Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas

Sunnybrook High doesn't have a cheerleader squad. Not since the the events of five years ago when the school tragically lost five of the team in one year. Two were killed in a car accident, two were murdered, and one committed suicide in the aftermath. 

Monica's sister was the last one. Which is why she's asked to take part in a memorial service the school is planning for the anniversary of the students' deaths. But Monica doesn't want any part. For one, she's dealing with her own mess at the moment. For antlers, she was never really sure her sister took her own life. But her parents won't talk about it. Her mom has a meltdown any time anyone mentions it and Monica's stepdad, a cop, isn't talking either.  

And then she finds her sister's old phone hidden away in her stepdad's desk. Sure he could have kept it for sentimental reasons, but the stack of letters hidden alongside it are a different story. And when Monica charges the phone, she sees that her sister had one final phone call on the day of her death. A call that lasted almost 20 minutes. Who was it and what could they know about her death?

Kara Thomas is a favorite of mine. A must-have-every-new-book-by-this-author favorite!

One of the things I love about Thomas's work is that she doesn't shy away from delving into the psychological aspects of the story. Monica and her family have suffered in the wake of her sister's death. Her absence is felt as strongly as though she were right there with them every day. And as a result, no one has healed.

But that lack of healing is exactly what draws Monica into the mystery. It's what keeps the mysterious caller entangled in the mystery as well - the person on the other end of that phone call who insists that Monica's sister didn't kill herself when Monica reaches out to them!

The Cheerleaders is dark and snarky - a mystery with a great lead character whose voice grabs you from the very first page and drags you alongside her as she becomes further and further entangled in what might (or might not) be a five-year-old mystery.

A new favorite and a perfect read for any mystery fan, young or young at heart!

The Cheerleaders is out on shelves today!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Hello, Sunshine by Laura Dave

The morning of Sunshine McKenzie's thirty-fifth birthday started as innocently as any other. The celebrity chef woke to her favorite song, sunlight streaming in through the window, and her husband's admonishments about checking her phone in bed.

If only the day had stayed so innocent, so normal.

When the first Tweet lands, Sunshine's team is quick to quash the incendiary missive and ferret out the hacker who seems to have taken over the account. But even as their IT person swears its been taken care of, more messages appear. Messages intent on proving Sunshine is a fraud.

And the fact of the matter is - the Tweets are true. Sunshine is a fraud. Everything she's built has come from lies and, on her thirty-fifth birthday, she loses everything.

I really loved Laura Dave's Eight Hundred Grapes, so I was pretty excited to dive into Hello, Sunshine. And it was right up my alley, all things considered!

Sunshine McKenzie is head of an empire. She started out with online videos and has become a household name. Now she's got a cookbook deal and is about to start her own Food Network TV show (probably a show I myself would tune in to). Except it's all a lie. Sunshine can't cook. Her last name isn't even McKenzie. Her persona is one that was built for maximum mass appeal. And it worked...until she got caught.

Which all happens in the opening chapters.

But what she does next is really the crux of the story. How does she learn from her experience and what does she get out of it?

Well first of all, she returns to her hometown and her family - both of which she's neglected in the wake of her own fame. And her sister, for one, is none to happy about the whole thing.

Following along as Sunshine navigates the tenuous waters of her family relationships and attempts to make amends was actually quite a funny and charming read. Somewhat surprising considering Sunshine does not start out a very likable character. And yet, she is resilient. And wondering how she'll deal with everything is a driving force in the appeal of her story.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Lido by Libby Page

Rosemary Peterson has been swimming at her local lido since the day it first opened. A neighborhood landmark, the open-air pool (and cafe and yoga studio) is a workout spot and meeting place that welcomes everyone. But as the local council explains, it's costly to maintain and money has become tight. So when a private company offers to buy the land, with plans to tear the lido down and build a condo and private facility in its place, Rosemary is just one of the people hoping to convince the council otherwise.

Kate Matthews is lonely in Brixton. Regular panic attacks and a lack of nearby friends makes it hard to get out and socialize. But all of that changes when she's tasked with covering the lido story for the local paper. Her first assignment is to interview Rosemary for a human interest piece on the pool. And it's just the first of many. As more people catch wind of the lido's possible demise, Kate suggests a series that spurs the locals and the fight to save the lido. And as she finds that as she and Rosemary become closer, the lido and her new friends become just as important to Kate as well.

Libby Page's debut is a charming feel-good read perfect for melting the hardest of hearts!

The story alternates between Kate and Rosemary and present day and past - particularly Rosemary's story with her husband George who's passed away by the time the book begins. Theirs is a sweet love story - they met after the war when he'd returned from being evacuated to the countryside, married, and lived in the apartment Rosemary still resides in as the story takes place. All the while, the lido was an integral part of their lives.

Interspersed throughout are chapters about the various locals who also escape to the lido, giving the reader a chance to get a feel for the community as a whole. With the lido as its heart, Kate and Rosemary's corner of Brixton comes to life through the story of the local bookstore, the local grocer, even the bar that was once George's own shop, and the people who live and work there.

It's a story of community and friendship in particular. But it's also the story of Kate coming into her own. Kate is quiet and very much focused on taking up as little space as possible. Escaping notice. Except when it comes to work. And the series not only forces her to come out of her shell - Rosemary grants her an interview on the promise that Kate will swim at the lido - it also gives her a chance to believe in herself for the first time.

The Lido is such a sweet story, one that I absolutely highly recommend to anyone looking for a fun read that'll give them all the warm fuzzies!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The High Season by Judy Blundell

Ruthie loves her home in Orient. She and her husband have spent years fixing the place up and making it perfect. But in order to afford the house on her museum salary, it means renting it out to high end travelers every summer. The money made in those few months is enough to cover taxes and upkeep and get them through until the following year.

This summer the house is being rented out to none other than Adeline Clay. The gorgeous widow of artist Peter Clay - Ruthie's one-time employer - has taken the house for the entire summer, eschewing her current flame's request that she spend the months in the Hamptons with him instead. And Adeline's arrival in Orient is just one of many things that spell trouble for Ruthie's carefully built life.

Ruthie and her husband - always on the brink of getting back together - couldn't be further apart, Ruthie's teenage daughter is having issues with her friends, and even the job Ruthie loves may be in jeopardy. As the summer slips by Ruthie's life is altered in unexpected ways and it seems nothing will ever be the same again.

The High Season is as intoxicating and entrancing as a perfect summer evening!

So Ruthie and her husband inherited their house in Orient. And never really could afford it. The solution was to put it up for rent each summer, using the money to pay the ever increasing taxes and costs of maintaining and fixing up the place. And it was an existence that was fine with Ruthie. But at the point the story begins both her husband and her teenage daughter have grown tired of it.

And yet their existence is still ok. Ruthie's husband has stuck around in spite of their being separated. Ruthie is happy with her job and her situation. But this particular summer everything falls apart. Ruthie's husband begins to become distant, her daughter is going through some things she won't open up to Ruthie about, and the job she's worked so hard on for so long isn't as secure as Ruthie once thought.

Through all of this, she's faced with Adeline Clay. Everyone locally wants to woo Adeline, including the museum Ruthie works for. But Ruthie's history with Adeline's ex is something that Ruthie has tried hard to put behind her, something Adeline's presence makes quite difficult.

And as Adeline becomes more and more popular in Orient, it begins to seem to Ruthie that Adeline is gaining everything Ruthie herself is losing.

It's hard not to sympathize with Ruthie even though her situation is one of her own making. Her summer is something of a train wreck and it's pretty impossible to look away. But she's humanized also, meaning that even though as a reader we're able to see Ruthie's missteps, it's easy too to imagine making the same mistakes ourselves.

Also, Ruthie is more down to earth and real than many of her other Orient counterparts. There's a level of snobbery to the story that would be overwhelmingly off-putting without Ruthie's more balanced normalcy.

I loved the social commentary, I loved the setting, and I really loved the fact that this is such a summer read! It did make me long for the beach and/or a pool to read alongside, though :)

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Trial on Mount Koya by Susan Spann

It's my favorite time of year, y'all: Susan Spann's latest book birthday!!!

Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for the latest installment in the Hiro Hattori series, Trial on Mount Koya. 

In the aftermath of the events at Iga, Hiro has been tasked with traveling to Myo-in, a Buddhist temple at the top of Mount Kōya. With Father Mateo (and Gato) by his side, Hiro is to share orders to a fellow shinobi stationed at the temple. This man is to travel the road between Kyoto and Edo to warn the other Iga agents about the attack on Iga. But before the man can get started on his mission, he is brutally murdered within the temple's walls. With a storm raging and just ten fellow priests and four travelers, including Hiro and Father Mateo, the suspect pool is small. Hiro and Father Mateo once again agree to help unravel the mystery, but as the storm rages on it becomes clear the killer isn't finished. Can they unmask the murderer before the killer is the only one left standing?

Trial on Mount Koya is Spann's homage to Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None and I have been dying to share it with you ever since I heard that was the concept behind this latest book.

Setting is such a key component in this series and in this book in particular. In the style of Agatha Christie, this is a close and closed off setting, which ratchets up the suspense a hundred fold. The storm has kept anyone from coming and going and the killer is clearly hiding amongst the characters. And of course those characters and the plot are the other driving forces!

Hiro and Father Mateo are known quantities. We've met them and traveled alongside them for six books now (though I should note that you can easily jump in with any installment), and they've now investigated a number of other murders, so we know that they're not going to be fooled by the killer. And yet, this killer is quite cunning and brutal to boot - each new victim is posed to represent the judges of the afterlife.

I really do love each new book in this series. And I have to say that the real pleasure in them is a direct result of the fact that Spann is clearly so passionate about her subject. As I write this, she is in Japan in the midst of her latest project: conquering each of the 100 summits and chronicling her climbs along the way. In fact, if you visit her blog you'll see that she's celebrating release day on Mount Kōya itself, revisiting the location that inspired this story.

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 | Barnes & Noble

Sunday, July 1, 2018

New Releases 7/3/18

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

It All Falls Down by Sheena Kamal

Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce

The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

The Lost Queen of Crocker County by Elizabeth Leiknes

The Dying of the Light by Robert Goolrick

Black Chamber by S. M. Stirling

Eagle & Crane by Suzanne Rindell

Heroine's Journey by Sarah Kuhn

Smoke and Iron by Rachel Cain

City of Lies by Sam Hawke

Caught in Time by Julie McElwain

New on DVD: