Thursday, October 26, 2023

The Christmas Appeal by Janice Hallett

Happy Thursday! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Janice Hallett's delightful novella, The Christmas Appeal

The Fairway Players are back and up to their old tricks. With the loss of their leaders, Sarah-Jane MacDonald and husband Kevin are co chairs of the organization, much to the dismay of Celia and Joel Halliday. Mustn't forget that's Joel Halliday, OBE.

It's Christmas now and they're prepping for their annual pantomime. This year it's to be Jack and the Beanstalk—all money raised will go to fixing the church hall roof after an unfortunate bat incident. And Sarah-Jane is determined that this will be the best production yet, going all out and even securing a massive beanstalk set piece. 

As it turns out, the beanstalk itself could be a problem with rumors of asbestos swirling around the emails and apps behind the scenes. But it's the dead body that's discovered the night of the play that's the real issue!

So apologies, readers, as I've not posted a review of The Appeal, this book's predecessor as of yet. But I will do so very soon as it is quite fun and highly recommended!

The Christmas Appeal is wonderful! Literally laugh-out-loud hilarious at parts and overall a very lighthearted read. 

If you've read The Appeal, the characters you know and love are back and feisty as ever. 

Sarah-Jane has a new baby, which hasn't slowed her down at all. Celia is at her throat, at least passive and not so passive aggressively. And the Players are recruiting new members now that they're down quite a few. It's a good thing two new housing developments have gone up even though some of the members would rather not recruit from the other side of the Tesco. 

As with The Appeal, the book is built through texts, emails, and WhatsApp, and other ephemera with Charlotte and Femi once again reading alongside trying to untangle the various clues to determine a. what crime has actually been committed and b. who committed said crime. 

Honestly, delightful only begins to describe this one. The Christmas Appeal is out and out fun! Definitely recommended, though if you haven't read The Appeal just yet, you might want to dive into that one first so you can get to know the characters and the first case a bit more!

The Christmas Appeal is out now in the UK and in the US. Happy reading!

Monday, October 23, 2023

Stigma by Jørn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger

Happy Monday, everyone! Today I'm am super excited to be a stop on the Random Things tour for the latest in the Blix and Ramm series by Jørn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger, Stigma!


Things are grim for former cop now inmate Alexander Blix. Losing his daughter has been such a blow that serving time for killing her killer barely even registers. He's lost weight. He's lost interest. And Emma Ramm is one of his only regular visitors. 

But when his former boss approaches him for help, he can't resist. 

It seems a serial killer has escaped prison in Germany and may be on his way to Norway. How do they know this? Their one clue is the name of a man serving time alongside Blix. In fact, it's the one inmate he's had the most trouble with since arriving. 

Meanwhile, Emma ends up looking into the same escaped prisoner, by way of looking for an advantage for Blix with his problematic inmate. And the case is all kinds of twisted. 

With threads that stretch back to 2004 and a tourist camping spot, Emma becomes entangled in a web on the outside while Blix faces the challenges of investigating from behind bars. 

I have reviewed the majority of the books in this series and I don't know how many more ways I can sing its praises! I love Blix and Ramm!

I warned you above and highly suggest reading these books in order. However, if you don't mind MAJOR spoilers for book three, you can dive in with Stigma

While all of the books pretty perfectly illustrate the partnership between Blix and Ramm, this one does so in such a great way! Blix is in prison. There's not much he can do beyond the connections he makes with a particular inmate. And so he is reliant on Fosse to share info and on Emma and the research she can do online and on the ground. 

Both characters shine throughout the series, but pitting them both against the challenges they face here truly does show why this is such an amazing series!

There is also the appeal of gaining insight into Norwegian law. Blix's case, which is under appeal at the time the book is set; the intricacies of chasing a convict across country lines; even the small town cops Emma has to navigate in her own digging. All of it is such a fun escape for someone like me who has never been to Norway. (Which might sound funny since this is a thriller, but it's true!)

I don't want to give too much away, but I will say this one kept me guessing. I truly did not see the twists coming!

As ever, the authors and translator, Megan E Turney, and all of the folks at Orenda have done such a fantastic job here. I cannot recommend this series highly enough! And if you'd like to start from the beginning, the series order is:

Death Deserved
Smoke Screen

Friday, October 6, 2023

Short Fiction Friday: Mama Bird by Clay McLeod Chapman

Bringing back my short fiction posts!

As I've mentioned before, I am a literary agent. So during the week, in an attempt to reign myself in and focus on work, I try to stick to short stories and novellas. ('Cause if I get into a novel, I'm going to binge read until I finish, at the expense of work I need to be doing!)

Every parent knows the worry that comes from picky eating kids. Are they getting enough nutrients and protein? Are they going to be hungry? It plagues you. 

And for this mother, whose daughter struggled to regain her birth weight and eschewed food, when she finally finds a solution, she grabs hold of it. Even if it isn't quite what you'd expect...

You're probably familiar with Clay through his novels, The Remaking, Whisper Down the Lane, Ghost Eaters, and the newly released What Kind of Mother. But this first of his chapbooks, published by Shortwave, came to my attention just before StokerCon. 

It's a short tale. One that can definitely be read in one sitting. But it is a lot to chew on. 

And as a mom, it hits on something I myself have had issues with since day one: providing nourishment for my child. Worrying about his development. And stressing about the importance of my own role in that regard. 

Course I've never quite had to deal with the things this mom experiences!

A little plug for Shortwave—they are a special indie press putting out fantastically packaged chapbooks, novellas, collections, and novels. I've been reading a bunch of their titles, so you'll be seeing more from them on the blog!

Thursday, October 5, 2023

White as Snow by Lilja Sigurdardóttir

Happy happy Thursday! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for the third in Lilja Sigurdardóttir's series, White as Snow

A shipping container has been found on public land containing the bodies of five women. Except upon further investigation, one of the women is hanging on by a thread. Malnourished and suffering from terrible frostbite, the police do their best to keep news of her survival out of the press. As their main witness, they understand all too well that the people responsible for putting her there will do anything to find her and keep her quiet. 

Daníel was supposed to be spending the next ten days with his children, but a case this big can't be pawned off. But he also knows that something this dark and twisted is going to loom heavy over him for a while. 

At the same time, Áróra, still trying to figure out where she stands with Daníel, has been asked to look into his ex-wife's new partner. The man, Sergei, is quite a bit younger than Elín, an artist who happens to be Áróra's own father's cousin. Though Elín is admittedly smitten, her father is insisting on a pre-nup to protect her assets. And yet Sergei is not only pushing for marriage, under the auspices of needing to be an official resident to get a job, he's against the pre-nup as well. And so it's Áróra's job to find out if there's something shady about the Elín's love interest.

As both Daníel and Áróra's cases go on, there becomes hints of a connection. At first, it's an old case that both worked on in the past and links to the shipping container. But as they move forward, the links between the two cases become even stronger. 

So first off, the thing on just about every series reader's mind: yes, if you're new to Lilja Sigurdardóttir's work, you can start here fairly easily. You are missing character development, particular in the case of Áróra as her sister's disappearance continues to be a main focus of hers. Some spoilers, but you can easily read White as Snow as a lead in to the series. 

Technically this is referred to as the third in the Áróra Investigation Series (Cold as Hell, Red as Blood, White as Snow). But what seems to be common with Nordic Noir in particular is the fact that the series does not focus exclusively on Áróra herself, but rather a whole cast of characters. Daníel and his fellow officer, Helena, get just as much page time as Áróra herself. Which is something that I really love because you not only get backstory on all of them, but the interactions between them become more rich and detailed. 

In this particular outing, you also get Bisi, the survivor. A Nigerian cut off from her family and seeking refuge, she falls prey to the worst kind of people. Her story comes out in two parts: past (before the container) and present. And she plays her cards close, in part because she's reliant on the officers and immigration to keep her safe. 

White as Snow is an excellent addition to what is a fantastic series! If you haven't discovered it yet, do dive in here. Or start from the beginning and read them in order (my recommendation!) for the full experience!

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

The Hollows by Daniel Church

Everyone knows the Harpers are trouble. And it's not unusual for the ones still allowed at the local pub to get wasted and pick a fight. But Tony Harper was one of the better ones. 


Now Tony's been found dead, frozen in the snow, and it's up to Constable Ellie Cheetham to share the bad news. 

What Ellie doesn't know is that Tony won't be the last. Something has begun. Something that puts all of them at risk. The Harpers know. They've passed the knowledge down from generation to generation. And they're thrilled to allow the rest of the village, the outsiders, suffer what's to come. 

The Hollows is snowed-in folk horror! 

So a horrible storm is looming, a dead body has been found, and Ellie Cheetham, a capable cop working under a boss who's basically just keeping his chair warm. 

He's ready to chalk this up as an accident. And it's not out of the realm of possibility that a Harper walking home drunk, fell and froze in the snow. Except there are some very strange details about the crime scene that Ellie can't ignore, even when pressed to do so. 

Her conversation with the Harpers devolves very quickly, adding another danger to the locals as the storm brews. And then a house on the border of the village is found ripped apart. 

There are so many excellent characters here. Ellie is of course a favorite, but there are others who stand out as well. 

And the lore! Holy moly! I absolutely love the created lore in this one. I say created, but forgive me if there's a kernel of actual folklore to this one, I'm not fully versed on UK folklore. Either way, it's a very cool bit of terror to pit against a poor little cut off village with limited competent officers!

Daniel Church is fabulous and I look forward to more (pretty sure I heard there are definitely more to come from Church via Angry Robot!).

Order a copy from Bookshop today!

Sunday, October 1, 2023

Devil's Creek by Todd Keisling

I've been very neglectful of the blog, really only posting tour posts. Why? Because I've been a bit overwhelmed! And yet, as someone who works in publishing, I of all people am aware of the need to post reviews! So I'm back! And I"m trying to do better. 

Also, IT'S SPOOKY SEASON! Which seems like a great time to get back into blogging! And I'm kicking it off with, full transparency, one of my new clients. 

As an aside, I did not actually work on this title. It was already out in the world well before I started working with Todd. But it was one of the first things I read by him and I adore it, so I can't help but post. I will be posting more from Todd and other clients. I'll always put a header so you're aware. And they won't be reviews, per se, since I do work with them.

Everyone knows about the dark history of Devil's Creek. That back in the 80s there was a church there that burned to the ground. Almost everyone in the congregation died. 

Jack Tremly did not. In fact, he was one of the Six. Siblings that survived the fire. Illegitimate kids whose mothers blindly followed Jacob Masters and his cult. And all of them fathered by Jacob himself. 

Jack was raised in nearby Stauford by his grandmother. One of the handful who turned against Jacob and his teachings. And as soon as it was feasible, Jack left town to start a life well away from his dark past. 

But now Jack is back. His grandmother has passed and as her only living relative able to settle her estate, he must reluctantly return to Stauford. And with her death, and Jack's return, Jacob Masters's plans are revived. 

Fair warning, this book is dark. Keisling does include an author's note at the start with a pretty hefty content warning.

Another small note, there is an earlier edition of the book that might still be floating around. My post here is for the Cemetery Dance edition that released in 2023. 

So this one popped up on more than one recommended reading list that I'd come across and was in my must have list when I went to StokerCon in June. And amazingly, Todd was the first author I was introduced to there. 

I snagged a copy at the mass author signing (got mine signed) and brought it back to my hotel room at 2am. I made it through the opening chapter before I fell asleep and had nightmares as a result. 

I kid you not!

I devoured this book! And a few cool things about it: 

Keisling is a designer as well as an author and he fully designed the interior. It's not something you usually see in books and it's a super cool affect that amplifies the reading experience. 

This book and Stauford are part of Keisling's Southlands world. And part of a mythos he's building within said world. A lot of his work ties into this mythos, which I find exceptionally awesome!

Devil's Creek is a hefty read. And again, it's dark. It deals with trauma and a lot of other stuff. But it's also well deserving of the Stoker nomination it earned and the praise so many authors have for it, including Ronald Malfi who wrote the new intro. 

So even if you don't want to take my word for it, S. A. Cosby, Eric LaRocca, John Langan, and more can't be wrong!

And for more of the Southland Mythos, be sure to check out Todd's new collection, Cold, Black & Infinite, as well as his novellas The Final Reconciliation and Scanlines!

Order a copy from Bookshop today!