Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Radar Girls by Sara Ackerman - Excerpt

Happy Tuesday, readers! Today I'm super excited to be able to share an excerpt of Sara Ackerman's latest, Radar Girls! But first, here's a bit about the book from the publisher:

An extraordinary story inspired by the real Women’s Air Raid Defense, where an unlikely recruit and her sisters-in-arms forge their place in WWII history.

Daisy Wilder prefers the company of horses to people, bare feet and saltwater to high heels and society parties. Then, in the dizzying aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Daisy enlists in a top-secret program, replacing male soldiers in a war zone for the first time. Under fear of imminent invasion, the WARDs guide pilots into blacked-out air strips and track unidentified planes across Pacific skies.

But not everyone thinks the women are up to the job, and the new recruits must rise above their differences and work side-by-side despite the resistance and heartache they meet along the way. With America’s future on the line, Daisy is determined to prove herself worthy. And with the man she’s falling in love with out on the front lines, she cannot fail. From radar towers on remote mountaintops to flooded bomb shelters, she’ll need her new team when the stakes are highest. Because the most important battles are fought—and won—together.

This inspiring and uplifting tale of pioneering, unsung heroines vividly transports the reader to wartime Hawaii, where one woman’s call to duty leads her to find courage, strength and sisterhood.

And now, a little peek at Radar Girls:


The Bust

Their shack, as Daisy referred to the house, was nestled in a cluster of bent ironwood trees, all by its lonesome. Set back far from the beach to protect it from a direct blast of onshore winds, it still took a constant battering and the salty air and elements had done a fine job reclaiming it. Windowpanes had been blasted opaque, you could see through the back wall, and flowers had taken up residence in the gutters. The siding had gone from forest green to pale green to peeling gray, the roof turned to rust.

When he had first started working up at the ranch, Daisy’s father had somehow persuaded Mr. Montgomery to sell him the small parcel of beachfront property for the price of a bag of sand. Most likely because it was in no-man’s-land between Waialua and the ranch. And because her father had been the best horse trainer in Hawai’i and everyone knew it.

She flung open the front door and ran inside. “Mom?” she called.

All quiet. She tiptoed across the lauhala mat in the living room, avoiding the creaking floorboards. Her mother spent much of her life in one of two states—sleeping or staring out to sea. The bedroom door was cracked and a lump lay under the blankets, pillow over her head. There was no point in trying to wake her, so Daisy ran back outside, hopped on her bike and rode for the stables.

The air was ripe with burnt sugarcane and a scratchy feeling of dread. She bumped along a dirt road as fast as her old bike would carry her. That plume of black smoke above Schofield caused her heart to sink. So many Japanese planes could mean only one thing. An attack or invasion of some kind was happening. But the sky remained empty and she saw no signs of ships on the horizon.

By the time she reached the stables, she had worked out what to tell Mr. Silva—the only person at the ranch who was even close to being a friend—and beg that he help her find Moon. Whether or not he would risk his job was another story. Jobs were not easy to come by, especially on this side of the island. Daisy counted herself lucky to have one. When she rounded the corner by the entrance, she about fell over on her bike. Mr. Silva’s rusted truck was gone and in its place sat Mr. Montgomery’s shiny new Ford, motor running and door open.

As far as old Hal Montgomery was concerned, Daisy was mostly invisible. She had worked for him going on seven years now—since she was sixteen—but she was a girl and girls were fluffy, pretty things who wore fancy dresses and attended parties. Not short-haired, trouser-wearing, outdoorsy misfits. And certainly not horse trainers and skin divers. Nope, those jobs belonged to men. There was also the matter of her father’s death, but she preferred not to think about that.

Should she turn around and hightail it out of there before he caught sight of her? He’d find out eventually, and he would be livid. Daisy pulled her bike behind the toolshed and slipped around the back side of the stables, peering in through a cloudy window. The tension in the air from earlier had dissipated and the horses were all quiet. A tall form stood in front of the old horse—Ka‘ena—she was supposed to ride. It was hard to tell through the foggy pane, but the man looked too tall and too thin to be Hal Montgomery.

Horsefeathers! It was Walker, Montgomery’s son. A line of perspiration formed on the back of her neck and she had the strong urge to flee. Not that Daisy had had much interaction with Walker in recent years. He was aloof and intimidating and the kind of person who made her forget how to speak, but he loved Moon fiercely. Of that she was sure. Just then, he turned and started jogging toward the door. His face was in shadow but it felt like he was looking right at her. She froze. If she ducked away now, he would surely catch the movement. She did it anyway.

She had just made it to her bike when Walker tore out of the tack room with a wild look in his eye. He had a rifle hanging across his chest, and he was carrying two others. He stopped when he saw her. “Hey!” he said.

“Oh, hello, Mr. Montgomery.”

He wore his flight suit, which was only halfway buttoned, like he’d been interrupted either trying to get in it or trying to get out of it. His face was flushed and lined with sweat. “Don’t you know we’ve been attacked? You ought to head for cover, somewhere inland.”

He was visibly shaken.

“I saw the planes. What do you know?” she said.

“Wheeler and Schofield are all shot up, and they did a number on Pearl. Battleships down, bay on fire. God knows how many dead.” His gaze dropped to her body for a moment and she felt her skin burn. There had been no time to change or even think about changing, and she was still in her half-wet swimsuit, hair probably sticking out in eleven directions. “What are you doing here?” he asked.

“I was worried about the horses,” she said.

“That makes two of us. And goddamn Moon is not in his stall. You know anything about that?”

Taking Moon had been about the dumbest thing she could have done. But at the time, it seemed a perfectly sane idea. The kind of thinking that got her into plenty of trouble over the years. Why hadn’t she learned? She looked at the coconut tree just past him as she spoke. “I have no idea. Perhaps Mr. Silva has him?”

“Mr. Silva went to town last night to see his sister,” he said.

She forced herself to look at him, feeling like she had the word guilty inked onto her forehead. “Looks like you have somewhere to be. You go on, I’ll find Moon. I promise.”

Her next order of business would be scouring the coast and finding that horse before Walker returned. There would be no sleeping until Moon was safely back at the stables.

“I sure hope so. That horse is mighty important to me,” he said.

Tell him!

She was about to come clean, when he moved around her, hopped in the car and slammed the door. He leaned out the window and said, “Something tells me you know more than you’re letting on, Wilder.”

With that, he sped off, leaving her standing in a cloud of red dirt and sand.

In the stables, the horses knew the sound of her footsteps, or maybe they smelled the salt on her hair. A concert of nickers and snorts erupted in the stalls. Daisy went to the coatrack first, and slid on an oversize button-up that she kept there for chilly days. It smelled of hay.

“How is everyone?” she said, stopping at each one to rub their necks or kiss their noses. “Quite a morning, hasn’t it been?”

Peanut was pacing with nostrils flared, and she spent a few minutes stroking his long neck before moving on. Horses were her lifeblood. Feeding, grooming, riding, loving. She only wished that Mr. Montgomery would let her train them—officially, that was. Without being asked as a last resort by Mr. Silva when everyone else had tried. Lord knew she was better than the rest of the guys. When she got to Moon’s stall, all the blood rushed from her head. The door had been left open and two Japanese slippers hung from the knob. She had hidden them in the corner under some straw—apparently not well enough.


Just then she heard another car pull up. The ranch truck. A couple of the ranch hands poured out, making a beeline to the stables. Mr. Montgomery followed on their heels with a machete in his hand and a gun on his hip. Daisy felt the skin tighten on the back of her neck. His ever-present limp seemed even more pronounced.

When he saw her, he said, “Where’s Silva?”

No mention that they were under attack.

“In town,” she answered.

“What about Walker?”

“Walker just left in a big hurry,” she answered.

One of the guys had his hunting dog with him. It was a big mutt that enjoyed staring down the horses and making them nervous, as if they needed to be any more nervous right now. Daisy wanted to tell him to get the dog out of there, but knew it would be pointless.

“The hosses in the pasture need to be secured,” Mr. M said.

“Do you need my help?” she offered.

“Nah, you should get out of here. Get home. Fuckers blew up all our planes and now paratroopers are coming down in the pineapple fields. Ain’t no place for a woman right now.”

Daisy wanted to stay and help, but also wanted to get the hell away before he noticed that Moon was not here. “Yes, sir.”

He stopped and sized her up for a moment, his thick brows pinched. “You still got that shotgun of your old man’s?”

“I do.”

“Make sure it’s loaded.”

On her way home, Daisy passed through Japanese camp, hoping to get more information from Mr. Sasaki, who always knew the latest happenings. A long row of cottages lined the road, every rock and leaf in its place. The houses were painted barn red with crisp, white trim. On any given Sunday, there would have been gangs of kids roaming the area, but now the place was eerily empty.

“Hello?” she called, letting her bike fall into the naupaka hedge.

When she knocked and no one answered, she started pounding. A curtain pulled aside and a small face peered out at her and waved her away. Mrs. Sasaki. She was torn, but chose to leave them be. With the whispers of paranoia lately, all the local Japanese folks were bound to be nervous. She didn’t blame them.

This time when Daisy ran up to the shack, her mother was sitting on the porch drinking coffee from her chipped mug.

She was still in her nightgown, staring out beyond the ocean. When she was in this state, a person could have walked into their house and made off with all of their belongings and her mother would not even bat an eye.

Daisy sat down next to her. “Mom, the Japanese Army attacked Pearl Harbor and Wheeler and who knows where else.”

Her mother clenched her jaw slightly, took a sip of her coffee, then set it down on the mango stump next to her chair. “They said it would happen,” she said flatly.

“This is serious, mom. People are dead. Civilians, too. I don’t know how many, but the islands are in danger of being invaded and there are Japanese ships and planes all around. They’re telling us to stay inside.”

A look of worry came over her mom’s face. “You should go find a safer place to stay, away from the coast.”

“And leave you here?”

“I’ll be fine.”

“I’m not leaving you.”

Her mom shrugged.

She knew Louise couldn’t help it, but a tiny part of Daisy was waiting for that day her mother would wake up and be the old Louise Wilder. The mother of red lipstick and coconut macaroons, of beach bonfires and salty hugs. The one who rode bikes with her daughter to school every day, singing with the birds along the way. The highs and lows had been there before, but now there were only lows and deeper lows.

After some time, her mother finally spoke. “Men, they do the dumbest things.”

“That may be true, but we’re at war. Does that mean anything to you?” Daisy said, her voice rising in frustration.

“Course it does, but what can we do?”

She had a point. Aside from hiding in the house or running away, what other options were there? Used to doing things, Daisy was desperate to help, but how? Their home was under attack and she felt as useful as a sack of dirt.

Louise leaned back. On days like these, she retreated so far into herself that she was unreachable. You could tell by looking in her eyes. Blank and bottomless. Mr. Silva always said that you could see the spirit in the eyes. Dull eyes, dull spirit. That Louise looked this way always made Daisy feel deeply alone. The onshore winds kicked up a notch and ruffled the surface of the ocean. She knew she should stay with her mom, but more than anything, she wanted to go in search of the horse. Moon meant more to her than just the job. She loved him something fierce.

Only one thing was clear: their lives would never be the same.

Excerpted from Radar Girls by Sara Ackerman, Copyright © 2021 by Sara Ackerman. Published by MIRA Books.

About the author: USA Today bestselling author Sara Ackerman was born and raised in Hawaii. She studied journalism and earned graduate degrees in psychology and Chinese medicine. She blames Hawaii for her addiction to writing, and sees no end to its untapped stories. When she's not writing or teaching, you'll find her in the mountains or in the ocean. She currently lives on the Big Island with her boyfriend and a houseful of bossy animals. Find out more about Sara and her books at www.ackermanbooks.com and follow her on Instagram @saraackermanbooks and on FB @ackermanbooks.

Huge thanks to the publisher for providing the excerpt today! Radar Girls is officially out next Tuesday from Mira. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Sleepless by Louise Mumford

Happy Tuesday, readers! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Louise Mumford's debut, Sleepless!

Thea is a lifelong insomniac. When her lack of sleep causes a three car pile up, the same day she receives a notification about trials for a new sleep app, she decides it's time to do something about it. 

Morpheus promises to fix everything. It's a six week trial that's supposed to not only solve sleep problems but everything from weight loss and stopping smoking, too. And Thea just barely makes it into the trial. 

At first, everything seems fine. A little odd, but fine. And Thea is starting to sleep. Just a little, but it's making all the difference. 

And then Thea starts to suspect something is off about the trial. They're sequestered on an isolated island with no cell service. And the company isn't researching just sleep solutions. In fact, it soon becomes clear that Morpheus can control a person's sleep as well. 

Louise Mumford's debut is a pretty terrifying read!

So let's start with the fact that I do have insomnia. A double dose in fact. The stress induced kind that keeps you up all night, watching the clock and doing the math, "If I can fall asleep now I can still get x amount of sleep."

But I did a sleep study a few years ago, on sleep meds. As it turns out, my brain doesn't actually enter deep sleep. 

So all that's to say that I'm exactly the kind of person who would jump at exactly the opportunity Thea is given in Sleepless! The promise of an app that can solve all your sleep problems, to a person who is in severe lack of sleep...

Morpheus doesn't really come across as too good to be true. So it's easy to see how Thea and the others would easily be manipulated. It all seems so very scientific. And the participants are under the company's complete control. But it seems logical: they're housed in a facility on an island, provided clothes, a schedule, healthy foods (no caffeine, for example), and they're monitored along the way. 

All in the name of science. 

All for the testing and improvement of an app that promises to be truly revolutionary. 

Obviously it is actually too good to be true. But I don't want to give anything away! Suffice it to say the true twists in this book are not the ones you expect. 

Through no fault of the book, I happened to have a pretty bad flare up on my insomnia this week. Which meant more time for me to dive into Sleepless! And yeah, it does make a perfect up-all-night read!

As mentioned, this is Mumford's debut novel. I loved every minute of this one and can't wait to see what she'll do next!

Sleepless is out now from HQ. 

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Falling by T.J. Newman

Happy Book Birthday Week to T.J. Newman whose debut, Falling, released Tuesday!

For Bill Hoffman the day started off as a pretty average workday. A pilot, he completed all of his checklist, ready for what should be a routine flight. Except, as Bill soon finds out, there's nothing routine about this day at all. 

On the ground, Bill's family has been taken hostage by a man who now expects Bill to choose. Crash the plane and save his family, or let his family die and save the plane. 

And it's a decision Bill is determined not to make. But the man on the ground isn't working alone and even with the help of a trusted flight attendant, Bill isn't sure they can cover all the possible avenues of danger they could face in the air. 

Falling is an absolutely harrowing and page-turning read!

Newman herself is a former flight attendant and this debut was a really HOT deal. Diving into the book, it was easy to see why. (She's also, I want to note, a former bookseller!)

From the very first page, Newman does a great job setting up the characters and the danger that they're facing. The story alternates between multiple perspectives, both in the air and on the ground, including the bad guys themselves. 

Newman also gives the book a serious air of authenticity, but stresses that while that was intentional, there's definitely not enough info to serve in any way as a how to! Whew!

Falling is everything a blockbuster read or movie needs—high stakes, lots of action, and characters worthy of carrying it all. And, as you'd might expect, there are indeed plans to adapt the book for the big screen!

I had pretty high expectations for this one given how much hype the publisher has been putting behind it (I even had the chance to virtually "meet" Newman and hear her talk about the book). And I have to say, it was everything that I hoped it would be!

Order a copy from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

The Beresford by Will Carver

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Will Carver's latest, The Beresford

The Beresford is almost too good to be true! Fully furnished apartments with a very reasonable deposit and affordable rent—it's exactly what Blair needs, considering how desperate she is to move out of her parents home. 

But what Blair doesn't realize is that the very day she moves into the Beresford, someone is murdered. 

Blair's new neighbor, Abe, is nice and helpful. But Abe is also a murderer. Not out of habit! It was an accident. But now he's faced with trying to get rid of a body without attracting attention. 

The Beresford has a dark history but neither Blair or Abe has any idea just how dark it really is. 

This book is delightfully wicked! (Admittedly, I have dark tastes.)

This is my first read by Carver and I wasn't expecting the thread of humor that runs through this one. It was quite a pleasant surprise!

This is the kind of book that really makes me glad that I'm not currently renting! And of course that whole saying, if it's too good to be true...

Not that anyone in their right mind would actually imagine what's really going on in The Beresford!

Carver's writing is tight and the atmosphere is fabulously creepy! This one is highly entertaining and perfect for a hot and balmy summer afternoon of reading!

The Beresford is out now in the UK and will be out in paperback in the US in November.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Girl Who Lie by Eva Björg Ægisdóttir

Happy first day of July! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for the second book in Eva Björg Ægisdóttir's Forbidden Iceland series, Girls Who Lie

Two boys out playing on the Grábrók lava fields stumble over a body and Elma and her fellow CID officers are called to investigate. 

From the start, they're certain the body is that of Maríanna, a woman who went missing seven months ago. And they're also certain that this wasn't an accident. But Maríanna's story is complicated and it quickly becomes clear that the suspect list isn't a short one. Worse yet, Maríanna's own daughter, Hekla, is suspicious in her own right. 

But the truth to this murder lies hidden in the past and it's up to Elma and her team to unravel the clues if they're to discover the person behind it all. 

As mentioned above, this is the second book in the series, following Ægisdóttir's debut, The Creak on the Stairs. Which I am ashamed to say that I have not yet read! (Don't worry, I will very soon!)

I've been pretty up front about the fact that Nordic Noir as a whole was one of the things that's helped me cope with the continuing Covid Times. There's a very clear style to the writing, even when many of the titles are translated, as is the case with Girls Who Lie. And a little shout out to Victoria Cribb who does a truly wonderful job with the translation here. 

(I've sung the praises of translators before. Theirs is a job that consists of way more than simply translating words! They have to maintain the author's voice while also translating in such a way that the narrative reads smoothly—not always an easy task considering there are turns of phrase and speech that don't necessarily translate easily into another language!)

In addition to the style that's unique to Nordic Noir, there's also the sense of place. And in this Ægisdóttir truly excels! Iceland itself is more than the setting for this story. It takes on an almost character-like aspect from the very beginning of the book. It's details like Elma's observation of the landscape as they're traveling to the crime scene. And the note that the boys who discover the body thought it was a dark elf (Icelandic lore is some of the most fun I've ever read!). 

And the characters themselves are so carefully crafted! Maríanna's story is heartbreaking. We meet her when she's just given birth and it's clear that she's suffering from postpartum depression. She never does connect with her daughter and, as a single mother, the two of them exist in an atmosphere that is hard to read. 

Elma, on the other hand, really thought that she'd be living the quiet life in her new position. Boy was she wrong! But her new job does allow her to spend more time with her family, particularly her nephew. 

Small details like that make it clear that Ægisdóttir is putting a lot of thought and consideration into every aspect of her writing! And Girls Who Lie really is the whole package, because the plot and pacing are fabulous!

I loved every bit of this book! Ægisdóttir is absolutely one to watch and one I highly recommend, right alongside two of my other Icelandic favorites, Ragnar Jónasson and Yrsa Sigurðardóttir! I cannot wait to read more from this author. She's a welcome addition to my auto-buy list!