Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Skitter by Ezekiel Boone

I admitted in my review of Ezekiel Boone's The Hatching that I really don't like spiders. I mean, who does!? But I'm also a sucker for a book that's going to creep me out, so of course I've continued with Boone's killer spider series.

Skitter picks up right where The Hatching left off.

The first wave of spiders is gone but everyone knows it can't be over. Egg sacks are being found the world over and while most are dry and chalky to the touch, dormant for all intents and purposes, some are definitely ready to hatch. What's more, a number of survivors of the initial spider attack now appear to be vectors for new spider hatchings. As the survivors brace for the inevitable next wave, researchers search desperately for anything that can help defend the remaining population from what's to come. 

Like The Hatching, Skitter is a fun and fast-paced read. And like The Hatching there are again way too many characters and too little attention to detail to make it much more than a surface fun read. A popcorn read, if you will.

If you're looking for great character development or deep plot, you won't really get that in this series. Sure, there are a handful of returning faces and yes, we do get a bit more detail on them. Overall, though, the story bounces from one character to another too quick to really give the reader a chance to get to know any of them. Each new chapter, some less than even a page in length, is a glimpse into one more facet of the horror of the tale, but it's a glimpse and nothing more.

I'd say more of the focus on the series is the gross out creep factor. Which is fine for a take your mind off everything read. And I'm not going to turn my nose up at that at this point in time. Take my mind off everything reading is kind of what I'm looking for these days.

Consider this series palate cleansing, icky and skin crawling amusement, and you'll do just fine!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

New Releases 6/27/17

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica

The Furthest Station by Ben Aaronovitch

The Destroyers by Christopher Bollen

The Right Side by Spencer Quinn

The Confusion of Languages by Siobhan Fallin

Unsub by Meg Gardiner

The Waking Land by Callie Bates

Extinction Edge by Nicholas Sansbury Smith

The Witchwood Crown by Tad Williams

The Windfall by Diksha Basu

The Child by Fiona Barton

The Cafe by the Sea by Jenny Colgan

Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory

Soul of the World by David Mealing

Flashmob by Christopher Farnsworth

The Birdwatcher by Willam Shaw

Cocoa Beach by Beatriz Williams

Quiet Until the Thaw by Alexandra Fuller

Aftercare Instructions by Bonnie Pipkin

Amatka by Karin Tidbeck

Seven Stones to Stand or Fall by Diana Gabaldon

Everyone's a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too by Jomny Sun

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue

Midnight Jewel by Richelle Mead

Reign of Serpents by Eleanor Herman

Now I Rise by Kiersten White

New on DVD:
The Belko Experiment
Absolutely Anything
The Autopsy of Jane Doe
T2: Trainspotting

Friday, June 23, 2017

Soulmates by Jessica Grose + a Giveaway

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Jessica Grose's latest, Soulmates. 

Dana has moved on in the two years since her husband left her. She works hard and the law firm has noticed. She's also in great shape. But when she spies a headline and her ex's picture on the from page of the New York Post, she realizes she hasn't moved on quite as well as she thought. Ethan and the yoga instructor he left Dana for have been found in a cave. Or rather their bodies have. And now Dana is determined to find out what happened. In order to do so, though, it means traveling to New Mexico and spending time with the very group that Ethan abandoned everything for. A group that, for Dana and most outsiders, seems to be some sort of cult. But Dana knows that if she's ever to understand what led to Ethan's death, she'll have to convince these people that she belongs and believes - something the cynical lawyer admits is going to be difficult. 

I have to say that I really appreciated Grose's humor and snark in this latest. I, too, have what I think is a healthy skepticism for any kind of cultish mentality and that's exactly what the group Ethan joins seems to share. At least at the outset. In reality it's kind of worse than she expects.

In spite of all the signs that she shouldn't get involved, not least of which is some time spent with Ethan's father before heading off to the "yoga retreat," Dana throws herself into her investigation. And it's not just the truth behind Ethan's death that Dana is searching for, it's what happened to their marriage as well. How the man she thought she knew so well could become someone so different. Someone who would leave her so easily.

I'll try not to be spoilery, but I have thoughts about the ending. Thoughts I've been dying to mull over with someone!

The end of Soulmates was not at all what I expected. I kind of saw it coming, but it still wasn't what I expected. And I wasn't sure how I felt about it either. It's definitely an ending that I think a lot of readers will probably not be so keen on, but after much thought I've decided that I kind of loved it. Again, it wasn't where I expected the story to go, but it was the kind of ending that sticks with you. And I found I stewed over it. Until I decided it worked. I'll admit a younger me would have hated it thought :)

And now for the giveaway. If you want to win your very own copy of Soulmates, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, July 10. Open US only.

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

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

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Giveaway: Cyber World: Tales of Humanity's Tomorrow ed by Jason Heller & Joshua Viola

In honor of today's #SFFPit, which I'm watching closely and liking wildly even as I try to work through some queries and manuscripts, I'm giving away a copy of Hex Publishing's Cyber World anthology!

Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

Cybernetics. Neuroscience. Nanotechnology. Genetic engineering. Hacktivism. Transhumanism. The world of tomorrow is already here, and the technological changes we all face have inspired a new wave of stories to address our fears, hopes, dreams, and desires as Homo sapiens evolve—or not—into their next incarnation. Cyber World presents diverse tales of humanity’s tomorrow, as told by some of today’s most gripping science fiction visionaries.
Hex is a fantastic press doing a lot of really cool things, including an upcoming anthology for the Ghost Town Writers Retreat I'll be taking part in.

Cyber World itself has been getting a lot of attention - much deserved considering the lineup of contributing authors - and was recently nominated for a Colorado Book Award.

Here's the full TOC:

Foreword by Richard Kadrey
Introduction by Joshua Viola
Serenade by Isabel Yap
The Mighty Phin by Nisi Shawl
Reactions by Mario Acevedo
The Bees of Kiribati by Warren Hammond
The Rest Between Two Notes by Cat Rambo
The Singularity is in Your Hair by Matthew Kressel
Panic City by Madeline Ashby
The Faithful Soldier, Prompted by Saladin Ahmed
You Bones Will Not Be Unknown by Alyssa Wong
Staunch by Paul Graham Raven
Other People's Thoughts by Chinelo Onwualu
WYSIOMG by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro
We Will Take Care of Our Own by Angie Hodapp
A Song Transmuted by Sarah Pinsker
It's Only Words by Keith Ferrell
Small Offerings by Paolo Bacigalupi
Darkout by E. Lily You
Visible Damage by Stephen Graham Jones
The Ibex on the Day of Extinction by Minister Faust
How Nothing Happens by Darin Bradley
Afterword by Jason Heller

And not only does the book feature that fantastic lineup, it also comes with a soundtrack! Oh, yeah. And it's signed by a few of those people, too!

To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, July 3. Open US only.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

PB Giveaway: The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas

Today's giveaway is a paperback copy of Kara Thomas's fantastic The Darkest Corners.

If you haven't read this one yet, here's a bit about it from Goodreads:

There are secrets around every corner in Fayette, Pennsylvania. Tessa left when she was nine and has been trying ever since not to think about what happened there that last summer.
She and her childhood best friend Callie never talked about what they saw. Not before the trial. And certainly not after.

But ever since she left, Tessa has had questions. Things have never quite added up. And now she has to go back to Fayette--to Wyatt Stokes, sitting on death row; to Lori Cawley, Callie's dead cousin; and to the one other person who may be hiding the truth.

Only the closer Tessa gets to what really happened, the closer she gets to a killer--and this time, it won't be so easy to run away.

You can also check out my review from last April, if you're so inclined :)

I love this book and absolutely can't wait to dig into Thomas's upcoming thriller, Little Monsters, which will hit shelves next month. 

If you like dark YA, Thomas needs to be on your list. And even if you don't particularly gravitate to YA, she should still be on your list!

To enter to win a copy of this one, simply fill out the Rafflecopter before Monday, July 3. Open US only. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

PB Release + Giveaway: News of the World by Paulette Jiles

Good morning, readers! I'm taking a few days off from reviewing this week to focus on agenting stuff (#SFFPit!!!) and I thought this would be a great opportunity to clean off my shelves a bit and give some great books away!

Today marks the paperback release of Paulette Jiles's highly acclaimed and National Book Award nominated News of the World. If you haven't read the book, here's a little bit about it from Goodreads:

In the wake of the Civil War, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings from newspapers to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. An elderly widower who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them, the captain enjoys his rootless, solitary existence.

In Wichita Falls, he is offered a $50 gold piece to deliver a young orphan to her relatives in San Antonio. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders killed Johanna’s parents and sister; sparing the little girl, they raised her as one of their own. Recently rescued by the U.S. army, the ten-year-old has once again been torn away from the only home she knows.

Their 400-mile journey south through unsettled territory and unforgiving terrain proves difficult and at times dangerous. Johanna has forgotten the English language, tries to escape at every opportunity, throws away her shoes, and refuses to act “civilized.” Yet as the miles pass, the two lonely survivors tentatively begin to trust each other, forming a bond that marks the difference between life and death in this treacherous land.

Arriving in San Antonio, the reunion is neither happy nor welcome. The captain must hand Johanna over to an aunt and uncle she does not remember—strangers who regard her as an unwanted burden. A respectable man, Captain Kidd is faced with a terrible choice: abandon the girl to her fate or become—in the eyes of the law—a kidnapper himself.

You can also check out my review from last fall, here.

If you happen to be in the Denver area, now is a great time to grab a copy of this one. BookBar has chosen it as their monthly Book Social title! You can find out more about that event - and RSVP if you're interested - here.

And now for the giveaway! To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, July 3. Open US only.

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Thursday, June 15, 2017

A Q&A with Bob Proehl + a Giveaway

Readers, I'm looking for some great escapism fiction with a healthy does of pop culture fun, and Bob Proehl's A Hundred Thousand Worlds, brand spanking new out in paperback, sounds like the perfect fit for that!

Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

Valerie Torrey took her son, Alex, and fled Los Angeles six years ago--leaving both her role on a cult sci-fi TV show and her costar husband after a tragedy blew their small family apart. Now Val must reunite nine-year-old Alex with his estranged father, so they set out on a road trip from New York, Val making appearances at comic book conventions along the way.

As they travel west, encountering superheroes, monsters, time travelers, and robots, Val and Alex are drawn into the orbit of the comic-con regulars, from a hapless twentysomething illustrator to a brilliant corporate comics writer stuggling with her industry's old-school ways to a group of cosplay women who provide a chorus of knowing commentary. For Alex, this world is a magical place where fiction becomes reality, but as they get closer to their destination, he begins to realize that the story his mother is telling him about their journey might have a very different ending than he imagined.

A knowing and affectionate portrait of the geeky pleasures of fandom, A Hundred Thousand Worlds is also a tribute to the fierce and complicated love between a mother and son--and to the way the stories we create come to shape us

Thanks to the publisher, I get to give away one of these beauties, and I have a fun Q&A with the author to share too!

A Conversation with Bob Proehl, author of A HUNDRED THOUSAND WORLDS: A Novel

Q: Your novel A HUNDRED THOUSAND WORLDS follows several characters across the country attending a series of comic book conventions. When and why did you become a comic fan?

A: When Superman died. I was a big baseball card collector before that (which makes me sound a thousand years old), and there was all this hype about how much the issue where Supes died was going to be worth. But by the time I got my dad to take me to the comic book store, the first print was sold out and I was stuck with l think a fourth printing. Since it wasn’t worth anything, I figured I might as well read it. Not only did Supes die, but it set up a whole other story that would continue the next week.

It was the serial nature of it that pulled me in at first, and the epic scope. These huge stories that would go on and on, week after week. We lived in the suburbs, so I would either bike into Buffalo on the weekends, or give my dad a list on Wednesday to pick up on his way home from work. It was the ritual of it too. Growing up in the suburbs, you need ways to mark time. Wednesdays were new comics days. They still are.

Q: What inspired you to write about the relationship between a mother and son?

A: The setting for this book grew out of my own interests, but the story grew out of having a kid in my life. I was a new stepdad to a (then) eight year old when I sketched out the initial the idea for the book. At that time, the friendship between Brett and Alex was going to be more central and the relationship between Val and Alex was secondary and drew a lot on my wife and my stepson. But this book got put on the backburner for a while, and by the time I got down to writing it, my relationship with my stepson had changed pretty drastically. I was reckoning with what it meant to be a parent, and figuring out the kind of parent I wanted to be. So in addition to a sort of closely observed relationship, the dynamics between Val and Alex started to include my thoughts and anxieties about raising a kid. About how you function as an adult with drives and desires, and also as a parent, and the way those two things are constantly pulling at one another. Parent-child love is such a sanctified thing, it becomes tough to talk about in any complicated way, and I really wanted to explore all the currents that move back and forth within that bond, that trouble it and ultimately strengthen it.

Q: Superhero characters are a massive cultural commodity, are more people reading comics thanks to big box office releases? If no, is there anything cultural fans of these characters could benefit from by reading the comic books?

A: I don’t think there’s as much crossover as there could be from superheroes in the movies and on TV to reading comics. It can be daunting to get started on reading superhero comics, not to mention confusing. In comics, as I’m writing this, Bruce Wayne isn’t Batman, Superman can’t fly, Thor is a woman, and Supergirl doesn’t even have a monthly comic book. So in the rare instance someone might walk out of the movie theater and into their local comic book shop, you might not see anything that matches what you saw on screen. Not to mention the fact that comics have a visual and formal language all their own that can be somewhat opaque on a first reading.

But there are so many good places to start, whether it’s with superhero comics from the Big Two, or the amazing depth and breadth of creator-owned stuff that’s out there right now, or manga, which I don’t really know the first thing about but a lot of it looks super cool. And in a weird way, the fact that the economic stakes of comics are lower means that the creative stakes can be much higher. The sheer level of imagination in comic books is pretty staggering. Finding an “in”, or finding the right book for you, can be tough, but a good bookseller, or comic book store employee, or geeky friend, should be able to listen to what you’re interested in and point you towards something you’ll adore. Or, seriously, ask me. I have loads of opinions. Loads.

Q: San Diego Comic Con, and its offshoots, are a huge part of our entertainment culture with hundreds of thousands of fans making the pilgrimage every year to see their favorite artists, actors, writers; dress up as their favorite characters and generally geek out with their fellow fans. A HUNDRED THOUSAND WORLDS offers readers a glimpse into this fascinating subculture. Why do you think cons have grown so rapidly over the past decade? What do these gatherings offer that is so special, and why did you choose to make the cons the backdrop of your novel?

A: I’ve always been interested in subcultures and intentional, affinity-based communities. There is something so wonderful about being in a room where people are excited about something. I’m talking about dance parties, or sports bars when the game is on, or Trek conventions, or boat shows. People go through so much of their time on autopilot, and then there’s this one thing that they completely geek out over, and it’s like a current running through them all the sudden. It’s amazing to see, and to be near, even if you don’t necessarily share that same enthusiasm, you know what it’s like to have a thing that you geek out over.

Cons of course are even more dear to my heart because comics happen to be that thing for me. Okay, one of my that things. I grew up reading comics alone in my room, and then in my dorm room, and then in my apartment. I’ve never had that many friends who were into comics. So when I first started going to conventions, the idea that everybody else was into the same thing, and that I could talk about comics without trying to be “cool”, was pretty amazing. To have a space like that is really special. It’s funny, I used to think it was becoming less important to have safe spaces to geek out because the world as a whole has gotten so much geekier, that “the kids nowadays” didn’t need that as much as I might have when I was a kid. But I think it’s actually more important, and that being a kid is tougher than I had it, in ways I can’t even imagine, and how great it must be to catch a bus to New York City ComicCon and walk into the Javitz Center and just see your people everywhere. How everyone who picks on you back home for being boldly yourself must seem so small in that moment.

As far as the boom in cons over the past ten years, I think part of it is economics, and particularly the economics of other geeky cultural endeavors that cons include. A rise in the overall level of geekiness within the culture. But it’s also more and more fans who want to meet up, who feel like this is a key component of being a fan. Am I being a total dork to say it’s kind of a post-internet thing? That people who grew up with message boards and online fan communities as a given are now over that, and what that ends up looking like is actualized physical versions of those communities. Instead of posting on a board about Doctor Who or Steven Universe, you look forward to a con all year, and you suit up and go.

Q: In A HUNDRED THOUSAND WORLDS you write so many great voices that could be found at any comic book convention, illustrators, writers, fans, female cos players hired to walk around convention floors. At times geek subcultures; i.e. comic fans and gamers, have been traditionally classified as xenophobic, racist, and misogynist. How, if at all, are these groups changing in regards to race, and gender?

A: I think any time a traditionally (white) male cultural space is “threatened,” you get this awful backlash, and one of the wonderful perks of the internet is that now we all get to watch as this happens. And it is ugly. In a sense, comics hasn’t seen the worst of it yet (there’s been no GamerGate, nothing equivalent to the Rabid Puppies). But yes, it is an industry that has particular problems with harassment, lack of diversity, and a general “get the hell off my lawn” from a certain demographic within the fandom, and within the industry itself.

Here’s the thing. These efforts to bar the gates? To keep people out? They never work. If you’re the guy standing at the clubhouse door in your Batman tee-shirt saying “No girls allowed”, you’re going to be on the wrong side of history. And soon. From a mercenary point of view, that attitude is going to lose out because this is an industry devoted to making money, and they’re not going to leave huge demographics of potential customers standing out in the cold. Surprisingly, I think the industry is just now starting to wake up to that. They’re still working with ideas about marketing and gender that don’t apply anymore.

But more importantly than that, those people you’re trying to keep out are not asking your permission. They love these characters as much as you do, and they are not waiting for you to say it’s okay to play with them. They will beat down the doors to get in, and they will be the ones writing these characters with new voices, drawing them from new perspectives, and basically pumping lifeblood into geek culture. I feel terrible for the fans and creators that have to suffer the petty vindictiveness of a waning minority of relics in comics right now. But I also believe it’s a transitional phase that will pass, and comics will be better and more interesting for it.

Q: Readers will immediately fall in love with the character of nine-year-old Alex. Was it challenging to write from his perspective?

A: It was tough. I had the advantage of a real-life nine-year-old in the house for some of the time I was writing. There is a kind of magical thinking that is specific to kids that age. Nine is a hinge point where kid logic has all this accumulated material to work with, but it hasn’t yet been replaced by the kind of sociopathic logic of teenagers. So on one hand, you want to avoid writing a kid who’s cutesy or precious, but on the other, there are modes of thinking that you can’t access from that voice. In the early drafts, Alex was too perfect. He was cheerful and precocious, and I was really trying my best to keep him safe. Which is a good way to parent, but not a great way to write. Alex’s voice didn’t fully click for me until I allowed myself to put him in situations where he’d get angry or depressed. Once I let that get out, I had a better sense of who he was, and how much he was keeping in check all the time. People often talk about kids in terms of full-bore honesty and candor, and they miss that kids are incredibly savvy in their emotional thinking and responses, and that they’re juggling these really outsized emotions.

Q: What can we learn from reading superheroes?

A: We can learn the power of “To be continued.” If there’s a basic power all superheroes share, it’s a resilience, and in a sense we go into a comic with the confidence that whatever happens, the superhero is going to come out on top. When you think about the cliffhanger in serial storytelling, there’s a central mistake people make. The reader doesn’t close the comic thinking “Oh my gosh, is Spider-Man going to get out of this?” They think, “How is Spider-Man going to get out of this?” and that kind of thinking churns in the reader’s head till the next issue. This problem is going to get solved, so how does it get solved? A superhero’s not allowed to look at seemingly insurmountable odds and throw up their hands and give up. If they do that, the story stops. But the story is perpetually “to be continued.” I think that’s an important thing to understand about life, the ongoingness of it, its state of constant motion. To look at a problem and say, “I’m going to get through this, I just need to figure out how.”

Q: Do you have any favorite comic book writers/illustrators?

A: Too many to name.

For writers, Grant Morrison, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Warren Ellis, Scott Snyder, Gail Simone, Rick Remender, Matt Fraction, Brian Michael Bendis. For artists: Mike Mignola, Cliff Chiang, Fiona Staples, J.H. Williams III, Mike Allred, Chris Bachalo, Carla Speed McNeill. I’m making this list away from my bookshelves, so I’m sure I’m overlooking a dozen folks.

Q: Describe your ideal reader.

A: To steal blatantly from Dan Savage, I think the ideal reader would be good, giving, and game. Someone who reads attentively and with a generous mind. And who’s willing to try something that isn’t necessarily in their usual wheelhouse. I think the locked-down genre borders, to the extent they still exist, are boring and stifling, to both readers and authors. Anyone who picks this book up needs to be willing to tolerate a little geeking-out. But I tried as much as possible to make it a book that is less of a collection of in-jokes that reward people with deep genre knowledge, and more of a book about how exciting it is to geek out about anything. So I’m hoping for readers who won’t look at this book and pull back because it’s about comics and they don’t read comics. It’s only about that a little bit, and if a reader’s willing to give it a try, I think there’s a lot more there for them to find.

Q: What is your favorite classic video game?

A: Super Mario Brothers 2. Magical root vegetables and a frog who eats your dreams? Sold.

Q: Favorite childhood comic book?

A: Superman, during his mullet period.

Q: If you could have any superpower what would it be?

A: Superspeed. Or self-duplication. Or time stopping powers. God, those are all basically productivity-related. I am so lame.

Image courtesy of Heather Ainsworth

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: BOB PROEHL grew up in Buffalo, New York, where his local comics shop was Queen City Bookstore. He has worked as a bookseller and programming director for Buffalo Street Books, a DJ, a record store owner, and a bartender. He has written for the 33⅓ book series and worked as a columnist and reviewer for the arts and culture site PopMatters.com. Proehl currently lives in Ithaca, New York with his wife, stepson, and daughter.

Big thanks to the publisher for providing the Q&A and for the giveaway opportunity!

And now for the giveaway: To enter simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, July 3. Open US only and no PO boxes please. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

Happy Wednesday, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Sarah Perry's The Essex Serpent.

Cora Seaborne always strained beneath the weight and responsibility of marriage. Her husband was not a nice man and the constraints of society on women of her status were not exactly to her taste. And so, when she finds herself widowed, she also finds herself free. 

With her newfound freedom, she decides it's time to get back to her passion: science and discovery. Reports of new fossils found in Essex lead her to the town of Colchester where she's told the legend of the Essex serpent. That serpent of myth, it's rumored, has returned and has been wreaking havoc in a village called Aldwinter - a village where Cora finds she coincidentally has a common acquaintance. After gaining an introduction to the local vicar, William Ransome, Cora travels to Aldwinter in search of evidence of the serpent. Ransome, too, is in search of evidence - evidence the serpent is nothing more than the imaginings of a congregation turning away from faith. Prepared from the start to dislike one another to no end, the two find friendship in one another instead. And as they seek answers, they also find solace in their new bond. 

Readers, The Essex Serpent is undoubtedly the book I have to recommend most highly out of all of my recent reads! It is a brilliant tale, one that's woven in such a way as to be both dense and infectiously readable. Sarah Perry's prose is gorgeous and literary and utterly fabulous!

Cora Seaborne did not have a happy marriage. But it's the only relationship she's ever known. For her, the death of her husband means a chance to live the life she couldn't as a wife - to explore, to give up corsets, to not worry about what others think about her.

William Ransome has never shaken in his faith. Probably a good thing considering he's a vicar! But his village has lately become rampant with rumors of a terribly winged serpent. For him, the legend is nothing more than an excuse that takes parishioners away from the faith they should be turning to in times of need.

Together, and with a host of others, these two characters drive a story that's tinged with satisfyingly gothic undertones. But while the story would seem to be centered on that of the serpent, it is in fact a story of friendship and discovering one's own self.

As I mentioned above, The Essex Serpent is a bit of a dense read. And yet, it's undeniably a page turner as well. It's the kind of story that moves stealthily (I can't resist the snake comparison), grabbing hold almost without the reader noticing, and slowly submerging you within its pages.

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

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

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Mormama by Kit Reed

Dell has no memory of who he is or where he comes from. But he thinks the note bearing the address of an aged mansion in Jacksonville could be a clue. The house is home to three old women - sisters named Ivy, Iris, and Rose - and, more recently, their niece Lane and her son Theo. Oh, and Mormama. 

A ghost, or not a ghost, a spirit trapped in the house for centuries, Mormama has watched generations fall prey to the mansion and the evil within. Men and boys in particular are in danger here, and she's taken to warning both Theo and the illicitly squatting Dell, though neither seems quite inclined to take her seriously. Even when the aunts themselves start to let things slip, none of the house's newcomers understands quite what it all means. But Mormama knows. She knows all too well. 

This is a supremely weird book, which is perhaps why I was able to read it while sick as a dog. Yes, sick again. 2017 has definitely not been great in that regard.

So we have multiple narrators in this one: Dell, who is suffering from amnesia and believes the crumbling mansion is his salvation; Theo, twelve and spunky, and more than happy to keep secret the fact that Dell is hiding out in the basement; Ivy, the elderly, wheelchair-bound aunt; Lane, don't call me Elaine, who also thought she'd find her fortune in Jacksonville; Mormama, one more mama than they needed; and then the occasional early twentieth century journal outtakes. Whew, that's a lot of narrators.

Setting and characters were wins here. The crumbling mansion in Florida sitting on what was once the most affluent street in the up and coming city was perfect for a haunted house story. Theo ventures out into the neighborhood a few times, commenting on the shady figures hanging out on the street and the convenience store with nothing convenient unless you want dusty candy bars. This paired with Lane's situation give the story a heavy sense of desperation and even malaise on top of the underlying sinister feel. And there is a great atmosphere built in Mormama.

Reed does a wonderful job giving each of her characters a voice of their own too, which is kind of an accomplishment considering how many there are.

But, and maybe this is because there were so many narrators, the story became muddled quite early on. I was never clear, for example, if the repetition on the part of Mormama was due to her beginning to fade or simply error on part of the author. And there was a lot of repetition. There were also a lot of questions that remained completely unanswered!

I was drawn to this one by the promise of a creepy read but I found what kept me reading was curiosity more than anything else. Yes, I liked the characters and I was invested in the story, but ultimately I didn't think it paid off nor was there a truly satisfactory explanation about the happenings in the house. Mormama could have been fantastic and horrific, instead it was more of an entertaining oddity.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

New Releases 6/13/17

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Lockdown by Laurie R. King

A House Among the Trees by Julia Glass

Cormorant Run by Lility Saintcrow

The Space Between the Stars by Anne Corlett

The Save Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O by Neal Stephenson & Nicole Galland

The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka

The Map That Leads to You by J.P. Moninger

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal

Tom Clancy's Point of Contact by Mike Maden

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan

The Marsh King's Daughter by Karen Dionne

All the Secrets We Keep by Megan Hart

The Beach at Painter's Cove by Shelley Noble

The Leaf Reader by Emily Arsenault

Midnight at the Electric by Jody Lynn Anderson

Roar by Cora Carmack

Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab

New on DVD:
Table 19
John Wick Chapter 2

Friday, June 9, 2017

Short Fiction Friday: Gwendy's Button Box by Stephen King & Richard Chizmar

"Constant Readers" have come to know and love Stephen King's world well, and while Castle Rock is just one of the places he's created, it's one that's definitely stuck with us. Likely because of its total destruction in Needful Things - that kind of makes an impression!

Gwendy's Button Box marks a welcome return to the disastrously fated town.

Gwendy is just a girl when she meets the man in the black bowler hat. He tells her she's special; he's been watching her and he has a task only she can handle. He gives her a box, showing her a lever that will give her the most satisfying chocolates she's ever tasted and another that will give her rare silver dollars. But it's the buttons that are important - and worth caution. Buttons that cause destruction and havoc. Buttons that Gwendy isn't sure she'll ever have the courage to try. But she knows if the box and it's terrible buttons fall into the wrong hands, it could mean the end of everything.

Gwendy's task is a heavy one. She is, as mentioned, just a child when the box is given to her. And though the man doesn't explicitly explain the power of the box and it's buttons, Gwendy surmises it pretty quickly on her own.

She does test one of the buttons, too, and the experience is one that weighs on her for the rest of her life.

So what would you do? If you held massive power in your hands and could decide the fate of a person, a town, a country, or even the world?

Gwendy's Button Box is a standalone, set mostly in the late 70s (so prior to Leland Guant). The question Gwendy faces is a heavy one, but the book is overall a pretty light and quick read. As I said, a welcome return to Castle Rock that likely holds a bit more appeal thanks to nostalgia, but I have no complaints. I thought it was dark and deliciously fun!

Novels set in Castle Rock

The Dead Zone
The Dark Half
Needful Things

Shorts and Novellas set in Castle Rock:

"The Body" (Different Seasons)
"Uncle Otto's Truck" (Skeleton Crew)
"Mrs. Todd's Shortcut" (Skeleton Crew)
The Sun Dog (Four Past Midnight)
"It Grows on You" (Nightmares & Dreamscapes)
"Premium Harmony" (Bazaar of Bad Dreams)
Gwendy's Button Box

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Whole Way Home by Sarah Creech + a Giveaway

When I was a teen, one of my favorite movies was a movie called The Thing Called Love. It starred Samantha Mathis, Sandra Bullock, River Phoenix, and Dermot Mulroney, all trying to make it in the country music scene. At the time, I had little to no interest in country music at all, so that really wasn't my motivation for watching it or the reason I enjoyed it. It was the story, the characters, and the actors that did it for me.

The same can somewhat be said for Sarah Creech's latest, The Whole Way Home.

Jo Lover has made a name for herself as a brilliant young performer in the country industry. A singer known for her big, classic sound, she's made no bones about the fact that she finds the current trend of male driven pop-country focused on trucks and beer distasteful, to say the least. In fact, it's the kind of country music her old band and ex, J. D. Gunn and the the Empty Shells, are known for. 

And then her label signs J. D., pushing the two of them to perform together. 

Jo knows it's a great opportunity, but she's taken great pains to put her past far behind her. She's moved on, she's engaged, she's on the brink of hitting it big. Now, faced with J. D., the secrets she's tried so hard to keep hidden, threaten to ruin everything she's worked for. 

Jo is a big character with lots of heart. She's true to her roots, supporting businesses and artists from the area she comes from, but she wants to keep her past in the past. And it's not just reuniting with J. D. that threatens all of that. A stubborn reporter who rubs Jo the wrong way from the start, is digging into things she definitely doesn't want the public to know.

There are hints about this throughout. First, the way Jo handles questions about her hometown and childhood. Second, how easily she's ruffled by the reporter in the first place. And it is a bit predictable, to be honest, but I found I didn't care. This is what great characters can do - draw you into a story that becomes more than it's tropes.

And while this is, at heart, a bit of a romance, I have to note that the story is bigger than that. Bigger than Jo and J. D. and their past. Bigger even than the revelation about Jo's past. The story is also one of Nashville, the music industry (country in particular, yes), and the hurdles faced by those chasing their dreams. Creech doesn't cower from pointing out the prejudices of the industry, using Jo to illustrate its feelings about women and Alan of the Flyby Boys to illustrate the industry's racism as well. Nor does is she afraid to tackle the tension between old country and new country as a running theme.

I have a bit more appreciation for country music these days than I did as a teen. Bluegrass in particular. But as I inferred above, you don't have to have any interest in country music to fall in love with Creech's latest. And yet, a little country knowledge does add to the richness of the story as a whole.

And if you are a country fan, there's a great Spotify playlist to listen to as you read!

And now for the giveaway! I've got a finished copy to offer up to one of you today. To throw your name in the hat, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, June 26. Open US only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Party by Robyn Harding

It's Hannah's sweet sixteen, but rather than a massive and expensive to do, Jeff and Kim Sanders have agreed to a small get together of girls sleeping over at their house. Kim is very clear about the rules - no booze, no drugs, and no boys - but Hannah has always been a good girl. The same can be said about her two best friends. But Kim knows one of the other attendees can be a bit wild and the fourth girl is a complete unknown. 

Hannah has only just been accepted into the popular crowd at school and she doesn't want anything to ruin that. But when things get out of control and one of her friends ends up in the hospital, she's forced to look closely at the choices she's made. 

Gossip and judgement run rife in their community in the weeks after the party and Jeff, Kim, and Hannah find themselves at the center. As the pressure and scrutiny become more intense, the whole family begins to buckle. Secrets and lies are revealed and everyone has chosen sides. 

The first thing I have to say about The Party is that not one of the characters is likable or sympathetic. And I think that's the point. Each of them - Kim, Jeff, and Hannah - are self motivated and self absorbed. And it's clear from the very start as Kim kicks off the tale.

Kim and Jeff have a strained marriage. Jeff had an incident that Kim holds over his head and that judgement from his wife has forced Jeff to focus his energy elsewhere. Running, biking, working out... all of it's an excuse to stay away from Kim and their home.

But Jeff's no better. He makes terrible decisions, as becomes clear as the story continues.

Hannah is a little easier to empathize with simply by being a teen. Most people likely recall what it's like trying to fit in and much of her story revolves, at least in the beginning, around keeping her boyfriend happy. But again, as the story continues, the reader hopes time and again that she'll make the right choice.

I know this is meant to appeal to readers of Liane Moriarty, and it may for some readers. For me, however, the draw was simply in finding out the truth about what happened at the party itself. I wasn't emotionally invested in any of these characters. In fact, it was almost a sick sense of voyeurism watching them tear their family and lives further apart. It was certainly page turning, but not all that amusing in the end.

Rating: 3/5

Monday, June 5, 2017

New Releases 6/6/17

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Owl Always Hunts at Night by Samuel Bjork

Touch by Courtney Maum

Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy

The Weight of Lies by Emily Carpenter

The Party by Robyn Harding

The Whole Way Home by Sarah Creech

You'll Never Know, Dear by Hallie Ephron

Cast the First Stone by James W. Ziskin

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Crown of Stars by Sophie Jaff

He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly

The Weight of Night by Christine Carbo

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

Blackout by Marc Elsberg

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

Secrets of Southern Girls by Haley Harrigan

Wildman by J.C. Geiger

Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

The Sandcastle Empire by Kayla Olson

Dividing Eden by Joelle Charbonneau

Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts

New on DVD:
A Cure for Wellness
A United Kingdom
Voice From the Stone
Beauty and the Beast

Pre Pub Book Buzz: The Genius Plague by David Walton

Sorry, folks! I was out at BEA last week mingling with editors and other industry folks and was pretty well exhausted when I got back. So today you're getting my usual weekend posts!

Anywho, this particular pre pub titles is one that I had a chance to talk to the editor and publicist about. The Genius Plague is getting pretty rave reviews in house and is definitely one I'm looking forward to as a result. Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

What if the pandemic you thought would kill you made you more intelligent instead? In the Amazon jungle, a disease is spreading. To those who survive, it grants enhanced communication, memory, and pattern recognition. But the miracle may be the sinister survival mechanism of a fungal organism, manipulating the infected into serving it. 

Paul Johns, a mycologist, is convinced the fungal host is the next stage of human evolution, while his brother Neil, an analyst at the NSA, is committed to its destruction. Is the human race the master in this symbiotic relationship, or are we becoming the pawns of a subtly dominating and utterly alien intelligence?

The publicist sort of compared this one to Michael Crichton! It's not due out until October, but Walton has a pretty big backlist you can dive into while you're waiting (including the duology Superposition and Supersymmetry). 

The Genius Plague is out October 17 from Pyr. 

Friday, June 2, 2017

What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum

David is awkward and doesn't really like his fellow classmates. But Kit is one of the nice ones, so he doesn't mind when she sits at his lunch table. In fact, it's a pretty big deal for him. For Kit, it's an attempt to get away from the noise and the pity and the looks everyone else has been giving her since her father died. A chance to sit in peace and not have to worry about what to say or what will be said next.

David figures it's a one off. But then it happens again. And again after that. And soon the two find themselves becoming closer than either could ever have imagined. But do opposites really attract? Can David and Kit become friends? And if so, can that friendship survive all of their differences?

Julie Buxbaum's latest YA release is incredibly sweet and charming. It's the perfect example of the truth that no one sees you quite like you see yourself.

For example, to David Kit is the most beautiful girl in school. But Kit describes herself as a little too heavy and a little less glamorous than the girls she considers the prettiest in school - including David's older sister.

And to Kit, David may be a bit socially awkward, but she actually finds him quite cute. Even in spite of, or possibly even because of, the fact that her fellow classmates basically shun him. She recognizes something in him that no one but his own family has taken the time to see.

Of course David has already fallen for Kit a little bit. He copes in school by creating a list of those he can trust and those he can't and Kit's actions throughout their years in school together have landed her on the trust list. Which is more than most of the kids in school have going for them as far as David is concerned.

I love how full of life both David and Kit are here. David is, as he states, on the Autism Spectrum. But he's also just himself. And Kit not only accepts that, but likes him for it.

Kit is grieving, suffering greatly in the wake of the loss of her father. David's bluntness and honesty, and time to heal from her loss, turns out to be exactly what she needs. The fact that David expects nothing from her gives her the chance to get close to someone in a way she can't with her friends or even her mother.

The relationships between Kit and David and their families were also quite well drawn. I loved the bond between David and his sister, and the way that it becomes clear David is growing as a character and beginning to see things through the eyes of those around him where she's concerned first. Kit and her mother have a complicated relationship, which only becomes more clear as the story progresses. There too, I thought Buxbaum did a wonderful job of illustrating just how loss in general (because her story is much more than just the loss of her father) wears at a family.

What to Say Next is a touching read that brought me close to tears a few times. (It reminded me a bit of all of the things I loved in Joshilyn Jackson's Someone Else's Love Story!)

What to Say Next doesn't hit shelves until next month, but it's definitely one you'll want to grab as soon as it hits shelves July 11!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda

Leah Stevens was on the fast track to be a great journalist, but a story that went terribly wrong has cost her her career and her reputation. And now she'll do anything to get away and escape the judgmental eyes of her former colleagues. A fortunate run in with an old roommate offers the perfect opportunity: Emmy Grey is moving the Pennsylvania and wants Leah to room with her. Emmy had come to Leah's rescue once before, and Leah is all too willing to let her do it again, taking her up on the offer immediately. 

Leah gets a job as a teacher, much to her mother's disappointment, and things are going fairly well until Emmy disappears. Their paths crossed less and less the longer they lived together, but the discovery of a body nearby - one that bears a marked resemblance to Leah - has Leah worried. As the days pass with no sign of Emmy, Leah finally brings the subject to the police. Of course Emmy is an adult and they aren't one bit concerned - until they find out Emmy Grey doesn't exist. 

Worried for her friend and unable to resist the need to make use of her journalistic skills, Leah becomes determined to find out what's happened. But as clues about Emmy and her guarded past begin to reveal themselves, Leah has to admit that she knows nothing about her longtime friend and roommate. 

Reading slumps are no fun, but finding a book that manages to get through even in the worst of slumps is always a great thing. That's what Megan Miranda's latest was for me, a book that caught and held my attention through a slump that still has yet to fully pass.

It succeeds in large part because of the numerous questions that begin to pop up as the book rolls along. First, what did Leah do that cost her her job? It's a big deal, something she keeps close and doesn't tell anyone in her new life. Even the reader doesn't find out until a good way into the story.

Then there's the question about Emmy - what happened to her and what's she been up to.

And the murdered woman who looks like Leah.

And the teacher accused of the murder, who's been harassing Leah.

And the notes Leah has been receiving that make it sound as though someone's been keeping a very close eye on her.

So many questions! All of them perfectly placed and timed to keep the book going at an almost breakneck pace. But they could have been, and are in lots of cases, a make or break situation for a book like this. Fortunately, The Perfect Stranger is a "make" rather than a "break." There were no massive jumps in logic and (for me) no need to stretch or suspend my disbelief to the point of almost breaking in order to continue with the story.  All of the questions fit together logically and cohesively and, the best part, wrap up nice and neat (but not too nice and neat) by the time the story rolls to its final stop.

The Perfect Stranger came to me at a time when I really needed to just lose myself in a good story and gave me exactly that and more. It was great fun, full of suspense, and perfect for anyone suffering from a wretched reading slump!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Dimple Shah has no interest in finding a husband. Neither do most eighteen year olds. But she knows that her parents, her mother especially, would love nothing more than for Dimple to find and settle down with the "Ideal Indian Husband." Instead, Dimple is all set to attend Stanford in the fall. And she has her parents' blessing. Although Dimple doesn't want to push her luck, attending Insomnia Con over the summer could mean a big leg up for her future. Surprisingly, her parents readily agree to let her go.

Rishi Patel respects his parents and their traditions. Though he loves art, he knows drawing comics isn't really a way to make a living and support a family. And so, he's applied and been accepted to MIT in the fall. Insomnia Con wasn't in his own plans, but his parents and their friends have long hoped that their children would be a good match for one another and the con offers up a great opportunity to find out. Unfortunately, romantic Rishi isn't prepared for down to Earth Dimple - especially considering all the matchmaking plans have been done without her knowledge!

When Dimple Met Rishi is such a fabulously fun debut.

First, it's giggle worthy and lighthearted.

Second, Dimple and Rishi will absolutely steal your heart.

Third, and this is the big one, it's a contemporary teen story with Indian/American characters and culture. Finally!

Both Dimple and Rishi live in an in-between. It's something Dimple feels more strongly than Rishi, pointing out that even while visiting India as a child she still didn't feel she belonged. And her parents don't understand where she's coming from.

Rishi, on the other hand, is fairly comfortable in his skin. Or so he says. It turns out Rishi is struggling a bit as well, just less so than Dimple (because of his go with the flow attitude and overall belief that he should do what his parents want).

But one of my favorite things about the book is the fact that this isn't a contentious family drama. Dimple, like most teens, bucks against what she sees as her parents' old school beliefs. And while Rishi doesn't, he does struggle with coming into his own or following his parents' wishes.

These are pretty universal issues teens face time and time again. But told through a lens that is frequently missing in YA literature.

As the call for diversity and #OwnVoices continues, it's exciting to see a book like Dimple and Rishi gaining attention and popularity. It's universal themes and overall lovable characters make it a fun read regardless, but Dimple and Rishi are both a breath of much needed fresh air in terms of diverse teen characters!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Mars One by Jonathan Maberry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, May 28, 2017

New Releases 5/30/17

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Not a Sound by Heather Gudenkauf

In this Moment by Karma Brown

Ultimatum by Anders de la Motte

Mormama by Kit Reed

White Fur by Jardine Libaire

Royal Bastards by Andrew Schvarts

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Spectacle by Rachel Vincent

I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maureen Goo

House of Furies by Madeleine Roux

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

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

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

American Gods by Neil Gaiman + a Giveaway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

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

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Woman No. 17 by Eden Lepucki

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But that isn't the story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Baker's Secret by Stephen P. Kiernan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more on Stephen P. Kiernan and his work you can visit his website here. You can also like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

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

Sunday, May 14, 2017

New Releases 5/16/17

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

You Were Here by Gian Sardar

It's Always the Husband by Michele Campbell

The Simplicity of Cider by Amy E. Reichert

Testimony by Scott Turow

Exit Strategy by Steve Hamilton

Rise & Shine Benedict Stone by Phaedra Patrick

The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich

The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby

The Crown's Fate by Evelyn Skye

The Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh

Seeker by Veronica Rossi

A Million Junes by Emily Henry

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

Friday, May 12, 2017

I Found You by Lisa Jewell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

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

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