Monday, August 21, 2017

World Tree Girl by Kerry Schafer

The second book in one of my favorite new series hit shelves earlier this month, yahoo!

Maureen Keslyn is no stranger to the weird and supernatural. She spent her career working for the FBI's top secret Unit, investigating just those things. But she's retired now, thanks to a disagreement that left the Unit ready to kill her to keep her secrets. The death of her old partner Phil left her in charge of Shadow Valley Manor, a retirement home with more than it's fair share of secrets, keeping her plenty busy. 

When a local man is found dead, with pictures of an unidentified girl Maureen and the local sheriff have taken to calling the World Tree Girl, they begin to fear that one of Shadow Valley Manor's worst may have gotten loose. The girl's body has gone missing, but not before a blogger revealed that all the blood in her body had turned into clear goo. The dead man, who coincidentally was just fired from the coroner's office that lost said body, appears to have been that blogger. And his own death appears to be somewhat suspicious as well. Could the Unit have gotten to him?

I love Maureen. I mentioned that in my review of the first entry in the series, Dead Before Dying. And this second picks up pretty much where that last one left off. So you do have to read them in order.

In addition to the dead body that Maureen and Jake are trying to track down, you know, to assure themselves that the whole blood turning to goo thing doesn't mean what they think it means (read Dead Before Dying), Shadow Valley Manor is having some issues as well. It seems the local spirits aren't crossing over the way they need to and they're ALL flocking to Shadow Valley Manor.

And then Phil's daughter arrives, claiming she's going to contest the will that left Maureen in charge of Shadow Valley Manor!

There are a lot of threads in World Tree Girl and I didn't feel that all of them came together quite as cleanly as they could have. A middle schooler catches wind of the happenings at Shadow Valley Manor, for example, and it kind of looked like she'd play more of a role in the story than she actually did and there are hints at something odd with Matt, the cook and undercover Unit agent (now double agent working with Maureen), just to name a couple.

But I enjoyed returning to Shadow Valley Manor and spending more time with Maureen. She really is my new favorite genre heroine! Plus, I've been in a massive reading slump and I'm really hoping that Maureen and her team might have pulled me out of it. I just hope some of those dangling threads are going to extend into the next entry where we'll get more explanation/resolution.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

New Releases 8/22/17

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Y Is For Yesterday by Sue Grafton

The Massacre of Mankind by Stephen Baxter

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

Everything We Lost by Valerie Geary

Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore

The History of Bees by Maja Lunde

The Sabateur by Andrew Gross

Stay With me by Ayobami Adebayo

Unraveling Oliver by Liz Nugent

The Sorbonne Affair by Mark Pryor

Sulphur Springs by William Kent Krueger

Shattered by Allison Brennan

The HEart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne

An Echo of Things to Come by James Islington

The Dire King by William Ritter

The Rattled Bones by S. M. Parker

The Arsonist by Stephanie Oakes

New on DVD:
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Pre Pub Book Buzz: I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon

There are a ton of literary "buzz" topics for me - you know, those things that when they appear in a book's description you just absolutely have to have them even though you have a gazillion other books about the same thing. And while I don't have a gazillion Anastasia books, it does qualify as one of those subjects I'll buy every time. So when I heard that Ariel Lawhon's new book was going to be about her, I immediately added it to my wishlist. (To be fair, Lawhon is an author a lot of authors I read read, so anything by her is likely to end up in my wishlist anyway.)

Here's a bit about I Was Anastasia from Goodreads:

Russia, July 17, 1918 Under direct orders from Vladimir Lenin, Bolshevik secret police force Anastasia Romanov, along with the entire imperial family, into a damp basement in Siberia where they face a merciless firing squad. None survive. At least that is what the executioners have always claimed.

Germany, February 17, 1920 A young woman bearing an uncanny resemblance to Anastasia Romanov is pulled shivering and senseless from a canal. Refusing to explain her presence in the freezing water or even acknowledge her rescuers, she is taken to the hospital where an examination reveals that her body is riddled with countless, horrific scars. When she finally does speak, this frightened, mysterious young woman claims to be the Russian Grand Duchess.

As rumors begin to circulate through European society that the youngest Romanov daughter has survived the massacre at Ekaterinburg, old enemies and new threats are awakened. The question of who this woman is and what actually happened to Anastasia creates a saga that spans fifty years and three continents. This thrilling page-turner is every bit as moving and momentous as it is harrowing and twisted.

I Was Anastasia isn't out until next February, but Lawhon's two previous releases The Wife, The Maid, and the Mistress and Flight of Dreams (about the Hindenburg) are both out in paperback. And if you've read those and are a fan of stories based on Anastasia, I recommend checking out Ariana Franklin's City of Shadows in the meantime. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Girl With Kaleidoscope Eyes by David Handler

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for David Handler's latest, The Girl With Kaleidoscope Eyes.

Stewart Hoag has made a name for himself as a writer (with his one acclaimed novel) and highly sought after ghostwriter (with three #1 bestsellers). His recent prospects haven't quite been up his alley (a Barney memoir, no thanks!), but now his agent has something big: years ago, critically acclaimed writer Richard Aintree disappeared. The widower left behind two orphaned daughters, one of whom Hoagy himself has a connection to. The other daughter, a Martha Stewart-esque brand in her own right, has been experiencing a bit of a downturn in her career and so, when a letter supposedly from her long lost dad arrives requesting that she, his old agent, and Hoagy get involved in a project together, curiosity and money win out. 

Hoagy and his canine companion, Lulu, travel to LA to stay with Monette Aintree as they wait for daddy dearest to reveal himself, and the story he wants told. Then Hoagy's long lost love - Monette's estranged sister, Reggie, shows up with a letter of her own. Not that Hoagy minds, the more the merrier plus it seems the perfect excuse for a party in Monette's eyes. Until said fĂȘte turns into a fiasco with Monette herself claiming responsibility for murder. But something smells, and it isn't just Lulu's breath. Now Hoagy has to put his investigative skills to use to find out what's really going on. 

The Girl With the Kaleidoscope Eyes marks a two decades in the making return to the Stewart Hoag series, apparently. The series debuted in 1988 with The Man Who Died Laughing and, until now, ended in 1997 with The Man Who Loved Women Too Much. And I wasn't familiar with any of them. At all. So I was a little worried. But apparently this is one of Harlan Coben's favorite series, which was enough for me to want to give it a shot.

And it worked fine. Consider it a series reboot - a starting place for newbies but a return to a long beloved series for fans as well.

And rather than bring the character and series forward to today, it's set in the 90s!

Hoagy (as he likes to be called) has a penchant for licorice ice cream and a knack for celebrity secrets. The latter, combined with his writing chops, makes him perfect as a celebrity ghostwriter (you know, the person who really pens those celebrity memoirs even though they don't get credit). But apparently he also has a knack for getting involved in murder investigations.

I enjoyed Handler's lighter tone and humorous style. Plus, these are mysteries about books! And I am a sucker for books about the industry. Though to be honest, there's not a whole lot of writing that goes on in this one - mostly they're hanging out waiting for Richard Raintree (or the person pretending to be him) to be revealed. But there's plenty of other things going on - Monette's in the middle of a nasty separation that, thanks to her celebrity status, is playing out very publicly. And Hoagy does consider that the sudden appearance of her "father" could be a publicity stunt. But he's threatened the very day he arrives in town, and apparently isn't one to back down from a fight. So hoax or no, he's in it to the end.

The Girl With Kaleidoscope Eyes is fun and light. If you enjoy amateur sleuths, books about books, canine buddy reads, and/or celebrity gossip scandals, I'd absolutely recommend giving this one a try!

There aren't really many references to Hoagy's past adventures, which again means that it's easy to slip into this ninth in the series even without any former knowledge of its predecessors. But if you do want to start from the beginning, the series has been kept in print via ebook! Here's the full list:

The Man Who Died Laughing
The Man Who Lived By Night
The Man Who Would be F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Woman Who Fell From Grace
The Boy Who Never Grew Up
The Man Who Cancelled Himself
The Girl Who Ran Off With Daddy
The Man Who Loved Women to Death
The Girl With Kaleidoscope Eyes

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

For more on David Handler you can visit his website here. You can also like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Monday, August 14, 2017

Bad Girl Gone by Temple Mathews - Excerpt

Oh, happy Monday, readers! Today I've got a fabulous excerpt for you as part of the blog tour for Temple Mathews latest, Bad Girl Gone. Before I dive into that, however, here's a bit about the book from Goodreads to set the scene:

Sixteen year-old Echo Stone awakens in a cold sweat in a dark room, having no idea where she is or how she got there. But she soon finds out she's in Middle House, an orphanage filled with mysteriously troubled kids.

There's just one problem: she's not an orphan. Her parents are very much alive.

She explains this to everyone, but no one will listen. After befriending a sympathetic (and handsome) boy, Echo is able to escape Middle House and rush home, only to discover it sealed off by crime scene tape and covered in the evidence of a terrible and violent crime. As Echo grapples with this world-shattering information, she spots her parents driving by and rushes to flag them down. Standing in the middle of street, waving her arms to get their attention, her parents' car drives right through her.

She was right. Her parents are alive but she's not.

She's a ghost, just like all the other denizens of Middle House. Desperate to somehow get her life back and reconnect with her still-alive boyfriend, Echo embarks on a quest to solve her own murder. As the list of suspects grows, the quest evolves into a journey of self-discovery in which she learns she wasn't quite the girl she thought she was. In a twist of fate, she's presented with one last chance to reclaim her life and must make a decision which will either haunt her or bless her forever.

If you're still not quite convinced that your bookshelves are begging for a copy of this one, here's a taste to whet your appetite:

Bad Girl Gone
by Temple Mathews


When I tried to remember exactly how I came to be lying in the cold black room, my mind couldn’t focus.

I could feel myself slowly climbing upward, clawing my way out of the clutches of a nightmare. This was usually a good feeling, because you knew you were just dreaming, and the nightmare was over. Except this time it wasn’t. My hands felt clammy. I gripped the sheets until I knew my knuckles must be white. Help me, I thought. Somebody please help me.

I had no idea where I was, and for a terrifying second I couldn’t even remember who I was. But then I remembered my name. Echo. Echo Stone. My real name is Eileen. When I was a toddler, I waddled around repeating everything my parents said and they called me “Echo,” and it just stuck.

Remembering my name and how I got it kick-started my brain. I knew who I was. I remembered that I was sixteen years old and lived in Kirkland, Washington, with my mom and dad. It was all coming back to me. Mom was a dentist and Dad taught middle school English. Good, I could remember parts of my life. But I was still in a dark, cold room and had no idea how I got there. I held back a scream, my chest tightening. Don’t lose it, Echo, keep it together, I told myself. Calm down, think good thoughts.

I pictured Andy, my boyfriend. Six feet tall, broad shoul- ders, blue eyes, and long golden-brown hair. He loved to feed me cookie bites and called me his rabbit. I called him Wolfie. Sometimes he got the hiccups for no reason at all and usually laughed them away. Thinking of Andy momentarily made me feel warm inside, even though the room was freezing.

Where was I? I was shivering and yet also bathed in sweat, my skin slick with it. I clutched for my trusty Saint Christo- pher necklace. But it wasn’t there. Mom gave it to me to protect me when I traveled. Would it protect me now? I would never have lost it. The chain must have broken. And then I had an ugly thought. What if someone had ripped it from my neck? I shuddered. Where are you, Andy? I need you!

I opened my eyes as wide as I could. It was pitch black. My pounding heart told me, This isn’t some nightmare—it’s real. I hugged myself and breathed deeply, trying to calm my nerves. My shoulders were tight. I rubbed the sheets beneath me. The ones at home in my bed were soft. These were stiff and coarse. I was somewhere completely and painfully foreign. In my head I was talking to myself in a rapid voice, my fear voice: What is this?—what is this?—what is this?

Someone nearby was crying. I had a knot in my stomach and my throat hurt, like I’d screamed for hours. My head hurt, too, and I guessed I must have fallen, or maybe something heavy fell on me. I explored my scalp, gently at first, then more bravely, moving my fingers, searching for a lump. I found nothing . . . no lump, no holes. My skull was intact, though my long auburn hair felt tangled and greasy. I inhaled through my nose, search- ing for familiar scents. Mom’s cinnamon rolls, Dad’s after- shave. But nothing smelled even vaguely familiar, and the odors that did find my nose were horrible. Smoke. Vinegar. Sulfur.

I reached for my bedside lamp—but my fingers touched something damp and stringy. Oh god. The knot in my stomach tightened and I yanked my hand back. I willed my eyes to ad- just to the dark, but as I blinked, strange pulsing figures leapt out at me. It must have been my mind playing tricks. Right?

I took five good, long breaths, sucking in through my nose and exhaling through my pursed lips, just like my grandma Tilly taught me years ago. But five breaths weren’t enough. So I took ten, and finally my heart rate slowed from a galloping panic to a steady, cautious thudding. Soon I was able to distin- guish shapes. Was that a girl in a bed next to mine? Her hair was impossibly thick and long, spilling down her back. Her sweaty hair. That’s what I must have reached out and touched. My heart returned to its punishing rhythm, a fist clenching and unclenching in my chest. The nearby crying stopped. But then it was replaced by something worse, a ripping sound, like bone being cut by a rusty saw. And then a gurgling . . . followed by a low, feral growling noise. Faraway cackling laughter. What the hell was going on?

I was terrified and breathing so loud I was afraid I’d wake up the sleeping girl. Something told me I should lie still and keep my mouth shut. Stupidly, I ignored it. My voice was raspy, my throat aching . . .

“Mom? Dad?” Nothing. “ANDY?”

The words sounded weak in the stony silence that followed. My ears strained for the comforting sound of my parents’ familiar footsteps—but I was met with more cruel noises drift- ing through the blackness.

I heard a faraway clock ticking and an odd whimpering, and then a cough. But it wasn’t Mom’s or Dad’s cough; it was the cough of a child—a girl, I think. I desperately wanted this to be a nightmare. So I closed my eyes and tried to float back to sleep. But the terrifying sounds continued: the soft, almost melodic crying; the rhythmic, persistent coughing; the howls and metal- lic noises; the rushing water. I couldn’t take it. I opened my eyes again.


An echo from the darkness. Distant. Haunting. Mocking.

“Daddy? Daddy? Daddy?”

I sensed something under my bed. The hair on my neck prickled. I imagined dangling my fingers over the side of the mattress, envisioned them being latched onto, bitten by some creature that would drag me down into its fetid pit. I held my breath and listened. There it was. Someone, or something, was breathing beneath me.

I slid to the edge of the bed and then slowly lowered my head, my irises widening. I peered into the shadows—and saw a pair of feral eyes peering back at me. Acid panic flooded my veins as I jerked back, thinking, Please don’t kill me. If you touch me, my boyfriend will hunt you down and beat the living shit out of you!

I heard a rustling sound, then footsteps. I saw the creature leap out from under my bed. Its eyes found me, then it scam- pered out of the room, on two legs I think, a flash of white. It looked human, but it could have been something else. What- ever it was, thank god it was running from me. Or wait! Maybe it was going to gather more of its kind and they’d come back for me in a pack. My skin crawled. Get out!

I couldn’t stay in this room. I had to get up and move. My bare feet hit the cold, wood plank floor. I took tentative steps into the shadows. A floorboard creaked beneath my feet and I froze. My eyes had adjusted to the darkness and I could make out shapes. Up ahead I saw a shallow pool of light. I moved toward it.

I walked slowly, taking tentative steps, my eyes darting back and forth. The hallway felt like a perfect place for an ambush, so I was alert, my muscles taut.

I passed a closed door on my right, another on my left. I caught a scent of smoke. I heard a splashing sound, as if some- one was taking a bath right above my head. I kept my gaze fixed on the pool of light that was spilling out from under a large door at the end of the hallway. As I drew closer, I could see that the door was built from thick oak planks and looked like it weighed a thousand pounds. On it hung a thick brass ring. On my right was a tall, old grandfather clock, ticking away like a metronome but with no hands to tell time with. It made me afraid and angry. What was I doing in a place with a clock with no hands?

I stepped closer to the thick door. My stomach tightened in fear. Something was terribly wrong. I was lost, adrift, not only in the wrong place, but I felt as though somehow I was the wrong me. I was jolted by a terrible thought. What if I never saw Andy again?

I raised my hand to grasp the knocker but stopped. Because I felt someone behind me.

“I wouldn’t do that if I was you,” said a voice, barely above a whisper.

I turned and saw a slight boy, thin as a reed with long, snowy hair, eating a red candy apple. The hair on the nape of my neck rose.

“Wow. You’re a pretty one,” he said.

I might have blushed. I’d never thought of myself as pretty. My nose is crooked, and ever since someone told me my eyes were too far apart, I’ve been convinced of it.

“Want a bite?” he asked, holding out the apple. 

Bad Girl Gone hit shelves last week and is available wherever books are sold!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

New Releases 8/15/17

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Doll Funeral by Kate Hamer

The Daughters of Ireland by Santa Montefiore

How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry

A Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena

Sleeping in the Ground by Peter Robinson

A Promise to Kill by Erik Storey

Dog Dish of Doom by E. J. Copperman

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin

The Store by James Patterson & Richard DiLalla

I Know a Secret by Tess Gerritsen

Rituals by Kelley Armstrong

The Court of Broken Knives by Anna Smith Spark

The Hawkweed Legacy by Irene Brignull

A Map for Wrecked Girls by Jessica Taylor

New on DVD:
Alien Covenant
Everything, Everything

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Quiet Child by John Burley

Hi, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for John Burley's latest, The Quiet Child.

Cottonwood, California is a small town. The kind of town too small for its own police force, where the sheriff and the firemen are volunteer. The kind of town where everyone knows everyone's name and everyone's stories. 

Kate McCray has always called Cottonwood home, even before she was a McCray. So of course everyone knows Kate and her husband, Michael. And when Kate becomes sick, everyone sympathizes. But Kate and Michael have two sons, Sean and Danny. And Danny doesn't speak. Not only that, but ever since Danny was born, people in Cottonwood have been getting sick. And small town gossip says it's something to do with Danny. So when Danny and Sean are kidnapped, some people think maybe it's for the best that Danny is gone. 

In spite of all of that, Sheriff Jim Kent is determined to find the boys. Even when almost a week has gone by without any clue as to their whereabouts, he isn't ready to give up. It's not until Michael takes off on his own, though, that Jim gets his first big lead. 

The Quiet Child makes for a great latest from Burley.

First, there are the twists I've come to expect from one of his books. And yes, there are twists here. And even though I had them figured, it actually didn't make the book any less gripping.

Second, there's the setting. Not only is this set in a tiny town where everyone knows everyone, it's set in the 1950s. Which makes tracking down two missing boys a different sort of animal than today. And I really appreciated the attention to detail in that regard. There's a piece where Kent and the two detectives assigned to the case end up having to trace a phone call that really brings this home for the reader.

Finally, though, this is a story about family. It's about how far you'd go to protect the people you love. Michael is our predominant narrator here and he's struggling. He's struggling as a father and as a husband. His wife is dying, his youngest son doesn't speak, and he knows all too well what the townspeople say about the boy. As the story builds, it becomes clear just why people have attached this superstition to the boy who, by all accounts (and by the pieces we get from his POV), is a good kid. And yet, as the reader you have to wonder if there's merit to the belief that he could be causing the town so much pain. And why.

Not that Burley gives us a why in the end. Which is ok too, because it means this is one that sticks with you!

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

For more on John Burley and his work you can visit his website here. You can also like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble