Monday, August 21, 2017

World Tree Girl by Kerry Schafer

The second book in one of my favorite new series hit shelves earlier this month, yahoo!

Maureen Keslyn is no stranger to the weird and supernatural. She spent her career working for the FBI's top secret Unit, investigating just those things. But she's retired now, thanks to a disagreement that left the Unit ready to kill her to keep her secrets. The death of her old partner Phil left her in charge of Shadow Valley Manor, a retirement home with more than it's fair share of secrets, keeping her plenty busy. 

When a local man is found dead, with pictures of an unidentified girl Maureen and the local sheriff have taken to calling the World Tree Girl, they begin to fear that one of Shadow Valley Manor's worst may have gotten loose. The girl's body has gone missing, but not before a blogger revealed that all the blood in her body had turned into clear goo. The dead man, who coincidentally was just fired from the coroner's office that lost said body, appears to have been that blogger. And his own death appears to be somewhat suspicious as well. Could the Unit have gotten to him?

I love Maureen. I mentioned that in my review of the first entry in the series, Dead Before Dying. And this second picks up pretty much where that last one left off. So you do have to read them in order.

In addition to the dead body that Maureen and Jake are trying to track down, you know, to assure themselves that the whole blood turning to goo thing doesn't mean what they think it means (read Dead Before Dying), Shadow Valley Manor is having some issues as well. It seems the local spirits aren't crossing over the way they need to and they're ALL flocking to Shadow Valley Manor.

And then Phil's daughter arrives, claiming she's going to contest the will that left Maureen in charge of Shadow Valley Manor!

There are a lot of threads in World Tree Girl and I didn't feel that all of them came together quite as cleanly as they could have. A middle schooler catches wind of the happenings at Shadow Valley Manor, for example, and it kind of looked like she'd play more of a role in the story than she actually did and there are hints at something odd with Matt, the cook and undercover Unit agent (now double agent working with Maureen), just to name a couple.

But I enjoyed returning to Shadow Valley Manor and spending more time with Maureen. She really is my new favorite genre heroine! Plus, I've been in a massive reading slump and I'm really hoping that Maureen and her team might have pulled me out of it. I just hope some of those dangling threads are going to extend into the next entry where we'll get more explanation/resolution.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

New Releases 8/22/17

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Y Is For Yesterday by Sue Grafton

The Massacre of Mankind by Stephen Baxter

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

Everything We Lost by Valerie Geary

Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore

The History of Bees by Maja Lunde

The Sabateur by Andrew Gross

Stay With me by Ayobami Adebayo

Unraveling Oliver by Liz Nugent

The Sorbonne Affair by Mark Pryor

Sulphur Springs by William Kent Krueger

Shattered by Allison Brennan

The HEart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne

An Echo of Things to Come by James Islington

The Dire King by William Ritter

The Rattled Bones by S. M. Parker

The Arsonist by Stephanie Oakes

New on DVD:
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Pre Pub Book Buzz: I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon

There are a ton of literary "buzz" topics for me - you know, those things that when they appear in a book's description you just absolutely have to have them even though you have a gazillion other books about the same thing. And while I don't have a gazillion Anastasia books, it does qualify as one of those subjects I'll buy every time. So when I heard that Ariel Lawhon's new book was going to be about her, I immediately added it to my wishlist. (To be fair, Lawhon is an author a lot of authors I read read, so anything by her is likely to end up in my wishlist anyway.)

Here's a bit about I Was Anastasia from Goodreads:

Russia, July 17, 1918 Under direct orders from Vladimir Lenin, Bolshevik secret police force Anastasia Romanov, along with the entire imperial family, into a damp basement in Siberia where they face a merciless firing squad. None survive. At least that is what the executioners have always claimed.

Germany, February 17, 1920 A young woman bearing an uncanny resemblance to Anastasia Romanov is pulled shivering and senseless from a canal. Refusing to explain her presence in the freezing water or even acknowledge her rescuers, she is taken to the hospital where an examination reveals that her body is riddled with countless, horrific scars. When she finally does speak, this frightened, mysterious young woman claims to be the Russian Grand Duchess.

As rumors begin to circulate through European society that the youngest Romanov daughter has survived the massacre at Ekaterinburg, old enemies and new threats are awakened. The question of who this woman is and what actually happened to Anastasia creates a saga that spans fifty years and three continents. This thrilling page-turner is every bit as moving and momentous as it is harrowing and twisted.

I Was Anastasia isn't out until next February, but Lawhon's two previous releases The Wife, The Maid, and the Mistress and Flight of Dreams (about the Hindenburg) are both out in paperback. And if you've read those and are a fan of stories based on Anastasia, I recommend checking out Ariana Franklin's City of Shadows in the meantime. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Girl With Kaleidoscope Eyes by David Handler

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for David Handler's latest, The Girl With Kaleidoscope Eyes.

Stewart Hoag has made a name for himself as a writer (with his one acclaimed novel) and highly sought after ghostwriter (with three #1 bestsellers). His recent prospects haven't quite been up his alley (a Barney memoir, no thanks!), but now his agent has something big: years ago, critically acclaimed writer Richard Aintree disappeared. The widower left behind two orphaned daughters, one of whom Hoagy himself has a connection to. The other daughter, a Martha Stewart-esque brand in her own right, has been experiencing a bit of a downturn in her career and so, when a letter supposedly from her long lost dad arrives requesting that she, his old agent, and Hoagy get involved in a project together, curiosity and money win out. 

Hoagy and his canine companion, Lulu, travel to LA to stay with Monette Aintree as they wait for daddy dearest to reveal himself, and the story he wants told. Then Hoagy's long lost love - Monette's estranged sister, Reggie, shows up with a letter of her own. Not that Hoagy minds, the more the merrier plus it seems the perfect excuse for a party in Monette's eyes. Until said fête turns into a fiasco with Monette herself claiming responsibility for murder. But something smells, and it isn't just Lulu's breath. Now Hoagy has to put his investigative skills to use to find out what's really going on. 

The Girl With the Kaleidoscope Eyes marks a two decades in the making return to the Stewart Hoag series, apparently. The series debuted in 1988 with The Man Who Died Laughing and, until now, ended in 1997 with The Man Who Loved Women Too Much. And I wasn't familiar with any of them. At all. So I was a little worried. But apparently this is one of Harlan Coben's favorite series, which was enough for me to want to give it a shot.

And it worked fine. Consider it a series reboot - a starting place for newbies but a return to a long beloved series for fans as well.

And rather than bring the character and series forward to today, it's set in the 90s!

Hoagy (as he likes to be called) has a penchant for licorice ice cream and a knack for celebrity secrets. The latter, combined with his writing chops, makes him perfect as a celebrity ghostwriter (you know, the person who really pens those celebrity memoirs even though they don't get credit). But apparently he also has a knack for getting involved in murder investigations.

I enjoyed Handler's lighter tone and humorous style. Plus, these are mysteries about books! And I am a sucker for books about the industry. Though to be honest, there's not a whole lot of writing that goes on in this one - mostly they're hanging out waiting for Richard Raintree (or the person pretending to be him) to be revealed. But there's plenty of other things going on - Monette's in the middle of a nasty separation that, thanks to her celebrity status, is playing out very publicly. And Hoagy does consider that the sudden appearance of her "father" could be a publicity stunt. But he's threatened the very day he arrives in town, and apparently isn't one to back down from a fight. So hoax or no, he's in it to the end.

The Girl With Kaleidoscope Eyes is fun and light. If you enjoy amateur sleuths, books about books, canine buddy reads, and/or celebrity gossip scandals, I'd absolutely recommend giving this one a try!

There aren't really many references to Hoagy's past adventures, which again means that it's easy to slip into this ninth in the series even without any former knowledge of its predecessors. But if you do want to start from the beginning, the series has been kept in print via ebook! Here's the full list:

The Man Who Died Laughing
The Man Who Lived By Night
The Man Who Would be F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Woman Who Fell From Grace
The Boy Who Never Grew Up
The Man Who Cancelled Himself
The Girl Who Ran Off With Daddy
The Man Who Loved Women to Death
The Girl With Kaleidoscope Eyes

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

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

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Monday, August 14, 2017

Bad Girl Gone by Temple Mathews - Excerpt

Oh, happy Monday, readers! Today I've got a fabulous excerpt for you as part of the blog tour for Temple Mathews latest, Bad Girl Gone. Before I dive into that, however, here's a bit about the book from Goodreads to set the scene:

Sixteen year-old Echo Stone awakens in a cold sweat in a dark room, having no idea where she is or how she got there. But she soon finds out she's in Middle House, an orphanage filled with mysteriously troubled kids.

There's just one problem: she's not an orphan. Her parents are very much alive.

She explains this to everyone, but no one will listen. After befriending a sympathetic (and handsome) boy, Echo is able to escape Middle House and rush home, only to discover it sealed off by crime scene tape and covered in the evidence of a terrible and violent crime. As Echo grapples with this world-shattering information, she spots her parents driving by and rushes to flag them down. Standing in the middle of street, waving her arms to get their attention, her parents' car drives right through her.

She was right. Her parents are alive but she's not.

She's a ghost, just like all the other denizens of Middle House. Desperate to somehow get her life back and reconnect with her still-alive boyfriend, Echo embarks on a quest to solve her own murder. As the list of suspects grows, the quest evolves into a journey of self-discovery in which she learns she wasn't quite the girl she thought she was. In a twist of fate, she's presented with one last chance to reclaim her life and must make a decision which will either haunt her or bless her forever.

If you're still not quite convinced that your bookshelves are begging for a copy of this one, here's a taste to whet your appetite:

Bad Girl Gone
by Temple Mathews


When I tried to remember exactly how I came to be lying in the cold black room, my mind couldn’t focus.

I could feel myself slowly climbing upward, clawing my way out of the clutches of a nightmare. This was usually a good feeling, because you knew you were just dreaming, and the nightmare was over. Except this time it wasn’t. My hands felt clammy. I gripped the sheets until I knew my knuckles must be white. Help me, I thought. Somebody please help me.

I had no idea where I was, and for a terrifying second I couldn’t even remember who I was. But then I remembered my name. Echo. Echo Stone. My real name is Eileen. When I was a toddler, I waddled around repeating everything my parents said and they called me “Echo,” and it just stuck.

Remembering my name and how I got it kick-started my brain. I knew who I was. I remembered that I was sixteen years old and lived in Kirkland, Washington, with my mom and dad. It was all coming back to me. Mom was a dentist and Dad taught middle school English. Good, I could remember parts of my life. But I was still in a dark, cold room and had no idea how I got there. I held back a scream, my chest tightening. Don’t lose it, Echo, keep it together, I told myself. Calm down, think good thoughts.

I pictured Andy, my boyfriend. Six feet tall, broad shoul- ders, blue eyes, and long golden-brown hair. He loved to feed me cookie bites and called me his rabbit. I called him Wolfie. Sometimes he got the hiccups for no reason at all and usually laughed them away. Thinking of Andy momentarily made me feel warm inside, even though the room was freezing.

Where was I? I was shivering and yet also bathed in sweat, my skin slick with it. I clutched for my trusty Saint Christo- pher necklace. But it wasn’t there. Mom gave it to me to protect me when I traveled. Would it protect me now? I would never have lost it. The chain must have broken. And then I had an ugly thought. What if someone had ripped it from my neck? I shuddered. Where are you, Andy? I need you!

I opened my eyes as wide as I could. It was pitch black. My pounding heart told me, This isn’t some nightmare—it’s real. I hugged myself and breathed deeply, trying to calm my nerves. My shoulders were tight. I rubbed the sheets beneath me. The ones at home in my bed were soft. These were stiff and coarse. I was somewhere completely and painfully foreign. In my head I was talking to myself in a rapid voice, my fear voice: What is this?—what is this?—what is this?

Someone nearby was crying. I had a knot in my stomach and my throat hurt, like I’d screamed for hours. My head hurt, too, and I guessed I must have fallen, or maybe something heavy fell on me. I explored my scalp, gently at first, then more bravely, moving my fingers, searching for a lump. I found nothing . . . no lump, no holes. My skull was intact, though my long auburn hair felt tangled and greasy. I inhaled through my nose, search- ing for familiar scents. Mom’s cinnamon rolls, Dad’s after- shave. But nothing smelled even vaguely familiar, and the odors that did find my nose were horrible. Smoke. Vinegar. Sulfur.

I reached for my bedside lamp—but my fingers touched something damp and stringy. Oh god. The knot in my stomach tightened and I yanked my hand back. I willed my eyes to ad- just to the dark, but as I blinked, strange pulsing figures leapt out at me. It must have been my mind playing tricks. Right?

I took five good, long breaths, sucking in through my nose and exhaling through my pursed lips, just like my grandma Tilly taught me years ago. But five breaths weren’t enough. So I took ten, and finally my heart rate slowed from a galloping panic to a steady, cautious thudding. Soon I was able to distin- guish shapes. Was that a girl in a bed next to mine? Her hair was impossibly thick and long, spilling down her back. Her sweaty hair. That’s what I must have reached out and touched. My heart returned to its punishing rhythm, a fist clenching and unclenching in my chest. The nearby crying stopped. But then it was replaced by something worse, a ripping sound, like bone being cut by a rusty saw. And then a gurgling . . . followed by a low, feral growling noise. Faraway cackling laughter. What the hell was going on?

I was terrified and breathing so loud I was afraid I’d wake up the sleeping girl. Something told me I should lie still and keep my mouth shut. Stupidly, I ignored it. My voice was raspy, my throat aching . . .

“Mom? Dad?” Nothing. “ANDY?”

The words sounded weak in the stony silence that followed. My ears strained for the comforting sound of my parents’ familiar footsteps—but I was met with more cruel noises drift- ing through the blackness.

I heard a faraway clock ticking and an odd whimpering, and then a cough. But it wasn’t Mom’s or Dad’s cough; it was the cough of a child—a girl, I think. I desperately wanted this to be a nightmare. So I closed my eyes and tried to float back to sleep. But the terrifying sounds continued: the soft, almost melodic crying; the rhythmic, persistent coughing; the howls and metal- lic noises; the rushing water. I couldn’t take it. I opened my eyes again.


An echo from the darkness. Distant. Haunting. Mocking.

“Daddy? Daddy? Daddy?”

I sensed something under my bed. The hair on my neck prickled. I imagined dangling my fingers over the side of the mattress, envisioned them being latched onto, bitten by some creature that would drag me down into its fetid pit. I held my breath and listened. There it was. Someone, or something, was breathing beneath me.

I slid to the edge of the bed and then slowly lowered my head, my irises widening. I peered into the shadows—and saw a pair of feral eyes peering back at me. Acid panic flooded my veins as I jerked back, thinking, Please don’t kill me. If you touch me, my boyfriend will hunt you down and beat the living shit out of you!

I heard a rustling sound, then footsteps. I saw the creature leap out from under my bed. Its eyes found me, then it scam- pered out of the room, on two legs I think, a flash of white. It looked human, but it could have been something else. What- ever it was, thank god it was running from me. Or wait! Maybe it was going to gather more of its kind and they’d come back for me in a pack. My skin crawled. Get out!

I couldn’t stay in this room. I had to get up and move. My bare feet hit the cold, wood plank floor. I took tentative steps into the shadows. A floorboard creaked beneath my feet and I froze. My eyes had adjusted to the darkness and I could make out shapes. Up ahead I saw a shallow pool of light. I moved toward it.

I walked slowly, taking tentative steps, my eyes darting back and forth. The hallway felt like a perfect place for an ambush, so I was alert, my muscles taut.

I passed a closed door on my right, another on my left. I caught a scent of smoke. I heard a splashing sound, as if some- one was taking a bath right above my head. I kept my gaze fixed on the pool of light that was spilling out from under a large door at the end of the hallway. As I drew closer, I could see that the door was built from thick oak planks and looked like it weighed a thousand pounds. On it hung a thick brass ring. On my right was a tall, old grandfather clock, ticking away like a metronome but with no hands to tell time with. It made me afraid and angry. What was I doing in a place with a clock with no hands?

I stepped closer to the thick door. My stomach tightened in fear. Something was terribly wrong. I was lost, adrift, not only in the wrong place, but I felt as though somehow I was the wrong me. I was jolted by a terrible thought. What if I never saw Andy again?

I raised my hand to grasp the knocker but stopped. Because I felt someone behind me.

“I wouldn’t do that if I was you,” said a voice, barely above a whisper.

I turned and saw a slight boy, thin as a reed with long, snowy hair, eating a red candy apple. The hair on the nape of my neck rose.

“Wow. You’re a pretty one,” he said.

I might have blushed. I’d never thought of myself as pretty. My nose is crooked, and ever since someone told me my eyes were too far apart, I’ve been convinced of it.

“Want a bite?” he asked, holding out the apple. 

Bad Girl Gone hit shelves last week and is available wherever books are sold!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

New Releases 8/15/17

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Doll Funeral by Kate Hamer

The Daughters of Ireland by Santa Montefiore

How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry

A Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena

Sleeping in the Ground by Peter Robinson

A Promise to Kill by Erik Storey

Dog Dish of Doom by E. J. Copperman

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin

The Store by James Patterson & Richard DiLalla

I Know a Secret by Tess Gerritsen

Rituals by Kelley Armstrong

The Court of Broken Knives by Anna Smith Spark

The Hawkweed Legacy by Irene Brignull

A Map for Wrecked Girls by Jessica Taylor

New on DVD:
Alien Covenant
Everything, Everything

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Quiet Child by John Burley

Hi, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for John Burley's latest, The Quiet Child.

Cottonwood, California is a small town. The kind of town too small for its own police force, where the sheriff and the firemen are volunteer. The kind of town where everyone knows everyone's name and everyone's stories. 

Kate McCray has always called Cottonwood home, even before she was a McCray. So of course everyone knows Kate and her husband, Michael. And when Kate becomes sick, everyone sympathizes. But Kate and Michael have two sons, Sean and Danny. And Danny doesn't speak. Not only that, but ever since Danny was born, people in Cottonwood have been getting sick. And small town gossip says it's something to do with Danny. So when Danny and Sean are kidnapped, some people think maybe it's for the best that Danny is gone. 

In spite of all of that, Sheriff Jim Kent is determined to find the boys. Even when almost a week has gone by without any clue as to their whereabouts, he isn't ready to give up. It's not until Michael takes off on his own, though, that Jim gets his first big lead. 

The Quiet Child makes for a great latest from Burley.

First, there are the twists I've come to expect from one of his books. And yes, there are twists here. And even though I had them figured, it actually didn't make the book any less gripping.

Second, there's the setting. Not only is this set in a tiny town where everyone knows everyone, it's set in the 1950s. Which makes tracking down two missing boys a different sort of animal than today. And I really appreciated the attention to detail in that regard. There's a piece where Kent and the two detectives assigned to the case end up having to trace a phone call that really brings this home for the reader.

Finally, though, this is a story about family. It's about how far you'd go to protect the people you love. Michael is our predominant narrator here and he's struggling. He's struggling as a father and as a husband. His wife is dying, his youngest son doesn't speak, and he knows all too well what the townspeople say about the boy. As the story builds, it becomes clear just why people have attached this superstition to the boy who, by all accounts (and by the pieces we get from his POV), is a good kid. And yet, as the reader you have to wonder if there's merit to the belief that he could be causing the town so much pain. And why.

Not that Burley gives us a why in the end. Which is ok too, because it means this is one that sticks with you!

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

For more on John Burley 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

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Hazel Gaynor's latest, The Cottingley Secret.

In 1917, two young girls conceived of a prank so elaborate it would entrance a nation. Cousins Elsie and Frances, armed with a camera and an imagination, took a series of five photographs in which they claimed to have found and frolicked with fairies! And while the first four images were proven to be fakes, the fifth was never analyzed. 

A century later, Olivia Kavanagh has inherited her grandfather's old bookshop in Ireland. Still grieving the lost of her beloved grandfather, she is gifted, alongside the key to said store, a story. A fairy tale of sorts - except this tale is that of the Cottingley Fairies, written by Frances herself. From the first pages, Olivia, who has always been enchanted by stories of the fae, is drawn in completely. And when she finds a sixth photograph, one no one has ever mentioned in the hub bub around this historical prank, she begins to wonder if their might be some truth to the story. 

So even after tackling the Titanic, I think this may be my very favorite of all of Hazel Gaynor's books so far. I don't recall when I first heard about the Cottingley Fairies myself, but it is definitely a story that has always intrigued me. First and foremost, the fact that two little girls could have so captured a country's attention with what was admittedly a prank. They even caught the eye of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself, you know of Sherlock Holmes fame!

What I find most intriguing about the story of Olivia and her grandmother and Elsie and Frances is that Gaynor was able to speak to Frances's own daughter in the course of researching and writing the book. The author's note at the end includes a piece written by Christine Lynch, who believes there was some truth to her mother's stories. In fact, it's her hope that the fifth (because there isn't a sixth) image will one day be analyzed and prove that not all the pictures the girls took were fakes.

What a great story, right? I mean the fact that people put stock in what these two girls claimed in the first place, which, as Gaynor points out, is due in large part to the morale of the nation in the wake of WWI. But that even Doyle himself fell for the ruse is amazing to me. He even ran the pictures in his magazine!

But that's enough about the context. What about the book, you're probably asking? Well, it's true to Gaynor's previous outings - excellent research and fantastic attention to detail. Which set the scene and make the story one that feels authentic and, whether you believe the girls' tale or not, real.

And of course there's Olivia as our driving force behind the story. Olivia who, from the opening pages, is clearly a woman open to the fantastical. And a woman who is deeply grieving. So of course the Cottingley Fairies is exactly the kind of story that would draw her in.

Add to that the fact that the story also revolves around an old bookshop and never before read manuscripts and you have what is a pretty perfect recipe for a book any true book lover will fall head over heels for!

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

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

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Friday, August 4, 2017

A Beautiful Poison by Lydia Kang + a Giveaway

Happy Friday, everybody! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Lydia Kang's latest, A Beautiful Poison.

It's 1918 and Allene Cutter is engaged to be married. But when a guest at her engagement party falls down the stairs, dying on impact, things get a little mysterious. 

One of Allene's guests, a friend with a tarnished past, swears he smells almonds on the breath of the dead girl. And he would know. But Allene's own father pays the police to hush things up quickly - after all, the dead girl was a socialite from a good family and Allene's own reputation could be affected. But when more people around Allene begin dying, each accompanied by a strange note, she can't help but investigate. With her friends Jasper and Birdie by her side, the trio begin digging into a case that puts them each in potentially grave danger. Can they unmask the killer without becoming victims themselves?

If you can't tell, A Beautiful Poison gets started pretty darn quickly. The players are introduced, the first mysterious death occurs, and a cover up begins all in the very first few pages. And it's oh, so deliciously fun!

Allene doesn't conform to the societal role expected of her. In fact, she bucks it pretty much every chance she gets. She's 18 and engaged, but not at all excited or really interested in marrying her fiancé. In fact, she'd rather spend her time studying science, something recently forbidden by her father in the wake of her mother's illness. But Allene doesn't really give a fig about that, hence her investigation!

Jasper is perfectly placed to help with this amateur sleuthing - he works at Bellevue Hospital as a janitor in the pathology building as he tries to save enough money for medical school. Jasper grew up alongside Allene until his family's position in society plummeted. His and Birdie's stories are revealed as the tale progresses, so I don't want to give anything away.

One of the really cool aspects of this book is the fact that Kang herself is a physician. And like Jasper, she worked at Bellevue. Her knowledge and expertise really comes through as the story progresses. And this is a story set during the outbreak of Spanish Flu that also has poison and (AND) Radium Girls! So yeah, all that combined makes for a pretty fabulously intriguing and cool story.

A Beautiful Poison is out now, but I am offering up a copy here to one of you fabulous readers! To throw your name in the hat, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, August 21. Open US only and no PO boxes please.

Best of luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Dangerous Ends by Alex Segura

Hello, everyone. Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Alex Segura's latest Pete Fernandez mystery, Dangerous Ends.

Maya Varela has always believed that her father was wrongfully convicted of her mother's murder. Varela, a cop, maintained that two men had broken into his apartment and murdered his wife. He also claimed that a witness, a woman in an orange dress, showed up in an attempt to help. Unfortunately, as the investigation progressed, the police - Varela's own colleagues - soon turned an eye to Varela himself as the killer, assuming he'd been lying about the two men. And even though witnesses did see the woman, when said woman took the stand she recanted, causing Varela and his attorney to lose ground with the jury. 

Years after the jury returned a guilty verdict, Gaspar Varela has run through most of his appeals and it seems a new trial is their only hope for his release. But that means finding new evidence. 

That's where Kathy and Pete come in. After being involved in some highly publicized local cases, the two have become something of a team. And Maya has hired them to help with her father's case: Pete to investigate and Kathy to write a book about the case. And it seems, at least a little, that Varela's claims of innocence may have some truth to them. But as Pete and Kathy, paired with an ex FBI agent and former associate of Varela's, dig into the case, it soon becomes clear that no one wants them to succeed. When those threats turn into attempts on their lives, though, Pete becomes even more determined than ever to see the case through to the end. 

I'm a big fan of a great PI mystery and as one of my favorite of favorites winds down, I'll admit that I've been looking for a new detective to hook me. Alex Segura's Pete Fernandez has some big shoes to fill, but it seems he might be a good fit for me.

Set in Miami, this third installment in the series brings a dark and criminal underbelly to light - gangs and gang politics that tie all the way back to Cuba. In fact, Pete's own grandfather gets a bit of attention with chapters beginning in 1959 Cuba interspersed throughout the present day chapters.

It seems Pete's grandfather turned down an offer made by Castro's own men in his earliest days in power, leaving the elder Fernandez no choice but to flee to America with his family. And though Pete knows nothing about this at the start of the story, his family's past is eventually revealed to him as a possible connection to the current case.

I really appreciated the fact that while this was the third book in a series, it was easy to dive into as an introduction. That said, Segura does spend a bit of time bringing the reader up to speed (or offering a refresher, as the case may be) with Pete and Kathy, which could potentially mean a bit of spoilers for those of us who backtrack to the previous installments.

Pete and Kathy have a history - in fact, Pete was hired to find Kathy in Segura's first outing of the series, Silent City. Theirs is obviously a relationship built on a certain amount of shared danger and trust, and ample ribbing on the part of both characters. And again, diving in further into their story didn't leave me at any sort of disadvantage. Their characters were well built, without Segura ever leaning on or relying on the previous installments, making it easy for a newbie like me to easily get to know them and get a good feel for their relationship.

And as characters go, Miami itself is equally as important as Pete and Kathy. Miami isn't a place I've spent much time, but Segura definitely brought me there through Pete's eyes and experiences. From the Cuban cafes where Pete gets his cafecito fix to the beaches that play host to tourists by day and crime scenes by night, the setting is brought completely to life, making the story is that much more rich and intense as a result.

It's early days for me and Pete, but with Dangerous Ends I think we're off to a promising start!

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

For more on Alex Segura and his work you can visit his website here. You can also like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Monday, July 31, 2017

The Late Show by Michael Connelly

Renee is part of the Late Show, the overnight shift no one wants. Sent in to kick things off and hand things over, it means never having her name connected to a big case. And that's mostly ok, especially with her partner. But when two cases in one night catch Renee's attention, she has a hard time letting them go. First, she and her partner are called to the hospital where a trans woman has been admitted after being found brutally beaten and abandoned. The woman is unconscious, but Renee can tell she's been bound and likely kept imprisoned for multiple days. The case isn't high priority for multiple reasons, especially when it's discovered the victim has a record, but Renee manages to get permission to dig deeper.

The second case, a night club shooting, is all hands on deck and Renee's own former team is lead in the investigation. Then her old partner is found dead in his garage, an apparent suicide. Bad blood between the former partners means they haven't talked in quite some time. In spite of that, Renee can't believe her old partner would ever kill himself. And so she starts poking around. And the more she looks, the more she becomes convinced it's tied to the shooting.

Michael Connelly kicks off a brand spanking new series with The Late Show, introducing readers to Renee Ballard, a cop exiled to the late shift. The why is explained as the story progresses, but aside from being forced to hand off every case without seeing them through to the finish, Renee is pretty ok with it. Her partner even more so - his wife is sick and the lat shift allows him to be with her during her waking hours, plus he's more seasoned and jaded and really not concerned with the accolades of solving a big case.

Which is not to say that Renee is concerned with accolades either. In fact, her interest in the cases in this book stem from exactly that - interest. Interest in seeing the bad guys brought to justice and interest in getting closure for the victims.

And I thought it was fantastic!

I've been a piecemeal Connelly reader - a couple of standalone here and there and a fan of the adaptations (The Lincoln Lawyer and Bosch are both excellent, though I've not really read their respective series). That's due in part to the fact that I'm a bit stubborn about reading books in order! So here was a chance to start fresh, from the beginning, with a new character, and I definitely took advantage!

Renee exists in the same universe as Bosch. There's a tiny nod to him in a passing mention that confirms this is the same LA, which I definitely appreciated. And Renee definitely has some of the same characteristics Bosch displays - most notably her tendency to stick to her guns even if it means ignoring orders coming down from those in charge. But she does it a bit more on the sly, maybe. Time will tell in that regard.

Like Bosch, Renee also has a bit of a broken childhood, details of which play out as the story progresses. And there's definitely more there than we learned in this first outing.

Again, I really thought this was fantastic all around. I loved Renee (and Lola). The pacing was dead on and the plot was pretty perfectly built!

I did actually listen to this one on audio, narrated by Katherine Moennig. When the story kicked off I wasn't quite sure the audio was going to completely click for me - narrator is definitely key in this regard - but I quickly found that I quite liked Moennig as the voice of Renee. And rather than listening in stops and starts, whenever the opportunity arose, I found myself playing the audio practically straight through!

The Late Show is perfect as an intro to Connelly and will absolutely please longtime fans as well. I look forward to big things from Renee Ballard!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

New Releases 8/1/17

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Dark Net by Benjamin Percy

The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley

The Half Drowned King by Linnea Hartsuyker

Age of Assassins by RJ Parker

The Grip of It by Jac Jemc

Yesterday by Felicia Yap

The Readymade Thief by Augustus Rose

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor

Dead on Arrival by Matt Richtel

Hex-Rated by Jason Ridler

The Hole by Hey-Young Pyun

Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber

A Nest of Vipers by Andrea Camilleri

Leona: The Die is Cast by Jenny Rogneby

Impossible Views of the World by Lucy Ives

Nothing Stays Buried by P. J. Tracy

Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang

The Process (Is a Process All Its Own) by Peter Straub

The Address by Fiona Davis

Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta

The Blinds by Adam Sternbergh

Girl in Snow by Dana Kukafka

The Clockwork Dynasty by Daniel H. Wilson

The Shadow of the Lions by Christopher Swan

The Wood by Chelsea Bobulski

When I am Through With You by Stephanie Kuehn

Blight by Alexandra Duncan

New on DVD:
Don't Knock Twice
The Drowning
Going in Style
The Circle

The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash by Candace Ganger

Bash met Birdie at a party and was instantly smitten. Birdie herself was a bit taken with Bash as well and couldn't stop thinking about him, even as she tried to decide to cop to sneaking out to attend said party or not. 

Unfortunately for Birdie and Bash, theirs is much more than a story of boy meets girl... Theirs is a story tied together by tragedy. And it's a tragedy big enough to tear them apart when they finally do come together once again. 

I'm just going to get this out of the way first - The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash is way sadder than I expected. Seriously, I was not prepared for the feels!


So a boy (Bash, aka Sebastian Alvarez) and a girl (Birdie) meet at a party. They've both been dragged to the party by their respective friends (Kyle and Violet) and they don't know each other. But as Bash tries to avoid his ex, and make her jealous at the same time, his eyes land on Birdie and he's instantly intrigued. They banter a bit and that, it seems, is that.

Until it turns out Birdie has gotten a job at the same skating rink Bash works at. Yay!

But no. See, before all that happens, something truly, terribly, bad happens first. And it does not bode well for the teens. Plus, Bash's mom is dying and he's flunking out of school. Birdie's lost the scholarship she needs to be able to attend college and pursue her career as a medical examiner. Again, things do not bode well for the teens!

But it's not all sad or bad. There's some levity to the story. There's lots of chemistry (literally and figuratively) and skating, too!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash by Candace Ganger - Excerpt

Happy Book Birthday week to Candace Ganger whose debut, The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash, hit shelves yesterday!

Today I get to share an excerpt from the book, courtesy of the publisher, but first here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

Birdie never meant to be at the party. Bash should have been long gone. But when they meet, a collision course is set off they may never recover from.

Sebastian Alvaréz is just trying to hold the pieces together: to not flunk out, to keep his sort-of-best friend Wild Kyle from doing something really bad, and to see his beloved Ma through chemo. But when he meets Birdie Paxton, a near-Valedictorian who doesn’t realize she’s smoking hot in her science pun T-shirt, at a party, an undeniable attraction sparks. And suddenly he’s not worried about anything. But before they are able to exchange numbers, they are pulled apart. A horrifying tragedy soon links Birdie and Bash together—but neither knows it. When they finally reconnect, and are starting to fall—hard—the events of the tragedy unfold, changing both their lives in ways they can never undo. 

Told in alternating perspectives, The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash by Candace Ganger is a beautiful, complex, and ultimately hopeful teen novel that will move you to the very last page.

The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash is quite the emotional read, let me tell you. I was not prepared!!! Oh, the feels!

As promised, here's a taste to get you started.
The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash
by Candace Ganger

...I lose sight of Layla for just a moment. The crowd parts in a zigzag fashion and beneath the light machine, where the red, green, and blue hit the hardest, I see her—this statuesque beauty—hiding behind a trail of long brown hair and thick-framed glasses. With her hands folded snug in her lap, she’s looking around, sinking farther into the couch’s wilted threads as if hoping to not be seen, but I see her because hiding is typically what I do, too.

“My God,” I say. The cigarette hangs from my bottom lip, and this girl, who finally stops talking, is still looking at up me, glitter plummeting from her silver-tinted eye shadow. The flakes dance down to the tops of my boots like little asshole snowflakes. That shit should be banned. She follows my eyes across the floor to the big, plaid couch, letting her smile fade. Losing interest (finally), she drops my hand and disappears into the sea of people from which she first emerged.

With my heart nearly beating out of my chest, I watch Couch Girl. The way she tucks her hair behind her ears with precision, the way she nudges her falling glasses up the bridge of her nose, the way she pretends she’s not as earth-shatteringly stunning as she really is. Radiance surrounds her—not a halo, but some kind of ethereal glow—and I can’t look away. She looks up at me. Once, twice, three times; tries to avoid my eyes, but can’t. For the length of a whole song, my gaze doesn’t abandon her, and by the middle of the next song, she’s smiling at me. Score. Normally, I’d hang back, wait and see if we “accidentally” cross paths, but Layla’s determined eyes are on me so I up my game. To finish her.

I push through the haze and find my way to Couch Girl. She looks up at me with these electric green eyes that are more evident through her lenses, and I do something I thought I’d never in a million years do—hold out my hand.

“I don’t dance,” she says, reluctant. “Me either. Too many germs.” A few seconds pass before she decides to take my humble offering. I pull her to her feet, and our palms smash together and slide across the dampness. This would normally gross me out, but I kind of want to linger in it with her. Gently, I lead her to the center of the floor where we are now gestural shapes on this dark canvas, too.

“Help me out here,” I say. “See that girl over there?” I point to Layla with my middle finger. A silent dig, if you will.

She nods.

“I need her to see us talking.”

She scrunches up her face. “I’m not getting in the middle of whatever that is.” Her finger is waving around, grabbing Layla’s attention. “But thanks.”

As she tries to walk away, I tug on her sleeve. Eyebrows arched, and my own full puppy-lipped pout now in full effect. “Please.”

She must sense my sadness (read: desperation), because with one sharp sigh and a roll of her beautiful eyes, she digs her feet firmly into the floor. “Okay, fine. Just for a minute though.”

We’re not dancing, not swaying or grinding, but here we are, in the epicenter of it all. She crosses her arms, I cross mine, too. “So are we going to actually talk or just pretend?” she snaps.

“Who the hell are you?” I ask with a smirk.

She looks down. “Who am I? You mean what name was I given at birth, or who am I in a general sense?”

I start to respond, but she interrupts.

“Because, in said general sense, I’m a girl at a party I should’ve never come to but did and am now trapped in this weird interaction between subjects A and B while I’d much rather be at home teaching my chunky cat how to drink from a running faucet, thank you very much.”

With my gaze pressed hard on her porcelain skin, I drop the last bit of cigarette to the floor and twist the cinder into the grooves until it burns no more. My smile grows, and all of a sudden, I don’t care if Layla’s watching or not. “Fair enough.”

“Who are you?” she replies with a touch of snark.

I look down to the holes in my shirtsleeve where the fabric has worn, and I realize I have two choices here. I can tell her the lame, true story of my life and wait for her to walk away, or I can do the opposite and hope that, for one perfect night, I’m allowed to feel this way about a girl who’s way out of my league, knowing the second I leave here, this, whatever this is, leaves with it.

Plus, it’d totally piss Layla off, and that makes it sweeter.

“Well,” I say, “in a general sense, I’m a boy at a party I should’ve never come to but did and am now gloriously trapped in this enlightened conversation with, probably, the most captivating girl in the entire house. In an even generaler sense”—she stops me, tells me that’s not a word—“I’m nobody. Well, until I saw you.” My smile widens. To sell it.

She blushes. Her fingers fumbling through her long, silky strands, she objects. “One, that’s so ridiculously cliché, and two, statistically speaking, you’re a percentage of this party as a whole house equation. Without the exact number of bodies—I estimate around thirty-seven—you’re something like 2.7027 percent somebody without ever seeing me.”

My heart drops through this creaky, wooden floor, and this smile that’s still pasted—it’s about to rip my face in two. The forces of the earth have rumbled beneath my feet and combined, climbing up through the dirt core, into my heart. We stand here, for, I don’t know, what feels like an infinity (she abruptly explains infinity is a concept and there’s no way to solve for x, so in reality, we can’t actually stand here that long), and all these things start flying out of my mouth—how I graduated last year, I’m only in town for tonight—and with every passing lie, I think, You’re no better than Kyle, which makes me sick—like, physically ill with the sweats and a weird clamminess and all these symptoms that remind me how I felt when I first met Layla.

When the song ends, we hold on to this moment that, in the space between, feels like a million electrodes have begun to rattle and vibrate. I feel it fuse to my bones. It connects us together, grounds us, right here, right now. Layla’s gone—who cares now?—but just as I start to ask for her number, or the name she was given at birth, a tiny little thing with big, springy curls that dangle over one eye pulls at Couch Girl’s arm.

“Ready to go?” the friend asks. She’s looking me over in this protective kind of way, and I know what she’s thinking because I beat her to it.

While the two of them decide, a hand slaps the back of my shirt hard enough to leave a mark. I turn around to see Kyle’s cousin’s friend’s college boyfriend with a worried look on his face. “Your friend might need to go to the hospital. He’s, like, not waking up.”

With a heavy sigh, something that follows Kyle’s hijinks often, I silently agree to retrieve my sort-of-ill-behaved dog that does as he pleases. Before I can even think about what to say to Couch Girl next, I spin around and she, and her tiny friend, are gone.

Just like that, it’s over before it even started.

Story of my goddamned life.

Good thing the book is out on shelves now, though, 'cause you'll want to run out and grab a copy for sure!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Lost Ones by Sheena Kamal

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Sheena Kamal's debut, The Lost Ones.

Fifteen years ago, Nora put her daughter up for adoption. Now, that daughter has gone missing and her biological parents have contacted Nora for help. 

But at first, Nora doesn't realize that's what's going on. As an employee at a private investigator's office with a keen sense of when someone is lying, Nora is a bit of an expert at tracking down missing people. And so when a man reaches out to her about his runaway daughter, that's what Nora thinks it is - a standard job tracking down a missing teen. When she realizes it's much more complicated than that, that she's being manipulated and brought into something she wants no involvement in, she immediately refuses. 

And yet, the pull or connection to this child that was hers by birth is too much to resist. But this girl isn't just any runaway. She's part of something much larger. Something that will force Nora to face the pain and secrets of her own past. 

Sheena Kamal's debut is a solid thriller with an irresistibly appealing heroine.

Nora has issues. Big issues. But when we first meet her, she's simply a cautious investigator willing to bend the rules a bit to get what she wants. The more we come to know her though, the more we realize there's so much more to her. She's a survivor, eking out an existence that allows her to live basically off the grid. She squats in her employer's basement, clothes herself in a way that almost demands that people ignore her, and she avoids thinking about her own past as much as humanly possible.

But this case forces her to change some of that. It forces her to revisit things she's been actively avoiding for all these years. And it forces her to begin to reveal some of the truth of her life to those around her.

Interestingly, the story took a twist that I definitely wasn't expecting. Not only is this book about Nora and her daughter, Bonnie, but it's also about Canada's treatment of its own indigenous people and environmental issues as well.

To say the rabbit hole that becomes Nora's investigation is intriguing is putting it lightly. The Lost Ones is excellent!

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

For more on Sheena Kamal and her work you can visit her website. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Bring Her Home by David Bell

It's summer and I'm craving dark and chilling reads! I mean, I crave those year round, but something about summer time in particular makes me want them even more. And David Bell has become a name that's synonymous with chilling thrillers.

Summer and her best friend Hayley were on their way to Hayley's house when they both disappeared. Two days later, the girls have been found, but only one of them has survived. Both girls have been beaten to the point that they aren't readily identifiable based on looks alone. But Summer was wearing her jacket and carrying her ID, which means her dad Bill has the relief of knowing his daughter is still alive. Unfortunately she isn't out of the woods as she's been unconscious and unable to tell authorities what happened to them since being found. And Bill is going mad sitting on the sidelines. How can he protect his daughter when he can't even be sure what or where the danger is?

Bell's latest, like all of his others, is an intense and quick read. Even at over 400 pages, it just begged to be read in one sitting. I, of course, complied.

From the start, I really enjoyed all the questions set up by the plot. First and foremost concerning Bill himself and whether or not he can be trusted. He's not very likable. But you have to give him the benefit of the doubt considering his situation. And yet, there's a niggling feeling that he's hiding something or maybe just not being quite straightforward.

Then there's the question of the girls and what they were up to. Where were they going? It turns out Summer and her father have a strained relationship, thanks in no small part to the fact that Summer's mother died a little over a year and a half prior to when the story takes place. As both are dealing with their grief, they find solace and tension equally together. And Summer's disappearance coincides almost exactly with her mother's birthday, an anniversary that Bill knows was hanging heavy over them both.

The book has twists galore, and more than a few of them are easily predicted. But in spite of that, Bring Her Home was still a perfect afternoon escape!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Betrayal at Iga by Susan Spann

So, as I mentioned earlier, today is Betrayal at Iga day here on the blog! As part of my stop on the TLC blog tour for Susan Spann's latest Hiro Hattori mystery, we kicked things off with a post from Susan herself on the arduous task of researching food for the series :) And now, a review of the book in question!

Hiro and Father Mateo have been summoned to Hiro's clan home in Iga. They are to host a contingent from another assassin clan, the Koga, in hopes of negotiating a treaty banding the two clans together. But when one of the emissaries dies in the midst of their welcome feast, it seems peace talks are definitely off.

As tempers flare and threats fly, Hattori Hanzō offers up the investigative skills of his cousin and the priest in hopes of settling concerns that the Iga clan is responsible. The Koga clan agrees, but with stipulations that put Father Mateo in even more danger than the already tense situation warrants. With just three days to solve the murder, Hiro and Father Mateo are already under ample pressure. And for Hiro it means more than just another investigation - this time his honor is at risk, his own family stands accused, and the man he is duty bound to protect could become a target to boot. 

So Hiro's in a bit of a pickle in this one - more so than usual. His duty is to protect Father Mateo and the murder of a shinobi in the Koga clan, on the grounds of his own clan and family, is a big deal. The death is determined to be the result of poisoning and Hiro's own mother and grandmother each had a hand in meal preparation. Plus there's the fact that eyes immediately tun to Hiro's cousin, Hattori Hanzō - because nothing happens in Iga without his knowledge.

So yeah, while Hiro and Father Mateo are definitely the most capable of unraveling the surprising lack of clues and revealing who the real killer is and what the motive was, involvement means a lot of risk for the two.

But it's not like they have any choice. Again, there's the whole duty thing - and the head of the Iga clan determines that Hiro's duty can be spent both in protecting Father Mateo AND in solving this delicate case. Hiro would potentially beg to differ, especially as their own lives come closer and closer to danger with each passing hour!

As always, Spann's careful attention to detail makes this a truly delightful series. The historical facts are fascinating and worked into the plot organically - Father Mateo as an outsider makes for the perfect vehicle for explaining any potentially complicated or confusing aspect of the nuances and rules of the culture in 16th century Japan as well as the roles and norms of those within the shinobi clans. And the relationship between Hiro and Father Mateo is wonderful!

Betrayal at Iga is the fifth Hiro Hattori/shinobi mystery but can very easily be read as a stand alone or introduction to the series. There are a few references to past investigations and, in particular, to the way things were left in The Ninja's Daughter, but it's nothing so detailed as to either take away from the reading of those or give away any of their major twists. If you'd like to start from the beginning, here's the series list in order:

Claws of the Cat 
Blade of the Samurai
Flask of the Drunken Master
The Ninja's Daughter
Betrayal at Iga

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

For more on Susan Spann 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 | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | Seventh Street Books

Guest Post by Susan Spann + a Giveaway

Happy Wednesday, readers! Today I'm super excited to welcome Susan to the blog as part of today's stop on the TLC tour for her latest, Betrayal at Iga. (There is a giveaway here, so be sure to read through to enter.)

Before I hand things over to Susan, here's a bit about the fifth entry in the fabulous Shinobi series, from Goodreads:

Autumn, 1565: After fleeing Kyoto, master ninja Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo take refuge with Hiro s ninja clan in the mountains of Iga province. But when an ambassador from the rival Koga clan is murdered during peace negotiations, Hiro and Father Mateo must find the killer in time to prevent a war between the ninja clans.

With every suspect a trained assassin, and the evidence incriminating not only Hiro s commander, the infamous ninja Hattori Hanz, but also Hiro s mother and his former lover, the detectives must struggle to find the truth in a village where deceit is a cultivated art. As tensions rise, the killer strikes again, and Hiro finds himself forced to choose between his family and his honor.

And now, over to Susan!

Ninja Eats: Researching the Tastes of Medieval Japan 

mushroom soba
My newest Hiro Hattori novel, Betrayal at Iga, opens with a feast that goes horribly wrong. Although the sudden and unexpected death of a ninja ambassador is the focus of the scene, I faced a bigger—but admittedly more enjoyable—challenge writing about the food. 

Cuisine has always been an important part of Japanese culture. Since long before the medieval period, Japanese people have considered food a form of art—on a level with poetry, flower arranging, painting, and even the arts of swordsmanship and combat. Every region of Japan has culinary specialties, and many cities have specialized versions of regional dishes, too. 

Some foods are enjoyed throughout Japan—noodle dishes like ramen and udon are good examples—but even these ubiquitous favorites have often-dramatic regional variations. In some places, udon is eaten cold while in other places the noodles are served hot, in broth. The type of broth also varies regionally, from fish and seaweed dashi to pork-based soup and even curry. 

curry udon
Japanese menus also follow the seasons, with certain dishes appearing only at certain times of year. In Kyoto, chefs who prepare traditional kaiseki cuisine recognize twenty-four annual “seasons” instead of the four we normally see in the West. Some chefs even subdivide the 24 seasons into 72—each of which controls the ingredients and dishes to be served. 

For this reason, I try to travel in Japan at the times of year when my books take place as well as in the places where I set each mystery novel. Although the food has changed somewhat as modern transportation has expanded the range of available ingredients, many Japanese regional dishes have changed very little since the medieval era, which makes researching the food for my novels a delicious part of my travels in Japan. 

vegetable sashimi
I do face one unusual challenge when researching Japanese cuisine: I’m allergic to fish, which means that in some cases I have to use my sense of smell and my imagination to fill the gaps between the versions of dishes I can eat and the ones my characters enjoy. My ninja detective, Hiro, has a passionate love of udon served in dashi, topped with finely chopped onions and freshly grilled fish. Readers often ask if the dish is a favorite of mine as well, and are surprised to hear I’ve never actually eaten it. In reality, my son is the one who loves to eat Hiro’s favorite dish—the version I prefer is curry udon topped with tempura mochi—pounded rice cakes, fried to a crispy golden brown. 

I spend a lot of time researching Japanese food, and try to ensure the dishes that appear in my novels are accurate for the season and location in which they appear. Little details give life to the story, and I love that my novels let me share the exquisite and often exotic tastes of medieval Japan.

About the author: Susan Spann is a transactional publishing attorney and the author of the Shinobi Mysteries, featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori and his Portuguese Jesuit sidekick, Father Mateo. Her debut novel, CLAWS OF THE CAT (Minotaur Books, 2013), was named a Library Journal Mystery Debut of the Month. Susan has a degree in Asian Studies from Tufts University, where she studied Chinese and Japanese language, history, and culture. Her hobbies include cooking, traditional archery, martial arts, and horseback riding. She lives in northern California with her husband, son, two cats, and an aquarium full of seahorses.

Huge thanks to Susan for being on the blog today - now I need to go hunt down some noodles!

And now for the giveaway: to enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, July 31. Open US only and no PO boxes please. 

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Be sure to check back here in a bit for my Betrayal at Iga review post!

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

For more on Susan Spann 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 | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | Seventh Street Books

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Dark Saturday by Nicci French

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm super excited to be part of the TLC blog tour for Nicci French's latest Frieda Klein release, Dark Saturday!

I'm going to defer to the Goodreads copy here, due to lack of time and care regarding possible spoilers (in other words, I'm in a pinch and don't want to give anything away about this one!):

Thirteen years ago eighteen year old Hannah Docherty was arrested for the brutal murder of her family. It was an open and shut case and Hannah's been incarcerated in a secure hospital ever since.

When psychotherapist Frieda Klein is asked to meet Hannah and give her assessment of her she reluctantly agrees. What she finds horrifies her. Hannah has become a tragic figure, old before her time. And Frieda is haunted by the thought that Hannah might be as much of a victim as her family; that something wasn't right all those years ago.

And as Hannah's case takes hold of her, Frieda soon begins to realise that she's up against someone who'll go to any lengths to protect themselves . . .

I've been a longtime fan of this series! Each new outing sees our heroine becoming embroiled in a new case that extends well beyond the boundaries of her office walls. And each new outing is as good, if not even better, than the last!

Part of what I love about this series is, of course, Frieda. She's grown, as have the characters that surround her. We learn something new about her and her background, we see her overcome trauma - past and present, and we see her use her ample skills to solve crimes and try to right wrongs she sees around her, often at grave risk to herself. She has a great support system of friends that have followed her throughout the series, getting ample page time and fabulous development where other series and authors may have left them to fall by the wayside.

Obviously the other facet of the series that I quite enjoy is the plotting and Dark Saturday is no exception. I love the slow build of the story and realizing, alongside Frieda, what her discoveries mean and how they pertain to the cases she's taken on.

Nicci French is, as I've mentioned on the blog before, the husband and wife team of Nicci Gerard and Sean French. Their writing together is seamless and excellent, with no stuttering or clear delineation between the writing. I can't attest to their process, but I can say the result of their writing together is as if one mind is behind the creation!

Dark Saturday is the sixth in the series, and I really have no idea how many more are planned. The series began with Monday and we're up to Saturday by now so I'm guessing there will be a Sunday installment too. For fans of the series, this is definitely another fantastic installment that lives up to expectations. For newbies to the series, you may miss out on some of the specifics of the character relationships, but you can definitely slide in with this latest without missing much. If you do want to start from the beginning, though, here's the series list in order:

Blue Monday
Tuesday's Gone
Waiting for Wednesday
Thursday's Children
Friday on My Mind
Dark Saturday

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here. For more on the authors and their work, you can like them on Facebook.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Sunday, July 16, 2017

New Releases 7/18/17

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Breakdown by B. A. Paris

The Late Show by Michael Connelly

Soul Cage by Tetsuya Honda

Graveyard Shift by Michael F. Haspil

Blame by Jeff Abbott*

Afterlife by Marcus Sakey

The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana

One For Sorrow by Mary Downing Hahn

The Special Ones by Em Bailey

Minecraft: The Island by Max Brooks

The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell

What Goes Up by Katie Kennedy

New on DVD:
Kong: Skull Island
Buster's Mal Heart
Resident Evil: Vendetta

*You may have heard by now, but if not, Jeff Abbott's home was lost in a fire just recently. The bookish community is doing a few things that you can find around the web but considering Blame is out this week, the easiest way to show your support is to pre order a copy now or head out to your local bookstore to buy a copy Tuesday.