Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Killer Choice by Tom Hunt + a Giveaway

Happy Book Birthday to Tom Hunt whose debut, Killer Choice, hits shelves today!

Gary and Beth should be celebrating - they have a baby on the way after years of trying and basically their whole lives ahead of them. But when Beth is diagnosed with stage IV cancer, all their hopes and dreams crumble. They're told the tumor in Beth's brain is inoperable and that she's got maybe a year at most. But Gary doesn't want to give up. Especially when he hears about a new treatment that's shown promising results. Unfortunately, the cost of the treatment is so far out of reach that it seems hopeless.

Then Gary receives a call. A man who says he can solve Gary's money problem in exchange for a favor: Gary has to kill a man. 

Hunt's debut is being touted as the perfect read for Harlan Coben fans, and it's easy to see why. Hunt employs the same technique Coben has made a name for himself with - an everyday, average guy gets swept up in a dangerous plot with high stakes and lots of action.

Hunt uses short chapters with cliffhanger endings that sweep the reader along into the next and the next and the next until the book is done.

And of course since it's a story about desperation - a man desperate to save the life of the woman he's spent almost half of his life with - the stakes are quiet high even without the murder aspect.

Hunt doesn't tease readers with the subplot, it's clear from the beginning what's brewing behind the scenes for Gary (of course Gary doesn't know). The why and the who behind the task he's been given plays out in alternating chapters as Gary considers his decision... I won't tell you how that plays out, that's the point of his story!

To celebrate the release, I'm giving away one copy of Killer Choice! To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, February 19. Open US only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more on Tom Hunt and his work you can visit his website here. You can also like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

Monday, January 29, 2018

It Should Have Been You by Lynn Slaughter - Excerpt + a Giveaway

Happy Monday, readers! I'm back from vacation and I've got a treat for you - an excerpt from Lynn Slaughter's fab YA mystery, It Should Have Been You. Here's a bit about the book to get us started:

Living in her sister's shadow has never been more dangerous.

Five months ago, Clara Seibert’s twin sister was murdered. Struggling under the weight of newfound and unwanted attention, the only thing that makes Clara feel normal is ghostwriting an advice column for her school’s newspaper—until she starts receiving threatening emails in her staff inbox.

“It should have been you...but soon."

Convinced that her email stalker blames her for her sister’s death and is out for revenge, Clara undertakes her own investigation to clear her name and avoid a similar fate. Can she solve the murder before it’s too late?

I love a great mystery, especially a great YA mystery! This one officially hits shelves tomorrow, but you can get a sneak peak here right now:

by Lynn Slaughter
excerpt from Chapter 2

As I raced toward Jenny’s house, I pushed the speedometer on my VW bug so high my car shook, right along with me. Definitely not a good combination. I was so distracted I nearly sideswiped a delivery truck as it pulled out of the back entrance of Ralph’s House of Pancakes. So much for priding myself on my responsible driving.

Jenny was waiting for me in the lobby of her chrome and glass-covered high-rise that was so shiny it made my eyes hurt. But it was one of the addresses to have in Springbrook, Ohio. Jenny’s parents were hot-shot attorneys, who worked such long hours Jenny referred to seeing them in passing as “newsworthy sightings.” Our parents were close to being absentee—hers, physically, and mine...more emotionally. Sometimes I think that’s why we understood each other so well. We know what it’s like to be an afterthought.

Rick, the ancient doorman, swept the door open for me with a flourish. Jenny took one look at my face and pulled me into her enormous arms for a giant bear hug. As she liked to say about herself, “I’ll never be a small girl.” She was over six feet tall and outweighed me by a good fifty pounds of solid muscle.

But the biggest thing about Jenny has always been her heart. “Come on,” she said, pulling me toward the elevator. “Stay for dinner? We can call out for Chinese.”

My stomach lurched. “Not sure how much I can eat, but I think so…I’ll check with my dad.”

Fifteen minutes later, the knot lodged in my gut tightened, as we sat side-by-side staring bleakly at the damn message on the computer screen. “It could just be another one of those creeps that went after you before,” Jenny said, “one of Moura’s weird groupies trying to freak you out. Maybe they’re mad that you’re still here, and she’s not.”

“Well, consider me freaked!”

Jenny squeezed my arm. “That’s what this jerk is going for, so my advice to my favorite advice expert is to show him you’re not freaked.”

Just then, Rick buzzed. The Golden Pearl deliveryman had arrived with our order. “Clara, this delivery guy is so hot!” Makeup kit in hand, she dashed to the ornate gilded mirror in the foyer, quickly ran a brush through her hair, and put some lip gloss on before descending to the lobby to retrieve our food.

When she got back, she was practically glowing. “He winked at me!”

Usually, this would launch us into a strategy session on how to make a love connection with Mr. Hottie Deliveryman. But not tonight. As Jenny worked her way through two helpings of Vegetable lo Mein and sesame chicken, I picked at my food and pushed it around my plate. I couldn’t stop obsessing about the message. “No one on the staff is supposed to breathe a word that I write the column.” God, would I ever be able to trust anyone again? The paper had been the one place I felt safe.

“Uh…you told me.”

She had me there. I’d promised, along with everyone else on staff, to keep quiet about who wrote Since You Asked.

She held up three fingers. “Scout’s honor, I haven’t said a word. But chances are you’re not the only staff member who blabbed to their BF and swore them to secrecy.”

“You’re right.” I sighed and slumped down. “What should I do? I feel like I want to write back.”

“Are you sure that’s a good idea?”

“I don’t know, but I can’t let this creep think he—or she—is getting to me.”

We headed back to the computer and I pushed “reply”: Gee, thanks. Be sure and let me know a date and time, so I can pencil you in.

I hesitated, then pushed “send.” For a moment, I felt better.

But seconds later, a return message popped up: This account is no longer in service.

I swore. Jenny, who’d been looking over my shoulder, threw a comforting arm around me.

“Clara, you’ve got to talk to the cops.”

Less than an hour later, I was in the police station making a report. It took the callow-faced sergeant less than five minutes to connect the dots and send me up to Detective Martino’s office. I’d hoped I could avoid him, but he’d either pulled night duty or was working late.

Amazing how little his office had changed in the last few months. Scribbled notes, piles of folders, and old Styrofoam coffee cups littered his desk. The familiar bars crisscrossed his dirty window. Even if he wanted to look out at the city, I doubted he could see much through all the grime.

“So,” he said, staring at the computer screen where he’d pulled up the message, “you don’t recognize this address?”

“No. And when I tried to reply, I got a message the account was no longer in service. Can you figure out who sent it?”

“We can try. But how did this person even know to send it to the column? I thought you told me no one knows who writes it.” His hooded dark eyes stared at me with their usual mixture of suspicion and semi-contempt.

“I don’t have a clue. We’re all supposed to be on our honor not to say, but maybe someone on staff talked—or someone guessed.”

“All right, I’ll have one of our tech guys check it out.” He paused and lifted his mangy eyebrows expectantly. “I’ll need all the ISPs for your devices.”

“What? You think I sent these to myself?”

“Look, all I know is I’ve got an unsolved murder on my hands. Witnesses say you were yelling at Moura two nights earlier. Your own family was aware there were tensions. I’ve got no signs of forced entry, she gets bludgeoned to death, yet you claim you didn’t hear a thing. You see why I’m having a little trouble with this?”

“I’ve told you over and over again. I was listening to Dixie-Land jazz riffs on my i-Pod with my ear buds in. My bedroom’s up on the third floor. World War III could have been going on downstairs, and I wouldn’t have heard a thing!”

“You don’t have to yell, Clara. I heard you…Dixie-Land jazz, huh? I don’t know too many teenagers who go in for that kind of music.”

“So now I’m suspicious because I like jazz? This is ridiculous!”

“Just an observation.” He paused, and I could almost see the wheels in his miniature brain turning, as he went for his version of a sympathetic smile. I wanted to tell him to stick to his day job and forget acting, but I knew I couldn’t stop him from giving Good Cop Mode another whirl.

“Clara,” he said in a markedly softer tone. “I know it couldn’t have been easy being the sister of a superstar.”

I cut him off just as he was about to launch into his favorite version of my sister’s murder—that starred me sneaking up behind Moura while she practiced Rachmoninoff’s Barcarolle and smashing the back of her head with the book end bust of Clara Schumann, the famous pianist I’d been named after no less.

“How many times do I have to tell you? I did not kill my sister! And if you had a shred of evidence, you’d have arrested me a long time ago.”

“This investigation is far from closed.”

I pushed my seat back and stood up. “I don’t know why I bothered reporting this to you guys. I thought your job was to find my sister’s killer, not torment me.”

Detective Martino pulled himself to his feet, his beefy super-sized frame looming above. “I’m just doing my job, Clara,” he said, evenly. “And we’ll definitely check this out. Call me immediately if any more threats come in. Understood?”

I nodded and stalked out, unable to resist the urge to slam the door behind me.

Excerpted from IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN YOU © Copyright 2018 by Lynn
 Slaughter. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

About the author: Lynn Slaughter has a passion for dance and music—from Frank Sinatra to Chopin—and her first book, While I Danced, was a finalist in the 2015 EPIC competitionin the Young Readers category. After a long career as a professional dancer, she earned her MFA in writing popular fiction from Seton Hill University. She and her husband live in Louisville, Kentucky. You can visit her at www.lynnslaughter.com and follow her on Twitter @lslaughter2.

Ooh, I love it! I can't for all of you to read more! 

Thanks to the publicist, I have one copy to give away here on the blog. To get your name in the running, all you have to do is fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, February 12. Open US only and no PO boxes, please!

And if you just can't wait until tomorrow to read more (I would't blame you), you can check out more excerpts here:

1/24: Teenreads
1/25: Criminal Element
1/29: No More Grumpy Bookseller
1/30: Elizabeth A. White
2/1: Short & Sweet Reviews
2/2: Novel Novice
2/5: Read Now Sleep Later

Sunday, January 28, 2018

New Releases 1/30/18

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Blood Sisters by Jane Corry

Still Me by Jojo Moyes

Into the Black Nowhere by Meg Gardiner

Killer Choice by Tom Hunt

The Burial Society by Nina Sadowsky

The Midnight Front by David Mack

The Grave's a Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

This is What Happened by Mick Herron

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Reign the Earth by A. C. Vaughn

S.T.A.G.S by M. A. Bennett

New on DVD:
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women
Last Flag Flying

Friday, January 26, 2018

Short Fiction Friday: Eight Ghosts edited by Rowan Routh

Eight authors, eight spooky historic sites...

Imagine being given free reign of an historic and possibly haunted location in the English countryside. It's a horror fanatic's dream! It's also the basis for Eight Ghosts: The English Heritage Book of New Ghost Stories, a collection put together by English Heritage, the organization responsible for preserving and caring for historical sites throughout England. Eight authors were chosen and each given access to a site of their choosing as inspiration for an original short ghost story to be included in the collection.

Here's the full TOC:
"They Flee From Me That Sometime Did Me Seek" by Sarah Perry - Audley End
"Mr Lanyard's Last Case" by Andrew Michael Hurley - Carlisle Castle
"The Bunker" by Mark Haddon - York Cold War Bunker
"Foreboding" by Kamila Shamsie - Kenilworth Castle
"Never Departed More" by Stuart Evers - Dover Castle
"The Wall" by Kate Clanchy - Housesteads Roman Fort
"As Strong as Death" by Jeanette Winterson - Pendennis Castle
"Mrs Charbury at Eltham" by Max Porter - Eltham Palace

I thought this was a truly fantastic collection of creepy tales! It's not often that I really love every story in an anthology like this, but in this case I really did.

Sarah Perry, author of The Essex Serpent, and Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, offered up two of my hands down favorites, though. In the first, an art conservator is hired for a job that has terrifying results and in Haddon's tale, people are plagued by memories of another time.

The other tales range from chilling - Max Porter's entry about a woman revisiting the site of her sister's disappearance - to the heart wrenching - Kate Clanchy's tale of a family visit to Housesteads Roman Fort - and everything in between. There's an actress who takes method acting a bit too far in Stuart Evers's tale, a wedding that's crashed by a departed soldier in Jeanette Winterson's delightful tale, a security guard who didn't believe in ghosts before his latest posting in Kamila Shamsie's story, and a lawyer faced with terrifying visions of death in Andrew Michael Hurley's entry.

Trust me, each and every one is fabulous and fabulously eerie!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

666 Park Avenue by Gabriella Pierce

See, backlist reading!

Another of my challenge goals is "finish a trilogy" - this is both a square on the List Reading Challenge as well as a points earner in BookBar's challenge. I'd set out to read a different one (my bookshelves are actually littered with unfinished series and trilogies!), but Gabriella Pierce's 666 Park Avenue has been hanging around on my shelves since 2011! It seemed like it was time.

Jane Boyle is in love. It's been a whirlwind two months since she met Malcolm Doran, but it seems he feels the same considering he's asked her to be his wife! And Jane is looking forward to building a new life with Malcolm, even though it means leaving behind the only home (and country) she's ever known and moving to America. But it's an adventure she knows she can handle with him by her side.

Even learning of her grandmother's recent death and the fact that she's a witch by blood can't keep Jane down. Until she meets her in laws!

The Dorans are upper crust like Jane has never experienced and her mother-in-law instantly takes charge of the wedding. Jane figures she should pick her battles, letting the woman have her way for the most part, especially since she's trying to control her newfound powers. Her plan seems to be working, for a while, until she realizes she's not the only witch in New York City. And this new world she's part of isn't exactly welcoming!

As you may know, there was a tv series by the same name, ostensibly based on these books. I was a big fan of the show, and even though I clearly waited forever, I was looking forward to reading and continuing the story in the books. And yet, they are the same in title only - which is kind of crappy. It made for a rocky start in my reading, all things considered. (I know, I had forever to find this out.)

That hurdle aside, I was quickly able to sink in and really enjoy this one. It's light and a bit fluffy, also more romance than I typically read. But it was also great fun!

Jane is a witch by blood - which means her mother was a witch as well. There are some intricacies to the witch world that Pierce goes into in more detail, but this is the important thing to know for now. Unfortunately for Jane, her parents died when she was very young and her maternal grandmother (also a witch) never told her anything about the witchy stuff. Which leaves Jane in a pickle! Thanks, grandma!

But Jane's resourceful, luckily! When she realizes there are others around her who might be able to help her, she begins a crash course to learn her new powers. And just in the nick of time, too.

666 Park Avenue ends with things a bit up in the air for Jane. The story leads straight into the sequel, The Dark Glamour, and the story concludes with The Lost Soul. It's a good thing the books are still in print because I somehow missed book 2 (book 3 was already in my TBR).

Monday, January 22, 2018

Thursday's Child by Nicci French

Things haven't been easy for Frieda of late and when she's approached by an old schoolmate looking for therapy for her daughter, things get worse. 

The teen claims to have been attacked and raped in her own bedroom. Her mother doesn't believe her, in fact she thinks it's a cry for attention. But Frieda not only believes the girl, she knows personally that she's telling the truth. Because the girl's story resembles one Frieda knows well - her own. 

When Frieda was a teen, a man broke into her home and attacked her. And her own mother didn't believe her either. Now, convinced the rapists are one and the same, Frieda is determined to unmask the man guilty of that long ago crime and make sure he pays for this most recent one as well. 

I'm doing some backlist reading of late. In this case, I missed a couple before Saturday and now Sunday is out and I need to catch up!

This one isn't an easy read, especially if you're sensitive to rape plot lines, but I feel it's both timely and handled well. Frieda herself, while a victim, doesn't see herself that way. In fact, she believes she's come through it ok (arguably that's not quite the case). But she sees herself in this new patient and knows that she can help. Even when she gets pushback from all directions.

Her own mother still holds true to her own opinion that Frieda lied. But we get to see exactly what the issue has been between Frieda and her mother all this time - her mother's horrid! Poor Frieda realizes, though, that her mother is unwell and has to deal with that issue while also facing her past demons!

The book centers around an impending high school reunion, and as Frieda investigates she has to question her own small group of friends from all those years ago. It's clear that they're hiding things and even, in a few cases, harboring some not so fond feelings for the therapist. Which drives home even more just how much Frieda has moved forward both as the series has progressed and in terms of her past.

Her own progression is counterbalanced by the friends who stayed behind. It's an interesting perspective as a reader, and of course it enhances that feeling that Frieda is now an outsider - and maybe always has been - in her hometown. Which was, as she discovers, why she was chosen as a victim.

In spite of my falling behind, each entry in this series by husband and wife writing team Nicci French just further cements how much of a favorite it is of mine! As I mentioned above, Frieda has come so far as a character in these books - and she's not alone. While there's a clear main character, the series has such a strong cast of characters that all get ample and fabulous development as the series goes by. And that includes some of the baddies.

This series can easily be read out of order - I'm a prime example of late. But there are threads that continue and progress as the series does. And of course the character relationships as well. So maybe don't follow my example and do read them in order :)

Sunday, January 21, 2018

New Releases 1/23/18

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Need to Know by Karen Cleveland

The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander

Best Friends Forever by Margot Hunt

Walking the Bones by Randall Silvis

The Other Side of Everything by Lauren Doyle Owens

Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi

The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes

The Raptor & the Wren by Chuck Wendig

Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan

The Sky Is Yours by Chandler Klang Smith

Our Lady of the Prairie  by Thisbe Nissen

Zack by Mons Kallentoft

The Milk Lady of Bangalore by Shoba Narayan

The Wife by Alafair Burke

Elysium Fire by Alastair Reynolds

If You Knew Her by Emily Elgar

Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp

Let's Talk About Love by Claire Kann

Markswoman by Rati Mehrotra

Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh

New on DVD:
The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Thank You For Your Service

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Best Friends Forever by Margot Hunt - Excerpt

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Margot Hunt's Best Friends Forever. Today I have an excerpt for you, number 12 if you're following the tour, but first here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

Kat Grant and Alice Campbell have a friendship forged in shared confidences and long lunches lubricated by expensive wine. Though they’re very different women—the artsy socialite and the struggling suburbanite—they’re each other’s rocks. But even rocks crumble under pressure. Like when Kat’s financier husband, Howard, plunges to his death from the second-floor balcony of their South Florida mansion.

Howard was a jerk, a drunk, a bully and, police say, a murder victim. The questions begin piling up. Like why Kat has suddenly gone dark: no calls, no texts and no chance her wealthy family will let Alice see her. Why investigators are looking so hard in Alice’s direction. Who stands to get hurt next. And who is the cool liar—the masterful manipulator behind it all.

Agh, it sounds so good! I can't wait to dive in!

And now to the excerpt:

Best Friends Forever
by Margot Hunt
excerpt #12

“I don’t think anyone on the outside ever truly knows what goes on inside a marriage,” I said carefully.

Demer smiled patiently. “No, probably not. I’m just asking for any impressions you might have formed from being around them.”

“That’s just it. Whenever I saw the two of them together, well, I was there, wasn’t I? Most married people behave differently when there are other people around. I know my hus- band and I do.”

It was a nonanswer, but if it frustrated Demer, he hid it well. Oliver, on the other hand, looked like she wanted to slap me. “Fair enough,” Demer said. “Did Katherine ever complain about her husband?” “Kat,” I corrected him. “Excuse me?”

“She goes by Kat, not Katherine.” “Okay. Kat, then. So, did she?”

“Complain about her husband?” I repeated. He nodded. “Sure, from time to time. I hate to break it to you, Detective, but most women complain about their husbands to their friends.”

The wonderful thing about this statement was that it had the benefit of being the absolute truth.

“Let’s get back to Howard Grant,” Demer said.

My patience was starting to fray. “I’ve already told you, I wasn’t close with Howard. I was friends with Kat. I suggest you talk to her if you want to know about her husband.”

“Oh, we’ve already talked to Katherine Grant,” Oliver inserted.

Something about this bald statement caused a f licker of concern at the edges of my consciousness. I wasn’t sure what exactly about it bothered me. Of course, it only made sense that they would interview Kat as part of their investigation, even if she was out of the country at the time of Howard’s
death. But then, suddenly, I realized what the problem was. Kat hadn’t told me the police had been to see her. And we told each other everything, or almost everything. I knew when her insomnia was acting up, and when the dry cleaner ruined her favorite dress, and usually what she’d had for dinner the night before. So why didn’t she call to tell me the police had questioned her about her husband’s death?

“When did you speak with Kat?” I asked.

Demer shot Oliver a glance. She shrugged but didn’t say any- thing more. I suddenly had the distinct feeling that there was something more going on here. That the police had not asked me to come in simply to give them background information. “What is this all about, anyway? Why are you asking me about Kat and Howard’s marriage?” I pressed.

“Like I said, we’re looking for background,” Demer said. “We’re just trying to make sure we’ve covered everything.” “And they brought you all the way down here from Tallahassee to do that?” I asked.

Demer looked at me steadily but didn’t answer my ques- tion. It was clear there was something going on, some reason they had for questioning me, and I didn’t know what that was. “Why don’t you tell us about when you first met Howard

Grant?” Demer suggested.

“I’m not sure if I remember,” I said, thinking back. “It would have been three years ago.”

“Try,” the detective said. “Take your time.”

Best Friends Forever doesn't officially hit shelves until Jan 23, but you can read through all of the excerpts on the tour if you want more of a taste. 

For more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here. Be sure to come back here on February 12 to see my review of the book!

For more on Margot Hunt 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 | Barnes & Noble

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Elementals by Michael McDowell

For me, the start of a new reading year is always exciting. Setting goals, starting challenges, closing out the prior year with my list of faves... And I did all three at the dawn of 2018: I submitted a top ten to Bookbitch.com and posted my expanded "Favorite Reads of 2017" here on the blog. I set my Goodreads goal for 2018 (150 with the expectation [hope] that I'll have to set that higher as the year goes by - I squeaked by with my 180 goal of 2017, so we'll see), and I chose a few challenges for the year as well. This year, I'm sticking to the Litsy Reading Challenge bingo card and Book Riot's Read Harder challenge. (I'm also doing BookBar's Read-o-Lution challenge, but it's only a few weeks long.)

Considering I only finished one challenge in full last year (a novella challenge), this year is starting off promisingly - I've already managed to finish a few challenge goals!

You may recall seeing mention of The Elementals on my Ghost Stories for Christmas post. Sadly, I didn't manage to actually pack the book when we left for the holidays, so I wasn't actually reading it on Christmas Eve as planned. (It's ok, though, I did have something.) I'd then intended this to be my final read of 2017, but I was sick and that didn't exactly happen either. But I did manage to make it my first read of 2018! And it satisfies a square on the Litsy Reading Challenge!

Michael McDowell, if you don't know, was a fairly prolific author whose work was mostly released in the 80s. He's best known, though, as the screenwriter behind Beetlejuice and The Nightmare Before Christmas. And I wouldn't be surprised if this is the first time you're hearing of him, sadly.

His work has been largely out of print for a while, but thanks to Valancourt Books and Felony & Mayhem, quite a few of his titles have been reissued in recent years. And thank goodness for that! Valancourt in particular has been reissuing McDowell's old southern gothic/horror titles, including The Elementals.

Marian Savage has died and in honor of her death, her son Dauphin, his wife, mother-in-law, brother-in-law, niece, and maid are all headed to the family beach homes for the summer. 

The trio of buildings, built by the Savage family decades ago, have barely changed over the years. Well, with one major exception. At one time, two of the homes were sold. One was eventually purchased by Dauphin's father-in-law, but no one is sure who owns the third. No one ever visits it. And now, all these years later, in spite of looking virtually the same as the other two, the sand has begun to reclaim it.

The homes have a strange history. Dauphin's recently departed mother died there, for one. But it's more than that. Strange sightings, strange noises, and strange occurrences plague the place. Dauphin's own brother disappeared there one summer. But in spite of that, the group is determined to have a good time. 

It seems the houses have different plans, though. 

I loved the timelessness of this story. It was originally released in 1981 but, with the exception of the lack of cell phones, it could really take place just as easily now as then. The houses are cut off from the outside world and, essentially, from time itself. Which is exactly what gives it that timeless feel.

The Elementals isn't a loud or flashy horror read. Instead, it's something of a slow burn that builds in tension thanks to the atmosphere and characters within the story. The sultry heat of summer seeps from the pages as does the grainy itch of sand.

I was going to say that India and Odessa are the two most interesting characters in the story. And it's true that they're the two characters who experience most of the happenings at the beach homes. But in retrospect, they're simply the two I was most drawn to. In all honesty, each of the characters has a little something about them in turn.

India is a precocious teen who lives alone with her single father in New York City. The product of an unhappy marriage, India is perfectly happy with her home life. It would be expected that she'd be bored out of her mind at the beach, but that definitely isn't the case. Her relationship with Odessa, the Savage family maid, is rocky at first - India understandably isn't comfortable with the idea of a maid and it comes across as surliness towards the woman. But when she starts seeing things in the third home and realizes Odessa may have answers, that relationship quickly changes.

I will say that I didn't find The Elementals a completely satisfying read. I wanted more from it. And not just answers about the entities that haunt Beldame. There was something about The Elementals that felt more like a chapter out of a larger story. Like there should have been more to the tale of the Savages and the McCray's than this one summer. It was fun, but I wanted more from it - or maybe just more to it.

I should point out that I have actually read McDowell before. In 2006, Berkley released Candles Burning, which was completed by none other than Tabitha King herself. You can find my review of that one over in the Bookbitch archives.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn

Happy Tuesday, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for A. J. Finn's debut, The Woman in the Window.

Anna Fox hasn't left her home in almost a year. She suffers from agoraphobia, the result of an accident she's physically recovered from but that still affects her mentally.

To fill her time, Anna plays chess online, spends time in an online forum for fellow agoraphobics, and spies on her neighbors. Yes, spies. She even uses her camera to get a better view. She knows, for example, that the new neighbor is having an affair. She also knows that the husband has only narrowly missed catching her. And the other new family across the way has caught her eye as well. Fortunately, Jane Russell is understanding of Anna's plight and even seems open to becoming friends.

But then Anna witnesses Jane's murder. And no one believes her. Especially when another woman claiming to be Jane, a woman Anna has never seen before, meets the police alive and well.

This story might sound familiar to a well-versed thriller fan. It's Rear Window, of a sort. But rather than an injured Jimmy Stewart, we have agoraphobic therapist Anna Fox.

Anna is on a number of medications. And she drinks much more than she should, especially paired with the pills. So of course everyone believes she imagined it when she frantically calls the police claiming her neighbor has been stabbed. But Anna knows what she saw! Or does she?

Throughout the book, Anna fights with the question of her sanity, bouncing back and forth between confidence in her mental state and confidence in what she saw, and being convinced she may have hallucinated it all. Even when strange things start happening in her own home, she can't be sure if she's imagining it all.

I really enjoyed the narrative style - yes, it's another unreliable narrator of a sort but in Finn's hands it never felt stale or ho hum. That's because Anna herself is such a strong character. She's fond of merlot (buys it by the case), she's a classic film aficionado (thrillers in particular), and, because of her profession, she's got a logic and understanding about her situation that makes it that much more interesting. She knows all the ins and outs but her own mind and body war against that logic.

Of course the plot, which is much more than Rear Window - but I won't give that away, is what makes the story really interesting. But paired with Anna, Finn again makes it unique. Not to mention compulsively readable!

The Woman in the Window has been getting lots of attention and hype, which did affect how I approached the book. I was concerned that it just wouldn't live up to everything I was hearing. Thankfully, it did!

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

For more on A. J. Finn you can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Sunday, January 14, 2018

New Releases 1/16/17

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn

Munich by Robert Harris

Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft

Oliver Loving by Stefan Merril Block

Where the Line Bleeds by Jesmyn Ward

City of Endless Light by Douglas S. Preston & Lincoln Child

The Weight of an Infinite Sky by Carrie La Seur

Walk in the Fire by Steph Post

Everything Here is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

Zenith by Sasha Alsberg & Lindsay Cummings

New on DVD:
Happy Death Day
The Snowman

Friday, January 12, 2018

Short Fiction Friday: Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire

Oh, what's that? It's time for another Seanan McGuire post? Yep, it is. The kids at Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children are back!

Ever since the killer was stopped at Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children, things have quieted down some. Life has returned to normal, as normal as normal can get for kids who have returned from various worlds of whimsy, fairy, and horror. But their lives are upended once more when Sumi's daughter, Rini, falls from the sky. Literally.

It seems Rini and her world are in big trouble. See, when Sumi was killed she hadn't yet defeated the Queen of Cakes, setting everyone in Confection free from a reign of terror that's meant to come to an end. Worse yet, Sumi hadn't yet met her husband or given birth to Rini, which means that Rini's very existence hangs in the balance. And so, Sumi's friends have no choice but to enter Rini's world and try and fix things.

Oh, so fun! And a bit sad too. I love these characters so much and love the stories and worlds that McGuire has built for all of them. Kade is back, as are Christopher and Nadya. And there's a new character who gets ample face time here as well: Cora. Together, with Rini by their side, they travel through multiple worlds (yes, more than just Confection!) to try and find a way to save Sumi, Rini, and everyone in Confection.

If you haven't read this series yet, go out and buy all three books. Do it this instant! They are just phenomenal in every possible way. And trust me, you'll gobble them up in probably one sitting. They're that good (and that short, too).

This one is particularly gobble worthy considering Rini's world is literally a candy land. Everything is candy and baked goods! But in a sugary world, everything is clearly not sweet. Confection is ruled by the ruthless Queen of Cakes, someone Sumi defeated. And yet, with Sumi's untimely death, the Queen of Cakes has returned. Or never left, whichever way you want to look at it.

Beneath a Sugar Sky is a trippy, confection filled read. But it's got more than that. It and the whole series have so much heart! These are characters who don't fit in, until they find a place where they do. And those places are taken from each and every one of them. Most of them spend their days at Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children trying to find a way back to the worlds they've left behind. They're misunderstood, they're abandoned, and the only place they now fit it is amongst the other kids like themselves. And oh, the feels I have for each and every one of them!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

Joan and her four-year-old son were wrapping up a nice day at the zoo when she hears the pops. She isn't sure what they are but as they near the exit it becomes clear - there's a shooter inside the zoo. Terrified but determined to protect her son, Joan runs, searching out a spot that will keep them safe and hidden until the authorities can arrive. But as the hours go by, Joan is faced time and again with decisions that could put them both at risk. Can they outwit the killers and survive the night?

This latest from Gin Phillips is actually my introduction to the author. And it's an interesting read in that it forces the reader to think about what they would do in Joan's situation.

I'm not even sure how to review the book, to be honest. Being faced with the question of what you'd do in Joan's situation hits a little too close to home these days. And I've faced my own, albeit not particularly dangerous, scenario where my reaction was definitely not what I anticipated. I know everyone imagines how they'd react. The zombie apocalypse is one of my own imaginary scenarios (and let's face it, I'm not cut out for physical or seriously stressful situations!). But as a criminal justice major in particular I had thought that I could maintain a cool head in certain situations I've been proven not to be able to. So yeah, faced with the question of what I'd do personally in Joan's situation makes me uncomfortable.

Obviously not to the point of avoiding a book about it, though. This book was intense and, in the end, quite thought provoking.

So Joan and her son are visiting the zoo, hidden away in a little shady area while he plays with his action figures. A quiet afternoon spent together and a way to keep the toddler busy and amused. But closing time is coming soon and they start to head out when the first shots happen. Joan sees bodies, she sees people running, and she takes off, seeking shelter in hopes they can evade the killer.

We get snippets of a few other characters' stories - a retired teacher and a teenager working at the zoo as well as one of the shooters - but Joan is the main focus of the story. And there wouldn't be much of a story if they found a hiding spot and stayed still until the end. So you can imagine, at least vaguely, how the story plays out. It's an emotional roller coaster and an extremely fast-paced read that took me one sitting to get through.

All of that said, I do have to admit that Joan makes a few godawful decisions! Like bafflingly bad decisions! It was akin to watching a horror movie and screaming at the heroine for going up the stairs to investigate the strange noise...

All told, this is a super readable and dark story. Fair warning!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Little Monsters by Kara Thomas

New girl Kacey is still getting used to life in Broken Falls. Living with the father she never knew and her step and half siblings and step mother isn't quite what she expected. She's been welcomed into their home and become close with them all, but she still feels like an outsider. It still feels precarious.

The same can be said of her friendships in Broken Falls. Bailey and Jade were best friends well before Kacey arrived. But they too welcomed her into their fold. At least it seemed that way. Bailey is quick to lose her temper with both Jade and Kacey, but Kacey can't imagine what she could have done to get shunned by the two of them. And that's certainly what seems to have happened when she receives no call from them about a party they're all supposed to go to. Instead, the next thing Kacey hears is that Bailey has disappeared. 

Now, Kacey has taken it upon herself to find out what happened. But locals, especially the police, aren't too keen on the fact that Kacey keeps landing right in the middle of each new revelation of the investigation. Can she find out what really happened to Bailey before suspicion turns to her?

Thomas, as is the case with her previous books (both her Kara Thomas release The Darkest Corners and her trilogy written as Kara Taylor), maintains a quick pace throughout this latest that's driven by the underlying question of just what is going on in Broken Falls.

The town has a story about another missing woman. A woman whose whole family is killed. That woman is said to haunt the area near Kacey's new home and it's a legend that intrigues Bailey and freaks Kacey's new sister out immensely. And of course the girls go out searching for the missing woman's ghost just as the story is kicking off.

In spite of this dark history, Broken Falls isn't really the kind of place where kids go missing. It's a small town where everyone knows everyone else's business. Which isn't always a good thing. Chapters are interspersed with entries from Bailey's own diary, which soon reveal that Bailey was not only hiding things from her friends but that she wasn't exactly liked by all of her peers. Of course Kacey doesn't really know this. And Kacey has problems of her own, which color her investigation into Bailey's disappearance.

Little Monsters is a YA mystery with dark leanings, but never crosses over into truly dark territory. Instead, the dread seeps in and tinges the whole story with a gray overtone, a suspicion that things aren't going to go well for the teens involved and a hope that at least the one we've followed along the way (Kacey) will come out ok in the end.

Fabulous atmosphere and a fun read!

Sunday, January 7, 2018

New Releases 1/9/18

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Two Girls Down by Louisa Luna

The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire

The Lost Plot by Genevieve Cogman

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani

Grist Mill Road by Christopher J. Yates

The Afterlives by Thomas Pierce

Winter by Ali Smith

The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

This Could Hurt by Jillian Medoff

Strangers by Ursula Archer & Arno Strobel

The Maze at Windermere by Gregory Blake Smith

Fire Sermon by Jamie Quatro

The Black Painting by Neil Olson

Fools and Mortals by Bernard Cornwell

Heart Spring Mountain by Robin MacArthur

Robots vs Fairies ed by Dominik Parisien & Navah Wolfe

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pennanen

Sinless by Tara Tarkoff

Unearthed by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

New on DVD:
Friend Request
The Foreigner
November Criminals

Friday, January 5, 2018

Short Fiction Friday: 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

Today's pick isn't a true short fiction Friday - first, it's not fiction. Second it's a short read but not classified as a novella or short story. But it's such a heartwarming read and it is short.

Helene Hanff's 84, Charing Cross Road was recommended to me by a librarian and writer I met at a conference last year. We spoke about the town the conference took place in - she was a wealth of information about things to do and see in my few hours of free time. And we spoke about my being a complete and utter anglophile and my desire to go back to England one of these days.

I received 84, Charing Cross Road from a fellow reader over on Litsy as part of the Hygge Swap earlier this year. She sent me a fantastic package with great books, English-y bookmarks, Earl Grey tea, a giant mug, a candle, socks, and hand warmers. All perfectly hygge!

As the year draws to an end, my frantic attempts to catch up and start the new year fresh and with a clean slate have really been getting to me and I've been reaching for short, easy reads that won't distract me from responsibilities. Which is why I picked up 84, Charing Cross Road one evening while my husband was out late.

The book is a collection of letters between the author and the now defunct Marks & Co used bookstore that stood at 84 Charing Cross Road in London. It begins on October 5, 1949 with Hanff's request for neat, used books she can afford on her budget. She prefers non fiction, requesting texts referenced and recommended by Sir Arthur Quiller-Coach (the subject of Hanff's Q's Legacy). And the store comes through for her time and again.

Through the years, Hanff becomes friends with the employees as well as their friends and families. This is thanks in part to the fact that Hanff sends the staff care packages full of items restricted in England due to rationing.

The bond Hanff and the employees, Frank Doel in particular, build is fabulous and comes through even when the time between the letters featured is long. And though Hanff didn't make it to England while the store was open, readers will delight in the fact that not only did she finally make the voyage overseas, but she wrote about it in The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street.

84, Charing Cross Road is absolutely perfect for bookworms and anglophiles. It's also a great pick for anyone who needs a little pick me up and a reminder that there are good things in this world!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

A Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena

Karen has been in an accident. The police investigating think it was drugs or something worse. Karen herself can't recall. 

When the body of a man is found near where the accident occurred, Karen is immediately suspected. Evidence begins to mount against her and the police are dead set on proving her guilt. But Karen still can't remember the events that led to her accident. She's certain she's no killer, but even her husband has begun to wonder...

Twisty and turny certainly describes Lapena's latest, but I can't say it completely worked for me as a reader.

Karen has no memory of the accident - why she was where she was (which was not a great part of town) or why she sped out of there in such a hurry. Certainly when the body of an unidentified man is discovered nearby it does look suspicious.

The cop on Karen's case is dogged and determined. From the start he's sure she can't have been up to anything good. And when the police investigating the murder find out there was an accident nearby that matches the time of death on the body, that same cop is fairly quick to assume Karen had to have been involved.

So that's frustrating.

But what really frustrated me about this one is Karen's husband. He pretty immediately loses faith in his wife. Even though he has secrets of his own. He's easily manipulated - and it's clear that someone is manipulating them even before it's reveled that Karen has become paranoid about people in her house.

Throughout the story, Tom is adamant that he loves his wife. That he can't imagine life without her. But the minute she can't (or won't) tell him where she's been, he turns on her!

A Stranger in the House relies a bit too much on the popularity of similar titles that have come before, in my opinion. It's not really strong enough on its own to work but obviously appeals, at least in description, to readers who enjoy unreliable narrators and suspense. And yet, by the time the story rolls around to its conclusion, the twists have proven not to be twisty enough and the story just a little cliche to truly hit the mark.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

Morrigan Crow is a cursed child. As such, she knows that she's to be held responsible for anything and everything that goes wrong around her. She also knows that she has just one year left to live. 

Well, actually, even less than that. Apparently her time is up now! But before she can be claimed by the curse that's plagued her her entire life, Morrigan is offered a chance at salvation. She's been chosen by four different people who want to sponsor her future learning. One of those is the most powerful man in all the realm. Unfortunately, when his representative disappears without a trace, Morrigan fears someone has been playing a prank on her. And yet, another would-be sponsor does appear just moments before Morrigan is supposed to die. He's from the Wundrous Society, something Morrigan has never heard of, and promises to whisk her away from everything. Thus begins an adventure Morrigan Crow could never have anticipated!

There was a lot of buzz around this title that I apparently missed. The one thing I did happen to catch was that Gemma Whelan (aka Zara Greyjoy) had been chosen to narrate the audio book!

Fortunately, this first in Jessica Townsend's debut series wouldn't have eluded my attention long. She happened to come to town to do a whirlwind of events promoting the book, staying at the Air B&B above BookBar! Half the staff read the book and were recommending it like mad before I dove into the audio. And it was brilliant fun, let me tell you!

Morrigan Crow lives a sad sort of life. But she's snarky about it. She's literally blamed for everything - hailstorms, failed jams and jellies, even deaths. And her family is supposed to compensate everyone who claims Morrigan was the cause of their troubles. Sometimes, that compensation is as small as an apology letter penned by Morrigan herself. And Morrigan knows only too well that she's truly being picked on as a scapegoat for most of these things. Her attempts at writing sincere and appropriate correspondence in the very beginning of the book were just a hint at the fabulousness that awaited me throughout Morrigan's tale.

Of course, Morrigan's own family aren't too keen on her. She's a nuisance at best and, of course, a curse at worst. And yet, she's allowed to attend a ceremony that offers local children apprenticeships and sponsorships at trade and education. Not only does she expect not to be picked - she's, as mentioned, supposed to die in a year and who would waste resources on a child who won't make it to adulthood!? - but she certainly never expected to receive an unheard of four bids!

Unfortunately, even though Morrigan does meet with one of the bidders, the bids are deemed to have been a cruel prank, and one more thing her father can be annoyed about on behalf of his only daughter.

But the bids aren't a prank. Or at least one of them isn't. A contract, followed shortly thereafter by a fellow named Jupiter North, arrives in the nick of time and Morrigan is literally whisked away from her home and her fate. She's taken through a clock to another realm where she is to be tested and tried before she can potentially be accepted into the Wundrous Society. Who and what the Wundrous Society is isn't of much worry to Morrigan considering the alternative, but the more she learns about her new potential home, the more desperate she is to be part of it.

The Trials of Morrigan Crow is a delightful read, absolutely perfect for any reader middle grade up in the mood for whimsy and adventure. And, if audio is up your alley, I can't recommend it highly enough. Whelan does an phenomenal job with the narration akin to Jim Dale's work on the Harry Potter audio books!

This is, again, the first in a new series. A trilogy, in fact. Book one released at the end of October and it looks as though we'll have to wait until October of this year for book 2. Apparently it's also in the works for film adaptation as well!

Monday, January 1, 2018

Favorite Reads of 2017

It's a new reading year, folks. And I'm still sick. Let's sincerely hope this is the low point of 2018.

To kick off the new year, I want to revisit my favorites of 2017. I did manage to squeak by with 180 reads - padded with short stories and novellas. In all honesty, I read more than that but the ones not counted were unpublished manuscripts! Well, so far unpublished :)