & B.K. Evenson

The House of Binding Thorns by Aliette de Bodard

Bad Seeds by Jassy Mackenzie

Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel

Sympathy by Olivia Sudjic

Gauntlet by Holly Jennings

Perfect by Cecelia Ahern

Geekerella by Ashley Poston

Give me a K-I-L-L by R.L. Stine

Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray

But Then I Came Back by Estelle Laure

New on DVD:
Rogue One
Office Christmas Party

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Pre Pub Book Buzz: There's Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

It might surprise you to know that Stephanie Perkins is a horror fan. Yep, she is. Each year there's a 31 Days of Horror Challenge throughout the month of October and Perkins is a regular participant. So it didn't surprise me one bit to find out that Perkins was writing a horror novel. And of course I immediately added it to my must have list.

Here's the tiny bit you can find out about it over on Goodreads:

Scream meets YA in this hotly-anticipated new novel from the bestselling author of Anna and the French Kiss.

One-by-one, the students of Osborne High are dying in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasing and grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and the hunt intensifies for the killer, the dark secrets among them must finally be confronted.

International bestselling author Stephanie Perkins returns with a fresh take on the classic teen slasher story that’s fun, quick-witted, and completely impossible to put down.

I'm dying to read this, folks. Dying!

There's Someone Inside Your House doesn't hit shelves until September, but the cover went live yesterday along with this piece over at EW about the design. Check it out!