Thursday, April 23, 2020

Simon the Fiddler by Paulette Jiles

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Paulette Jiles's latest, Simon the Fiddler.

Simon has long avoided being drafted into service thanks to the fact that he looks young and he plays a mean fiddle. It came close more than once, but it's not until he's harassed by a drunken braggart in a bar in Victoria that the conscription men catch up to him. 

He's drafted into the regimental band and manages to survive the next few weeks of the war. Luckily, the Confederates surrender. And that's when Simon, along with other musicians from both sides, are asked to play a dinner for officers and their wives. A dinner that introduces him to Doris, an Irish girl working for a Union family. 

The two are separated, Doris must work off her debt to the Union family and Simon goes on his own way. But he never forgets Doris. And getting back to her becomes his ultimate goal.

Simon is a schemer and a liar, which is how he survives not just the war but everything. But meeting Doris changes him some and his determination is not only to get back to her but to be the kind of man she deserves. To support her and be with her.

The story is Simon's road to seeing that happen. It's not a quick read, but it is an atmospheric one filled with music and hardship.

Simon's journey isn't easy, but that's to be expected considering the book is set in the aftermath of the Civil War. And it's a nice complement to Jiles's News of the World, which is set in the same time period. But they are very different stories indeed!

Fans of Jiles's poetic style and prose will love this latest!

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

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookBar

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

The Boy From the Woods by Harlan Coben

Hester Crimstein's grandson has asked for help. A girl in his class has gone missing and no one seems to be concerned. And since he's never asked for anything of this kind from her, Hester is inclined to take him very seriously. 

She reaches out to Wilde, her son's best friend. Wilde spent time in the military and also as a PI with a private firm, so he's perfect for the job. Plus, he's her grandson's godfather, which means he too is inclined to believe the boy. 

But there's more to Wilde's past than his work history. Wilde was discovered hiding out in the woods as a boy. No one knows how long he was on his own and no one ever stepped forward to claim him. Wilde grew up an outsider, something he has in common with the missing girl. 

But when the case takes a bizarre turn beyond that of a missing teenager, Wilde and Hester both find themselves in the crosshairs. And the repercussions of this case could have a huge fallout!

Coben's latest is another fast paced and fun read. But this time, rather than his usual ordinary man or woman dragged into extraordinary circumstances, he's created a pretty extraordinary character in Wilde.

One thing I'd hoped was that we would get some sort of explanation or closure in Wilde's actual story. We do not. But the last pages of the book do seem to hint at a possibility of that to come, so we can still hope!

Naomi Pine is bullied relentlessly. But when she doesn't turn up for school for a few days, no one seems concerned. Except Matthew. Matthew feels guilty for not stepping in to defend Naomi. And there's more to it than that. So Matthew turns to the person he knows has enough clout to do something about it: his grandmother, Hester Crimstein. Hester is a well knows lawyer with the platform and the know how to really get the ball rolling on an investigation. And she does exactly that.

Long time readers of Coben's work will remember Hester, considering she's appeared in multiple titles. She's never been a main character herself and I don't recall ever getting any of her backstory before.

She's fun and feisty and it was really great to finally get a book focused around her and her family.

Coben is always a sure bet for me, but I will say that this one didn't feel as strong as some of my favorites by him. There was the dangling thread of Wilde's story, for one, which I do trust is being held for another book. For another, things just seemed to come together a bit too quickly and easily this time around. I wanted to sink further into the story and get depth overall in terms of characters and plot.

I will say that I quite enjoyed the turn the plot took. I won't give it away, but I was surprised that Coben took the story where he did. If you're a longtime reader, you'll love this latest. Don't make the mistake I did, though. Stock up on Yoo-hoo before you start reading!

Order it from BookBar!

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

The Closer You Get by Mary Torjussen

Happy Book Birthday to Mary Torjussen whose latest, The Closer You Get, is out today!

Ruby's marriage has been under strain for some time but falling in love with her boss has prompted her to do something about it. She and Harry are going to be together. They have it all planned out. And on a Friday evening, the plan is set in motion. They're to tell their respective spouses that their relationships are over, meet up at a local hotel where the room is already booked, and start their new lives together. 

But when Ruby arrives at the hotel, Harry is nowhere to be found. She waits all weekend, and Harry never shows. Then, on Monday, she arrives at the office to be told she's being fired. No explanation from Harry at all. 

As Ruby tries to move forward, things get even worse. She's unable to get work at another temp agency. Her funds are low until her house is sold. And it appears Harry has reconciled with his wife. And then things take a darker turn. Someone has been in Ruby's apartment. Someone has gone through her things. Someone is out to get Ruby and it's only a matter of time. 

Mary Torjussen's latest is an absolute page turner. The book is told in multiple perspectives, but we begin with Ruby. And we're given an inside look at her marriage, her hopes about her future, her confusion when things don't go as expected, and her growing terror as her life spins out of control.

It's not hard to guess the motive behind her harassment but this doesn't take away from the experience of reading it at all!

Ruby is immensely sympathetic. Which you might not expect considering she's married and having an affair with her (also married) boss. And this is perhaps down to the fact that we open with her and spend so much time with her at the beginning of the book.

But it's also down to the story!

Torjussen has built narrators that are multi layered and real. The kind of characters that are not all good or all bad. Because of that, The Closer You Get is an easy and fast read! And great fun, if you're into dark reads like I am :)

Order it from BookBar!

Monday, April 20, 2020

Feature: The Book of Koli by M.R. Carey

M.R. Carey, author of The Girl With All the Gifts and the excellent Felix Castor series (as Mike Carey) is back with a new trilogy! The first book, The Book of Koli, is out now from Orbit. Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

Beyond the walls of the small village of Mythen Rood lies an unrecognizable world. A world where overgrown forests are filled with choker trees and deadly vines and seeds that will kill you where you stand. And if they don't get you, one of the dangerous shunned men will.

Koli has lived in Mythen Rood his entire life. He knows the first rule of survival is that you don't venture beyond the walls.

What he doesn't know is - what happens when you aren't given a choice?

The first in a gripping new trilogy, The Book of Koli charts the journey of one unforgettable young boy struggling to find his place in a chilling post-apocalyptic world. Perfect for readers of Station Eleven and Annihilation.

This is one of those books that's either going to perfectly hit the spot for you right now or be completely inappropriate reading for the moment. For me it would be the former as I seem to be finding some solace and distraction in the whole "it could be worse" idea. 

Order it from BookBar!

Friday, April 17, 2020

Feature: Vagabonds by Hao Jingfang

Hi, readers! This week marks the release of Hao Jingfang's Vagabonds. This is Jingfang's first novel and it's a monster of a read, clocking in at just over 600 pages! But it sounds amazing, and long distracting reads are absolutely in order right now!

Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

A century after the Martian war of independence, a group of kids are sent to Earth as delegates from Mars, but when they return home, they are caught between the two worlds, unable to reconcile the beauty and culture of Mars with their experiences on Earth in this spellbinding novel from Hugo Award–winning author Hao Jingfang.

In 2096, the war of independence erupts when a colony of people living on Mars rebel against Earth’s rule. The war results in two different and mutually incompatible worlds. In 2196, one hundred years later, Earth and Mars attempt to initiate a dialogue, hoping a reconciliation is on the horizon. Representing Mars, a group of young delegates are sent to Earth to study the history and culture of the rival planet, all while teaching others about life on Mars.

Narrated from two perspectives: Luo Ying, an eighteen-year-old girl from Mars who has spent the past five years on Earth, and Ignacio, a filmmaker in his late twenties from Earth on a job to document the delegates from Mars. Both Luo and Ignacio are trapped between worlds, with critics all around, and always under suspicion, searching for where they truly belong.

The English translation is done by Ken Liu, so it's a pretty safe bet that if you're a fan of his work or Liu Cixin, Vagabonds should be in your TBR!

Order it from BookBar!

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Conviction by Denise Mina

Happy paperback release day for Denise Mina and Conviction!

Anna McDonald is not having a good day. Her husband has just announced that he's leaving her, for her best friend. In fact, that very day the set off on a trip, taking Anna's two daughters with them and leaving the freshly betrayed woman alone. 

Why didn't she kick up a fight? Because Anna is hiding something. 

That same day, Anna begins listening to a true crime podcast about a family that was murdered on a seemingly cursed yacht. And when she realizes she personally knows one of the victims, someone she considered a friend once upon a time, she becomes consumed by the case. 

With her friend's betrayed husband by her side, Anne sets off to investigate the death herself. But it's more than just a distraction from her separation. The case has a connection to Anna that goes deeper than a passing acquaintance. And her poking around catches the attention of people she really shouldn't be messing with.

I snagged a copy of this one last December on lab day (the day every three months when I am ever so pleasantly reminded that I am not 100% healthy). It was a treat for myself, prompted by the fact that it was a Reese's Book Club pick. But then it languished in my TBR, waiting for my attention.

Then, in need of distraction from our current situation AND looking for a new audiobook to start while prepping my garden on a rare, warm spring day, I decided it was time to dive in.

Holy cow, why did I wait so long?! Not only that, why did I wait so long to read Denise Mina?!

Mina is a Scottish author who's been garnering praise for years. And I've been reluctant to dive in until she started doing stand alones (I've had The Long Drop in my TBR even longer than Conviction). I get it now. I really do!

Conviction is a fast read, made faster by the fact that the plot takes place over the course of just a couple of days. That, and Anna is a pretty explosively fascinating character! (Literally and figuratively, considering her temper!)

This is also the second podcast book I finished in a week (the other review will go live this summer since it was an ARC).

The podcast in question and the case that draws Anna's attention away from her husband's betrayal is also fascinating, centered around the deaths of a man and his son and daughter on a yacht that's rumored to be haunted.

Upon starting the podcast, Anna actually has no idea it's about a man she knows. Of course as soon as that becomes clear, she's hooked. She didn't know he was dead, much less murdered. And she certainly doesn't believe, as the producer of the podcast clearly does, that he could have been responsible.

But as I mentioned, it's more than just clearing his name or keeping her mind occupied that draws Anna into the case.

If you're looking for a quick and incredibly thrilling read, I highly recommend this one. I absolutely loved it and I especially loved the audio version! Cathleen McCarron was such a wonderful narrator that I'm absolutely seeking out more of the audiobooks she has a hand in.

Order it from BookBar!

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

The Ancestor by Danielle Trussoni

Happy Wednesday, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Danielle Trussoni's latest, The Ancestor.

Bert Monte is struggling. After experiencing another heartbreaking miscarriage, she's desperate to move on. And as part of that moving on, she's asked her husband to leave. Trying to get herself used to a new normal has been an ongoing battle. And then she receives something odd in the mail: correspondence from Italy that claims she's the sole descendant of an aristocratic family with an estate in Italy. 

Bert is stunned. She knows little about her background and has no one she can ask. The letter is accompanied, shortly thereafter, by a visit from a lawyer who says Bert must fly to Italy to meet the other lawyers and view the estate. 

Knowing this is the kind of thing that never happens to everyday people, Bert is leery. But a trip to Italy could be just what she needs. When she arrives, however, she discovers that the grand estate has fallen into disrepair and the rumored family wealth is all but gone. But it's the family history that's especially odd. And as she learns more about her heritage, the more she realizes just how odd it is. 

If you're craving something darkly gothic and mysterious, The Ancestor is perfect!

I know a lot of us have been struggling to read of late. I seem to have gotten a little bit of that back, though still not in a work capacity (it's a much different kind of reading). The trick for me has been true escapism reads and narratives that really suck me in. Which tend to lean on the darker side, even amidst this chaos.

Trussoni, who wrote Angelology and Angelopolis, knows how to weave an incredibly engrossing tale!  And this one begins like a fairy tale (just like the book's promotional material promised!). A promise of a new start and a grand inheritance. A past and history that's previously unknown. Of course, gothic tales are really just a darker side of fairy tales in a lot of ways. And it's clear to the reader pretty early on that this is not going to be a sparkly happily every after kind of fairy tale, but rather a monster in the attic gothic story!

Bert's letter is in Italian, a language she doesn't speak or read. So she has to seek help in reading the correspondence. And that help comes in the form of her soon-to-be-ex's great aunt, a woman who never really liked Bert all that much anyway. And she kind of makes it clear why when she conveys the meaning of the letter to Bert.

She and Bert's grandfather, as well as others, immigrated from Italy around WWII from a tiny village near Turin. A cold and desolate place, if she's to be believed, that was also home to a monster that stole children. And when Bert arrives in Italy she discovers a book that tells more about this strange tale and her native land.

But of course Bert doesn't put much stock in mythology and folklore, she's a modern woman and these kinds of things always have a logical explanation!

Are you getting chills yet? Because I certainly was! And all of this happens in the first 50 or so pages!

Like I said, I need escapism right now. Plus, I've always been a fan of gothic reads. Can't get enough of them, honestly! So The Ancestor was a perfect fit for my reading needs.

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

For more on Danielle Trussoni and her work you can like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookBar


Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Stalker by Lars Kepler

Alright, readers. I've tried to write a blurb for this book so many times and it's just not happening. I'll defer to the very vague one that appears on Goodreads:

The police receive a video of a woman in her home. Hours later, they discover her mutilated body. Soon after, the killer sends another tape, taunting the police. He knows there's nothing they can do.

Only Joona Linna and his old friend Erik Maria Bark can stop this cunning predator. But Bark is hiding secrets of his own--secrets the killer knows.

This is a twisted and dark mystery! I'm not kidding. The book opens with one of the victims. She's having a normal night at home, waiting for her husband to get back from a business trip, and there's a killer in her house. You can probably imagine where that's going.

The book offers quite a few different perspectives throughout the book: the main investigator on the case, Margot (who's massively pregnant), Erik, Joona, and various others all offer up bits of the story. In some cases this might adversely affect the flow of the narrative, but that wasn't the case here.

In fact, the story moves rather quickly. Which is good because this is a bit of a doorstopper for a thriller!

The plot is interesting and seriously quirky. I haven't read any of the previous books in the series, so I assume this is a style thing for the authors. Yep, authors. Lars Kepler are a husband and wife writing duo who, as an aside, tried their damnedest to stay anonymous. There was serious fervor in their native Sweden to find out just who was behind the pseudonym!

This should give you a sense of just how mad people are for Lars Kepler! I can't say that I was quite that impressed with the book. I did like it, I just didn't LOVE it. I'll be reading more—I've got The Hypnotist queued up from the library and I am looking forward to it. For me, though, there was something missing in the reading and I think it likely is the fact that this is the fifth book in the series.

Ok, so like I said, I've never read Lars Kepler. This one was the first pick for a new online book club that I joined on Instagram. And it's Scandi-crime. And I was certain that I had the first book in my TBR (I was wrong about that last one, or I just can't find it in the mess of my bookshelves).

Also, the folks who picked it were clear about the fact that it's the fifth book in a series and I can confirm that it's ok to read on its own. For the most part. I personally think I would have had a stronger connection to the characters had I read the other books first. Also, there are two spoilery issues: First, Erik is actually in the first book of the series The Hypnotist. Second, Joona Linna doesn't actually appear until about halfway (maybe not quite that far) into the book because he's in hiding thanks to things that happen in The Sandman (which I actually did already have in my TBR).

Stalker is out now in paperback and the sixth book in the series is out now in hardcover. The full series order, if you're interested, is:

The Hypnotist
The Nightmare
The Fire Witness
The Sandman
The Rabbit Hunter

If you're into Scandi-crime, you should definitely check this series out. My recommendation, though, would be to start at the beginning.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Feature: Something She's Not Telling Us by Darcey Bell

As you can imagine, having a book release amidst a pandemic is not easy. And so, I've been doing some feature posts to highlight some of these new releases that I haven't yet had the chance to read!

Tomorrow is the official release date for Darcey Bell's latest, Something She's Not Telling Us. Bell is the author of A Simple Favor, which was adapted into a film starring Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively. And now, she's back with another juicy thriller that sounds amazing!

Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

Charlotte has everything in life that she ever could have hoped for: a doting, artistic husband, a small-but-thriving flower shop, and her sweet, smart five-year-old daughter, Daisy. Her relationship with her mother might be strained, but the distance between them helps. And her younger brother Rocco may have horrible taste in women, but when he introduces his new girlfriend to Charlotte and her family, they are cautiously optimistic that she could be The One. Daisy seems to love Ruth, and she can’t be any worse than the klepto Rocco brought home the last time. At least, that’s what Charlotte keeps telling herself. But as Rocco and Ruth’s relationship becomes more serious, Ruth’s apparent obsession with Daisy grows more obvious. Then Daisy is kidnapped, and Charlotte is convinced there’s only one person who could have taken her.

Ruth has never had much, but now she’s finally on the verge of having everything she’s ever dreamed of. A stable job at a start-up company, a rakish, handsome boyfriend with whom she falls more in love with every day—and a chance at the happy family she’s always wanted, adorable niece included. The only obstacle standing in her way is her boyfriend’s sister Charlotte, whose attitude swerves between politely cold and outright hostile. Rebuffing Ruth’s every attempt to build a friendship with her and Daisy, Charlotte watches over her daughter with a desperate protectiveness that sends chills down Ruth’s spine. Ruth knows that Charlotte has a deeply-buried secret, the only question is: what? A surprise outing with Daisy could be the key to finding out, and Ruth knows she must take the chance while she has it—for everyone’s sake.

This sounds like a perfect escapism read, and I can't wait to dive in!

Order it from BookBar!

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Feature: Providence by Max Barry

Good morning, readers! Yesterday marked the release of Max Barry's latest, Providence!

This one is still in my TBR since my husband stole my copy :) But I wanted to promote the book on its release week for all of you. To that end, here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

A dazzling, inventive, and thought-provoking new novel from the ingenious author of Jennifer Government and Lexicon.
Gilly, Talia, Anders, and Jackson are astronauts captaining a new and supposedly indestructible ship in humanity's war against an alien race. Confined to the ship for years, each of them holding their own secrets, they are about to learn there are threats beyond the reach of human ingenuity--and that the true nature of reality might be the universe's greatest mystery.

In this near future, our world is at war with another, and humanity is haunted by its one catastrophic loss--a nightmarish engagement that left a handful of survivors drifting home through space, wracked with PTSD. Public support for the war plummeted, and the military-industrial complex set its sights on a new goal: zero-casualty warfare, made possible by gleaming new ships called Providences, powered by AI.

But when the latest-launched Providence suffers a surprising attack and contact with home is severed, Gilly, Talia, Anders, and Jackson must confront the truth of the war they're fighting, the ship that brought them there, and the cosmos beyond.

Mike's thoughts (this is like pulling teeth, people. He says he wasn't expecting to have to give me a book report!): I really liked how the book dealt with AI stuff - the book is about a crew that's put on a ship as PR puppets; the AI is actually responsible for everything. I also really liked the characters, Gilly in particular, and found the book amusing and dark. 

Providence earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly, which stated "Fans of Robert Heinlein open to more nuanced characterizations will be delighted."

Barry himself describes the book as follows, "It has aliens and spaceships in it, which is new for me, and something I’ve wanted to do since… well, since I was about fourteen, probably. Because I really love aliens and spaceships. But it had to be smart and suspenseful and character-driven, too. Hopefully I figured out a way to do that."

Barry also created a Providence Battle Simulator to go along with the book. You can find that online here

Again, this one is still in my TBR, though I was super excited to not only receive a copy, but to receive a personalized letter from the author to go along with it!

Providence is out now from Putnam. Buy it from BookBar today!