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!