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Friday, August 30, 2013

Alex by Pierre Lemaitre

How happy am I that Quercus has begun releasing titles in the States? Pretty freaking happy!

Alex by Pierre Lemaitre is part of Quercus's Maclehose Press imprint - translated lit and crime fiction - and is one of their first titles to hit shelves here. Though it's actually the second book in the Verhoeven trilogy, Alex is the first of Lemaitre's works to be translated into English and it earned Lemaitre the CWA International Dagger award this year.

A witness reports a kidnapping and Commandant Camille Verhoeven is assigned the case. Verhoeven is a last resort - everyone knows that he won't take kidnappings since the tragic fate of his own wife - but the Divisionnaire has made it clear that there is no one else. The witness saw a man with a white, unmarked van punch and kick a young woman before taking off with her in the vehicle. Unfortunately the woman's description doesn't match anyone who's been reported missing so the only hope is identifying the man with the van. With such a common vehicle, Verhoeven and his team have their work cut out for them and time is running out for the victim.  

This is one of those books that starts as one thing and ends up something completely different. It's thriller through and through but by part two Lemaitre has turned the whole thing on its head! The twist, something I do not want to give away in the least bit, elevates Alex well beyond my wildest expectations.

The narrative alternates between Alex and Verhoeven, both of whom are interesting characters in their own very different ways. Verhoeven, as the lead investigator, is 4'11'' and a widower whose own wife was kidnapped and killed while eight months pregnant. He's been avoiding his team and - as mentioned above - certain cases ever since, basically surviving but not really living. Alex's kidnapping forces him no only to take on a kidnapping but to once again reunite with his old team as well. And Alex, well, let's just say that the reader learns as much about her as the police do as the story plays out.

Alex did start off a bit clunky in my opinion. Rest assured, the narrative begins to smooth out a bit around the fifty page mark and really hit its stride (for me) just before breaking into part two. The story moves along quickly - this was another insomnia read for me and I'd zipped through that much of the book in a relatively short time.

While Alex seems to be drawing comparison to Stieg Larsson's Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, I'd actually go with Jussi Adler-Olsen's Department Q series instead. Verhoeven is a bit like Morck in terms of temperament, never mind the fact that both Alex and The Keeper of Lost Causes both deal with kidnapping cases. Like Keeper (and even Girl), I should warn you that Alex is quite graphic and dark. If you're more of a cozy kind of reader this will not be your cup of tea. If, however, you include both Larsson and Adler-Olsen in your best of thriller authors list, then I'd highly suggest adding Alex to your must-read list!

Alex is translated from French by Frank Wynne who was short-listed for the French-American Foundations 2012 Translation Prize. Wynne is apparently working on another Quercus/Maclehose title as well, Loser's Corner by Antonin Varenne.

Alex is out now in the UK and hits shelves here on September 3.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Dirty Streets of Heaven by Tad Williams

Hi, everyone! With the release of Happy Hour in Hell (the second Bobby Dollar book) coming up, DAW has put together a mass market tour for Tad Williams's The Dirty Streets of Heaven.

Bobby Dollar - Doloriel - is an angel. An advocate to be exact. When a person dies, Bobby and his fellow heavenly cohorts face off against those from the other side to see where the person's soul will end up. It's a job and Bobby Dollar does it well. But things start to go haywire when one of Bobby's souls goes missing. Then the advocate from hell is dismembered and murdered, an unusual occurrence with their kind. Thing is, the case that started it all wasn't even supposed to go to Bobby in the first place. Now he's in hot water and has had to testify to both his boss and other superiors about the missing soul and the murder (which he wasn't anywhere near when it took place). And that's just for starters.

Williams has been a big name in fantasy for a long time but this happens to be my introduction to his work. It's also apparently his first foray into urban fantasy - a pretty successful foray in my opinion.

The Dirty Streets of Heaven combines elements of fantasy and mystery all wrapped up in a heaven vs hell fighting for souls package. But Bobby and the other angels aren't namby pamby bible thumpers. They're hard drinkers, cuss like sailors, and even sleep around a bit experts at their jobs. Their backstory is one that I find particularly intriguing and one that Williams provides via Bobby's narration - the prose playing out as a story being told by Dollar himself, allowing for both character development and world building all at once and still leaving plenty of room for the plot. It's a device I particularly enjoy with characters like Bobby Dollar since he's snarky and a bit grouchy as well as being smart and willing to do whatever it takes to get the information he needs. (His character is definitely written in the spirit of a noir-esque PI.)

Since 1988 Williams has penned three adult fantasy series (Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn; Otherland; Shadowmarch), co-authored two installments in the Ordinary Farm YA series with his wife, has a number of stand alones, collections, and comics to his name, and now the Bobby Dollar series as well. (In other words he's a busy, busy guy!)

The Dirty Streets of Heaven is the kind of cross genre book that will no doubt have a lot of crossover appeal for fantasy and urban fantasy fans, longtime Williams followers, and mystery fans open to a bit of supernatural in their mystery mix (me, me, me!).

Rating: 5/5

Early Decision by Lacy Crawford

Morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Lacy Crawford's Early Decision.

In the tough world of college applications and admissions, parents know exactly who to turn to. Anne is an expert at helping high schoolers get into their school of choice. She tutors them on their essays and holds their hands (and their parents'!) throughout every step of the college application process. Her name is passed down from family to family as they all fight to get a top spot for their students at the nation's most sought after campuses. But how does one woman maintain sanity in the midst of so much craziness?!

This kind of college admissions process is one that is admittedly completely foreign to me. I stayed in state for school. I took the ACT, tested out of some classes, and had a GPA high enough to get me into my college of choice with no effort (NOT an Ivy or any other school mentioned in Early Decision). It's not that it wasn't an accomplishment, and frankly I loved my school and my experience there, it's that schools like the ones mentioned here weren't even on my radar for various reasons. This insane idea of cutthroat admissions and spending your senior year in high school pulling out your hair over getting into the college of your choice is something I just didn't experience. So I relied on Crawford to share that experience with me.

Early Decision was ok but in truth I wanted to love it and didn't. After seeing Admission (based on the book by Jean Hanff Korelitz) I fell immediately in love with the idea of Crawford's book. Perhaps that wasn't fair because unfortunately the characters and the story in Early Decision just didn't hit the spot for me.

Anne's tale had its moments but every time I felt like I connected with her, the story would go off on what seemed like a random wordy tangent making me lose all grasp of what was going on. The students' essays had the same effect. The momentum of the book stalled each time an essay or written assignment from one of Anne's clients popped up. It was an interesting concept but one that just didn't work for me as a reader.

Rating: 3.5/5

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

For more on Lacy Crawford you can visit her website here. You can also follow her on Twitter.




Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Darwin Elevator by Jason M. Hough + a Giveaway

Good morning, readers! Today I'm on the TLC blog tour for Jason M. Hough's debut, The Darwin Elevator, the first book in the Dire Earth Cycle!

I have to go with the publisher synopsis here - I read much of The Darwin Elevator through a fun headache, a cop-out I know but it's made it a bit hard to put together my thoughts on the post :(

Here's the synopsis from Goodreads:

In the mid-23rd century, Darwin, Australia, stands as the last human city on Earth. The world has succumbed to an alien plague, with most of the population transformed into mindless, savage creatures. The planet’s refugees flock to Darwin, where a space elevator—created by the architects of this apocalypse, the Builders—emits a plague-suppressing aura.

Skyler Luiken has a rare immunity to the plague. Backed by an international crew of fellow “immunes,” he leads missions into the dangerous wasteland beyond the aura’s edge to find the resources Darwin needs to stave off collapse. But when the Elevator starts to malfunction, Skyler is tapped—along with the brilliant scientist, Dr. Tania Sharma—to solve the mystery of the failing alien technology and save the ragged remnants of humanity.

So, um, zombies! And aliens! There are both zombies and aliens in this post apocalyptic book! I tell you, it had all the elements necessary to make me happy!

I loved everything here except the very beginning. The first page is the kind that does suck you in, no doubt, but your sucked into a story in progress. By page two with the mention of the climbers, I was a little confused (might have been the headache mentioned above) but I only mean to point out that the explanation of the world and its situation comes a bit further into the story. Any confusion didn't last long and frankly the premise and the way the story was playing out was so cool that I just didn't care. The payoff comes soon enough, too, so if any of you have the same issue at the start I do urge you to stick it out. I promise it doesn't take long.

If you're in the mood for an action packed, science fiction adventure (maybe you missed all the fun at the box office this summer or your still craving more like me) Hough should be added to your TBR immediately. This is a summer blockbuster in book form!

This is the first in a trilogy. Book two, The Exodus Towers, just hit shelves yesterday, and the third book, The Plague Forge, will be out September 24.

To see more stops on the touch, visit the official TLC tour page here.

For more on Jason and the Dire Earth Cycle check out his website here. You can also like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter and Goodreads.

Now for the giveaway! One lucky reader will win a copy of The Darwin Elevator. All you have to do to enter is fill out the rafflecopter below before September 9. US/Canada only and no PO Boxes please.


a Rafflecopter giveaway


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Don't Look Now by Michelle Gagnon

Happy book birthday to Michelle Gagnon! Don't Look Now, the follow up to last year's Don't Turn Around, is out on shelves today! If you've not yet read Don't Turn Around, you'll want to skip this post for possible spoilers. No worries, though, I've posted a review of the first Persefone book here :)

Don't Look Now picks up shortly after the end of Don't Turn Around. Noa now leads an army of teens in an attempt to break down the company behind Project Persephone. With Peter's help, they've hacked the company's system and have begun infiltrating their labs. With each new raid they've managed to save more and more teens from the fate Pike & Dolan has in store for them. And as word on the street spreads, targets for the project are becoming scarce. For Noa and the others, this is progress but they won't stop until the project ends.

Michelle Gagnon's Persefone series is an absolute must read for any action junkie! From the very first pages, this series is explosively intense and exciting. This second of the series matches pace with the series debut, Dont' Turn Around, drawing readers in with a smart plot that keeps you guessing and characters you can really root for.

I love how the action progresses in the series so far. There is so far very little explanation about PEMA, Pike & Dolan, and Project Persephone, though we do know the ultimate goal seems to be a cure for PEMA, this mysterious illness that affects teens exclusively. I'll be looking forward to seeing how that continues to play out in the final installment of the trilogy.

Rating: 4/5

Monday, August 26, 2013

Don't Turn Around by Michelle Gagnon

Noa wakes up in a strange room wearing a hospital gown and sporting bandages. She has no idea how she ended up there, but herevery instinct screams "RUN!" And run she does. She is immediately set upon by men in scrubs and security uniforms, but she manages to outsmart them all and escape. Unfortunately, she's lost everything - id, credit cards, shoes! - and is certain that whoever these people are, they'll have her home under watch. Noa is smart, though, and she's got skills that will come in handy - she's a hard core talented hacker and part of a network called /ALLIANCE/.

Meanwhile, the network's creator has his own problems: a quick perusal of his father's computer ends with heavies beating down his door and stealing his computer. Scared and angry, Peter sets /ALLIANCE/ to the task of finding out more about the people who broke in. His pick for the job: Noa. Desperate for funds, Noa accepts but soon discovers that Peter's new foes are connected to the people who kidnapped her. The more she learns, the deeper both she and Peter are thrust into a conspiracy with grave and unsettling ramifications.

This first in Michelle Gagnon's Persefone series also marked her debut in the YA scene. As a fan of her Kelly Jones series, I had pretty high expectations for Persefone and Gagnon has gone above and beyond that! Don't Turn Around is a great blend of mystery, sci fi, medical thriller, and tons of action. The teens are smart (the adults... not so much) and Gagnon holds back just enough of the actual story behind PEMA and Project Persephone to keep the reader thoroughly intrigued.

The series actually kicked off with a little e short called "No Escape," which set the tone brilliantly for the series. In the story, we're introduced to a teen who will soon become a victim of Project Persephone. (He even gets a brief mention in Don't Turn Around.) The short also includes a preview of Don't Turn Around, in case I've not convinced you yet, and can be downloaded here for free. It's a pretty explosive beginning, so you should be prepared to track down a copy of the full book.

Gagnon's follow up, Don't Look Now, hits shelves tomorrow.

Rating: 4/5

Save Yourself by Kelly Braffet

Good morning, readers, and happy Monday! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Kelly Braffet's Save Yourself.

Layla and Verna grew up under their minister father's thumb. Their parents want what's best for them, but as the girls both grow older it becomes harder and harder to live the lives they've been raised to live. Just a year ago, poster child Layla completely changed. She dyed her hair and fell in with a new crowd, coincidentally around the time her family fronted a protest against one of the school's most popular teachers. Now it's Verna's turn. As a new student at the local high school, she quickly learns that outside her father's prayer circle her family is not at all well liked, something Patrick Cusimano can sympathize with. 

Patrick's father is serving time after killing a young boy in a hit and run. Patrick was the one who turned him in, but none of that matters. Patrick and his brother now live in the tarnished shadow cast by their father's actions. The two have come under scrutiny and even threat as a result, but Patrick is the one who still feels guilty. His path collides with Layla's as both families begin a terrible downward spiral.

I'm kind of amazed with this book. First, every character in here is messed up. The whole story is messed up! In fact, it starts messed up and it just snowballs from there. From the outset, there's this impending sense of doom - you don't know when it's coming or how it's coming, but you know that everyone in this book is destined for something terrible!

Braffet builds this story with the pacing and tension of a thriller. I was sucked in and, in spite of the fact that I knew nothing good would come of anyone's actions (or maybe because of it), I could not put the book down. In fact, I wished I could step into the pages and give each of the characters a good shake! I can only sum it up by saying that Save Yourself was frustrating and it was utterly gripping.

It was also a little scary. I think Braffet so perfectly illustrates how easy it is for anyone to fall. How tenuous a grip we all have. Everyone has a breaking point and this book begins with each character nearing or having just reached theirs. They each have a chance to redeem themselves and make things right, but the tension comes in whether they will take that opportunity or not. And as frustrated as I was, I truly ached for these characters.

Rating: 4/5

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

For more on Kelly Braffet and her work, visit her website at www.kellybraffet.com. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.


Sunday, August 25, 2013

New Releases 8/27/13

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

How The Light Gets In by Louise Penny

The Whole Enchilada by Diane Mott Davidson

Joe Victim by Paul Cleave

Crux by Ramez Naam

The Affairs of Others by Amy Grace Lloyd

Hollow Bones by C.J. Lyons

Equilibrium by Lorrie Thomson

The First Affair by Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus

The Exodus Towers by Jason M. Hough

Blind Justice by Anne Parry (William Monk series)

The Gallery of Vanished Husbands by Natasha Solomons

Bait by J. Kent Messum

In Falling Snow by Mary-Rose MacColl

419 by Will Ferguson

Billy Moon by Douglas Lain

The Returned by Jason Mott

Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honor of Jack Vance ed by George R. R. Martin & Gardner Dozois

A Question of Honor by Charles Todd (a Bess Crawford mystery)

Bones of the Lost by Kathy Reichs

Don't Look Now by Michelle Gagnon

The Bitter Kingdom by Raoe Carson

The Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

The Dark Between by Sonia Gensler

Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter

Children of Fire by Drew Karpyshyn

Descendant: A Starling Novel by Lesley Livingston

Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block

The Fall of Five by Pittacus Lore

New on DVD:
The Great Gatsby
Pain & Gain
Walking Dead season 3

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
Prep School Confidential by Kara Taylor
Three by Jay Posey

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Pre Pub Book Buzz: The Secret Daughter of the Tsar by Jennifer Laam

Hi, all! For today's Pre Pub post, I have a special treat! This October, Jennifer Laam makes her debut with The Secret Daughter of the Tsar. Here's a bit about the book from the publisher:

In her riveting debut novel, The Secret Daughter of the Tsar, Jennifer Laam seamlessly braids together the stories of three women: Veronica, Lena, and Charlotte. Veronica is an aspiring historian living in present-day Los Angeles when she meets a mysterious man who may be heir to the Russian throne. As she sets about investigating the legitimacy of his claim through a winding path of romance and deception, the ghosts of her own past begin to haunt her. Lena, a servant in the imperial Russian court of 1902, is approached by the desperate Empress Alexandra. After conceiving four daughters, the Empress is determined to sire a son and believes Lena can help her. Once elevated to the Romanov’s treacherous inner circle, Lena finds herself under the watchful eye of the meddling Dowager Empress Marie. Charlotte, a former ballerina living in World War II occupied Paris, receives a surprise visit from a German officer. Determined to protect her son from the Nazis, Charlotte escapes the city, but not before learning that the officer’s interest in her stems from his longstanding obsession with the fate of the Russian monarchy. Then as Veronica's passion intensifies, and her search for the true heir to the throne takes a dangerous turn, the reader learns just how these three vastly different women are connected.

Russia's monarchy and their horrible end has interested me for a very long time so when I first heard about Laam's upcoming release I immediately added it to my wish list. And I know I'm not alone in my fascination with the Romanov family and their tragic story. The book isn't due out for release until October 22, but I have an excerpt for you courtesy of the publisher, just to whet your appetite until the book hits shelves.

PROLOGUE 

Hvidore Estate, Copenhagen 

October 1927 

The clanging of the old woman’s summoning bell echoed across the kitchen. Annika raised her voice higher with the other girls to drown out the sound. She wanted to hear the latest gossip free from interruption. 

The laughter soon gave way to intermittent giggles and then ceased altogether. A moon-faced sous chef regarded her with a sly smile, as though Annika’s every move was destined for failure. Annika stuffed another bite of herring in her mouth and let the greasy skin slide across her tongue. The glacial stares sank her spirit like a stone. If Annika proved derelict in her duties, she’d be released without pay. Someone else would inherit the unenviable task of gratifying Marie Romanov’s every last whim. She passed a linen napkin over her lips and excused herself. 

Upstairs, Annika found Marie perched in her favorite flowered armchair. Despite the frigid autumn chill, the exiled dowager empress had ordered her chair moved from its place in the sun to a less conspicuous corner of the room. Annika suspected Marie didn’t want the young visitor to count her wrinkles in the fading light. 

The visitor was bent over a tarnished silver samovar now, pressing the wolf’s head-shaped spout to refresh Marie’s tea. “Nicholas and Alexandra encouraged your granddaughters to pursue sports, did they not?” He spoke impeccable Danish, but his thick German accent struck each consonant like a mallet. “I understand that even at the end, while the royal family was held captive in Siberia…” When he spotted Annika at the door, he hesitated mid-pour and forced a tight smile. 

“There you are,” Marie snapped. “What took so long?” She drew her ratty ermine stole closer around her neck and made a flicking motion with two fingers. “Show Herr Krause to the door. His audience with me has quite come to a close.” 

Annika lowered herself into one of the quick curtsies that sufficiently pleased Marie without making her calf muscles ache terribly. The German visitor scowled at her and Annika responded with a small shrug. Despite his fine-looking features, she found nothing appealing about this grim young man. 

Herr Krause turned the crushing weight of his attention back to Marie. “Your highness, I can’t leave yet. You haven’t finished telling me of your family’s holidays along the Baltic Coast, before the troubles began.” 

Underneath her thick layer of facial powder, Marie’s expression softened. She caressed the gilt edges of the leather album on her lap. Her gaze flashed over a discolored photograph of her four granddaughters standing in a row, shortest to tallest, hands clasped together. The girls wore identical white cotton dresses and giant sunhats with long ribbons. Their heads were tilted coyly to the side, flirting with the camera, untroubled by any hint of the difficulties to come. 

“Nicky and Alix are excessively fond of tennis.” Marie reached for the delicate porcelain cup perched underneath the samovar. Herr Krause pressed the hot water spout once more. The tea emitted a fragrant aroma of cloves and cinnamon. “They have taught the older girls to play and lament Grand Duchess Tatiana’s weak serve.” 

“I understand your son Tsar Nicholas was an avid athlete,” Herr Krause said. “And even in his final days sought comfort in his daily walks and calisthenics.” 

Marie snatched her cup back. Boiling water splashed Herr Krause’s hand. He yelped and fell back into a chair. Annika found Marie’s speed astonishing, given her age. Then again the dowager empress always greeted reality with nasty swipes, like a bear disturbed during winter hibernation. “See him to the door,” Marie said crisply. 

Herr Krause snatched a linen napkin from atop Marie’s china cabinet and pressed it to his hand. His slender backside melded into the faded upholstery of the guest chair until he appeared intractable. “I don’t understand.” 

“The tsar has not suffered through his last days yet.” Marie’s husky voice rose in pitch. The thin blue veins in her neck strained against her papery skin. Annika shifted her weight and prepared to stand silently for a quarter of an hour at least, while Marie delved into another bewildering account of how the tsar and his family might have escaped the Bolshevik firing squad to live in hiding in Paris or San Francisco or the Siberian wastelands. Annika had heard a hundred scenarios, each more outlandish than the last. 

This evening, however, Marie merely patted the fringed bangs cut high on her forehead. “We will rescue Nicky, Alix, and the children. We will find my missing granddaughter.” Her voice cracked and dropped an octave. “Alix will forgive me then.” 

Herr Krause extended his hand toward Marie. She shot him a withering look and he quickly dropped his hand back into his lap. “Forgive you for what?” 

Marie pursed her lips and leaned against the window sill. She drew the silken curtains back and stared at the gravel beach outside. Marie’s sorrowful, searching gaze once again reminded Annika of the precarious nature of the old woman’s circumstances. Hvidore belonged to Marie, yet since the Russian Revolution she had lived here only at the pleasure of her nephew, King Christian of Denmark. 

“You are fatigued. I have stayed too long.” Herr Krause tossed his soiled napkin back on the cabinet, rose to his feet, and started across the room. He stopped abruptly at the door, bony knuckles splayed on the loose knob. 

“Don’t abandon hope, dowager empress. Remain steadfast and true.” Herr Krause drew back his right leg and placed his left palm over his heart. A welt blistered beet red on the back of his hand. “We will restore your family’s throne. I promise you that.” He bowed deeply in Marie’s direction, and then followed Annika out to the hall. 

Most visitors to Hvidore couldn’t keep their gaze from wandering to the domed ceiling, the statuary lining the walls, or the silvery crests of Baltic waves visible from the high windows. This opulence seemed misplaced in the otherwise sensible residence, like the furs and pearls Marie wore with her practical house dress and sturdy black shoes. Yet Herr Krause’s gaze remained fixed on each step before him. He removed a handkerchief from his jacket pocket and wrapped it around the welt on his hand. “Does the dowager empress not understand what happened to the tsar’s family?” 

“The poor creature lost everyone in the Revolution.” Annika trailed her fingers along the wrought iron railing as she led him down the central staircase. “She won’t speak of them in the past tense and refuses to indulge those who do so.” 

Herr Krause winced. “Should I return and apologize?” 

“I doubt it will do any good. It looks like she’s lost to the world for the evening.” 

He tilted his head to the side. “Did you understand what she said about a missing granddaughter?”

Annika suppressed a shiver. She didn’t care for this topic. On the other hand, once Herr Krause left, she would spend the rest of the night in Marie’s room with a needle and colored thread, embroidering flowers on dish towels while the old woman rambled on about the old country and the old ways. “She mentioned a missing granddaughter before. Some of the girls think she’s talking about Anna Anderson.” 

He gave an abrupt laugh. Annika didn’t care for the harsh sound of it. “The lunatic who claims she’s Grand Duchess Anastasia?” 

“No one knows. No one dares remind the dowager what happened. Why should we? The truth is too horrible to bear.” Annika imagined the Romanov family on that final night, crowded together in the basement of the house in Siberia where they were kept prisoners. By now, she knew the story too well. She could hear the girls’ high-pitched screams, the blast of gunfire, and the sickening sound of flesh ripping underneath the curved tip of a bayonet. Sometimes, she felt as though she’d been in the room herself. 

“Besides, the dowager empress dismissed Anna Anderson’s petition immediately.” Annika quickened her pace. “She called her a silly imposter out for money. Of course, the dowager is eighty years old. She can’t distinguish the living from the dead anymore, poor woman.” Annika stopped just short of the main doors and opened the hall closet. She stood on her tip toes to retrieve Herr Krause’s overcoat and black fedora from the top hooks. “I wouldn’t put much stock in anything she says about a missing granddaughter.” 

Herr Krause grabbed her arm. Annika tried to wriggle out of his grip. It wasn’t painful, but he held her fast. “What does she say? What have you heard?” 

His icy blue eyes bore into her, reminding Annika of the Romanian hypnotist who sometimes performed at Tivoli Gardens in the summer. She understood now why Marie had allowed this young man into her chambers when she’d shunned so many visitors before. “Late in the afternoon, when her mind is least clear, I hear her calling out: ‘Alix. Forgive me. We’ll keep her safe. We’ll protect your fifth daughter.’” 

“I don’t understand.” Herr Krause dug his fingers deeper into Annika’s flesh. “Tsar Nicholas and Empress Alexandra had only four daughters and a son.” 

“Yet another figment of the dowager’s imagination, I’m sure.” 

“Of course. Clearly, she is an ill woman.” Herr Krause released Annika’s arm and allowed her to retrieve his hat and coat. “Perhaps I might speak with Dowager Empress Marie again in the morning, when her thoughts are more lucid.” 

An entire morning free of the dowager’s prattling? Annika smiled to herself. “I could tell her you were misinformed about the fate of the tsar and his family. She might agree to see you again then.” 

Herr Krause bent forward to take her hand. He kissed her fingertips with surprisingly soft lips. “I would like that very much.” 

Annika opened the front door to a freezing coastal gale. Undeterred, Herr Krause placed his hat on his head, tightened his coat around his chest, and took the steps down to the courtyard two at a time. He looked back one last time and tipped his hat in her direction. She found his sudden burst of energy odd, considering he’d spent the better part of his afternoon dealing with Marie’s delusions. Then again Marie often commented on the strange quirks of the German race. Perhaps the old woman was more perceptive than Annika realized.

(Psst, I'll be giving away a copy of The Secret Daughter of the Tsar when it comes out in October!)

Friday, August 23, 2013

Prep School Confidential by Kara Taylor

I was intrigued when I started hearing about Kara Taylor's debut, Prep School Confidential. It's a teen mystery (yes!), set in a boarding school (double yes!) and is being compared to Veronica Mars, Pretty Little Liars, and Cruel Intentions (I am 1 for 3 on that reference set!).

Prep School Confidential hit shelves on July 30 and I picked it as an insomnia read over the weekend. Fortunately (or not) it was a good fit. Didn't exactly encourage me to go back to sleep, though :)

Anne rules her school but a little accidental arson on her part lands her in hot water. Her dad is quick to pull strings and get her a place at Wheatley, a posh Massachusetts boarding school. Anne is not pleased. But if she wants to get back on her parents' good sides she'll have to make do. Maybe if she can stay out of trouble for the rest of the year, she can convince them to let her back in at her old school in New York. Things at Wheatley aren't all that bad either. The students are ok (with one major exception), there are some cute and distracting boys, and her roommate, Isabella, is actually kind of cool. But when Isabelle is murdered on school grounds while Anne is out at a party, she feels totally responsible. Maybe if she'd hung around the dorm instead of sneaking out, Isabella would still be alive. Anne feels like she owes it to her friend to try and find out what happened, especially after it becomes clear the powers that be at Wheatley are hiding things.

I wasn't all that sure about this one when I started reading it. The rich girl playing at being bad, stealing a disciplinary report and accidentally setting her school on fire in the process wasn't initially a character I thought I'd want to spend a whole book with. Thank goodness I gave her more pages as a chance. Anne rocked! Beyond our rough introduction, she won me over completely. What's more, every character (the teen ones) in Taylor's story struck me as realistically built teens. The true test is always the actual teen reaction, but I definitely don't feel too far gone that I can't recognize a teen caricature rather than a believable teen character.

And you're probably wondering about the mystery. Well, as a longtime mystery reader I can honestly say that Kara Taylor's plot here is a win! This was definitely a smart mystery, one that left me guessing pretty much until the end.

Apparently, Prep School Confidential is just the first in a new series. Book two, Wicked Little Secrets, is due out in March of next year (and based on the description, will be a must read for any fan of Prep School Confidential since it continues the mystery of Matthew Weaver).

Rating: 4.5/5

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Mystery Girl by David Gordon

Morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for David Gordon's Mystery Girl.

Sam's wife has left him. She has her reasons, though, and says that it's the only way she thinks he'll ever change. The first order of business is getting a job, which he does manage to do pretty immediately (impressing her at their first couple's therapy session). The job in question is that of assistant to the odd and housebound Solar Lansky, PI. He even assigns Sam his very first case on the same day as the interview: to follow Ramona Doon. But within days, Ramona is dead. Rather than admit defeat, Solar sets Sam to the task of uncovering Ramona's past in hopes that it might lead to the truth of her death. Soon Sam is embroiled in a strange tale of suicide, avant garde filmmaking, and even devil worship. 

I have very mixed feelings about Mystery Girl. There are various aspects of the book that I really enjoyed - the humor and Gordon's particular way of describing things in particular. It was very easy to be drawn into Gordon's prose. On the other hand, Gordon's style did strike me as being a bit in the vein of Chuck Palahniuk, which I see as being shocking simply for the sake of it rather than moving the story along. (Palahniuk has a pretty passionate fan base that would likely disagree with me.)

The mystery in Mystery Girl is interesting and while I'm not very well read in classic noir, I am familiar enough with it and the big names to see the obvious influence here. I could also very plainly see the appreciation of and sort of homage to Hitchcock's Vertigo.

Mystery Girl is smart and quite funny in a very twisted way. Fans of dark comedy and mystery will enjoy this latest from Gordon for sure, but the book definitely isn't for everyone.

Rating: 3/5

To see more stops on the tour, check out the official TLC tour page here.

For more on David Gordon and his work, you can visit his website here.



Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Yangsze Choo's fantastic debut, The Ghost Bride!

In the years following the death of her mother, Li Lan's family lost everything. She is of age to be married, but her family's dwindling position and her father's inattention has left Li Lan unwed and as yet unmatched. A wealthy local family has offered a strange and unique prospect, though. They want Li Lan to wed their only son... their dead son. The position of ghost bride would ensure Li Lan's care and keeping, but she has no desire to wed the dead Lim Tian Ching. Unfortunately, it seems Lim Tian Ching will not be so easily turned down. He begins haunting her dreams and even threatening her family. Li Lan tries to free herself of the unwanted attention but soon finds herself at risk of becoming a permanent part of the spirit world herself.

The legends of hungry ghosts and ghost brides have long been of interest to me. (Superstitions, folklore, and mythology of the world intrigue me in general and I'm a fairly superstitious person myself, so I'm sure I don't need the encouragement!) I was pretty darn stoked when The Ghost Bride arrived and I was even more excited to discover that the book lived up to my expectations as well.

Li Lan is haunted, she ends up having to live in a parallel world inhabited by spirits (and Choo's Plains of the Dead is especially fabulous!), then has to face secrets she discovers about her own family, all the while solving a bit of a mystery (multiple mysteries) before the end of The Ghost Bride. There are so many things to love about this book. The story does have a certain fairy tale quality as well, which I particularly enjoyed. Plus, Er Lang! No spoilers, but I'm a bit in love with his character!

In her debut, Yangsze Choo weaves a wonderful tale incorporating these and other elements of Malaya (Malaysia) and its culture (there's a great section in the back of the book outlining some of the different things she touches on throughout the story, too). I would go so far as to say that in a lot of ways Choo accomplishes the same magic of storytelling and mythology with this books as Helene Wecker did in her own debut, The Golem and the Jinni.

Rating: 5/5

To see more stops on the tour, check out the official TLC tour page here.

For more on Yangsze, visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Human Remains by Elizabeth Haynes

Morning, all! Today I'm on the TLC book tour for Elizabeth Haynes's latest, Human Remains.

One evening Annabel notices a strange smell coming from her neighbor's house. She knows the house in question has been empty for quite a while but on this particular night, with the scent of something rancid emanating from the inside, Annabel can see that there is a light on. She knocks but no one answers. She knocks again and a pane glass shatters out of the already broken door. So Annabel lets herself in. Then she finds the origin of the smell: a very dead and very bloated corpse sitting in the living room. This discovery sets Annabel on an interesting path. As an analyst for the local police force, she has access to all kinds of crime stats and information. And though the body next door was deemed to be death by natural causes, Annabel wonders how many others might be festering away behind closed doors. People no one notices are even gone. She discovers that there are quite a few - in fact, a sharp rise in exactly this kind of case in her area compared to previous years. No one but Annabel has noticed because none of the deaths are actually crimes. Is it simply a sign of the sad current state of society or something more?

Holy creeptastic craziness, book fans! Three reads in from Haynes and each one as different from the other as can be. The two things all of Haynes's books have in common are: 1. they're freaking amazing and 2. they're creepy as hell!

Human Remains probably unsettled me more than either of Haynes's previous novels. Every once in a while, a story like this does make the news - I instantly remembered this story from 2011. It's sad and it's scary to imagine that someone could go completely unnoticed. But when you add the extra crime element that Haynes has created here, it becomes even more disturbing altogether.

The build in the book is interesting. It's not apparent at the outset who the bad guy is, what their motives may be, or even how they're doing what they're doing. The narrative shifts between Annabel, a city worker named Colin, and the newly discovered dead themselves - each headed up by an obit and then sharing their story with the reader. Even they don't reveal the truth about their own deaths. And then about halfway through the book, Haynes throws Annabel and the reader for a loop. It was definitely set up but it was still the kind of twist that I really didn't expect, especially at that point in the story.

Human Remains is a twisted but deliciously intense thriller, one that stands out thanks to being so completely unlike anything else I've read. If you're one of the few who has yet to read Into the Darkest Corner, Dark Tide, or now Human Remains, I highly, highly suggest remedying that very soon.

Rating: 5/5

To see more stops on the tour, check out the official TLC tour page here.

For more on Haynes and her work, check out her website here. You can also like her onFacebook and follow her on Twitter.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Asylum by Madeleine Roux

It's quite possible that I will never be able to resist any book set in or around or about an insane asylum. Not only did Madeline Roux's teen debut, Asylum, make my must read list immediately, but then I was lucky enough to win a copy (thanks, Madeleine!).

Dan Crawford is stoked to be attending the summer college prep program at New Hampshire College. Even when he discovers that the dorm he'll be living in was once an insane asylum. Brookline is only a building, after all. Dan is intrigued by the place, though. He quickly befriends two fellow students, Abby and Jordan, and together they head out to explore. While the top levels have been given over to student housing, much of the lower levels is still out of bounds. Ignoring the restrictions, the three soon find their way to an office containing a number of eerie and intriguing images - pictures of old patients from the building's asylum days. Even more tempting, filing cabinets filled with patient information. But there's something strange going on in Brookline. A student is killed and Dan starts having problems with his memory. And then Dan and Abby discover something even more weird - something that connects them both to Brookline. 

Asylum is outright fun! The inclusion of the "vintage" images does bring to mind Ransom Riggs's Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, though it is a bit difficult to tell how the imagery will stack up (the arc is missing a lot of the final images - I'll have to hit up the bookstore for a final copy tomorrow!).  Story wise, the two are different enough that there's really no need to compare.

Roux's tale is a creepy enough to be called horror and tense enough to be called thriller (I'd put it in the middle, thriller fans who may not be wholeheartedly horror fans are sure to enjoy just as much as a true horror fanatic will). And while it is surely a teen release, this adult had just as much fun reading it at 32 as I'm sure I would have at 16.

The book's not flawless, I would have loved a bit more time spent on developing each of the characters, but I rather enjoyed the book as is. It was quick and even made my hair stand on end a few times (a win with this kind of book!).

Asylum is officially on sale tomorrow. Now I need to read Roux's two adult zombie releases!

Rating: 4/5


Friday, August 16, 2013

Vamps vs Zombies Giveaway Blog Hop


Vamps vs Zombie Blog Hop

Since the ladies over at My Shelf Confession are hosting a month long vampire and zombie themed event - and I'm a fan - I couldn't resist jumping on board. My reading this month hasn't been very zombie or vampire themed (lots of review stuff this month) but I do have some appropriate titles in my TBR so as part of the giveaway hop part of the event, I thought offer up some of the vampire and zombie titles I have in my current TBR for the giveaway.

This'll be open internationally - as long as Book Depository ships to your area - and the winner will get their choice of one of the following titles:

Fevre Dream by George R. R. Martin
Children of the Night by Dan Simmons
Fiend by Peter Stenson (this one is quite... gory. You have been warned.)
The First Days by Rhiannon Frater

All you have to do to enter is fill out the rafflecopter below before September 1.



I realize I was a bit of a dunce here and have an extra entry with "leave a comment" (I meant to let you choose your pick on rafflecopter and then leave a comment for another entry. Oh, well!) - I also couldn't get the linky to work for the rest of the hop so do be sure to hit either the button up top or the My Shelf Confessions link up top to get the list of other hop participants. Good luck!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Butterfly Sister by Amy Gail Hansen

Morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Amy Gail Hansen's debut, The Butterfly Sister.

Though it's been less than a year, Ruby Rousseau has put her days at Tarble college behind her. She left just short of graduation and has taken a job with a local paper. In short, she's worked hard to leave the past where she feels it belongs. All of that changes one afternoon with the delivery of a suitcase. The luggage doesn't belong to Ruby - she'd borrowed the bag the previous winter - but her luggage tag is still attached. Beth, the girl who owns the case, apparently lost it while traveling. But when Ruby tries to contact Beth to return the case, she finds that Beth has gone missing. Ruby feels a connection to Beth beyond simply having known her at school and does a bit of digging of her own and the clues she finds soon lead back to Tarble. 

Yay for mystery/thrillers with literary leanings! I loved all of the Virginia Woolf and Charlotte Perkins Gilman and other literary references - and especially the way they tied into Ruby's story. This is a book I predict any bookish person will be unable to resist!

It turns out I had a bit of a predictable positive response to this book anyway due to the author's connection to New Orleans. Pieces of the book do take place there and, as a Louisiana girl, this always raises potential red flags. I've said before, though, that when an author does it right (as Amy Gail Hansen has done here), it makes me oh, so very happy!

Hansen's ability to build a wonderful setting isn't at all limited to New Orleans - though that does come across as lush and irresistible as it really is. Tarble and even Cassie's cabin all come to life in The Butterfly Sister. And while I've never attended a women's college, with this story Hansen definitely brought to mind my own college days and the ache of heartbreak, too.

I'm always leery of giving too much away in a review and I definitely want to avoid that here. The story plays out in a way that is a bit easy to see coming, but mostly due to my fondness for mysteries in general. I did so love the plot of this story, though, and especially the end (the very, very end... the epilogue). Let's just say that while I personally have no agenda, I'm not averse to sympathizing with a character who isn't all that good!

All in all, a truly enjoyable and wonderful debut!

Rating: 5/5

To see more stops on the tour, check out the official TLC tour page here.

For more on Amy Gail Hansen and her work, you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Widows of Braxton County by Jess McConkey

Morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Jess McConkey's The Widows of Braxton County.

When Kate met Joe Krause, she thought he was a real prince. They found each other online and were soon carrying out a serious relationship. Before she knew it she was pregnant and they were married. But her new marriage soon turns out to be a bit different than she'd imagined. First there's Joe's mother: Joe never told Kate that Trudy Krause would be living with them. He insists it's only temporary but the longer their cohabitation drags out the more permanent it starts to seem. Then there's the neighbors' reception to Kate and the Krauses altogether. It seems that some of the folks in town don't think so highly of the Krause family at all. Kate soon learns that the animosity stretches back generations. Back to a murder that happened on the Krause farm a very long time ago. Rumor has it the victim still haunts the farm and has plagued the Krause family with bad luck ever since.

The Widows of Braxton County is a tense and undeniably gripping read. I am quite a fan of the dual storyline - I think it heightened the suspense and I loved the way McConkey wove the two stories together. The only real let down for me came with one of the big reveals in the end. After all the build it just didn't quite seem to live up to the expectation. It was a minor disappointment since there are about three reveals and only one missed the mark a bit for me.

I really enjoy the PS editions from Harper Collins. Here, McConkey provides an excellent little piece about the inspiration behind the book. It's amazing (or not, considering the current climate) how recently women's rights actually came to be. Hannah Krause, whose story takes place in 1890, has so little control over her life that it may be hard for someone today to fathom such a reality.

The widows of the title - Hannah, Kate, Rose, and Trudy - are the driving forces of this book. Through them, McConkey tells a story about strength and family secrets. Ultimately it's about overcoming the dark things in our past, moving beyond the so called curses that might hang over us.

Rating: 4/5

To see more stops on the tour, check out the official TLC tour page here.

For more on Jess (aka Shirley Damsgaard) head over to her website here. You can also like her on Facebook. And finally, head over to the publisher's site here for a taste of Widows of Braxton County.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Books Set in the United Kingdom

I've decided to jump on board with Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the topic is: Favorite Books with X Setting.


Hrm. The most obvious one would be post-apocalyptic but I feel like I profile a lot of those titles already. If my online organizing was up to par, this would be much easier. I usually tag the author's home but not necessarily the actual setting for the book. I'm gonna go with books set in the United Kingdom today (I do have a ton) and hope that they're all correct in the setting (and UK is Northern Ireland, Scotland, England, and Wales - I sadly did not differentiate in my Ireland tag so these are probably all England and Scotland). I've also tried to avoid some of the usual suspects - showing off some books I haven't talked about on the blog in a while this go around.

1. The Devil's Feather by Minette Walters - I think this was my first book by Walters and I read it in one sitting - with food poisoning, if I recall correctly. When I'm sick, I'm dying, so the fact that I read this sick means it's pretty unbeatable. 

2. The Hollow Man by Oliver Harris - this debut was one of my favorite reads of 2012. I sincerely hope to see more from this author (and with this lead character if possible).

2. Case Histories by Kate Atkinson - oh, I have such a huge crush on Jackson Brodie - especially after seeing the tv show! I was definitely slow to get on this train (I only read it about a year ago) but I'm a devoted fan now! 

3. Breeding Ground by Sarah Pinborough - this book is so freaking creepy! Yes, it is horror. It's England being taken over by giant spiders (and that's not the worst part).

4. The Poison Tree by Erin Kelly - heck, anything by Erin Kelly. Her books are psychological suspense to the twisted extreme. 

5. Hanging Hill by Mo Hayder - I love most of her work, to be honest, and recommend it all. This just happens to be her latest standalone.

6. Haunted by James Herbert - I can't possibly leave off England's most excellent (and sadly missed) horror author. This is his best in my personal opinion. 

7. The Uninvited by Liz Jensen - this was such a weird book. Weird in so many great ways, though!

8. Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes - this dark and chilling debut was a total stand out. It made me an instant fan of Haynes's work (and she's got a new book out very shortly).

9. Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson - if you haven't read this one, I highly recommend it. It was worth all of the hype. Now I can't wait to see the movie!

10. Apocalypse Cow by Michael Logan - 'cause it's zombie cows!


Monday, August 12, 2013

To See or Not to See: A Mish Mash TV Version

My reading mood is heavily influenced by all kinds of things around me - tv and movies most of all. I find that I've been watching a LOT of British crime dramas of late and it's got me really craving more!

First there was Masterpiece Mystery's Endeavour, a four part prequel to Inspector Morse. As such, the series is set in Endeavour's younger days in the field. I saved up my Masterpiece episodes and treated myself to a binge watch while hubs was out of town for work. I must say, I was looking forward to my evenings with Endeavour! The short series set in the 1960s does a great job of getting the viewer in the right mindset for the setting. (At least for me - someone who definitely wasn't around in the 1950s much less in England.) Shaun Evans does a wonderful job as the budding detective with a past (he was a codebreaker and while it's clear he's something of a genius, only his immediate supervisor DI Fred Thursday (played by Roger Allam) and his friend PC Jim Strange (Sean Rigby) really support him. Anton Lesser plays a maddeningly small minded and political Chief Superintendent Bright.

Endeavour is definitely one I highly recommend. Be warned, though, it'll put you in the mood for more. I've got some Louise Penny lined up in my TBR as a result!

After Endeavour, I know just about everyone was stoked for Broadchurch and I was certainly no exception. We're only one episode in and I really think it's going to be brilliant. (Sadly I hear the US will be remaking the show as well, I'm sure it'll be ruined.)

Broadchurch begins with the death of an eleven-year-old boy in a small beach town. With such a tight-knit community it's easy to see how this is going to play out in terms of tension between neighbors. And there's tension in the ranks as well! DS Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) returns to work after leave expecting a promised promotion only to discover that it's gone to someone else. An outsider with his own checkered history. DI Alec Hardy (David Tennant) is no stranger to the media, though in episode one we know very little about the case that's made him a well known name. His own attempts to win over the respect of his new team of course adds to the drama of the show. There are some wrinkles as well - Miller's son was the dead boy's best friend.

I couldn't wait for the show to air so I went ahead with the early preview episode, which of course meant an even longer break until the second episode comes on this Wednesday.

In the meantime, Sophie Hannah has a new Zailer & Waterhouse mystery out. Kind of Cruel (or any installment in the series) should make for some good Broadchurch - y reading to tide me over!

I also had The Bletchley Circle in this weekend. I'd heard a bit about this one from other folks I follow online but had managed to miss it entirely when it aired on PBS. Fortunately it was released on DVD pretty immediately.

The Bletchley Circle takes place nine years after the War and features a group of women who were former codebreakers. When Susan (played by Anna Maxwell Martin) begins to notice a pattern concerning a number of recent kidnappings and murders, she puts her old skills to use to try and figure out where the killer might strike next. Even knowing about her past, the police take her only marginally seriously. When another woman is killed Susan and her old Bletchley Park companions come together to catch the killer themselves.

Bletchley Circle was great! It's short - just three episodes - but the story is really fantastic and the cast is pretty perfect: in addition to Martin, you have Julie Graham as Jean, Sophie Rundle as Lucy, and Rachel Stirling as Millie.

If Bletchley is appealing and you're looking for something along those lines to read, I have to recommend Charles Todd's Bess Crawford series. It's a bit of a different time period (WWI compared to the post WWII period of Bletchley but I think Bess and the Bletchley girls would get along grandly!).

And to round out my British mystery binge watching week, I decided it was also time to dive into The Fall. The gals over at Read Me Deadly reminded me I'd had that one queued up for some time. The Fall is a five episode series starring Gillian Anderson as a DS Stella Gibson. She's sent to Ireland to help with an investigation and soon links the murder to a previous similar case. Unfortunately, the local cops don't want any rumors of a serial killer running around and Gibson is told to focus on the case in question. Meanwhile, the killer is in fact moving in on a new victim and lining up his next target as well.

The Fall is dark. Really dark. In fact, of all the shows, Endeavour is probably your safest bet if you're looking for something not quite so dark and graphic. I'd put Bletchley next as it does go into a bit more detail than Endeavour. Broadchurch is one I'm expecting to get much darker before we're done there, and The Fall sets the scene for some pretty twisted stuff to come in just the first episode.

For fans of the darker stuff, Elizabeth Haynes's latest, Human Remains, is due out August 20. Per her recommendation, I'm also adding Lisa Cutts's debut, Never Forget, to my must read list.

I definitely recommend each of the shows listed - I'm enjoying them all immensely - but again caution viewers who may be averse to darker shows. Endeavour is pretty safe as is Bletchley for the most part. I'm only one ep into both The Fall and Broadchurch but I do expect them both to be on the darker scale of the spectrum both in terms of subject and graphic violence.

More good news for all you British crime fans - I'm sure you all know that Luther is due back in September on BBCA!!!

(Can we please get Marchlands and Lightfields soon, too?)

Sunday, August 11, 2013

New releases 8/13/13

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Bad Blood by Arne Dahl

Let Me Go by Chelsea Cain

Elysian Fields by Suzanne Johnson

Winds of Salem by Melissa de la Cruz

Tell My Sorrows to the Stones by Christopher Golden

Tragic by Robert K. Tanenbaum

A Clockwork Heart by Liesel Schwarz

Brave Hearts by Carolyn Hart (reissue)

Strong Rain Falling by Jon Land

Blood of Tyrants by Naomi Novik

Breathless by Anne Sward

Assault at Sunrise by Michael Shea

Unthinkable by Clyde Phillips

Fallen Land by Patrick Flanery

Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy by Elizabeth Kiem

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve

The Shade of the Moon by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Forgive Me Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

The Darkest Night by Shana Abe

New on DVD:
The Company You Keep
The Big Wedding

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau
Box Office Poison by Phillipa Bornikova
This Is W.A.R. by Lisa Roecker and Laura Roecker

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Pre Pub Book Buzz: Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs Aliens

This is the current cover mockup
So this one is a bit far out there - it's due out end of May 2014 - but it's such a cool project that I wanted to highlight it today.

This is to be the first anthology from the newly created Zombies Need Brains, LLC. Their initial focus for now are sci fi and fantasy anthologies (which I love) that will be funded by Kickstarters. This first has already met its goal but is still open until August 16 (so if you take part now you're basically pre ordering the anthology but also funding cool extra stuff for the new publishing company. Here's the link to their Kickstarter if you're interested.

And here's a bit about this super cool anthology:

...a science fiction and fantasy anthology titled CLOCKWORK UNIVERSE: STEAMPUNK vs. ALIENS, containing approximately 14 all-original (no reprint) short stories from established SF&F authors in the field—including Bradley Beaulieu, Caitlin Kittredge, Gini Koch, Scott Lynch, Gail Z. Martin, Seanan McGuire, and Ian Tregillis, plus others. The book will be edited by Patricia Bray and Joshua Palmatier, both editors of the DAW Books anthologies After Hours: Tales from the Ur-bar and The Modern Fae’s Guide to Surviving Humanity.

If you're a fan of sci fi and fantasy, if you love the authors listed above, if you're interested in helping out a new publisher with a super cool idea, or if you love anthologies and discovering new writers, check out the Kickstarter and go ahead and pre order the book! As I said, it's already met it's goal (and I'm definitely looking forward to my copy and whatever else Zombies Need Brains does in the future).


Friday, August 9, 2013

A Short e Read From Madeline Miller

Madeline Miller tackles the Pygmalion tale with her latest, "Galatea," an e short due out from Ecco on August 13.

In the story, told from the perspective of Galatea herself and set ten years after her creation, we discover that all is not well with Galatea and her husband. She has been imprisoned and is under the careful watch of a doctor and his nurse assistants, none of whom believe she was created from stone. Her health is supposed to be fragile (a ruse of sorts meant to keep her captive). But Galatea longs for freedom and the company of her daughter. How does one escape a man who has become a monster, though?

I must admit this is one tale that I don't have much familiarity with. I know of the various adaptations and plays but have never seen any of them to date, so Miller's tale was not only a fresh perspective but something of an introduction to this story for me.

I loved Galatea as a character in Miller's version of the story. Not only do you get a vivid description of how she experiences the world - as a person brought to life from stone - but her internal dialogue, the thoughts she keeps safely hidden away from others while manipulating them outwardly, is especially entertaining.

I would say that I look forward to more of this kind of thing from Miller, but that means that I have to admit (ashamedly) that I've not yet had the pleasure of reading Miller's award-winning debut, The Song of Achilles! In the wake of reading "Galatea," The Song of Achilles has become a must for my TBR. (There's an excerpt of The Song of Achilles included with "Galatea" to give you a taste of what to expect.)

Rating: 4/5

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Army of 3:59

It's time! The Army of Ten has been taken over. It's now The Army of 3:59!

The Army of TEN

Here's the info:

Attention!

The Army of Ten blog has been commandeered. It is now the Army of 3:59.

For reasons you will soon understand, we have kidnapped author Gretchen McNeil and replaced her with and alternate universe version of her Рa doppelgänger. The real Gretchen McNeil is being held in our universe, a world similar to your own, yet very different.

In order to secure the release of your Gretchen McNeil, we have set up a series of ransom demands where you can earn prizes, as well as points toward the release of the real Gretchen McNeil.

http://armyoften.blogspot.com/

All ransom points must be submitted by Friday, November 1st along with a local book store of the ransomer's choice. The two ransomers with the highest accumulation of points will have the real Gretchen McNeil reprimanded to their custody.

Let us repeat: Gretchen McNeil will appear at a book signing in your home town. 

Two winners will be chosen for this prize, continental U.S. only.

One international winner will receive a Skype visit with the real Gretchen McNeil.

Don't delay. Gretchen McNeil's time is running out…

Head over to the Army of Ten page above to start and mark your calendars, 3:59 hits shelves on September 19.


Box Office Poison by Phillipa Bornikova + a Giveaway

This second book in Phillipa Bornikova's urban fantasy/legal thriller series brings Linnet Ellery to Hollywood!

Since coming out to humans, vampires, werewolves, and the Alfar have become part of every facet of the human world. The Alfar, with their insanely good looks and their incredibly slow aging, are particularly popular in the film industry. Some would argue, though, that the Alfar are no more talented than their human counterparts but that they have an unfair advantage in that they can glamour themselves into the job. Unfortunately, rumblings along those lines are creating a bad scene in the industry and the Screen Actors Guild. Human actor and heartthrob Jeffery Montolbano has called for arbitration between all the interested parties in hopes they can come to some agreement before things get too out of control. Ishmael, McGillary, and Gold are assigned case and although they do have a local office, firm partner David Sullivan and Linnet are sent out from New York to handle it instead - their overall distance from Hollywood and the industry means no party should have an unfair advantage in the case. But when they arrive, Linnet notices an odd trend beginning with the Alfar. The added wrinkle of a group calling themselves Humans First leads Linnet to wonder if there's something more going on under the glitz and glamor of Hollywood than a dispute between actors. 

This series is seriously fun! I adored This Case is Gonna Kill Me and couldn't wait to get back to Linnet and this world with Box Office Poison. I was immediately impressed that Bornikova took the characters out of New York and to Cali for this second installment. It shows she's made a real effort to keep things fresh and new in the series even at this early stage.

We do also get to know more about Fey - the world the Alfar inhabit. I won't go into any detail there thanks to possible spoilers (read book one!) but this was something I was definitely looking forward to in this book.

Rating: 5/5

Readers unfamiliar with the series can - if they really want to - start with this second book. It's a completely different case and there's enough of the backstory on the world and Linnet that you're not necessarily missing anything from This Case is Gonna Kill Me that would hinder the enjoyment of Box Office. There are, however, enough details about the happenings of the first book to make for pretty big spoilers should you start with this second and then work your way back to the first. Since the first is soooo darn good and out in paperback, I'd suggest springing for them both :)

(Bornikova, if you didn't know, is actually a pseudonym used by Melinda Snodgrass you can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.)

Now for the giveaway! Thanks to Tor I get to offer up one copy for giveaway. US only please (and no PO boxes). To enter, just fill out the Rafflecopter below before Sunday, August 18.


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