Thursday, March 23, 2017

Last Days of Magic by Mark Tompkins PB Release + Giveaway

You may recall seeing Mark Tompkins's The Last Days of Magic on the blog before, but today I want to revisit that post and let you all know that the paperback is now out in the world! To celebrate, the publisher is letting me give away a copy of said paperback as well as a set of custom tarot cards! Be sure to read through to the end for the Rafflecopter.


Sara Hill always loved the books and fairy tales her grandmother shared with her. What she didn't know was that those tales were steeped in a history and reality that stretched back to the days of Adam and Eve. And that her grandmother had been hiding a secret so dangerous it put them all at risk.

In the earliest days of man, the angels came together with humans in a union unsanctioned by their creator. The beings that were born of that union became the creatures we know today as the Nephilim and their offspring split into varying lines of Sidhe. Many of them made their home in Ireland and the Middle Kingdom, and their presence - along with the goddess Morrigna - on the Emerald Isle kept it protected from its enemies.

But in the late fourteenth century, a schism between the Sidhe led to a revolt against the Morrigna and the death of one of her human aspects. That death was just the start of what would become a battle between the Sidhe, the Celts, and Ireland's own enemies. It was a battle that would lead to the end of magic itself.


Mark Tompkins's debut is an interesting blend of folklore and theology. In his world, the Sidhe are descended from the Nephilim - the offspring of angels and man. This combination is suited to the story considering much of the conflict is between the Church and those who believe in and follow magic.

The story is populated by some of the most fabulous beings in all of fairy tale lore including the well-known gnomes, brownies, and pixies and the possibly lesser known (at least by me) beings in Irish folklore like the fomorians and skeaghshee. And that's just a small taste. Tompkins has seriously combed through the plethora of magical beings and the annals of history to create one of the most unique twists on fae legend and magic I've ever come across!

That said, though, I would haver loved it if the story had been told in more of a linear timeline. The frequent time jumps (back and forth) through history made it hard to keep the various threads of the story straight at times. I found myself getting hooked on one storyline and character only to realize that they may not appear again for quite some time. This is a pretty typical fantasy tendency, switching back and forth through a handful or characters, but the gaps between some of the characters' appearances were sometimes a bit too long and I found myself losing track of their stories. (Blame it on my Swiss cheese brain at least in part.)

What is really cool about The Last Days of Magic, in addition to the beings portrayed, is the way Tompkins twists the actual history to suit his tale. The story is set in the time of Richard II who did indeed invade Ireland and while I'm almost certain that Isabella and her kin were not part of a high coven it is said that Richard's own grip on reality was slipping in his final days...

Mark Tompkins's debut is not an easy read. It's a dense tale packed with history (maybe overpacked) but if you have the patience for a bit of a slower read I think you'll find it's quite fascinating.
And now for the giveaway! To enter to win a copy of the brand new paperback edition and that fabulous tarot deck, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, April 3. Open US only and no PO boxes please.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Wallflower Blooming and Best Laid Plans by Amy Rivers

Happy Wednesday, readers! I have two reviews for you today as part of the TLC blog tour for Amy Rivers's latest, Best Laid Plans!

Wallflower Blooming and Best Laid Plans are the first two titles in a planned trilogy featuring cousins Val and Gwen. And while you can read them out of order, they do take place consecutively, which means you'll already know some of the events of Wallflower if you read Plans first. So I read them in order :)

Wallflower Blooming is Val's story.

Val has no interest in getting involved in politics. Especially in light of the fact that her own father's business went under when he threw his support behind a local candidate years ago. But when her cousin Gwen decides to run for office in Cambria, Colorado, Val can't say no.

She should have been in the background, quietly running Gwen's PR campaign. But instead, Val finds herself in the spotlight when she falls for a local reclusive, but highly sought after, bachelor. And that's not all, history may be repeating itself when Gwen's competition begins bullying Val's clients. Now with her business at risk and her love life the talk of local gossips, the normally grounded Val is finding it hard to keep it together.

I loved Val! She is so fun. She's focused and driven, but hasn't had much luck in love. Which is why it comes as such a surprise that John Hatfield could possibly be interested in her. As their story progresses, she's equal parts irked and smitten.

Of course work complicates things. Again, she's driven. And her fear of falling into the same trouble that led to her father's business closing begins to affect all aspects of her life. She's the kind of character you want on your side. And the kind of character you want to rally for when the going starts getting rough.

And the same can be said of Gwen! Best Laid Plans follows right on the heels of the events of Wallflower Blooming.

When Gwen won the election for Mayor of Cambria, she figured she was on the fast track to her ultimate goal: becoming the youngest Governor of Colorado. But one year into her term, her plans are starting to go awry. 

First, it appears she's being bullied by certain figures in local government. Then it appears she's picked up a stalker, too. As she tries to juggle mayoral responsibility with her other obligations, it also seems her relationship with Jason could be nearing its end. It'd been rocky already, considering some question the ethics behind the mayor dating one of the city's finance folks, but it becomes worse when Jason bends to pressure and takes another job. One that has him traveling a lot and seemingly getting cozy with a new female coworker. As the uncertainty weighs on Gwen, she begins to wonder if her plans are all for naught. 

Oh, Gwen! The title of her book is quite perfect. Of course one could say that she brings some of it on simply by setting so much stock in her careful plans.

As much as I liked Val's story, I honestly think Gwen's was even better. Or maybe I just identified with Gwen a bit more.

Gwen, like Val, is also driven. And like Val she also hasn't had much luck in love. But unlike Val, Gwen doesn't consider bowing under pressure. Where Val, when faced with a bully who threatens her business, seriously considers bowing out as Gwen's PR manager, Gwen, when faced with an overly zealous city manager, gets snarky. And I loved it!

I should pause to mention the men in these stories, because the books are equally as much theirs. John and Jason each get their own chapters in the respective books, giving readers a chance to see the relationships and happenings from their eyes as well. At times the two seemed a bit too similar for my taste, causing me some confusion at times in remembering which one was paired with which cousin. An argument could be made that because they grew up together and are friends that they are indeed similar, gravitating together as friends do. It didn't detract from the reading, but my Swiss cheese brain did have to do a double take occasionally when they shared a scene.

Together, Rivers's two books make for an easy, breezy pair of fun reads. Each is fairly short, too, so you can literally zip through them back to back.

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

For more on Amy Rivers and her work you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter and Goodreads.

Purchase Links: Amazon

If you're local to Colorado, you can also find Amy's books at BookBar and Boulder Bookstore!


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Mississippi Blood by Greg Iles

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm kicking off the TLC blog tour for Greg Iles's Mississippi Blood!

For those of you who haven't read the first two books, Natchez Burning and The Bone Tree, you should probably skip this post. Instead, check out one of the previous reviews (depending on whether you've read any of them) and run out to your bookstore!

Penn Cage is suffering and desperate - desperate for vengeance. His girlfriend is dead, as is the reporter who was set on outing Mississippi's Double Eagles. And Penn's father has an undeniable link to the minds behind some of Mississippi's most brutal hate crimes. But that connection still isn't clear. As Dr. Tom Cage awaits trial for the alleged murder of his one time assistant and possible lover, Penn is determined to see the Double Eagles fall and clear his father's name. But the lies and secrets of Mississippi's history run deep and have already claimed so many lives. Will Penn's be next?

Greg Iles's explosive trilogy comes to a close with this final installment. (Note, this trilogy is part of the larger Penn Cage series.)

This trilogy is really an epic - and successful - attempt to fairly and accurately cover what is such a dark piece of southern history. In a recent article in Mississippi Today, Iles speaks to some of the inspiration and drive in telling these stories.

And while it should never be mistaken that this - the tale told throughout the three books - is indeed a story, its roots are definitely in the troubled history of the south. As I mentioned in the Natchez Burning post, Sexton was based on an actual reporter whose mission was one and the same - uncovering crimes that have thus far been swept under the rug.

While it's impossible to write a review of Mississippi Burning without some spoilers of the other two, I definitely don't want to ruin your experience with this third and final piece. Especially since it just released TODAY! I will say that all of the points I made about the previous two - the careful attention to detail, the intricate plotting, the almost ridiculously fast pacing (in a good way) - still apply. And all of the threads and questions of the previous two installments are brought to a satisfactory close.

The characters that have taken us through these tomes - all 2,299 pages - are wonderful. They're rich and flawed, drawn with such depth that they literally leap off the pages. And honestly, they'd have to if you're going to stick with them for that much reading time! (I should mention too that while you're reading those pages, Iles himself spent eight years writing them.) Trust me when I say it's well worth it.

If you haven't read Iles before, you are missing out. If you haven't read any part of the trilogy - then what are you doing still reading this post?! - hit up your local bookstore and buy all of them, or any of them you're missing, today!

And if you're determined to start at Penn's beginning (you can definitely read the trilogy without having read the first few Penn books) here's the full series list for you:

The Quiet Game
Turning Angel
The Devil's Punchbowl
Natchez Burning
The Bone Tree
Mississippi Blood


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

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

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Pre Pub Book Buzz: Dear Reader by Mary O'Connell

Books about books, books based on books, retellings of other books... All things that catch my attention! So of course Mary O'Connell's Dear Reader immediately set off my must have radar.

Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

For seventeen-year-old Flannery Fields, the only respite from the plaid-skirted mean girls at Sacred Heart High School at is her beloved teacher Miss Sweeney’s AP English class. But when Miss Sweeney doesn't show up to teach Flannery's favorite book, Wuthering Heights, leaving behind her purse, Flannery knows something is wrong.

The police are called, and Flannery gives them everything—except Miss Sweeney's copy of Wuthering Heights. This she holds onto. And good thing she does, because when she opens it, it has somehow transformed into Miss Sweeney's real-time diary. It seems Miss Sweeney is in New York City—and she's in trouble.

So Flannery does something very unFlannery-like: she skips school and sets out for Manhattan, with the book as her guide. But as soon as she arrives, she meets a boy named Heath. Heath is British, on a gap year, incredibly smart—yet he's never heard of Albert Einstein or Anne Frank. In fact, Flannery can't help thinking that he seems to have stepped from the pages of Brontë's novel. Could it be?

With inimitable wit and heart, Mary O'Connell has crafted a love letter to reading, to the books that make us who we are. Dear Reader, charming and heartbreaking, is a novel about finding your people, on the page in the world.

Everything about Dear Reader sounds magnificent and I truly can't wait for a chance to read it!

Dear Reader is due out in May from Flatiron Books.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Short Fiction Friday: Brother's Ruin by Emma Newman

Charlotte Gunn has great talent. Yes, as an illustrator, which is how she makes a secret living. But also as a mage. And while neither is something she wants revealed to even those closest to her, the latter of the two secrets is the one that's most dangerous.

It's 1850 and anyone with a whiff of magic in their blood is required to report to the Royal Society of the Esoteric Arts. Not only is magic supposed to be used for the betterment of society, rumor has it that a mage without training can turn wild, becoming a danger to themselves and everyone around them. But members of the Royal Society aren't allowed to marry or have careers outside of the Royal Society. If Charlotte were discovered she would lose her fiance and her living.

But it's not Charlotte the Royal Society comes for in the end. It's her brother. And it's his wish, as well as her father's, that he'll test high enough to save their father from debtor's prison. Only Charlotte knows that the debt collectors her father owes have a fate much worse than that in mind.

Brother's Ruin marks the first in Newman's latest series. It's a fun novella and a good introduction to Charlotte and her world, though in this case I actually wish we'd had a full first novel to tear into.

While there's a decent bit of world building and character development for Charlotte as well as those around her, Brother's Ruin never loses the feel of being a prequel or prologue to a longer tale.

It is a fun start to the series, certainly. And, as intended, it left me wanting more. That said, I think I would have been happier with it's follow up in hand for immediate gratification!

Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

I'm Traveling Alone by Samuel Bjørk + a Giveaway

Good morning, readers! One of my absolute favorite reads of 2016 is out in paperback this week and I get to give away a copy!

Here's my review from last Feb:

Mia is ready to end it all. She's counting down the days, in fact. But her plans go awry when her old boss, Holger Munch, pays her a very important visit.

A six-year-old girl has been found hanging from a tree. The body has been carefully cleaned and dressed, posed with a schoolbag full of books and a sign reading "I'm traveling alone" placed around her neck. Once upon a time, Mia was part of an elite investigative squad whose job was to handle cases exactly like this. But scrutiny on a particularly touchy and personal case caused the squad to be disbanded and its members scattered. In spite of all of that, Mia's skills have never been in doubt and it's her insight the police need now. Unfortunately, Mia can't offer a quick solution or the killer's head on a silver platter. What she can offer is worse: the assurance that this is just the first in what will surely be a string of child murders.

A crime so egregious means even those most staunchly against reuniting Munch's crew have to admit that the squad - including Mia and led by Munch - is their best chance to solve this case and hopefully prevent more death. But can Mia overcome her own personal issues in order to be of any use?


I'm Traveling Alone kicks off what I expect will be a quite exciting new Scandinavian crime series! The plot is twisted and extremely well built, worthy of characters like Mia, Munch, and the others. In fact, while Mia and Munch quickly shoot to the head of the list as possible main characters, Bjørk's debut features the team as a whole (with admittedly heavy focus on Mia and Munch) rather than a true lead character.

It's a fun way to set up such a series because it gives the author a chance to highlight each character's skills.

One downside to this is that Bjørk switches narrators quite frequently, not limiting himself even to the team. Various players and witnesses are introduced throughout the novel to show different aspects of the growing mystery. It's a method that can quite often work against the author and reader, making the story harder to get fully engrossed in. I have to say, however, that in this instance I thought it worked. Each new narrator, rather than taking me out of the story or jarring the narrative, offered a new layer to the overall plot.

I'm Traveling Alone is out in paperback as of yesterday and the follow up, The Owl Always Hunts at Night is due out in June.

To enter to win a copy of your very own, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, March 27. Open US only and no PO boxes please. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Dishing up the Dirt: Recipes for Cooking Through the Seasons by Andrea Bemis

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Andrea Bemis's Dishing Up the Dirt: Recipes for Cooking Through the Seasons.

What began as a joke between Bemis and her then boyfriend (now husband) over a bag of organic blueberries led to a massive life change for the couple: the decision to run a farm of their own and become self-sufficient.

For most this would be an even more difficult decision than it was for these two, Taylor grew up on a 60-acre farm in Massachusetts (the origin of the life changing blueberries). So the two packed up and returned to the Bay State to learn the ropes. Four years later, the couple returned to Oregon where they purchased the land that would become Tumbleweed Farm. And Bemis chronicled every step on her blog, Dishing Up the Dirt!

Which is how the cookbook, Dishing Up the Dirt, was born.

Bemis recaps much of the early years in the intro to the book, recounting the good and the not so good. Bemis herself had no experience farming or really cooking and says it was "Baptism by fire..." But throughout it all, even the difficulties of starting their own farm, they were successful. The goal of the blog (and now book) is to

...offer an honest glimpse into life on our six-acre farm in rural Oregon. It's a story about love, community, farming, and, most important, the food that we grow, eat, and share around the table with family and friends.

And, oh the food!

The book is divided by season, offering up recipes featuring produce at their peak. Because as we've all learned, fruits and vegetables do taste better when they're in season! And while the calendar hasn't technically reached spring, here in Colorado the weather certainly has. With that in mind, and with a fridge already stocked with strawberries, cauliflower, beets, and herbs, I went to town bookmarking recipes to try.

It was a dreary Saturday, our coldest of late considering we've seen abnormally warm weather these past few weeks, so I kicked off the morning with Bemis's Honey Cardamom Latte. Our local Colorado honey blended quite nicely with some (also local) almond butter and the rest of the ingredients to make a cozy and warming start to the morning as I planned the rest of the weekend's meals.

Next up: Strawberry Salsa (remember those strawberries in the fridge, 'cause there were w lot of them), which we ate as a snack while I made lunch on that icky Saturday. The salsa was easy and offered up familiar flavors of cilantro, jalapeño, and red onion, with just a pinch of salt and lime juice. The addition of a bit of honey and the bright sweetness of the strawberries was wonderful. Even my husband, who'd admitted to being leery of strawberries in salsa, enjoyed it so much he complained I was eating more than my fair share without saving some for him!

I did skip ahead to Summer to make Bemis's Crispy Smashed Potatoes with Herbed Butter. They paired nicely with another recipe I'd had planned, making a fairly healthy dinner that still incorporated my favorite carb (potatoes, yum!) for meatless Monday.

Baking is a bit of an issue at high altitude, so I've held off so far on the Honey-Roasted Strawberry Muffins (which sound DIVINE), but the Chocolate Chip & Real Mint Cookies are just too tempting to pass up. These are next in my roster considering I beelined to the store to grab a new bag of flour, semi-sweet chips, and the mint in question! (Which means I also have all the ingredients on hand to make the Strawberry Mint Smoothie that'll be today's breakfast.) And dinner tonight? Penne with Parsley Pesto, White Beans & Parmesan. And I may just have to get over my tahini issues in order to try the Cauliflower Tahini Dip. (I'll admit it, while I love hummus, I hate tahini!) But I've been eyeballing the Simple Cauliflower Soup as an alternative too :)

The best thing about the book so far: I had literally 90% of the ingredients on hand already to try the dishes I've already tried and the ones I still have planned for the next few days. The only thing I had to buy: the mint, the parsley (because the parsley I thought I had turned out to be a third bunch of cilantro!), and the baking stuff for the cookies.

I should note that while Dishing Up the Dirt is not a vegetarian cookbook, the vast majority of the book is veggie forward. In fact, there are just a few meat focused meals in the whole book: Lamb Lettuce Wraps with Mint Yogurt Sauce, Venison Stew, Farmers' Market Burgers with Mustard Green Pesto, Tumbleweed Farm Spaghetti and Meatballs, and Chicken and Chickpea Pesto Summer Salad, just to name a few (actually there are only 2-3 others I didn't mention). And honestly, even though I'm not vegetarian, I'd never turn my nose up at a tasty veggie-focused dish. Considering there are enough of those throughout the book, I wouldn't have complained if this were a 100% vegetarian cookbook.

(There are a fair amount of vegan friendly recipes throughout the book as well.)

Considering the book arrived just Friday evening, I think I've tested enough recipes thus far to put my hearty stamp of approval on this one! The recipes are easy, there are no odd or hard to find ingredients, and the dishes taste fantastic.

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

For more on Andrea Bemis and Tumblweed Farm you can visit her blog here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Instagram.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble