Tuesday, August 29, 2023

The Phoenix King by Aparna Verma

Hi, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the Compulsive Readers tour for Aparna Verma's The Phoenix King. The first installment in the Ravence trilogy.

A king unwilling to give up his throne. A would-be queen certain she'll never be accepted. And an assassin who yearns for freedom. 

These three and their stories intertwine to make up Verma's debut, The Phoenix King

When we meet Yassen Knight, he's on his last assignment. The last one before he's out of the business. Unfortunately things go very wrong and Yassen ends up on the run. Which is how he ends up in service to the Ravences. 

For Elena, the throne is her birthright. And yet, it seems everything, including her own father, is working against her claiming her place as leader. 

To that end, Leo is not at all ready to give up his seat or his power. 

But war threatens their kingdom, and an ancient prophecy could upend all of their plans. 

The Phoenix King has an interesting history, all things considered. Verma self published the title as The Boy With Fire, gaining popularity and fanbase enough to catch the attention of trad publishers (a perfect storm, in other words). 

And rightfully so! Verma weaves political intrigue, romance, and Hindu mythology into a book and a world that are quite unlike anything else I've read of late!

The Phoenix King is a perfect example of the power of new voices in fiction! Voices that tell stories we haven't heard over and over again. I'd be lying if I said this wasn't one of my most anticipated fantasy debuts of the year—and the book delivers on every possible front!

This is the first in a trilogy and so far I've not seen a date for the release of book 2, but it's already on my mental must have list!  

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Whalefall by Daniel Kraus

Seventeen-year-old Jay Gardiner had what you would absolutely call a troubled relationship with his father. But Mitt Gardiner was such a local legend that no one, even his own family, quite understands. Especially in the wake of his father's illness and suicide.

In a last ditch effort to gain back some respect, Jay has decided to find his dad's body. But what should be a typical dive for someone as trained as Jay becomes a harrowing survival tale when he's swallowed by a sperm whale. And it's up to Jay to remember all the things Mitt taught him if he's going to survive.

As someone who knowingly suffers from thalassophobia, I knew this was going to be a tense one, but I think this is the most anxiety-inducing thing I have ever read! Which might make you wonder why I even subjected myself to it. You should know that as a habit I do read and watch just about everything focused on deep sea horror, exploration, and killer creatures. I'm terrified of it but equally fascinated by it!

And oddly enough, both of my parents were divers. 

Lest you think this is just a creature feature, it is not. In fact, the bulk of the story is actually the relationship between Jay and Mitt. And being trapped forces Jay to reckon with something he's been trying to escape for a long time: facing down his issues with his father. 

So yeah, it's a story about being swallowed by a giant whale. But it's also family relationships, trauma, and one determined teen!

This is 100% binge read material and perfect for fans of Peter Benchley, Nick Cutter, and pretty much anything in between!

Order a copy from Bookshop.org!

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Zero Days by Ruth Ware

Happy Wednesday! Today I'm excited to be a stop on the Random Things blog tour for Ruth Ware's latest, Zero Days

Jack and Gabe are known for being experts in testing security systems. But a regular job turns out to be anything but when Jack finds Gabe murdered in their home. 

The night starts like any other. They are testing security systems at Arden Alliance. Jack on site and Gabe at home manning the computers. But Jack makes a mistake that leads to her getting caught, which means having to convince security and the police that she is not in fact a criminal but was hired to break in. And it seems Gabe has fallen asleep because he isn't answering calls to back her up. 

After finally being released, Jack returns to the job site to pick up her car. Then, tired from the long night, takes a few wrong turns. Looking forward to calling it a night, she finally arrives home to find Gabe has been brutally murdered. And the scene suggests a professional hit.

Except Gabe doesn't have any enemies Jack can think of. And he hasn't been involved in anything that would attract the attention of professional killers. Unfortunately for Jack, the police decide her timeline of the night in question doesn't quite add up. And with no one else to seriously consider as a suspect, the detectives turn their eyes to her. 

As the primary, and easy, suspect, Jack knows the police are focused on pinning the crime on her. Which means the real killer will get away. And that's something Jack won't stand for. 

Ruth Ware has done it again! And by it, I mean bringing readers another impossible to put down thriller that will keep them guessing through to the end!

Jack is quite a fun leading character. She's trained in evading security. Which means she has (excuse the use of the cheesy phrase) a certain set of skills that are pretty perfect for avoiding police capture while also digging into a completely unfathomable crime. 

But she's not alone. She has the support of her sister's family as well as Gabe's best friend Cole. Even still, staying off the grid pushes her to her limits. 

And not only does she have to figure out who murdered Gabe, but also why

Zero Days proves once again that Ruth Ware is truly one of the best in the thriller business!

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

You Can't See Me by Eva Björg Ægisdóttir

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for the prequel to Eva Björg Ægisdóttir's Forbidden Iceland series, You Can't See Me.

On what would have been the family patriarch's 100th birthday, the Snæberg family has scheduled a reunion at a posh new hotel in rural Iceland. Modern and stark, the hotel is nonetheless breathtaking. But certain family members are less than impressed. 

With a storm looming and alcohol in the mix, tension is particularly high. And then one of the guests goes missing. 

Two days later, the police are on site. But what happened between the guests' arrival and then?

The story alternates in timeline and POV. Some of the narrators include Petra, an interior designer, her daughter Lea, who may have been followed to the hotel by an online stalker, and Irma, a hotel employee (to name a few). 

The book begins with a prologue of sorts, set on Sunday, November 5, but then jumps back to Friday, November 3, the day the family is set to arrive at the hotel, and the reader is given a brief introduction to the family by way of Irma, who's done ample research to prepare for the family's stay at the hotel. But then the story jumps back to Sunday and the arrival of the detectives. 

So less than three days before what's supposed to be a family reunion turns into something much more sinister!

The author perfectly sets the stage for a snowed in thriller that's excellent fun! And there's plenty of ominous foreshadowing for what's to come!

This is a perfect entry and introduction to the series for readers who are new to Ægisdóttir. If you're a fan of dark crime fiction and/or Yrsa Sigurdardottir and Ragnar Jónasson, you need to be reading Eva Björg Ægisdóttir!

As mentioned, this is a prequel to the Forbidden Iceland series. Reading order, after You Can't See Me is:

The Creak on the Stairs
Girls Who Lie
Night Shadows

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

The Dive by Sara Ochs

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Sara Ochs's The Dive!

It's supposed to be a normal work day for dive instructor Cass. And yet it's anything but. 

Cass has lived and worked on the island of Koh Sang in Thailand for two years. And in that time she's made great efforts to keep her background under wraps. And she's done well in that regard, finding friends and a family of sorts among the other expats who work on the island. 

That is until she receives an ominous message: someone knows about her past. 

Things take a significant turn for the worst when a member of her latest dive class is found dead in the water. Cass soon becomes convinced that the death is tied to the note she received. Unsure of the note writer's motive, Cass, along with another expat, Brooke, decides to find out more about the tourist's death. And when another person turns up murdered near the resort and Cass receives another note, she's more certain than ever that the two are connected. 

With the locals and the police determined to keep their island tourist friendly, Cass knows she can't turn to the authorities with her suspicions. Solving the case is her only option. 

Conspiracies and murder in paradise! If you're a fan of The Beach, this is the summer read for you! (If you haven't read The Beach, definitely pick it up—even Cass herself has a nod to the book/movie.) 

The reader is introduced to Cass the morning after she's become engaged to another expat, Logan. And we quickly learn that Cass hasn't told Logan everything about herself. Whatever she's keeping is big. Big enough that she's afraid of losing him. Big enough that someone can use it as blackmail. 

The reader is also introduced to our second narrator, Brooke, who is (surprise) also keeping secrets. Posing as a travel influencer, Brooke has been getting to know Cass and her friends for the past few weeks. But Brooke has bigger aspirations than Instagram. And when a guest at the resort is found dead, Brooke's interest is piqued. 

Though the death is ruled an accident, it is actually the second tourist death in recent weeks. A connection neither Cass or Brooke can overlook as they become involved in digging up info on the latest death. 

I loved The Dive! The setting is fabulous: a small dive resort on a less popular Thai island where business lives—or dies—by its reputation. And with so many people running from their pasts (yep, it's not just Cass and Brooke that are hiding things), the list of possible suspects and motives isn't as small as you'd think. 

Given that it does take place on a (fictional) island, there's an automatic urgency to the story. An insular community, made so by language and cultural barriers, tied together simply by way of their all speaking English. And those nasty secrets none of them wants revealed are all in danger of being spilled!

The Dive is great fun! Perfectly paced and super fun! It's out now from Bantam Press in the UK and will be out in the US early next year. 

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Eye for an Eye by M. J. Arlidge

Happy Sunday, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the Compulsive Readers tour for M. J. Arlidge's latest, Eye for an Eye. 

I'm a little under the weather, so here's a bit about the book from the publisher:



'Emily' is a devoted single mother.
'Jack' starts a new job in a new town.
'Russell' may be falling in love.

They all share the same secret: none of them are who they say they are.

They are among only nine criminals in the UK who have been granted lifelong anonymity, for their own safety, because of their terrible crimes.

But what if someone exposed their true identities to the families of their victims, who are desperate for revenge?

Probation officer Olivia Campbell is caught in the crossfire of this unprecedented crisis - and as the hunt for the mole behind it all intensifies, so too does the search for the vigilante killers let loose by the leaks...

Everyone is a suspect. Anyone could be a killer.
Who deserves justice? And who gets to decide?

I have been a big fan of Arlidge's work since the Helen Grace series debuted back in 2014 (2015 in the States). 

This latest is a standalone that presents an excellent premise. What would happen if criminals who have served their time and been given a new identity were suddenly outed. 

Given that the readers have the chance to get to know each of the characters, it becomes an even bigger question. They've rebuilt their lives, have new families and friends, and suddenly their darkest secrets have come to light. 

But don't those around them deserve to know their truths? The chance to reveal that has been taken away from them by someone else...It's an interesting question. And one that begs the reader to ponder what they themselves would do in both situations. 

Eye for an Eye is out now from Orion Books!

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Goddesses by Nina Millns

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Nina Millns's Goddesses.

Ayesha and her friend Yaz are off for a weekend hen do. But it's anything but the average bachelorette party. No, this one is a goddess retreat, complete with cleansed auras, transformations, and a strict schedule to adhere to. 

Yaz is something of an outsider, a comic who is friends with Ayesha, but invited nonetheless. They'd been classmates, but were reunited on the comedy scene. 

Ayesha, after going viral calling out a heckler at one of her shows, was brought into the fold of a activism group headed by Frankie. Alone with her partner, Joni, and another activist, Jessica, the group made headlines doing interviews on the #MeToo movement and women's rights. But a falling out is what introduced them to India, the bride to be. And India's friend Clemmie plays host for the weekend. 

Things begin awkwardly, but ok. As the weekend progresses, however, things go further and further off kilter until Ayesha finds herself stuck in the middle of nowhere, afraid for her life. 

Goddesses is a book that's understandably being touted as Bridesmaids meets Get Out, which is a simplistic but fair comparison as the audience gets a good sense for what to expect. Except that it's also SO MUCH MORE!

Goddesses is a story that can be read and enjoyed in layers. You can take the basic comedic horror, dipping into the odd vibes of the weekend and the ultimate creepiness that comes into play. You can also delve deeper into the social commentary about white feminist activism, cultural appropriation, generational trauma...

Whichever approach you take, you're in for a ride!

Dark humor is almost always a hit for me, as is horror containing social commentary (pretty sure all horror comes out of social commentary of a sort anyway). And this really is the hen do from hell! I can say without a doubt I'd be miserable from the moment of arrival and easily empathized with Ayesha and her car full of unwelcome pink party favors! Plus the book starts out with her not quite sure where she stands with the rest of the group, with the exception of Yaz.

And awkward doesn't even begin to describe what Ayesha is in for! The minute they walk through the door, its a practice in masking offense and excusing things that pile on until it can no longer be excused or denied. 

Like I said, it's a ride and I was along for every snarky bit of it!

Word has it tv rights have been sold for this one. I cannot wait to see it! 

Goddesses is out now from Simon and Schuster UK. No US release date as of yet, but I really hope it'll get a chance here!

Monday, July 17, 2023

Burn the Negative by Josh Winning

Laura makes a living covering entertainment for Zeppelin. She's spent years making a name for herself as a journalist. 

But there's a part of Laura's past that she's kept hidden for decades. Laura used to be an actress. In fact, she starred in the notoriously cursed film The Guesthouse. But in the aftermath, she and her family relocated to the UK where she'd be less likely to be recognized. And eventually, she legally changed her name as well. 

All that's to say that Laura has gone to great lengths to erase any connection between herself and that film. And yet, she's been assigned to cover the "reinterpretation," It Feeds

Her plan is to get what she needs for the story and get out of LA as quickly as she can. But when she's found on set after a tragic accident, it seems her return home is going to be delayed. Convinced It Feeds has fallen under the same curse as the original film, Laura knows she needs to figure out what's going on or she might die trying!

There have been a bevy of cursed film movies of late and I am so here for it!

Burn the Negative introduces us early on to Laura, our leading lady. She's on a plane to Los Angeles when she finally looks over the press material she's been sent for her latest job and discovers it's a remake of The Guesthouse. Which she starred in. And which is said to be cursed because so many people involved in the film died. Not only that, their deaths mirrored deaths in the film!

That was decades ago. Laura has lived an entire liketime since then. And she's worked hard to put that, and the trauma she experienced, way behind her. So to say she's none too pleased about this assignment would be putting it lightly. 

It also means that she suspects her secret has been blown. 

But that becomes a bit of an afterthought when people start dying on set! And the deaths started as soon as she arrived!

Burn the Negative makes for a quick read. I loved the extra design aspect that goes along with the book: pieces of ephemera throughout that give more info on The Guesthouse and other aspects of the curse! The page numbers also appear within a little film reel!

I also loved that the book deals with trauma. Multiple kinds of trauma and how that can affect our life as we grow older. 

This is a super fun read for horror movie fans—pure popcorn entertainment! 

Order a copy from Bookshop!

Thursday, July 13, 2023

The Bleeding by Johana Gustawsson

Happy Thursday! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for the first in a new series by Johana Gustawsson, The Bleeding!

2002, Quebec: Detective Maxine Grant wasn't supposed to be back from maternity leave quite yet, but when a murder suspect requests her at the scene, she can't refuse. 

The accused is a former schoolteacher and a well-respected community member married to a professor. Together they were the epitome of a perfect couple. At least to the people around them. But then why would she brutally stab her husband over thirty times? As the investigation proceeds, the police make a gruesome discovery in the couple's home that leads to even more questions. 

1949, Quebec: A young girl being bullied by her classmates finds solace and friendship with an old woman in a care home. The woman opens the girls eyes to secrets that are nothing less than profane. 

1899, Paris: A mother loses her two daughters to a tragic house fire. In its aftermath, she seeks the guidance of mediums and other spiritual guides to connect with her children. 

Who could resist such a tempting and mysterious plot?! Certainly not me! Also, look at that fabulous cover!

As you might guess, the way the three stories come together is a big part of the story. But we begin with the professor's murder. After that, chapters alternate between three narrators: Maxine in 2002, Lina in 1949, and Lucienne in 1899. 

It becomes clear pretty early on that this book is headed in an unexpected direction. I don't want to spoil it, but I was quite pleased by the way the story played out. And it was fun trying to see if I could figure out the connections before they were revealed! (I was right in a few cases and totally wrong in others!)

Quick shout out to David Warriner for a wonderful translation!

I cannot wait to see how this will develop into a series! In the meantime, Gustawsson has another book due out from Orenda later this year and a previous series to sink my teeth into while waiting for a follow up to this one. 

The Bleeding is out now from Orenda! Fair warning for bedtime readers: if you start this late at night, you're going to want to stay up reading til the end!

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

The After-Death of Caroline Rand by Catherine Cavendish

Hello, readers! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things blog tour for Catherine Cavendish's latest, The After-Death of Caroline Rand

It's been years since Alli last saw Nancy. But when Nancy friends her on Facebook and then invites Alli to her new house for a weekend getaway, it all happens at just the right moment. 

The house in question once belonged to Caroline Rand, a singer from the late sixties. And as tribute, the house party is sixties themed. It's just Alli, Nancy, and two others. But the small get together quickly turns odd when Alli finds herself not at Nancy's house, present day, but at Mama Cass's California home during a party featuring a number of musicians who have long since passed away. 

Soon, Alli finds herself back at Nancy's. But the slips in time continue. And Alli finds herself woven into Caroline's own past. But to what end?

This was a fun one! It's a little horror lite in the beginning, but the why is a big pull.

Why is this happening to Alli? Why is she essentially traveling through time? And why is it linked to Caroline's past?

These questions become more pressing considering it's not the house's past that Alli is tied to—she arrives at a house in rural England, only to find herself in the famed Laurel Canyon! Different time, different house, different country!

Thankfully, all of this expectation builds to a very satisfactory end!

The After-Death of Caroline Rand is out now from Flametree!

Monday, July 10, 2023

One by Eve Smith

Hello, everyone! I'm late for my tour stop for Eve Smith's latest, One

Huge apologies as this was a very anticipated title in my TBR!

In the future, climate change and other crises have resulted in mass shortages of resources. Only the UK's one child policy has worked in curbing this and making life generally better for all its citizens. 

Or so they'd like you to think. 

Kai is one of the enforcers of this one child policy. As an enforcer with the Ministry of Population and Family Planning, it's her job to make sure families stick to the policy. But when a 50% match to her own DNA is flagged and quickly disappears, she has two weeks to find out what's going on. 

So first off, if you're a fan of Black Mirror, this is most definitely a book for you!

And if you couldn't tell:

A. the one child policy is not the great thing for change it's chalked up to be. 


B. this is definitely a bit of a bleak read in terms of a pervasive THIS MIGHT ACTUALLY HAPPEN ONE DAY feeling!

Kai is all about the rules. In her world you have to be, unless you want to live on the dangerous fringes of society and/or be punished. And her whole life it's seemed her parents are the same.

Until Kai learns she has an illegal sibling. 

As you might expect for someone who is so staunch about the rules and has a job enforcing them, the discovery doesn't sit well with her. But she has limited time in which to do anything about it. 

As you might expect, this scenario is pretty much the only thing that can force Kai to open her eyes to the reality that is her society. 

Eve Smith has a knack for putting together stories that are highly disturbing looks at very potential real world threats. As with Off Target, I found myself both completely sucked in and more than a little unsettled. 

Smith is such a great talent! And again, this could easily be a Black Mirror episode. Which isn't a bad thing considering the show forces viewers to consider, even just for a little while, the outcome of certain policies, technologies, and powers. 

One is a lot to consider and a lot to take in! I have to say, though, that I truly do love Smith's writing and highly recommend each of her books!

Friday, July 7, 2023

Lowbridge by Lucy Campbell

Happy Friday! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Lucy Campbell's Lowbridge

In 1987, a girl goes missing in the small town of Lowbridge. The case is never solved. 

Cut to 2018. Katherine and her husband have come to Lowbridge in the wake of terrible loss. Facing a growing problem with sleeping pills and alcohol, Katherine stumbles on the local historical society and throws herself into helping set up events highlighting Lowbridge history. 

When she sets her sites on the opening of the women's health center in the mid 80s, she unwittingly opens a can of worms the whole town would rather see buried. And in doing so, she becomes obsessed with not one, but two missing girls from that decade. 

I have a confession to make: I'm a little obsessed with Australian and New Zealand crime fiction!

This one is a bit quieter than some of the others I've read. It's a slow burn even though it starts with a girl going missing. 

But after that tragic beginning, the story jumps back to the months leading up to the event and alternates between 1986/87 and Katherine's story in 2018. 

Campbell teases out the story, hinting at the tragedy Katherine and her husband (who grew up in Lowbridge at the time of the missing girls) have suffered. But it takes a bit for that to come truly to light. Mostly, it's the affect of their loss that's the focus. And Katherine is really in a bad place. Though she keeps this to herself, she finds distraction in learning about her new home and friendship with the women of the historical society. 

And it's here that we get the first hint about the identity of the the missing girl(s). Because the 1980's story focuses on three girls (two in particular), Louisa, Sim, and Tess. 

Like I said, it's a bit of a slow burn, but I really enjoyed how the story unfolded. The anticipation of Katherine finding the story, all the while following the girls and wondering about their fate. 

Lowbridge is an excellent debut, one I highly recommend to anyone looking for an intriguing story with a rich, small town setting. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

The Girls of Summer by Katie Bishop

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things Tour for Katie Bishop's The Girls of Summer

It's been over a decade since the fateful summer Rachel spent in Greece. But a surprise trip planned by her husband not only brings Rachel back, but puts her face to face with one of the last people she expected. 

Now, reminded of everything that occurred, including her first love, Rachel is having a difficult time going back to life as she knows it. 

So she doesn't. 

Instead, she tracks down her long lost love. And as she reignites that long ago flame, she looks back at everything that happened in Greece. But in looking back, she realizes things aren't quite as she remembers them. And that glittery, balmy summer in paradise...wasn't all it was cracked up to be. 

A #metoo era read about the heady teenage years of love and longing. And how those years, once picked apart by an adult mind, can be seen as something very different. 

Rachel and her friend decide to take a gap year. Except it's not really a gap year because they're still in school, meant to go back for one more year after their trip before college. But still, it's meant to be a summer of adventure and simply enjoying being young. 

When they meet another group of girls staying longer in Greece, Rachel decides not to go home as planned and instead takes a job in a bar. And the prompting of this stay: a man. Not a boy. A man in this thirties who Rachel is so head over heels for that she'd do just about anything. 

But the summer ends (and the book begins) with tragedy. And Rachel and her beloved are separated. Until she decides to find him once again. 

I don't think it's a spoiler to say that The Girls of Summer is a bit of a disturbing read. It's a reminder that the innocence of the young can be easily taken advantage of. And that those involved, don't always realize it even years after it's happened. 

The story alternates between then and now. And while the reader has the benefit of knowing things are not what Rachel imagines, a big part of the story is seeing Rachel's own perception of that summer while it's happening and then through the lens of her experience as an adult. 

Even in paradise, danger awaits!

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

The Spider by Lars Kepler

Happy Wednesday, readers! Today I'm a stop on the Compulsive Readers tour for the latest in Lars Kepler's Joona Linna series, The Spider

Fair warning: while much of the series can be read out of order without major spoilers (mostly character development stuff), this one does contain spoilers for both Lazarus and The Sandman

Saga is on leave after recent occurrences, but that doesn't mean that a killer can't have her in her sites. And this one is playing a game. 

Saga had received a postcard saying she was the only one who would be able to save Joona Linna. But as time passed, the postcard got pushed to the back of her mind. That is until a tin figure arrives with her name on it. Saga recognizes the figure but only after the person is killed in a  truly horrific manner. 

But, brilliant as she is, Saga very quickly puts the pieces together and is allowed back on the force to assist with the case. Desk work only! And with the first clue, the postcard, she knows there will be nine victims. 

But the killer is one who uses intricate puzzles. And while they provide everything the police need to identify and even save the victims, the killer proves to be faster and perhaps even more clever than Saga and Joona. 

With Joona's life on the line as the ninth victim. Saga becomes increasingly desperate to find the killer—predictably going beyond the bounds of her newfound privileges and making herself the prime suspect. 

If you've read Kepler before, then you know that the husband and wife team are truly masters at plotting! And you know that they write twisted stuff!

If you're new to them: they're masters at plotting and writer twisted stuff!

This latest in the series puts both Joona and Saga in an interesting position. Both are suffering from the fallout of a case involving a killer that almost claimed both of their lives. And both are dealing in different ways. This particular case forces them to reckon with that fallout!

Readers, this is one of the series that got me through 2020. I'm not kidding! Beginning all the way back in 2009 with The Hypnotist, Kepler have proven themselves to be two of the best in the business! And following Joona, Saga, and the others throughout nine books has been an absolute thrill and, in spite of the fact that you might think I'm truly messed up, a pleasure!

The Spider is everything I'd hoped it would be complete with unexpected twists and turns! The authors put their character through the wringer and I am waiting on the edge of my seat for more!

If you'd like to read the series in order, it is:

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

The Spider is officially out tomorrow from Zaffre. (It'll be out in the States in July.)

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Thirty Days of Darkness by Jenny Lund Madsen

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Jenny Lund Madsen's debut, Thirty Days of Darkness!

Hannah is an award-winning author. But while her books are critical darlings, they're not exactly commercial successes. In fact, they're the kind of books people laud but don't actually read. 

Which doesn't keep Hannah from looking down her nose at more popular authors, like crime writer Jørn Jensen. And it's exactly that attitude that has Hannah traveling to Iceland with plans to write a crime novel of her own—in thirty days. 

The hope was that the isolated setting would be the perfect inspiration and atmosphere for conceiving of and writing said novel. But when a very real crime occurs, Hannah finds herself at the center of an investigation that could mean much more than her career and reputation as a writer. 

Thirty Days of Darkness is such a fun plot! A snooty author who talks garbage about a popular author finds herself in a pickle when she's challenged to write her own commercial crime novel in a month. And then gets caught up in a real crime!

I love this kind of book, especially since Hannah brings to mind a few very real authors who have downplayed the effort and talent that go into commercial novels. And she's not easy to like! In fact, as a reader I kind of wanted her to fail just because she was so high on herself! But she made for a fun lead character to follow, that's for sure!

If Thirty Days of Darkness is any indication, we're in store for lots of fun to come from Jenny Lund Madsen. 

And a shout out to Megan E. Turney. Translators don't get enough credit in my opinion, and they're a key part in bringing such a wide range of voices to English speaking audiences!

Huge thanks to Orenda and to Random Things Tours for including me on the tour! 

Thirty Days of Darkness is out now in the UK and will be out in the States in November.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Paradise-1 by David Wellington

Alexandra Petrova screwed up. As punishment she's been tasked with a deep-space mission to check on Paradise-1, a colony her own mother relocated to less than a year ago. Along with a brilliant by troubled doctor, a snarky AI, and their pilot, the small crew is to travel to the planet to find out why there's been no recent contact from the colony.

Unfortunately for the crew, they're awakened from cryosleep only to find that they're under attack and the ship has been severely compromised. 

This is a chonker that clocks in at almost 700 pages, which obviously requires a bit of a commitment. But only a bit because this book moves FAST!

I've been reading Wellington for some time now. I love his Monster Island series, the Cheyenne Clark series, and the Laura Caxton series. So yeah, he's a bit of an auto-buy for me. And he certainly did not let me down with this latest. 

I will warn you, though, this is the first book in a trilogy...

I love the characters and their backstories. Petrova is a member of Firewatch, essentially the police. Her mother was their former head and the new person in charge definitely seems to hold it against Sasha. But it's nothing compared to the training instilled in her by her mother. So though she's not exactly happy about her new assignment, she knows fighting against it is futile. 

Zhang Lei has his own problems to worry about, not the least of which is the fact that he has a government ordered "babysitter" that injects him with drugs any time he gets a little too excited. But he has seen things that no one else can even comprehend. And, as mentioned above, he's undoubtedly brilliant. 

Sam Parker, the pilot of Artemis is an interesting part of the mix because he and Sasha have a past. And neither of them is exactly thrilled to be thrown together now. But they can both be professionals. Mostly. 

There are other side characters that make an appearance, including the ship's avatar. But my favorite character of the bunch is Rapscallion. He's a sentient robot tasked with being part of the mission. He's snarky as all get out but exactly what the crew needs for this mission in particular. 

I don't want to ruin anything but I'll add that this is an absolutely perfect read for fans of sci fi horror (which I adore), anyone who enjoyed Martha Wells's murderbot books, and James S. A. Corey's Expanse series!

Order a copy from Bookshop.org!

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

The Medici Murders by David Hewson

Happy Tuesday, readers! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for David Hewson's latest, The Medici Murders

Marmaduke Godolphin was once well known in certain historical circles. First as a professor with his own group of followers dubbed the Gilded Circle. Then as host to multiple historical documentaries. 

Of late, however, Godolphin's shine has started to wear off. That is until he claims to have made an explosive discovery regarding the assassination of Lorenzino de Medici.

To prove his theory, he's enlisted the help of two archivists in Venice, one of whom, Arnold Clover, was a contemporary of Godolphin's circle. But on the eve of a Carnival celebration, Godolphin himself is murdered. 

The Caribinieri has asked for Arnold's help, as an insider and as an academic. And they have a very short time to come up with an answer or the case will be turned over to another investigator. There are multiple hurdles in their way, not least of which is the fact that Godolphin has made many enemies over the years—including those of his own circle. But does the murder have to do with Godolphin's personal matters? Or is it tied to his so-called discovery about Medici?

The Medici Murders kicks off a new series for Hewson. Book two, The Borgia Portrait, is due out later this year. 

Hewson is something of an expert on Italian history, as is evident here an in his earlier Nic Costa series (which was set in Rome). As a fan of the earlier series, I was very excited to return to Hewson's writing. He has a knack for creating sympathetic characters (Arnold) and plots that are entwined with the most fascinating and little known bits of history. 

But even aside from the points pertaining to the main plot itself, the settings and the little details that flesh them out, make you feel like a bit of an insider. 

Arnold is not Venetian. He's moved there in his retirement and is working as a volunteer archivist who sometimes helps English and American tourists navigate the archives where he works. He's passionate about Venice and history and has learned where the hidden gems are, where the best pasta is, and where to get a great affordable wine. 

I also appreciate that he's a retiree, which honestly brings to mind a bit of an Agatha Christie comparison in reading for me. Arnold, is a great contemporary counterpart of sorts to Miss Marple! (He's much more likable than Poirot!)

The Medici Murders is out now and is a perfect read for fans of historical mysteries (though it is a contemporary setting). I am definitely looking forward to another mystery featuring Arnold!

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Beautiful Shining People by Michael Grothaus

Hi, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things Tour for Michael Grothaus's Beautiful Shining People

After creating a quantum code that tech companies are vying for, John has accepted an offer from Sony. Which is why he finds himself in Japan in an apartment paid for by the company. But until things are finalized, he has a lot of time on his hands. 

Jet lagged and lonely, he wanders into a cafe offering ear cleaning, relaxing him to the point that he gets his first good sleep since arriving. 

Returning to the cafe the following day, he befriends the waitress, Neotnia, eventually winning over the owner and the odd little dog that resides there as well. But as John's friendship with Neotnia blossoms into the potential of something more, AI attacks around the globe begin to hit, taking down major cities in moments. As they watch the happenings, unsure where the next target will be, John learns something about Neotnia that changes everything he believed possible. 

Ok, so this is a hard one to sum up easily. It's also a bit difficult for me to say if you like x you'll like this book because the most obvious comp my brain is fixated on GIVES TOO MUCH AWAY!

This is a very character-driven tale. In fact, it's not until about halfway through the book that the first attack happens and that John begins to learn more about Neotnia. Fortunately, Grothaus has built a small but strong cast of characters you want to follow to the end. 

John is just seventeen, living in our world a few decades from now. He's awkward and doesn't make friends easily. He's also in a country that's foreign to him where he doesn't speak the language. So meeting Neotnia is not only a welcome distraction on that first evening (she admits they were supposed to be closed when he arrived) but the fact that she speaks English is more than he can even hope for. 

The owner of the cafe, and as it turns out one of Neotnia's only real friends, is a former sumo with his own sort of tragic past and reason for disliking people in general. 

They make a motley crew to be sure, but this little found family comes together easily and eventually what seems like a fated purpose becomes clear. 

I've always been drawn to cross-genre stories that are hard to categorize. Because I have broad interests! And this one hits a lot of those for me. First, as I mentioned above, wonderfully drawn and complex characters. Second, the near future setting that closely resembles our own until the smaller details start to reveal themselves (also, the waiters at the burger place make me thing of the Big Hero 6 series!)

The underlying and ominous politics of this world are another draw for me. For John's entire life, there's been a war brewing and though it's not hit the midwestern town he hails from, it's affected him directly in a way that is revealed as he tells Neotnia about himself. 

Of course all of this makes mostly for great world building in the background of the tale. At least until the big reveals start to happen. 

This is, I think, the perfect kind of book. One that has elements that appeal to a very wide range of readers! At heart, it's quite book clubby with LOTS to talk about. It's a bit sci fi, it's a bit coming of age...It's just flat out fabulous!

Beautiful Shining People is out now in the UK and is available for preorder in the US.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Lone Women by Victor LaValle

Adelaide Henry is just one of the women staking a claim in Montana. She's used to hard labor—her family was one of the Black farming families in Lucerne Valley. But Adelaide couldn't stay there. 

Unfortunately for Adelaide, all of the usual hardships of being a lone woman are hers to bear. And being a Black woman doesn't help. But Adelaide has another challenge many have never faced: a curse that's been her family's responsibility all her life. And now it's Adelaide's responsibility. 

Victor LaValle is one of my absolute must-read authors. In fact, whenever he has a project of pretty much any time, I add it to my must read/must watch list. It's been the case ever since The Ballad of Black Tom. And I have a bit of a habit of taking his books on vacation too. 

Which is exactly what I did with Lone Women

I snagged an early copy and brought this to, of all places, Great Wolf Lodge. It was a two night trip and, if you've ever been, we splurged for the room with the kids' alcove complete with bunk beds and a TV. I honestly think that was my kid's favorite part of the whole trip: climbing up and down the bunk bed ladder and having complete (almost complete) control over a TV he could watch IN BED. (Don't we all kind of like that part of hotels?)

The lodge theme seemed like a perfect setting for me to dive into this one and I was not going to miss my opportunity!

Sidebar: I had the chance to meet LaValle less than a month after I read the book. When I told him I took it to a "lodge-themed family resort" he knew exactly what I was talking about—because he and his family went to one for a week! 

Anyway, back to the book. 

Frist, I had absolutely no knowledge whatsoever about homesteading in Montana. I didn't know who was eligible, I didn't know women doing it on their own was common, and I had no idea what it entailed. 

Through Adelaide's eyes, we see what it's like to be one of the lone women. We see what she and the women around her have to endure. 

And then, of course, we also get the extras that come with a LaValle read: that eerie supernatural element that makes homesteading even more horrific than the reality of it already was! 

I loved this latest from LaValle! He's expertly blended fascinating history with a story that is about so much more than survival!

Order a copy from Bookshop.org!

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

The Space Between Us by Doug Johnstone

Happy Tuesday! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Doug Johstone's latest, The Space Between Us

Now, Johnstone is known for his Skelfs series, but this one is a little bit different.

Lennox, Heather, and Ava have nothing in common: a teenager living in a kids home, a divorcee who lost her child to cancer and now suffers the same illness, and a pregnant woman desperate to leave a bad marriage, respectively. But they're linked due to very strange circumstances. All three suffered what could have been fatal strokes—and indeed were for a number of people—but all three miraculously recovered by morning.

In the moments leading up to the stroke, all three saw a light in the sky. And when an odd cephalopod washes up on shore, all three realize it's connected. But when Lennox touches the creature, it speaks to him, and the three find themselves coming together to help this creature. 

Of course there's much more to the story. The three are wanted by the police after Ava's terrible (and terribly connected) husband reports her as being kidnapped. Then in saving the creature more unfortunate circumstances occur. 

Luckily for them, a somewhat jaded reporter was assigned the story of the strokes and wants to help. His feeding them info is one more thing that allows them to stay ahead of the police and other agencies seeking the creature. 

This is a seriously cool book! The perfect kind of read that truly does suck you in from the start, digging into your brain in a way that won't let you stop until you get to the end and find out what will happen!

And it's truly enjoyable as well with fabulous characters and pacing akin to a thriller, even though it's something a little adjacent to that genre. Not quite crime thriller, not quite science fiction, but a comfortable balance of both. 

The Space Between Us is wonderful! And even more wonderful, Johnstone puts his PhD in nuclear physics to use. While I can't swear everything in this book is scientifically accurate, I can promise you that it feels that way, making it even easier to become fully invested!

This one is out now from the fabulous folks at Orenda!

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

The Writing Retreat by Julia Bartz

Happy Wednesday, readers! Today I'm at stop on the Random Things tour for Julia Bartz's The Writing Retreat!

Alex can't believe it when she's accepted as a late addition to the highly exclusive writing retreat being offered by her idol, Roza Vallo. 

Four writers were chosen but when one dropped out, a friend of Alex's sent in one of her stories as a submission. And Alex was accepted! But Alex's ex best friend Wren was accepted as well. And the retreat means a month at Roza's isolated home, the Blackbriar Estate (a home with a very colored history). A month with Roza's almost exclusive attention. But also a month in close quarters with Wren. 

From the start things are very intense. Roza expects the writers to produce an entire book by the end of the retreat—with required daily word counts, critique circles, and one on one meetings with Roza herself. That aside, they do get cocktail and dinner hours with food provided by a private chef. And all in a luxe setting. 

But when a heavy snowstorm hits and one of the girls goes missing, the writers realize their dream retreat is not quite what they'd expected it would be. 

This book was seriously fun! I should add that I probably found it extra fun as someone who works in publishing!

So a chance for four young authors (they're all supposed to be under 30) to spend a month with an acclaimed author they all revere...That's too much for any hopeful to pass on! And yet, someone does pass. Which is why Alex has the opportunity in the first place. 

Unfortunately, she's going to be doing it with a once very close friend who shut her out for very specific reasons. And as the story unfold and those reasons become clear, Alex's discomfort is understandable. 

Except there's much more to it than that! 

There's a cool element concerning the house itself and the story of the previous owners, a wealthy man whose wife was rumored to have made contact with a demon. Both the husband and wife died under mysterious circumstances, and they're the inspiration for Alex's book she'll be writing at the retreat itself. 

All of this sets a nice tone. The addition of a snowstorm cutting the house off completely is one that I particularly enjoy (I like to call them snowed-in thrillers). 

Like I said, I thought this was great fun! Which was awesome because I'd been looking forward to this book as soon as it was announced (Julia Bartz's sister is author Andrea Bartz whose work I also quite enjoy). 

The Writing Retreat is perfect for fans of Ruth Ware. amongst others. And I think writers in the trenches will find much to enjoy as well! Definitely one I recommend to anyone who loves a dark thriller!

Friday, February 10, 2023

Ancient Images by Ramsey Campbell

Happy Friday! Today I'm super excited to be part of the Random Things Tours for Ramsey Campbell's rereleased Ancient Images

How could any avid film collector resist the promise of a missing film starring Boris Karloff and Bela Legosi? A film no one has ever admitted to seeing, no less! Sandy's friend and coworker has spent years tracking down just this film and he's finally found it. But before they can watch the film, Sandy witnesses her friend tumbling from the roof of a building. And the film in question is turns up missing. 

With her friend's legacy in mind, Sandy becomes determined to find out what happened to the missing film. But the amount of secrecy and threat that surrounds not only the film itself but the story it's based on is more than she ever expected!

So not only is Ramsey Campbell one of the horror greats, but this book in particular has been on my radar for a while. And I was disappointed to find that it was out of print. Originally published in 1989, the book has thankfully been brought back to print by the fabulous folks over at Flame Tree Press!

I first heard about this book via an interview with Gemma Files about her own book Experimental Film where she cites Ancient Images as one of the inspirations behind her novel. And while there are no shortage of books about cursed films, I would say that when you have one of the best mentioning another one as one of the best, you know you need to track it down :)

So yes, I was thrilled to see this was coming back in print and I think it's the perfect time! Found Footage horror has been on trend for a while, and I absolutely love it! 

Here we have a film historian who's been tracking down a film for two years before finally securing a copy. Two years! And the book begins with his revealing to Sandy that he's not only found it, but that he's inviting her to an exclusive screening. 

Campbell does a fantastic job of setting the scene so that the reader feels like they're right alongside Sandy. And the anticipation of what the film would turn out to be is hugely tense! Especially when it goes missing before our narrator can see it. 

But of course she doesn't suspect what we the reader already suspects, that the film itself is somehow behind her friend's death. 

Sure, the police believe it was a break in. That the man died trying to save his sought after film from a thief. And that's what Sandy suspects as well. But seeing as this is a horror novel, I would say the reader already has more complex suspicions at this stage!

And honestly, that's just the first few chapters. There are flashbacks to a side story woven throughout, the meaning of which becomes more clear as the story progresses. But for me, those opening chapters set the tone for a perfectly enthralling story that is every bit as fantastic as I'd hoped it would be!

Ancient Images is officially out on February 21. Be sure to preorder a copy from Bookshop.org so you have it in your TBR ASAP!