Monday, May 29, 2017

Mars One by Jonathan Maberry

Tristan and his family are amongst the few who will travel to and prepare the very first colony on Mars. It's a plan that's been in the works for years, with each and every chosen person and family having been vetted and tested exhaustively. What's more, for a family like Tristan's everyone has to be in agreement and on board. If just one of them waffles on the decision, they're all out. But none of them have and the day for launch is fast approaching. 

The Mars One mission is a feat that the whole world will be watching with great anticipation. But not everyone is exactly supportive. A group calling themselves the Neo-Luddites has made their views on the mission very clear. As their final days on Earth come to an end, Tristan is faced with not only his final goodbyes - broadcast for all the world to see thanks to reality TV deals that help fund the mission - but also hoping that everything will go smoothly and without uproar from their detractors. 

And that's only the beginning because once they're in space, all they'll have to rely on is each other. 

This newest teen release from Jonathan Maberry doesn't have any zombies or elite soldiers. There's none of the horror I've personally come to know him for - at least not in the traditional sense. But there's plenty of thrills and chills, and even a little terror along the way.

Space does scare me. If I were given the option today, there's absolutely no way you could drag me onto a space ship. Well, maybe if you knocked me out first. I have no desire to travel in space - I've seen enough movies that show exactly what can go wrong - I'll keep my feet on the earth, thanks.

But in Mars One it's 2026 and a private company has funded and organized the very first mission to colonize Mars. They're not the only ones, China has plans to do so as well, but Mars One is going to be the first.

Tristan was just a kid when he and his family were picked to be part of the mission. His mother is an ace mechanic and his dad is a botanist. And they're not the only family going: a handful of equally qualified adults and their children will also be on board. So it's not just a mission full of scientists and astronauts, but one that includes four other teens as well.

The teens themselves are just as qualified to be there. Tristan's mom has a habit of dismantling every one of his possessions in an attempt to teach him how to fix just about anything. And she's succeeded, too. Of course this comes in handy as things begin to go wrong on board the two ships traveling to Mars!

While I enjoyed Mars One quite a bit, I have to admit it was something of a slow start for me. The first part of the book focuses on the latter days on Earth and I really wanted to get to the space adventure portion. But I have to admit that the story (and me as the reader) wouldn't have been served well by that - those last days on Earth are what gives us a chance to get to know Tristan and his family. So yes, skipping it would have gotten us to the action sooner, but I really don't want stories that are all action and no substance.

And that's what Maberry gives us with Mars One - a YA sci fi adventure with substance. There's ample attention paid to character and story development as well as the basics and mechanics of the mission itself. So in the end, these are characters I rooted for wholly (and - key - believed could and would be capable of the things they have to handle) and a plot that seemed as believable as if it were recounting the real preparation and dangers of man's first colony traveling to the Red Planet.

The addition of the inevitable reality TV aspect (because I very much believe that will be exactly what happens if/when a real colony mission starts getting discussed), added an extra layer of believability. Poor Tristan! I felt for him even more as his first love and breakup played out for all the world to see.

Mars One is, all in all, quite a great fun. And even without the zombies, scary enough for this space phobic reader!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

New Releases 5/30/17

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Not a Sound by Heather Gudenkauf

In this Moment by Karma Brown

Ultimatum by Anders de la Motte

Mormama by Kit Reed

White Fur by Jardine Libaire

Royal Bastards by Andrew Schvarts

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Spectacle by Rachel Vincent

I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maureen Goo

House of Furies by Madeleine Roux

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

New on DVD:
The Blackcoat's Daughter
Before I Fall
Fist Fight

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

American Gods by Neil Gaiman + a Giveaway

Happy Tuesday, readers! Today I'm super stoked to be part of the TLC blog tour for Neil Gaiman's American Gods.

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past decade, Neil Gaiman has to have popped up on your radar in some form or another by now. Most recently, of course, is the long awaited American Gods show, based on the book, currently airing Sunday nights on Starz.

I'd vowed to start the book before watching the show, but failed in that regard. I couldn't resist! I did catch up quickly, though, as the first three episodes (which aired before my review date here) were just the first 100 pages or so of the book.

I have to say, now having read it and trying to sum up my feelings, I don't envy anyone who worked on this book and had to write a synopsis or pitch for it. I can't figure it out! I've tried and it turns into this long, rambly thing that makes no sense.

And in a way, that's the book. Except that under Gaiman's deft hand, a story that could easily have gone off the rails and landed readers in confusion land works. It works so much so that it's equally praised and revered by just about everyone out there (though as Gaiman tells it, folks seemed to passionately love it or vehemently hate it).

That being said, here's the good old Goodreads synopsis to kick things off:

Locked behind bars for three years, Shadow did his time, quietly waiting for the day when he could return to Eagle Point, Indiana. A man no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, all he wanted was to be with Laura, the wife he deeply loved, and start a new life.

But just days before his release, Laura and Shadow’s best friend are killed in an accident. With his life in pieces and nothing to keep him tethered, Shadow accepts a job from a beguiling stranger he meets on the way home, an enigmatic man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. A trickster and a rogue, Wednesday seems to know more about Shadow than Shadow does himself.

Life as Wednesday’s bodyguard, driver, and errand boy is far more interesting and dangerous than Shadow ever imagined. Soon Shadow learns that the past never dies... and that beneath the placid surface of everyday life a storm is brewing—an epic war for the very soul of America—and that he is standing squarely in its path.

So we've got Shadow who's just been released from prison. His wife is dead under circumstances that are definitely adding salt to the wound of now being widowed, and he's been offered a job by a man he kind of doesn't trust. What's more, he's been knocked about by a giant calling himself a leprechaun and hounded by folks out for his new boss. And that's all before Wednesday's world REALLY starts opening up to our hero.

Gaiman's world of American Gods is one where gods and goddesses of the world's mythology have traveled to the shores of American with its believers. And now those once worshipped beings have all but been forgotten.

Shadow's travels and adventures are punctuated by tales of immigrants. A varying cast of characters and timelines, the stories illustrate the range of people and beliefs that built America. These pauses in the main plot might throw off some readers, but I found they added yet another layer to the already rich story. Sure, any student of mythology can likely identify, at the very least, the bigger of the Egyptian and Norse gods. But Gaiman doesn't stop there by any means.

And it's not just gods and goddesses that make appearances. The landmarks, the odder the better it seems, that are stops along Wednesday and Shadow's travels, are in large part real. House on the Rock, for example, and its carousel, really exist. Whether it plays hosts to a conference of powerful beings of folklore is the real question!

American Gods is yet another example of Neil Gaiman's genius. I may be a fan girl for saying it, but I'm in good company in that belief. And if you've got the chance, the show is definitely well worth the watch. It's Gaiman's story, visualized by Bryan Fuller and Michael Green. Fuller, who was also the mind behind Dead Like Me, Wonderfalls, Pushing Daisies, and Hannibal, brings along his flair for tantalizing and graphic visuals as well as much of the cast he's worked with in the past. And the show is, so far, a quite true adaptation of the Gaiman's work.

And now for the giveaway. I've got two this round - first is for a copy of the movie tie in version AND a coloring book. Second is for just a coloring book. To enter to win, simply fill out the Rafflecopter of your choice (or both) below. Open US only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


a Rafflecopter giveaway


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

For more on Neil Gaiman and his work you can visit his website here. You can also like him on Facebook and follow him on TwitterInstagram, and Tumblr.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Woman No. 17 by Eden Lepucki

Happy Wednesday, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Edan Lepucki's latest, Woman No. 17.

Lady and her producer husband are separated and so she decides she needs a nanny to help with her youngest son, Devin. Lady is supposed to be focusing on writing a book, after all, and the help will allow her to do so. Or so she thinks. 

S answers the ad and seems a good fit. But S isn't just looking for a nanny position. S is an artist working on a live art project recreating the life her mother once lived. 

As the sweltering summer passes by, the two woman play out their roles almost perfectly. Almost. As the days pass, their secrets bubble to the top and threaten to spill over. 

Well, Woman No. 17 was a study in awful people and toxic relationships, apparently.

Lady and her husband are on a trial separation. A separation prompted and held strong by Lady herself. She says she needs space, room to breathe and think, and hiring a nanny further allows that. Or so she thinks. She's under contract to write a book after an article about her oldest son gained tons of attention. But she's blocked.

S meanwhile, is a floundering artist. Her first attempt at art flopped and now she's onto a new project, in part to prove her seriousness to her medium after her boyfriend dumps her. Her new project? To become her mother. She dies and cuts her hair, buys a new wardrobe, takes up drinking in massive quantities, and even adopts new mannerisms all to recreate her mother's life in the early 90s. And documents it through Polaroids.

The women are tied together by their terrible relationships with their mothers. Indeed, Lady and S's mothers seem like two peas in a pod. And Lady and S have a lot in common as well. In fact, had they not been so focused on their own projects, they would have seen that and likely gotten on like a house on fire.

But that isn't the story.

No, instead, again this is a story about terrible people and toxic relationships. Their story is a train wreck from the very start and the reader can't possibly tear themselves away as they watch it all come to a crashing, burning end.

Edan Lepucki can write crazy good. But all in all I can't say that this was a fun read. As I realized neither of these characters was going to learn from or do anything to change their ways, it became more and more difficult to watch their stories play out. They're miserable people making everyone around them miserable.

Again, though, Lepucki can weave an engrossing story. Her prose is undeniably powerful. I think, however, that her debut, California, is much more my speed. Woman No. 17 was too close to reality TV for my own taste.

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

For more on Edan Lepucki and her work you can visit her website here. You can also follow her on Twitter.

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



Monday, May 15, 2017

The Baker's Secret by Stephen P. Kiernan

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Stephen P. Kiernan's latest, The Baker's Secret.

The war has been raging for four years and twenty-two-year-old Emma sees no end in sight. Unlike the rest of her fellow villagers, Emma holds out no hope of the Allies' arrival. She fears the occupying army will always rule and that their current life is the new normal. 

In spite of this, and in spite of her staunch refusal to join the official resistance, Emma has become a one man underground trading market. It begins when the Kommandant tastes her baguette and insists she receive enough rations to bake a dozen of the loaves each day for him and his men. Emma complies, but pads the dough with ground straw in order to bake two extra she can divvy out amongst the starving villagers. Soon she's sourcing tobacco and fuel so that the villagers can have fish and other necessities. But with the ever present Germans oh, so watchful, Emma knows it's only a matter of time before she gets caught. 

Readers, this was a book I'd been greatly looking forward to. And I have to say Kiernan delivered wholeheartedly! My only regret is that I read this in the midst of having come down with a vicious cold and I fear that when I'm better, I'll come to the blog and see that this whole post is a bunch of gobbledygook!

So I will attempt a readable review, but I promise nothing.

The Baker's Secret is set in WWII occupied France, in a village that refuses to go down without making the Germans at least a little miserable for having taken their town. There is an arm of the official resistance, but everyone fights in their own little ways. One of the most prominent small battles: simply being late for all but collecting rations. And so, they've convinced the Germans that they're basically a village of buffoons earning latitude by being underestimated. Their resourcefulness is necessary for survival, because it's true none of them can see the end in sight.

But everyone holds out hope that the allies will arrive and provide salvation.

Except for Emma. Which is why she takes matters into her own hands, in spite of not wanting to get involved. See, there's a fire burning in Emma. A fire stoked by the murder of her uncle - the man she apprenticed with -, the conscription of her fiancé, and her father's arrest. That fire forces her to test the boundaries with her bread - how much straw can she add before the Germans will notice? It also forces her to test the boundaries with her boarders, carrying out her plans while a wormy and ruthless captain of the enemy army holds court in her own home. And it forces her to put aside any fear of her own safety, excepting how her capture or death would affect those who have come to rely on her.

I loved Emma and all of the characters that people her village! Kiernan does a fantastic job bringing this small town and their small (and increasingly larger) acts of rebellion to life.

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

For more on Stephen P. Kiernan 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 | Books-A-Million | IndieBound


Sunday, May 14, 2017

New Releases 5/16/17

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

You Were Here by Gian Sardar

It's Always the Husband by Michele Campbell

The Simplicity of Cider by Amy E. Reichert

Testimony by Scott Turow

Exit Strategy by Steve Hamilton

Rise & Shine Benedict Stone by Phaedra Patrick

The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich

The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby

The Crown's Fate by Evelyn Skye

The Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh

Seeker by Veronica Rossi

A Million Junes by Emily Henry

New on DVD:
The Space Between Us
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

Friday, May 12, 2017

I Found You by Lisa Jewell

Happy Friday! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Lisa Jewell's latest, I Found You.

Note there is a tour wide giveaway on this one, so be sure to read through to the end for the Rafflecopter!

The man had been sitting on the beach all day. Just sitting. By the time it starts raining, Alice figures it's time to step in. She offers him tea and a coat and later, when he's still there, she gives him a place to stay. At first, she's concerned. Inviting a strange man to stay in her house, even if it is actually a detached shed, isn't the best idea. Especially for a single mom with three kids to care for. But the man has no apparent memory of who he is or how he got to Alice's beach and she wants to help if she can.

At the same time, newly married Lily knows the instant her husband doesn't arrive home from work that something is very wrong. But when she reports him missing, the police all but brush her off. Until they discover his passport is a fake and there are no records of the man. 

I love Lisa Jewell. I mean, already knew this - The Girls in the Garden kind of blew me away. But she's done it again, which means I REALLY love Lisa Jewell!

So we begin with a man with no memory and a single mom whose story hints at something potentially dark. Her kids give her the side eye when she invites this man home, understandably, but her friend issues cryptic warnings about not letting the school find out!?

Then we meet young Lily. Twenty-one and living in a foreign country, in a new home in an all but empty neighborhood, with no job, no money, and no connections to anyone. And even though she believes her husband loves her and would never leave her, the police definitely think otherwise. But it's the discovery that his identity is fake that floors her and propels an actual investigation.

And there's a third storyline as well. In 1993, a family with two teenaged children is on their annual beach vacation. Gray, seventeen, is suspicious of a nineteen-year-old man they all meet while at the beach one day. To Gray, the man's attention on Gray's fifteen-year-old sister, Kirsty, is suspect.

The story weaves back and forth between these three storylines as each becomes more and more deeply imbued with a sort of sinister ambiance. And of course, I tried to theorize on my own about where the story was heading and was pretty wrong at every turn! Which made it even more deliciously fun!

Jewell excels at building tension packed, but at times quite quiet, stories with characters that are never quite what they seem. The deliberate pacing and careful doling out of clues serve to make the story that much more intense and addictively readable.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

For more on Lisa Jewell 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