Thursday, July 4, 2024

Eye of the Beholder by Emma Bamford

Good morning! Today I'm one of the stops kicking off the Random Things tour for Emma Bamford's latest, Eye of the Beholder

Before: Madeleine is a ghostwriter beginning her biggest job yet. Having written autobiographies for some of the most elite, it's not a surprise when her friend recommends her as a ghostwriter for Angela Reynolds. She's a cosmetic surgeon for some of the most elite people in the world and her company, Reynolds RX, is poised to make a killing. 

The book. Well, Madeleine has just a month to write it. And she's the second author brought on board. But it's more money than she's ever been paid for ghostwriting and she gets equal writing credit. 

After: Scott is supposed to be dead. And though she's suspected that she's seen him before, now she knows she has. And he does too.

Ok, I think I've done a fair job of avoiding spoilers. But one more thing. Eye of the Beholder is an homage to Hitchcock's Vertigo! (Which is also based on a book, apparently.)

Vertigo is old enough at this stage that I think I'm safe summing it up in part without worrying about spoiling either it or the book. 

In the film, Jimmie Stewart, a retired cop suffering from fear of heights after seeing a fellow officer die, is hired to investigate the strange behavior of a friend's wife. The friend claims he believes his wife is possessed. Meanwhile, Stewart's character falls for the woman and then witnesses her death, suffering a second blow to already shaken mental health.

But then he sees the woman. Follows her to her apartment. And thus the plot thickens.

So it's easy to see from the start (where Maddy follows the man she believes is Scott into a club) the influences. But Bamford's twist on it is much more gothic in tone. 

Maddy is shut up on Angela's private estate all by herself. Or so she thinks. It turns out Angela's business parter, Scott, is also there. And as strange things happen in the home, Maddy becomes closer to and more reliable on Scott.

The story is split into two parts, Before and After. And the book begins with the After scene I noted above, at the club. But the reader still questions Maddy. Still questions everything that's brings her to that point. And even things that happen After!

Bamford's novel debut, Deep Water, was my introduction to her writing and it was one of my favorite reads of 2022. She excels there, and here, in creating complex characters and in playing with the reader's perception of said characters. Setting it in the cross section of two very private and intimate worlds: that of ghostwriters and their subjects, and cosmetic surgery, amplify that in incredible ways! What, more than anything, relies more heavily on perception than telling a story that isn't your own and relying on the subject matter to disclose their story AND the entire industry of elective surgery intent on erasing aspects of a person's life?

Bamford is a fantastic writer and has once again penned a book guaranteed to be on my favorites list!

Eye of the Beholder is out now from Simon and Schuster UK. It'll be out in the States in August from S&S's US imprint, Gallery.

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Hot Stage by Anita Nair

It's Hump Day! The week is halfway through (although it feels like it's been zooming by!).

Today I'm a stop on the Random Things Tour for Anita Nair's latest, Hot Stage

It's no secret that Professor Raghava Mudgood had enemies. He'd made a name for himself calling out what he viewed as right wing fascism. So much so that threats had been made on his life. 

By all accounts, though, his death appears—at least at first—to be a tragic accident. A heart attack while steaming over a hot pot. 

ACP Borei Gowda îs called to the scene in spite of being on leave and immediately has his doubts about the death being by natural causes. With his investigation being tied to a real estate lawsuit (the subject of which is the deceased's son in law), Gowda is forced to face the dark underbelly of Bangalore.

This is the latest in the Inspector Gowda series that began with A Cut-Like Wound and continued in Chain of Custody. You can read this one as a stand-alone, but there is a brief mention/recap of the first two books at the start, which means some spoilers if you go back and read those after the fact. 

Gowda is a curmudgeon, one of my favorite tropes of the genre. He's in an unhappy marriage, having an affair, and has earned promotion, in his mind, as a way of keeping him quiet about things he's uncovered in past cases. 

He's also determined and willing to put himself at risk for a case. 

With the series, Nair offers readers a look at politics, counter cultures, and police procedure in India, something I'd not really had a chance to dive into before. And I have to say I absolutely love it!

I had not yet read first two in the series, but I am definitely seeking them out now!

Hot Stage is out now from Bitter Lemon Press!

Monday, June 24, 2024

We Used to Live Here by Marcus Kliewer

We are fully in summer now, aren't we! 

Today I'm a stop on the Random Things Tour for Marcus Kliewer's We Used to Live Here

Eve and Charlie bought the house on Heritage Lane planning to flip it and resell it. And though it requires more work than they'd initially planned, the property was too much to pass up. 

While Eve is home alone one night, a family knocks on the door. The husband, Thomas, says he grew up in the home. They're in the area and he wants to show his kids his old home. Reluctantly Eve allows the family in but their quick tour is derailed with the family's youngest daughter decides to hide in the basement. 

And thus begins an absolute headtrip of a book! Holy moly!

I feel for Eve. 100% I'm the kind of introvert who literally hides in their house when someone comes to the door. Like if I don't want to answer it's somehow not actually my right to do so and I'll get in trouble or something. 

So yeah, in Eve's place I wouldn't have even opened the door! But that's just the first hurdle. She tries to turn them away, going so far as to call her girlfriend to get a surefire excuse and pass in refusing the family their tour, but gets no answer. 

Then, while the family's daughter hides in the basement, Eve's partner Charlie arrives and invites them to stay for dinner! Eve is pissed! And I don't blame her. 

And then things begin to get weird. 

In addition to Eve's unplanned guests and the narrative that begins there, just about each chapter is followed by a document of sorts outlining increasingly odd material. Half the fun is in trying to put the pieces together!

We used to Live Here absolutely begs to be read in one sitting--and I really dare you to try otherwise! According to the marketing material, it's going to be adapted for Netflix and it's absolutely going to be a must binge!

Now, one more note, it's supposed to be based on a "Reddit hit"—I don't actually spend any time on Reddit so I wasn't familiar with it. If you are, yay. If you're not, I highly recommend going into this without any kind of Google searches. Like I said, the weirdness and trying to figure it out really is a big part of the fun!

We Used to Live Here is out now in the UK and in the US.

Friday, June 21, 2024

Short Fiction Friday: Shooting Star by Joe R. Lansdale

Ok, I'm trying to get back into the swing of things and regular blogging. Part of my hangup has been that I've been reading so many manuscripts! And the other part is just fatigue. 

And yet, I find blogging does help in writing pitches (because as an agent I have to pitch the manuscripts to editors). 

I spent a weekend in San Diego recently for StokerCon and picked up some super fabulous books! A whole suitcase worth :) Including Joe R. Lansdale's recent novella, Shooting Star!

John and his friend Dudley were looking forward to their planned post-graduation fishing trip. But their plans are derailed when the train they're on is hit by by a flying saucer! 

Stranded in the middle of nowhere, the handful of survivors explore the ship but find the aliens inside dead. Or so they think. They decide to make their way to a nearby fire watch tower. But the creatures that crash landed have other plans!

This was such a fun and creepy read! It's a perfect throwback to classic science fiction tales, enhanced by the time period in which the story takes place. (Fitting considering the book is dedicated to those classic films!)

It's also classic Lansdale with his hallmark charm and quirky wit (both of which I absolutely love even in his darkest stories!.

So we have two newly graduated (college) men traveling on a train with a woman, Hilly, who intrigues them both. Which sets off a bit of tension in the beginning. And the woman in question is on her way to work at a fire watch tower. 

The time and place in which the story are set are never concrete but there are hints. The train, for one. The commentary about Hilly's new job, for another. 

It's a slim little volume that packs quite an enjoyable punch. Perfect for an afternoon lazing in the hammock!

Monday, June 17, 2024

The Fascination by Essie Fox

Happy Monday, readers! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for the paperback release of Essie Fox's The Fascination!

Now, as part of my usual review, I like to write my own description. Life, however, had other plans for me with this one and I have to use the publisher info in order to get my post live! (Just a whole mess of appointments and scrambling to get a million things done, so this shaves just a smidge off of my blog posting time). 

Per the publisher:

Twin sisters Keziah and Tilly Lovell are identical in every way, except that Tilly hasn't grown a single inch since she was five. Coerced into promoting their father's quack elixir as they tour the country fairgrounds, at the age of fifteen the girls are sold to a mysterious Italian known as ‘Captain’.

Theo is an orphan, raised by his grandfather, Lord Seabrook, a man who has a dark interest in anatomical freaks and other curiosities ... particularly the human kind. Resenting his grandson for his mother’s death in childbirth, when Seabrook remarries and a new heir is produced, Theo is forced to leave home without a penny to his name.

Theo finds employment in Dr Summerwell’s Museum of Anatomy in London, and here he meets Captain and his theatrical ‘family’ of performers, freaks and outcasts.

But it is Theo’s fascination with Tilly and Keziah that will lead all of them into a dark web of deceits, exposing unthinkable secrets and threatening everything they know...

Set in Victorian London and centered around the fascination (see what I did there?) with "oddities," The Fascination is an absolutely lush and gorgeous novel! It's also quite dark at times (and yes, I recognize that saying it's gorgeous and then pointing out there are are unpleasant aspects is at odds, but the WRITING is lush and gorgeous). In fact, it's one of those fabulous releases that stylistically and tonally hits for readers of multiple genres! If you love historical fiction, gothic fiction, book club fiction...this is the book for you!

As you can imagine, there are a lot of characters to dislike in this book. But there are just as many to like and root for: Theo, who has been kicked out after the grandfather who raised him fathers a son of his own, and Keziah and Tilly, who are sold to a traveling show by their own father. Tilly is a performer, but one doomed never to grow over 3 feet. Which means being gawked and gawped at by a paying public. 

And yet Tilly and those like her, find a home and family in one another. It's a thought provoking story about what it means to "fit in" vs being an outsider; what family means; and so much more. 

Told from the perspectives of Theo and Keziah, Fox plunges the reader into the Victorian setting with vivid descriptions. Given the topic, there are, again, some unsettling elements. Overall, though, I'd say even those elements are there for a reason. And that reason is not only to experience the setting and story, but to allow the story to recognize how some things are reflected in real life even today.

Like I said, it's thought provoking!  

The Fascination is out now in the UK in both hardcover and paperback. The paperback will be hitting the States this fall. 

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Vengeance by Saima Mir

How is the week almost over?!

Happy Thursday! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Saima Mir's Vengeance, the follow up to The Khan

Since leaving her job as a barrister to take over her father's crime syndicate, Jia has done all she can to support her community. But the repercussions of taking out a rival are weighing on her. What's more, her authority is coming under question after one of her own people is killed and left on display in her garden. A garden that's heavily secured. 

The discovery of her father's notes from his arrival in London in the 70s offers up key insight into his early days but also reveals secrets that could be dangerous for everyone if they come to light. 

So let me first say that I missed The Khan when it initially released. And now I have to go back and read that one!

This is such a fantastic and compelling premise for a series! A Pakistani/British woman who heads up a crime organization! What's more, she used to be on the OTHER side of the law!

I love, love, love this. Strong female characters, a strong sense of place, and strong family ties all come into play in this book, which alternates between Jia's POV, present day, and her father's in the 70s. 

I did feel I was missing a lot of the backstory and development. Not to the detriment of the story, but just in terms of getting the full picture of where Jia came from and what she'd already been through (though I will say there's a decent bit of recap so that I didn't actually feel lost in the plot). 

Normally I steer clear of gang/organized crime if only because it all starts to feel too similar to The Godfather. That is not the case with Vengeance at all. By giving us something other than the traditional mafia story and giving us both the U.K. setting and the challenges facing women in general but also as the leader of the Jirga, Mir has, to my mind, turned the common tropes on their head! 

There's so much to dig into here, not least of which is the complexity of Jia herself. A mother, a sister, a wife, a cousin, and a crime lord! She's efficient and calculating, but also warm and caring. And the balance is just one of the things she's up against!

Vengeance is fantastic and is out now in the UK! 

The Khan published in 2021 in the UK and last year in the States, though the latter version is now out of print. I sincerely hope that it finds a new home here and that this sequel does as well!

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Boys Who Hurt by Eva Björg Ægisdottir

Happy Tuesday, readers! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things Tour for Eva Björg Ægisdottir's latest in the Forbidden Iceland series, Boys Who Hurt

Elma is just back from maternity leave when she's called out to investigate a missing person's report. The man in question didn't show up to work and when his mother was contacted, she could get no response from him. Police were sent out to his summer home to discover his car at the scene but no answer when they knocked. And so, key in hand, Elma and her partner are sent out to enter the home. 

What they discover is the days old body of the man, apparently stabbed to death in his own bed. 

Meanwhile, Sæver, home with their baby daughter, finds a box with an old diary that captures his attention. And strangely, the diary may actually have a connection to Elma's case.

This is the fifth book in the series that started with The Creak on the Stairs

I know I've praised the series and the author on the characters before. In truth, this is the key to a great series: characters you care about and WANT to follow through multiple books. And the fact that they're always being further developed is key as well. They grow with each new title!

But I want to point out today the setting and the fact that it also is a character of sorts. 

The series is set in the small town of Akranes. Now, I've not yet been to Iceland but it's already small. A tiny town, insular due to location and peoples' proclivities, makes for a perfect place for a book like this one that leans heavy into secrets. 

And I love, love, love the dual timeline and the diary aspect! In fact, the latter is a definite draw for me in any plot (found documents informing on current happenings). 

Of course by the time you get five books in, reviewing becomes a challenge just in terms of avoiding spoilers, which I hope I've managed to do here (sorry—it also means being vague). That said, I absolutely do recommend reading the series in order to get the full effect and rounded experience. Like I said, though, that shouldn't be an issue because you are going to love these characters and will devour the books!

Shout out to Victoria Cribb, the translator, because they never get the recognition they deserve. It's a challenge, I'm sure, to retain the author's voice while also translating into a language where not everything (especially regional turns of phrase and such) translates exactly! A good translator, like Cribb, does both magnificently!

Monday, May 13, 2024

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, which is now out in paperback!

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 the US (it's a Kindle Unlimited deal in the US) will be out in paperback in the States in November.

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

One of Us Knows by Alyssa Cole

Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Alyssa Cole's latest, One of Us Knows

Ken has been asleep for six years. Or so it seems. 

Diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder, though still with no memory of the inciting event, Ken has been dormant for six years while her other headmates have been living life for her. But even they don't know where Ken was all that time. 

When she awakens, on a dock and dressed in a style typical of another identity, she learns she's starting a new job as caretaker at the castle on Kavanaugh Island. But a storm hits straight after her arrival--after she meets members of the island trust she is all too familiar with. 

As she and her alters all try to cope with the situation and figure out the various mysteries they're suddenly facing (where Ken went for so many years; where Della, who took over for much of that time, has gone now; and more strangely, why a castle they've never been to is the exact replica of where they live in Ken's inner mind), they must also survive the storm alongside her ex, a man she assaulted years ago, and the other trust members, in a castle that has it's own strange history on an island locals once believed was home to goblins. 

I absolutely loved this latest from Cole! It's a fantastic modern gothic read!

The POV switches between Ken and her headmates, which I thought was both interesting and handled well. (Cole does thank someone who helped with the DID details.)

Each of the others has a specific role. And part of the story is learning how Ken developed DID in the first place, something neither she or our other POV identities can remember. 

Like I said, this is definitely modern gothic. The house, the rumors of ghosts, being trapped by the storm...all of the basics are there. And Cole does it so freaking well! I read this book in one day and would have read in one sitting had day-to-day life stuff not gotten in the way!

And that's how it felt too. I just could not wait to dive back into this world and find out what secrets were hidden on Kavanaugh island, what ghosts were hiding in the castle, and how Ken and the others would handle it all!

One of Us Knows is out now in the UK and in the US

Friday, April 19, 2024

Five Bad Deeds by Caz Frear

It's Friday! And it's a cold one here. Hopefully the last of the season!

But the good news is that today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Caz Frear's latest, Five Bad Deeds

Just a few months ago, Ellen was your average housewife. Mom to three kids and desperate to get back to her career, she's also still trying to fully fit into their new life away from London. 

But now she's in prison.

It all starts with a note. Someone who things Ellen should pay. But who? And why? As Ellen thinks back, there are five things. Five things that could have been the start of her downfall. But until she figures out which one, she won't know who is behind the threat. As more notes arrive, it becomes clear this is someone who will do anything to see Ellen lose it all. 

What a juicy and enticing thriller!

When we meet Ellen, she's already been incarcerated. But we don't know why. All we know is that she hasn't seen her twin sons since she got there. 

Flash back to "the beginning." And it would seem that it's the damning note that arrives in the mail. 

Except the note is not the beginning at all. 

And that, I think, is what made this such a fun read. We meet Ellen, we feel for her as a mom struggling with her teenage daughter and twin sons, a woman whose husband is often gone, a woman starting to feel lonely in her life. 

But as Ellen's story goes on, she begins to become much more complicated! The notes and the things she's done that might be the reason for it all...

There's a little, or a lot, of Ellen in us all. Trust me. And while some might not like the reflection, I quite enjoyed the 'what if' of it all. (Even though I have a lot of anxiety and tend to overthink everything!) It's not necessarily fun to think about what you might have done in your own life. But it is quite easy to empathize with Ellen as you soon begin to question what you'd do in her shoes!

Of course the suspense behind the sender of the notes and the five deeds Ellen reflects on make this an absolute page-turner, but I think that little connection Frear draws between the reader and Ellen is what makes it a richer (sometimes uncomfortable—but in a good way) reading experience!

Five Bad Deeds is out now in the US and the UK!

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

The Escape Room by L.D. Smithson

Hello, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for L.D. Smithson's The Escape Room

Clara is desperate to get picked for The Fortress, a new reality competition escape room with a 100k prize. Money she and her sister can definitely use in the wake of their mother's illness and death. But after being accepted onto the show, Clara breaks her leg and can't compete. She only barely manages to convince her sister, Bonnie, to take her place, arguing that they look enough alike that she can pull it off and that Bonnie has always done better at puzzles anyway.

The competition is set in an old fortress that dates back to the 1800s, though it wasn't completed until later. At one point it was even a hotel. But rumors swirl around the place, as the contestants soon learn. It all seems fodder for the clues to the game until viewers' commentary starts to suggest something much more sinister. 

The Escape Room is a no holds barred thriller that had me hooked from the strange and bloody beginning!

The structure of the book is interesting to note considering Bonnie is a guest on a podcast in the aftermath of the show. She's telling the story, even though it played out ostensibly in front of a live audience. And it adds a definite layer of suspense that I absolutely loved!

So I've never done an escape room. And honestly I have no real desire to. One is the fear that I'd absolutely suck at it! And reading this one, I have to admit I never would have figured out any of the clues the contestants are faced with. 

What's more, even though the clues seem to lead to prizes of a sort (remember the oreos and peanut butter Survivor episode--note, I watched little of that show so my reference point is very dated), the viewers vote on contestants to go head to head with one another throughout. 

Which seems fairly normal to the kind of program the game is based on. Except...Bonnie notes that something feels off from the beginning. 

The Escape Room is a cool premise done in a way that I found to be truly fresh and fun! Throughout, there are dispatches from "The Director," which hint at a more nefarious plot than even I could guess at. 

This book has blockbuster written all over it and I was here for every single page--frequently with popcorn to accompany it!

The Escape Room is out now in the UK and I highly recommend adding it to your immediate must read list!

Monday, March 11, 2024

Crow Moon by Suzy Aspley

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Suzy Aspley's Crow Moon!

Things haven't been easy for Martha Strageways since the loss of her three-year-old twins. But she and her teenage son are getting by. Until his friend goes missing. Knowing all too well the horrific fears that come with being a parent, Martha makes an effort to look into the teen's disappearance, never expecting to stumble over his dead body!

And then another teen goes missing. 

What a fantastic start to a new series! The blending of folklore and dark mystery is always one that's going to get me, and this has it all!

So what is it about this strange village? That's the first question. Even Martha's home, a croft with a stone built to track the phases of the moon, a discovery she made after purchasing the home, hint at weird things!

But the main mystery and the POV of the killer are undeniably creepy, hinting at ritual, sacrifice, and all manner of things that only begin to become clear as the story progresses. 

This is also a story about grief. And to that end, is a very emotional read. Martha's loss is a shadow that hangs over the story. It motivates her, it drives her, it also keeps her going at times. And it plagues her. 

Aspley imbues the story with this layer of grief so that the reader can't avoid it. Can't help but feel it. 

I will say that it can make for a difficult read at times. But I found it was affecting and added to my rooting for Martha and her family. And I absolutely look forward to reading more about her and her strange new home!

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Good Girls Don't Die by Christina Henry

What if you woke up one day and realized your life has become a story? And not a great one!

Celia doesn't recognize her daughter. She doesn't remember her husband. And she has somehow forgotten her past. She runs a restaurant where, thankfully, the recipes come to her with ease. She certainly doesn't remember the grumpy old lady who harasses her regularly or the cop who responds in kind. And then the lady winds up dead in Celia's restaurant's dumpster. 

Allie was supposed to be celebrating her birthday on a beach vacation with her two best friends. But plans soon change and they wind up at a remote cabin in the woods with the friends' boyfriends in tow. When she's awakened by strange noises in the night, she knows something is wrong. But as a horror movie fanatic, her friends are ready to write off her fears. 

Maggie has somehow wandered into a red-life competition that resembles the dystopian novels she's so fond of. She and a handful of other women are set on a timed course where failure could literally mean death!

All three women quickly realize there's something very wrong with their stories. But even they can't imagine just how twisted the plot is!

I wasn't sure where this one was going when I first started reading. 

We meet Celia first. As noted, she runs a restaurant, where she is most comfortable because at least she can remember how to cook the dishes they serve! But at home everything feels off. At first she thinks its her. But she soon becomes suspicious. 

By the time we get to Allie, we know something weird is going on. But Allie's experience is completely different than Celia's. Allie is with her friends. Allie is supposed to be celebrating her birthday at the beach until her friends' significant others tag along and change the plan. But that's when things go pear shaped for Allie!

When we reach Maggie, we're well aware that things aren't going to go her way. 

I don't want to spoil the plot, but this is truly a fun book for book lovers and a great addition to Henry's collection of work!

Order a copy from Bookshop.org!

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

The Drift by C. J. Tudor

Listen up, people. Have you read C. J. Tudor yet? If not, you are missing out!

I read The Drift when it came out in hardcover, but was very neglectful about typing up my review. Now that it's out in paperback, I'm rectifying that!

The book is told in three parts. But they intertwine in such a way that the connections aren't immediately clear beyond setting. 

A school bus overturns on trip to evacuate a group of students to a place called The Retreat. These chosen few should be safe there. If they can only make it. 

Meg was also on her way to The Retreat when she awakens in a stopped cable car. Neither she or her fellow passengers can remember how they got there. But with no power and temps dropping fast, they must find a way to survive!

Carter lives comfortably in a ski chalet. But they live at the mercy of the generator. And when it starts to fail, it means facing the things both inside and outside that put everyone at risk. 

Tudor says this was a bit of a passion project. One delayed by but also made possible by the pandemic. 

After all, even I as both a reader and agent had my doubts about ever being able to read a post-apocalyptic thriller in the days around and beyond 2020. 

But I actually found it a bit cathartic. And by the time The Drift released here in the States, I was more than ready for this particular book!

First, I have a thing for snowed-in reads. And absolutely fits the bill! Which is perfect because it's February and I especially like to read snowed-in books while it's nasty and snowing outside!

The world of The Drift unfolds somewhat slowly through the eyes of these three narrators. And it's in part because of the structure—alternating short chapters between each of these characters means you get snippets of what each of them are experiencing alongside the world around them. And I have to say that the deliberate delay in what is otherwise an exceptionally fast-paced read made for a deliciously agonizing experience!

I desperately wanted to know what was going on in this world. Why the desperation to reach The Retreat. Why the secrecy around the facility!

And the dawning of understanding that begins to set in at a certain point in the reading was truly a wonderful discovery and reveal. 

Again, if you've not been reading Tudor, you absolutely need to. There's a new adaptation of one of her works (The Burning Girls), there's a new release (The Gathering) on the horizon, there's plenty of backlist to tide you over, and there's even a TV adaptation of The Drift in the works! Add her to your must-read list today and ENJOY!

Order a copy from Bookshop today!

Monday, March 4, 2024

Kitchen Sanctuary Quick & Easy: Delicious 30-Minute Dinners by Nicky Corbishley

Happy Monday! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Nicky Corbishley's Kitchen Sanctuary Quick & Easy: Delicious 30-Minute Dinners

I love reviewing cookbooks and I seriously need to do it more here because I'm a bit of a cookbook fiend. To that end, I have my own preferences for how a cookbook is put together (layout of the recipe itself, selection of recipes, images...).

And I love to cook! Which is why it's lucky I work mostly from home these days. But generally I am looking for quick and easy meals that my whole family will eat: exactly what's promised by food blogger Nicky Corbishley and her latest cookbook. 

Kitchen Sanctuary Quick & Easy features 90 recipes that can all be made in 30 minutes. And, bonus, 70 of the recipes are not on Corbishley's blog, they're new and exclusive to the book!

Recipes are divided into the following sections:

Vitally Veggie
Fantastic Fish
Champion Chicken
Moreish Meat
Perfect Pasta
Rice, Noodles, Grains & Pulses
Snack Suppers
Super Sauces

And might I add that anyone who includes a section on "snack suppers" wins super extra points for me! I am all about the snack supper!

There's also a section on Smart Shortcuts, which is awesome because things like rotisserie chicken, frozen veggies, and store bought sauces are a busy person's best friend when it comes to supper! 

This section includes A TON of fabulous info for making your cooking quicker and easier. A fabulous resource on its own. (Pssst: there's a basic but customizable salad dressing in this section that really comes in handy!)

It's technically spring as I post this, but it was winter as I browsed and cooked, so dishes like Cheddar and Vegetable Chowder (in a bread bowl!), comes together in 25 minutes, y'all!; Creamy Lemon Butter Sea Bream (I used bass)--served with mashed potatoes and peas, per her suggestion; and Potato and Bacon Hash with Cheesy Beans were all examples of things I NEEDED to get me through the cold weather. 

Now that we have some warmer days, I'm dying to try the Crispy Fish Burgers with Mustard Pickle Mayo (and I might have to make a bit batch of that mayo to use on other dishes--or dip fries in!). The Saucy Roasted Vegetable Pasta with Lancashire Cheese is also up on my cooking roster soon. 

This is a fabulous collection of recipes. And they really are recipes my whole family will eat. Crispy Baked Parmesan Chicken Strips with Special Sauce...I do not have an air fryer so thank goodness for this recipe! This beats dino nuggets any day! (Hey, that mustard pickle mayo as a dip for these chicken strips...!)

Kitchen Sanctuary Quick & Easy hits all the right notes for me. Recipes are approachable and easy, the instructions are easy to follow and understand, and the breakdown of prep, cook, and total time really helps when I'm frantically trying to figure out what we'll eat as my kid is walking in the door from daycare.

Corbishley's latest is out now in the UK and will be out in the US in April!

Friday, February 2, 2024

The Lover of No Fixed Abode by Carlo Fruttero & Franco Lucentini

Happy Friday! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for The Lover of No Fixed Abode by Carlo Fruttero and Franco Lucentini, translated by Gregory Dowling.

A nameless narrator who works as a scout for auction houses and what seems at first to be a simple instance of paths crossing begins this cozy-ish mystery set in 80s Italy. 

A tour guide. A quiet, unassuming man who might be much more than he seems piques the interest of the narrator. Her thoughts gravitate towards him even when they have separated. But soon they are reunited. And thus kicks off a three-day affair as well as a mystery surrounding the man, our narrator, art, and Venice itself. 

This is really kind of a hard book to sum up. It's very character and setting driven, rather than plot driven. Though there is a plot. And, as the translator notes, the authors are well-known for their mysteries. But this one, apparently their most successful, is quieter than the others. 

And a quiet read it is indeed. 

Lover of No Fixed Abode is perfect for fans of quieter mysteries. It's also perfect for armchair travelers, and fans of period stories (though I am loathe to include the 80s in "period" considering I was born in that decade!). 

It's also a study, I think, in what a great translator can do. And I know that's not the point of a review, but the translator is so key to opening up works to audiences. They can either pull us in, or turn us off. And a great translator always strives to stay true to the author's original story, voice, tone...everything. 

Which seems to be something Dowling has taken great pains to do, especially considering the authors have both passed away.

I have never been to Venice. So I certainly never experienced it at the time the story is set, but the authors have truly created a stunning portrayal of the setting that will stick with readers and potentially leave them yearning for a vacation of a sort that they will soon realize is only possible in the pages of a book!

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

The Spy Coast by Tess Gerritsen

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Tess Gerritsen's latest, The Spy Coast

For Maggie Bird, retired life is about keeping her chickens safe. A far cry from what she used to do for a living. 

See Maggie is one of a handful of retired CIA agents who now call the small town of Purity, Maine home. But her quiet retirement is about to come falling down around her. 

A woman has shown up telling Maggie that a fellow operative has gone missing. What's more, details of an op they worked together have been leaked. Which means Maggie's cover has been leaked. Later that same day, the woman is found murdered in Maggie's drive. 

Now Maggie will have to try and figure out who's behind it all, with the help of her fellow retirees. But as they run their own internal investigation, the local sheriff's department is also on the case. And sitting Sheriff Jo Thibodeau is starting to think there's something fishy about her town's newest residents. 

This first in a new series from Gerritsen is a bit of a change from her longtime Rizzoli and Isles series. And it is exceptional!

The Spy Coast introduces readers to Maggie Bird. And boy has she led a fascinating life!

While on vacation in Bangkok, decades ago, Maggie met and fell in love with Danny. A doctor traveling overseas, he's doing one last grand tour before returning to the UK where a steady job will offer him a chance to help his mother. 

But what begins as a benign, everyday life experience—meeting and falling in love—kicks a series of events into motion that has repercussions way down the line. 

A retired spy offers, I think, so many story possibilities! Not only do I hope we'll get more adventures from Maggie and her cohorts, but I absolutely love the idea of main characters outside the "normal" range we see. I was immediately drawn to this story simply because of the premise of following a former spy in their sixties! (And of course because it was Tess Gerritsen.)

The Spy Coast is a new favorite for me! I hope we get more of The Martini Club and would LOVE to see this get picked up for adaptation as well! Give me more!

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

The Search Party by Hannah Richell

Happy Wednesday, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Hannah Richell's latest, The Search Party

Annie and Max, Suze and Jim, Dominic and Tanya, Kira and Fred: Five college friends and their families checking out Annie and Max's new glamping endeavor for the weekend. It should be a great get together. A reunion of sorts, considering their last get together (for Kira's 40th) ended somewhat badly. 

And yet, nothing goes to plan. 

The country site offers wide open spaces for the kids to play and no wifi means no distractions. But tension sets in after just the first night. And as gray clouds roll in, threatening an unexpectedly bad storm, one of the group goes missing. 

By the Sunday, someone is dead. Someone is unconscious in the hospital. At least one partner is no longer speaking to the other. 

So first of all, I love a great thriller about old friends and juicy secrets and drama and tension! And that is exactly what you get with The Search Party. With the added bonus of knowing some of the aftermath from the start and getting pieces of it throughout. It's the kind of book that I like to guess along the way (and then get proven WRONG!). 

What's really fun about this one is that we get alternating POVs, giving readers a chance to see the different sides of the story as it progresses. But it also alternates timelines, which is how we get those pieces of what's happened. 

And Richell spreads them out in such a way that the tension builds and builds and builds until everything boils over!

The Search Party is a great thriller! Perfect for fans of Ruth Ware's In a Dark, Dark Wood, Lucy Foley's The Hunting Party, (obviously), and authors like Alice Feeney and Lisa Jewell, to name a few! It also makes for a great book club read, in my opinion, because there are so many complex characters (and their actions) to discuss!

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

One of the Good Guys by Araminta Hall

Good morning, everyone! Are we all snowed in? I know I am!

Today I'm a stop on the Random Things Tour for Araminta Hall's One of the Good Guys

Cole is looking for a new start. Something uncomplicated after the fallout with his wife, Mel. He'd always imagined a quiet life in the country, living off the land as much as he can, would be just the change they needed from the stress of Mel's job and their busy life in the city. But Mel stayed and Cole is living the country life on his own. 

When he meets Lennie, an artist renting a weather-beaten cottage nearby, he thinks he may have met a likeminded friend who could potentially become more. But then Lennie finds an abandoned tent thought to belong to two women trying to raise awareness of violence against women. 

As it happens, Cole had a run in with the women in question. And they filmed the encounter. And while he's not responsible for whatever their fate has become, he's afraid the run in alone will point the finger in his direction. 

Wow. I did not really know what I was in for with this one! And I will do my absolute best not to give anything away!

So the book begins from Cole's perspective. And the reader really does get a glimpse inside the mind of an ordinary guy. He's mourning the breakup with his wife, but still hopes they can reconcile. Other than that, he wakes early for a cold swim, he walks a lot, and he takes his job as a wildlife ranger seriously. 

The book then switches to Mel's and Lennie's POVs, interspersed with Twitter convos, Instagram posts, news pieces, and other commentary along the way. 

Thought provoking doesn't begin to describe this one. In fact, I found it turned my head into a whirlwind of thoughts! 

While this is published by Macmillan in the UK, US audiences will see that it's one of Gillian Flynn's imprint's titles, which should tell you something!

If you're a fan of twisted reads that will really make you think—and then reevaluate what you thought, and then do that again—One of the Good Guys is the read for you! I thought it was fabulous and would love to be a fly on the wall as other people read it as well!

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

The Guests by Agnes Ravatn

Good morning and Happy New Year! I've been sick, but I've been reading, and my first post of the new year is a stop on the Random Things tour for Agnes Raven's The Guests!

Karin and Kai are due for a holiday. She's got the week off. Her in laws are watching the kids. But the plan is to spend the week working on renovations to their home. That is until a run-in with and favor for a childhood frenemie results in an invite to stay in a swanky water-front cottage. 

The "friend" in question is Ivy Vilden. A mean girl Karin finally broke away from in her school days. Today, Karin is an actress of some regard with a wealthy husband. And Karin is certain that the invite to use the "cottage" is just to make it clear how much farther Ivy has come in the world than Karin. 

But a cottage is a cottage and Karin and Kai deserve something nice. 

Then Karin meets the neighbors. And begins to create a tangle of lies about her and Kai's lives that threatens to overwhelm them. 

Woohoo! This was a rollercoaster of a read. A tense character study of insecurity and jealousy!

Karin is not at all likable. Probably because she serves as something of a mirror to every possibly insecurity a person can have these days. 

Her history with Ivy is fraught. But she overcame it. Something she'd always been proud of. And yet, it becomes clear from the start just how much influence Ivy still has over Karin. 

It's quite sad to watch Karin devolve into the the person she creates as the story continues. She perfectly illustrates how constant comparison, keeping up with the Joneses, can ruin even what should be a vacation in paradise. 

What's more, the neighbors in question and the train wreck Karin creates there is almost painful for various reasons. 

All of that might make this sound pretty negative. I get it! And yet, I read the whole thing in one sitting and came away with the unfortunate realization that I not only suffer some of the same insecurities, but can see just how easily a person dig such a hole!

Like I said, Karin is unlikable. But it's because Ravatn so cleverly illustrates just how bad envy can be if we allow it to overwhelm us!

Huge props to translator Rosie Hedger for bringing Karin and Kai and all of their faults to life for English audiences.