Monday, December 23, 2019

Husband Material by Emily Belden

Charlotte Rosen has a great career and is on the lookout for a great relationship. Her desire to find the right man—the perfect man—is what led her to creating a dating app she believes will knock all other dating apps out of the water.

But, Charlotte has a secret. Charlotte has already been married. She already had the perfect husband. And when he died, her world was turned completely upside down. And it's about to happen again.

A fire threatens the mausoleum where her husband's remains have been housed for the past five years and so the company has shipped said remains back to Charlotte for her to rehome. Which means revealing her widowed state to those around her. And also means facing her husband's death once again. But when a secret surfaces in the middle of all this upheaval, Charlotte has to face the fact that her life may not be as perfect and organized as she thought.

Emily Belden's latest is sweet and charming, but it's also a bit all over the place.

Charlotte works crunching data at a company that builds companies. Basically, they hire influencers to attend parties, grand openings, and other events to post about said events, and create buzz about businesses. And Charlotte is the one who puts all the data together into a package any layman can understand.

She loves data. So much so, she uses it in her dating life, creating an app that will collate online activity to help her find her perfect mate.

But then her husband's ashes arrive out of the blue. And Charlotte has spent so much time trying to hide the fact that she's a widow that she clearly has never really dealt with some of the impact of being a widow in the first place.

It affects her friendships. It affects her job. It affects everything around her.

The subplots of the book are where the story gets tangled a bit. Fortunately, Belden had built a main character interesting enough to carry the plot along even when it starts to feel like it's straying into even more unfocused territory.

And it does all come together in the end.

Overall, Husband Material is a cute rom-com-ish read that will pull at your heartstrings.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Big Book Announcement: American Demon by Kim Harrison

Holy cow! Big book news is always exciting, but when this book news came in my email—and the opportunity to share it with all of you along with it—I screamed!

So on December 5, the good folks at Ace announced on Twitter that Kim Harrison would be returning to the Hollows and Rachel Morgan in June with the release of American Demon. Squeeee!!!!

And now, I have a special note from Kim Harrison herself to share with you:

“Is it about Rachel?” must be the most asked question I’ve been fielding since the news of American Demon’s publication broke.

Yes, I said the Hollows was complete. Rachel had found her happy ending, her world was, if not perfect, at least not being upended every three months by a new big-bad-ugly or her hidden past. She had gone from entitled ignorance to someone of balance and purpose, she had a family not of blood, but of bond. What more could another book add? But still . . . something niggled and wiggled in my thoughts, haunting the breath of time between wake and sleep, and I finally agreed that perhaps the story wasn’t done quite yet.

And so The Turn came about, showing just how big a tool Trent’s dad had been and that Trent came by his magic (his mom) and his questionable morals (his dad) and his drive (both of them) honestly. Now it’s done, I thought in satisfaction, and turned my moods to other stories, other lives.

But it wasn’t enough. All too soon, my thoughts wound back to the Hollows. I missed Rachel, who had admittedly grown up. I missed Al, who had learned he was still deserving of love, Jenks who had learned to survive without love, and Ivy, who had finally found love. Alas, sometimes the readers can see things more clearly than the writer who brings them her world, and . . . mmmm. You’re right. The story isn’t over yet.

American Demon was hammered into existence using the steel-of-story that had been forged nearly twenty years ago. It began angry and ended worse as my mood at the time wasn’t much better. But if Rachel had taught me anything, it was to believe in the narrow percent, that determination and grit and sacrifice can make the difference between success and not-quite-yet.

And so American Demon itself evolved and the ending shifted. Rachel’s happy ending is still in place even as I strive to bring a new beginning to her story, picking American Demon up right at the end of The Witch With No Name and before the epilog of the same. I have brought in two new forces to complicate Rachel’s life even as she finds herself holding more sway in Cincinnati than she might want: an angsty, powerful demon named Hodin with a shocking connection to Al who tempts her with the dangers and power of elven magic, and Pike, an even more disturbing living vampire, who is playing a more dangerous game than Ivy ever was.

So yes, American Demon is about Rachel, not entirely the person she wants to be quite yet, still a work in progress. As we all are.

Kim Harrison

I'm dying!!! It's safe to say that Dead Witch Walking was the first official urban fantasy that I dove into headfirst, kicking off my love of the sub genre. And since this was back in my Barnes and Noble days, I was also hand-selling the heck out of this series! So yeah, I'm a little bit excited! And I hope all of you are as well!

American Demon is due out in June 2020 and you can preorder the book here: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/623194/american-demon-by-kim-harrison/

Thursday, December 12, 2019

The Lost Books of Jane Austen by Janine Barchas

Happy Thursday, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC tour for Janine Barchas's beautiful release, The Lost Books of Jane Austen.

So this is not quite the book you might think. This isn't a collection of unpublished Austen works, aka Lost Books of Jane Austen. Instead, this is a (not a true pictorial history, but verging on one) history of literal lost books—lost editions of Jane Austen's work.

From the author's preface, "In the latter half of the nineteenth century, cheap and shoddy versions of Jane Austen's novels performed the heavy lifting of bringing her work and reputation before the general public...Few of these hard-lived books survive.  Yet such scrappy versions of her novels made a substantial difference to Austen's early readership. These were the books bought and read by ordinary people...These are the lost books of Jane Austen."

Cover art, typography, even stories behind the ownership of some of the surviving editions, are all a part of this fascinating book. I especially love the look at how evolving cover treatments affected the readership of Austen's classics. Perceptions of her work and who the actual targeted audience is has basically been altered by marketing. Which is not uncommon or surprising at all, but makes for truly compelling reading here.

The Lost Books of Jane Austen is a really wonderful find. And it's released at the most absolutely perfect time—what better to buy the Janeite or the serious bibliophile in your life than an absolutely gorgeous coffee table history of her books?!

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

Purchase Links: Johns Hopkins University Press | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Meg & Jo by Virginia Kantra

Jo March was always the smart one. The bookish one. The one with big plans. But after finding herself laid off from her job as a journalist (last in, first out, she's told), she's stuck working long hours in a New York restaurant while secretly penning a restaurant blog. Meanwhile, Meg, the one who always wanted to be a stay at home mom, is finding herself a bit bored by the prospect. 

With the holidays approaching, the March matriarch has been working through pain that eventually leads to an emergency hospital visit. And while Joe had been planning to spend Thanksgiving alone, in the city, she's dropping everything to head back to Bunyan, North Carolina and help. It'll be the first time all four sisters are home for the holidays for a while. It'll also be just the thing they all need to remember how important family is to them all. 

What could be more appropriate holiday reading than a modern-day take on Little Women?!

It seems like Little Women is having a moment right now. There are big and little screen adaptations coming up. And Virginia Kantra has written a pitch perfect twist on the classic tale. It's heart warming as all get out and incredible charming. Plus, I hear it's actually the first of at least a planned duology (Beth & Amy is up next!).

I love Jo, of course. I work in publishing, I feel like everyone in the industry probably most closely identifies with Jo. And I love the fact that she's working in food! That's like all my favorite things :)

Jo is still trying to find her footing. Trying to establish herself. And fighting the uncertainty that comes along with all of that. And she's doing her best to escape the limitations she thinks her hometown places on people. Of course, fate intervenes and she finds her way reluctantly home anyway.

Oh, and there's a fun romance aspect to her story that I adore!

Meg on the other hand has gotten what she wants out of life and is, unfortunately, starting to reevaluate that. I think this is especially touching because it seems to be a very real struggle that I think a lot of moms have and that is comparing themselves to their own mothers. Expecting that they should be the same as their own mom and struggling with the idea that maybe, even if that's what they thought they wanted, their mom's life isn't the right fit for them. Meg gave up her job for her family, committing to staying home full time like her own mother. But even early on, it seems that Meg is straining against this expectation of herself.

Many readers might be asking what the deal is with Beth and Amy, though. They're there, but, as mentioned above, it appears they'll be getting their own follow up story. So don't worry! We'll get more of them to come :)

There are lots of little things I love about this book and some of them are actually big changes from the original. Which I'm totally ok with! Kantra has remained true to the spirit of the classic but has made it all her own!

Meg & Jo is a true delight! Perfect for fans of Little Women or anyone just looking for a feel good family drama!

Friday, December 6, 2019

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

Jules is desperate. After being laid off, she returned home to find her boyfriend in bed with another woman. Taking only the essentials, she set up on her best friend Chloe's couch, an offer Chloe says is good as long as Jules needs it. But Jules feels like a burden and is anxious to be gainfully employed again. Which is why she answers a Craigslist ad for an apartment sitter. 

When the apartment turns out to be in the expensive and exclusive Bartholomew, a building featured in Jules's own favorite book, she's sure the offer is too good to be true. 

All she has to do is stay in the apartment for three months. She can't have visitors and she has to spend every night there. Other than that and being warned about the other tenants' need for privacy, it seems altogether too easy for $12,000 cash! But then a fellow apartment sitter goes missing. The official story is that she left, tired of the job. But Jules isn't buying it. And as she digs deeper into the history of the Bartholomew, Jules becomes certain things aren't right at the lofty building. 

With just three books under his belt, Riley Sager has made a name for himself as a master of suspense. And it's undeniably true that every one of his books is an absolute page turner. But I do have to say that I think Lock Every Door is his best to date.

The book is dedicated to Ira Levin, which, if you're literarily savvy is kind of a spoiler as far as a book about a mysterious apartment is concerned. But not really. All it did was set me up for what's pretty obvious from the start, there's something hinky going on at this apartment building!

Even our heroine knows it. But Sager's made her so desperate and in dire straits that she's willing to overlook the odd rules and the cash under the table because it means a roof over her head and money in the bank. And not wearing out her welcome with her best and only friend. So while you can imagine that reading the first pages is akin to yelling at a character in a horror movie not to go up the stairs, you can also easily sympathize with Jules!

Lock Every Door is twisted and suspenseful fun. I ripped through it as fast as I could, even delving into the audio so I could listen when I couldn't sit down and read. And Sager has some tricks up his sleeve as the story progresses. I'd almost guarantee you won't figure out what's really going on at the Bartholomew before Jules does.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

What I'm Reading: Walk the Wild With Me by Rachel Atwood

This week marks the release of a deliciously tantalizing new fantasy read, Rachel Atwood's Walk the Wild With Me.

Here's a little bit about the book from Goodreads:

Orphaned when still a toddler, Nicholas Withybeck knows no other home than Locksley Abbey outside Nottingham, England. He works in the Scriptorium embellishing illuminated manuscripts with hidden faces of the Wild Folk and whimsical creatures that he sees every time he ventures into the woods and fields. His curiosity leads him into forbidden nooks and crannies inside, and outside the abbey. He becomes adept at hiding to stay out of trouble.

On one of these forays he slips into the crypt beneath the abbey. There he finds an altar older than the abbey's foundations, ancient when the Romans occupied England. Behind the bricks around the altar, he finds a palm-sized silver cup. The cup is embellished with the three figures of Elena, the Celtic goddess of crossroads, sorcery, and cemeteries.

He carries the cup with him always. The goddess whispers wisdom in the back of his mind. With Elena in his pocket, Nick can see that the masked dancers on the May Day celebration in the local village are the actual creatures of the wood, The Green Man, Robin Goodfellow, Herne the Huntsman, dryads, trolls, and water sprites, the imaginary faces he's seen and drawn into the Illuminations.

Over the course of several adventures where Elena guides Nick and keeps him safe, he learns that Little John's (the Green Man) love has been kidnapped by Queen Mab of the Faeries. The door to the Faery mound will only open when the moons of the two realms align. The time is fast approaching. Nick must release Elena so that she can use sorcery to unlock that door and Nick's band of friends can try to rescue the girl. Will he have the courage to release her as his predecessor did not?

Rachel Atwood is the pen name for Irene Radford, who I have not read before. This first as Atwood is a historical fantasy and is maybe a Robin Hood retelling...I've only just started so I'm not 100% sure about that just yet (with Little John and Robin Goodfellow as characters, it certainly seems that way). 

I've been looking forward to this one and so far am loving the atmosphere and the pacing. It's also making some of the top SFF lists for the end of the year!