Saturday, October 30, 2021

Far From the Light of Heaven by Tade Thompson

Happy Halloween eve! Today I'm part of the Compulsive Readers tour for Tade Thompson's latest, Far From the Light Of Heaven

Michelle "Shell" Campion is a third generation astronaut. But she gave up her NASA training to join up with a private company, shuttling settlers off world to their new home planets. 

It's her first assignment and though she's technically First Officer, it's in name only. The AI that captains the ship never fails. 

Except this time it has. Not only that, something has gone horribly wrong on the ship.

Rasheed Fin is a detective noted for his observation skills. He's also been on forced leave for almost a year when he's assigned the investigation upon the Ragtime. Oh, and he hates being in space. Together with Shell and his own AI partner, Salvo, they must quickly determine exactly what's happened on board the ship. 

But as they investigate, political personalities on Earth and on the Lagos station have their own agendas. And the ramifications of the investigation affects them all, one way or another. Which means they have a vested interest in how it plays out and, ultimately, what is revealed. 

This might be my favorite book by Thompson so far!

The author of the acclaimed Molly Southbourne series and the Wormwood trilogy has already proven he can do dark and he can do complex science fiction with fascinating characters. Here he blends both creating a science fiction mystery (LOVE IT!) set in a future that's incredibly believable.

In this world, humans have set sail for the stars, settling new planets in the name of Lagos, Waikiki, and others. 

But humans are humans and politics are always an issue. As is murder. 

Shell and Fin are both fantastic characters. 

Shell, whose own father went missing while on a mission, has trained to be in space. And she keeps her cool in spite of a discovery that would shake even the strongest of people. In part because the only way she can survive on Ragtime is doing exactly that—keeping her cool and doing exactly what she's been trained to do. 

Fin's transgression isn't revealed when we first meet him, but we soon learn why he specifically has been chosen for this case in spite of not being trained for space (he fails the quick training, horribly). And of course he's suspicious of Shell too. 

Fans of Thompson's work are going to love Far From the Light of Heaven. And readers who have yet to discover him are in for a real treat! (This one is absolutely perfect for fans of cross-genre sci-fi such as Six Wakes and The Expanse series.)

Far From the Light of Heaven is out now from Orbit. Order a copy from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

Thursday, October 28, 2021

The Restoration by J.H. Moncrieff

It's Thursday! And today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for J.H. Moncrieff's latest, The Restoration

As a single mom who works in historic home restoration, jobs are key to her survival. And so Terri is thrilled to be hired to restore Glenvale House. The owner, a hundred-year-old woman who doesn't look a day over eighty, wants the house fully restored and has given Terri a year to complete the project. What's more, Terri and her daughter, Dallas, can live on site throughout the restoration. 

Unfortunately for Terri, things begin to go wrong almost from the start. She's warned about the house and it's previous employees' proclivities. Basically, the owner tells her from the start that she holds not stock with the rumors of the house's hauntings and she won't put up with any whiff of trouble from Terri. (And by trouble she means mention of ghosts.) But she's not exactly honest about the circumstances by which the previous employees and other restorers left under. 

And Glenvale House is indeed haunted! In fact, the spirit that calls the place home targets Terri's daughter from the beginning. 

At first, Terri believes they could be dealing with a trespasser. Unfortunately for her, she's very wrong. And what first seems to be a lonely ghost looking for friendship turns into something much more dangerous!

It's funny when real life experiences start to align with your reading. And no, I'm not restoring a haunted house! But I have been pretty obsessed lately with Cheap Old Houses (the Instagram feed and the show), so I've been introduced a little more into the world that Terri inhabits more than I would have, say, a year ago!

And Terri's job is a fascinating one! But more than that, the focus in Moncrieff's latest is the struggle of a single mom trying her best to support herself and her daughter. 

Life hasn't been easy since her divorce and her ex offers no help at all. He's off living his own life and even has their daughter with him the majority of the time. The summer at Glenvale House is meant to be Terri's time to reconnect with her daughter. 

What it's not meant to be is putting her young daughter in direct danger! 

But Terri is feisty and stubborn. She's determined to take care of her daughter first, no matter what.

I truly felt for Terri and Dallas. And I feared for them as well! But the ultimate twist is that even the reader  isn't fully aware of just where the true danger of Glenvale House lies. 

The Restoration is an absolutely chilling story about dark secrets within families and the lengths some will go to in an attempt to ensure no one ever discovers the truth! And since ghost stories just happen to be my favorite flavor of horror, it's also super twisted fun!

The Restoration is out now from Flame Tree. Order a copy now from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

I'm off to tackled Moncrieff's backlist while there's still a little spooky season left :)

Monday, October 25, 2021

The Hideout by Camilla Grebe

Good morning, readers! Today I'm kicking off the Compulsive Readers tour for Camilla Grebe's latest, The Hideout!

Samuel didn't mind earning a little extra money taking stealing electronics and taking "pizza" orders for the local drug dealer. In fact, it was a lot of extra money! But then the job took a violent turn and his mom found out what he was doing, kicking him out of the house and also trashing the stash he was supposed to deliver. 

So he goes into hiding. In a small, isolated town that should be safe from the police and the drug lord he knows is searching for him. 

Hiding out is the first opportunity Samuel has taken to being a responsible adult. He's taken a job as an assistant, spending much of his time reading to a disabled boy. But it doesn't take long for him to start to wonder if things are a little off there. 

At the same time, the body of a man has washed up on shore. Manfred is dealing with his own personal tragedy, but is one of the detectives assigned to the case. And this is just the first body...

The Hideout is technically the third book in a very loosely framed series that began with The Ice Beneath Her Feet and continued with After She's Gone. Fortunately for crime fans, you do not have to have read either of the previous books in order to dive into this latest!

And I love that about this series! 

Grebe has a talent for creating fascinating characters and that is definitely on show here in The Hideout. But I should warn you that the book begins with a sucker punch of an opening chapter!

Manfred is enjoying life as a new father with a new, much younger wife. So much so that the job has taken a bit of a backseat. And yet, when tragedy strikes at home just as a series of bodies starts to wash up on shore, he's forced to put the job at the forefront as much as he can. 

At the same time, we meet Samuel and his mother, Pernilla. As mentioned, Samuel, who's only just turned 18, likes easy money. After all, why would he bother to get a real job that pays pennies compared to the money he makes pawning stolen goods? And the drugs, it's just a little weed. Nothing that bad. But he's definitely unprepared for the way the job escalates. 

His mother, who has cut him a little too much slack, isn't having it! She kicks him out, but has pretty immediate second thoughts. Raising him alone has been a chore and she knows he needs to take responsibility, but in the cool down period when she doesn't hear from him for a while...

The book alternates between the three of them: Manfred, Samuel, and Pernilla. And it's one that keeps you guessing along the way. I won't say much more because I don't want to spoil it, but I really do love the way the various threads of the plot are woven. It's impossible to gauge, from the start, just how things will all come together. And that's part of the fun in the reading!

The Hideout is officially out this week from Zaffre!

Friday, October 22, 2021

The Rabbit Factor by Antti Tuomainen

Happy Friday! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Antti Tuomainen's latest, The Rabbit Factor!

Henri is an actuary with an insurance company. He finds order through math and numbers. What he doesn't have time for, though, is idle chit chat and gossip. Which apparently means that he no longer fits into his company's culture. 

And so he finds himself very unexpectedly unemployed. 

And then finds himself, also very unexpectedly, the new owner of YouMeFun, the adventure park his brother owned. Because, as it turns out, his brother has passed away and left everything to Henri. 

The park is fully staffed and, mostly, functional. But it's also not exactly doing well financially. And apparently Henri's brother had gotten tied in with some quite unsavory types! 

But amidst dealing with the park's troubles, a new staff of people he barely knows and has to manage, and the chaos that goes along with all of that, Henri also finds himself surprisingly drawn to the park's manager. Suddenly, his carefully ordered world has been turned upside down. And Henri doesn't know if he's equipped to deal with it all. 

Antti Tuomainen is an author whose reputation truly does precede him! His quirky Finnish thrillers have been on my must read list for some time now. Which is why I jumped at the opportunity to be part of this tour! And I have to say I am very happy that The Rabbit Factor turned out to be everything—and more—than I expected it to be!

First, the premise is pretty funny in an of itself. And once we really meet Henri, it becomes even more oddball and fun! 

The book begins just over three weeks into inheriting the park with Henri being chased around and forced to defend himself with a rabbit ear. I mean, I don't know how else we could better be set up for what's to come.

But the Henri prior to YouMeFun is stuck. Stuck in his ways. Stuck by himself. Stuck in a rut. Stuck without friends, a job, or even his own brother. And imagining that Henri becoming the Henri from the opening chapter seems like a pretty impossibly leap. Joining him on that journey is pure entertainment! 

Tuomainen clearly enjoys what he does and that enjoyment comes through in his prose. Albeit via translator David Hackston. 

And in a surprise twist, this is actually being adapted for film with Steve Carrell set to star. Which is quite possibly the most perfect casting I can imagine for Henri!

And I just want to take a quick minute to give some serious props to the cover designer here. That is, quite possibly, the most perfectly eye-catching and fantastic cover design I've seen in a while!

The Rabbit Factor is an excellent read, perfect for anyone who enjoys dark comedy and caper-style thrillers! I sincerely hope that it's also the book that makes Tuomainen the household name he should be worldwide!

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Litani by Jess Lourey

Frankie's father has died, which means that the young teen has been sent away from their home in Pasadena, to live with her mom in the small Minnesota town of Litani.

She and her mom have never been close, which makes the move that much harder. But Frankie feels responsible for her father's death, so living with her closed-off mom is just part of the punishment she thinks she deserves. 

As soon as she arrives, Frankie is warned about dark things in Litani. Within just a few days, she's heard about dead animals and missing kids. Worse than that, she's heard about The Game. And whatever The Game might be, she knows it's something to be afraid of. 

As rumors of Satanic worship swirl around the small town, talk of Frankie's own father's past starts to make it's way to the girl. Frankie becomes determined to learn more about her family while also vowing to help make Litani safe for kids. But where does a fourteen year old start in an investigation that seemingly stumps the professionals?

Jess Lourey writes some incredibly disturbing stuff! In Litani, as with Unspeakable Things, the narrator is a young girl and it lends a wide-eyed innocence to the story that makes the content all that much more unsettling. 

Frankie is fourteen and—except for one visit that ended badly—this is her first time in Litani. But it's the town where her mother and father grew up. The town where they met. The town their families are from. Everyone knows who Frankie is as soon as she arrives. And they know things about her family that even she is unaware of. 

As soon becomes clear to Frankie, some very bad things are happening to the kids in Litani. But she doesn't quite understand what those bad things are. And because Frankie is young and has led a fairly sheltered life—not just because the story is set in 1984—she misses some of the hints about said bad things. Hints that the reader doesn't miss.

And I have to say that those things weigh heavy on your mind as you follow such a young main character through the narrative. 

Lourey does offer a slightly older foil who tries to open Frankie's eyes to some of the things she's not seeing. I'd say it helps the reader as well, but I think most readers (especially those familiar with Lourey's books) don't really need the help. 

Litani is not an easy read by way of theme. And it reminded me a lot of Clay McLeod Chapman's Whisper Down the Lane, in that it draws from the same fervor of the era and even mentions the very case the latter is based on. 

I enjoy Lourey's work because it is so gripping. And also incredibly layered. Yes, this is a dark tale in more ways than one. But it's also got a young heroine who is determined to be just that—a heroine. She has her own suffering but she wants to save everyone around her. Her story is not an easy one to read but she's easily the girl next door in every sense of the phrase: you quite literally do not know what the people around you are going through. 

Lourey is an absolute must read for me. If you can handle the darker aspects of real life, her thrillers are undeniably gripping and her talent is amazing! 

Order a copy from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

Monday, October 18, 2021

Cold as Hell by Lilja Sigurðardóttir

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Lilja Sigurðardóttir's latest, and first in a new series, Cold as Hell!

Áróra is no stranger to her sister's issues. In fact, she's had to return to Iceland a number of times to help the elder sister out of trouble. Which is why she's none too pleased when their mother calls and asks her to return once again to check on Ísafold. It seems she's been out of touch long enough for their mom to be concerned. What's more, she hasn't updated her social media either.

Áróra arrives certain that she'll find her sister in the same situation as before. And also certain that, like the previous times, she'll be nursing wounds from abuse by the boyfriend she refuses to leave.

And yet, when she arrives in Iceland she finds no trace of Ísafold. It's as though she's disappeared.

With the help of a detective, she begins to look into Ísafold's life, trying to find clues as to her whereabouts.

Meanwhile, she can't help but get involved in another case as well. And this one could be very financially rewarding!

First off, you'll notice I'm super late with this post. Like ten days by the poster. Life has been...yeah. And yet, as with last year, I find that Nordic Noir offers me such a welcome escape! Sinking into this story of sisters and financial investigation (which is what Áróra actually does for a living) was a fantastic diversion. 

Áróra and her sister have a complicated relationship. There's a big gap between them and Ísafold was resentful of her younger sister for quite some time. At least, it seems, until she could get something from her. Usually help in cleaning up her messes (literal and figurative). 

They moved to the UK young but Ísafold returned to Iceland as soon as she was able. And then she met Björn. Who was not a good partner. They tried to get Ísafold to leave him on multiple occasions, but inevitably she would refuse. And it's that combination of issues that has left Áróra with very little patience when it comes to her sister. 

And of course Áróra is concerned. But she knows her sister won't change. 

This time, though, things might just be different. Because no one has seen Ísafold. And not only that, the things that have happened in her life recently have been kept secret from her family...

The family dynamic is fabulous! But of course it's Áróra who drives the story. And I absolutely loved her! She has a bit of a nebulous sense of right and wrong, doing what she wants to do when she wants to do it regardless of whether it's exactly the right thing to do. 

She's a financial investigator and we meet her while she's working a case for a man who claims his wife stole all of their money and ran. She recovers it, but the man isn't going to pay up. Fortunately, Áróra has her own ways of negotiating with people like that. 

The book is about much, much more than just the sisters. And it is a bit of a slow burn—much more character driven than plot driven. Translator Quentin Bates does a fabulous job, in my opinion, of capturing and staying true to the author's style, which I think is always a challenge with translations. But Cold as Hell reads wonderfully, with characters and prose that grab you from the very start!

I cannot wait to read more with Áróra! She is exactly the kind of character I adore and is absolutely perfect to carry a series!

If you've yet to dip your toe into the incredibly deep and diverse well of Nordic Noir or, more specifically, Icelandic crime fiction, Cold as Hell is an excellent place to start!

This one is out now in the UK from the fabulous folks at Orenda. It will hit shelves in the States in February.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

The Lighthouse Witches by C. J. Cooke

Happiest of Book Birthdays to C. J. Cooke! Her latest, The Lighthouse Witches is out today from Berkley and it is the absolute perfect fall read!

1998: Liv has been commissioned to paint a mural in a lighthouse located on a remote island in Scotland. 

She's been raising her daughters alone since the death of her husband a few years ago, and money has been tight. To say the least. Which is why the commission has come at the perfect time. Not only does it pay, but it comes with room and board for the duration of the project. 

As soon as they arrive on Lon Haven, Liv's oldest daughter, Saffy, dives into the island's odd lore thanks to a book she's found in their new home. The book outlines witch trials held on the island in the seventeenth century. But it also contains so much more...

2021: Luna has never given up hope that her mother and her two sisters will be found. But it is a shock when she receives a call saying that the youngest, Clover, has been located. Even more shocking is the fact that Clover hasn't aged a day in the two decades she's been missing. 

Luna has never returned to the island of Lon Haven in all these years. She also doesn't remember exactly what happened on her final days there—when her sisters and her mother disappeared. Now she'll have to return if she's ever to understand what's happened—and still happening—to her family. 

But on an island so steeped in folklore and mythology, where witchcraft still has a significant foothold, Luna will find herself in danger of falling prey to old beliefs!

The Lighthouse Witches is a perfect blend of supernatural and suspense! I loved every last bit of it!

First of all, the island the book is set on is fiction. BUT the witch trials that took place pretty much everywhere were particularly horrendous in Scotland. In fact, according to ye olde wikipedia, there were no less than 5 separate witch hunts that took place in the country. 


Witch lore is probably most fascinating because it's one of many pieces of history that plagues women in particular. Got a neighbor you don't like—point that finger and say the magic word! Want a particular piece of property? Feel like you've been wronged somehow? Thing your husband is having an affair?...And while the victims weren't exclusively women, the majority very much were. 

(This is not meant to be glib in any way, but I'm not an expert on the history and there are TONS of resources available.)

The setting for Cooke's latest is an island that still very much holds onto their old beliefs. And in addition to witches in particular, this island has a strong and long-held belief in wildlings (you may have heard them called changelings). 

So here comes a mom and her three daughters, plopped down in a setting that's super insular, super superstitious, and, as we soon come to learn, kind of under the thumb of a particular family as well. 

And the lighthouse Liv's been commissioned to paint? It's owned by an eccentric millionaire who is never around. Oh, and it sits on the very site where witches were burned over three centuries ago. 

And that's just half of the story. Present day, an adult Luna has her own struggles. She's pregnant and not certain she wants to be married (which her partner views as the end rather than an understanding of her complicated past—no thanks to the fact that she doesn't adequately communicate that to him!). 

She's a child therapist, though, which means that she should be perfectly suited to take young Clover under her wing. Except that it makes no sense that Clover is still a child!

Each of the women in this book are so well drawn. I loved Liv and felt her pain as a single mother. I loved Luna and also felt her pain as an orphaned woman trying to start her own family. Saffy, the snarky teen trying to find her way in the world reminded me of those awkward teenage years and how awful they could feel. 

There's one final woman who plays a big role in the book, but we don't actually get her perspective. Amy, who lives during the trials themselves, is only really seen through the eyes of the man who loves her. And it's their story that Saffy finds in the lighthouse bothy in 1998. 

The Lighthouse Witches is out now! I highly, highly recommend this one and hope you'll all run out and buy a copy! It's an excellent anytime read, but it's especially perfect for fall (part of it takes place at Halloween!).

This is going down as one of my favorite books of 2021!

Order a copy from your favorite indie via Bookshop