Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

Vincent, Sam, Sylvie, and Jules have been called to a last minute meeting. A last minute, mandatory meeting at that. They arrive at a random office building in the middle of nowhere, South Bronx, and are told they're going to participate in a team building exercise—an escape room. 

What was supposed to be an hour long detour in each of their evenings, stretches out much longer than expected. Trapped in an elevator with a series of clues to unravel before they can leave, the coworkers, all team members at a highly competitive investment firm, quickly find themselves at each others throats. Each new riddle leads to more and more explosive revelations and it soon becomes clear that this is not about team building at all. 

The Escape Room is an absolute edge of your seat read!

Escape rooms have become more and more popular with each passing month and have entered into pop culture in what has to be the most expected, sinister way—as fodder for horror movies and thrillers. Because what sounds more fun than being trapped with a bunch of people trying to untangle clues and riddles before you can leave, right?

Goldin's tale alternates chapters between the four in the elevator, present, and a woman named Sara Hall. Unemployed and desperate, Sara has run through a series of interviews at a series of investment firms to no end. Until she catches a lucky break that gets her hired at Stanhope and Sons. The very firm Vincent, Sam, Sylvie, and Jules work at. In fact, along with one other employee, Lucy, they make up the very team Sara works alongside.

But Sara and Lucy are conspicuously missing from the escape room antics, which is just the first of many twists of the novel.

I enjoyed the heck out of this book. The pacing was excellent and those twists kept me intrigued throughout. I just had to know what was going to happen next!

This is Goldin's debut release stateside. The Australian native has one previous release that hasn't made its way here as of yet, but I certainly hope that it will. What's more, I'll be looking forward to more from her down the road!

As an aside, I had the chance to listen to this one on audio thanks to Libro.fm and, if audiobooks are your jam, I absolutely recommend it! The audio features two narrators: Ramon de Ocampo and January LaVoy (LaVoy reads Sara's chapters and Ocampo reads the rest).

Friday, July 26, 2019

Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Laura Lippman's latest standalone, Lady in the Lake.

It's 1965 and Maddie Schwartz is tired of all the charade. She's tired of being married to Milton Schwartz. She's tired of doing what's expected of her. She's tired of her limitations. And so she leaves her husband and sets out on her own. 

But being on her own means paying her own bills. Which means she needs an income. 

Her lucky break comes at the expense of another. A missing girl and a search party Maddie isn't welcome to join leads her to her own search. Unfortunately she finds the girl, but it's what sets Maddie on the path to becoming someone. And that someone is a reporter. Maddie has no problem digging into other people's business. No problem sticking her nose where people say it doesn't belong. But the drive and determination behind that, the motivation to make something of herself, doesn't go unnoticed. And it doesn't take long for Maddie to start uncovering the wrong person's secrets. 

Lippman's books are always such a treat. She's smart and her books are smart!

Lady in the Lake is, as mentioned, a standalone. Though it is set in Tess Monaghan's world—albeit before Tess's time (with a little nod to her parents).

Race relations are a huge part of the story as are women's roles in the 60s. Maddie bucks expectations in more ways than one and finds ways around most of them. It's not easy, though. And the roadblocks she faces were par for the course for any woman in the 60s.

The "Lady in the Lake," Cleo, is a great parallel to Maddie. Another woman driven to make something of herself, to provide for her children, Cleo is willing to do whatever it takes. But Cleo is black and most definitely not well to do, which means even more roadblocks than Maddie faces. It's also the reason no one looks deeply into her disappearance and murder, in spite of her mother's concerns.

Both Maddie and Cleo are given voice in this story. Interestingly, so are the characters that cross Maddie's and Cleo's paths along the way. Interspersed throughout the book are outtakes of a sort, chapters from the perspectives of police officers, waitresses, reporters...a bevy of people who make up Maddie's and Cleo's  worlds. In less deft hands, these chapters might hang up the story, affecting the overall momentum of the mystery itself. But Lippman weaves these chapters in so organically that the pacing flows perfectly.

As I said, Lippman's books are always a treat and Lady of the Lake further proves that!

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

For more on Lippman 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

Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Poison Thread by Laura Purcell

Dorothea believes wholeheartedly in charitable works. And if her chosen focus—the conditions at Oakgate Prison—just happen to allow her to explore her passion for phrenology, all the better. 

When Dorothea meets Ruth Butterham, she is simply desperate to get at the girl's skull. Ruth's crime is a heinous one and Ruth's confession upon their first meeting that she has killed many, intrigues Dorothea even more. But Ruth's supposed crimes are of a peculiar sort. Each time they meet, she tells more of her tale to Dorothea and it's one woven with oddities that the society woman immediately writes off as superstition. The more she learns of Ruth and her victims, however, the more Dorothea questions whether there's something more than imagination to the tale. 

If Victorian gothic is your jam, Laura Purcell needs to be in your reading plans!

Dorothea is a practical woman and she is a staunch believer in phrenology. This is the terribly maligned belief that people once held regarding the connection between behavior and skull shape. Really, it was an attempt to assign a biological explanation as to why people do the things they do. Obviously, it was short lived as a historical note in criminal justice, but it is alive and well in Dorothea's world!

Poor Ruth is just sixteen as the story takes place and the tale she recounts to Dorothea begins when she's just thirteen. She's the bullied only daughter of a former society woman who was cut off after marrying beneath her station. And they've all suffered for the sin ever since.

Things get worse for the family when Ruth is taken out of school to help her mother's knitting and sewing work so they can afford the addition of a new member to their family, something Ruth is initially resentful for even though it takes her beyond the clutches of her tormentors.

But Ruth has a talent with a needle that is the envy of even her own mother. And soon Ruth comes to believe her talent extends beyond simply creating clean stitches and beautiful patterns.

Ruth is a pitiable character. She suffers so much and the reader can't help by sympathize with her. Even Dorothea finds herself sympathizing with the girl, though she analyzes every statement with an understandable reservation. On the one hand, she believes in verifiable facts. And there are many, many verifiable facts to Ruth's story as well as logical explanations for the more fantastical parts. The story causes her to evaluate her own situation more than she'd like as well considering she's been carrying on with an illicit affair under her father's nose.

As with her debut, The Silent Companion, the thread of potential supernatural forces throughout the book remains something both Dorothea and the reader question as a reality throughout the book. And the pacing is deliberate, which, paired with a quieter sense of dread throughout, means this is a slow burn.

But what a read it is! If you have the patience and the time to really dive into Purcell's work, it is so rewarding! The creep factor ratchets up with each new chapter. The story becomes darker and darker as Ruth's story comes closer to it's end. And the unexpected (but strongly hinted at) twist is so satisfying!

I loved this book immensely and highly recommend it for fans of creepy classic gothic historicals!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Vox by Christina Dalcher - paperback release + a Giveaway

Happy Paperback Release Day to Christina Dalcher!

I reviewed Vox when it was new out in hardcover, but I'm reposting today to promote the paperback release of this explosive and terrifying debut. I'm also offering up one copy in a giveaway so be sure to read through to the end to enter!

Imagine if you were restricted, by law, to just 100 words a day. You aren't allowed a job, a career, of any kind. Your money is controlled by someone else and your privileges as a member of society have been reduced to daily tasks and chores only.

In Christina Dalcher's debut, this is the reality of the new America and the life women are forced to live when an evangelical-led government comes into power and decides it's time for a change.

Jean lives in this reality. She can recall a time when this wasn't the case - when she was allowed to speak as much as she wanted, when she held a job she was proud of, when she didn't have to constantly worry about her own daughter facing the painful consequences of speaking too many words in one day. And Jean is a linguist, so she worries about the overall effect this limit will have on her daughter as she grows, not just in terms of changing social norms but in terms of education and development.

But for now, this is Jean's reality.

And then things change. Jean's expertise is requested by none other than the president himself, giving Jean the bargaining chip she needs to garner some bit of freedom for herself and her daughter. But she soon learns that her own freedom will come at great cost.

This book. This book! Yes, it's one of those reads. The kind that shakes you to the core. The kind that's all too close to reality. The kind that gives you the chance to see just how something so horrific and previously unimaginable could actually happen. And it's terrifying, to be totally honest!

I liked this book in the same way that I liked The Handmaid's Tale, which is to say that experience reading it was tempered by the constant and overriding fear that this could indeed one day happen. And we'd all like to say, never. Or at least, never hear. And yet...

Vox is a great read if for no reason other than it will get people talking. TALKING! So even if you're potentially turned off by the fact that it definitely does hit a bit too close to home these days, it is absolutely thought provoking and may even get people thinking about just how close to a precipice we are and what we need to to do make sure something like this never happens!

And now for the giveaway! Thanks to the publisher I've got one copy up for grabs. To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, July 29. Open US only and no PO boxes please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Theme Thursday: Airplane Reads

Am I the only one who notices weird commonalities in my books. They pop up all the time for me, unplanned generally. But it got me thinking and I've decided to do a new occasional post series of recommendations along a theme.

For my first pick, I'm doing airplane reads. And no, not just books that are good to read on a plane. I mean books that have something to do with planes. Inspired by last week's read of David Bell's Layover, Carter Wilson's brand new release The Dead Girl in 2A and his post here, as well as the news that broke last week that my first pick is being adapted for TV!

The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian. From Goodreads: Cassandra Bowden is no stranger to hungover mornings. She's a binge drinker, her job with the airline making it easy to find adventure, and the occasional blackouts seem to be inevitable. She lives with them, and the accompanying self-loathing. When she awakes in a Dubai hotel room, she tries to piece the previous night back together, already counting the minutes until she has to catch her crew shuttle to the airport. She quietly slides out of bed, careful not to aggravate her already pounding head, and looks at the man she spent the night with. She sees his dark hair. His utter stillness. And blood, a slick, still wet pool on the crisp white sheets. Afraid to call the police—she's a single woman alone in a hotel room far from home—Cassie begins to lie. She lies as she joins the other flight attendants and pilots in the van. She lies on the way to Paris as she works the first class cabin. She lies to the FBI agents in New York who meet her at the gate. Soon it's too late to come clean—or face the truth about what really happened back in Dubai. Could she have killed him? If not, who did?

The Flight Attendant has been in my TBR for a while, patiently waiting for me to squeeze it into my reading time. Guess I'll need to get to it sooner rather than later so I can read before the show airs!

Next up is one I have read, and oldie but goodie in my opinion, Mayday by Nelson DeMille and Thomas Block. From Goodreads: Twelve miles above the Pacific Ocean, a missile strikes a jumbo passenger jet. The flight crew is crippled or dead. Now, defying both nature and man, three survivors must achieve the impossible. Land the plane.

I mean, this book is a little crazy, it's basically realistic zombies on a plane. But boy is it fun!!!

And finally, I had the pleasure of listening to this one on audio Flight or Fright: 17 Turbulent Tales edited by Stephen King and Bev Vincent. From Goodreads: Welcome to Flight or Fright, an anthology about all the things that can go horribly wrong when you’re suspended six miles in the air, hurtling through space at more than 500 mph, and sealed up in a metal tube (like—gulp!—a coffin) with hundreds of strangers. Here are all the ways your trip into the friendly skies can turn into a nightmare, including some we’ll bet you’ve never thought of before... but now you will the next time you walk down the jetway and place your fate in the hands of a total stranger.

Featuring a collection of tales, new and old, all centered around airplanes, this is the perfect read for the paranoid flyer. Or not.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Salvation Day by Kalli Wallace

Happy Book Birthday to Kalli Wallace whose latest, Salvation Day, hits shelves today!

Zahra and her people just want to be left alone. Which is why their leader formed a plan, and the goal is a place all their own. That place is House of Wisdom. Abandoned years ago after an outbreak blamed on biowarfare—an act Zahra’s own father was supposedly responsible for—House of Wisdom has been completely off limits ever since. But Zahra and her group have all been immunized against the virus that claimed the inhabitants of the ship and they see no reason why it can’t be theirs.

Jas has finally returned to space and has big plans for life-changing research. But those plans are significantly sidetracked when he and his fellow students are kidnapped by Zahra and her team. And now Jas is returning to the ship that claimed his mother's and father’s lives. The ship that he barely escaped himself. And as it turns out, the things everyone thinks they know about the fate of House of Wisdom are all very, very wrong.

Whoa! Kali Wallace's first adult release is exactly what I needed! A perfect blending of all of my favorite things—a mysterious illness, an abandoned ship, a bonkers cult leader, government secrets, and more! Oh, and I loved every page!

The book alternates between Zahra and Jas's points of view. Zahra is part of a group that wants no part of the current governing body (the Councils) and while her leader very clearly comes across to the reader as a classic cult leader in every way, Wallace also makes it pretty clear why Zahra and her family joined him in the first place. Mistrust of the government comes natural when your father has to take the blame for a massively horrible crime.

It's through Zahra that we learn about Jas initially. Jas is the only surviving member of House of Wisdom. Which makes him essential to the group's plans and also ratchets up the tension of the book big time. His last moments on the ship were with his mother, who promised to follow him as she loaded him into an experimental ship to escape into the nothingness of space. And he never saw her again. Not only that, but he's never revealed to anyone what he witnessed while he was on board in those final hours.

Cue the  duh duh duuuuuh sound! There are brief missives from the caption and other little communications along the way that hint at what happened on board, all of which draws the reader further into the mystery.

Of course the biggest draw for me with this book was the combination of science fiction and horror elements. I crave the blending of these two genres and it doesn't always work out as well as I'd like. Salvation Day, though, works! And I'm all the happier for it!

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Death By Dumpling by Vivien Chien

Lana Lee is recently single and recently unemployed. Which is why she's waiting tables at her family's restaurant, the Ho-Lee Noodle House. It's not a bad gig. Not what she wants to do permanently, but it pays the bills and keeps her busy. And when the property manager for the shopping center Ho-Lee calls home dies, she becomes even busier.

Mr. Feng died thanks to an allergic reaction to shrimp dumplings. From Ho-Lee Noodle House! Everyone knew Mr.  Feng was allergic to shrimp, which was why there was a great big warning about it at the restaurant. But somehow, his daily order of dumplings was served up with shellfish and Mr. Feng's epi-pen was apparently nowhere to be found. And, since Ho-Lee delivered the deadly dumplings, suspicion immediately turns to the restaurant's chef, Peter, and Lana herself for making the delivery!

Lana had no issues with Mr. Feng and she's certain Peter isn't responsible either. But it looks bad for Ho-Lee Noodle House. So Lana takes it upon herself to find out who might have wanted Mr. Feng dead. Unfortunately, whoever did it is willing to do whatever it takes to make sure their secret stays buried!

Vivien Chien's debut is a fun cozy perfect for any fan of culinary mysteries.

Lana is great heroine to get behind. She's at a point in her life where her loyalty to her family is warring with her indecision about what she wants to do with her life. That and being single are the two biggest issues she faces. It's safe to say she's killing time at Ho-Lee Noodle House, but that doesn't mean she isn't invested in its success—and in keeping it's name clear of any connection to the death of one of its patrons!

But Lana has no idea how to investigate a murder. This is the first in the series and, thus, Lana's amateur sleuth origin tale!

If contemporary cozies are your jam, you need to add Death By Dumpling to your TBR! It's a wonderful light and breezy read, featuring a great cast of characters and a charming lead you'll absolutely adore. And once you've gobbled up this first in the series, you'll be happy to note that there are two more books out on shelves now and two additional titles due out in the coming months!

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Layover by David Bell

Happy Book Birthday to David Bell whose latest, Layover, hits shelves today!

Joshua Fields flies a lot for work. It's all routine at this stage, down to the xanax and alcohol he uses to curb his anxiety about flying. But a run in with an enigmatic stranger changes all of that.

They met in the gift shop, waiting in line. She seemed completely uninterested to the point of jetting at the first opportunity. But when they ran into each other again, she relented and agreed to a drink. They talked, unimportant stuff and nothing terribly personal, but Joshua felt a connection nonetheless. Which was why when she disappeared after kissing him, he decided to change things up following her to Nashville.

When they see each other again, though, Morgan Reynolds says she’s not who he thinks she is. In fact, she says she’s never met him before. Confused and embarrassed, Joshua decides to write the whole thing off until he comes across notices that Morgan is missing.

Determined to unravel the mystery surrounding Morgan, Joshua unknowingly places himself in very real danger.

Unputdownable is a word that's used to describe thrillers a lot. But sometimes there really is no better word. And in the case of David Bell's books, it's the most appropriate one for sure!

Bell excels at building plots that instantly suck the reader in. I consider myself to be the most introverted of introverts, but even I have had strange encounters in airports. And even if it's not an airport, random encounters with strangers happen everywhere. So Joshua's story begins in a way that I'd guess everyone can instantly relate to.

Now, where it goes from there, not so much. I, for example, actually haven't even had drinks with a stranger in an airport. Much less changing travel plans on a whim (oh, the anxiety that would cause me) to stalk said stranger (which is essentially what Joshua does). And that's where the book gets really good!

What is Morgan's story? Joshua just has to know and so does the reader!

Layover is the perfect kind of thriller. One that lets you escape reality for a bit and become entangled in a tale that wants to be read in one sitting!