Quantcast

Friday, September 22, 2017

A Conspiracy of Ravens by Terrence P. McCauley - Excerpt + a Giveaway

The third book in Terrence McCauley's James Hicks series is out now and I've got a sneak peek to share with you! I'm also giving away a copy, so be sure to read through to the end to enter.

Before we dive into the excerpt, though, here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

James Hicks finally knows his true enemy: the criminal organization known as The Vanguard. They mysterious group has been known as an organization of weapons dealers, drug runners and money launderers for years, but has now decided to add regime change to the mix. But knowing the enemy is one thing. Being able to defeat it is another matter entirely. When Hicks uncovers a solid lead on his new adversaries, his world explodes. His home base is attacked, his operatives in the field are wiped out and, for the first time, The University finds itself in open combat against an unknown enemy. In a battle that rages from the streets of Manhattan to the halls of power in Washington to the dark alleys of Berlin, Hicks will have to use every resource at his disposal to defeat A CONSPIRACY OF RAVENS.

As I said, this is the third in the series, following Sympathy for the Devil and A Murder of Crows. And yes, you should read them in order. 

And now for a peek inside the latest James Hicks thriller:

A Conspiracy of Ravens
by Terrence P. McCauley

CHAPTER 1

2:00 A.M.

James Hicks was two hours south of Manhattan, driving to a meeting he didn’t want to attend in Washington, when his dashboard screen flashed red. It was a Proximity Alert from OMNI.

POSSIBLE SURVEILLANCE IN PROGRESS

“Goddamn it.” Hicks pounded the steering wheel. “Not this shit again.”

Surveillance was the whole reason he was driving to Washington, D.C. in the first place.

The Optimized Mechanical and Network Integration System (OMNI) was one of the most advanced computer networks in the world, giving the University one of the few advantages it enjoyed over the larger, federally-funded agencies. OMNI’s access to satellites, data systems, and communications networks collected more data in a millisecond than any human mind could ever comprehend, and saw more than any human eye could see.

Since being selected as Dean of the University weeks ago, the network now dedicated part of its impressive bandwidth to constantly scan his immediate area for patterns and signals that may constitute a threat to Hicks.

He had refused the security measures at first, finding it intrusive for a man who had spent most of his life in the shadows. He had managed to stay alive this long without babysitting. He had seen no reason to allow it now.

But the protection came with the job and could not be refused, not even by the Dean. Given the number of people who had tried to kill him in the past few months, Hicks decided an extra set of eyes watching his back might not be a bad idea.

The automatic alert he was reading now proved he had made the right choice.

He tapped the dashboard screen for more information.
TARGET CAR: BMW 750i
TAIL TIME: 30 minutes and counting
SPEED: Matching 70 miles per hour
ERROR: New Jersey license plates do not match VIN on black box

The fact that a car had been behind him for thirty minutes didn’t bother him. People often popped on the cruise control and let the car do the driving in light traffic like this.

It was the problem with the plates that bothered him. They didn’t match the Vehicle Identification Number OMNI detected from the signal on the BMW’s black box. That was unusual. Too unusual for it to be written off as a mistake.

Hicks had been checking his mirrors constantly during the drive south. He hadn’t detected anyone following him, but it was difficult to track a car in the middle of the night.

Hicks tapped a button on the Buick’s steering wheel, accessing the OMNI network. “Get me an Operator.”

“Contacting an Operator,” the female electronic voice answered as it connected him to one of the dozens of technicians located throughout the world who constantly monitored OMNI’s field operations.

A man’s voice, betraying a slight British inflection, came over the Buick’s speakers. OMNI may have been a secure closed network operating entirely on its own bandwidth, but University Operators still answered using a standard protocol script. “You’ve reached the switchboard. How may I help you?”

“This is Professor Warren.” It was the signal that he was not in any immediate danger and free to talk. If he had given them any other name, the Operator would have assumed he was in trouble and activated necessary security measures. Even with twenty-first-century technology, old tricks like code words still had a place. “Looks like I’ve become pretty popular. I need more information.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, sir.” Hicks heard the Operator’s fingers work a keyboard as he accessed OMNI to find his location and the alert that had flashed on the dashboard screen. “I see the nature of the problem now. The plates match the exact make, model, and year of the BMW following you, but the VIN is completely different.”

Hicks knew that ruled out any government agencies following him. They would not need to steal plates for a vehicle.

But someone did.

“Who owns the car, according to the VIN?” He heard the Operator typing. “Records show it was delivered to a BMW dealership in New Jersey late last week.” More clicks. “No record of sale. No stolen car reports with the police, either. It’s possible they stole the car tonight from the dealership after it closed.”

Convenient timing. “Who owns the plates?”

More clicks of the keyboard. “Michael Spatola of Franklin Lakes, New Jersey. Zooming in to get eyes on his address now.” More clicks on the keyboard. “Satellites show his BMW is still parked in his driveway, but the license plates have been removed from the vehicle.”

Hicks kept his eyes on the road. Someone had been smart enough to steal plates matching the same make, model, and year of the vehicle they had just stolen. Even if a cop decided to run the plates, they would be close enough to match and the cop would probably let them go. Both the car and the plates would be reported stolen eventually, but not for several hours.

That kind of pairing took planning and access. It took effort that common car thieves wouldn’t have gone through. And the odds that common car thieves just happened to be following him this long by accident were astronomical.

Everything about the car and the plates showed intent. It showed planning.

Hicks didn’t like it. He needed answers and, under the circumstances, there was only one way to get them.

“Check traffic and toll cams based on my route. I’m looking for a visual of the driver. Send anything you get to my screen.”

Thirty seconds later, the Operator said, “Sending an image to you now.”

Hicks glanced at the screen while keeping his eyes on the road. A blurry image of two white males at a toll booth in the BMW appeared on his dashboard screen. Judging by the way they filled their seats, he guessed they were each over six feet tall and powerfully built.

The Operator explained, “That picture was taken as they blew through an EZ Pass station without an EZ Pass. I’ll keep looking for a clearer image, but that’s all I have for now.”

Hicks didn’t care about clearer pictures. He needed to find out who was driving that car.

“I’m in a generous mood tonight,” Hicks told the Operator, “so let’s do Mr. Spatola a favor. Enter the theft of the plates and the vehicle into the police network. Say the suspects should be considered armed and dangerous and are believed to be heading for the D.C. area.”

More keyboard clicks. “Doing it now, sir.”

Another idea came to him. “Show me the closest patrol unit on my map.”

A few more clicks. “I’ve just posted the location of the closest unit to your position on your map, sir. The blue icon is the closest police car—a county sheriff ’s deputy manning a speed trap approximately three miles and closing from your current position. The tail car is the red icon on your map, while your car is black.”

Hicks would have preferred a state trooper, but at least a county cop wasn’t some local Barney Fife looking to be a hero.

Hicks pulled the gloves tighter on his fingers. “Plot the nearest off-ramp between here and the speed trap. Something that gives me easy access back onto the highway.”

A blue line appeared on the map of his dashboard screen.

“There’s an off-ramp approximately two miles ahead of you, sir, but be advised: you may not be able to outrun the BMW. It’s got a twin 445 horsepower V8 engine. With all due respect, sir, that’s a tough engine for an old Buick to beat.”

Hicks smiled. That’s why I’ve got an Aston Martin V12 engine under the hood. “Consider me advised. Since the alert is already on the system, send a message directly to the deputy’s onboard computer. Tell him the vehicle is heading his way. Let’s see what he does.”

“Doing it now,” the Operator replied. “And good luck, sir.”

Hicks killed the connection. He never believed in luck. Only in himself.


Excerpted from A CONSPIRACY OF RAVENS © Copyright 2017 by Terrence McCauley. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.


About the Author: Terrence McCauley is the award-winning author of two previous James Hicks thrillers: SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL and A MURDER OF CROWS, as well as the historical crime thrillers PROHIBITION and SLOW BURN (all available from Polis Books). He is also the author of the World War I novella THE DEVIL DOGS OF BELLEAU WOOD, the proceeds of which go directly to benefit the Semper Fi Fund. His story "El Cambalache" was nominated for the Thriller Award by International Thriller Writers.

Terrence has had short stories featured in Thuglit, Spintetingler Magazine, Shotgun Honey, Big Pulp and other publications. He is a member of the New York City chapter of the Mystery Writers of America, the International Thriller Writers and the International Crime Writers Association.

A proud native of The Bronx, NY, he is currently writing his next work of fiction. Please visit his website at terrencemccauley.com or follow him at @terrencepmccauley.


Big thanks to Terrence McCauley's publicist for sharing the excerpt and for letting me give away a copy today!

And now for the giveaway! To enter, simply fill out the Raffelcopter below before Monday, October 9. Open US only and no PO boxes please. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Paperbacks From Hell: A History of Horror Fiction From the '70s and '80s by Grady Hendrix with Will Errickson

Oh, horror fans, is this the read for you! I normally steer clear of non fiction, but this was definitely an exception that I had to make.

One summer a few years back, Grady Hendrix and Will Errickson came together for a Tor.com series called "Summer of Sleaze." The two horror aficionados covered some of the schlockiest installments in horror history, beginning with a book about Nazi leprechauns (which turns out not to be leprechauns at all). And oh, I did love each and every post.

It wasn't all schlock, though. They took time out to focus on Thomas Tryon and James Herbert, Graham Masterton, and even Michael McDowell. For sixteen weeks (and then two subsequent series later on) they teased my TBR with posts about a bevy of horror delights that my itchy hands were (mostly) dying to find.

And that's a bit of the origin story behind Paperbacks From Hell!


Paperbacks From Hell is focused on the paperback (in particular) popularity of the horror genre that hit in the wake of the likes of Rosemary's Baby, The Other, and The Exorcist. (Levin, Tryon, and Blatty, if you're unfamiliar.), tracing the trends in both titles and cover illustrations that ruled over the course of roughly two decades.

Books about possession, devil worshipping, evil children, killer creatures and more captured the readers' imaginations! Hendrix touches on everything from the gory and grotesque to the literary classics that have survived the test of time. Many of the houses have died, some of the authors have too, but the shelves of used bookstores nationwide are still full to the brim with these gems. I should know, I've browsed enough of them to build my own small collection.

Let me be clear, I was not able to delve into the heyday horror fiction until the 90s due to age limitations. Mom but the kibosh on anything beyond the YA category until the summer I hit the age of fourteen and put my foot down - it was time to allow for adult horror reading!

So I missed out on a lot of the titles Hendrix is focusing on here, at least when they originally released.

But not all. Because there are some shining genre examples that have defied the inevitable death of most backlist, still read and released today! And Hendrix does take a breath to hit on the teen horror market of the day as well - Christopher Pike and R. L. Stine in particular, the gateway drugs for many of the horror fans of my own generation. And oh, what a glorious gateway it was for me! I can still recall my first Stine and Pike purchases (Haunted at a school book fair and The Chain Letter on a trip to Mandeville to visit a friend). I trolled the bookstore YA shelves for any and every creepy looking title I could find, all the while gazing longingly at the shiny Stephen King and Dean Koontz titles that beckoned from the forbidden adult section. And I'm always heartened to hear that I wasn't alone - lots of readers of my generation share almost the same story!

Horror is and probably always will be my go to when it comes to books and movies. I like to blame it on the fact that my parents admit to having taken me to the drive in with them to see Return of the Living Dead when I was a baby (in other words, way too young for it to have mattered, especially since I no doubt slept through it and probably couldn't see the screen). I can certainly trace it back to the first ghost story my parents bought me to try and encourage me to read back in second grade. And I can definitely trace it back to my discovery of R.L. Stine's Fear Street hiding out on a Scholastic book fair shelf in third grade. And while I may have missed many of the titles Hendrix talks about when they originally released, I'm making up for it now!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Lie To Me by J.T. Ellison + a Giveaway

Happy Monday, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for J.T. Ellison's latest, Lie To Me. If you visit frequently, then you may recall I already posted an excerpt of this one last month. If you missed it, be sure to check it out here.

Well now I get to follow up with my review!

And do be sure to read through to the end - I'm giving away a copy of Lie To Me to one of you lucky readers!

To the outside world, Sutton and Ethan have the perfect marriage. Two authors, each successful in their own right, who together seem to have it all. But the reality of their marriage is anything but perfect and certainly isn't happy these days. Ethan's latest book deal has been cancelled and their relationship is on the rocks after the death of their child. 

And then Ethan wakes one morning to find Sutton gone. All of her things - her purse, her computer, her phone, her clothes - are still there but Sutton is missing. And then Ethan finds the note: she's left him and doesn't want him to try and find her. 

Ethan wants to respect her wishes, but he fears something terrible may have happened. And when her friends suggest maybe Sutton didn't leave at all but that Ethan may have done something, Ethan knows he can't sit idly by. 

If you're a fan of domestic noir/thrillers, you're going to absolutely love this latest from J.T. Ellison. Love it! There's a definite Gone Girl feel to this one. A missing wife, a suspected husband, the niggling feeling that our narrator can't be trusted... But don't worry, Lie To Me definitely stands on its own.

Ethan, when the story begins, is no perfect hubby. In fact, he's kind of a dick. I say this because in the very first pages he's musing over how he needs a hottie on his arm because he himself is a hottie and Sutton has kind of let herself go of late. What!? But even as Ethan does his damnedest not to endear himself to the reader, it's kind of impossible not to sympathize with him as suspicions turn his way.

And Sutton hasn't helped in that regard. The picture she's painted to those around her definitely doesn't put Ethan in a good light either.

The did he or didn't he would be enough to grab any reader's attention, but there are chapters narrated by someone unknown as well. Someone we're told from the start we're going to hate. Who is this person!?

Lots of interrobangs here, you'll notice. Because this is a book that deserves more than simple question marks and exclamation points. Lie To Me is super good, y'all. The pacing is intense and the story keeps you guessing all the way to the end. If you aren't reading J.T. Ellison yet, this is definitely the perfect place to start.

Lie To Me is excellent all around and one I highly recommend for any thriller fan!

And now for the giveaway. To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, October 2. Open US only and no PO boxes please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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

For more on J.T. Ellison and her work you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

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


Sunday, September 17, 2017

New Releases 9/19/17

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Autonomous by Analee Newitz

Null States by Malka Older

The Good People by Hannah Kent

An Echo of Murder by Anne Perry

The Scarred Woman by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Keep Her Safe by Sophie Hannah

White Bodies by Jane Robins

Best Day Ever by Kaira Rouda

Solar Bones by Mike McCormack

The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott

The Cuban Affair by Nelson DeMille

Obsession by Amanda Robson

Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore

Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco

Release by Patrick Ness

A Poison Dark and Drowning by Jessica Cluess

One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake

New on DVD:
Wonder Woman
The Big Sick

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
Casa Marcela by Marcela Valladolid

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Crows of Beara by Julie Christine Johnson + a Giveaway

Annie Crowe has hit rock bottom. Her husband has kicked her out and her company has given her an ultimatum: one final job to prove she can get back on her feet and stay sober. 

The job, doing PR for a mining company that wants to bring copper mining back to Ireland, won't be easy. The locals need the money and the jobs but the threat to their land is something they aren't going to compromise on. At the center of the efforts is the red-billed chough, a rare bird that happens to have one if its last nesting grounds in an area that would be impacted by the mines. 

Annie is entranced by the beauty of the village and its coast. But failing would mean the end of her career. As she fights not to fall prey to her own personal demons, she finds a guiding force in Beara. But can she decipher the meaning of the words whispered on the wind before she loses everything?

The Crows of Beara isn't a long book, and yet it feels sweeping nonetheless. Epic in its hints of mythology and its approach on the magic of Ireland - literal and figurative. Though one could say the magic of nature is literal...

Annie is out of rehab and fighting to stay sober, one day at a time, when the story begins. But the fall out from her mistakes hasn't ended. And that's when she decides that maybe a trip to Ireland, while potentially hiding many dangers to a newly sober and struggling person, might instead be exactly what she needs.

We learn that Annie has a lot of baggage. A lot of things she's still trying to work out, tracing all the way back to an injury that crushed her leg and her then athletic dreams. But none has been as crushing as the loss of her brother. And her crutch, that of alcohol, not only allowed her not to confront these things, but obviously made it worse.

At the same time, Annie isn't alone. Daniel, who turns out to be not only her neighbor in Ireland but the brother of the head of the conservation efforts, has his own demons as well. An accident landed him in prison and has kept him sober ever since, but he has never accepted the forgiveness offered by the family of his victim. As such, when his friends and family ask him to take more of a role in their efforts, becoming the face of their campaign, he resists.

But he finds it hard to resist Annie. And hears the same whispered words that she does.

Chapters alternate between Annie and Daniel as both their stories and that of Beara play out. How it ends for all of them is something you have to find out for yourself, but the journey is a beautiful one all around!

(Don't miss Julie Christine Johnson's fantastic guest post on Ireland and the seeds that would lead The Crows of Beara here.)

As promised last week, I do have one copy of The Crows of Beara to give away to one of you very lucky readers. To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, September 25. Open US only and no PO boxes please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, September 10, 2017

New Releases 9/12/17

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Twelve-Mile Straight by Eleanor Henderson

Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke

The Man in the Tree by Sage Walker

Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford

An Excess Male by Maggie Shen King

Taste of Marrow by Sarah Gailey

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

The Names of Dead Girls by Eric Rickstad

A Column of Fire by Ken Follett

Lightning Men by Thomas Mullen

The Unquiet Grave by Sharyn McCrumb

Madness Treads Lightly by Polina Dashkova

The Bloody Black Flag by Steve Goble

We Were Strangers Once by Betsy Carter

When I Cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter

Odd & True by Cat Winters

Warcross by Marie Lu

Nyxia by Scott Reintgen

Shadowhouse Fall by Daniel José Older

New on DVD:
It Comes at Night
The Mummy
Beatriz at Dinner

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
Y is For Yesterday by Sue Grafton

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Pre Pub Book Buzz: Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich

So one of the many hats I wear these days is at a local bookstore as Local Author Coordinator. It pairs nicely with the agenting and with the blogging, giving me a chance to meet local authors and writing groups, work and in hand with local authors I've already met at conferences and events, and of course be around bookstore people even more. One of them, aware of my fondness for post apocalyptic tales and such, has raved about Louise Erdrich's latest. So of course I'm dying to read it now, too!

Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

The world as we know it is ending. Evolution has reversed itself, affecting every living creature on earth. Science cannot stop the world from running backwards, as woman after woman gives birth to infants that appear to be primitive species of humans. Thirty-two-year-old Cedar Hawk Songmaker, adopted daughter of a pair of big-hearted, open-minded Minneapolis liberals, is as disturbed and uncertain as the rest of America around her. But for Cedar, this change is profound and deeply personal. She is four months pregnant.

Though she wants to tell the adoptive parents who raised her from infancy, Cedar first feels compelled to find her birth mother, Mary Potts, an Ojibwe living on the reservation, to understand both her and her baby’s origins. As Cedar goes back to her own biological beginnings, society around her begins to disintegrate, fueled by a swelling panic about the end of humanity.

There are rumors of martial law, of Congress confining pregnant women. Of a registry, and rewards for those who turn these wanted women in. Flickering through the chaos are signs of increasing repression: a shaken Cedar witnesses a family wrenched apart when police violently drag a mother from her husband and child in a parking lot. The streets of her neighborhood have been renamed with Bible verses. A stranger answers the phone when she calls her adoptive parents, who have vanished without a trace. It will take all Cedar has to avoid the prying eyes of potential informants and keep her baby safe.

A chilling dystopian novel both provocative and prescient, Future Home of the Living God is a startlingly original work from one of our most acclaimed writers: a moving meditation on female agency, self-determination, biology, and natural rights that speaks to the troubling changes of our time.

This sounds pretty amazing in my humble opinion and I will definitely be looking forward to getting my hands on a copy!

Future Home of the Living God is due out in November from Harper.