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Friday, March 5, 2021

Dragonfly Girl by Marti Leimbach

Happy Friday! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things Tours for Marti Leimbach's YA debut, Dragonfly Girl!

Kira Adams is smart. Science smart, that is. Real world stuff and even high school English sometimes seem to be beyond her. 

But when she wins a prize that takes her to Sweden, everything starts to turn around. She catches the attention of one of the scientists at a prestigious research facility and lands a job there in spite of the fact that she's still only a junior in high school. 

And it's there that she makes a literally life-changing discovery. But Kira's work has been noticed by others as well and it's not necessarily the kind of notice one would consider healthy. 

Wow! I really loved this book!

Dragonfly Girl is a quick read with a main character who immediately drew me in. 

Kira is gifted, so much so that she's able to place in a competition meant for those who've already earned their PhDs. So, professional scientists who work in professional labs and have traditional, professional training. Kira is only in high school. 

But even though she's that gifted, Kira's prospects aren't great. Her mom is sick and has racked up debt with a local loan shark—debt Kira planned to use her prize money to pay off. So college isn't exactly in her immediate plans. 

And unfortunately for Kira, she's outed at the competition. 

But, it kind of works in her favor as well considering she leaves with two different job offers. One kind of shady and one very appealing. 

You can probably guess which offer she takes, but it doesn't keep her out of trouble. That and the science involved in the book, along with Kira, of course, make this a truly page-turning read with massive cross-over appeal!

Dragonfly Girl has everything you want in a great read—action and suspense, a heroine you can root for, and, on you might not think of, science that doesn't entirely go over the reader's head!


Thursday, March 4, 2021

How to Survive Everything by Ewan Morrison

Happy Thursday! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things Tours for Ewan Morrison's latest, How to Survive Everything!

Haley and Ben are used to their father's eccentricities. It's one of the reasons their mother divorced him in the first place. It's also one of the reasons they have limited visitation with him. 

But that doesn't keep their father from abducting them one early morning. It helps that they were staying overnight with him in the first place. They just thought it was another of his little adventures—an outing before they returned to their mom. 

What they didn't know was that everything was about to come crashing down around them!

There's a part of my brain that, while reading this, insisted, "Too soon!" I mean, pandemic fiction during an actual pandemic...So yeah, it might be too soon for some people. 

Morrison's tale is set in the near future, post Covid. And it acknowledges Covid-19 as part of its plot. 

See, Haley and Ben's father has become increasingly convinced that the next big pandemic is right around the corner. But he was a journalist during Covid-19, tasked with covering just that: the next big super bug. And he thinks it's happening. Now. 

Our narrator, Haley, is a teenage girl living through this reality. And there are definitely times when both she and the reader wonder if her father is really fully with it or not. 

Under the guise of being her guide to surviving, Haley outlines pretty much every step that led to her new reality. And she does it with a snarky attitude that gives a rather dark read a humorous bent that makes it easier to swallow. 

I really liked Morrison's overall style. Haley's voice was the kind that I really appreciate (snark is kind of a favorite of mine). 

Is this a fun read? I guess it depends on how dark you like your humor and how well you're holding up these days! I found it so, but admit that at times it didn't do much to take me away from my current anxieties!


Wednesday, March 3, 2021

A Long Way from Douala by Max Lobe

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things Tours for Max Lobe's A Long Way from Douala!

After the death of their father, Choupi's older brother, Roger, runs away in search of fame as a football player in Europe. 

Their mother is devastated and so Choupi and his friend Simon set off to find the missing Roger. But it's been a month already and terrorist attacks in the north are dominating the news. 

With few clues to start with, the two take a winding path through Camaroon that leads to potential disaster around every corner!

Max Lobe's English debut is a coming-of-age road trip story of (mis)adventure!

With short chapters and plenty of humor, Lobe tackles some otherwise very heavy topics! As mentioned above, there's the ever looming threat of terrorist attacks, which causes Choupi understandable anxiety! That dark atmosphere combined with the grief felt by the family, as well as Choupi's own questions about identity could have weighed the book down. I believe, though, that Lobe's intention was not only to illustrate a sort of average guy story, but to give readers who aren't familiar with Camaroon a chance to see that—in general—the lives of the people living there aren't that different from their own. 

The story bounces around in time as Choupi reminisces about various instances that have led to the journey. Through his eyes, we see the strained family dynamic—Choupi is his mother's favorite and Roger's own hopes and dreams of being a football star aren't exactly supported. Indeed, tension between Choupi and Roger comes to a head before Roger leaves.

I'll admit that going into this story I knew absolutely nothing about Camaroon. I also wasn't really sure what to expect out of this one except that the description included the quote, "Through a series of joyful sparky vignettes, Cameroon life is revealed in all its ups and downs." I have to say that I agree wholeheartedly! This book, even with all of the various issues wrapped up in the thread of the search for Roger, does remain overall light. And clocking in at just about 200 pages, it's an incredibly easy read as well! 

A Long Way from Douala is out now in the UK from Hope Road and is due out in the States in September from Other Press.

If you have the chance, there's a UK launch event happening on March 7. You can find out more about that here.  

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Smoke Screen by Jørn Lier Horst & Thomas Enger

Today I am super excited to be a stop on the Random Things Tours for the second book in Jørn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger's fantastic Alexander Blix and Emma Ramm series, Smoke Screen!

Terrorism is everyone's first thought when an explosion rocks Norway on New Year's Eve. But when no group takes responsibility, Alexander Blix begins to wonder if there's another motive. 

When it's revealed that one of the people injured is the mother of a girl who went missing almost ten years ago, Blix starts to suspect the two are connected. 

Emma Ramm was there when the bomb went off. To deal with the fallout, she throws herself into work. And when she too learns the identity of the woman, she begins her own investigation. 

As the police focus their efforts on finding the bomber, Blix and Ramm deviate and follow the leads connected to the missing person's case. But are the two actually connected or are Blix and Ramm allowing their own demons to distract them from the actual case at hand?

I am still finding an immense amount of relief from the real world with Nordic Noir these days! And it is still a guaranteed slump buster for me as well. Death Deserved, the first book in the Blix and Ramm series, was one of my absolute favorite books of 2020 and Smoke Screen proved itself to be a worthy successor and second outing!

I adore Blix and Ramm! They're an excellent team, though they're not a team in the traditional sense. 

Blix is a cop through and through and has a soft spot for Ramm even though she's a journalist. And thanks to the events of book one, she's moved on from covering celebrity gossip to covering crime, in large part because of Blix's help. 

Of course Blix has caught a lot of flack for that, which means he's a bit more careful in this second outing!

I was really lucky to have the time to "attend" the virtual launch earlier this week—the one good thing about our current situation really is the ability to attend events we otherwise would never be able to attend due to location! So I learned a little bit of background about the authors and this book. For example, the cold case that this book focuses on is based on a real missing person's case (not one I was familiar with before the interview).

Both Enger and Horst have written a number of solo projects but this is, as mentioned above, the second in their coauthored series. Enger was a journalist and Horst was an investigating officer for twenty years, which apparently kicked off the idea that their two lead characters would be an investigator and a journalist in this series! 

A really cool aspect of the event is that they brought in the translator, Megan Turney, who talked about her own approach in translating. Smoke Screen was, according to the event, her first full length translation. I really must say, she's done a phenomenal job!  

I really love this series and I cannot wait for book three to hit shelves next year. I'm also super excited that the authors announced there is a planned fourth book coming, too!

I highly, highly recommend these to anyone looking for a great new crime series to dive into! Trust me, you won't regret it :)

(Note, this one is out now in the UK. It's due out in the States June 1.)

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

The Smash-Up by Ali Benjamin

Happy Book Birthday to Ali Benjamin whose adult debut, The Smash-Up, hits shelves today!

Ever since the election, Ethan and Zo's lives have been off kilter. 

Once upon a time, Ethan was part of a guerrilla marketing company that made a pretty big name for itself. But he sold his shares and the couple moved to a small town to start a family. 

Zo is a filmmaker whose recent involvement with an activism group has commanded all of her attention. As such, Ethan is feeling disconnected and uncertain where their relationship is heading. 

As it turns out, their lives are on a bit of a collision course with current events. How everything will shake out is the question. 

I'm going to be totally honest and say that if the most recent election hadn't played out as it did, this book would have been a painful read!

The Smash-Up is set in 2018, right smack dab in the middle of #MeToo, Kavanaugh's appointment to the Supreme Court, and, of course, Trump's presidency. 

When we meet Ethan and Zo, Ethan's former business partner has called him to let him know that he's been accused of sexual harassment. This thread continues through the book, with Ethan—who is basically a decent guy—having to make some pretty difficult decisions. 

These decisions involve his livelihood, his relationship, his daughter, and his life in general. And the book actually begins towards the end, so the reader knows that things have been turned upside down. What we don't know is how or why. 

This book was recommended to me by our local Random House rep and I am so glad that she brought it to my attention. I started on a regular evening but found that it was actually a pretty insomnia-heavy night. Fortunately, I was so invested in Ethan's story (I admit, I much preferred him over Zo!), that I read through the wee hours and ended up finishing this in one day. 

I am not typically someone who reads a lot of truly character-driven novels. As evidenced by the books I tend to review, I read a lot of genre fiction that is generally majority plot driven. Just my personal preference.

The Smash-Up is smart. And the characters are so brilliantly drawn through Benjamin's narrative that I can't help but think there are things about their story that will resonate with just about any reader. 

For some, the story may still be too soon and the events that take place in the background too fresh in peoples' minds. But I think for many, there will be so many things they can relate to and empathize with as well. And this was definitely the case with me!

Order a copy from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

Monday, February 22, 2021

Dangerous Women by Hope Adams

In 1841, a ship set sail from London to Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania). The passengers on board this ship were no regular passengers. They were women who had all been convicted of petty crimes. But when one of their own is attacked, it becomes clear that someone on board is guilty of something much more dangerous than petty theft. 

As the ship sails to its destination, an investigation is underway to find the culprit. But which of the women is responsible for such a violent assault, and why?

This debut from Hope Davis is a captivating historical mystery!

I found it particularly interesting that this book is based on a very interesting bit of history. The Rajah was a very real ship and this voyage and at least some of the passengers are very real. As is the quilt! 

The attack happens fairly early on and the narrative switches between points of view quite frequently, introducing readers to various passengers along the way. I appreciated getting the perspectives of so many different characters because I felt like it really gave us a chance to get to know so many of the women and what motivated them—both in their past and in their present (when the book takes place, of course). 

Dangerous Women is a bit slower in pacing, much more character driven than it is plot driven. So even though there is a mystery aspect to the book, it leans more on the historical aspects than it does on the crime itself. 

Overall, I found this a really interesting read. I'm not sure it was exactly what I was expecting, based on the description, but I enjoyed it nonetheless!

Dangerous Women is out now from Berkley.

Order a copy from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Feb 21, 2021 Week In Review


Well, this week was marginally more productive than last week in terms of reading. It was a productive blogging week, though! This is what I can get done when I plan far enough ahead with posts :) 

I finished two books (one was on audio) and got partway through two more. I've never been much for reading multiple books at once, but I have started to read on multiple formats. I usually have a physical book going (my preference), an audiobook for days when I'm with the tiny or when I'm working, and an ebook for bedtime. If I can get the same book that way, perfect! If not, then I'll read multiple titles at once. 

We didn't actually watch much this week either. I've been desperately trying to catch up with work and have moved to a new website for queries that should help going forward. This upcoming week hubs will be teaching all day every day, so he's been trying to make sure projects are squared away before that happens. Neither of us had an abundance of time to devote to entertainment, unfortunately.

We did start the Netflix adaptation of Sarah Pinborough's Behind Her Eyes. It's definitely a bit of a slow burn. I've seemingly lost the ability to remember anything but the biggest key points of anything I consume, so I don't actually recall many of the specifics about the book—though I did love it! I'm looking forward to watching more.

Of course I had to watch To All the Boys: Always and Forever. It was everything I'd hoped it would be! I wish I'd read the books before watching, but I have loved each of the adaptations and highly recommend them to anyone looking for a perfectly pitched romantic trilogy! 

I hope everyone is staying warm and cozy. We have family in Texas and Louisiana and I know this past week has been hard for a lot of people. 

Friday, February 19, 2021

Feature: The Diabolical Bones by Bella Ellis

This week marks the release of Bella Ellis's latest Brontë Sisters Mystery, The Diabolical Bones!

Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

Haworth Parsonage, February 1846: The Brontë sisters—Anne, Emily, and Charlotte—are busy with their literary pursuits. As they query publishers for their poetry, each sister hopes to write a full-length novel that will thrill the reading public. They're also hoping for a new case for their fledgling detecting enterprise, Bell Brothers and Company solicitors. On a bitterly cold February evening, their housekeeper Tabby tells them of a grim discovery at Scar Top House, an old farmhouse belonging to the Bradshaw family. A set of bones has been found bricked up in a chimney breast inside the ancient home.

Tabby says it's bad doings, and dark omens for all of them. The rattled housekeeper gives them a warning, telling the sisters of a chilling rumour attached to the family. The villagers believe that, on the verge of bankruptcy, Clifton Bradshaw sold his soul to the devil in return for great riches. Does this have anything to do with the bones found in the Bradshaw house? The sisters are intrigued by the story and feel compelled to investigate. But Anne, Emily, and Charlotte soon learn that true evil has set a murderous trap and they've been lured right into it...

I think the idea of combining literary characters with genre fiction is so much fun! And considering I've always been a Brontë girl, this is right up my alley!

This is actually the second book in the series. I'm planning to start from the beginning with The Vanished Bride before diving into this one, but you can bet they're both in my immediate plans!

If you've had a chance to dip into these, do let me know in the comments! What are some of your favorite mysteries featuring famous literary characters?

Thursday, February 18, 2021

The Minders by John Marrs

In the very near future, major nations are being terrorized by an organization called the Hacking Collective. They've already claimed responsibility for one catastrophic event in the UK, and now the country is desperate to avoid becoming the latest victim of a plot that would find them risking every state secret unless they're willing to pay the Hacking Collective's ransom. 

Some of the best scientific minds in the nation have come up with a plan. It involves using humans to carry the information in question. These people are called Minders and each one has a very unique genetic makeup that makes them ideal for the experiment. And the use of the Minders will give the nation enough time to figure out a longer solution to protecting the data in question. 

Five have been chosen. Their locations are top secret and known only to one person. Unfortunately, the enemy is quick and vigilant and finding the Minders has become the ultimate goal. 

John Marrs's latest is set in the same world as his previous two novels, The One and The Passengers. You do not have to have read those two, but there are spoilers in The Minders

So this near future that Marrs has created is one in which technology is a necessary part of everyone's lives. Physical money has gone away, so even the most staunch protestors are forced to use tech for payment, at minimum. 

There are also autonomous cars (The Passengers) and a new innovation that allows you to meet your DNA soulmate (The One). 

Flick, Sinéad, Charlie, and Bruno are each, for their own reasons, looking to start anew. And that's exactly what they're promised as Minders. 

For a maximum of five years, they'll hold dangerous information inside their own heads. This means they have to leave their current lives and connections behind. They're trained in self defense and sent somewhere of their choosing—outside of London—to create new lives for themselves. 

And then there's Emilia. 

Emilia doesn't know anything about the Minders. She doesn't even know anything about herself. 

I really enjoy the world Marrs has created in these books. I must admit, though, that I hadn't yet read The One at the time of this review (it's at the top of my TBR considering the Netflix series based on it airs mid-March). 

The Minders is the kind of cross-genre book that I truly enjoy. It's a thriller set in a sci fi setting (don't worry, if you think you're not a fan of sci fi, it's actually pretty light in that regard). Definite Black Mirror territory!

Order a copy from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Deity by Matt Wesolowski

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things Tours for Matt Wesolowski's latest in his Six Stories series, Deity

Zach Crystal is a controversial figure and also an almost mythical one. 

He began his career alongside his twin sister, singing Christian rock in bars and pubs. But when he released a solo album, he became a massive success and a massive idol as well. 

But something was always a little off. 

He built a two story "tree house" in the middle of the forest where he invited young people to stay. He disappeared, quite literally, for a year. His own sister issued a missing persons report and put his home up for sale before he reappeared, taking part in a rare and odd televised interview in which he announced a new album and tour. 

And finally, not long after, his home burned with him inside. 

And all of that is before you take into account the death of his closest friend, the remains of two teenage girls found on his property, his musings about mythical creatures and beings...

Scott King explores the life of Zach Crystal in his hugely famous Six Stories podcast, but it's up to the listener to decide what's real. 

This is the latest installment in Matt Wesolowski's crime/thriller/horror mashup series, Six Stories. Don't worry, though, best I can tell each one can be read as a complete standalone. 

If you're not familiar with the series, it's set around a fictional crime podcast called Six Stories. The host, Scott King, interviews six different people, exploring each of their viewpoints to give "listeners" (readers) a rounded perspective of a different case. 

But these cases are never straightforward. 

They begin as a typical crime. In this case, Zach Crystal, a rock star who's been accused of pedophilia. And indeed, the first interview in the book is with a man who claimed to have evidence of such. 

But there's always something a little weird lurking in the shadows of the story. 

As the book progresses and our host delves further into those oddities, the case becomes much less straightforward than it initially seemed. And the book takes a turn from crime fiction to something more supernatural. 

I absolutely love the blending of genres! I also love the format these books take—I've only read this one and I'm partway through the first, but it almost has me wishing that it was a real podcast that I could plug into my ears when I can't sit and read!

The book is a bit of a slow burn, but it's also a fairly quick read with hints as to what's to come from the very start (if you know what to look for). 

You don't have to read the books in order, but if you want to start from the beginning, here's the series list in order:

Six Stories
Hydra
Changeling
Beast
Deity

(Note: Deity releases here in the States on April 1 but you can order it from Book Depository now, if you can't wait. You can order the rest of the series from your favorite indie via Bookshop!)

Huge thanks to Random Things Tours for letting me take part! To see more stops, check out the tour listing below. 

For more on Matt Wesolowski and his work, you can find him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!

One final plug, if you've got some free time on March 9, Matt will be in conversation with Catriona Ward and Jacky Collins—more info on that here!


Tuesday, February 16, 2021

The English Wife by Adrienne Chin

Happy Tuesday, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC Book Tour for Adrienne Chin's The English Wife

At the start of WWII, Ellie Burgess, an art student with a promising new job, is happily engaged to a man she's know much of her life. 

By the end of the war, Ellie has traveled across the ocean to live in a new country, with a new baby, and a husband she barely knows. 

In 2001, Sophie Parry is on her way from London to New York when her plane is rerouted to Newfoundland. Her world is turned upside down when she learns that the World Trade Center is under attack. But, this is also the first time Sophie has the opportunity to meet her Aunt Ellie, a woman her mother cut ties with completely and never explained her her daughter. 

Then, in 2011, Ellie is to return to Newfoundland under directions to convince the locals to sell their land for the creation of a new hotel. This time, Ellie must make some of the toughest decisions of her life. 

The English Wife brings to life a little piece of history I was still completely unaware of, even in spite of the glut of WWII novels in print at this moment: soldiers from Newfoundland who were sent to England during the war and the war brides (just one in this instance) they brought home. 

But the book is, of course, much more than that. While it also touches on 9/11, the book is more about family and family secrets. Namely the secret that caused the decades-long rift between Sophie's mother and her Aunt Ellie. 

The story unfolds in alternating timelines. Most of it focused on Ellie from the early days of WWII and Sophie's time in Tippy's Tickle (the tiny Newfoundland town Ellie and her family call home). 

The characters are deftly drawn, but I must admit that Ellie's WWII timeline is the one that pulled me in most. Her relationship with her family and her fiancé and the evolution of her character throughout the war were my favorite parts of the novel. As was seeing her relationship with Thomas grow and blossom and finally learning why Dottie turned so bitter in the wake of her sister's leaving. 

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

For more on Adrienne Chin and her work you can visit her website. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter and Instagram

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Sunday, February 14, 2021

Feb 14, 2021: Week In Review

 

And so another week has passed. It was...well, my sister says that since the Covid mess really got started last March that we're not yet through our Covid year and that things will be better after that. I hope she's right. 

I finished just one book this week. Just. One. Book. This. Week. Ugh. 

I did binge watch a couple of shows, one of them I want to tell EVERYONE about! 

But first, another show I want to recommend. 

A couple of weeks back, I finally dove into Fortitude, a British show filmed in Iceland and set on a fictional island that's technically part of Norway but also home to a research facility with scientists from England. 

In the opening for the first episode, a man is being eaten by a polar bear. And while a local photographer attempts to help, the sheriff appears. This scene sets the tone for a show that is part mystery/thriller and turns out to be pretty largely horror!

The show really gets started when a couple of kids find the body of a mammoth in the ice. Shortly after one of the kids' parents tries to sell the mammoth to the research facility, a scientist is brutally murdered in his home. Newly arrived scientist, Vincent, (played by Luke Treadaway) is found at the scene and the prime suspect until the evidence doesn't line up. 

There are currently two seasons of Fortitude available here in the States. The first includes Richard Dormer (who is currently starring in The Watch) and Stanley Tucci. Christopher Eccleston, Sienna Guillory, Alexandra Moen and Sofie Gråbøl are a few of the others who appear in season one. Season two adds Dennis Quaid, Michelle Fairley, and Robert Sheehan. 

No word on when season three will be available here. 

I loved it so much that I was left with a pretty huge show hangover, desperate to find books that would be in the same vein. Sadly, though I could think of plenty, I'd read them all and there weren't any satisfactory recommendations online. 

Do not watch if you are squeamish! 

Anywho, that brings me to the show I watched this past week, HBO Max's The Head

The show begins as the full team of researchers at a fictional Antarctic station are leaving just a handful of Winterers behind. 

Six months later, they return after losing contact with the station to find most of the Winterers dead or missing. 

The show is mostly in English but is actually Spanish made and stars John Lynch (of The Terror), Katharine O'Donnelly, and Alexandre Willaume, amongst others. 

It is excellent! It's the kind of mystery series that really does keep you guessing and yet another one that I really wish was based on a book—because I really wasn't ready to leave it behind! 

And also because I'm all about those snowed-in mysteries at the moment!

That's pretty much it at the moment. Enjoy my cheese plate from So Damn Gouda up there (which is actually from last weekend). I'll be over here trying to clean out my garage freezer before everything defrosts—yup, this is a thing when temps are super cold in Colorado!

We'll see how this week plays out, but hopefully it includes way more reading!

By the way, if these two shows are up your alley, or if you're also into snowed-in thrillers, I'll be posting some book recs really soon!

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Good Neighbors by Sarah Langan

Years later, people are still talking about the events on Maple Street. 

It all began with a sinkhole. It opened the day of a block party—a party that the Wilde family was not invited to. 

The Wildes had always been a bit on the outside in their suburban neighborhood. They're the ones who didn't quite belong, much as they tried to fit in. The kids were friendly, as were the parents, but ex-beauty-queen Gertie and her former rock star husband Arlo weren't exactly the typical suburbanites. 

The summer of the sinkhole, they found themselves even more on the outs than usual. And then a child fell down the sinkhole and everything went downhill!

It has been absolutely ages since Sarah Langan's last book released and I am just one of many readers who has been anxiously awaiting her next title!

Set in the near future, Good Neighbors is an unsettling look at mob justice at its absolute worst! 

Langan teases out the store through to the brutal end with excerpts from newspaper articles and books and even outtakes of interviews about the Maple Street Murders, many of them dating almost twenty years after the events themselves. And they provide a bit of a driving force to the narrative, making the reader really wonder just how bad things are going to get as the events unfold in the book. 

Good Neighbors is a bit of a break from Langan's previous horror releases, but that's not to say that the things that take place in the book aren't horrific! And in fact, it is really hard not to absolutely abhor some of the characters in this book. The actions that take place caused a very emotional reaction in me as a reader! While I certainly did enjoy the reader, I felt like I needed a nice, heartwarming read to wash out my brain once I was finished.

I had the chance to listen to this one on audio when I wasn't able to read the physical and I have to tell you, narrator Nicole Lewis does an amazing job! (She may be one of my new favorite audiobook narrators!). 

Order a copy from your favorite indie via Bookshop or buy the audio edition from Libro.fm

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse

Elin Warner's brother is getting married. To celebrate, the couple have invited Elin and her boyfriend to the brand new five-star hotel in the Alps where her brother's fiancee is employed. 

Secluded in the mountains, the hotel was once a famous sanatorium designed by the current owner's ancestor. In keeping with the history of the building, displays of equipment used in the medical facility can be found around the building with historical notes explaining their use. 

All of this proves to be a fascination to some, but for Elin the trip is a chance to finally face a piece of her past that's haunted her for decades. And yet, before she can confront her brother, his fiancee goes missing. With a storm rolling in and the local authorities unable to access the hotel, Elin—a police officer who has been on sabbatical from her job—is the most logical person to head the investigation. But are her own issues hindering her ability to do the job that needs to be done? And is there a killer stalking the halls of the hotel, or is there something going on between Elin's brother and his partner?

The Sanatorium is out now from Pamela Dorman Books and is the current Reese's Pick!

Once upon a time there was a thread that went around the internet about readers' buzz topics. And I fully admit that anything centered around abandoned hospitals, orphanages, and the like as well as plots that involve people being snowed in and cut off from the outside world are candy to me! 

The book opens with a definite hook—one of the people involved with the restoration and renovation of the hotel, which has been plagued by protests, is attacked in the first few pages. Some time later, Elin and her boyfriend arrive at the hotel, with clear trepidation on Elin's part. 

Elin's history is hinted at throughout the book, but it takes a while to really learn what's going on with her. And it's a multi-faceted issue that relates to her work as a police officer as well as a tragedy in her own past, which makes her quite an interesting character!

And the book is absolutely brimming with atmosphere! Snow, snow, and more snow pound the hotel leaving a small group trapped on the mountain with a possible killer on the loose!

I will say that I loved about 99% of the book. And what I didn't love didn't necessarily detract from the reading experience. I expect it's more a matter of personal taste, but when it came down to the ultimate reveal of the who and why behind the crime...I wasn't 100% sold. And this doesn't apply to the whole reveal, just a small part of it that I thought wasn't quite executed as convincingly as it could have been. 

But again, the read as a whole was straight up my alley and delivered on so many points that I absolutely love! I also really loved that it seems like we may return to Elin in a future novel!

Order a copy from your favorite indie via Bookshop! And if audiobooks are your thing, I highly recommend this one in that format, read by Elizabeth Knowelden and clocking in at just under 12 hours (if you listen regular speed). You can snag a copy of it from Libro.fm.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Just Friends by Holly McCulloch

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things Tours for Holly McCulloch's Just Friends. 

Bea hasn't been happy for quite some time. It isn't until her best friend's wedding, though, that Bea realizes just how unhappy she is. And when she looks around her, it seems all the happiest people have someone to share their lives with. 

So Bea takes the plunge back into the dating world where things definitely don't go as planned. But through it all—work dissatisfaction,  disastrous dating, and even some bumps in the road with her best friend—Peter is there. 

Good old Peter. The guy Bea has known since school. She would never consider dating him, until she does. Consider it. But she's been down that road before and it ended not only in heartbreak but in losing a friend as well...

Holly McCulloch's debut is a charming and sweet story about love and life!

Bea is floundering. She's working a job she's no longer passionate about and seemingly without the motivation it takes to turn the thing she enjoys into a career. 

And her dating life is nonexistent. 

Her friends are all happily paired off. Even her mom has her dog to keep her company. And Bea...well, Bea is still looking for the right someone. 

And this is the kind of story where maybe that someone has been there the whole time. But whether Bea will give it a shot and whether it will work out are, of course, the drive of the story! And I won't tell :)

Just Friends is quite fun! A flirty and fizzy read perfect to get you through the winter (cough *Covid* cough) doldrums!


Monday, February 8, 2021

Death Deserved by Jørn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger

Emma Ramm is a blogger covering celebrity news who stumbles onto what could be the story that makes her career!

Sonja Nordstrøm has made enemies in her years as a celebrity sports personality, and her new book is guaranteed to make tongues wag. But when she misses the launch of her autobiography, it's more than a little out of character. 

Emma is the first to realize that something isn't right. 

Alexander Blix is one of the officers assigned to the case and he immediately recognizes Emma. Which is why he keeps her informed, even to his own detriment, throughout the investigation. And when the body of another sports star is found with a clear connection to the Nordstrøm case, it becomes clear that the killer has an agenda beyond anything they could have imagined!

Emma is tired of covering celebrities and gossip. So stumbling on a real story is a bit of good luck. Even more so, stumbling upon a case that Alexander Blix is assigned! Though Emma doesn't know how fortunate that is or why until the story is well under way. 

Blix is a good cop but one suffering from the aftermath of a case almost two decades in his past. So when he meets Emma at the crime scene, he sees something of a way forward from the cloud that's hung over him for so long. 

There's limited interaction between Blix and Ramm for much of the book, which each of them conducting their own investigation and occasionally meeting together to share info, but it is immediately clear to the reader just how much they complement one another! 

Of course Blix is most definitely not supposed to be working with a reporter! The flip side to that is that Ramm is able to use her new connection to forge a new path at work, much to the disappointment of the actual crime beat reporter!

I want to point out first that the plotting in this book is excellent! I had not guessed the true motive of the killer nor had I guessed who the killer was before it was revealed. 

Second, the authors work together seamlessly! The book was so easy to get pulled into and I never felt like I was reading two different writers' works. 

Finally, shout out to the translator, Anne Bruce! Death Deserved is yet another of my Nordic Noir/Scandi Crime obsession of late, and the translation is incredibly smooth. I read a fair amount of translated work and I can only imagine the effort that goes into them but I do know that the translator does more than just translate the words. They have to keep the authors' style and voice in mind while also translating slang and  figures of speech and such. 

This book had been at the top of my must have list as soon as I started seeing reviews floating around online. It released first in the UK and hit shelves in the US last September. Not only is it the first in a new series, but it was my introduction to both of these authors (who do both have extensive backlists to read through while waiting for more books in this particular series!). 

I loved this series opener and cannot wait to read more in the series. Thus far there are three installments. Book two is being released in the UK later this month. 

Order a copy from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Feb 7, 2021: Week In Review


I'm trying to get back into some regular blogging here. Obviously things have been pretty atypical for a while but routine does seem to alleviate some of the continued stress of these odd times. 

Since this is my first "Week in Review" post, we'll also make it a bit of a January recap as well. 

Reading stats for Jan:

12 books finished
2 DNF
9 digital (trying to get to more of those e galleys)
1 audio

In Jan I was cooking out of Vivian Howard's This Will Make It Taste Good, which is a phenomenal cookbook with a really unique premise!

Moving into Feb, I'm cooking out of Hawa Hassan's In Bibi's Kitchen, which I am really enjoying! The book features recipes from different parts of Africa, all of which are cuisines I know pretty much nothing about (though I did have the chance to eat out at an Ethiopian restaurant pre pandemic, so I know how wonderful injera bread truly is!). 

This week was an interesting one. I worked a conference last Saturday but also had to rush off to get a drive through Covid test, so the beginning of this past week was spent anxiously awaiting what I hoped would be negative results (they were, thankfully!). But it also meant that I didn't really get much done in the way of actual work. 

I did, however, finish three books. Two of which had some disturbing overlapping themes! 

Nothing really exciting happened this week, but I did treat myself to an Indian taco from Tocabe to go along with finishing a book Friday. I ended the week with some reading time to myself, a soak in the tub with my new Happy Dance CBD bath bomb, and a fancy schmancy cheese plate from So Damn Gouda in Denver to go along with some epic MarioCart racing :)

No Super Bowl party this year (obviously) and while I could have saved my cheese plate, I've decided not to put together any big snacking plans for the day. But, for the rest of you readers, this weekend is the latest #24in48 Readathon (which I'm not taking part in this go around) and today is my online friend Jenn's Big Game Read-a-Thon, which I am participating in. 

Oh, and the Reading the West Awards long list was announced here. I'm judging a category this year and super excited to be participating!

Here's to this week being a great reading one and an even better working one! 

Saturday, February 6, 2021

The Crow Folk by Mark Stay

Happy Saturday! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things Tours for Mark Stay's The Crow Folk, the first book in the Witches of Woodville series.

Faye Bright's world is turned upside down when she discovers her mother was a witch!

Faye was just four when her mother passed away. And her father doesn't talk much about her. But when Faye discovers a book filled with spells and runes—and a recipe for jam roly-poly!—that belonged to her mother, it's the first time she's had a chance to get to know something about her. Which is why Faye is so determined to keep the book a secret. 

And a good thing too, because The Crow Folk have arrived and their one goal is finding that book! 

I absolutely adored The Crow Folk

So Pumpkinhead has arrived! And the first thing he does is raise all of the scarecrows as his minions. This coincides with Faye's discovery of her mother's book, which Pumkinhead can feel but cannot locate on his own. 

See, the witches have a code and one of its mainstays is to never write things down. But Faye's mother knew that she wasn't going to be around to teach Faye all of the things she knew about witchcraft, so this was her only way of ensuring that the knowledge would be passed down. 

Oops!

And since no one ever told Faye anything at all about her mother's powers, she has no idea just how much trouble she can cause. 

Double oops!

I almost hate to say it because I know just how much work goes into a book, but I read this in one sitting on a Saturday afternoon. And since it is the first in a series, that means I have that much more time to wait for the next book to release. But really, I loved this book so much!

First there's Faye, a boisterous and stubborn girl who is very set in her ways. She's seventeen and WWII is going on, so many of the village's men are gone away to war. And Faye doesn't exactly fit in with the other women in town—much the same, as she learns, as her own mother. 

So plot and characters are fabulous but then there's the setting! Stay does a really wonderful job with his world building. Obviously WWII England is not a time or place that I personally experienced, but the book perfectly combines the historical setting and the witchy atmosphere!

The Crow Folk is a real delight and I absolutely cannot wait to join the Witches of Woodville on further adventures!

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Danger by Robin Nye

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things Tours for Robin Nye's Danger

Girls are being kidnapped around the globe, snatched from their hometowns during broad daylight and forced into a criminal world controlled by powerful and greedy criminals. 

DI Sarah Hunter and DS Ted Selitto are two of the officers on scene at the exclusive Meadowlands Hotel. A guest has gone missing, his car and his belongings still on site. It doesn't take long to discover someone has cleaned a massive amount of blood out of the room, leaving the police certain they're dealing with a homicide. But this one mystery is just the start. As the investigation progresses, it soon becomes clear that they've found themselves at the center of a massive trafficking conspiracy! 

Robin Nye's debut is not a book for the fainthearted! As you might expect of a book concerning sex trafficking, Danger is quite a dark and intense read. There are multiple narrators including the officers on the case, some of the kidnapped girls, and, of course, the criminals themselves. 

I can't say this is a fun read—it always feels odd to describe a dark thriller as such! Riveting is a better word to describe this one. Nye doesn't shy away from the truly horrific elements of the trafficking industry or an investigation into said world. 

Hunter and Selitto carry much of the story, but Nye does delve into other characters on the investigative team, which is an element I always appreciate in these kinds of books. It's clear, too, that he's done his research into his topic and into police process. And it does appear that Nye intends to continue with Hunter and Selitto in further stories! 

Danger is quite a doorstopper, clocking in at over 600 pages. At times I definitely felt that there was some extraneous detail that could have been cut to slim down the book and accelerate the pacing, but overall I found that the story moved well. It certainly kept me hooked throughout and I look forward to seeing what comes next for Hunter, Selitto, and their team! 


Tuesday, January 26, 2021

If I Disappear by Eliza Jane Brazier

Happy Book Birthday to Eliza Jane Brazier whose adult debut, If I Disappear, hits shelves today!

Sera is unemployed, single, and without any connections. But she is an avid fan of true crime podcasts. Which is why, when she becomes convinced that her favorite podcaster—Rachel Bard of Murder, She Spoke—has gone missing, Sera decides she's going to be the one to solve the mystery. 

Rachel's family owns and runs the Fountain Creek Ranch, just outside of Happy Camp, California. It's supposed to be a popular summer destination for families, but Sera arrives during the off season. So she claims to have heard there was work and is soon employed as a ranch hand, helping with the horses. This kind of in is perfect for her to nose around and uncover clues. Or so she thinks. 

Rachel's parents are odd. Her mother insists that Sera stay away from nearby Happy Camp, claiming the locals hate them. And what little interaction Sera has with people outside of the ranch seems to support that opinion. In fact, no one outside of Fountain Creek is concerned about Rachel at all. 

Sera knows that Rachel isn't the first woman to go missing from Happy Camp. Rachel told her all about them through her podcast. And Sera is certain that Rachel must have had her own suspicions. And if she did, Sera knows she would have left clues for someone like Sera to find. 

Eliza Jane Brazier's debut is a twisty addition to the massively popular trend of setting thrillers and mysteries around the world of true crime podcasts. 

This is something of a tough review to write in part because If I Disappear is the kind of book that I think works best if you're able to go into it kind of unprepared for what's coming. I'll try to be as unspoilery as I can be, but if you're a reader who appreciates being truly surprised, I'd suggest skipping the rest of the below until you have a chance to read the book yourself! (And then you can come back and tell me what you think about it!)

Sera is something of a lost soul. She's unmoored. She has no real goals and no real friends. In fact, she spends her days obsessively listening to true crime podcasts and that's about it. 

And obsessed is a good word to describe Sera. 

No one has declared Rachel Bard missing. But Sera is so deep in Rachel's world that she honestly believes she's the only one who knows the podcast and its host well enough to realize that something suspicious has occurred. Until she arrives at Fountain Creek Ranch and speaks to Rachel's own mother, Sera is pretty much alone in her concern about Rachel. But even Rachel's mother won't talk to the police. 

It's hard to know, as a reader, just how much you can trust Sera's narrative. She's an odd bird. But it quickly becomes apparent that pretty much everyone in the story is odd to some degree. In fact, there comes a point in reading the book where Sera seems almost normal compared to all of the other characters!

I actually found that I liked Sera quite a bit. She's a little blank, a little bland, a character who doesn't really bring much to the story herself. But she never felt flat or undeveloped. Instead, she felt like a person who is still searching for who she wants to be and what she wants from life. As such, it's easy to believe that she'd hop in the car one day, leaving everything behind, with no real plan except to solve the mystery of where her favorite podcaster has disappeared to. 

The pacing of the book was excellent! Chapters begin with lines from different episodes of the podcast and some turn out to be connected to Sera's own investigation. If I have one complaint, though, it would be that some of those podcast bits seemed just as interesting as the book itself, leaving me wanting more than just a line or two!

It's probably no surprise to say that there's a pretty big twist at the end of this one. It's a twist that I honestly can't say I didn't see coming. Brazier peppered the book with pretty obvious clues leading to the twist, which I'm certain was intentional. They're the kind of clues that I think in retrospect any reader (and even Sera in a few cases) recognizes as leading up to the twist. Certainly they're the kinds of things that that I think would stand out more on a second read through.

That said, I think it's the kind of twist that leaves a little up to the reader to decide. And it seems some people really liked it and others did not. Personally, I thought it worked! It was a satisfying, if someone messy, end to a book that I found thoroughly engaging!

Order a copy from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

We Could Be Heroes by Mike Chen

Happy Tuesday, readers! Today I'm super excited to be part of the blog tour for Mike Chen's latest, We Could Be Heroes, out next Tuesday, January 26, from Mira!

Two years ago, Jamie woke up with no memory of who he was. His apartment was paid for and that's about it. After adopting a cat, he tried the average, everyday thing but with no reliable ID it became hard. And when he realized he had the ability to read and manipulate memories, he began to plan. And thus, Mind Robber was born!

Zoe Wong also woke up two years ago with no memories. Her apartment was also paid for. But she had a clue to her ID: a name badge that read "Zoe Wong." It didn't take long for her to discover her own powers, which include super strength and the ability to fly! But there Zoe differed from Jamie. She didn't have a plan, but she did realize that her powers could be used for good. People call her the Throwing Star. 

When Zoe and Jamie finally come together, it's Zoe who convinces Jamie to help her learn more about her past. With the ability to read memories surely he can dig through the blank that Zoe faces when she tries to recall her past. It doesn't take long for them to make a discovery. It also doesn't take long for them to realize that they work well together or that there's a bigger enemy in play.

So two superpowered people with no memory find themselves forced to work together for a common goal. And it turns out they actually like each other! Which is fortunate because there is actually a big bad in their city of San Delgado.  

This is a book less about superheroes and super villains and more about friendship. Which I am completely here for! 

Both Zoe and Jamie are a bit broken. Zoe wants to know where she comes from and spends a lot of her time drinking away her feelings. Jamie assumes that his past is better left forgotten. With the exception of Jamie's cat, Normal, neither of them has any real connections with anyone at all. And of course they find connection and purpose with one another. Things both of them have been missing. They are incredible characters that aren't invincible or picture perfect. They're human and, therefore, easy to empathize with and love. 

This book is a delight! I mean really, an unlikely friendship, super powers, a cute cat, and a plot to save the city...what more could you want?! This is a character-driven sci fi tale with a lot of heart, an absolute must read if you like your sci fi with a little (or a lot of) feel good and warmth!

Huge thanks to the publisher for inviting me to be part of the tour!

We Could Be Heroes is out on shelves on Jan 26. 


Monday, January 18, 2021

A House at the Bottom of a Lake by Josh Malerman - reissue

Wow! So Del Rey is reissuing Josh Malerman's novella A House at the Bottom of a Lake today and it's pretty darn exciting! 

I snatched up a copy of this one way back in 2016 and am resurrecting (and lightly editing) that review here for those of you who didn't read it ages ago, in hopes you'll run out and buy a copy of this new edition!

It's not the first time Amelia has been into James's father's store, but it is the first time he's gotten up the nerve to ask her out. And he's hoping the date he has planned will be a win: his uncle has a canoe and beyond the lake, there's a second secret lake they can explore minus any crowds.

But as it turns out, there's an even more secret lake beyond that. One that James and Amelia have all to themselves. And in that lake, lying just below the placid surface, is a roof. A roof topping a house that's impeccably preserved under the water. A house James and Amelia have decided to explore...


I love, love, loved Josh Malerman's debut, Bird Box. I've bought it as gifts and recommended the ever living hell out of it. It's that good. And, like everyone else who fell in love with it, I've been reading anything and everything Malerman might write next. So much so that even the Cover-pocalypse wasn't going to prevent me from enjoying Bird Box's sequel, Malorie, earlier this year. 

A House at the Bottom of a Lake is an odd one. Stylistically it's got vivid—and incredibly creepy. It's timeless in the sense that there is no real telling detail about when the story might take place. Which actually adds to the eeriness of the story.

It's something of a quiet tale, luring readers into a story of first love and first dates—those early days when everyone is on their best behavior trying to impress one another and overthinking each and every detail. Will he or she like me? Did I say something stupid? Will we have a second date? A third? It's something almost everyone experiences and is, as such, incredibly relatable.

But as we're drifting into this story alongside James and Amelia, Malerman carefully builds an underlying sense of dread. The discovery of the house is as exciting for us as it is for James and Amelia, but we have the foresight of knowing that something is going to happen. As their obsession with the building grows, we're treated to more and more details of the house with each new exploration. But that sense that something might be waiting - lurking - just around the corner is always there.

It makes for a deliciously tense read in my opinion!

That said, as with Bird Box there is no final explanation. Is the house real? Why has no one discovered it before? Or have they? These questions burn beyond the final page, making A House at the Bottom of a Lake the kind of horror that stays with you long after you finish.

Del Rey will also be publishing a new edition of Malerman's Goblin: A Novel in Six Novellas in April of next year. Here's hoping they'll add On This, the Day of the Pig to this string of reissues as well!

Order a copy from your favorite indie via Bookshop!