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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Guest Post by Gail Z. Martin

Good morning, everyone! I am happy to have one of the hardest working women in fiction - Gail Z. Martin - here today to promote her upcoming Iron & Blood (due out from Solaris July 7).

Before I hand things over to Gail, I wanted to tell you a bit about the new release. You might know her from her epic fantasy series (Chronicles of the Necromancer, Fallen Kings Cycle, and Ascendant Kingdoms) or her urban fantasy work (Deadly Curiosities/Deadly Curiosities Adventures). She's also a frequent contributor to anthologies and pretty massive web presence as well. Now with Iron & Blood, she's tackling steampunk! That's right, Gail Z. Martin's latest is the first in a new steampunk series coauthored with her husband, Larry N. Martin.

Here's a bit about the book from the publisher:

New Pittsburgh in 1898, a crucible of invention and intrigue, the hub of American industry at the height of its steam-driven power. Born from the ashes of devastating fire, flood and earthquake, New Pittsburgh is ruled by the shadow government of The Oligarchy.

In the abandoned mine tunnels beneath the city, supernatural creatures hide from the light, emerging to feed in the smoky city known as ‘hell with the lid off.’ Jake Desmet and Rick Brand, heirs to the Brand & Desmet Import Company, travel the world to secure treasures and unusual items for the collections of wealthy patrons, accompanied by Jake’s cousin, Veronique ‘Nicki’ LeClercq .

Smuggling a small package as a favor for a Polish witch should have been easy. But when hired killers come after Jake and a Ripper- style killer leaves the city awash in blood, Jake, Rick and Nicki realize that dark magic, vampire power struggles and industrial sabotage are just a prelude to a bigger plot that threatens New Pittsburgh and the world.

Stopping that plot will require every ounce of Jake’s courage, every bit of Rick’s cunning, every scintilla of Nicki’s bravura and all the steam-powered innovation imaginable.


Sounds amazing, right?! She had me at steampunk, honestly, but abandoned mine tunnels with supernatural creatures AND a Jack the Ripper wannabe... yep. I'm sold!

And now to hand things over to Gail!


Four Ways Well-Meaning Readers Put Their Favorite Authors Out of Business 

By Gail Z. Martin 


Readers love their books, and no readers that I've ever met would intentionally make it harder for their favorite series to keep coming out with books. But in today's changing marketplace, the publishing world is in turmoil. And whether readers realize it or not, they are part of the equation, since how they acquire their books and what they do with the book after purchase impacts whether or not more books by that author will continue to be published.

Here are a couple of ways well-meaning readers may accidentally be putting their favorite authors out of business--and how you can change that.

#1 Not buying a series until all the books are out. I write three ongoing series at a time--an epic fantasy series, an urban fantasy series and a steampunk series. Two of those series are open-ended, meaning that for the Deadly Curiosities books and the Jake Desmet Adventures, the books stand alone and there isn't a set number of volumes in the series. But for my Chronicles of the Necromancer series and my current Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, there are a fixed number of books in that main story arc.

I can't tell you how many times someone has said, "This looks good. But I always wait until all the books are out in a series before I buy any because I like to binge-read them."

Problem is, authors need to eat on a regular basis, and publishers want to see interest in a series in order to keep bringing the books out. When readers put off buying individual books in multi-book series until the whole series is out, publishers have no indication of reader interest and are likely to discontinue the series because it isn't popular or profitable. If that happens, your favorite author might not get another contract from that publisher because the last book/series 'failed'. And yes, your purchase matters. You. Because if everyone says "my purchase is just one in a million," then no one buys the book. Every purchase makes a difference.

No one says you have to read books as you buy them. Most readers have a 'to be read' pile a mile high. Do your favorite author a favor and buy the new book in his/her series (preferably in the first 90 days and as close to the publication date as possible) to show the publisher you want to keep on seeing new books from this author/series. This goes double for indie authors who don't get advance checks and depend on month-to-month sales revenue, but it's also true for those of us who write for big publishers. We're all only as valuable to publishers as our last sales report. Your purchase makes a difference.

#2 Returning ebooks for a refund after they've been read. I remember hearing stories about girls who would buy a prom dress, not cut off the tags, wear it to the big dance, and then try to return it to the store for a refund. Stores get testy about this for a reason. It's a form of theft. The consumer gets the value but doesn't pay for the value. Returning ebooks for a refund not because they were ordered by mistake or have a technological flaw or aren't what you thought they were, but instead returning them after the reader has finished reading the book is also a form of theft, because the author receives nothing for the transaction.

What about libraries? Libraries pay a special rate to publishers based on the intention to loan out a book. Publishers factor in the library cost knowing that most books rent a certain number of times, and so the library cost has to recoup a portion of those lost sales. In that case, it's like a store that rents tuxedos--they have factored the temporary use into the price. Authors get paid for sales to libraries. We make nothing on returned books.

#3 Downloading off pirate sites. Yes, I know that some people make the argument that pirated books are a form of 'advertising'. That pirates may tell their friends about an awesome book, and then the friend may go actually buy a copy. That pirates wouldn't have bought a book because they have no money and therefore a 'sale' isn't lost. Imagine how far that defense would go if someone shoplifted a physical book from the local bookstore. Pirate sites are a form of shoplifting and book theft. It's taking a product that is for sale without paying for it.

I'd much rather have someone borrow my book from the library or even borrow it from a friend who paid for it than download off the pirate sites. At least in those cases, someone purchased a copy of the book to start with. And while authors don't get any money from books re-sold at yard sales or second-hand bookstores, there again at least the book was purchased one time. (By the way, if you get your books mainly through libraries, yard sales and re-sale shops, please 'pay' the author with a review on Amazon or Goodreads. That would be a huge help!)

#4 Being addicted to free books. I understand the appeal of sites like Bookbub and Kindle Unlimited, especially for power-readers, people who read a book a day or multiple books a week. And I get the need to watch the budget. But writing books is time-consuming and actually work (to put out a good, well-written, well-edited and well-produced product). A surprising number of 'big-name' authors already have to work a second job because publishing isn't as lucrative for most people as readers might think. So getting paid for books matters a lot to authors, especially as advances from publishers shrink.

BookBub is a service publishers arrange to get wide early visibility with high volume readers. So it's a calculated risk, just like doing a book giveaway on Goodreads. The gamble is trading a certain number of free books with the hope of word of mouth and/or online reviews against lost revenue. It works when the freebies result in buzz and reviews. It fails when people take the free books and don't give back the reviews/buzz. So if you sign up for a program like BookBug or register to win free books on Goodreads, Reddit or other sites that do giveaways, please help the author out with a positive review when you can honestly do so.

If you really love your favorite authors and series, please help those writers keep writing by using the power of your wallet and also by posting reviews on online sites. Your favorite authors are depending on you!

Check out my new Steampunk novel Iron and Blood, co-written with Larry N. Martin, set in an alternative history Pittsburgh in 1898. In stores July 7!

The Hawthorn Moon Sneak Peek Event includes book giveaways, free excerpts and readings, all-new guest blog posts and author Q&A on 28 awesome partner sites around the globe. For a full list of where to go to get the goodies, visit www.AscendantKingdoms.com

About the authors:

Gail Z. Martin writes epic fantasy, urban fantasy and steampunk for Solaris Books and Orbit Books. In addition to Iron and Blood, she is the author of Deadly Curiosities and the upcoming Vendetta in her urban fantasy series;The Chronicles of The Necromancer series (The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven, Dark Lady’s Chosen) from Solaris Books and The Fallen Kings Cycle (The Sworn, The Dread) as well as Ice Forged, Reign of Ash, and War of Shadows in The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga from Orbit Books. Gail writes two series of ebook short stories: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures and the Deadly Curiosities Adventures and her work has appeared in over 20 US/UK anthologies.

Larry N. Martin fell in love with fantasy and science fiction when he was a teenager. After a twenty-five year career in Corporate America, Larry started working full-time with his wife, author Gail Z. Martin and discovered that he had a knack for storytelling, plotting and character development, as well as being a darn fine editor. Iron and Blood is their first official collaboration. On the rare occasions when Larry isn’t working on book-related things, he enjoys pottery, cooking and reading.


Find them at www.JakeDesmet.com, on Twitter @GailZMartin or @LNMartinauthor, on Facebook.com/WinterKingdoms, at DisquietingVisions.com blog and GhostInTheMachinePodcast.com, on Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/GailZMartin free excerpts, Wattpad http://wattpad.com/GailZMartin.


Big, big thanks to Gail for being here today and to the folks at Solaris for setting up the guest post. 

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Books of 2015 So Far

I've decided to jump on board with Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the topic is: Top Ten Favorite Reads of 2015 So Far

Monday, June 29, 2015

Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Happy Monday, Readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Erika Johansen's second installment in the Queen of the Tearling series, Invasion of the Tearling.

With the Mort Queen's soldiers at their border, things are looking bleak for the Tearling and it seems it's only a matter of time before they reach New London. Until then, though, Kelsea continues to search for a way to defeat her enemy. When Kelsea begins to have visions of another woman in a very different time and place, it seems an answer to her problems may be forthcoming. But only if she can decipher the meaning of the visions and her connection to them. 

This book. This book! I had trouble summing this up coherently and just as much trouble reviewing it. I loved it - it's completely amazing - but you need more than that don't you, readers?

First I'll say that this is not only a worthy successor to the first in the series, The Queen of the Tearling, but that Johansen has taken the story to completely unexpected places. I found with the first outing that this series was very similar in a lot of ways to Rae Carson's Girl of Fire and Thorns. Happily, these similarities end completely with Invasion.

We left Queen with just a hint of what was to come and just a tiny bit of information about the world prior to the Tear. With Invasion we're given a much better look at the origins of the Tear and where the people who inhabit it come from - via Lily.

Oh, Lily! I love Lily! Holy crap! Her story, which Kelsea sees through visions, was such a surprise. Honestly, I did expect some exploration of the world's history but not in this way.

Don't think this means that Kelsea or the happenings of Mortmesne and the Tearling take a backseat, though. Lily's story is woven in fabulously while Kelsea continues to try to find ways to heal her kingdom AND defeat their enemy. All of this means a lot of stress for our heroine, stress she's dealing with in possibly damaging ways. Tearling and Kelsea are on the brink and it's only a matter of time before we'll find out whether they'll end in disaster or rise to truly great heights. (Til book three releases, anyway.)

Rating: 5/5

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

For more on the series, you can visit the official Queen of the Tearling site here. You can also like the series on Facebook.


Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream by Laura O'Neill, Ben Van Leeuwen, & Pete Van Leeuwen with Olga Massov

So apparently July is National Ice Cream Month and the third Sunday in July (July 19 this year) is National Ice Cream Day. Who knew? That - and summertime in general - makes the release of the new Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream cookbook pretty perfectly timed.

I can remember homemade ice cream as a kid: it was an event. An EVENT. It meant breaking out that big bucket with the blister inducing crank. You needed serious muscle to get that going - and to get an actual edible serving of ice cream. As you can imagine it wasn't something we did very often.

These days homemade ice cream is MUCH easier with most of the machines on the market doing the major work for you. We got one of our very own as part of our wedding registry but after using it to make sherbet and slushies few times it ended up being shelved and fairly forgotten.

Until now!

The Van Leeuwens run their very own ice cream shop in Brooklyn, so the name is likely known by many in those parts. Way over here in the midwest it was their cookbook that served as introduction for me. And what a cookbook! With a focus on quality ingredients and phenomenal flavors, the Van Leeuwens have inspired me to break out the machine and get to making ice cream again.

Many of the recipes are custard based but the authors provide perfect step-by-step instructions for pretty foolproof results. Recipes for additions like Homemade Marshmallows, Candied Citrus Peels, and Pistachio Shortbread are included and there's a chapter on other icy treats like Sorbet and Granitas, too.

Two of my favorite things about the book, though, are the vegan chapter and the egg whites chapter. Now, I don't have any dietary restrictions but I know plenty of people who do and I love the fact that the authors have included an entire chapter devoted to vegan ice creams (and a recipe for making your own Cashew Milk). It means not having to miss out on all the fun if you can't eat dairy or eggs. Even better, for me, is the chapter on what the heck to do with all those leftover egg whites! Custard ice creams require yolks - lots of yolks - and I personally can't stand the idea of that many egg white omelets or of tossing the egg whites out.

Whether you're devoted to the classics or are an adventurous ice cream lover, I promise you this book has something (many things) to tempt your palate. There are chocolate options galore - Milk, Spicy, Mocha Almond Fudge, and White Chocolate with Almond-Cocoa Nib Brittle, to name a few - and favorites like Vanilla, Strawberry, and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, but there are also some truly unique and imaginative flavors as well. We had to test the Sour Cream Blueberry and the Honey with Roasted Fig and Walnut immediately. (Both are AMAZING but the Blueberry was the overwhelming favorite. The sour cream in the base is magical!) I even tried my hand at the Citrus-Scented Angel Food Cake, which given my baking issues required quite a bit of courage. I'm pleased to announce that the recipe seems to be cursed kitchen proof.

Note: You need an ice cream maker to use this book, but if you've got that and a desire for truly awesome ice cream, you're set!

Rating: 5/5

Sunday, June 28, 2015

New Releases 6/30/15

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

White Crocodile by K. T. Medina

Ana of California by Andi Teran

As Night Fallsby Jenny Milchman

The Map of Chaos by Félix J. Palma

Run You Down by Julia Dahl

The Assassins by Gayle Lynds

What Doesn't Kill Her by Carla Norton

Summer Secrets by Jane Green

The Tomorrow War by J. L. Bourne

The Tide Watchers by Lisa Chaplin

The Bones of You by Debbie Howell

Little Girls by Ronald Malfi

Murder, D.C. by Neely Tucker

The Hollow Queen by Elizabeth Haydon

The Mountain Story by Lori Lansens

The Insider Threat by Brad Taylor

The English Spy by Daniel Silva

Ghost Fleet by P.W. Singer & August Cole

Death by Tiara by Laura Levine

The mask by Taylor Stevens

Artemis Invaded by Jane Lindskold

Death in Brittany by Jean-Luc Bannalec

The Red: First Light by Linda Nagata

Local Girls by Caroline Zancan

Between Us and the Moon by Rebecca Maizel

New on DVD:
While We're Young
Last Knights
The Gunman

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
The Perfect Egg by Teri Lynn Fisher and Jenny Park
The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook ed by Kate White
Styx & Stone by James W. Ziskin

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Pre Pub Book Buzz: Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal

There is a bevy of great books being released this summer, readers, and I couldn't be more excited! J. Ryan Stradal's debut novel, Kitchens of the Great Midwest, is just one of the titles I've had my eye on and it sounds fabulous!

Here's a bit about the book from the publisher:

Cynthia Thorvald falls in love with a fellow sommelier and out of love with family life, leaving behind newborn daughter Eva and a devastated husband Lars. Despite this, Lars is a determined father, and instills his passion for food in the infant Eva, feeding her the finest produce and a carefully planned menu including pureed pork shoulder and osso buco. Eva grows and her family is torn apart, but she finds solace in food and the friendship of her two cousins, Braque and Randy, eventually becoming a globally renowned chef, famous for her legendarily opulent pop-up dinners. KITCHENS OF THE GREAT MIDWEST weaves together the perspectives of eight people in Eva Thorvald’s life with the bake-offs, eating contests and potluck dinners that shaped her story of pain, spirit, and resilience.

Kitchens of the Great Midwest is due out from Pamela Dorman Books on July 28 and I have a couple of extras to share with you today - to get you just a bit more excited!

The first is a link to the publisher's online book club kit, which features discussion questions, recipes for snacks, and other fun stuff for your book club get-together.

The second is an interview with J. Ryan Stradal himself:

A Conversation with J. Ryan Stradal 

Q: It’s clear from your book that you have great knowledge and love for food. Does this come from childhood or discovered in adulthood?

A: My interest in food began when I got my driver’s license, which took three tries – I was a famously terrible driver as a teenager. Growing up in a small town in Minnesota, I had a lot of wanderlust and a yearning to see the world, but couldn’t swing international travel on the money I was making as a janitor at the Steamboat Inn and as a clerk at Sam Goody. Therefore, with my high school girlfriend Stacy (who shared similar dreams) we hopped in my mom’s VW Golf, drove north on Highway 61 and hit all of the unusual and ethnic restaurants we could find up in the Twin Cities.

At college outside of Chicago, this trend continued. The parents of my college girlfriend Carly were really into wine; I went on my first trip to Napa Valley with them one year. That’s where another lifelong interest began.

Living in Los Angeles – where I finally learned to drive well; it was that or be killed – there’s no shortage of exceptional and interesting cuisine. Food is still a major motivation behind the international travel I’ve finally been able to do as an adult; my favorite culinary destination in the last few years has been Malaysia, no contest.

Q: Did the recipes featured in each chapter come from family/friend recipes, or did you have to research them? What made you decide on these dishes?

A: Five of the eight recipes came from the 1984 edition of “First Lutheran Church Women,” a cookbook released by the First Lutheran Church in Hunter, North Dakota, where my grandmother was born and raised. My great-grandmother has recipes in that volume. So some of these dishes have been in the family for generations.

I wanted to choose food that was particular to the Midwest, so things like lutefisk, sweet corn, venison, and dessert bars fit that bill, but I also didn’t want to merely adhere to the typical. My dad grows Serrano peppers in his garden in central Minnesota, and I know plenty of Minnesotans like him who enjoy spicy food. While not stereotypically representative of the Midwest, I wanted to demonstrate that passion as well, and I feel that Eva’s interest in Chocolate Habanero peppers also is a bit of a metaphor for my own wanderlust and interest in faraway places. I think it’s extremely typical for teens and pre-teens to venerate what’s exotic to them. That was absolutely true for me.

Q: What does the “J.” stand for?

A: It’s the result of a family argument. My dad’s side of the family is 100% Czech, mostly from a small town called Domazlice, and my dad was especially close to his “Stryc Joe” (stryc is Czech for uncle) who died shortly before I was born. My parents wanted to name me after him, but my superstitious Czech grandmother was having none of it. As a compromise, my parents named me “J. Ryan,” with the “J.” implicitly, but not legally, standing for “Joseph.” As a result, my birth certificate, passport, etc., all read “J. Ryan.” That said, the short answer is that the “J.” doesn’t stand for anything – it’s just “J,” like the “S” in Harry S Truman or the J in Homer J Simpson. I didn’t even know about the “J.” until I was ten or eleven, when I came across my birth certificate. Until then, my relatives and friends called me Ryan. Some still do.

Q: Did you draw Eva from any people or experiences in your life?

A: Eva is the largest amalgam of people I’ve ever written, but she’s mostly me, especially as represented in her pre-teen years. I didn’t grow exotic peppers in my closet, but I had pretty obscure and all-encompassing obsessions, and I was relentlessly bullied on the bus. It was a tough time, and my interests – which helped me feel connected to a larger world outside of this small, hurtful one – kept me going.

Q: What made you decide to tell Eva’s story mostly through the point-of-view of other characters?

A: I set out to write a story about redemption through empathy, and it seemed like an inherently empathetic structure; I wanted Eva to face conflict and challenges, but I didn’t want there to be a villain or an anti-hero as such. I felt that, in the case of the characters who may initially be the hardest to like, getting in their heads and feeling their pain was a way of ameliorating any “straw man” aspects to their characterizations.

Q: Do any of the characters reflect your own personality or experiences?

A: All of them, I think. I feel that at one point or another, I have been every single one of these people. There’s only one character directly based on myself, though, and I’ll leave it for the readers to figure out who that is.

Q: In addition to being a writer, you have also worked on a number of reality shows. Do those experiences factor into your stories? Did working on those shows give you any good material or inspiration?

A: The shows I worked on were very different from each other and in each case, I didn’t interact with the talent very much. Maybe there are vestiges of TV personalities in characters like Octavia. I do have to say that editing unscripted TV is an extremely useful narrative exercise. When you’re trying to get a twenty-nine minute rough cut down to twenty-one minutes and thirty seconds, and you only have a few days, at most, to do it, you have to develop an instinct for the necessary. Fortunately, I learned from some of the best – folks like Jeff Conroy, John Gray, and Phil Segal, who have all won multiple Emmys. However, I have never explicitly written about TV or based any character on anyone I met in that world. Too soon, maybe.

Q: What’s the best meal you have ever had?

A: Extremely tough question. I can think of several, and they all were really more about the people present at the meal than the food involved. In cities like Los Angeles that are confederations of individuals split from families and lifelong friends, we form our own families of choice, and food is a unifier, a value system, a mode of expression, an attractor. While the food may have been unbelievable at some of the gatherings I remember most, the people involved were, invariably, the point of the whole affair. I think that’s ultimately true for Eva as well.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Mercy House by Adam Cesare + a Giveaway

Happy Friday, y'all! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Adam Cesare's Mercy House. Do note there is a publisher sponsored tour wide giveaway on this one, so be sure to scroll through to the end.

Mercy House isn't your average nursing home. Here the residents will experience top notch care, the best of all amenities, and a lust for life they've never felt before.

Something is happening at Mercy House. Something that defies all explanation. The residents, even those who have been confined to their beds for some time now, are experiencing increased energy and strength like never before. Nikki's mother-in-law, Mercy House's newest arrival, takes full advantage of this newfound vivaciousness by attacking her daughter-in-law. No regard at all to the fact that her beloved son stood in her way. Nikki escapes, narrowly, but soon finds that leaving Mercy House alive could be next to impossible as the residents take up arms and begin attacking everyone under the age of retirement.

If you're prone to nightmares, you'll probably want to avoid this one. Mercy House is a nasty little read both in regards to the amount of gore and plain old meanness. Yep, it's a mean story. Mercy House's residents start turning on everyone, dividing into factions including a group of ex military and followers of the home's nicknamed "Queen Bee," amongst others. The military folks are interested in lockdown and protecting resources while Queen Bee's folks are... um... exploring their newfound sexual abilities. And they're all after the staff, eliminating them in some of the most gruesome and inventive ways you can imagine in a nursing home.

Sadly, there's never any explanation as to what's come over the residents. I kept waiting for it, hoping there would be something, even a little nugget of a hint. Nope. Not at all.

Oh, well.

If you're into dark and hopeless ('cause that's what it seems like for everyone in this story) and have a strong stomach, Cesare is the man for you. Just know that you'll have to be ok with the lack of a neat and tidy resolution.

Rating: 3/5

And now for the giveaway. To enter simply fill out the Rafflecopter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Some Mini Reviews

I see a growing trend with mini reviews of late and I think they're pretty awesome for a few reasons.

What some of you might not know is that I review here as well as over at Stacy Alesi's Bookbitch.com. And I prepare separate reviews for both. That's right - two reviews for each book if I cover them for both places. And sometimes it's hard!

The other reason I like mini reviews is because sometimes I simply don't have a lot to say. Either the book has been SOOOOOO well covered elsewhere that I'm not sure I'm contributing much to the conversation or I just feel meh.

So here goes, my debut mini reviews!

First up, The Three by Sarah Lotz. Readers, I was quite dying to get my hands on a copy of this book but I didn't get around to it for a while. When I did, I really wasn't sure what to make of it.

Four different flights from around the world crash on the same day with seemingly no connection. The circumstances of each flight are different, the flights all departed from different countries and were bound for equally different destinations. They aren't the same kind of plane nor are any of them from the same airline. But in three of the crashes there is just one survivor - a child. And on one flight, a passenger managed to leave a strange message before passing away. A message that leads some to believe that these children aren't lucky survivors at all. As fear and paranoia increase, the children are targeted by groups who believe in everything from the second coming and the apocalypse to aliens themselves. 

The Three is not a straightforward narrative. Instead, the premise is that it is actually interviews and documents used by writer Elspeth Martins in writing her own book about the crashes.

The book begins ominously enough and there is a constant undertone of dread throughout, but it isn't until the conclusion that the book becomes really creepy.

I quite enjoyed this outing from Lotz. It's one of those books that's stuck with me since reading. I was pleased as punch to discover there was to be a sequel of sorts in Day Four as well.

Rating: 4.5/5

Next, A Vision of Fire by Gillian Anderson and Jeff Rovin - one of the debut titles from Simon and Schuster's Simon451 imprint.

Child psychologist Caitlin O'Hara has a difficult task ahead of her. She's been brought in to examine and treat the daughter of India's UN ambassador. The ambassador himself narrowly survived an assassination attempt that his daughter, Maanik, was unfortunately witness to. The girl wasn't physically harmed in any way, but her mental state has rapidly declined leading another doctor to issue a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Caitlin is certain that isn't the case, more so when she discovers evidence of at least two other teens in other countries. Determined to help, Caitlin travels to Haiti to meet with one of the other afflicted and soon realizes that the kids are suffering from something that could defy all known explanation. 

While I wasn't blown away by Anderson's debut outing, I have to say I was pretty satisfied by the end of the book. A Vision of Fire is the first in a series and clearly so. There are a lot of questions left at the end of the book as well as a cliffhanger of an ending that has left me anxious for the second installment ever since reading.

Rating: 4/5

And finally Burning Paradise by Robert Charles Wilson:

Cassie lives in fear that one day the people who came after her parents will come after her and her brother as well. But these people aren't people at all. Since 1914, Earth has lived under the influence of a presence most aren't aware of. They've altered the course of human history, some would argue for the better, but their ultimate goal is still unknown and anyone who's discovered their secret is eliminated quickly and quietly. 

This was an odd one. It was one I'd really looked forward to. I mean the premise just sounded super cool! I'd say about 75% of it did pretty much live up to my expectations. The other 25%, including the very abrupt and sort of meh ending, let me down a little. Even this long after finishing it I'm still on the fence, which is why I've actually held off on covering it for so long.

Rating: 3/5

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler

Martin Churchwarry has made an odd discovery - amongst a lot of books purchased at auction is a strange volume, damaged and unsalable but utterly fascinating. Churchwarry is so taken by the tome that he wants to put it in the hands of someone who might appreciate it. He discovers a name in the book: Verona Bonn. Bonn, deceased, was a circus performer whose history leads Churchwarry to Simon Watson. 

Watson, a reference librarian and Verona Bonn's grandson, never knew his grandmother. He can't imagine what connection the book might have to her or to his family, but he is curious about the volume, a logbook from Peabody's Portable Magic and Miracles - a circus troupe dating back to the eighteenth century. As he spends more and more time with the book, Simon's life becomes increasingly strange and seemingly cursed by tragedy. But as things around Simon crumble, he realizes that this curse is one that has followed his ancestors for generations. With this realization comes the certainty that the book could be the key to finally breaking the curse, but only if he can discover the answer before it claims another victim. 

If you love the lure of old books and stories about long lost secrets, you will adore The Book of Speculation. It's a magical read broken into two parallel narratives - that of Simon, today, and Amos, a member of Peabody's back in the 1700s. There are mermaids, Romany mysticism, Tarot, and - of course - that curse I mentioned in the synopsis. There's also a crumbling old house in danger of tipping into the ocean and a family plagued by the weight of its own history.

I'm pretty amazed that this is a first book. It's not Erika Swyler's first published work, but it is her first novel and it is brilliant. This is a book created by a mind that conceived of pitching it to publishers in the form of her own hand made - bound, aged, and etched - volume. Seriously, that's not only clever it's dedication! (And not something I'd recommend making a trend. You can check out her posts outlining the tedious adventure here.) It worked, though. And now we all have the chance to experience the magic of this fabulous tale. 

 Rating: 4/5

Readers, the publisher is offering a truly fabulous giveaway for one of Swyler's handmade manuscripts! You can check out the dets and enter to win here.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Second Life by S J Watson

Hi, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for S J Watson's latest, Second Life.

Julia and her sister hadn't spoken for some time, and when Kate is murdered in an alley in Paris Julia is overwhelmed with guilt and sorrow. Two months after Kate's death she's still reeling, frustrated that the police have not found the killer and have seemingly no solid leads. Then Julia finds out that Kate had been using an online connections site to meet men for sex. 

Convinced the killer is hiding somewhere in the site, Julia creates her own profile intent on luring him to her. Then she meets Lukas. Their chats are a temptation that Julia finds herself increasingly drawn to. Julia allows him to meet her in person and is quickly drawn into a physical relationship. But as their affair progresses, Julia realizes that Lukas may not be the person she thought he was.

Second Life almost feels like an idea sprung from Before I Go To Sleep. There, our heroine discovers she's been having an affair. Here, our heroine is drawn into one. Sure, she's "investigating" her sister's killer but really the relationship offers her something her marriage has not. Escape.

Escape from her past. Escape from her present. And most of all, escape from herself. She's convinced Lukas didn't kill her sister and it's this conviction that in part allows her to give herself permission to enter the relationship. It's also this logic that immediately sets the reader against Julia. Not in a combative way, but in the way you would watch someone in your life make one poor decision after another.

Of course things start to go wrong fairly quickly.

Part of the tension of Second Life comes from the certainty that Julia will be caught. Her home life begins to deteriorate as she tries desperately to keep her secret. And there's still Kate's murder hanging heavy over everything.

Before I Go To Sleep really does set the bar high for a follow up and I have to say that Second Life does make for a fine second outing. As in his debut, Watson has plenty of surprises hidden within Second Life. Julia's story has the same intense suspense that Christine's does (even without the memory loss element), making it just as compelling of a read - and in spite of my note above they are two quite different plots.

Watson has mastered the art of the "page turner," readers! If you're looking for an unputdownable book this summer, Second Life fits the bill.

Rating: 4/5

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

For more on S J Watson and his work, you can visit his website here. You can also like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout

Grace has run all the way to Korea to get away from her family. Sure, it means senior year in a foreign country where she doesn't know the language or the culture, but anything is better than one more hour spent arguing with her mother. 

The Tennesseean makes fast friends with her new roommate, Sophie, but Sophie's twin, Jason, not so much. He's hot. Really hot. And famous. But Grace has been around fame all her life and none of it erases the fact that he's basically a jerk. Until she gets to know him a little better. As her feelings grow for Jason, though, Grace finds herself worrying that she's being caught once again in a cycle she's tried so hard to escape. 

Katie M. Stout's debut is a fresh and fun look at romance and music. But it's more than that as well. Grace is running from some serious family drama - drama she's not ready to confront. All the while she's also fighting regular teen hormones, academic stress, and trying to make her way in a new country.

I loved how much Grace grows throughout the story. At first she's very critical of everything around her, comparing it to home and to her own experience in the music industry. That's not even the half of it considering the baggage she's carrying around with her. As the story progresses, though, she opens herself up to the experience more and more.

Grace is fortunate in that she finds a such good friend in Sophie. Sophie not only shows her the ropes on campus but shares the nearby sites, giving Grace the opportunity to truly experience this new world. Through Sophie - and the Eden members - Stout gives readers the chance to experience South Korea as well. The markets, the KPOP scene, the food... it's a world I doubt many of us have experienced first hand but Stout does it credit.

Of course a big part of the story is her relationship with Jason, which I found progressed quite nicely. Some of Grace's flip flopping towards him was a bit heavy handed, but that's more likely the result of my being further removed from being a teen. I do recall it ALL BEING SO DRAMATIC!

Rating: 4/5

This is a Hello, I Love You twofer day, btw, so don't forget to head over to today's other post to read an excerpt and enter to win your very own copy!



Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout - Excerpt + Giveaway

Good morning, everyone! I hope you're having a happy Monday. Today I'm a stop on the tour for Katie M. Stout's super cute debut, Hello, I Love You, with an excerpt and a giveaway! Before we kick that off, though, here's a bit about the book from the publisher:

Grace Wilde is running—from the multi-million dollar mansion her record producer father bought, the famous older brother who's topped the country music charts five years in a row, and the mother who blames her for her brother's breakdown. Grace escapes to the farthest place from home she can think of, a boarding school in Korea, hoping for a fresh start.

She wants nothing to do with music, but when her roommate Sophie's twin brother Jason turns out to be the newest Korean pop music superstar, Grace is thrust back into the world of fame. She can't stand Jason, whose celebrity status is only outmatched by his oversized ego, but they form a tenuous alliance for the sake of her friendship with Sophie. As the months go by and Grace adjusts to her new life in Korea, even she can't deny the sparks flying between her and the KPOP idol.

Soon, Grace realizes that her feelings for Jason threaten her promise to herself that she'll leave behind the music industry that destroyed her family. But can Grace ignore her attraction to Jason and her undeniable pull of the music she was born to write? Sweet, fun, and romantic, this young adult novel explores what it means to experience first love and discover who you really are in the process.


I've been looking forward to this book's release for quite a while now and I am so freaking excited to share it with you here! 

Now, before you start you might want to check out Katie's Spotify Playlist here - to get you in the right reading mood :)

HELLO, I LOVE YOU 
By Katie M. Stout 
Blog Tour Excerpt 

We finish our study session around eight and head out of the library together. He unlocks a bike from the rack as I make to head back to the dorms.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” I say. “Wait, are you walking back?”

“Well, I’m not sleeping at the library tonight.” He doesn’t take the bait. “I’ll give you a ride.”

I imagine what it would feel like to sit behind him on the bike, my arms wrapped around his waist. That now-familiar heat radiates through my body again. How is it that Jason has turned me into the blushing type of girl?

“Don’t worry about me.” I wave my hand in dismissal. “I’ll be fine.”

He straddles the bike’s frame. “I don’t mind. Get on.”

I hesitate a moment, but when I see that he isn’t budging, I step up to the bike. “Uhh . . . how am I supposed to ride this thing?”

He pats the metal rack on the back of the bike, made for hauling inanimate objects.

“You’ve got to be kidding.”

“I’m not going to kill you. Just trust me.”

Trust. Such a small word. Which implies so much. I lost my trust in boys when Isaac cheated on me, then lied to my face about it.

Jason’s gaze softens just a hair. “Come on, you’ll be fine.” Biting my lip, I straddle the bike, stomping down any fear

that threatens to grow in my chest.

Jason turns around to look at me. “Sit sideways, like riding a horse sidesaddle. More comfortable.”

I follow his instructions, not sure how I’m going to balance myself. When I rode with Sophie, I was more afraid of falling and cracking my head open on the pavement, but with Jason, my fear lies more in my body’s response to being so close to him.

Blowing out a slow breath to ease my nerves, I settle onto the metal rack behind his seat and pull up my feet. I knot trembling fingers in the fabric of his T-shirt, which hangs away from his body. But when he pushes the bike into motion, on instinct, I grab onto something more substantial. My eyes snap closed, and it takes me a good thirty seconds to realize my fingers are digging into his sides.

Though the wind that blows against us chills my skin, I’m so hot I feel I might spontaneously combust. Every time I attempt to let go of him, the bike teeters to the side.

“Hold on tighter,” he says over his shoulder.

I spend the entire ride in my own personal Hades, torn between fear of falling and fear of Jason.

When he pulls up to my dorm, I jump off the bike so fast I stumble. He grabs my arm to steady me, and it takes an excruciating amount of effort not to rip myself away from his grasp. Memories of us dancing, of him leaning against me in the limo, flash through my brain, and a fresh stab of longing cuts through my chest. Seeing him sitting there, it seems like Saturday night wasn’t even real.

“Grace?”

My heart sprints. “Yeah?”

He picks at one of the bike’s handlebars in one of those rare instances of discomfort. “Do you want to go with us to the music video shoot next Friday?”

“What?”

“I’m sure Sophie would have asked you, anyway,” he adds. “But I just thought you should go. So we can work on the song some more.”

“The song. Right. Umm . . . sure.” I wait for the fog to clear from inside my head, but it lingers. “I guess I’ll see you tomorrow in class. For the test.”

“If my legs can get me home. You were heavy to carry here.” I gape at him until I realize that was his idea of a joke. Jason

just told a joke.

He gives an awkward wave. “Good night, Grace.”

“Wait a second.”

He pauses with his foot ready to peddle. “What?” “Does this mean we’re . . . friends now?” “Friends?”

“Yeah. You tutoring me, and me helping with the song. Going to the shoot next week. Are we friends?”

Why does my breath hitch at the thought?

The scowl I’ve come to associate with him reappears on his face, and arrogance drips from his voice when he says, “I’ll think about it.”

But even in the dark, I can see his scowl has transformed into a smile.

About The Author: Katie M. Stout is from Atlanta, Georgia, and works for an international charity that sends her to fun places like Spain and Singapore. When she's not writing, you can find her drinking an unhealthy amount of chai tea and listening to Girls' Generation, Teen Top, and all her other favorite K-pop tunes. 


For more on Katie and her work, you can visit her website here. You can also follow her on Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest

And now for the giveaway! To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, July 6. Open US only - no PO boxes please. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

New Releases 6/23/15

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Trailer Park Fae by Lilith Saintcrow

The Truth and Other Lies by Sascha Arango

Tin Men by Christopher Golden

The Long Utopia by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter

Tiny Little Things by Beatriz Williams

Brutality by Ingrid Thoft

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler

Wicked Charms by Janet Evanovich

A Winsome Murder by James DeVita

Music for Wartime by Rebecca Makkai

Killing Monica by Candace Bushnell

Vixen by Bill Pronzini

Decompression by Juli Zeh

The Idea of Love by Patti Callahan Henry

Death and Mr. Pickwick by Stephen Jarvis

Devil's Harbor by Alex Gilly

The Cartel by Don Winslow

The Melody Lingers On by Mary Higgins Clark

The Rules by Nancy Holder & Debbie Viguie

A Girl Undone by Catherine Linka

Emma & Oliver by Robin Benway

New on DVD:
Survivor
The Forger

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Pre Pub Book Buzz: Slasher Girls & Monster Boys edited by April Genevieve Tucholke

Ooh, I get the feeling this collection is the next one to be added to my favorite short stories list! Here's the description and contributing authors list from Goodreads to explain:

A host of the smartest young adult authors come together in this collection of scary stories and psychological thrillers curated by Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea’s April Genevieve Tucholke.

Each story draws from a classic tale or two—sometimes of the horror genre, sometimes not—to inspire something new and fresh and terrifying. There are no superficial scares here; these are stories that will make you think even as they keep you on the edge of your seat. From bloody horror to supernatural creatures to unsettling, all-too-possible realism, this collection has something for any reader looking for a thrill.

Fans of TV’s The Walking Dead, True Blood, and American Horror Story will tear through tales by these talented authors:

Stefan Bachmann
Leigh Bardugo
Kendare Blake
A. G. Howard
Jay Kristoff
Marie Lu
Jonathan Maberry
Danielle Paige
Carrie Ryan
Megan Shepherd
Nova Ren Suma
McCormick Templeman
April Genevieve Tucholke
Cat Winters

See what I mean?! Isn't that author list amazing? And it's horror shorts - doesn't get much better in my opinion!

Slasher Girls & Monster Boys is due out in August from Dial. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Wrong Man by Kate White

Kit is on vacation when she meets fellow New Yorker Matt Healy. He's charming and good looking and she's in the mood for a little adventure. So when he invites her to dinner on her last night in Florida, she accepts. The two make plans to meet again in New York but when Kit arrives at the address he's given, someone else answers the door.

This other man says that he is Matt Healy, that someone has stolen his identity and he needs Kit's help in finding the criminal. Confused and hurt, she agrees only to find days later that one of the Matt Healys has been killed in a hit and run - in Florida. Was it an accident? Was it murder? Will they be coming after Kit next?

Kate White's latest is a twisty turny thriller. I wasn't sure what to expect with this one. Kit meets Matt, they have a nice time and that's supposed to be it. But then he calls her, telling her that he has to see her again. All is fine and rosy. And then she arrives at their date to find that he's not who he says he is.

Of course both Kit and the reader then have to wonder what the heck is going on. Why would someone lying about their identity set themselves up to be discovered? Why would they want Kit to know about the deception? The guy was free and clear - they'd already agreed no strings attached.

White swiftly ratchets up the tension, placing Kit in the crosshairs of a criminal whose motives are completely unknown to our heroine. And that's what makes it really scary. Kit's a decorator whose one night of passion has turned into a potentially grave mistake. And without knowing who is after her or why there's not much she can do to protect herself.

The Wrong Man is a tense read and one that might make you rethink chance encounters!

Rating: 4/5


Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Rhyme of the Magpie by Marty Wingate + a Giveaway

Hello, all! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Marty Wingate's The Rhyme of the Magpie. Wingate, the author of the Potting Shed mystery series, kicks off her new Birds of a Feather series with Rhyme.

Julia Lanchester has split with her father. It's all thanks to the fact that he decided to remarry just six months after the death of Julia's mother. To her mother's best friend, no less. Julia had been working as his assistant - the famed Rupert Lanchester is the host of a popular nature program - but left to take a position with a tourism office instead, cutting off all contact with Rupert. But when Rupert shows up for an unannounced visit just before his new wife calls to say that he's gone missing, Julia is concerned. And when the body of a man her father has been known to butt heads with is discovered nearby his cabin retreat, she knows she must find out what's going on.  

Marty Wingate has temporarily set aside the Garden Shed mysteries to begin a new UK based cozy series her with the first Birds of a Feather outing.Fans of the Garden Shed stories will find a lot to like in Julia and this new series. Rhyme has the same charm of the other series, but features a younger heroine with a different set of family issues. And of course the focus on birding and environmental issues rather than gardening.

The tone of this first outing is quite similar to Wingate's other series. While I would have liked to see something that stands out just a bit more from the other works, I found Rhyme no less enjoyable than Wingate's previous mysteries.

Fans of cozies - set in the UK in particular - should really give Wingate a try. Her stories are great fun to curl up with!

Rating: 3.5/5

There is a tour wide giveaway courtesy of the good folks at Alibi for this one. To enter simply fill out the Rafflecopter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Infuse by Eric Prum and Josh Williams

Last year friends and W&P Design founders Eric Prum and Josh Williams burst onto the cookbook scene with their debut Shake: A New Perspective on Cocktails. Now they're back with Infuse: Oil, Spirit, Water the result of experimentation and brainstorming in infusing oils, spirits, and water that began over a decade ago (according to their intro) with the team's peach bourbon creation.

The cookbook pairs fresh ingredients with exactly what the title describes - oils, spirits, and water - to create fun and easy blends every home cook can enjoy. From the Olio Santo - a Calabrian chile infused oil they suggest using on pizza bianca - and overnight Limoncello to a refreshing post work out Pineapple Mint Coconut Water, Prum and Williams have created a collection of simply executed but brilliantly flavored infusions.

What I love about this book is how uncomplicated everything is. The most frequently required tool in making the recipes is a mason jar. That's it. A mason jar! Some of the recipes require muddling, others shaking, and others simply time. It's almost ridiculous how easy the recipes in this book really are - it kind of makes you wonder how you didn't think of some of them yourself!

Most of the infusions also include paired recipes for their use - a Seared Feather Steak using the Garlic Confit Oil and a Spiced Peach Bourbon Old-Fashioned using the famed Peach Bourbon, for example. Others, like the Sunday Morning Reviver and the Jalapeño Spiked Grapefruit Water, are complete as is.

After trying quite a few of the recipes including the fantastic Sriracha honey butter popcorn (which I topped with smoked salt!) and the blueberry maple syrup (over oatmeal rather than pancakes), I think I'm ready to even try some of my own infusions!

If you're a fan of jazzing up dishes with flavorful condiments, wowing company with unique cocktails, or are just looking for ways to use your summer herb garden bounty, Infuse is a great addition to your cookbook collection! (Psst, if you want to get a taste of the recipes inside, you can visit Prum and Williams's website here.)

Rating: 4/5

Per Blogging for Books requirements: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Guest Post by Heather Herrman


As an extra bonus for you today, I am happy to welcome Consumption author Heather Herrman herself! Take it away, Heather!

WRITING THROUGH, NOT TOWARDS

My first book was just published. I am above the moon, over the stars excited, and yet…pub day was not the best day of my life as a writer. Far from it. Let me tell you why.

I went to graduate school for Creative Writing in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where, along with numerous other miscreants, I drank copious amounts of beer, fell in love, and talked a lot about things like “charged objects” and “unreliable narrators.” We were all young (in heart and writing careers if not in body), hopeful, and full of naivete with regard to our future prospects as writers.

Which is why when our professor, the ever-incredible Robert Boswell (the Boz) said the following: “the best part of writing is writing,” we all gave each other the side-eye and laughed it off.

Yeah, right, Boz.

We were there to get noticed. We were there only as a short stop before writing THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL. Some of us just might have done it, (Casey Gray, I’m looking at you). Most of us haven’t. Many of us stopped writing altogether. Which, at the time, seemed like an unthinkable prospect, a sin against all that was and could be our very nature.

Until, of course, life happened. We graduated, we got full time jobs, we had kids, we moved, we moved again. We dealt with mortgages, flooded basements, and harsh publishing markets. We experienced job markets overflowing with graduates who held the same degrees and meager but hard-won publishing credits as ourselves. We settled for adjuncting as we waited out openings for a full-time jobs. We switched careers entirely. We survived. Writing became a luxury.

Which is bullshit. Writing isn’t a luxury, it’s work. Even when we love it. This is something I have to keep reminding and teaching myself. It was only when I finally reminded myself of this and started writing just a little bit each day, whether I felt like it or not, whether I had time for it or not (and let’s be honest, I mess up, I miss days, I fall on my face) that I found an agent and, after three years of heartache, a publisher. But really, what was better than that was finding the writing.

The publication process of a novel is really, really long. You go through draft after draft, edit after edit, all of which keeps you from getting to actually write new stuff. Working with publishers is really cool, and it’s really necessary, but after going through it, I found that Boz was right all along. The best part of writing is writing.

If any of you out there are writing or thinking about writing, you’ll probably have been where I’ve been, which is dreaming of publication. But here’s the thing. It happens….and then you go on. It doesn’t fix anything or set anything else up for you as a writer. You still have to find a way to write for the sake of writing.

If you’re always writing towards—towards a complete manuscript, towards the final draft, towards publication, towards awards or recognition or positive reviews—you’re going to miss the writing through. You’re going to miss the true joy of making writing a part of your daily routine, a part of your life, a part of your core. You’re going to miss getting lost in that messy tangle of words and then finally breaking through to hit the clear spot.

So here is what I remind myself: Today, my book comes out, and it’s a really, really good day.

But yesterday, or the day after tomorrow, or the day when my son has decided to stick yet another hundred dollar computer cord in his mouth as a chew toy and I read a really shitty review of my book, but I still manage to write anyway, even if it’s only a few words—that is a great day.


Write through. Write through and through and through, and eventually you’re gonna find what’s on the other side.

To hear more from Heather Herrman or to check out her work, visit her website www.heatherherrman.com. There, you’ll find a schedule of the other stops on the CONSUMPTION blog tour along with exclusive videos exploring the topics of writing and horror.

Big thanks to Heather for being here today and to the folks at TLC Book Tours and Hydra for setting this up. 



Consumption by Heather Herrman + a Giveway

Good morning, readers! Today I'm part of the TLC book tour for Heather Herrman's horror debut, Consumption. Note that there is a tour wide giveaway on this one. Be sure to read through to the end to enter.

Erma and John have been struggling for some time, but an offer of a job in Maine could be the fresh start they both need. Unfortunately, their cross country drive takes a detour when their car breaks down in Cavus, Montana. The town is gearing up for their annual Black Squirrel Festival, leaving Erma and John at the mercy of the sheriff's uncle for car repairs. They're supposed to be good to go the following day but decide to stay and enjoy the festivities instead. It's a decision that could cost them more than the return fee on their moving van.

Cavus is home to an ancient evil. An evil that has long dwelled beneath the land's surface, waiting patiently for a chance to return. And now it's awoken just in time for Cavus's big fete. Many of the locals are already under its thrall and holdouts like Erma, John, and a few others are in their sights. Now it's only a matter of time until the town falls prey to this terrible entity.

Heather Hermman had some good ideas in her debut but I don't think they were fully fleshed out to my satisfaction. Parts of the story felt disjointed, strung together in a way that didn't quite translate as a smoothly flowing story. It also took some time to get a true picture of what was happening in Cavus. Fortunately the story does pick up significantly. It was Lucy's tale in particular that got me. It made for a great backbone to the story, but it was so long in coming that I fear many readers will have given up before then.

As a first book, Consumption does show promise. Given my own fondness of the genre, it's a bit selfish of me to say that I hope Hermman has more in store for us down the line.

Rating: 3/5

And now for the giveaway. As always, to enter simply fill out the Rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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

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


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Top Ten Books in My Summer TBR

I've decided to jump on board with Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the topic is: top ten titles in my summer TBR. This is somewhat similar to the recent beach bag list, so I'm going to make an effort to highlight all different titles in this TTT.

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Cherry Harvest by Lucy Sanna

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Lucy Sanna's fiction debut, The Cherry Harvest. 

For orchards like the Christiansens’ the war has meant at least one year without harvest already. And it's not due to lack of crop, but lack of help throughout the season. To that end, Charlotte Christiansen has an idea: what if they were able to employ German prisoners of war? The idea is put to a vote and just barely accepted, with many locals vehemently opposed to the idea.

Even Charlotte can’t deny having her own concerns about the issue and finds herself on edge waiting for any one of the prisoners to make a wrong move. Then her husband brings one of the PWs, a professor, into their home to tutor their teenage daughter and Charlotte fears her decision could endanger them all.

It might come as a surprise to some that putting POWs (they're referred to as PWs in the book) to work here on the home front was something of a common practice. Based on what I've read about it personally, I think Sanna has done a wonderful job portraying the feelings and concerns of those affected.

Charlotte in particular is very anxious about the issue. She knows their orchard and their household can't survive another year without profits - she's already feeling the pinch in the first chapter when she resorts to killing one of her daughter's rabbits for dinner. But Charlotte also can't stand the idea of "the enemy" being in her midst. Not while her own son is risking his life fighting against them. And yet Charlotte is the one most greatly changed by the end of the story.

The Cherry Harvest was not at all what I expected. In a totally good way, though. Sanna managed to keep more than a few surprises in her pocket, surprises that made The Cherry Harvest a bit of a standout compared to similar titles - in my opinion at least.

 Rating: 4.5/5

(Don't forget, you can check out an excerpt and enter to win a copy of The Cherry Harvest here.)

Sunday, June 14, 2015

New Releases 6/16/15

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Love May Fail by Matthew Quick

The Wild Inside by Christine Carbo

The Wrong Man by Kate White

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

The President's Shadow by Brad Meltzer

Day Four by Sarah Lotz

Whisper Beach by Shelley Noble

The Ultimatum by Dick Wolf

The Nightmare Place by Steve Mosby

Wars of the Roses: Margaret of Anjou by Conn Iggulden

Death in Salem by Eleanor Kuhns

The Rumor by Elin Hilderbrand

Paradise Sky by Joe R. Lansdale

Blood Foam by Brendan DuBois

Summerlong by Dean Bakopoulos

Country by Danielle Steel

The Santangelos by Jackie Collins

The Convictions of John Beaumont by Andrew Hughes

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman

Charlie Martz and Other Stories by Elmore Leonard

Loving Dallas by Caisey Quinn

Blood Will Tell by April Henry

Deadfall by Anna Carey

Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone

New on DVD:
Playing It Cool
Chappie
The Lazarus Effect
Welcome to Me
Unfinished Business

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
Let Me Die In His Footsteps by Lori Roy
When We Were Animals by Joshua Gaylord

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella + a Giveaway

Happy Sunday, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the blog tour in honor of Sophie Kinsella's very first teen release, Finding Audrey! This book has been blowing up the blogosphere and I am so very happy to be part of the tour.

Audrey has had a rough go of it lately. Being the target of school bullies has led to an all out breakdown, but she's recovering - slowly. Social anxiety and depression have left her all but housebound and uncomfortable with contact of any kind. Except with her own family, that is. But when Audrey meets Linus, she has a solid reason to want to get better. Linus gets her. He talks to her. And he encourages her in a way her family can't. 

I'd say Kinsella's first teen outing is a great success. The book is issue-y but in subject only. Audrey's experience is never really explained because it's not the point of the story. Her anxiety issues are laid out in a way that's both eye opening to those who have never experienced it but funny as well - in Kinsella's signature style.

The humor is what makes the story so accessible, I think. Bullying has been a hot topic of late but I'm not sure that anyone has handled it or the possible results - or mental health issues - in quite this way yet (I could be wrong about that, but in considering my own reading experiences I've not seen it).

And Audrey is a normal kid in every possible way except for her anxiety. Utterly and painfully normal. Her family is quirky - much of the book focuses on her mom's efforts to pry Audrey's brother away from video games (something controllable where her daughter's issue is not) and the parents' attempts to bond with their kids - but their relationship is healthy. She genuinely wants to get better but her lizard brain just won't cooperate. I think Kinsella illustrates that battle and the complete illogic of anxiety perfectly.

Frankly all of this is to say that Kinsella deftly handles a weighty topic in a way that will broadly appeal to readers.

Rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher, I have a handy hardcover copy of Finding Audrey to give away to one of you lucky readers today! To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, June 29. US only and good luck!

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Friday, June 12, 2015

Short Fiction Friday: Two from HarperCollins

E shorts and teasers have become quite the trend of late. Some folks are understandably not fans - they tend to add little to the series themselves. I quite enjoy them: they give me a little chance to get back to authors and characters I love, and even work to refresh my Swiss cheese memory. Some, like Lisa Unger's Whispers stories and Elliott James's Pax Arcana shorts, are complete stories on their own. Others, like Hallie Ephron's "Photoplay" offer up a bit of extra insight into an upcoming release. Most admittedly tend not to include anything completely necessary to the series, but I'm fine with that as it means folks who don't come across them (or don't have e readers) ultimately aren't missing out on anything huge.

Elizabeth Haynes is one of the authors who has jumped on board with this trend. I've gobbled up and reviewed each new release only to anxiously wait for the next one to come. The second title in her Briarstone Crime series released in March but just a few months prior to that Haynes and Harper teased us with the release of "Promises to Keep," a short set between Under a Silent Moon and Behind Closed Doors.

If you've read the two books, then you know that DS Sam Hollands has been dealing with a recent break up. Her partner, Jo, was reprimanded for becoming too involved in a case and eventually left Sam. In "Promises to Keep" we get more of Jo's story from the discovery of Hassan Reza in the woods to her decision to leave Sam. It's a great short, giving the reader more insight into something seen only through Sam's eyes in the novels and tying up a few odds and ends that are glazed over in the series.

Again, for readers who don't like e books or shorts, you're not missing anything huge but if you're a fan of the series and open to these little reads it's a great bonus!

Rating: 3/5

Another new one to get readers stoked about an upcoming release from Harper is Sophie Hannah's "The Warning." Hannah's ninth Spilling CID title, Woman with a Secret (aka The Telling Error), releases in August here in the States. This is Hannah's first release in the series coming to us from Harper so it's definitely a boon to them to offer up a taste for readers who may be unfamiliar with the series as a whole.

In "The Warning" a stranger comes to the rescue when Chloe and her daughter, Freya, most need him.  The man is cordial and attractive, gaining Chloe's interest almost immediately. But even when she's warned off the man, she finds herself unable to fully resist his charm. Is he really as bad as he's made out to be or is this a case of someone spurned getting their revenge?

"The Warning" features both of the Spilling CID leads but isn't really a true series tie in. It is a fun and quick little read great for enticing folks who have yet to try Hannah or her series.

Rating: 3/5

(Both shorts do include excerpts of the newest series installments.)

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Eeny Meeny by M.J. Arlidge

Southampton has become a killing ground for one of the most twisted minds DI Helen Grace has ever encountered. The murderer kidnaps the victims in pairs, leaving them a cell phone, a gun, and no way out until one of them is dead. Starved and desperate, the victims must make the ultimate choice: die a tortuously long death or kill in order to survive. 

The first victims, a young boyfriend and girlfriend hitchhiking home, offer almost no clue as to the killer's identity except for one thing: the killer is a woman. When another pair is taken, Helen and her team know they are running out of time. But the biggest clue to the killer's motive and identity is one only Helen can decipher. 

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe... I'll don't think I'll ever be able to hear that little rhyme again without thinking of M.J. Arlidge's debut! This is one of those books that gets you from the very beginning. It'd be impossible for it not to considering the very beginning is the first set of victims and their ordeal. It's a killer of an opening - literally!

Arlidge's heroine is one with a dark past. We don't know all of it from the very beginning, but we do know that she has some... issues. And by the time the book draws to its end almost all of it is out in the open, at least for the reader. Grace is an interesting character who is excellently complex and layered, but Arlidge does do a fine job of fleshing out the characters around her as well. Charlie and Mark - Grace's two primary team members - in particular. I would actually have liked a little more of Charlie, Mark seems to get a bit more of the limelight thanks to his interaction with Grace at least in terms of development. This is the first in a series, though, so I hope we'll see more of Charlie to come. As for Grace herself, I can't even imagine what Arlidge might have in store for her down the line. This was a pretty powerful start to the series.

If you haven't gleaned the fact based on the premise, this is a dark read more than a little reminiscent of the Saw franchise. Don't worry, it's not THAT graphic and the story is much better. It does end rather quickly, though. I expected another chapter to wrap things up but I'm good until this fall and the second installment.

Eeny Meeny is out now and is perfect for anyone looking for a quick and chilling thriller.

Rating: 4/5