Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Bound by Vanda Symon

Good morning, readers! Today I’m a stop on the Random Things Blog Tour for Vanda Symon’s latest, Bound

A couple has been attacked. The husband shot, at close range, and his wife beaten and bound to a chair. Their teenage son discovered them and is likely not a suspect, but Sam Shephard is given the task of interviewing both him and his mother. 

It’s a case that appears to be professional. It’s clear the killers had a motive, though what it is still baffles the police. But they came prepared and left behind little to know evidence. 

Just what the couple was involved in becomes the biggest question, especially when the suspects are finally identified. Not only are the suspects known to the police, but they've been able to skirt prosecution before. Sam and the rest of the team know that the case has to be airtight if the killers are going to be brought down for good!

This is the fourth book in the Sam Shephard series. So, first things first, this is my introduction to this series and I absolutely found it easy to dive in and did not feel one bit lost! Whew! 

(That said, I've already bought two of the prior three books!)

This is also, as far as I know (this is going to be a rabbit hole situation for me) my introduction to New Zealand crime fiction. And I adored it!

Bound is a pretty traditional police procedural. Sam is the main character and the plotting of the crime and investigation are excellent. Even more than that, though, the book focuses a lot on Sam's personal life. Enough so that even if this is your intro to the series (like me!), you get a fabulous sense of who Sam is and what motivates her. 

She's a great detective. Not seriously flawed in the way many traditional leads in these kinds of books are. But she's in a not-so-secret relationship with a coworker that could definitely draw the wrong kind of attention. She's also a bit of a verbal punching bag for her boss. 

Oh, and her relationship with her mother isn't great either. 

I really loved this book and cannot wait to read more of the series!

As an added bonus, I had the extreme pleasure of being able to attend yet another in-conversation event hosted by Orenda that paired Simone Buchholz (you can read my review of her excellent latest here) and Vanda Symon—moderated by Craig Sisterson, who, it was revealed, was the person who pitched Orenda on Symon’s series. And I’ll go ahead and extend a thanks there because I don’t think I’d otherwise have had the chance to discover this series at all!

It was a true delight to hear Symon and Buchholz both talk about their writing and settings. Sisterson asked some really great questions, which made it even more fun to dive into more of Bound!

Quick note, Bound is readily available in the UK and will be available in the US November 1—plenty of time to read the first three books: Overkill, The Ringmaster, and Containment. I promise, you will not be disappointed!

Sunday, March 28, 2021

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm super excited to be part of the Random Things Blog Tour for Kate Quinn's latest, The Rose Code

WWII is raging on and England is preparing for the worst. The highly classified work that takes place at Bletchley Park is key to winning the war. But what brings together three very different women is also what tears them apart. 

Eight years later, two of them have gotten on with their lives and the third has been institutionalized. They no longer speak to one another, much less consider themselves friends. But when the one who's supposed to have suffered a mental breakdown reaches out, they're brought together once again. 

For over three years, this woman has been living in a sanitarium under a name that's not her own. And it's quite possible she was never supposed to be there in the first place. Because she suspects someone at Bletchley was a spy. And she needs the help of the other two to not only prove it, but to help catch the traitor once and for all. 

Right about the time I snagged an ARC of this one, I'd been thinking about how much I really missed Bletchley Circle, a show that found former codebreakers working together to solve murder mysteries post WWII. And it was fabulous! 

So to say that The Rose Code landed in my lap at the perfect moment isn't an exaggeration!

The book begins in 1947, leading up to the marriage of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip. Osla Kendall, goddaughter to Philip's uncle, has found herself the focus of tabloids like the one she writes for thanks to her own relationship with Philip, which means preparing to attend said wedding is something that requires careful consideration. 

But it's a letter that arrives in the mail that really kicks off the story. 

The letter is in code and it not only leads her to reconnect with someone she thought she'd left firmly in her past, but it takes the story back to Osla's days at Bletchley Park. 

Osla is a society girl, born in Canada and raised in England. And when her mother ships her off to safety during the war, Osla stubbornly returns, determined to get a job doing her part! She's working building planes when she gets a letter ordering her to Bletchley Park for an interview.

It's there that she meets Mab and Beth. 

Mab is the daughter of a single mother, determined to meet a man worthy of marrying. Her goal isn't love, but support and comfort. Enough so that she can secure a better future for her youngest sister. Which is why she scrimped and saved to put herself through secretarial school. And lands an interview at the mysterious Bletchley Park.

Beth is the twenty-four-year-old daughter of Osla and Mab's landlord. A shy woman seemingly meant for spinsterhood and primary caregiver to her domineering mother. But she excels at crosswords, which is why Osla has the idea to put her name forward for a job. 

The three women aren't allowed to speak about their work, even with one another. But they forge a strong bond nonetheless. And they couldn't be more different from one another! But the war and their work are what they have in common. 

The reader learns fairly early on that they no longer speak to one another, but the why plays out over the course of the story. We're brought back to their days just before Bletchley and through their experiences there, alternating with their present time—the days prior to the royal wedding. 

I loved how Quinn built each of the woman, taking time and care to create three very different personalities, while also focusing on the historical aspects of the war and Bletchley Park. I thought the research that must have gone into the book was so well integrated into the story, that even though I'm no expert by any means, I was convinced Quinn was true to the era and the people who would have found themselves at Bletchley. 

The Rose Code is a hefty read, but it doesn't fell like it! It's so easy to get swept away in Osla, Mab, and Beth's stories to begin with that the espionage aspect feels like an added bonus. In short, this is a highly entertaining read perfect for anyone who loves spy fiction, WWII fiction, or even just stories about strong female friendships!

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

The Lost Village by Camilla Sten

Alice Lindstedt's dream is to become a well known filmmaker and her fist film is a passion project she's long wanted to produce: The story of Silvertjarn and the disappearance of all of its residents, including Alice's grandmother's family. 

No one knows what happened in Silvertjarn. Everyone seems to have vanished without a trace overnight. Everyone except a newborn baby. And she's not all the villagers' left behind either. This story has followed Alice's family for three generations and now she wants to be the one to solve the mystery. 

Alice has enough funding in place for an exploratory visit, the goal of which is to map out the film's script while also filming enough B-roll to put together a crowd funding campaign. But almost as soon as she and her crew arrive, things start to turn sour. And it soon becomes clear that they're not alone in the abandoned town. Someone is watching them. Someone is playing with them. And that someone seems intent on not letting them leave!

Camilla Sten's US debut is so much fun! Billed as The Blair Witch Project meets Midsommar, it's a perfectly creepy blend of horror and thriller elements to appeal to readers of both genres!

Alice doesn't keep secret the fact that she has a personal connection to Silvertjarn. But she is keeping a secret or two from her crew. And it's those secrets that are the beginning of the problems for her. 

Well, those and her history with an old classmate and fellow crew member. 

They begin with five: Alice and her friend Tone; Max an old classmate and her first backer; Emmy, a talented filmmaker who has a history with Alice; and Robert, Emmy's boyfriend and second cameraman.

The story alternates between present day and 1959 leading up to the town's disappearance. And while Sten does a great job of building suspense and tension from the start, things really get moving when it's revealed exactly what searchers discovered in Silvertjarn after everyone vanished. 

This book just oozes atmosphere! I loved everything about it and absolutely cannot wait to see what's we're in for from Sten next! And I sincerely hope this means we'll be seeing her backlist in translation here. Sten is the author of, best I can tell, five books to date including one coauthored with her mother, Viveca Sten. The Lost Village is the first title available here in the States and I'm dying for more!

Order a copy from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Hotel Cartagena by Simone Buchholz

Good morning, readers. Today I'm a stop on the Random Things Blog Tour for Simone Buchholz's Hotel Cartagena!

A hotel bar has been besieged by armed men. Amongst the hostages are a prosecutor, a retired officer, and a handful of active police. 

Outside, their colleagues wait, hopeful they can put things to an end calmly and without losing some of their own people. 

Inside, things are becoming increasingly tense. 

Well, I didn't actually realize until today that Hotel Cartagena is actually the ninth book in a series. Huh! Fortunately, this latest from Simone Buchholz can be read easily on its own or as an introduction to the series as a whole. 

We begin with a few short chapters that set the tone for the book, if not the scene. These short, clippy chapters don't immediately make it clear what's going on, but we do soon learn that the plot is one of revenge. And while Chastity Riley is our narrator, she isn't so much the focus of the book. Instead, we're taken back to the eighties where we meet a German named Henning. 

Henning makes a life for himself in a not so legal venture and eventually lands in hot water. And he knows exactly who's to blame for his situation. His is a story that plays out through decades, leading to this one fateful night. 

Buchholz and her work are new to me. Her style is pretty unique, if this book is any indication, influenced no doubt by classic noir detective novels and movies. Translated from German by Rachel Ward, who has surely captured Buchholz's aesthetic wonderfully!

Hotel Cartagena is a fast paced, frenzied crime fiction that bounces from Germany to Colombia and back again. The plot moves back and forth between Chastity and Henning. Ultimately, though, it's Henning who takes the lead. Which again makes this one a great one to start with if, like me, you're new to Buchholz. 

If you do want to start from the beginning, though, there are only a handful translated into English so far. They are, in order:

Blue Night
Beton Rouge
Mexico Street
Hotel Cartagena

If you have the chance, Buchholz will be in conversation with fellow Orenda author Vanda Symon on Tuesday, March 30, to celebrate the launch of Symon's latest, Bound

Note: Hotel Cartagena is out now in the UK. It's out in the States in September and available for preorder now.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Are We There Yet? by Kathleen West

Happy Book Birthday to Kathleen West whose latest, Are We There Yet? hits shelves today!

Alice, Meredith, and Nadia have been friends since their kids started kindergarten together. But now, with all three in middle school, the dynamic has changed. 

Alice's son has been accused of bullying and the neighbors are ready to pin defacement of property on him as well. Meredith's daughter is caught in the middle and Meredith isn't willing to do anything to risk her daughter's well being. Nadia's son has long been viewed as the troublemaker of the bunch, but she too is caught in the middle when tension between Alice and Meredith comes to a head. 

But while the kids are facing their own drama, Alice herself is facing increased drama as well when her own mother reveals a secret she's been sitting on for decades! 

I don't think I can adequately sum up everything going on in this book in a quick little synopsis, but I tried!

This book was such a stressful read!

Like her debut, Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes, Are We There Yet? features lots of over involved parents and schoolyard drama. 

Alice is feeling the pressure as a parent almost as soon as the book begins, attending a parent/teacher conference—alone—and pinched for time on a client meeting. But it's her son who quickly becomes the source of her stress. Her son and her job.

Meredith is the picture of an over involved parent. Her one and only daughter is the focus of ALL of her attention. And that means spending ample time on the school app, checking on her daughter's grades, obsessing about said grades, obsessing about her daughter's diet, obsessing about her daughter's activities...And the thing is, her daughter is a good kid. 

Meanwhile, Nadia has been a bit on the outside of the trio for a while. The judgement both moms lump on her is clear in the opening chapter when she expresses concern about something her son mentioned regarding Alice's son. 

Oh, the drama! 

But it's not just the moms that get all the attention here. West focuses part of the book on the kids as well, giving readers a chance to see the full picture as the story unfolds. Who said what and why and how it affected who...

So first, re the parents, I thought this kind of mess got left behind when you left school. Now that I have a kid and I realize that's not the case...And holy crap the things kids do to one another! I had the benefit of growing up WITHOUT SOCIAL MEDIA! And how I really wish it didn't exist today, especially when it becomes the basis for a book like this. 

Yeah, this book had me thinking about ALL THE THINGS I'll have to worry about as my own kid gets older. 

If you're a fan of contemporary fiction/suburban drama, you should definitely dip into Wests's novels. They're full of heart (and anxiety) and tension surrounding family dynamics (I didn't even get into the subplot...). But maybe, if you have kids of your own, it'll make you step back a bit and think before acting the way her characters do...

Order a copy from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

Monday, March 15, 2021

Excerpt: The Jigsaw Man by Nadine Matheson

Happy whatever day it is, readers! No seriously, what day is it? We're snowed in! 

Today I am thrilled to be sharing a taste of the highly anticipated first in the Inspector Anjelica Henley series, The Jigsaw Man. But before we dive in, here's a bit about the book from the publisher:

Detective Inspector Anjelica Henley has a lot to deal with on her first day back her from leave from the Serial Crimes Unit of Scotland Yard. After nearly becoming a victim of the vicious serial killer, The Jigsaw Man, just before he was put behind bars, she also has to contend with the subtle digs and microaggressions that come with being the unit’s only black female detective. Add a new trainee and a rocky marriage to the mix, and DI Henley nearly has a full plate. Until the first call comes in...

Along the Thames, a fan of the Jigsaw Man and copycat killer has scattered two dismembered bodies along the shores like a jigsaw puzzle. When DI Henley sees one of the victims, a young black woman, is already being written off by her colleagues, she makes it her mission to solve the case, driving her to seek help from the original Jigsaw Man himself, Peter Oliver. Oliver, however, is determined to get to his copycat before Henley can, and sets into motion a series of events that puts Henley and her family in the crosshairs of two monstrous serial killers.

I cannot wait to dive into this one, and we don't have to wait long! The Jigsaw Man releases tomorrow from Hanover Square Press. 

And now, a look at The Jigsaw Man:

Chapter Two

‘How long have we got until the tide comes in?’ Henley was facing the river watching the small waves crashing against the derelict pier. She checked her watch. Nearly two hours had passed since the first 999 call.

‘I checked online, and high tide is at 9.55 a.m.’ Ramouter replied as he stepped around a half-submerged car tire, his eyes glazed with anxiety. ‘Low tide was at 3.15. Sunrise was at 6.32. A three-hour window for someone to dump whoever this is and hope that someone would find it before the tide comes in?’

‘Maybe,’ Henley acknowledged. ‘But for all we know it could have been dumped after sunrise or was dumped earlier upstream before being washed up here.’ She inspected the glass fa├žade of the Borthwick Wharf, empty commercial spaces and work units that opened to the terrace and lacked security cameras. Henley doubted that the local council would have extended their own CCTV cameras to this part of the street. They had been neglecting this part of Deptford for as long as she could remember.

‘Has it been touched?’ Henley asked Anthony who had appeared at her side.

‘As far as I’m aware, it’s in situ. It wasn’t touched by the woman who found it. Matei, your builder, said that he hadn’t touched the legs but unhelpfully, it’s covered in his vomit. I had a quick look at the arms that were found downstream before I came here. From the looks of things, the treasure hunters may have prodded around a bit.’

‘There’s always one.’

The wind dropped and the air softly crackled with the electricity generated from the substation nearby.

‘We’re isolating the recovery of evidence to the direct path from the alleyway to the torso,’ said Anthony. ‘I doubt very much that whoever it was sat here and had a coffee afterwards.’

‘They may not have had a coffee, but if we go with Ramouter’s theory and the body parts have been dumped then whoever it was certainly knows the river,’ Henley replied. ‘We’ll let you get on. Ramouter and I are going to take a walk.’

‘Where are we going?’ asked Ramouter.

‘To meet Eastwood.’

‘And you want to walk it?’

Henley did her best to push aside her frustration when Ramouter pulled out his phone. ‘Google maps says that Greenwich pier is almost a mile away,’ he said.

‘Your body-part dumper isn’t the only one who knows the river,’ Anthony shouted out as Henley began to walk determinedly along the riverbank.

The gold scepters on the twin domed roofs of the Old Royal Naval College pierced the cloudless sky. The bare masts of the restored Cutty Sarkcompleted the historical panoramic view that Greenwich was known for. It was a resplendent, whitewashed version of history that contrasted with the sewage that washed ashore. Henley stopped walking when she realized that she could no longer hear the sounds of Ramouter’s leather soles slipping on wet pebbles.

‘Where are you from?’ Henley asked, waiting for Ramouter to take off his jacket and loosen his tie. She moved closer towards the moss-covered river wall as the tide began to encroach.

‘Born in West Bromwich. Moved to Bradford when I was twelve.’ Ramouter tried to brush off the bits of mud that had stuck to his trousers, but they only smeared more. ‘Lots of moors, no rivers. Surely it would have been quicker in the car.’

‘This is quicker. Unless you fancy sitting in traffic for the next half hour while they raise the Creek Road Bridge.’

‘You know this area well?’

Henley ignored the question. She didn’t see the point in telling him that she could have walked this path with her eyes closed. That this small part of South-East London was ingrained in her. ‘Whoever dumped the torso would have taken this route. It doesn’t make any sense to come down here, go back up to the street level and then drive up to Watergate Street. Out of sight, below street level. Lighting would have been minimal.’

‘Body parts are heavy though,’ Ramouter tried to quicken his step to catch up with Henley. ‘The human head weighs at least eight pounds.’

‘I know.’ Henley pulled out her mobile phone, which had started to ring. She saw who it was and ignored the call.

‘Head, torso, arms, legs. That’s at least six individual body parts.’

‘I know that also. So, tell me, what point are you making?’ Henley waited for Ramouter to reach her before maneuvering him towards the river wall as though she was chaperoning a child.

‘I’m just saying that that’s a lot of dead weight to be carrying around at three in morning.’ Ramouter paused and placed his hand against the wall, trying to catch his breath.

Henley didn’t openly express her agreement. She fished out a black hair band from her jacket pocket and pulled her thick black curls into a ponytail. She had forgotten how much energy it took to walk across the gradient slope of the riverbank. Worse, she felt mentally unprepared for the job ahead, with a trainee struggling behind her who had no idea this was her first time as senior investigator in almost a year.

‘It’s a bit grim, isn’t it?’ DC Roxanne Eastwood shouted out as Henley finally reached the first crime scene. ‘Morning, Ramouter. Not a bad gig for your first day.’

Henley had always thought that Eastwood actually looked and carried herself like a detective. Now, Eastwood was poised on the riverbank, the sleeves of her jacket rolled up with her notebook in her hand. She had come prepared for the river and was wearing a pair of jeans and trainers that had seen better days.

‘Morning, Eastie. How does it feel to be out of the office?’ Henley asked, her eyes drifting to a crime scene investigator who was putting an arm into a black bag.

‘I should be asking you that,’ said Eastwood, with a look of concern.

Henley silently appreciated the empathy and placed her hand on Eastwood’s shoulder.

‘But since you asked, it’s bloody terrible. I think I’ve got sunburn.’ Eastwood rubbed a hand over her reddening forehead. ‘Forensics are going to be wrapping up in a bit. Not that there’s much for them to do. Bag it and tag it.’

‘Where’s Mr Thomas?’

‘Ah, our illustrious treasure hunter. Last time I saw him he was heading towards the shops. Said that he needed to get some water for his dog.’ Eastwood shook her head, obviously not believing a word of it. ‘I’ve got an officer keeping an eye on him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d already uploaded pictures of his find onto Instagram.’

‘I want him taken back to the station. Ramouter can take another statement from him.’ Henley said it purposely so that Ramouter would sense she was in control. ‘If he’s like most mudlarkers, he would have been out here first thing this morning waiting for the tide to go out. Where exactly were the arms found?’

‘Just over there.’ Eastwood pulled down her sunglasses and pointed towards the foamed waves created by a passing river bus. The tide had already come in where X had once marked the spot. A sense of urgency filled the air as the river regained its territory.

‘Did he say anything else?’

‘Only that he found the second arm about three feet away from the first.’

‘It’s a sick trail of breadcrumbs,’ said Henley.

‘You’re telling me and before you ask about CCTV, there’re loads of cameras—’

‘But none aimed at this part of the river.’


Henley’s mobile phone began to ring. She pulled it out and answered. After a quick chat, she ended the call.

‘That was Dr Linh Choi. You wouldn’t have met her yet but she’s our go-to forensic pathologist. She’s just arrived,’ Henley explained to Ramouter. She wiped away the sweat from the back of her neck.

‘So, we’ve got two arms, both legs and a torso,’ said Ramouter. ‘Where’s the head?’

Good question. Henley thought of the places between the two locations. A primary school, two nurseries and an adventure playground among the flats and houses. The last thing she needed was to find a head in the kids’ sandpit.

‘Can I have a quick look?’ Henley asked the assistant from Anthony’s CSI team, who had just bagged up the arm and was scribbling in her notebook.

‘Sure.’ The assistant unzipped the bag and pushed the plastic apart.

‘Fuck,’ Henley said under her breath. Her heartbeat quickened, her stomach flipped.

‘Oh,’ said Ramouter as he peered over Henley’s shoulder. One arm was covered with gravel. Slivers of seaweed criss-crossed old scars. The second arm. Slender wrist, the ring finger slightly longer than the index, broken fingernails. Black skin. Henley could hear Pellacia’s words from earlier ringing in her ears.

‘Too early to say if it belongs to the same victim or if it’s more than just one.’

‘Call DSI Pellacia,’ Henley told Ramouter. ‘Tell him that we’ve got two possible murder victims.’

Excerpted from The Jigsaw Man by Nadine Matheson, Copyright ©2021 by Nadine Matheson Published by Hanover Square Press

About the Author: Nadine Matheson is a criminal defense attorney and winner of the City University Crime Writing competition. She lives in London, UK.

Huge thanks to the publisher for providing today's content! For more on Nadine Matheson and her work you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter and Instagram

Friday, March 12, 2021

The Takers and the Keepers by Ivan Pope

Happy Friday, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things Blog Tour for Ivan Pope's The Takers and the Keepers.

Allen Kimbo is ex military and an ex con as well. Now he's a writer—a self-made expert on human trafficking, covering the stories most want to avoid. And for good reason. 

As Allen becomes more and more entangled in the dark world he covers, he makes connections with some questionable people. Eventually, he finds his way to Eastern Europe and a meeting of the so called Takers and Keepers. 

When he returns home, his girlfriend has disappeared.

Well I seem to be on a roll with human trafficking stories of late, don't I?!

This is a topic that I do find hard to read. Even with it's dark content, I have to say that I liked Allen as a character.

He's been in jail. He's been in the Army. And even though his girlfriend, understandably, doesn't like his current line of work (research, specialty...?), he's becoming a go to guy for journalism on the issue. 

There's an interesting additional thread to this story where Allen is asked to ghost write a book about the experiences of a woman who is supposed to be a girl who went missing over a decade ago. She wants to tell her story and become famous and Allen's connections put him in touch with her. And he's seemingly perfect to do the job—he's sympathetic to her and knows the world she's been exposed to. 

The Takers and Keepers is definitely not going to be for everyone. Fans of dark crime fiction, though, will find a lot to like in Pope's writing. It's a bit of a slower burn, but one that is absolutely enthralling!

Monday, March 8, 2021

Her Dark Lies by J. T. Ellison

Claire Hunter is about to get married. To Jackson Compton! 

The wedding is to be held at the Compton's private villa on Isle Isola, off the coast of Italy. A luxury suite, a dress designed based on her own dream dress, and the closest friends and family await them. But even before they arrive in paradise, things begin to sour. An intruder is shot and killed in Claire's own home and she's nursing a concussion even on the ride into Isola. Then remains are found at a restoration site on the island. To make matters worse, a storm is gathering off the coast, threatening to cut the island off.  

The wedding plans are bumped up, with the understanding that some of the guests won't be able to beat the storm. But that's only the start! The dream dress is ruined, someone has hijacked the family company's servers, and someone has been sending threatening messages to Claire. 

Hanging over everything is the shadow of Jack's first marriage, a short-lived one that ended when his new bride disappeared, assumed dead after falling overboard during their honeymoon. But now, the mysterious messenger is implying there's more to the story. In fact, it seems they're trying to convince Claire that her new husband isn't quite who he's said he is. 

I've been reading J. T. Ellison for ages now and I look forward to each new book with great anticipation—because I know I'm in for a fabulous ride every time!

Her Dark Lies did not disappoint!

A destination wedding, a family with masses of wealth, and no expense spared on the whole occasion are like something out of a dream for Claire. And while it's not something our main character ever aspired to—in fact, it does make her quite uncomfortable—she is happily in love and thriving as an artist in her own right. 

But she's not led the easiest of lives. And her past is something that haunts her. Her relationship with her family is strained, but being repaired thanks to encouragement from her fiancee. Basically, she's trying to be her best self because it makes her happy! But she does think it's better if some things in her past aren't known to the Comptons. 

Here's the catch: someone knows. And someone is using both Claire's past and Jackson's against them on what should be the happiest occasion of their lives!

Her Dark Lies is such a fun read, especially in the midst of a pandemic winter (spring, but let's face it, spring is just winter jr.)! An exotic setting, a mystery, a storm!, and an island full of secrets and ruins...pure and thrilling entertainment!

A very quick shout out to the audiobook! Thanks to Libro.fm I was able to keep reading even when I couldn't lose myself in the actual pages :) Brittany Pressley narrates the just-under-twelve-hours audiobook and does a fabulous job! If you're a fan of audiobooks, you've probably come across her work and she is definitely one of the ones I really enjoy listening to. You can check out a sample of Her Dark Lies on audio here

Huge thanks to the publisher for inviting me to be part of the tour for Her Dark Lies! Be sure to order a copy from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

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.