Thursday, January 31, 2019

No Exit by Taylor Adams

Darby Thorne's mother is dying. Which is why the college student is driving during horrific weather from Colorado to Utah when she gets caught in a snowstorm. Taking refuge at a remote rest stop, she and a handful of others are planning to ride out the storm until it's safe to get back on the road. 

But Darby makes a startling discovery: a kidnapped girl locked inside a van. Of course Darby can't let it slide. The girl is in danger, clearly. And someone at the rest stop is responsible. With cell service down and no way to escape, Darby isn't sure exactly what she can do to help. But she knows she has to do something. 

Taylor Adams's debut is a non stop thrill ride. The kind of thriller that should come with popcorn and those new cozy, recliner movie seats. It's reads like it's playing out on the big screen - both in plot and in pacing. By which I mean you really can't put it down once you start.

But it is a little far fetched. More than once I found myself thinking, this is just a bit too much! And yet, it was fun.

Darby wants to ignore the situation. Badly. Obviously she's on her own and stuck. As mentioned, there's no cell service and she doesn't even know who the van belongs to, so she's unsure who she can trust at the rest stop. It's a gamble any way you look at it.

Thankfully our heroine is a heroine and decides she has to so something - anything - to help the girl in question. Which drives the suspense.

Is this a particularly unique or clever read? Meh. Is it a fun read? Most definitely!

Friday, January 18, 2019

The Expedition by Chris Babu

Good morning, everyone. Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Chris Babu's latest, The Expedition.

I've got massive baby brain and am honestly operating on about 2 hours of sleep as I write this, so here's the promotional copy rather than my own synopsis:

They survived the Initiation. Now the real test begins.

Drayden and his friends thought nothing could be harder than the Initiation. Little did they know it had only been a warmup for the challenge that lay ahead.

With New America’s situation dire, Drayden and the pledges venture into the unexplored world beyond the walls, escorted by a team of elite Guardians. The group seeks to contact another civilization in what remains of Boston, but Drayden has secret goals of his own.

Dangers abound in the outside world, including Aeru, the deadly superbug that wiped out humanity. While they battle the elements of a desolate landscape, a power struggle emerges within their ranks. The Guardians seem to be carrying out a covert mission themselves, and the quest turns everything they thought they knew about New America upside down.

I should note this is the follow up to Babu's previous title, The Initiation. The Expedition can be read fairly easily on its own, though there are spoilers for the first title should you dive in with this one. 

Regular followers know I'm a big fan of post apocalyptic books, especially post outbreak ones. As such, I tend to gobble them up. When I read the description of this one, it immediately brought to mind the recent Netflix release of the Danish show The Rain, so I was super stoked to dive into this book as a way to tide myself over in hopes we'll be getting a second season of the show. 

And while comparing it to the rain is somewhat apt - the main characters are teens trying to survive in this post outbreak wasteland - The Expedition also read more than a little bit like the later Maze Runner titles. 

I liked the interplay with the characters. I also liked the mysteries explored throughout the book, not least of which is the truth behind Drayden's mother's exile and the real reason for the Guardians' mission (alluded to in the synopsis, which also captured my attention when I chose to hop onto the tour). 

All in all, of you're a fan of dystopian reads, especially Maze Runner and The Rain (I hear the first one is a bit Hunger Games-ish), you're sure to enjoy Babu's work! 

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

For more on Chris Babu and his work you can visit his website here. You can also like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

On the Same Page by N. D. Galland

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Nicole (aka N. D.) Galland's latest, On the Same Page.

Joanna Howes has put her NYC life on hold temporarily to return to her childhood home on the island of Martha's Vineyard. The trip is thanks to her uncle who fell off a roof during a rainstorm and ended up laid up with injuries. And while Joanna definitely doesn't mind helping him recuperate, it unfortunately can't be her sole focus. For one thing, she left too fast to sublet her apartment, thinking she'd be back in just a few days when in fact it seems she'll be on the island for a few months! With rent coming due, Joanna has to find some way to make ends meet. 

Which is how and why she ends up freelancing for both of the island's papers at the same time. Except she can't really freelance for them both as Joanna Howes, which complicates things just a bit. So Joanna Howes writes for one paper and Joe Dias writes for another. 

That scheme alone might be fairly innocent but it's not the only one Joanna finds herself entangled in. Islanders are fighting a seasonal occupant who's decided to put his own helipad on his property. Joanna covers the issue for one paper just fine until she finds herself in a relationship with the very man who's created the issue! As the relationship grows, Joanna begins to find it hard to keep her double life going. And as she falls for the guy further and further, she knows he'd never trust her if he found out the truth. 

Galland's latest is a light and fun look at the lives and politics of small town residents. And it's inspired in part by Shakespeare! Which comes as no surprise to anyone familiar with Galland's historical fiction.

The characters here are quirky and lovable and it's easy to sink into the small town setting and Joanna's worsening situation. All of which come together to create a charming read perfect for anyone looking to recover from a stressful holiday season!

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

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

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Ask No Mercy by Martin Österdahl: Excerpt and Giveaway

Hi, everyone! Today I've got an excerpt from Martin Österdahl's Ask No Mercy, first in the Max Anger series and new out from Amazon Crossing, and a chance for you to win a copy of your very own. But first, here's a bit about the book from Goodreads to get you started:

Max Anger is a man on the edge. The former fighter in an elite band of special-ops soldiers in Sweden, Anger is haunted by battle scars, a childhood spent in the Stockholm archipelago, and his own mysterious family past. Now behind a desk at Vektor, a think tank conducting research on Russia, he’s met his match—and fallen in love—with fierce fellow operative Pashie Kovalenko. Like all of Vektor, she’s set her sights on the tenuous future of her country.

When Pashie goes missing in Saint Petersburg, Anger rushes headlong into a volatile Russia, where a new president is about to be elected in the midst of a technological revolution. At the movement’s heart is a start-up Pashie had been investigating, one surrounded by rumors of organized crime and corruption. But the truth is more shocking than Anger could have ever expected.

Now time is running out for Pashie. Racing through a storm of violence and deception, Anger gets ever closer to a sensational secret—and to the Russian madman with dreams of restoring one of the cruelest regimes in the history of the world.

An international thriller, translated and released here in the US for the first time, Ask No Mercy is set in Russia during the 90s. In other words, it sheds a bit of light on certain timely issues. 

And now for a bit of the book itself:

Ask No Mercy
by Martin Österdahl
Translated by Peter Sean Woltemade

Chapter 45

Margarita lay on the backseat of the jeep. Through the windshield, Max saw Ilya say something to the two vory and then point in the direction of the car.

No, don’t bring them over here, thought Max. Are you nuts?

One of the two men, the one with the tattoos, took out a cell phone. He spoke animatedly with someone for a few minutes and then put it away. He looked at the jeep and then at Ilya, who was approaching it.

Ilya knocked on the window on Max’s side. He rotated his index finger, and Max rolled down the window. Ilya reached toward the glove compartment, winking at Margarita. When he realized the glove compartment was empty, he looked at Max, who was holding the Makarov in his hand between the two front seats of the car. Ilya raised his eyebrows and took it from Max.

“Do you think you can drive this heap?”

Max nodded.

“Then I’ll see you back at the hotel.”

“But you can’t still be here when those two realize she’s gone.” 

As usual, Ilya shrugged.

“Don’t worry about me,” he said. “I have this.”

He waved goodbye with the Makarov in his hand, then turned around and started walking toward the vory.

Max wriggled over to the driver’s seat while he watched Ilya’s back recede. Would they ever see each other again? He pushed away such thoughts; he needed to show Ilya the trust he deserved. And get Margarita and her children to safety.

He started the engine and drove away without looking toward the men.

Margarita and Max didn’t talk during the drive into Saint Petersburg. The smell of Margarita’s perfume, a floral chemical scent, mixed with that of the jeep’s exhaust.

She was safe now, at least for the time being; she had been saved from the fate of her Swiss lover, Marcel Rousseau, the man who had played with fire. The feeling of having ensured her safety filled Max with satisfaction.

At least one thing had gone their way.

Pashie had told him that Russian women preferred plastic flowers to real ones. She said that if she were ever to start a new career, it would be selling plastic flowers. They were the perfect product for the new Russia. Russians loved flashiness and beauty but were notoriously bad at maintenance. Real flowers required love and care; plastic flowers lasted forever. They were cheap and elegant; they demanded nothing of you; they were simply perfect. In fact, Max had never heard anyone in Russia express much appreciation for naturalness. On the contrary. Naturalness was associated with poverty and backwardness.

Pashie knew how she would compensate for the plastic flowers’ lack of scent: by spraying them with an artificial violet perfume that would be sure to increase sales. Max imagined this would be like the scent wafting from the backseat.

Max poured coffee until Margarita held up her hand.

“Thanks. That’s enough.”

Max sat across from Margarita and her children. They were occupying four rattan chairs under a reproduction of an old Saint Petersburg streetlamp in one of the hotel’s restaurants.

Above them, light shone in through the domed roof.

“You’re safe here,” said Max. “For the time being.”

Without looking up, Margarita poured sugar into her coffee and stirred the steaming black liquid. “What was it Marcel told you?”

Margarita looked up. For a moment she trembled, but she managed to pull herself together once again. “Why are you doing this?”

“I’m looking for a friend. You know that.”

“I want to leave Saint Petersburg,” she said. “I want to never set foot here again.” 

A waiter came by. Margarita ordered two banana milkshakes.

“Where would you go?”

“I have an uncle in Prague. I want to go there.” 

“Okay,” said Max. “If you talk now, I’ll take care of it.” 

She nodded.

“I know Marcel was employed by a large international company in the auditing sector in Switzerland,” said Max. “Why was he here in Saint Petersburg?”

“Marcel had certain weaknesses.”

“Don’t we all?”

Margarita took a sip of her coffee.

“He was still married,” she said. “Did you know that? He left a family behind in Switzerland.” 

“What brought him here?”

“The Arbeiterjugend,” said Margarita, grimacing.

“In Switzerland?”

Margarita shook her head.

“East Germany. His real name was Günther Baumann, and he was born and raised in Karl-Marx-Stadt. He was an excellent swimmer and a participant in the Festival of Youth and Students.”

Which was to say he’d been involved in the work of the Komsomol, the communist youth organization. The latest festival had been held in Pyongyang, North Korea, in 1989. The next was to take place in Havana, Cuba, in a year. “For anti-imperialist solidarity, peace, and friendship.”

“So he defected to the West? And ended up in Switzerland?” 

“Early in the summer of 1980.”

At that time there would only have been two possibilities. Either he had truly defected, which would have been difficult but had been managed by a small number of elite athletes, or he had been placed in the West by the organization that controlled all young lives and souls: Stasi, the super-effective East German intelligence service.

“And his wife?” asked Max.

“Swiss. All I know about her is that she demanded money. More money all the time.” “And his company, Brice & Stadthaller? And St. Petersburg GSM?”

“I swore I would never tell anyone . . .” She pulled in her quivering lower lip, looked up at the ceiling far above them. Finally, she looked at Max.

She was no longer bound by her oath.

“He said they were old contacts. And they’d made an offer he couldn’t refuse. Exactly what that meant, I don’t know. But I’ve thought about it a lot.”

“What kind of contacts? Political contacts? Military?”

“I don’t know. Marcel was a secretive man in many ways.” “And what was the offer?”

“He said we could live wherever we wanted, anywhere in the world.”

Margarita reached for a napkin lying next to one of the milkshakes that had arrived while she and Max had been talking. She wiped her cheek.

“He was going to leave her.”

“What do you think happened to him?”

“They murdered him.”

Max leaned forward. “Who murdered him?”

“He told me he was going to meet him. I could tell he was nervous about this meeting.” 

“Who is he?” asked Max.

“Marcel didn’t tell me his name. But he’s the leader, the boss.” 

“Can you guess who he is?”

Margarita’s expression changed again. It was as though she disappeared for a moment. Then she shook herself.

“He is the devil. He’s an old, strange-looking man. A large body and a small head. A ghost from our country’s darkest period.”

“Did Marcel call him anything? A nickname or a title?” 

Margarita leaned forward. Her voice was only a whisper.

“Joseph Stalin’s most beloved son.”

And now for the giveaway. To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, January 21. Open US only. 

Monday, January 7, 2019

White Stag by Kara Barbieri

Janneke has been trapped in the Permafrost for almost a century. Thrall to the goblin Soren, she's lived this long through a determination to survive. And it's made her change. Now, as the anniversary of her capture draws near, she finds she's becoming more like the monsters she's been trapped with than the humans she longs to return to. 

The death of the Erlking brings on the Hunt and an opportunity, Janneke thinks, to finally escape. But she must live through the Hunt first. Alongside Soren as his trusted companion, Janneke fights to protect herself, killing as needed. And then she learns a terrible truth, one that might force her to finally decide where it is she really belongs. 

This first in Barbieri's Permafrost series reminded me oh so much of Labyrinth. Obviously the story is quite different: Janneke lives in a village close to the border of the Permafrost and is taken after her village is decimated and she's the only survivor. (Quite different from a petulant teen who wishes her brother would be taken by the goblin king.) But the goblins themselves and the rules of their world brought that classic film to mind in such a fabulous nostalgic way.

The story itself begins a bit bumpy. We're dropped right into it as Janneke is plotting revenge in the Erlking's court and it takes a while for to be able to fully catch up to the politics and the hinted at past that drive the tale. By the time the Hunt actually begins, the story does pick up and both the characters and the plot begin to develop more smoothly, drawing the reader in fully.

The really strong point, though, is the imagery in Barbieri's world. The vividness of the Erlking's court, the Fire Bog, and even the memories of the village Janneke once called home were so well built that I could see them as clear as day.

White Stag is a dark fairy tale great for fans of Labyrinth and the like. It's also, again, the first in a series with at least one more book to go and it'll be interesting to see where Barbieri takes the story.

I should note here that this is a revised and expanded edition. Barbieri originally released the story on Wattpad, gaining a ridiculously fabulous number of reads and prompting a deal with Wednesday books. So if you've heard of it or maybe even read it there, know that there's probably something new here for you.

White Stag officially hits shelves tomorrow.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

New Releases 1/8/19

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Au Pair by Emma Rous

In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire

The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh

The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

The Light Over London by Julia Kelly

Mouthful of Birds by Samanta Schweblin

Freefall by Jessica Barry

Lake City by Thomas Kohnstamm

The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye

Scrublands by Chris Hammer

Looker by Laura Sims

McGlue by Ottessa Moshfegh

The Widows by Jess Montgomery

Cathedral of Myth and Bone by Kat Howard

Sugar Run by Mesha Maren

An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma

Evil Things by Katja Ivar

An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

Darling by Rachel Edwards

Her One Mistake by Heidi Perks

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen McManus

The Wicked by Holly Black

The Slayer by Kiersten White

Analiese Rising by Brenda Drake

White Stag by Kara Barber

The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart