Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Nothing Fancy by Alison Roman

I've been heading up BookBar's Cookbook Club for over a year now and in that time, I've not been doing many cookbook reviews here on the blog because I've been profiling them elsewhere. Time to rectify that!

Everyone is looking to cook at home more these days. Understandable considering we're all pretty much on lockdown. And while some items have been difficult to find at the store (everyone is baking right now, it seems!), most stuff is still readily available.

Which is where a collection of trustworthy cookbooks and food blogs comes in.

Alison Roman has been on my radar since the release of her first cookbook, Dining In. She garnered so much praise and such a fervent fan base that I knew I had to get my hands on a copy of Nothing Fancy.

I have to say, the fervor is well earned!

Within days of getting my hands on an early copy of this one, I had plans to make over a dozen recipes. The first was the Citrusy Cucumbers with Red Onion and Toasted Sesame. This light and refreshing salad is a perfect example of the bevy of fabulous salads featured in the book. It's also a perfect example of the fact that much of the book is focused on easy to find ingredients that you likely have on hand already.

Yes, there are some specialty ingredients. I discovered I didn't have my trusty jar of harissa anymore, but the new jar has stretched for quite a few recipes now!

Roman's main focus for this book is entertaining. Cooking for guests and crowds. To that end, her goal is not to have you slaving away in the kitchen while everyone else is enjoying themselves. So, many of the recipes actually have make ahead tips!

Another bonus that goes along with the theme, there are tons of recipes for snacks! And I do love a good snack. A binge of Locke & Key was accompanied by Roman's Labne with Sizzled Scallions and Chile (Almost Ranch), a recipe Roman herself actually calls "The Dip." It's wonderful! Even better, if you don't have labne on hand, Roman says you can sub in Greek yogurt, or sour cream.

While we had family visiting, I made a smorgasbord of Roman's snack recipes including: Spicy-Tomato Marinated Feta (there's that harissa), which was a hit with my toddler! We served it alongside Tangy Roasted Mushrooms and fancy bread. Haloumi is a favorite in my family, so the Crispy Haloumi with Honey and Pistachio was a perfect choice. And the Vinegar-Marinated Butter Beans almost take the place of a favorite marinated giganto bean salad I used to buy.

As for main dishes, she doesn't lie calling her lasagna A Very Good Lasagna and the One-Pot Chicken With Dates and Caramelized Lemon is divine!

By no means have I cooked every recipe in the book as of yet, but this is already a favorite in my kitchen, joining the ranks of other fantastic cookbooks of late. Dining In has also joined my collection!

Order a copy from BookBar! And follow the cookbook club too! If you make anything from this one, share a pic and tag us #BookBarCookClub

Monday, March 30, 2020

Guest Post by Jeff Wheeler

I am excited to welcome Jeff Wheeler to the blog today. Wheeler is the author of, amongst other titles, The Killing Fog, the first in the Grave Kingdom series.

Today Jeff is tackling the topic of how to stay productive while working at home, a challenge I know a lot of us are facing at the moment!

Two Bits of Advice for Working at Home during the Apocalypse

By Jeff Wheeler

During the two decades I worked at Intel Corporation, I saw how working from home went from impossible to expected. Back when I first started at Intel in the early ‘90s, if I got sick I couldn’t work from home because my computer was strapped down at a desk in a cubicle. By the time I left in 2014, it was mostly expected that you’d work from home if you had the sniffles.

As a full-time author, I’ve been working from home for almost six years and I know a thing or two about how to stay productive when there are so many distractions—like incoming texts, social media, and now with the fear and uncertainty of a global pandemic. There are two lessons I’ve learned over the years that might be helpful to re-think where you’re at during this crisis.

The first idea came from the business author Jim Collins and it’s about an expedition two explorers made to Antarctica in 1910. If you think social distancing is bad now, imagine being isolated from the rest of the world in a blizzard that lasted 99 days. The other team made it to the south pole but died on the way back. In his book Great by Choice, Collins talks about how the successful explorer used a technique where he set and stuck to a daily goal of moving so many miles. Regardless of weather conditions, terrain, or setbacks, they went at a certain rate—twenty miles a day. Even when the weather was beautiful (for Antarctica) and conditions were easier, they stopped after twenty miles. That was the cadence of their march, day in and day out. It was measurable, doable, and repeatable. The other team, on the other hand, only trekked when conditions were good. On blustery days, they’d hunker down in their tents and wait out storms that could last for days. I’ve found during my writing career that setting and sticking to output goals creates a virtuous cycle of consistent performance. Back when I was working full-time at Intel, raising a family, and holding down significant responsibilities at my church, my goal was one chapter a week, one book a year. Now that I’m writing fulltime, it’s three chapters a week, three books a year. Having a measurable and consistent goal—and sticking to it—is a powerful technique that has helped me remain a prolific writer.

The second idea I learned during a major business downfall at Intel in 2005. The timing is important because it happened right before the last economic downturn when the global real estate market crashed. What we are going through right now is a once-in-a-century kind of social and economic shock, and I’ve lived through major earthquakes, the dot-com boom, and many other downturns, but this one is one for the history books. Back in 2005, an idea began to spread through the company called “Possibility Thinking.” It challenged the status quo with the notion “I know we’ve always done things certain ways, but what is the fastest way we could do this process?” At Intel, we made microprocessors—the computer chips that are the brains of any smart device. They are complex chips that require billion-dollar manufacturing plants to make atoms line up precisely. It took over 40 days to run the processes that would create these chips. Back then the head of manufacturing used possibility thinking by asking what the fastest time they could run the process and produce a chip? They ran some experiments and just gave it a try, which began to break down assumptions and thinking that had been hard-coded in the company since the beginning. The manufacturing process was cut almost in half. Thankfully, these learnings happened just before the global downturn, which enabled Intel to scale down production quickly and then scale it back up again quickly when demand changed. That nimbleness wouldn’t have been possible without possibility thinking. I’ve used this idea for my writing as well. It used to take me a certain number of hours to write a chapter. I’ve learned to cut that time almost by about a third by examining my creative process and learning how to streamline it. I won’t get into all the details, but I’ve examined my writing conditions in great detail to weed out distractions.

We’ve all been given a strange gift of time during the self-isolation caused by COVID-19. As we’ve told our kids, let’s use the time to improve ourselves, to learn more than we might have learned otherwise. To develop new skills, new interests, to read new books, to practice new skills. During this pandemic, I saw a meme which delighted me. In 1665, Isaac Newton had to take a break from the University of Cambridge due to an outbreak of the bubonic plague. He used that time to develop Calculus and his theory of gravity.

How can you improve during this time that will make your life and other lives better in the years to come?

Jeff Wheeler is the bestselling author of The Grave Kingdom series, the Kingfountain series, the Muirwood series, and many other fantasy novels. To learn more about the Antarctica march and possibility thinking, see his book “Your First Million Words: Finding the Story Inside You.” His new book, The Killing Fog, is also available now.

Huge thanks to Jeff for being on the blog today and to his publicist for organizing the post!

Feature: The Killing Fog by Jeff Wheeler

Today I'm lucky enough to be featuring Jeff Wheeler on the blog with a guest post about staying productive in these odd times. But first, I want to showcase his latest release, The Killing Fog, first in the Grave Kingdom series.

Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

Survivor of a combat school, the orphaned Bingmei belongs to a band of mercenaries employed by a local ruler. Now the nobleman, and collector of rare artifacts, has entrusted Bingmei and the skilled team with a treacherous assignment: brave the wilderness’s dangers to retrieve the treasures of a lost palace buried in a glacier valley. But upsetting its tombs has a price.

Echion, emperor of the Grave Kingdom, ruler of darkness, Dragon of Night, has long been entombed. Now Bingmei has unwittingly awakened him and is answerable to a legendary prophecy. Destroying the dark lord before he reclaims the kingdoms of the living is her inherited mission. Killing Bingmei before she fulfills it is Echion’s.

Thrust unprepared into the role of savior, urged on by a renegade prince, and possessing a magic that is her destiny, Bingmei knows what she must do. But what must she risk to honor her ancestors? Bingmei’s fateful choice is one that neither her friends nor her enemies can foretell, as Echion’s dark war for control unfolds.

The Killing Fog is out now from 47North. Book two in the series, The Buried World, releases in June.

Order it from BookBar

Friday, March 27, 2020

Short (Non)Fiction Friday: The Best American Food Writing 2019 edited by Samin Nosrat & Silvia Killingsworth

Food has always been a distraction for me. Not always a comfort (um, cupcake catastrophe at high altitude is all I'm gonna say) but a definite distraction. And while I don't read much in the way of non fiction, food related stuff is pretty much always an exception.

I subscribe to quite a few different venues and read a lot of food essays, when the topic piques my interest: food trends, food culture, histories of various recipes...Usually resulting in my trying my hand at a new dish or trying a different cuisine or checking out a restaurant I haven't yet been to.

Of course the last of that list is only possible as take out these days. And cooking at home is made difficult by food hoarding and empty shelves. But this is supposed to be a distraction!

Houghton Mifflin has been releasing their best of series for years now and officially added The Best American Food Writing to their list in 2018 with Ruth Reichl as the debut guest editor. (Note, this is not to be confused with the previously published Best Food Writing series.)

Last year, Samin Nosrat was chosen to edit (this year it's J. Kenji López-Alt!). And after combing a selection of food writing from a massive selection of publications, she winnowed it down to 25 pieces running the gamut of profiles on specialty food vendors like Rancho Gordo Beans to profiles on the Pom Wonderful folks! There's a piece on Anthony Bourdain and another on Jonathan Gold. There's a piece from Priya Krishna about food safety inspectors and one from Michael W. Twitty on eating in Ghana. The selection ranges from fun to political and cheeky to somewhat depressing, depending on how you feel about some issues.

But the pieces are all fascinating. Every one of them offered up something I previously knew nothing about. And inspired me to try some things I'd never tried (I'm looking at you, scary salty licorice!).

This collection was so much fun to dive into that I picked up the 2018 edition and already have the 2020 in my must have list.

Order a copy from BookBar!

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Dim Sum of All Fears by Vivien Chien

Lana Lee wants out of the family business. It’s not that working at the Ho-Lee Noodle House is bad, it’s just not what she wants to do for the rest of her life. But when her parents announce that they’re going to visit family overseas for an extended period of time and Lana will be in charge of the restaurant, she has little choice in the matter. And when the couple who owns the souvenir shop next door is murdered, Lana has little choice but to get involved!

This second in the series is a delight! Lana Lee is fun and spunky, nosing around in things that definitely aren’t her business and absolutely get her into trouble, much to the disappointment of her potential new beau, the detective actually assigned to the murder investigation.

But Lana can’t help it! City Charms hadn’t been open long but Lana managed to make friends with Isabelle, one of the owners, bonding over their fondness for mystery novels. And while Lana wasn’t a big fan of Brandon, Isabelle’s husband, she can’t imagine why anyone would have murdered them.

Plus, there’s pressure from the manager at the shopping center as well, who’s specifically asked Lana to look into the matter as a personal favor.

So see, she really can’t help it!

This series is so much fun! The family dynamics between Lana, her parents, and her older sister create inherent drama as do the dynamics between the various business owners in the shopping center. And since the last book, Lana has been added to the board, which really does mean that she has a bit of a vested interest in seeing the murder solved. Especially when two different women pop up claiming they have a right to ownership of the store after Brandon and Isabelle turn of dead!

But of course Lana herself is the driving force of the series. Waiting to see what new drama will be inflicted upon her by Chien's pen makes this a series you'll want to come back to again and again. Be warned, though, you'll need some Chinese food to tide you over as you read!

(Apparently I wrote this review quite some time ago and it's been sitting in drafts. Oops!)

Order from BookBar!

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

A Witch in Time by Constance Sayers

Helen Lambert is going on a blind date. In her thirties and fresh off a divorce, she hasn't done much dating. And sadly, the man she meets isn't what she'd call traditionally handsome. Not to mention the fact that his personality puts her off as well. But when he claims he knows her, that he knew her in past lives, Helen is convinced he must be mad!

And then she begins to have dreams. Dreams of France and of a teenage girl in love with an artist. A teenage girl who's mother is so enraged by the relationship that she casts a spell that lasts generations!

Helen is just the latest incarnation of that girl, Juliet LaCompte. And the man she met on that date, Luke Varner, has been with her through every life. As Helen remembers more and more about her past selves—her life as Juliet in nineteenth-century France, her life as Nora in 1930's Hollywood, and her life as Sandra in 1970's California—she begins to fall for Luke. But the curse is always there. And, as Helen soon learns, she has very little time left in this life. 

I was intrigued by the premise of A Witch in Time: A woman bound by a curse that follows her even beyond death. And she forgets her past every time she's born again.

Constance Sayers's debut isn't quite as witch-y as I would have expected. But it is a lot of fun. As Helen dreams of her past lives, the reader is taken on a tour of each of the places Helen has lived throughout time. I especially loved Juliet's chapters!

Sayers's attention to detail throughout the book and depth of characters is fantastic. But the book did feel a little out of balance. Juliet's chapters are neatly and gradually woven into Helen's story but Nora's and Sandra's are less so. In fact, by the time we get to Sandra, her story is basically two big chunks shoved into the last third of the book. And while Helen certainly has less and less time as the story progresses, I think I would have liked Nora's and Sandra's pieces to resemble Juliet's a bit more in terms of being more interspersed within Helen's narrative.

I want to stress again, though, that the depth of each character is wonderful! They're fully fleshed and full of emotion! The particular times and places that each of their stories is set in also comes to life wonderfully! Aside from a hiccup in terms of balance (for my personal taste) this was a really good debut and I'll wholeheartedly be looking forward to more from Sayers!

Order A Witch in Time from BookBar!

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

The Return by Rachel Harrison

Happy Book Birthday to Rachel Harrison whose debut, The Return, hits shelves today! Readers, this is my favoritest book so far this year and I can't recommend it highly enough. If you're looking for a fantastically creepy escapist read right now, this is it!!!

Julie goes out for a hike one day and doesn't return for two years. During that time everyone is certain that she's dead. Everyone except Elise. Even when they hold a funeral, Elise is convinced that Julie isn't gone.

And then Julie comes back.

Elise, Mae, Molly, and Julie plan a girls' weekend at the remote Red Honey Inn. They haven't seen Julie since she came back but they promise they won't ask any questions even thought they're all dying to know what happened.

Elise is the first to arrive. Mae raved about the hotel, even going so far as to choose each girl's room personally. But Elise isn't charmed by the quirky hotel. In fact, she finds it downright creepy. But she's determined to have a good time. Even when she finally sees Julie and realizes that something isn't quite right.

Holy crap this book is good!

Harrison manages, from the very first page, to create the perfect underlying sense of dread. It ratchets up as the book continues, adding a layer of creepiness under the narrative that becomes undeniable as the story reaches it's crazy-pants conclusion!

Elise, Mae, Molly, and Julie have been friends since college. And they each have their own quirks. Elise, has floundered in life, struggling as her friends have each found their place in the world. Which adds to that sense of dread. She can't really afford the trip but doesn't want to complain. And while spending time together used to be natural and comfortable, Elise's current situation is only part of what makes this particular girls' trip...awkward.

Julie is changed. Her appearance is ragged and unhealthy but she puts up a good front of being the same Julie they all once knew. And yet each of the girls noticed little things that are off about Julie.

She has said, as part of the obvious investigation into her missing time, that she doesn't remember what happened. And her friends have vowed not to ask. But as the weekend progresses, they all decide they have to broach the subject somehow. Because they're worried.

Their overall discomfort is only part of it. As I mentioned above, Elise finds the hotel itself unsettling, a feeling that permeates every paragraph of the book. It just oozes weird! And I loved every page!

This is the kind of genre read that gets everyone excited! A perfect debut, a smashingly awesome entry into the horror world, one that I wish I could read again for the very first time!

Order from BookBar!

Monday, March 23, 2020

Backlist Bump: The Black Echo by Michael Connelly

In 1992, Michael Connelly debuted with The Black Echo, his first novel as well as the opening novel to the Heironymous Bosch series (now 20+ novels in). I was 11. At the time, I got most of my mysteries and thrillers from my grandmother and while she did have a few Connelly titles, she didn't have any Bosch books. So my starting this series has been a long time coming! But I did start, at the end. And now I'm working my way back.

Harry Bosch hasn't made many friends inside the LAPD. In fact, after being demoted and transferred, he's made plenty of enemies. So when he's called to the scene of a death everyone is ready to write off as a simple overdose and insists on a full workup, no one is happy about it. What Harry doesn't reveal is the fact that the victim is someone he knows. Someone he served with in Vietnam. Someone who used, but should have been in recovery. And the scene has just enough questionable evidence for Harry to suspect murder. 

Some of you have likely already read this one. It's been out for over 20 years now, after all. But since I've only just really gotten into the Bosch series (by way of the show and now Connelly's new Renee Ballard series), it was time for me to go back to the beginning.

And if you haven't read these but love mysteries, well we've got a pandemic to read through and this backlist is sure to keep you busy! (Also, if you happen to be doing the Popsugar Reading Challenge this year, the advanced section has a Book From a Series With More than 20 Books item.)

If you're a fan of the show, like I am, then this book will ring a little familiar to you. But the producers of the show did change quite a few things. Gone was the connection to Harry's Vietnam days, for one. Also gone is the bank heist subplot I didn't mention in my blurb above.

I love Bosch. He's crusty and grumpy. Even at the start of the series, he's already in his 40s and jaded by the job and by the things he's seen and experienced in his life. Things that are revealed in this book, in terms of his military history, and things I know from having read later books.

His military background in particular is something that I really loved. He's a Vietnam vet and since this book involves a fellow soldier, Connelly delves quite a bit into Harry's Vietnam history. It's something that I think makes him stand out for me (and something you don't see much now—but you definitely did see more of when the book originally released). This part of Harry's past—and the backstory with his mom, which is only briefly touched on in this installment—are such a huge part of what makes the character who he is!

But, as someone reading the series lopsided, he's relatively young here! He doesn't have a daughter yet, for one. He's still actively part of the LAPD, for another (the current books have him retired but still investigating).

I had so much fun doing a deep dive into Harry's history that I've already got The Black Ice and Concrete Blonde lined up and ready to go in my TBR! And again, there's a ton of backlist to dive into, so I'm sure to be busy for a while!

One side: I did find it curious, since I've read some of the books now but am only just reading the start of the series, that Connelly starts Bosch's series midstream in Bosch's career. This installment has references to previous cases that made me wonder if Connelly had ever considered any sort of Bosch prequels. I kind of hope it's something he's thought about because it'd be really cool, especially in this day and age, to get some time capsule Bosch mysteries!

Connelly has a new book hitting shelves in May and the next season of Bosch airs in April.

Order The Black Echo from BookBar!

Friday, March 20, 2020

Short Fiction Friday: Revenge by Yoko Ogawa

I don't recall where I first heard about Yoko Agawa's Revenge, but it was recommended online and I added it to my must have list. When I was in New York in January, I realized I was walking distance from The Mysterious Bookshop, so of course I headed over there as soon as I dropped my stuff off at my hotel! Surprise, surprise, they had Revenge on their shelves :)

If bleak and add are your bag, this is the book for you. It's eleven interconnected short stories, each as bizarre as the next.

In the first story, "Afternoon at the Bakery," we meet a woman who is buying a cake for her son. She waits and waits, but no one comes to help her. Finally, another woman enters the bakery and the two of them talk for a bit. The first woman tells the second woman the story of her son.

Now, I've struggled with this kind of story since the birth of my own son. But something about Ogawa's writing kept me turning pages.

Most of the stories have a bit (or a lot) of tragedy in them. All of them are weird. There's a man who runs a museum full of torture artifacts. There's a writer who spies on her landlord. There's an old post office filled with kiwis!

For a lot of people, I will admit this book is going to be too dark and dismal for distraction right now. But for the right audience, this is going to be just the kind of quirky and bizarre read they'll need to completely forget the real world around them!

This is one of just five of Ogawa's books to be translated into English. I highly recommend it (again, if this is your genre!) for fans of short fiction. Her latest, though, is a dystopian novel called The Memory Police that sounds fabulous! I haven't had the chance to read it yet, but if you're short story averse, that one might appeal!

Order Revenge from BookBar!

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel

Apologies, folks, I had planned to have this posted on Wednesday. Unfortunately for me I wasn't able to finish up the post until today!

Rose Gold Watts was told that she was sick. She was told she was allergic to everything, that she needed a feeding tube, that she needed a wheelchair. Rather, Rose Gold was a victim at the hands of her own mother.

Her mother was sentenced to five years for the abuse Rose Gold suffered. And Rose Gold was the key witness in the trial. But now Patty has served her time. Patty is ready to start again and ready to mend her relationship with Rose Gold. And Rose Gold seems open to healing their relationship as well.

But what Patty doesn't know is that Rose Gold has changed.

From the moment Rose Gold arrives to pick Patty up from jail, the mother isn't sure where she stands with her daughter. And neither is the reader!

The story alternates between Patty's perspective as she's getting out of jail and Rose Gold's perspective beginning when her mother begins serving her sentence. And while I don't want to give too much away, I will say that Rose Gold's evolution is an interesting one. She's been under her mother's control for so long, she's essentially been locked into a permanent childhood. But of course, being raised under questionable circumstances is going to have an impact!

I loved the push and pull between Patty and Rose Gold. Patty thinks things are going to go back to normal. She never really does admit she's done anything to Rose Gold, so the normal she expects is basically a daughter who will cow to her and be her best friend again. And Rose Gold herself is a mom now, so Patty not only has to mend her relationship with her daughter, she has a grandson in the mix too.

I was able to avoid any spoilers on this one even though ARCs started going out this past fall. I want to make sure I give you the same chance in your reading. Hopefully I've piqued your interest without ruining anything, because this is such a fabulous one to dive into that way!

I do want to add that I had the chance to alternate between the physical book and the audio (which gives me a chance to read even when I can't actually read!) and I highly recommend the latter if you're an audiobook listener. Narrators Megan Dodds and Jill Winternitz do a really wonderful job of giving voice to Patty and Rose Gold. You can get it from Libro.fm and support your favorite indie (if you don't have a nearby indie of your own, consider BookBar!).

Darling Rose Gold is out this week from Berkley!

Order from BookBar

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

A Little Post About a Our Big Deal Current Situation

I'm not going to hedge around it, readers, I'm struggling right now. My anxiety is pretty off the charts without a national emergency, so for anyone who's also riding a roller coaster of all the emotions right now, I feel you.

The blog hasn't been quite as active as I would have liked of late. Anyone who knows me personally knows that in addition to the blog, which I started back in 2008 as a way to continue recommending books to people post bookselling life (I also contributed to Bookbitch.com for quite a few years), I have a 15 month old, I'm also an associate agent at a literary agency here in Denver, and I work part time at a local indie bookstore. So yeah, when I say I wear a lot of hats, I really mean it.

This is a weird and super stressful time right now. Because I work in publishing and have for almost 20 years now (god, I'm old!), I'm paying a lot of attention to how this affects the industry. Authors are having to cancel tours and, as a result, new releases in particular are going to be affected.

I'm trying to figure out how I can best help, even if it's just a tiny bit, here on the blog. I'll likely add a few additional kinds of posts, specifically features posts of books I haven't yet had a chance to read for review. We'll see.

In addition to that, BookBar, the store I work for, has opted (along with many other indies), to close to the public right now. That said, the store is continuing to operate and will be there for your book purchasing needs!

They're offering curbside pickup for locals as well as free shipping on orders. 

Because I try to keep all the facets of my life so separate, I usually link to Goodreads in every book cover and leave it at that (with the exception of blog tour required info). But, I will begin to link to BookBar with posts from here on out. If you choose to purchase the book from BookBar, fantastic! I'd encourage all of you to consider them or your own indie as you hopefully stockpile books and other items to keep yourself occupied and sane in the coming weeks.

I will be posting book recs and reviews here and on Instagram. If you don't follow me there yet, the link is in the sidebar here.

Stay sane and buy books, folks!

Little Wonders by Kate Rorick

It's a bleak and dreary Tuesday here, folks, which isn't helping given the current situation. So it's fortunate, then, that I'm on the blog tour for Kate Rorick's latest, Little Wonders, which turned out to be a warm and light hearted read!

Quinn Barrett's perfectly organized life begins to crumble when a moment of rage goes viral on the internet. And new mom in town, Daisy, is the unfortunate cause of it all. 

Quinn had no idea anyone had witnessed her meltdown at the Halloween parade, much less filmed it. But then video of her destroying her carefully crafted costume for her son is leaked and gains national attention. 

Daisy is new to Needleton and still trying to fit in. She hadn't meant to film Quinn's incident. She also never intended for it to be posted on the internet! And now she's doing all she can to make sure no one knows she's responsible. But the more Daisy tries to fit in, the more she and Quinn are thrown together, and the closer Daisy's secret is to being exposed. 

I'm a new mom and, much as I've made efforts to separate all the various pieces of my life so that the blog doesn't become about being a mom or about being someone working in publishing, it gets harder and harder to compartmentalize. Especially when Kate Rorick's books come up for review!

Her last release, The Baby Plan, landed in my lap when I was pregnant. And it was a tough read for me because of that. But now I'm a mom with a toddler and her latest book is all about moms with toddlers!

And oh, how I can relate to Quinn and Daisy! Quinn's need for control and Daisy's feelings as the new mom (we haven't done much socializing as parents, so I also very much feel like an outsider amongst other parents).

Little Wonders was cringe-y at times, reminding all of us parents that none of us is perfect but as long as we try our best, we're doing a good job!

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

For more on Kate Rorick 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 | BookBar

PSA: I'll be adding a link to BookBar for titles featured on the blog. They, along with many indie bookstores, are offering shipping deals during this stressful time and I'd urge you to take advantage of those deals. With most stores closing to the public, online orders are going to be huge for the weeks to come. BookBar is offering free shipping (and if you're local, curbside pickup is an option too) for purchases.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

The Sea of Lost Girls by Carol Goodman

Happy Tuesday, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Carol Goodman's latest, The Sea of Lost Girl.

It's almost 3 am when Tess is awakened by a text from her teenage son, Rudy: Can you come get me?

Later that same day, Tess learns that Rudy's girlfriend has been found dead. What's more, it appears she'd broken up with Rudy just before the accident that claimed her life. But was it an accident at all? The police certainly seem to be entertaining the idea that it could be murder and it appears Rudy is their prime suspect. 

But Tess soon begins to suspect there's something entirely different going on. Something tied to other local mysteries and a local legend surrounding a local landmark called the Maiden Stone. 

Leave it to Carol Goodman to weave a fascinating mystery riddled with folklore and absolutely oozing atmosphere! It's a formula she mastered and perfected in her debut, The Lake of Dead Languages, which released way back in 2002. And it's a formula that's made her books must reads for me ever since!

Imagine your own son has been accused of a heinous crime. Imagine all the evidence, at least according to local rumor mill and possibly even authorities, suggests a member of your family is guilty of this crime. And now imagine how you, as a mother, would feel.

Of course Tess believes her son is innocent. Of course she's willing to do whatever it takes to prove she's right.

But then you throw in Goodman's signature blend of boarding schools and small town folklore. Weirdness ensues! And I love it. I love that she makes you wonder, even just a little, whether the story is seated in something a little off kilter and unnatural. Supernatural.

The Sea of Lost Girls is the latest in a long string of excellent releases from Goodman. Any fan of twisty thrillers should have her at the top of their reading lists—and if you don't, I highly suggest getting on that immediately!

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

For more on Carol Goodman 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

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

The Companions by Katie M. Flynn

In a near future world where concerns about an outbreak keep many restricted to their homes, technology has evolved to allow for the downloading of a person's consciousness in the immediate moments after death. For those people, life continues beyond death as companions.

They're owned by the corporation that "made them" and leased to customers for various uses. Most remember who they are and some even remember their own deaths. This is the case with Lilac, a girl who died in high school and now seeks to find the people she once called friends.

The Companions had so much promise. The premise is a fun one and the introduction of Lilac in the very beginning of the story could have been a great set up for a near future sci fi mystery. Unfortunately, that's not what this book is.

Chapters alternate between a variety of narrators including Lilac, and unfortunately we don't get to really follow her story. At least not in a way that would reveal much about her as a whole.

We're also never given an explanation about the virus that plagues this near future world. And we never get a glimpse at the company that's created the companions either. In fact, the story moves from perspective to perspective so frequently that it soon becomes clear there's no real narrative to follow at all.

It's hard for me to actually pin down what the plot of this book is. A warning of what could come if this kind of technology is ever invented, certainly. An analysis of our culture and it's response to death?

In the end the book lacks too much in terms of plot for me to say that I got much out of it at all.

As much as I truly hate to write a negative review, The Companions was a real disappointment.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Peter Swanson's latest, Eight Perfect Murders. 

A bookstore owner and once avid crime reader becomes a resource and possible suspect in a series of seemingly unconnected murders in Peter Swanson's latest.

Mal, co owner of Old Devils Bookshop, has a pretty unexciting life. A widow, he spends his time at work and at home, breaking up the monotony occasionally with drinks with friends. But when a detective arrives asking questions about a blog post he penned years ago, outlining what he believed to be the most perfect—fictional—murders, everything changes. 

The detective is convinced that someone is using Mal's post as a template for a series of murders that authorities have yet to fully connect. And she's determined to be the one to crack the case. But is Mal an informant? A sidekick untangling the web of clues? Or is he in danger of being considered the prime suspect?

I thoroughly enjoyed this latest from Peter Swanson! The nostalgia in involving classic mystery plots as a part of the overall story was wholly appealing, as was a main character who works in a bookstore.

Even more than that, I loved the way the story played out. The doling out of clues was perfectly paced and incredibly fun!

Swanson is a favorite amongst thriller fans, but I think this is a true standout. I was lucky enough to see him speak on a panel about thrillers at last year's Mountains and Plains where he was already promoting this title and I was really looking forward to reading. I have to say, too, that Eight Perfect Murders absolutely lived up to and beyond expectations!

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

For more on Peter Swanson 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: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble