Thursday, February 23, 2017

Nova by Margaret Fortune

Margaret Fortune's debut is fabulous fun! The first in the Spectre War series (currently projected to be 5 books, I believe) begins as one thing and morphs into a completely different kind of story. But what kind is something I'm not going to give away. That said, I'm going to attempt to be somewhat vague in my review. So here goes:

Lia Johansen is a refugee with a secret. One of hundreds of POWs recently released as part of negotiations over a habitable planet called New Earth, Lia and her fellow prisoners are given temporary asylum on New Sol Station. But Lia isn't there for asylum. Lia isn't Lia at all. She's a walking bomb whose clock is counting down swiftly.

Until it's not. Ready to go nova and take the entire station with her, Lia is given a reprieve when she proves to be a dud. But the stay is only temporary and she has no idea how long it will take for the final minutes of her clock to count down. 

Her mission is complicated by two factors beyond the bomb's fickleness: one, she has no memory of her mission. Two, the memories she does have are the real Lia's. And when one of Lia's friends turns out to be living on New Sol, going nova begins to seem like a bad idea.

We meet Lia as her transport is arriving at New Sol. Lia, the real Lia, was a citizen of Aurora Colony, one of many terraformed colonies throughout the expanse. When the colony fell, she and her family were taken to the Tiersten Internment Colony, as prisoners of the Tellurian Alliance, one of two governing factions that controls (and fights over) space.

See the Tellurians and the Celestians have been fighting for ages over everything. And while new colonies are being terraformed for human habitation, the discovery of a seemingly Earth-like planet perfect for habitation as is, is the center of the current conflict between the two groups. Unfortunately, Lia and the other refugees were caught at the center of the conflict until just recently. A tenuous treaty has been negotiated, and the POWs have been released.

But things aren't quite hunky dory, as evidenced by the fact that this Lia, our narrator Lia, is carrying a bomb meant to destroy New Sol!

Unfortunately, whatever plan Lia is part of has gone massively awry. And with no knowledge of what the plan actually is, Lia isn't sure she wants to continue carrying it out. Especially when she's taken under the wing of Lia's old friend from Aurora, Michael.

As her time on New Sol stretches out, Lia becomes close to Michael, even convincing herself that she can live some sort of life with an actual future.

Lia is an unreliable narrator in that she doesn't know her own story. Her internal battle between what she thinks is her purpose and what she actually wants is one that propels the story from start to finish and each new piece of information she discovers about herself and the world she lives in proves to complicate things further for her.

As her clock ticks down, the pacing of the story increases, leaving the reader wondering what fate Lia will choose and how this will affect the world we've come to know.

Nova is an excellent start to a series. It's the kind of book that has huge cross over potential - a teen narrator in an adult SF tale that definitely appeals to both audiences. But there's a massive and fabulous twist beyond all of that that really makes Nova fantastic.

Rating: 4/5

Nova has been out in paperback for some time, but next month marks the release of the second book in the series, Archangel. So now's the perfect opportunity to catch up! Be sure to check back here next month as I'll be giving away a copy of Archangel here on the blog.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Drifter by Christine Lennon + a Giveaway

Happy Tuesday, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Christine Lennon's debut, The Drifter. I am giving away a copy today, so be sure to read through to the end to enter the Rafflecopter.

One more semester. Just a few final months to go before the end of college and the next phase in Betsy's life. But the semester is not off to a great start. After crashing all summer in her friends' apartment, Betsy has become a third wheel. 

She, Ginny, and Caroline met at rush and have been friends ever since, but things between Caroline and Betsy have become more than strained. Things were fine while Caroline was gone for the summer, but now she's back and things are weird as ever. To make matters worse, Gainesville has become the new stomping grounds for an apparent serial killer. In a town full of women, it's unlikely any of the three will ever cross his path. Or so they think. 

Twenty years later, Betsy still hasn't recovered from the death of her friend. She's overly cautious and afraid of letting her daughter out of her sight. Things aren't helped when she receives an invite from a sorority sister to attend their twenty year reunion. If she's ever to move on with her life, it appears she'll have to face the horrors of her final months in Florida. 

The Drifter wasn't quite what I expected. It's being compared to Megan Abbott and M.O. Walsh, the latter of which is actually a pretty perfect comparison in retrospect.

As with Walsh's debut, The Drifter is less a thriller than an examination of how events shape our lives. We're introduced to Betsy in 2010 as her daughter is beginning preschool, and it's clear that Betsy has issues. She's obsessed with background checks and security at the school and is even caught lurking outside. But what the school doesn't know is that Betsy's fear is grounded in a very real and tragic event - her best friend's murder.

Cut to 1990 and everything is apparently, mostly, hunky dory. Betsy is carefree and happy, somewhat. Yes, the trio of friends is experiencing a rocky patch, but all is fairly normal. Except that two women have been murdered in their little college town.

While we do get some chapters beyond Betsy's final months in college, much of the story is focused between August 22 and August 30, or the days leading up to the murder of one of Betsy's friends. From there, it's clear her life could only be influenced by that event. Understandably.

From the description, I definitely did expect more of a thriller. And while The Drifter certainly has thriller leanings and aspects, it's more a coming of age tale about a woman whose life is affected by a great tragedy. It's also about healing from, and dealing with the guilt of, that event.

To that end, The Drifter is not necessarily paced like a thriller. There's much more introspection and examination of the time leading up to the event. (As is the case with Walsh's title, hence the apt comparison.) And by honing in on the tiny details that make up the days leading up to and even beyond the crime in question, Lennon really gives readers a chance to get inside Betsy's life and mind. To experience the emotions and the uncertainty of those final days of college, the testiness of a close friendship, and the tragedy of loss.

The book is set at an interesting time, in my opinion. 1990 did mark a significant change from the 80s. There was a different feel to everything: fashion, music, movies... I may be biased because I lived through it, but I'd say anyone my age likely feels the same. To set the tone, Lennon created a Spotify playlist. I highly recommend listening along as you read as it really does create a great mood for the book. You can also check out a great guest post by Lennon over at BookClubGirl.com.

And now for the giveaway. To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, March 6. Open US only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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

For more on Christine Lennon and her work you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Instagram.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Monday, February 20, 2017

The Chilbury Ladies' Choir by Jennifer Ryan

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Jennifer Ryan's The Chilbury Ladies' Choir.

With the men off to war, the Vicar of Chilbury has decided to shutter the local choir. But the women have a different idea. Together, with the help of an enigmatic new local music teacher, they form the Chilbury Ladies' Choir. 

That's right, a choir featuring all women. 

It may be unheard of, but in this time of need there's simply no other choice. And to be certain, this is indeed a time of need that calls for a choir. As the threat of war looms ever heavier over England as a whole, and the village of Chilbury in particular, music and the choir prove to be just the thing to keep up the town's spirits. And the women's spirits as well. 

Told through diaries, letters, and the occasional local announcement, Jennifer Ryan brings Chilbury and its citizens into vivid life.

Our main narrators include Kitty Winthrop, an almost fourteen-year-old girl determined to become the best singer she can be; her sister, Venetia Winthrop, the village's seemingly remaining free-spirited troublemaker, who has her eyes set on a local artist as her latest conquest; Mrs. Tilling, a widowed nurse whose own son has just set off for the front; and Miss Edwina Paltry, a local midwife looking to make an extra pound any way she can.

Kitty and Mrs. Tilling have both begun journals as per the suggestion of the same radio program. (According to Ryan, this was a very real effort during WWII to chronicle the happenings on the Home Front during the war.) Venetia, meanwhile, keeps track of her efforts to woo an artist through correspondence with her friend, (who everyone agrees is a terrible influence) living in London throughout the story. And Miss Paltry keeps up her own correspondence with her sister, outlining a plot that becomes more complicated and troublesome as her part in the story progresses.

Together, and with a few extras, the happenings in Chilbury from March 26, 1940 through September 6, 1940 are outlined in great detail. And I do mean great. The characters run the gamut of personalities, ages, and social rank. We even get a bit of insight from a couple of men and a refugee who's been taken in as well.

And while the choir is much of the focus, it's really the framework for the larger story of England's WWII Home Front - the hopes and dreams and fears of a people at war and the ever changing social structure brought about by that war.

I quite adored this book! It is quite fabulous and heartfelt, making it the perfect read for any historical fiction fan. It's sweet, without being sappy, and it feels authentic in terms of both characters and scope. Definitely recommended!

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

For more on Jennifer Ryan and her work you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook.

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


Sunday, February 19, 2017

New Releases 2.21.17

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Drifter by Christine Lennon

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

Most Dangerous Place by James Grippando

Running by Cara Hoffman

A Cast of Vultures by Judith Flanders

The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff

Fatal Option by Chris Beakey

I See You by Clare Mackintosh

The Book of Mirrors by E. O. Chirovici

A Conjuring of Light by V. E. Schwab

Kings of the Wild by Nicholas Eames

Beautiful Broken Girls by Kim Savage

Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham

New on DVD:
Nocturnal Animals
Hacksaw Ridge
Manchester By the Sea

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Pre Pub Book Buzz: The Ghost Line: The Titanic of the Stars by Andrew Neil Gray

Ooh, readers! Today's pre pub title is one that I'm super looking forward to this year!

It's no secret I've been a big fan of Tor.com's novellas. I've reviewed a number of them so far and have enjoyed each and every one immensely. I expect The Ghost Line: The Titanic of the Stars by Andrew Neil Gray will be no exception to that rule! 

Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

The Martian Queen was the Titanic of the stars before it was decommissioned, set to drift back and forth between Earth and Mars on the off-chance that reclaiming it ever became profitable for the owners. For Saga and her husband Michel the cruise ship represents a massive payday. Hacking and stealing the ship could earn them enough to settle down, have children, and pay for the treatments to save Saga's mother's life.

But the Martian Queen is much more than their employer has told them. In the twenty years since it was abandoned, something strange and dangerous has come to reside in the decadent vessel. Saga feels herself being drawn into a spider's web, and must navigate the traps and lures of an awakening intelligence if she wants to go home again.

But the Martian Queen is much more than their employer has told them. In the twenty years since it was abandoned, something strange and dangerous has come to reside in the decadent vessel. Saga feels herself being drawn into a spider's web, and must navigate the traps and lures of an awakening intelligence if she wants to go home again.

Tell me you're not dying to read this one yourself now!!!

The Ghost Line is due out in July from Tor.com. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Dressmaker's Dowry by Meredith Jaeger

Happy Valentine's Day, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Meredith Jaeger's debut, The Dressmaker's Dowry.

Sarah Havensworth has stalled on her novel. Writers block is one thing, but this is to be the thesis for her MFA! As if that weren't bad enough, Sarah also feels guilty about the lack of progress considering she's quit her job and let her husband support her through the endeavor. Though his family has plenty, she's all too aware that she doesn't quite fit the Havensworth mold, something her father-in-law's displeased attitude reminds her of any time the family gets together. 

Fortunately, new inspiration strikes when Sarah stumbles upon a story of two missing dressmakers in nineteenth century San Francisco. Dumping the novel, Sarah returns to her journalist roots and decides to pen a narrative non fiction focused on the terrible working conditions in her city's past history, all the while telling the story of Hannelore Schaeffer and Margaret O'Brien, the two missing women. But as she investigates the century-plus old mystery, secrets new and old begin to threaten her marriage. 

The premise of The Dressmaker's Dowry is an intriguing one and I quite enjoyed Sarah's attempts to solve a hundred-year-old mystery. Chapters alternate between Sarah and Hanna, illustrating the events of 1876 alongside Sarah's investigation.

This was an easy one to get sucked into and I thought it was a lot of fun. That said, it was also a bit too easy. Details about Sarah and the other characters are conveniently placed, sometimes awkwardly so, and some pieces of the story definitely come together in a way that's not quite believable. None of the characters is very deeply developed, either, which was a shame because I quite liked both Hanna and (especially) Sarah and would have liked more out of both of them.

While the plot certainly could have benefitted from a bit more complexity, at the moment I must admit that easy breezy is kind of what I needed. I recognize the flaws in The Dressmaker's Dowry but it hit me at the right time and I quite enjoyed it in spite of that.

Historical fiction fans in search of something a bit on the light side will enjoy this first outing from Jaeger.

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

For more on Meredith Jaeger and her work you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Monday, February 13, 2017

Dragon Springs Road by Janie Chang + a Giveaway

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Janie Chang's latest, Dragon Springs Road. I am giving away a copy of Dragon Springs Road so be sure to read through to the end to enter.

Jialing and her mother lived together happily for years. Their home, the Western Residence of a larger estate, was their own and only Jialing's mother ventured out for the things they needed. And though her mother had left before, she always came back. 

That changes the year Jialing turns seven. This time, her mother leaves and never returns. As it turns out, the estate has been sold to a new family, one that, upon discovering the orphaned Jialing, agree to take her on as a bond servant. With the Yangs, Jialing has a home, food, and even a friend. But as the years pass and Jialing becomes older, she realizes that she won't be able to rely on the Yangs forever. And the prospects of any other Shanghai girl aren't necessarily open to Jialing. See, Jialing is zazhong - Eurasian. 

With the surprising guidance of a fox, Jialing comes into her own and decides the first thing to be done is to find her mother. But as hurdle after hurdle is thrown her way, the world around her becomes more tense. The government is overthrown, the economy suffers, and Jialing's future becomes more unclear. 

In Dragon Springs Road, Janie Chang once again combines history, culture, and lore in a story about  courage, friendship, and identity. The book is set between the years of 1908 and 1920, a great period of change and upheaval for China. And while that's not the main focus of the story, those changes affect Jialing even when she's too young to notice them.

Jialing has little interest in much of those happenings, especially in her early years. She's waiting for her mother to return. That she'll return is something young Jialing never doubts, but as she grows older it becomes clearer to her just how little she even knows about her mother. She knows the name of the man who owned the estate they lived on. She knows her mother was there with his blessing, likely as his mistress. And she knows when they left. Not much for a girl determined to track someone down to go on.

Honestly, the setting and Jialing's own mixed parentage provide a backdrop for a story that really could have been much darker for our heroine. Instead, Jialing, who is quite clever in her own right, finds a surprising ally in a fox spirit that resides on the estate. That spirit shows Jialing its own history while guiding her to opportunities and people that have great impact on the girl's life. The challenges she faces do make her stronger and, though there are dark threads throughout the tale, her story is ultimately a hopeful one.

I absolutely adore Janie Chang's writing. Her debut, Three Souls, was a definite favorite of mine and Dragon Springs Road easily joins ranks alongside its predecessor. Chang is a wonderful storyteller, weaving history and fiction together in such a way as to enhance the understanding of one and the enjoyment of the other without fail. Diving into her work is a truly wonderful experience!

And now for the giveaway! To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, February 27. Open US only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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

For more on Janie Chang and her work you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble