Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Blackout by Alex Segura

Good morning, readers! If you follow me elsewhere online then you know that I am currently sick as a dog - and expecting. So please forgive me if I'm not at my best and brightest this morning.

But I am pleased as punch to be part of the TLC blog tour for Alex Segura's latest Peter Hernandez mystery, Blackout.

Ever since Pete's last case landed him on a hit list for one of Miami's most brutal gangs, he's been hiding out working as a PI in New York. But Miami comes calling when a case that ties into a mystery from his past lands on his doorstep. 

Miami politician Trevor McRyan has his eye on moving up the political ladder but fears his son could cause issues. Said son has recently gone missing and McRyan and his wife want to hire Pete to find him. Pete refuses, intent on staying out of Miami, until a picture of the son reveals a strong likeness to the one person who claimed to know what happened to a classmate of Pete's who went missing decades ago. 

Pete dabbled in Patty Morales's case a bit, at the urging of her aunt and his one time girlfriend, leading to the discovery of the dead girl's remains. But that's as far as it went. No suspects, no explanation as to her fate, and no resolution. But as Pete digs into Patty's murder and the whereabouts of the missing McRyan, it becomes clear that whoever is responsible isn't going to let Pete unravel this mystery without a fight. And Pete soon realizes that returning to Miami could be the last mistake he ever makes. 

This fourth in Segura's PI series is a doozy. Multiple timelines thread together to meet in the present as Pete at first reluctantly and then doggedly attempts to solve one of Miami's most infamous cold cases.

We meet Pete in high school serving detention after trying to steal liquor. His run in with Patty is brief and somewhat stinging considering he'd asked her to prom and she'd refused. That it was the last time he ever saw her alive still burns today and he's haunted by the idea that he could have saved her. Patty's ex boyfriend was murdered that afternoon, the body found in the school after hours. Patty was nowhere to be found.

For years that was the case. Her father, separated from her mother and devoted to his church, was always convinced that Patty was still alive somewhere. But it wasn't until 2013 that her remains were discovered - by Pete. Patty's own aunt, her father's much younger half sister, has never given up hope that the case will be solved and is part of the force driving Pete in his current investigation.

Of course, Pete (as mentioned above) enters the case reluctantly. Each of his investigations has landed him and those around him in massive trouble. And since his last case, he's basically burned every bridge he has. He's estranged from his partner, Kathy, and hasn't spoken to anyone in Miami since he moved to Rockland County. But he's managed not to return to the bottle, so there's that.

Pete is damaged goods, something those closest to him are tiring of. They're ready for Pete to deal with his inner demons and move forward but Pete stubbornly holds on, keeping everyone at arms length (or further, as is the case at the start of Blackout). He's a good detective, as everyone keeps telling him, but he bucks against it at every turn. And Patty is clearly one of the reasons for that.

Returning to Miami does force Pete to face some of his demons. But whether he'll come out alive and survive to see the end of the case is the biggest question.

If you're a fan of gritty detective series, Alex Segura's is absolutely one you need to check out. The setting, the cases, and the characters are the perfect mix, driving the series from one installment to the next and leaving the reader anxious for more.

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

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

Purchase Links: Indie Bound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Sunday, May 13, 2018

New Releases 5/15/18

Some of the new releases hitting shelves this week are:

How to Walk Away by Katherine Center

The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll

Armistice by Lara Elena Donnelly

So Lucky by Nicola Griffith

Tin Man by Sarah Winman

Paper Ghosts by Julia Heaberlin

Do This For Me by Eliza Kennedy

Pretend I'm Dead by Jen Beagin

Fall of Angels by Barbara Cleverly

All of This is True by Lygia Day PeƱaflor

My So-Called Bollywood Life by Nisha Sharma

War Storm by Victoria Aveyard

New on DVD:
Black Panther

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Short Fiction Friday, er Saturday: Artificial Condition by Martha Wells

Murderbot is on the run and on a mission!

After hacking itself and being bought out by its client, Murderbot sets off on its own. It doesn't exactly have the blessing of that new owner but it doesn't care. Being beholden to humans isn't its idea of fun. And neither is not knowing its own story.

Apparently Murderbot turned on its clients during a past job - or so the story goes. As the only surviving SecUnit of an incident that's said to have been a massive malfunction, it believes the only reason it was put back into service was because it was too big of an investment to scrap. But its memory of the event in question was wiped. And given recent events, it can't be certain the story released to the public is the real thing.

But finding out the truth isn't as easy as it might seem. The site of the incident has been shuttered, the exact location wiped from record and Murderbot, because of recent publicity, isn't exactly unrecognizable. In order to get what it needs, it'll have to enlist help from an unexpected source.

Ooh, Murderbot! I love Murderbot so much!

As it travels trying to find out its own past, it's on a journey that makes it more and more human with each passing day. Both literally and figuratively considering it has to change its appearance and mannerisms in this second installment in order to go undercover and pass as human.

But it keeps getting tangled up in human issues!

Murderbot hasn't exactly been treated great. Even though its memory banks are wiped with each new assignment - security for hire is what it was built for and following human orders is deeply ingrained programming for all bots and SecUnits. Witnessing how others are treated is enough for it to know that this blind submission is not something it's anxious to return to. But if anyone discovers its newfound independence, it risks being reprogrammed!

While the main character in this series is a robot, it should be obvious that it's the kind of character and story anyone can identify with. Murderbot wants to be autonomous. It doesn't want to be at the mercy of its clients' whims and fancies. Nor does it want to be responsible for actions beyond its control.

But it also doesn't want to be involved in politics. Unfortunately, it can't seem to avoid them. Murderbot, in spite of programming, has a conscience and a moral code!

Wells is a truly brilliant writer. This series, each new installment, is short and sweet but packs such a big punch in terms of both emotion and plot. I desperately want more Murderbot and can't wait for each new piece of its story to arrive!

Friday, May 11, 2018

Between Earth and Sky by Amanda Skenandore

Happy Friday! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Amanda Skenandore's debut, Between Earth and Sky.

1881: Seven-year-old Alma and her family have moved west to start a school. A school for Indians. Here, the tribal children will learn to integrate into society. To lose their Indian ways and become Americans. It's her father's one true passion and Alma is excited to be part of it all. 

1906: An Indian has been arrested, accused of murdering a federal agent, and awaiting trial out west. When Alma sees the story she knows it can't be true - the accused is her friend, Harry Muskrat, a man she's knows since her school days. A smart and kind man she is certain could never have murdered anyone. And so she convinces her husband, a lawyer, to help. 

But when they travel to Minnesota, Harry staunchly refuses their help, posing a question to Alma that forces her to question her father's cause and her own part in it. 

Between Earth and Sky is a fascinating read. Based on a true case, that of a Lakota man named Tasunka Ota, and the very real Indian boarding schools that began to spring up in the late nineteenth century, the book shines a light on a piece of history many may not be aware of.

Alma herself just wants to be friends with her new classmates. But she doesn't realize the truth about the school or their circumstances - that the children are being ripped from their homes and stripped of their cultures. She does see that they're treated unjustly at the hands of their teacher - punished for not learning English quick enough for example - and she tries to help. She does eventually make friends and begins to learn more about these children and their lives before the school.

Even still, as an adult she doesn't understand why Harry would refuse the help of a white man. And it's then that she finally has to face the fact that what happened all those years ago may have been a grave wrong on the part of her father and everyone else involved with the schools and more. That the treatment of her friends wasn't for their own good at all.

Alma's spunkiness and drive draws the reader in, but it's her overall growth that keeps the reader fully immersed in her story. From the start she's clever and warm, seeing immediately that the kids she's to be schooled with are nothing like the stories and books she's been told. Her determination to make friends is rewarded and her interest in their lives and cultures makes the reader love her even more.

The story isn't sweet or happy. These things happened, fictionalized though they may be, but with Alma as a guide and Harry and the others as her own guide to the truth, Skenandore gives voice to and gives the reader a chance to really consider this dark part of our history and the awful treatment of our nations native people.

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

For more on Amanda Skenandore 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, May 9, 2018

My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Julia Whelan's debut, My Oxford Year.

Ella Durran has everything all planned out. Since she was thirteen, she's dreamed of going to Oxford and now, as a recipient of the Rhodes Scholarship, it's finally happening. But just as she's about to begin her year at the illustrious college, she receives a job offer that she can't refuse. 

As if juggling both a new campaign for an up an coming politician and academics weren't enough, Ella finds herself falling for someone quite unexpected - her new teacher! And after a none too pleasant introduction as well. Soon Ella is faced with a decision she never thought she'd have to make: the life she's always wanted or the love she could have instead. 

My Oxford Year is the ultimate life doesn't listen to plans story.

Ella comes from a background that shouldn't (in her eyes) have led to the place she is now. But through determination and drive, she's gotten there in spite of what most others expected out of her. Oxford.

Her dream is to work in politics and that dream also comes true at the very start of the book with a job offer she doesn't want to refuse. But she doesn't want to give up her time in England either. And so she promises the exact day that her year is up, she'll be on a plane back to the States. And in the meantime she'll prioritize the campaign she's been hired to be part of.

And she does it.

But as I mentioned, this is a life doesn't listen to plans story. So of course her plan is derailed when she falls for Jamie Davenport.

And the story is much more about the falling and the fallout, you might say, than it is about the politics. So if that's a fear of yours, let me put that at rest.

My Oxford Year is sweet and funny. It's also a bit heartbreaking - I have to be honest. But it's overall a light read that delivers exactly as expected. And that's definitely ok in my book!

If you're in the mood for an Angophile romance, you can't go wrong with My Oxford Year.

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

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

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Sunday, May 6, 2018

New Releases 5/8/18

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Artificial Condition by Martha Wells

What Should Be Wild by Julia Fine

Side Life by Steve Toutonghi

Blackout by Alex Segura

Blood Orbit by K.R. Richardson

Alternative Remedies for Loss by Joanna Cantor

Regrets Only by Erin Duffy

Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall

Dead Pretty by David Mark

The Boy From Tomorrow by Camille DeAngelis

Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson

Puddin' by Julie Murphy

The Girl in the Grove by Eric Smith

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Good Neighbors by Joanne Serling

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Joanne Serling's Good Neighbors.

Nicole and Jay, Nela and Drew, Lorraine, and Paige and Gene, they were friends of circumstance - neighbors in the same cul de sac with children all around the same age. Friendship became something of a convenience if not a necessity. Holiday get togethers, play dates, lunches, neighborhood gossip and parenting advice... 

But then Paige and Gene announce they're adopting a little girl from Russia. Winnie. Nicole is smitten by the girl. Her stilted English and her charming smile are enough to win over anyone. But soon the neighbors begin to think that all is not right in Paige and Gene's home. That Winnie may not be treated as well as she should. As suspicion grows, the once tight friendship that brought them all together begins to weather and crack. Relationships are tested and secrets run rampant as time goes by. But are their suspicions founded or are they simply not attuned to the real lives their neighbors are living?

What a dark little book this is! It's like a round robin of gossip, the danger of which lies in the fact that the couple at the center of all the attention doesn't get to tell their own side of the story.

Nicole is our all knowing (not really all knowing) narrator. She lives next door to Paige and Gene and has been, as we learn from the start, something of a defender for Paige with the rest of the neighbors. Paige is bossy and controlling, evidenced by the fact that the other neighbors are unhappy about her buying a tasteless group gift for the neighborhood children at their leftover party. But Nicole believes Paige's heart is in the right place.

That is until Winnie arrives. Quiet and barely able to speak English, at first it seems the adopted orphan is simply in need of time for adjustment. But Paige's behavior begins to become strange and erratic as well. As Nicole, Lorraine, and Nela watch over, they begin to wonder if everything is ok at Paige's house.

Paige tries to explain, but to Nicole especially the explanations seem to be no more than excuses meant to placate the worried neighbors. And Nicole has spent time with Winnie, so stories of her bad behavior definitely don't seem to ring true.

Of course the other neighbors feed off of one another as they each relay stories back and forth about strange things witnessed in Paige's home, phone calls with Paige, awkward lunches with her and the rest of her family...

I thought Serling perfectly captured the feel and reality of suburbia. I recall as a kid having very close neighbors and neighborhood get togethers, but that once upon a time closeness of my first few years changed when we moved to a new neighborhood. Since then, it seems that kind of closeness has dried up quite a bit. I barely know my neighbors these days!

Like I said, Good Neighbors is a bit of a dark book. And it's a quick read. One that absolutely leaves you wondering what you'd do in Nicole's situation!

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

For more on Joanne Serling 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

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

Ellie Mack was fifteen when she went missing. She was headed to the library to study but apparently never arrived. Analysis of camera footage resulted in no leads and no suspects leading the police to believe that Ellie must have run away of her own accord. But Ellie's mother knows different. Ellie was happy, she had a future, she would never have run away. 

As time has passed, Laurel has tried to put her life back together. She and her husband divorced and she has a strained relationship with her other two children. But when she meets Floyd, she thinks she might finally be ready to live again. And then she meets Floyd's young daughter, Poppy, who looks so much like Ellie at that age. And as Laurel grows closer to Floyd and Poppy, she finds she isn't quite ready to give up on finding the truth about Ellie after all. 

Have you read Lisa Jewell yet? Have you!? If not, stop what you're doing and go buy one of her books. I'm serious!

When I started Then She Was Gone, I expected to be sucked in. That has definitely been the case with previous titles I've read by the author, but I was still surprised when I looked up from the book to realize that I'd read over half of it in just one sitting!

Ellie is the perfect daughter. Laurel certainly thought so. And unfortunately she made it all too clear to the rest of her family just how perfect Ellie was and just how devastated she was when Ellie went missing. She's harsh on her husband, and realizes it. There's no love lost when they split, certainly. But she doesn't quite realize just how far she's pushed her other children away. At least not until she has news to share with them: that she's met a man and might be falling for him.

And while it's not odd for Laurel to finally be moving on, what is odd is that this new man has a young daughter who doesn't just remind Laurel of Ellie, she's the spitting image of the missing girl.

As the reader, we're treated to Ellie's story. Chapters narrated by the teen slowly reveal exactly what her fate was as Laurel herself comes closer to the truth. And it's not a pretty story by any means, but it is a completely compelling one!

Jewell's knack is for creating stories that draw you in with both the overarching mystery but also the characters. They're flawed and real and so human. And that, paired with the question of what happened to Ellie, is the perfect combination for a story that sucks you in from the very start and doesn't let up until the end!