Thursday, June 27, 2019

The Islanders by Meg Mitchell Moore

Hi, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Meg Mitchell Moore's latest, The Islanders.

It's summer on tiny Block Island. Anthony Puckett, son of famed thriller writer Leonard Puckett, is spending his summer house sitting on the island. It's a chance to get away from the shadow that's been hanging over him. A chance to try to put his life and career back on track. 

For Joy Sousa, Block Island is home. It's where she runs her whoopie pie shop. But her business is threatened when a new food truck rolls into town affecting her usually booming summer sales, and just when her landlord has decided to raise her rent astronomically. 

Lu Trusdale and her family are renting a cottage on Block Island for the summer, thanks to her in laws. While her husband is away working in the city, Lu is supposed to be the perfect stay at home mom, which is why she keeps her side gig a secret from absolutely everyone. 

These three, strangers to one another when the summer begins, become inextricably tied together as the weeks roll by. And by the end of the summer, they're linked by a secret bigger than any they'd ever imagined. 

Set during summer and on a beach resort island, The Islanders is a summer beach read if ever there was one!

Although some of her backlist is in my TBR, this is actually my first read by Meg Mitchell Moore. Trust me, after this one those previous titles have been catapulted to the top of my list, The Islanders is that good!

This is a more character driven novel than I claim to enjoy, but the characters here are the kind that immediately draw me into a story.

First off, there's an author, a baker, and a stay at home mom who's clearly longing for more, characters that touch on interests of mine in every way.

Second, there are secrets. From the outset, it's clear that Anthony is hiding from more than just the expectation that he'll be as successful an author as his father. Something's happened. Something big. Something that's left him bereft and intent on keeping his identity secret while he's on Block Island. The desire to see his story play out was enough alone to keep me reading. But there's more! Let's secret is fairly easy to figure out, but waiting to see what would happen when everyone else found out... yeah.

The pacing is great, the story progressing in a way that never felt bogged down or slow. It's tightly woven and moves along quickly, holding your attention through every single line.

Obviously I was sold within the first few pages, readers. And I think you will be too! If The Islanders wasn't already in your summer reading plans, I hope it is now!

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

For more on Meg Mitchell Moore and her work you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Instagram.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Suspicious Minds by Gwenda Bond

It's almost time for the return of Stranger Things! I couldn't be more excited. In fact, I'm planning to binge the first two seasons again to refresh my memory before July 4. And you can forget any Independence Day celebrations, it's going to be all Stranger Things chez moi!

If you're like me and you just can't get enough of this show, then you probably know that the amazing Gwenda Bond penned the first tie-in novel that released earlier this year. If you haven't read it yet, now is the perfect time!

It's 1969, Vietnam is in full gear but so far Terry Ives is only marginally affected. A college student in Indiana, she's more focused on how to make ends meet. Which is why she jumps at the opportunity to take part in an experiment that pays participants per session. 

But as innocent as the experiment seems at first, Terry soon realizes that there's something very wrong. There's a definite layer of secrecy she didn't expect surrounding the whole thing. If it was just that, she could probably shrug things off. But she isn't entirely sure she should trust Dr. Martin Brenner, the man running things. And when she discovers a kid hidden away behind the walls of Hawkins National Laboratory, her suspicions take a very dark turn. Things are further complicated when Terry realizes she's pregnant, something she's certain she should hide from Brenner as long as possible. 

This is Eleven's mom's story and it's fabulous!

First, we see the beginnings of the experiment and how Terry became involved in the first place. Meeting her and getting to know her, finally, makes her story in the show that much darker! We see her experiences first hand. We get her side of the story. And that makes what happens to her that much more emotional watching Eleven find her the second time around.

Second, we see even more of how underhanded and slimy Brenner is. Oh, man. It doesn't seem as though this guy was ever anything but bad. Again, reading this and then rewatching means you're even more aware of that fact.

And third, we meet Kali as a child! Kali, who made her appearance in season 2, deepens the story even further. And it makes me wonder if we'll see any other participants in the experiment as well.

All of this is a fun bonus for any fan of the series, more layers of the story that add to world we love and want more of. I especially appreciated the continued attention to cultural and pop culture details of the time (the characters are reading this great new book, Lord of the Rings!), which base the story so strongly in "reality."

There are two more tie-in novels this year, Darkness at the Edge of Town, which is Hooper's story, and Runaway Max, about - you guessed it - Max's past. Both titles are out now for anyone else looking to tide themselves over for the next couple of weeks.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Kid Gloves by Lucy Knisley

In 2016, cartoonist and author Lucy Knisley welcomed her son into the world. As she did with her books Relish and Something New, she decided to tell the story in her latest book, Kid Gloves.

I loved Knisley’s Relish, which I read, coincidentally, while we were trying to get pregnant, and having just had a baby I was looking forward to Knisley’s latest. And it’s good. A very personal look at her journey to motherhood, miscarriages and all.

Of course having had a kid myself and not that long ago, there are things that probably hit me harder than some while I was reading the book.

Knisley talks frankly about her own experiences. Which includes, unfortunately, problems with preeclampsia that went unnoticed and/or ignored by her doctors during her pregnancy. And it kind of ties in perfectly with the history of women's health and pregnancy that runs throughout the book and an overall theme that this area of medicine is still misunderstood and pushed to the sidelines!

On the one hand, considering the miscarriage stuff in the book and the things that went on with me while I was pregnant, it was kind of a good thing that I didn't read this until AFTER my son was born.

But on the other hand I kind of think if I'd had the opportunity (the book didn't publish until after I'd had my baby) it would have been helpful to read this while I was pregnant. Preeclampsia was a huge concern amongst my doctors. And it was an annoyance for me. It meant extra doctor's visits and more stress on my part. But having read what happened to Knisley, I was struck by a sudden gratefulness for the amount of attention and care my own team was paying to me that was lacking in Knisley's care. Which also made me incredibly sad because I did come across a ton of pieces concerning exactly the same thing she experienced. And it's terrifying to think that women can be in such danger in our country due to what seems to be an overall ambivalence about women's healthcare in general.

Fortunately that wasn't the case with me. Fortunately.

Kinsley's book is sweet and scary and full of emotion, just like pregnancy. I appreciated the unflinching honesty of the book and the camaraderie of feeling just a little bit more connected to another mom in the early stages of parenthood.

Friday, June 21, 2019

The Triangle by Dan Koboldt, Mindy McGinnis, and Sylvia Spruck Wrigley

Planes and ships have historically gone missing in the area dubbed The Bermuda Triangle, but until now no explanation has ever been found.

When a Navy ship goes missing during a storm, it's the last straw. A team of experts is assembled and an investigation is launched. But the team itself is soon swept out to sea as well, landing on an island that shouldn't be there. What they discover is a secret that's been brewing for decades, one that could leave them stranded until their dying days unless they can unravel the secrets of The Triangle!

This was my first Serial Box experience and I have to tell you, I am sold!

Each week, a new episode is released and readers have the option of listening to the audio production (and it is a production, with sound effects and everything!) or reading the installment instead. The episodes are about an hour a piece, some longer, and each is written by one of the contributing authors. In this case, Dan Koboldt penned the first, Mindy McGinnis the second, Sylvia Spruck Wrigley the third, and so on.

The story comes together seamlessly, you'd never know that three very different authors had a hand in putting it together. And it is such a fabulously fun story.

Of course I've always been drawn to stories about The Bermuda Triangle. The fact that I have huge water phobias only adds to my curiosity about any kind of water based mystery or horrors and The Bermuda Triangle is undoubtedly the biggest of them all!

In The Triangle, a retired Naval officer, a computer analyst, a conspiracy theorist, and an NTSB investigator come together to solve the mystery of a missing ship. Two things conspire to put them out on the water itself: the discovery of a survivor of a plane that recently went missing the questionable area—the first survivor ever to be found, in fact; and coordinates that could lead straight to the missing Naval ship and officers. But before they make it, they're boarded by a dogged investigator who wants answers.

Soon enough, the team and the cop find out exactly what fate has befallen all the other missing ships and planes. Virtual strangers, they are forced to trust one another and work together not only to solve the growing mysteries of the island but to survive and hopefully make their way home again.

The Triangle is incredible fun and a perfect summer read! Maybe don't dive in while your airborne though that's exactly what I'd do if I had a vacation planned :)

Check out The Triangle now over at serialbox.com!

Thursday, June 20, 2019

The Cutting Room by Ashley Dyer

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Ashley Dyer's latest, The Cutting Room.

When the host of a popular true crime show disappears, Ruth Lake and Greg Carver suddenly find themselves in the midst of a twisted investigation. 

With no body, it's not certain whether Professor Mick Tennant, host of Fact or Fiction, is dead but mounting evidence certainly seems to point in that direction. And the man's disappearance comes straight on the heels of the show seemingly debunking a new criminal urban legend, that of The Ferryman. 

Now, a killer with a definite chip on his shoulder and something to prove is making his way throughout Britain with a series of increasingly gruesome crimes meant to attract as much attention as possible. Lake and Carver are still recovering from their last case, but there's no time for R&R—even for the beleaguered Carver whose head injury is still causing issues—because The Ferryman's fan base is ever growing and the public's demand for more is one the killer is all too willing to continue performing for!

Ashley Dyer is the pseudonym for co authors Margaret Murphy and Helen Pepper. This is the second book in their Carter and Lake series, following Splinter in the Blood.

While there are absolutely allusions to the crime that takes place in the previous novel, don't let that keep you from diving in with this second in the series. It stands fantastically well on its own and is utterly impossible to put down.

From the start, the play on the current trend in true-crime shows and podcasts makes this a timely and intriguing reader. And it's clear from almost the beginning that the show in question and the missing host are seen to have been taunting The Ferryman out of hiding. Indeed, the narrative itself proves that by very quickly giving the readers a first-hand account from the killer himself. Small chapters from his prospective are sprinkled throughout, making it clear exactly how twisted his motives are.

But of course that's for the readers eyes only. The killer does draw out the police through his use of social media, however, even using his growing platform to promote his gruesome art.

Lake and Carver surely do have their job cut out for them and while I do miss the introduction to and development between the two of them that I assume is in the first book (which is currently in my TBR), I had no other issues starting midstream as it were with their second investigation.

The Cutting Room is a twisted and dark procedural and my introduction to a series I am super excited to continue!

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here. And for more on Ashley Dyer and her work you can visit her website here.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Thursday, June 13, 2019

The Summer Country by Lauren Willig

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Lauren Willig's The Summer Country.

Emily Dawson's grandfather has died. As expected, he's left his shipping business to her cousin, Adam, the male heir of the family. Surprisingly, though, Emily has been left something as well - Peverills, a sugar cane plantation in Barbados. 

When the cousins make the trip out to the island to see the property, however, they're shocked to discover fields of long-dead plants and a main house that's been burned beyond repair. And the locals say it's been that way for almost forty years. Confused as to why her grandfather would have bought the property only to leave it in such a state, Emily is determined to learn more about her family's history and the long-buried secrets of Peverills.

Lauren Willig's latest features dark history amongst a lush and tropical setting.

The history of Barbados is an integral part of The Summer Country. And the story itself was inspired by one Willig heard on her own tour of Caribbean plantations on a trip she took a while ago. She says, in her acknowledgements, that it took her two years of research before she felt ready to tackle the project that had been percolating since that trip. And it shows! Her attention to detail and the history of the place and the era are carefully wrought and integrated into the story fluidly, making for a smooth and enthralling read.

I don't want to give too much away, but the story does alternate between Emily's trip in 1854 and Peverills in 1812 and leading up to the fall of the plantation. As Emily makes her own discoveries about her family history, the reader sees that same history unfold as it happens as well.

For me, personally, I felt Willig did a great job of building believable characters with obvious care towards paying heed to a history that many aren't aware of. And I think she's done a fair job of showing that history through the experiences of the many characters she's built for the book. She has a great historical note detailing the various resources she used in creating these characters as well as suggested further reading.

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

For more on Lauren Willig 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

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The Summer Guests by Mary Alice Monroe

A storm is brewing and that means a host of evacuees making their way up the coast from Florida to safer areas. Grace Phillips offers her farm to a few close friends and their various animals, which is fortunate because they have the space and the means to put up a number of people, dogs, and, thankfully, horses. But throughout the week, the stress and tension of close quarters and worries over the storm play havoc on the farm and its residents. As the storm tears through its path, they all find that while they may be physically safe, the hurricane will tear through them emotionally. By the end, friends and lovers will find the closest of relationships stressed to the max. Whether they'll come out of it intact is the real question. 

Talk about a book I can empathize with. Growing up in southwest Louisiana, I was no stranger to hurricanes, storm preparations, and evacuations. My final years of college were the worst with storm after storm threatening the area and dissipating before hitting, causing all of the local businesses and the schools to wan in their response levels with each new storm.

So yeah, I can understand stress centered around leaving your home, wondering if your home will make it, worrying about animals, and even the friction it all causes among groups of people sheltered together.

Of course in The Summer Guests, the farm these folks have evacuated to is HUGE! There's the main house, the barn, and two "cottages," which are anything but the small abodes I imagined they would be. So there's plenty of space for these folks to all spread out and ignore one another. But they don't. In part because of Grace and their relationships with her.

While the various guests all vaguely know one another, some simply due to being part of the horse world, the one person they all know is Grace. And she'd like nothing more than for all her close friends to get along with one another. But tension and stress definitely don't bring out the best in people. You can imagine the strength of the emotional storm brewing is as strong by the time it figuratively hits as the hurricane they're all bracing for!

One thing I'm not familiar with is horses. I rode, more regularly than most, but it was limited to summer camps and trips to dude ranches. Dressage and jumping, maintenance, sales, etc are all foreign to me. But they are a central portion of The Summer Guests. This was an interesting aspect of the book and one that's threaded throughout, giving the reader a sense of familiarity from the start even if you know literally nothing about horses at all.

The Summer Guests is the kind of read you can sink into and the characters are the kind you can call friends by the end. I thoroughly enjoyed it, even more so now that I no longer live along the coast and have to worry about storms that are already earning names this calendar year!

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Those People by Louise Candlish

The neighbors at Lowland Way are happy with their little suburban paradise. Until the owner of number 1 passes away and her nephew inherits. The first things the neighbors notice are the renovations. The knocking down of a wall they’d tried so hard to preserve kicks off a string of construction, none of which they're certain the man has permits to do himself. Then it’s the cars, so many of them that the neighbors can’t keep track. And he’s selling them out of his home! In addition to that, the neighbors immediately around number 1 can’t sleep for the loud music and TV noise coming from the house at all hours.

Complaints don’t work - the new owners of number 1 don’t care and the council doesn’t have the resources to do anything. But when it all culminates in a horrible accident, it’s the police that finally get dragged in. But was it an accident at all?

Oh, Louise Candlish must have lived in my neighborhood to prompt this book! Well, except that our neighbors weren’t so disturbing as to have been approached about all of it, so I don’t know how they would have reacted. The rest of us certainly didn't conspire against them. But the number of cars! And the tow trucks constantly delivering more. And the weekends spent working on diesel engine vehicles backfiring at random moments. Ugh.

So yeah, I understand this book! Anyone who’s ever dealt with annoying neighbors understands this book!

Those People is domestic drama and dark thriller all rolled up in a tight ball. It makes for great tension - Candlish throws a police investigation at you from the very start with neighbors giving door-to-door testimony at the beginning of each chapter, but then catapulting the reader back to the arrival of the new owners of number 1 and tracking occurrences right up to the “accident” that we all know is coming. She almost lulls you into a complacency, making you wonder just how bad things could possibly get, but with that reminder that they apparently do get REALLY bad.

Like her previous book, Those People is an examination in pushing people to their limits. And in how they'll react when it feels like no one is on their side at that point - both the protagonists and the antagonists!

Monday, June 10, 2019

Flask of the Drunken Master by Susan Spann - paperback release

The third book in Susan Spann's amazing Shinobi series is finally out in paperback tomorrow! It's been a long time coming, folks. This book released in hardcover in 2015, which is when this post originally ran. I'm reposting here, though, to highlight the paperback release and to show of the brand spanking new cover, which is, I think you'll agree, pretty fantastic!

A man has been murdered and Hiro's friend Ginjiro stands accused. The victim was a fellow brewer whose son racked up a hefty debt with Ginjiro. Witnesses reported the seeing the dead man and Ginjiro arguing over exactly that matter the night before the body is found in Ginjiro's alley. Some even say that Ginjiro was heard threatening the dead man! 

Nevertheless, the evidence seems highly circumstantial to Hiro and Father Mateo who are both certain their friend is no killer. Though Hiro is somewhat reluctant to cross the investigating yoriki, the samurai is well aware that the man is more interested in a quick arrest rather than real justice. And since that quick arrest means ruining the life of a friend, Hiro and Father Mateo can't possibly stand by without helping.

Sake politics, a city on high alert for possibly spies, and an investigation with twists galore - all set in sixteenth century Kyoto! This third in Spann's series is clever and intriguing. If you're new to Spann's work, Flask can most definitely work as a stand alone or introduction to the series. And as with any good series you'll want to go back and read the previous installments as well. There are a few references to Blade of the Samurai, but nothing too spoilery should you choose to start with Flask.

Spann is the perfect figurative juggler. This is not only an historic setting, but a time/place/culture that few American readers are familiar with in any way. And it's a mystery. So that means that Spann has to put together a great plot (done), while continuing to grow her series characters (also done), and set a believable tone and setting for her readers (done fabulously). What's more, as I noted with the previous review, Spann's attention to detail is seemingly impeccable.

I don't know of anyone else in the mystery world tackling such an intricate and unique setting right now. If you're a fan of historicals and fun mysteries, I definitely suggest giving this series a try. They're not quite cozy but are light enough to appeal to both cozy and darker fans.