Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Fingerprints of Previous Owners by Rebecca Entel

Happy Tuesday, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Rebecca Entel's Fingerprints of Previous Owners.

Cruffey Island, aka Furnace Island, is a resort today but once upon a time it was a slave plantation. Myrna works at the resort by day and investigates the old ruins of the plantation by night. She's fascinated by the history and by the idea of uncovering the story of the island's earliest inhabitants who lived in the old ruins. But it's a history no one other than Myrna wants to dig too deep into. Soon, a new arrival to the island and new revelations about the violent history of the place spur conflict between the locals and the resort.

Rebecca Entel's debut is a confident and assured one. Her writing bleeds emotion but also has a spareness to it that makes it unique compared to similar tales.

The setting for the story is a fiction island, but the story is obviously one that draws influence from very real events. And while Entel herself is not Caribbean, as her main character is, her care and attention to her research and to giving voice to Myrna is obvious.

Fingerprints of Previous Owners is a good illustration of a larger issue - the history of slavery and the attempt to gloss over, or even sweep away that history in order to avoid uncomfortable conversations.

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here.

For more on Rebecca Entel and her work you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Purchase Links: Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

Sunday, March 18, 2018

New Releases 3/20/18

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Past Is Never by Tiffany Quay Tyson

Death Comes in Through the Kitchen by Teresa Dovalpage

Torn by Rowenna Miller

The Wild Inside by Jamey Bradbury

The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

The Punishment She Deserves by Elizabeth George

The Fighter by Michael Farris Smith

Stray City by Chelsey Johnson

Every Note Played by Lisa Genova

A Guide for Murdered Children by Sara Sparrow

The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman

Bury What We Cannot Take by Kirstin Chen

How to Fall In Love With a Man Who Lives In A Bush by Emmy Abrahamson

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

The Heart Forger by Rin Chupeco

Tyler Rose Was Here by Jay Coles

New on DVD:
Pitch Perfect 3
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Death of an Unsung Hero by Tess Arlen - Excerpt + a Giveaway

This week marks the release of the fourth entry in Tessa Arlen's Lady Montfort mystery series. To celebrate, I've got an excerpt to share with you today as well as a giveaway. But first, here's a bit about the book from Goodreads to get you started:

Lady Montfort and her pragmatic housekeeper Mrs. Jackson investigate a murder of a WWI officer with amnesia in the 20th-century English countryside.

Building on the success of her last three mysteries in the same series, Tessa Arlen returns us to the same universe in Death of an Unsung Hero with more secrets, intrigue, and charming descriptions of the English countryside.

In 1916, the world is at war and the energetic Lady Montfort has persuaded her husband to offer the dower house to the War Office as an auxiliary hospital for officers recovering from shell-shock with their redoubtable housekeeper Mrs. Jackson contributing to the war effort as the hospital’s quartermaster.

Despite the hospital’s success, the farming community of Haversham, led by the Monfort’s neighbor Sir Winchell Meacham, does not approve of a country-house hospital for men they consider to be cowards. When Sir Evelyn Bray, one of the patients, is found lying face down in the garden with his head bashed in, both Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson have every reason to fear that the War Office will close their hospital. Once again the two women unite their diverse talents to discover who would have reason to murder a war hero suffering from amnesia.

This series is perfect for fans of Charles Todd and Jacqueline Winspear!

And now, for a little taste:

Death of An Unsung Hero
by Tessa Arlen

Chapter One

“How very nice, Mrs. Jackson.” Iyntwood’s elderly butler settled into his chair by the window. “Why, it’s almost like old times again.” George Hollyoak’s glance took in the claustrophobic and over-furnished room: shabby velvet chairs jostled with a heavy mahogany desk, taking up far too much space in front of the windows, both of which were swathed in heavy curtains in a dusty but strident red plaid.

The dowager Countess of Montfort had died two years ago and her character, or that of the late Queen Victoria, whom she had revered, was still heavily imprinted on the dower house furnished as a faithful replica of the old queen’s beloved Balmoral Castle. Bright and, to Mrs. Jackson’s flinching eye, brash tartans dominated most of the reception rooms on the ground floor of Haversham Hall.

Mrs. Jackson was encouraged to see George Hollyoak sitting in her new office. It had taken weeks to coax him to visit her and now after all sorts of silly excuses here he was. Though even with her old friend and mentor sitting at his leisure with a cup of afternoon tea in his hand it wasn’t really like old times, no matter how much they all wished it were. The war had changed everything. Her face must have reflected her thoughts as she followed his gaze around the oppressively furnished room. “Perhaps not quite like old times.” Her guest smiled as he observed a shaft of dust motes dancing thickly in the late summer sunlight. “I must say you are looking well, Mrs. Jackson, and so very smart in your uniform: Voluntary Aid Detachment or Red Cross?” This was the first time he had acknowledged that Iyntwood’s dower house had been transformed into an auxiliary hospital.

“The hospital comes under the jurisdiction of the Red Cross, but I trained with the VAD. I am not an assisting nurse, so I am spared the traditional starched apron and the rather claustrophobic cap,” she answered. Long aprons and linen caps, in her experience, were worn by cooks, and although Mrs. Jackson was not a snob, she was conscious of little things like rank and station.

In acknowledging Haversham Hall’s new status the old man evidently felt he might ask his next question. He leaned forward, curiosity bright in his eyes. “And how are you finding life in your new abode?”

Mrs. Jackson hesitated before she answered. She had never liked Haversham Hall; it was as overbearing as the Victorian age it had been built in and an ugly building in comparison to the Elizabethan elegance of Iyntwood. But she had made the adjustment from being a senior servant to Ralph Cuthbert Talbot, the Earl of Montfort, at his principal country-seat, to the rank of quartermaster at Lady Montfort’s new hospital far more easily than she had anticipated. The real challenge had come when their first patients had arrived, but this was something she was not prepared to share with Mr. Hollyoak—not just yet.

“It is not as different as I thought it would be. Haversham Hall is not Iyntwood, but it is a building I am familiar with, and my duties here are similar to those of my position as housekeeper at Iyntwood.” That’s not strictly true, she thought, but it will do for now.

Her new job was not at all like her old one, any more than this hospital was like many of the others that had sprung up all over the country in the many private houses of the rich and titled, speedily converted to cope with an unceasing flow of wounded men from France. At Haversham Hall Hospital there were no wards lined with rows of beds, no operating theaters with trays of steel surgical instruments, or hastily installed sluices and sterilizers. Certainly there was an occasionally used sick bay and a first aid room in what was known as the medical wing, but they were merely a token adjunct. And it was these diferences that were the cause for Mr. Hollyoak’s initial reluctance to visit her and for his searching question, “How are you finding life in your new abode?” because Haversham Hall Hospital was not a conventional Red Cross hospital, not by a long stretch of the imagination.

She raised her teacup to her lips and took a sip. If she was to help a man whose conventions were deeply mired in the nineteenth century to understand the value of the hospital’s purpose, she must proceed with cautious tact. She decided to start with a prosaic description of the practicalities.

“I am responsible for the running of the hospital’s housekeeping and for ordering all supplies, which means I spend most of my time sitting at my desk filling in requisition forms; the bureaucracy of wartime, her ladyship calls it. But we have plenty of nice young women from the Voluntary Aid Detachment to help with the housekeeping as well as some of our nursing duties. And I certainly need to be well placed here on the ground floor of the house to supervise them.” She did not add “every step of the way” because that way of thinking made her resent how difficult it was to work with inexpert help. To go with her cheerful tone she exhibited her most optimistic smile. VAD girls from nice middle-class families were a nightmare to train in comparison to sensible, sturdy village women who were ready to roll up their sleeves and had no romantic illusions about their part in the war efort. 

Having given her visitor the briefest outline of her duties, she decided that she would wait for him to display genuine interest—enthusiasm would be too much to hope for—in what they were accomplishing here before she continued. She ofered Mr. Hollyoak a plate of sandwiches: delicate triangles of egg with cress. She had prepared them herself, mashing the hard-boiled egg finely with a narrow-tined fork and adding just the right amount of salt, pepper, and cress to spread on lightly buttered crustless bread. He took a sandwich and closed his eyes as he chewed and swallowed the first bite.

“Perfect,” he said and smiled his appreciation, “quite perfect. I need not say how much you are missed at Iyntwood.” He took another bite of sandwich and then slowly shook his head. “The house simply isn’t the same without you.”

And now for the giveaway! To win a copy of Tessa Arlen's Death of an Unsung Hero, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, March 26. Open US only and no PO boxes please. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

If I Die Tonight by Alison Gaylin

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Alison Gaylin's latest, If I Die Tonight.

In the middle of the night, a woman bursts into the Havenkill police department screaming about an accident. It seems a boy in a black hoodie carjacked her. When another boy came to her rescue, he was run over in the escape, ending up in the hospital in critical condition. 

Jackie's is just one of the houses included in the police department's neighborhood canvas area. It's a terrible accident and Jackie feels for the boy's family, but as more information comes out about the accident, one of Jackie's own sons is implicated. And sure, the boy has grown surly and distant, but that's normal for teens. Right? Certain she knows her son better than anyone else, Jackie is the last to believe the rumors. But doubt begins to creep in and she has to wonder just how well she knows this boy - man - who is her son. 

This is a frightening read in that it examines this sort of court of public opinion that is social media today. Liam, who is the victim in the accident, is increasingly painted as the golden boy, the hero. And Jackie's son, Wade, already an outcast when the story begins, grows into a sort of mythic villain thanks to public outcry and gossip.

The case gains even more traction due to the the involvement of a one time pop star, Aimee En. It's Aimee's flashy car that's stolen. And it's Aimee and her followers that help give the story even more visibility than it may get otherwise.

The story alternates between narrators, none of whom has access to the whole story themselves, which means the reader has to rely on piecing each bit together to try and come to their own conclusions as the story progresses. Of course the biggest questions are: Is Wade really the villain? If he isn't, what is he hiding? And if Wade is innocent, then who is actually responsible.

Jackie is the character you most want to sympathize with. She's a working, single mom raising two teenage boys. And she tries to balance between being attentive and watchful and still giving them space to grow. Which I think is something every parent has always struggled with. Except now, the added wrinkle of social media and the internet makes it even harder.

The scariest thing about this book is that it was, in fact, inspired by an actual event and Gaylin's own attempt to, as she says in the extras, make sense of it. And while I don't think anyone can ever make sense of a situation like this, I do think she's done a great job weaving a story that humanizes each of the players involved, giving the reader a chance to see the whole of the accused, the victim, and the people most affected by the maelstrom of dangerous conclusions that comes out of a tragic accident when no one knows the whole story.

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here.

For more information on Alison Gaylin and her work you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Monday, March 12, 2018

Paper Girls: Book One

Four twelve year old paper delivery girls in the 80s (which is another draw for me) find themselves at the center of strange events on Hell Morning. Before they know it, they've met masked men (boys) from another time, faced death, and traveled into the future!!! 

It's the morning after Halloween when Erin, new to the paper delivery game, runs into Mac, KJ, and Tiffany. Well, not so much runs into considering they come to her rescue when some local teens begin harassing her during her delivery. Because of the holiday antics, the three girls are already delivering together and invite Erin to tag along. Unfortunately teaming up doesn't prevent three weirdos still in costume from attacking KJ and Tiffany and stealing one of their walkie talkies. The girls give chase, tracking their attackers to an abandoned house and that's when things get weird...

First off let me say that I have struggled in the past trying to get into comics. I read my brother's X-Men comics when we were kids - in particular anything Rogue/Gambit and Jubilee. Beyond that, I did very briefly try to buy Buffy comics when they started releasing. And this is likely why I also stopped - a quick perusal of my oh, so small comic collection from those days revealed two copies of the same comic (with different covers) and four comics that I apparently thought followed the duplicate, but were actually part of a completely different series. This was before the bound books, folks!

But there's that whole Read Harder challenge (which has THREE comic categories this year). As such, I've been open to trying some comics. In particular two series I heard about on Book Riot that sounded right up my alley. And while we were in San Diego, I decided it was time to give a few a try. 

Paper Girls had been described as perfect for fans of Stranger Things, so of course it was at the top of my list (right alongside Misfit City, aka The Goonies for girls)! And it's probably no surprise that I fell in love with this series!

Paper Girls is ongoing, currently clocking in at 20 installments. Paper Girls: Book One, with its impossible to miss hot pink cover, collects issues 1-10 (or vol 1 and vol 2). And it has a total cliff hanger ending, which means that I was dying to get my hands on vol 3 and the soon to be released vol 4!

The story is oddball and the Stranger Things comp is completely appropriate. First, it starts in the 80s. Second, there's paranormal weirdness - in this case, time travel! Before the girls know it, there are dinosaur riding people in space suits after them!

I know I'm new to the comics world, and there are plenty of people who've been into it longer and know more than I do. I also know that Vaughan's other series, Saga, is so incredibly, massively popular that you can't miss references to it. There are even Saga Funkos now! But, I don't think anything can possibly top Paper Girls for me. The series is super fantastic fun! The story is engaging and the illustrations are phenomenal. And, obviously, it's perfect for folks just getting into comics!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

New Releases 3/13/18

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Feed by Nick Clark Windo

Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney

The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian

Let Me Lieby Clare Mackintosh

Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson

The Echo Killing by Christi Daugherty

The Waters & The Wild by DeSales Harrison

The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror by Mallory Ortberg

Dayfall by Michael David Ares

Death of An Unsung Hero by Tessa Arlan

This Is How It Ends by Eva Dolan

The Neighbors by Hammah Mary McKinnon

A Different Kind of Evil by Andrew Wilson

The Last Watchmand of Old Cairo by Michael David Lukas

Anatomy of a Miracle by Jonathan Miles

Time Bomb by Joelle Charbonneau

Obsidio by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

New on DVD:
The Shape of Water
I, Tonya
Call Me By Your Name
The Disaster Artist
Justice League

Thursday, March 8, 2018

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

Elsie thought her life was set when she married Rupert Bainbridge. But shortly after their wedding, Rupert has passed. It was certainly sudden and unexpected. He'd been visiting his family home, The Bridge, when it happened.

Now Elsie, pregnant and grieving, is a widow. She's traveled from the city to The Bridge for the funeral and to mourn and wait out her pregnancy. It's thought that time at the manor will be a quiet respite that will give Elsie time to settle in and prepare for the birth of her child. But The Bridge offers anything but quiet respite. First there are the locals, who seem to fear The Bridge and anyone associated with the manor house. And there are the rumors of deaths even beyond that of her husband's. Then Elsie and her cousin discover a diary tucked away inside a locked room and an all too lifelike wooden figure that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself, the strange happenings in the house become too much to bear. Is Elsie losing her mind? Or are there forces at work that defy logical explanation?

The Silent Companions is a deliciously creepy and satisfying read.

The book begins at the end, in a way. Elsie is in a mental institution. Unable to speak and under suspicion of murder, she takes the reader back to her arrival at The Bridge. Eventually, we learn that by the time Elsie met Rupert Bainbridge, she had pretty much given up on marriage. And Rupert saved her from more than just spinsterhood. His inheritance was just what Elsie and her brother needed to keep the family business afloat.

In truth, to be wooed, wed, and widowed in such a short amount of time is a lot to take in, and Elsie arrives at The Bridge saddened by Rupert's death but determined to carry on. She's to be a mother, after all. Unfortunately she doesn't feel at home at The Bridge. She has secrets she'd prefer to keep from her new staff and family - Rupert's cousin, Elsie's new companion.

Her discomfort is clear to the reader from the start. And when they discover the diary, chapters begin alternating between Elsie - past and present - and The Bridge's most infamous mistress, Anne Bainbridge.

A gloomy manor house, unwelcoming locals, and a number of curious deaths... Purcell builds the atmosphere fabulously and the tension and mystery grow steadily until the big reveal at the end. The Silent Companion is super fun, bearing all the hallmarks of classic gothic literature. The perfect read for a rainy and dreary day!