Monday, July 31, 2017

The Late Show by Michael Connelly

Renee is part of the Late Show, the overnight shift no one wants. Sent in to kick things off and hand things over, it means never having her name connected to a big case. And that's mostly ok, especially with her partner. But when two cases in one night catch Renee's attention, she has a hard time letting them go. First, she and her partner are called to the hospital where a trans woman has been admitted after being found brutally beaten and abandoned. The woman is unconscious, but Renee can tell she's been bound and likely kept imprisoned for multiple days. The case isn't high priority for multiple reasons, especially when it's discovered the victim has a record, but Renee manages to get permission to dig deeper.

The second case, a night club shooting, is all hands on deck and Renee's own former team is lead in the investigation. Then her old partner is found dead in his garage, an apparent suicide. Bad blood between the former partners means they haven't talked in quite some time. In spite of that, Renee can't believe her old partner would ever kill himself. And so she starts poking around. And the more she looks, the more she becomes convinced it's tied to the shooting.

Michael Connelly kicks off a brand spanking new series with The Late Show, introducing readers to Renee Ballard, a cop exiled to the late shift. The why is explained as the story progresses, but aside from being forced to hand off every case without seeing them through to the finish, Renee is pretty ok with it. Her partner even more so - his wife is sick and the lat shift allows him to be with her during her waking hours, plus he's more seasoned and jaded and really not concerned with the accolades of solving a big case.

Which is not to say that Renee is concerned with accolades either. In fact, her interest in the cases in this book stem from exactly that - interest. Interest in seeing the bad guys brought to justice and interest in getting closure for the victims.

And I thought it was fantastic!

I've been a piecemeal Connelly reader - a couple of standalone here and there and a fan of the adaptations (The Lincoln Lawyer and Bosch are both excellent, though I've not really read their respective series). That's due in part to the fact that I'm a bit stubborn about reading books in order! So here was a chance to start fresh, from the beginning, with a new character, and I definitely took advantage!

Renee exists in the same universe as Bosch. There's a tiny nod to him in a passing mention that confirms this is the same LA, which I definitely appreciated. And Renee definitely has some of the same characteristics Bosch displays - most notably her tendency to stick to her guns even if it means ignoring orders coming down from those in charge. But she does it a bit more on the sly, maybe. Time will tell in that regard.

Like Bosch, Renee also has a bit of a broken childhood, details of which play out as the story progresses. And there's definitely more there than we learned in this first outing.

Again, I really thought this was fantastic all around. I loved Renee (and Lola). The pacing was dead on and the plot was pretty perfectly built!

I did actually listen to this one on audio, narrated by Katherine Moennig. When the story kicked off I wasn't quite sure the audio was going to completely click for me - narrator is definitely key in this regard - but I quickly found that I quite liked Moennig as the voice of Renee. And rather than listening in stops and starts, whenever the opportunity arose, I found myself playing the audio practically straight through!

The Late Show is perfect as an intro to Connelly and will absolutely please longtime fans as well. I look forward to big things from Renee Ballard!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

New Releases 8/1/17

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Dark Net by Benjamin Percy

The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley

The Half Drowned King by Linnea Hartsuyker

Age of Assassins by RJ Parker

The Grip of It by Jac Jemc

Yesterday by Felicia Yap

The Readymade Thief by Augustus Rose

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor

Dead on Arrival by Matt Richtel

Hex-Rated by Jason Ridler

The Hole by Hey-Young Pyun

Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber

A Nest of Vipers by Andrea Camilleri

Leona: The Die is Cast by Jenny Rogneby

Impossible Views of the World by Lucy Ives

Nothing Stays Buried by P. J. Tracy

Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang

The Process (Is a Process All Its Own) by Peter Straub

The Address by Fiona Davis

Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta

The Blinds by Adam Sternbergh

Girl in Snow by Dana Kukafka

The Clockwork Dynasty by Daniel H. Wilson

The Shadow of the Lions by Christopher Swan

The Wood by Chelsea Bobulski

When I am Through With You by Stephanie Kuehn

Blight by Alexandra Duncan

New on DVD:
Don't Knock Twice
The Drowning
Going in Style
The Circle

The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash by Candace Ganger

Bash met Birdie at a party and was instantly smitten. Birdie herself was a bit taken with Bash as well and couldn't stop thinking about him, even as she tried to decide to cop to sneaking out to attend said party or not. 

Unfortunately for Birdie and Bash, theirs is much more than a story of boy meets girl... Theirs is a story tied together by tragedy. And it's a tragedy big enough to tear them apart when they finally do come together once again. 

I'm just going to get this out of the way first - The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash is way sadder than I expected. Seriously, I was not prepared for the feels!


So a boy (Bash, aka Sebastian Alvarez) and a girl (Birdie) meet at a party. They've both been dragged to the party by their respective friends (Kyle and Violet) and they don't know each other. But as Bash tries to avoid his ex, and make her jealous at the same time, his eyes land on Birdie and he's instantly intrigued. They banter a bit and that, it seems, is that.

Until it turns out Birdie has gotten a job at the same skating rink Bash works at. Yay!

But no. See, before all that happens, something truly, terribly, bad happens first. And it does not bode well for the teens. Plus, Bash's mom is dying and he's flunking out of school. Birdie's lost the scholarship she needs to be able to attend college and pursue her career as a medical examiner. Again, things do not bode well for the teens!

But it's not all sad or bad. There's some levity to the story. There's lots of chemistry (literally and figuratively) and skating, too!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash by Candace Ganger - Excerpt

Happy Book Birthday week to Candace Ganger whose debut, The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash, hit shelves yesterday!

Today I get to share an excerpt from the book, courtesy of the publisher, but first here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

Birdie never meant to be at the party. Bash should have been long gone. But when they meet, a collision course is set off they may never recover from.

Sebastian Alvaréz is just trying to hold the pieces together: to not flunk out, to keep his sort-of-best friend Wild Kyle from doing something really bad, and to see his beloved Ma through chemo. But when he meets Birdie Paxton, a near-Valedictorian who doesn’t realize she’s smoking hot in her science pun T-shirt, at a party, an undeniable attraction sparks. And suddenly he’s not worried about anything. But before they are able to exchange numbers, they are pulled apart. A horrifying tragedy soon links Birdie and Bash together—but neither knows it. When they finally reconnect, and are starting to fall—hard—the events of the tragedy unfold, changing both their lives in ways they can never undo. 

Told in alternating perspectives, The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash by Candace Ganger is a beautiful, complex, and ultimately hopeful teen novel that will move you to the very last page.

The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash is quite the emotional read, let me tell you. I was not prepared!!! Oh, the feels!

As promised, here's a taste to get you started.
The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash
by Candace Ganger

...I lose sight of Layla for just a moment. The crowd parts in a zigzag fashion and beneath the light machine, where the red, green, and blue hit the hardest, I see her—this statuesque beauty—hiding behind a trail of long brown hair and thick-framed glasses. With her hands folded snug in her lap, she’s looking around, sinking farther into the couch’s wilted threads as if hoping to not be seen, but I see her because hiding is typically what I do, too.

“My God,” I say. The cigarette hangs from my bottom lip, and this girl, who finally stops talking, is still looking at up me, glitter plummeting from her silver-tinted eye shadow. The flakes dance down to the tops of my boots like little asshole snowflakes. That shit should be banned. She follows my eyes across the floor to the big, plaid couch, letting her smile fade. Losing interest (finally), she drops my hand and disappears into the sea of people from which she first emerged.

With my heart nearly beating out of my chest, I watch Couch Girl. The way she tucks her hair behind her ears with precision, the way she nudges her falling glasses up the bridge of her nose, the way she pretends she’s not as earth-shatteringly stunning as she really is. Radiance surrounds her—not a halo, but some kind of ethereal glow—and I can’t look away. She looks up at me. Once, twice, three times; tries to avoid my eyes, but can’t. For the length of a whole song, my gaze doesn’t abandon her, and by the middle of the next song, she’s smiling at me. Score. Normally, I’d hang back, wait and see if we “accidentally” cross paths, but Layla’s determined eyes are on me so I up my game. To finish her.

I push through the haze and find my way to Couch Girl. She looks up at me with these electric green eyes that are more evident through her lenses, and I do something I thought I’d never in a million years do—hold out my hand.

“I don’t dance,” she says, reluctant. “Me either. Too many germs.” A few seconds pass before she decides to take my humble offering. I pull her to her feet, and our palms smash together and slide across the dampness. This would normally gross me out, but I kind of want to linger in it with her. Gently, I lead her to the center of the floor where we are now gestural shapes on this dark canvas, too.

“Help me out here,” I say. “See that girl over there?” I point to Layla with my middle finger. A silent dig, if you will.

She nods.

“I need her to see us talking.”

She scrunches up her face. “I’m not getting in the middle of whatever that is.” Her finger is waving around, grabbing Layla’s attention. “But thanks.”

As she tries to walk away, I tug on her sleeve. Eyebrows arched, and my own full puppy-lipped pout now in full effect. “Please.”

She must sense my sadness (read: desperation), because with one sharp sigh and a roll of her beautiful eyes, she digs her feet firmly into the floor. “Okay, fine. Just for a minute though.”

We’re not dancing, not swaying or grinding, but here we are, in the epicenter of it all. She crosses her arms, I cross mine, too. “So are we going to actually talk or just pretend?” she snaps.

“Who the hell are you?” I ask with a smirk.

She looks down. “Who am I? You mean what name was I given at birth, or who am I in a general sense?”

I start to respond, but she interrupts.

“Because, in said general sense, I’m a girl at a party I should’ve never come to but did and am now trapped in this weird interaction between subjects A and B while I’d much rather be at home teaching my chunky cat how to drink from a running faucet, thank you very much.”

With my gaze pressed hard on her porcelain skin, I drop the last bit of cigarette to the floor and twist the cinder into the grooves until it burns no more. My smile grows, and all of a sudden, I don’t care if Layla’s watching or not. “Fair enough.”

“Who are you?” she replies with a touch of snark.

I look down to the holes in my shirtsleeve where the fabric has worn, and I realize I have two choices here. I can tell her the lame, true story of my life and wait for her to walk away, or I can do the opposite and hope that, for one perfect night, I’m allowed to feel this way about a girl who’s way out of my league, knowing the second I leave here, this, whatever this is, leaves with it.

Plus, it’d totally piss Layla off, and that makes it sweeter.

“Well,” I say, “in a general sense, I’m a boy at a party I should’ve never come to but did and am now gloriously trapped in this enlightened conversation with, probably, the most captivating girl in the entire house. In an even generaler sense”—she stops me, tells me that’s not a word—“I’m nobody. Well, until I saw you.” My smile widens. To sell it.

She blushes. Her fingers fumbling through her long, silky strands, she objects. “One, that’s so ridiculously cliché, and two, statistically speaking, you’re a percentage of this party as a whole house equation. Without the exact number of bodies—I estimate around thirty-seven—you’re something like 2.7027 percent somebody without ever seeing me.”

My heart drops through this creaky, wooden floor, and this smile that’s still pasted—it’s about to rip my face in two. The forces of the earth have rumbled beneath my feet and combined, climbing up through the dirt core, into my heart. We stand here, for, I don’t know, what feels like an infinity (she abruptly explains infinity is a concept and there’s no way to solve for x, so in reality, we can’t actually stand here that long), and all these things start flying out of my mouth—how I graduated last year, I’m only in town for tonight—and with every passing lie, I think, You’re no better than Kyle, which makes me sick—like, physically ill with the sweats and a weird clamminess and all these symptoms that remind me how I felt when I first met Layla.

When the song ends, we hold on to this moment that, in the space between, feels like a million electrodes have begun to rattle and vibrate. I feel it fuse to my bones. It connects us together, grounds us, right here, right now. Layla’s gone—who cares now?—but just as I start to ask for her number, or the name she was given at birth, a tiny little thing with big, springy curls that dangle over one eye pulls at Couch Girl’s arm.

“Ready to go?” the friend asks. She’s looking me over in this protective kind of way, and I know what she’s thinking because I beat her to it.

While the two of them decide, a hand slaps the back of my shirt hard enough to leave a mark. I turn around to see Kyle’s cousin’s friend’s college boyfriend with a worried look on his face. “Your friend might need to go to the hospital. He’s, like, not waking up.”

With a heavy sigh, something that follows Kyle’s hijinks often, I silently agree to retrieve my sort-of-ill-behaved dog that does as he pleases. Before I can even think about what to say to Couch Girl next, I spin around and she, and her tiny friend, are gone.

Just like that, it’s over before it even started.

Story of my goddamned life.

Good thing the book is out on shelves now, though, 'cause you'll want to run out and grab a copy for sure!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Lost Ones by Sheena Kamal

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Sheena Kamal's debut, The Lost Ones.

Fifteen years ago, Nora put her daughter up for adoption. Now, that daughter has gone missing and her biological parents have contacted Nora for help. 

But at first, Nora doesn't realize that's what's going on. As an employee at a private investigator's office with a keen sense of when someone is lying, Nora is a bit of an expert at tracking down missing people. And so when a man reaches out to her about his runaway daughter, that's what Nora thinks it is - a standard job tracking down a missing teen. When she realizes it's much more complicated than that, that she's being manipulated and brought into something she wants no involvement in, she immediately refuses. 

And yet, the pull or connection to this child that was hers by birth is too much to resist. But this girl isn't just any runaway. She's part of something much larger. Something that will force Nora to face the pain and secrets of her own past. 

Sheena Kamal's debut is a solid thriller with an irresistibly appealing heroine.

Nora has issues. Big issues. But when we first meet her, she's simply a cautious investigator willing to bend the rules a bit to get what she wants. The more we come to know her though, the more we realize there's so much more to her. She's a survivor, eking out an existence that allows her to live basically off the grid. She squats in her employer's basement, clothes herself in a way that almost demands that people ignore her, and she avoids thinking about her own past as much as humanly possible.

But this case forces her to change some of that. It forces her to revisit things she's been actively avoiding for all these years. And it forces her to begin to reveal some of the truth of her life to those around her.

Interestingly, the story took a twist that I definitely wasn't expecting. Not only is this book about Nora and her daughter, Bonnie, but it's also about Canada's treatment of its own indigenous people and environmental issues as well.

To say the rabbit hole that becomes Nora's investigation is intriguing is putting it lightly. The Lost Ones is excellent!

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

For more on Sheena Kamal and her work you can visit her website. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Bring Her Home by David Bell

It's summer and I'm craving dark and chilling reads! I mean, I crave those year round, but something about summer time in particular makes me want them even more. And David Bell has become a name that's synonymous with chilling thrillers.

Summer and her best friend Hayley were on their way to Hayley's house when they both disappeared. Two days later, the girls have been found, but only one of them has survived. Both girls have been beaten to the point that they aren't readily identifiable based on looks alone. But Summer was wearing her jacket and carrying her ID, which means her dad Bill has the relief of knowing his daughter is still alive. Unfortunately she isn't out of the woods as she's been unconscious and unable to tell authorities what happened to them since being found. And Bill is going mad sitting on the sidelines. How can he protect his daughter when he can't even be sure what or where the danger is?

Bell's latest, like all of his others, is an intense and quick read. Even at over 400 pages, it just begged to be read in one sitting. I, of course, complied.

From the start, I really enjoyed all the questions set up by the plot. First and foremost concerning Bill himself and whether or not he can be trusted. He's not very likable. But you have to give him the benefit of the doubt considering his situation. And yet, there's a niggling feeling that he's hiding something or maybe just not being quite straightforward.

Then there's the question of the girls and what they were up to. Where were they going? It turns out Summer and her father have a strained relationship, thanks in no small part to the fact that Summer's mother died a little over a year and a half prior to when the story takes place. As both are dealing with their grief, they find solace and tension equally together. And Summer's disappearance coincides almost exactly with her mother's birthday, an anniversary that Bill knows was hanging heavy over them both.

The book has twists galore, and more than a few of them are easily predicted. But in spite of that, Bring Her Home was still a perfect afternoon escape!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Betrayal at Iga by Susan Spann

So, as I mentioned earlier, today is Betrayal at Iga day here on the blog! As part of my stop on the TLC blog tour for Susan Spann's latest Hiro Hattori mystery, we kicked things off with a post from Susan herself on the arduous task of researching food for the series :) And now, a review of the book in question!

Hiro and Father Mateo have been summoned to Hiro's clan home in Iga. They are to host a contingent from another assassin clan, the Koga, in hopes of negotiating a treaty banding the two clans together. But when one of the emissaries dies in the midst of their welcome feast, it seems peace talks are definitely off.

As tempers flare and threats fly, Hattori Hanzō offers up the investigative skills of his cousin and the priest in hopes of settling concerns that the Iga clan is responsible. The Koga clan agrees, but with stipulations that put Father Mateo in even more danger than the already tense situation warrants. With just three days to solve the murder, Hiro and Father Mateo are already under ample pressure. And for Hiro it means more than just another investigation - this time his honor is at risk, his own family stands accused, and the man he is duty bound to protect could become a target to boot. 

So Hiro's in a bit of a pickle in this one - more so than usual. His duty is to protect Father Mateo and the murder of a shinobi in the Koga clan, on the grounds of his own clan and family, is a big deal. The death is determined to be the result of poisoning and Hiro's own mother and grandmother each had a hand in meal preparation. Plus there's the fact that eyes immediately tun to Hiro's cousin, Hattori Hanzō - because nothing happens in Iga without his knowledge.

So yeah, while Hiro and Father Mateo are definitely the most capable of unraveling the surprising lack of clues and revealing who the real killer is and what the motive was, involvement means a lot of risk for the two.

But it's not like they have any choice. Again, there's the whole duty thing - and the head of the Iga clan determines that Hiro's duty can be spent both in protecting Father Mateo AND in solving this delicate case. Hiro would potentially beg to differ, especially as their own lives come closer and closer to danger with each passing hour!

As always, Spann's careful attention to detail makes this a truly delightful series. The historical facts are fascinating and worked into the plot organically - Father Mateo as an outsider makes for the perfect vehicle for explaining any potentially complicated or confusing aspect of the nuances and rules of the culture in 16th century Japan as well as the roles and norms of those within the shinobi clans. And the relationship between Hiro and Father Mateo is wonderful!

Betrayal at Iga is the fifth Hiro Hattori/shinobi mystery but can very easily be read as a stand alone or introduction to the series. There are a few references to past investigations and, in particular, to the way things were left in The Ninja's Daughter, but it's nothing so detailed as to either take away from the reading of those or give away any of their major twists. If you'd like to start from the beginning, here's the series list in order:

Claws of the Cat 
Blade of the Samurai
Flask of the Drunken Master
The Ninja's Daughter
Betrayal at Iga

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

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

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

Guest Post by Susan Spann + a Giveaway

Happy Wednesday, readers! Today I'm super excited to welcome Susan to the blog as part of today's stop on the TLC tour for her latest, Betrayal at Iga. (There is a giveaway here, so be sure to read through to enter.)

Before I hand things over to Susan, here's a bit about the fifth entry in the fabulous Shinobi series, from Goodreads:

Autumn, 1565: After fleeing Kyoto, master ninja Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo take refuge with Hiro s ninja clan in the mountains of Iga province. But when an ambassador from the rival Koga clan is murdered during peace negotiations, Hiro and Father Mateo must find the killer in time to prevent a war between the ninja clans.

With every suspect a trained assassin, and the evidence incriminating not only Hiro s commander, the infamous ninja Hattori Hanz, but also Hiro s mother and his former lover, the detectives must struggle to find the truth in a village where deceit is a cultivated art. As tensions rise, the killer strikes again, and Hiro finds himself forced to choose between his family and his honor.

And now, over to Susan!

Ninja Eats: Researching the Tastes of Medieval Japan 

mushroom soba
My newest Hiro Hattori novel, Betrayal at Iga, opens with a feast that goes horribly wrong. Although the sudden and unexpected death of a ninja ambassador is the focus of the scene, I faced a bigger—but admittedly more enjoyable—challenge writing about the food. 

Cuisine has always been an important part of Japanese culture. Since long before the medieval period, Japanese people have considered food a form of art—on a level with poetry, flower arranging, painting, and even the arts of swordsmanship and combat. Every region of Japan has culinary specialties, and many cities have specialized versions of regional dishes, too. 

Some foods are enjoyed throughout Japan—noodle dishes like ramen and udon are good examples—but even these ubiquitous favorites have often-dramatic regional variations. In some places, udon is eaten cold while in other places the noodles are served hot, in broth. The type of broth also varies regionally, from fish and seaweed dashi to pork-based soup and even curry. 

curry udon
Japanese menus also follow the seasons, with certain dishes appearing only at certain times of year. In Kyoto, chefs who prepare traditional kaiseki cuisine recognize twenty-four annual “seasons” instead of the four we normally see in the West. Some chefs even subdivide the 24 seasons into 72—each of which controls the ingredients and dishes to be served. 

For this reason, I try to travel in Japan at the times of year when my books take place as well as in the places where I set each mystery novel. Although the food has changed somewhat as modern transportation has expanded the range of available ingredients, many Japanese regional dishes have changed very little since the medieval era, which makes researching the food for my novels a delicious part of my travels in Japan. 

vegetable sashimi
I do face one unusual challenge when researching Japanese cuisine: I’m allergic to fish, which means that in some cases I have to use my sense of smell and my imagination to fill the gaps between the versions of dishes I can eat and the ones my characters enjoy. My ninja detective, Hiro, has a passionate love of udon served in dashi, topped with finely chopped onions and freshly grilled fish. Readers often ask if the dish is a favorite of mine as well, and are surprised to hear I’ve never actually eaten it. In reality, my son is the one who loves to eat Hiro’s favorite dish—the version I prefer is curry udon topped with tempura mochi—pounded rice cakes, fried to a crispy golden brown. 

I spend a lot of time researching Japanese food, and try to ensure the dishes that appear in my novels are accurate for the season and location in which they appear. Little details give life to the story, and I love that my novels let me share the exquisite and often exotic tastes of medieval Japan.

About the author: Susan Spann is a transactional publishing attorney and the author of the Shinobi Mysteries, featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori and his Portuguese Jesuit sidekick, Father Mateo. Her debut novel, CLAWS OF THE CAT (Minotaur Books, 2013), was named a Library Journal Mystery Debut of the Month. Susan has a degree in Asian Studies from Tufts University, where she studied Chinese and Japanese language, history, and culture. Her hobbies include cooking, traditional archery, martial arts, and horseback riding. She lives in northern California with her husband, son, two cats, and an aquarium full of seahorses.

Huge thanks to Susan for being on the blog today - now I need to go hunt down some noodles!

And now for the giveaway: to enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, July 31. Open US only and no PO boxes please. 

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Be sure to check back here in a bit for my Betrayal at Iga review post!

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Dark Saturday by Nicci French

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm super excited to be part of the TLC blog tour for Nicci French's latest Frieda Klein release, Dark Saturday!

I'm going to defer to the Goodreads copy here, due to lack of time and care regarding possible spoilers (in other words, I'm in a pinch and don't want to give anything away about this one!):

Thirteen years ago eighteen year old Hannah Docherty was arrested for the brutal murder of her family. It was an open and shut case and Hannah's been incarcerated in a secure hospital ever since.

When psychotherapist Frieda Klein is asked to meet Hannah and give her assessment of her she reluctantly agrees. What she finds horrifies her. Hannah has become a tragic figure, old before her time. And Frieda is haunted by the thought that Hannah might be as much of a victim as her family; that something wasn't right all those years ago.

And as Hannah's case takes hold of her, Frieda soon begins to realise that she's up against someone who'll go to any lengths to protect themselves . . .

I've been a longtime fan of this series! Each new outing sees our heroine becoming embroiled in a new case that extends well beyond the boundaries of her office walls. And each new outing is as good, if not even better, than the last!

Part of what I love about this series is, of course, Frieda. She's grown, as have the characters that surround her. We learn something new about her and her background, we see her overcome trauma - past and present, and we see her use her ample skills to solve crimes and try to right wrongs she sees around her, often at grave risk to herself. She has a great support system of friends that have followed her throughout the series, getting ample page time and fabulous development where other series and authors may have left them to fall by the wayside.

Obviously the other facet of the series that I quite enjoy is the plotting and Dark Saturday is no exception. I love the slow build of the story and realizing, alongside Frieda, what her discoveries mean and how they pertain to the cases she's taken on.

Nicci French is, as I've mentioned on the blog before, the husband and wife team of Nicci Gerard and Sean French. Their writing together is seamless and excellent, with no stuttering or clear delineation between the writing. I can't attest to their process, but I can say the result of their writing together is as if one mind is behind the creation!

Dark Saturday is the sixth in the series, and I really have no idea how many more are planned. The series began with Monday and we're up to Saturday by now so I'm guessing there will be a Sunday installment too. For fans of the series, this is definitely another fantastic installment that lives up to expectations. For newbies to the series, you may miss out on some of the specifics of the character relationships, but you can definitely slide in with this latest without missing much. If you do want to start from the beginning, though, here's the series list in order:

Blue Monday
Tuesday's Gone
Waiting for Wednesday
Thursday's Children
Friday on My Mind
Dark Saturday

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here. For more on the authors and their work, you can like them on Facebook.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Sunday, July 16, 2017

New Releases 7/18/17

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Breakdown by B. A. Paris

The Late Show by Michael Connelly

Soul Cage by Tetsuya Honda

Graveyard Shift by Michael F. Haspil

Blame by Jeff Abbott*

Afterlife by Marcus Sakey

The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana

One For Sorrow by Mary Downing Hahn

The Special Ones by Em Bailey

Minecraft: The Island by Max Brooks

The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell

What Goes Up by Katie Kennedy

New on DVD:
Kong: Skull Island
Buster's Mal Heart
Resident Evil: Vendetta

*You may have heard by now, but if not, Jeff Abbott's home was lost in a fire just recently. The bookish community is doing a few things that you can find around the web but considering Blame is out this week, the easiest way to show your support is to pre order a copy now or head out to your local bookstore to buy a copy Tuesday.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Final Girls by Riley Sager

Quincy, Lisa, and Sam are the Final Girls. Dubbed so by the media, the three women were the sole survivors of three separate, horrible crimes. For Quincy, the moniker is an ever present reminder of the day her best friends were murdered. But she herself has very few memories of that terrible night. 

Then Lisa is found dead. The verdict is suicide, but Quincy isn't sure. And when Sam shows up at her door, she becomes even more certain that Lisa wouldn't have killed herself. Together, the remaining Final Girls begin searching for answers, but as they do, Quincy starts to wonder if she can truly trust Sam - or anyone. And as their investigation gets closer to the truth, she starts to remember.

"Final Girl" as you may know, is a term coined to describe the last woman standing in typical horror fare. There are multiple books and movies that bear the name (the film starring Taissa Farming and Malin Akerman is my favorite so far). And given that Riley Sager's debut (Riley Sager is apparently a pseudonym for a previously published author) has been hyped as THE thriller of the summer, blurbed by no less that Stephen King himself, you can imagine I was pretty excited to get my hands on a copy.

The attention this one is getting is not completely unfounded, but I think my own expectations of it may have been too high.

Quincy is a survivor. She's on meds to keep her stable, and abuses them to an extent, which is understandable. And she's shielded by the fact that she has virtually no memory of the crime that claimed her friends' lives. But when Sam appears in her life, she goes off the rails in a way that I didn't quite think worked.

She trusts Sam, as a fellow survivor. But we already know that she's made a point of never really interacting with the other final girls. She's spoken to Lisa a few times but Sam has remained hidden and fairly anonymous from the world. So I wasn't completely sold on the fact that Quincy would trust Sam so quickly. Her attraction to the fellow survivor, who is admittedly more outgoing and manic, and her quickness to follow just didn't quite mesh with the caution I thought Quincy displayed when the book began.

The story progresses quickly, with Quincy soon setting off to find out what really happened to Lisa. And it turns out Lisa herself had been keeping information on all three of them, which kicks off Quincy's returning memories.

It's a truly lightning fast read, with plenty of twists and turns. And overall I thought it was a lot of fun, certainly perfect for summer as promised. But I also thought it was just a bit thin in terms of development. I wanted more from the characters and the plot as a whole. I wanted to sink into the story and get lost, which never really happened, unfortunately.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

When the English Fall by David Williams

Jacob's daughter foretold the disaster. She saw angels in the sky and claimed the English would fall. And fall they did. Solar flares killed off almost everything electric, bringing the modern world to its knees. 

But for Jacob and the rest of his community, life went on almost as per usual. Planning and planting for the winter, canning and preserving the current crops to see them through the season, community, and worship. And when the English supplies fall short, Jacob and his community gave what they could. But as the outside world become more and more desperate, Jacob and his neighbors faced the ultimate  challenge: could they remain true to their beliefs and their faith even when their very safety was in question?

I never met a post apocalyptic tale that didn't appeal to me in some way. This was no exception, though in retrospect I must admit that it likely would have completely missed my radar had I not seen it on the list of "19 Science Fiction Debuts We Can't Wait to Read in 2017" from Barnes and Noble. When I came across the ARC shortly thereafter, I had to read it immediately.

I can't tell you how glad I am that this one came to my attention, because it really is superb. It's a quiet sort of story, one that is ultimately a morality tale.

Jacob and his family are Amish. And though their community is less strict than the one he and his wife grew up in, they still live by the basic tenets all Amish do. Those tenets include helping your fellow man and not raising arms. So when technology in the world around them fails, they're not very affected at first. With only a few exceptions, they live completely by and on the land with no reliance on technology or electricity.

Of course an over reliance on technology is the downfall of the towns and cities that surround their community and soon people come in search of help. The story will no doubt remind you of Aesop's "The Grasshopper and the Ants" up until this point. But here the story deviates - Jacob and his community are more than willing to help.

Though the tale is told through Jacob's own journals, the Amish aren't the only characters in the story. Through Jacob's writings, readers are given insight into his family and his community and their beliefs. We're also given insight into their neighbors and acquaintances - English who live and work alongside Jacob's community.

David Williams's debut examines the hearts of men at times of true testing: when disaster strikes and all seems lost. Some react with sorrow and violence, while others hold firm and strong in their beliefs. But no one remains immune to or untouched by the fear of uncertainty.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

My Sister's Bones by Nuala Ellwood

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Nuala Ellwood's My Sister's Bones.

Kate's childhood was not a happy one. The day her father died was the day her family was finally freed from his tyranny. Kate was close to her mother, as a result, but not her sister who tended to side with their father. In fact, all these years later it's their father Kate's sister seems to take after most. 

Kate herself has spent over a decade traveling the globe reporting on the worst atrocities. An award winning war reporter, she most recently spent three weeks in Syria, where she was posted when she found out her mother had passed away. She missed the funeral. 

Now, she's returned to her hometown and her mother's home ostensibly to help put her mother's affairs in order. In truth, Kate needs time to recover from the things she witnessed and experienced overseas. Haunted by her time in Syria and her own childhood memories, Kate begins to hear screams coming from the neighbor's house. She's also seen a young boy in and around the yard, but when she calls the police she's told there are no children in the home. Can Kate be certain of anything she sees and hears? Or is her own mind playing tricks on her?

My Sister's Bones is an intriguing read and, I have to say, a pretty fantastic debut. We begin with Kate being held by the police, so we know things have not gone well on her trip home. The story immediately jumps back one week to her arrival. She meets the neighbor, a refugee who appears to be living alone, and, as she recalls both her own experiences at the hands of her abusive father and what was clearly a very traumatic time in Syria, begins to hear and see strange things at the neighbor's house.

Pretty early on, the reader - just like the local police - questions whether Kate has really seen what she says or if it's flashbacks from her own past. And as the story progresses, Kate doesn't make it any easier to believe her. We, the readers, know that she's experiencing auditory and visual hallucinations. We also know that her reports of the boy next door bear a marked resemblance to both her childhood (she reports seeing the boy laying in her yard just chapters after recalling a night she spent under her mom's rosebushes after her father banished her for the evening) and her hallucinations/memories of Syria.

Of course wondering if there's something to her suspicions drives the story, but so does Kate herself. We know she's yet to deal with something huge in her immediate past. There are hints of it throughout, especially in her talks with the psychiatrist at the police station. Her relationship with her sister, who's holed herself up at home except for her missions to acquire more alcohol, is terrible. And there's an increasing suspicion that even if Kate isn't 100% sure of what she's seen, something is not quite right. All of that rolled up into one neat story package means that My Sister's Bones is a hard one to put down!

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

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

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Sunday, July 9, 2017

New Releases 7/11/17

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

When the English Fall by David Williams

Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero

The Witches of New York by Ami McKay

My Sister's Bones by Nuala Ellwood

The Secrets She Keeps by Michael Robotham

Final Girls by Riley Sager

Tornado Weather by Deborah E. Kennedy

Bannerless by Carrie Vaughn

Tomorrow's Kin by Nancy Dress

The Fifth Ward: First Watch by Dale Luca

The Rift by Nina Allen

Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

Dark Saturday by Nicci French

Hello, Sunshine by Laura Dave

Ten Dead Comedians by Fred Van Lente

Down a Dark Road by Linda Castillo

House of Spies by Daniel Silva

Ash and Quill by Rachel Caine

The Thread Level Remains Severe by Rowena Macdonald

At the Table of Wolves by Kay Kenyon

Like a Fly on the Wall by Simone Kelly

Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown

Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen by

The Seven Rules of Elvira Carr by Frances Maynard

What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum

Hello, Sunshine by Leila Howard

The Savage Dawn by Melissa Grey

New on DVD:
The Lost City of Z
Their Finest
The Fate of the Furious

New review at Bookbitch.com:
Before This is Over by Amanda Hickie

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The One That Got Away by Leigh Times

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Leigh Himes's debut, The One That Got Away.

Married, with two kids and a job she's good at (even if she doesn't really enjoy it, due to circumstances), Abbey is, for all intents and purposes, happy... ish. And yet she also feels like something is missing. 

While perusing the pages of Town & Country one day, she comes across a picture of a man she simply knew as Alex. Once upon a time, Alexander Collier van Holt asked Abbey out on a date. And now, she wonders what things would have been like if she'd said yes. Then she takes a tumble down an escalator at Nordstrom and gets to find out! But is the privileged life as the wife of one of Philadelphia's best and brightest really what she wants? Or is the messy and sometimes struggling life  of before really the better of the two? Abbey will have to decide for herself!

The One That Got Away is a sweet and funny what if story. What if Abbey had said yes? What if she'd led a very different life? And of course, as she gets the chance to ponder over these questions and live the results, she has to face the fact that her old life of non designer clothes, frazzled mornings, and always trying to get by may actually be the better one.

There's a reason stories like this are fun - everyone wonders about the choices they've made in life. And in Abbey's story, we get to see someone experience both. She's aware of her life with Jimmy, Sam, and Gloria even as she experiences life as a van Holt, getting the opportunity to analyze and compare the two and decide what's really most important to her.

The One That Got Away isn't packed with surprises. It's easy to see where the story is headed, but, as I said, it's both sweet and funny. Plus, you'll want to stick around for Abbey!

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

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

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane

Happy Fourth of July, everyone!

Let me preface this review by saying that Dennis Lehane, while massively talented, critically praised, and lauded by plenty of writers I adore, has been hit or miss for me throughout the years. He is, admittedly, an incredibly talented writer but his books just don't always appeal to me as a reader. Much as I love detective fiction, I never fell in love with his Kenzie and Gennaro series and many of the other books just didn't catch my attention. With the exception of Shutter Island.

Shutter Island is absolutely brilliant and one of my all time favorite reads. And so I've been open to Lehane, simply waiting for another of his books to catch my eye the way that one did.

Since We Fell seemed like it might be the one.

Rachel Childs did not have an easy childhood. Her father left when she was just three and her mother kept his identity a closely held secret, the kind she lorded over Rachel. After years of promising to reveal enough information that Rachel could seek him out herself, her mother passes away without revealing said information. Driven to find meaning in her life and her career, Rachel sets off on one mission after another - finding her father's identity, connecting with the man himself, covering stories that mean something... - until she finally breaks down in a very public and career ending way.

But life is starting to look up again, in spite of the fact that Rachel has become something of a shut in thanks to unpredictable panic attacks. She's remarried to a man she loves dearly, who loves her as well. And yet the panic attacks continue. Not only that, but Rachel finds herself analyzing her new life in a manner that suggests she still can't trust the things around her. Whether her suspicion is founded or another symptom of her fragile mental state is something only Rachel can discover.

Since We Fell builds so slowly. For the first half of the book, the story is driven by Rachel herself. Given my preference, as I've mentioned many times, definitely leans away from character driven tales it seemed likely I'd probably DNF this one. And yet there was something about Rachel that kept me interested.

Oh, and there's the fact that the book begins with Rachel killing her husband. Those elements combined to pretty much ensure that I was invested enough in the story to be driven by curiosity as to how we'd get from Rachel's beginning to that shocking end.

Rachel is stubborn and, as I mentioned, driven. While it seems she has nothing to go on at all, and a PI even reinforces this idea, she's still determined to find her father. Later, she sticks to her guns as a journalist, risking (and ruining) her career in an effort to help in Haiti. Her dogged demeanor means that once she sets her mind to something, she's not going to give up. But it turns out that might be to her detriment as well.

It takes roughly half of the book before the story really gets moving. But again, Rachel is interesting. Her husband travels - a lot. Rachel stays home because she's been fighting agoraphobic tendencies and panic attacks, but one fateful afternoon she does actually leave her home to meet up with a friend for drinks. And it's that meeting that kicks off the real action of the story.

It's almost jarring how quickly the book breaks from the slow build of the first half. It's definitely disjointed to some extent. No doubt the slow build of the first half will (and already has) garner criticism from readers, but so far the book's gotten the same great reviews Lehane always gets from fellow authors and trade publications. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it because, as a whole, and disjointedness aside, I did enjoy Since We Fell. While I definitely think that first half gives the reader a chance to understand Rachel and her life leading up to that point, and it does make more sense by the time the book is finished, I'd argue that it could have been pared down at least a little a bit. But it certainly didn't keep me from adding this to the win column as far as Lehane's books go for me.  I listened to it on audio, narrated by Julia Whalen, which is a bit of a change for me, and found myself looking for excuses to fit in time to listen.

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Child by Fiona Barton

Last year, Fiona Barton burst onto the scene with her debut, The Widow. Last week, her highly anticipated second book, The Child, hit shelves.

Like The Widow, this is a hard one to sum up without giving too much away, but here goes!

It's been a while since breaking the story about baby Bella and Kate Waters knows she can't ride that wave much longer. So when the story about the bones of an infant being dug up at a local construction site breaks, she decides to dig deeper. 

Her investigation takes her to Angela Irving, a woman who's convinced the remains are those of her own daughter who went missing years ago. But Angela isn't the only one watching the story closely.

The story alternates between Kate and Angela as well as Emma, a woman who is certain the police will come knocking on her door any minute for reasons that aren't clear to the reader in the beginning and Jude, Emma's mother.

If you enjoyed The Widow you will definitely love The Child. Barton employs the same quick pace and careful attention to detail in her second outing. Each narrator offers up tiny clues that move the story along. Even still, I wasn't able to figure out the end before it came.

When we met Kate in The Widow, I didn't love her. And I think that was the point. In Barton's debut, the reader wasn't supposed to be sure who to trust and Kate seemed like just another reporter nosing her way into someone's private business. In that case, a grieving widow. Of course, things there weren't quite what they seemed, as we learned soon enough.

By now, though, I love Kate. I love her tenacity and her tendency to follow her gut instinct. More than that, I love that she rallies in the face of her paper going ever the way of so many others. She's not going to go down without a fight and she's not going to let the story go until the truth has been revealed.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

New Releases 7/4/17

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:
The Last Hack by Christopher Brockmyre

The Reluctant Queen by Sarah Beth Durst

Madame Zero by Sarah Hall

Sungrazer by Jay Posey

Local Girl Missing by Claire Douglas

Don't Close Your Eyes by Holly Seddon

Every Deadly Kiss by Steven James

South Pole Station by Ashley Shelby

Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner

The Lightkeeper's Daughters by Jean E. Pendziwol

Made for Love by Alissa Nutting

The Graybar Hotel by Curtis Dawkins

Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook by Christina Henry

Heroine Worship by Sarah Kuhn

The Reason You're Alive by Matthew Quick

The Disappearances by Em Bailey

New on DVD:
The Zookeeper's Wife
Awakening the Zodiac

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Pre Pub Book Buzz: Leona: The Die is Cast by Jenny Rogneby

I've been tuning in to a host of Book Riot podcasts of late - all of which are terrible for my TBR! One of them, Read or Dead, is focused exclusively on mystery/suspense/thriller titles and launched just this month with a discussion that included recapping some of the titles featured at BEA, including the first in the Leona series, The Die is Cast by Jenny Rogneby.

Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

Naked and bloody, a seven-year-old girl walks into a bank in central Stockholm in broad daylight and gets away with millions. Leona Lindberg of Stockholm's Violent Crimes Division agrees to work on the case. With a long, distinguished history in the police force, she seems the perfect choice. But Leona is grappling with deep issues of her own--a gambling addiction, a strained marriage--that could jeopardize the investigation. As she struggles to keep the volatile pieces of her life under control, the line between right and wrong becomes increasingly unclear--and even irrelevant.

I love a good Scandi crime and I am definitely intrigued by the premise here. Unfortunately I did not manage to snag a copy of this one at BEA myself, but I will definitely be keeping an eye out for it when it releases from Other Press in August.