Sunday, July 24, 2016

New Releases 7.26.16

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Lost Girls by Heather Young

Never Alone by Elizabeth Haynes

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Tracer by Bob Boffard

City of Wolves by Willow Palacek

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

Home Field by Hannah Gersen

Dead Joker by Anne Holt

The Night Parade by Ronald Malfi

The Muse by Jessie Burton

Bite by K.S. Merbeth

Cold Silence by James Abel

Four Roads Cross by Max Gladstone

The Summer That Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

Supernova by C. A. Higgins

Leaving Lucy Pear by Anna Solomon

Breaking Cover by Stella Rimington

Red Right Hand by Levi Black

Urban Allies ed by Joseph Nassise

Murder on Brittany Shores by Jean-Luc Bannalec

Blue Moon by Wendy Corsi Staub

Death at the Day Lily Cafe by Wendy Sand Eckel

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J. K. Rowling

How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather

Riverkeep by Martin Stewart

New on DVD:
The Boss

Friday, July 22, 2016

Short Fiction Friday: Nightshades by Melissa F. Olson

Alex McKenna is a legacy agent at the FBI. So when he volunteers to head one of the most disastrous and dangerous units in agency history, his higher ups are sorely tempted to say no. Alex's argument is a convincing one, though, landing him the gig as Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago Bureau of Paranormal Investigations. 

Alex has his job cut out for him. Ever since the discovery that vampires are real, efforts at investigating their crimes have resulted in mass casualties. But Alex has a novel approach no one else seems to have considered - using one of their own to hunt them. And in a case where tensions are high and the victims are children, success is his only option. 

Melissa F. Olson's latest is a paranormal procedural with just a hint of noir. And it appears to be the start of a series - maybe, hopefully :)

In Alex McKenna's world, vampires are real and have been here mingling with humans for quite some time. But it's only in very recent years that humans have really become aware of the shades' existence. By and large, the population seems to be mostly blasé about the whole thing. As one of the characters notes, the human worry and understanding of the shades' presence is akin to their worry regarding the latest flu outbreak. It's a nuisance more than anything.

But authorities are definitely concerned. Especially when the teams they've put together to investigate shades and crimes attached to them have been massively and embarrassingly unsuccessful.

Lindy is a vampire. One not interested in anti human sentiment or in outing herself and her situation. But that's no longer up to her - Alex McKenna knows what she is and has tracked her down. But Alex doesn't want to detain Lindy. Instead, he hopes she can offer insight into the shades that has so far eluded law enforcement.

There's just one problem: Lindy has also caught the attention of the very shade the feds are currently hunting. And that vampire and his minions are none too pleased with the fact that Lindy is helping the BPI.

The novella gives us fairly good insight into the world, its workings, and the characters that inhabit it. McKenna and Lindy in particular are explored with pretty good depth, but I was glad that Olson also pays attention to side characters like Chase, Ruiz, and the others as well - especially considering the fairly limited page real estate available.

Considering the end, it is fairly clear that the world of Nightshades is intended to encompass more installments than just this first outing. The end is undeniably a cliffhanger and there are oh, so many questions left beyond that scene as well. Normally I'd admit to being fairly bled dry of any interest in vampires these days, but I have to say Olson's have grabbed my attention. I want to know more about the mystery that's begun here in Nightshades and what's going to happen next with McKenna, Lindy, and the rest of the team.

Rating: 4/5

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Beneath the Lake by Christopher Ransom

It's been thirty years since the Mercer family's last camping trip. Until then it was an annual tradition, but something happened that year. Something that brought an end to those camping trips for good. 

Or not. 

Apparently Raymond's father is ill and it's his final wish that his family come together once again in honor of the old tradition. Raymond, the youngest Mercer child, barely remembers that awful last trip but he knows returning to Blundstone is the last thing he wants to do. This request, however, seems to be one he can't refuse. 

I don't think Christopher Ransom has ever written what I'd consider a predictable book. Some of them may begin in what seems like familiar territory, but by the end of every one I've read the story has been turned upside down and inside out and gone well beyond the boundaries of my own apparently limited imagination.

Beneath the Lake was no exception in that regard. A family hiding a secret so dark it's plagued their memories for three decades AND broken a standing family tradition... What could be so terrible about a family camping trip? In a public place, no less.

Of course our main character doesn't even remember. As it turns out, the eight year old Raymond who was present during that final trip missed out on much of the action. So even though he's leery about returning to Blundstone, which has been closed to the public for some time apparently, he has very little inkling about what might be in store for his family this time around.

He expects drama. He expects arguments. It's the first time the family has been together in quite some time, after all. And considering the bombshell about his dad, the trip is definitely not off to a great start. And so he goes armed with a companion, one he's crushed on for some time but doesn't really know very well at all.

Sounds like a terrible first date to me!

I'm just the kind of reader who would bring Beneath the Lake on a camping trip (if I were inclined to camp, which I'm not) for extra atmosphere. And it would be the absolute perfect fireside read, too - guaranteed to make you jump at every noise and shadow and likely to keep you up at night shivering in your tent.

Of course you can just as easily read this one at home, cozy and safe, and it'll still creep you out to no end. Ransom builds an atmosphere that starts somewhere in the vicinity of normal with a hint of dread and quickly edges into eeriness and all out horror. It's an excellent build, exactly what I crave in a scary read, and a tale that might make you reconsider your own next camping trip!

Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Branson Beauty by Claire Booth

Good morning, y'all! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Claire Booth's The Branson Beauty.

When The Branson Beauty is scuttled on a cold and snowy afternoon, it seems like nothing more than a nuisance that can be blamed on a reckless captain. It takes hours to finally get the passengers safely back to shore and all seems well, except for likely fallout to the owner that is. But a final round of the ship reveals a shocking surprise: the dead body of a local coed. 

Sheriff Hank Worth hasn't been in his position long and knows this case is a big one. The girl, a recent graduate of the local high school, was quite well known but only a few people even realized she was on board at all that day. In fact, her parents didn't even know the girl was in town! As the investigation proceeds, it becomes clear the folks of Branson have more than a few secrets up their sleeves. It's up to Hank to untangle those secrets and uncover the killer and motive behind the murder. 

The Branson Beauty marks the first in the brand new Hank Worth series. It's also Claire Booth's fiction debut.

As mysteries go, The Branson Beauty is a lighter one bordering on cozy - it's not overly graphic but it does have a little more edge than a typical cozy, in my opinion. I love the setting. Touristy Branson may be familiar to many readers but it's not Worth's Branson. In fact, even though the newly minted sheriff has only been there a short time, the commercialization has already started to wear on the man.

The plotting could have been slightly tighter for me, but it's also possible that some of the kinks I noted (somewhat repetitive information and a few odd dialog pieces) were specific to the arc and have since been ironed out for the hardcover release.

That aside, The Branson Beauty is a quick and fun mystery read. Hank Worth is excellent leading man material for a series and I look forward to seeing what else Booth has in store for Branson County!

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here. And for more on Claire Booth and her work you can visit her website here.

Purchase Links: Amazon | Books a Million | Barnes & Noble

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

In Twenty Years by Allison Winn Scotch

Hi, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Allison Winn Scotch's latest, In Twenty Years.

Five college friends receive an invite to spend Fourth of July weekend together in the house they shared decades ago. But the reunion is bittersweet considering many of them haven't been in contact since their friend Bea's funeral thirteen years prior. And it's Bea who's attempting to bring them together again, from beyond the grave it seems. 

Annie, Catherine, Owen, Lindy, and Colin have all moved on since college. Annie is married, unhappily, but keeps herself occupied creating the life she wants via social media. Catherine has started her own company, a dream that's turned into more stress than she could ever have imagined. It's a dream that's created friction in her home life as well, leaving Owen to wait night after night for his wife to grace the family with her presence. Even Lindy, whose success is undeniable, is feeling the pain of aging - in an industry that increasingly reminds her she's in danger of becoming obsolete. And then there's Colin, the one who's been hiding a secret concerning Bea all these years. 

Yes, Bea's brought them together in her honor but whether it'll be a happy reunion remains to be seen. 

In Twenty Years is something of a Big Chill for a new generation. All five friends, the term is debatable when they get together again, are forced to face their current issues as well as those that tore them apart. And even Bea isn't immune, though she's been gone these long years. See Bea bought the house and planned the whole thing just before she passed away. She couldn't have predicted that things would turn out the way they did...

All of these characters are so unhappy with their lives. But as each of them soon learns, they have the ability to change their situations (even before the reunion) and have neglected to do so for a variety of reasons.

A glass half empty reader might see In Twenty Years as a bit of a downer - that life is an inevitable road to misery that you can't see at twenty when you're bright eyed and hopeful but that hits you by forty when you realize none of your dreams have come true.

A glass half full reader might see the book as a cautionary tale, though. One in which the characters' mistakes are exactly the kind to avoid.

Either way, there's no denying In Twenty Years and its characters will strike a chord.

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

For more on Allison Winn Scotch 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

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Memory Painter by Gwendolyn Womack

Happy Monday, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Gwendolyn Womack's debut, The Memory Painter.

Bryan Pierce's paintings have been gaining growing recognition. Able to churn one out in just a matter of hours, his pieces convey a sense of atmosphere and detail that is truly remarkable. But what people don't know is that Bryan's paintings are the result of vivid dreams. In fact, many of the paintings themselves are created during a complete dream state and without Bryan's own knowledge - until he wakes to find them complete. 

In each dream, it's as though Bryan himself is there in another life. And when he learns that each of the people he's dreamed through were very real, he begins to suspect it's exactly that: another life. It's a feeling Linz Jacobs understands all too well considering it's happened to her too. When the two meet, Bryan knows that Linz has been there in each dream life. 

And then Bryan begins dreaming about the Michael Backer, a scientist who died tragically while researching alzheimers treatments and memory. 

If you're a frequent follower of the blog then you know that the past two weeks have been a bit sparse. There's been a lot going on with work and life and I found myself in something of a reading rut. Fortunately I seem to have finally come out the other side, thanks in large part to books exactly like The Memory Painter.

It's not an exaggeration when I say a book is unputdownable. I know it can get thrown around, but I reserve the term for books that are exactly that. I think it's what we all crave in a read, right? A book that grabs hold of you from the very start, making it impossible to break free until you turn the final page. A book that begs for all of your attention no matter what else might be going on. The Memory Painter fits that bill 100%.

Bryan has just moved back to his hometown of Boston but has kept himself closed off for the most part, even neglecting to attend his own show. His dreams or visions have become so demanding that he fears being around people when one comes upon him. It's caused him to be reserved and overly cautious, something that gets thrown to the wind when he sees Linz Jacobs.

Linz has only ever experienced the one dream - one of being burned at the stake in ancient Greece. But it was a dream so detailed and disturbing that she's never forgotten it in spite of the fact that it seemingly stopped when she left for college. She recognizes the dream in one of Bryan's paintings and is determined to meet him, even suspecting that her friend who owns the gallery showing Bryan's work might have been the one responsible.

The truth is more curious than Linz could ever have imagined. But as it turns out, she's more tied into Bryan's dreams than either of them realize. As the story progresses, Bryan recognizes Linz from his many lifetimes of dreams, but it's even more twisted and tangled than that. And as the connections between their lives - past and present - become more clear, a mystery unfolds.

Some of Bryan's past lives and dreams were less engaging than others, I'll admit. There are so many that it's almost inevitable that some will hold more weight and depth than others. Michael Backer's story and the present day string absolutely fall into the latter category and definitely hooked me the most. It's here that the real entanglements and questions begin to become clearer to Bryan and the reader, so of course they're the driving forces of the book. That said, the story absolutely zips along. There are no dull moments at all and every piece of the puzzle, every dream and every life Bryan recalls, adds layer upon layer to the tale.

The Memory Painter is brand new out in paperback and is also fresh off an RWA Prism Win in the Time Travel/Steampunk category. It's the kind of book that will most definitely appeal to a broad range of readers and one I highly recommend to anyone in search of a great read!

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

For more on Gwendolyn Womack and her work you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.

Purchase Links: Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | iTunes

Sunday, July 17, 2016

New Releases 7/19/16

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Monster's Daughter by Michelle Pretorius

Nightshades by Melissa F. Olson

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

The Dragon Lords: Fool's Gold by Jon Hollins

The Hemingway Thief by Shaun Harris

This Must Be the Place by Maggie O'Farrell

The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close

Night and Day by Iris Johansen

Mata Hari's Last Dance by Michelle Moran

White Bone by Ridley Pearson

Fall From Grace by Tim Weaver

The Baker Street Jurors by Michael Robertson

Outfoxed by David Rosenfelt

Guilty Minds by Joseph Finder

Falling by Jane Green

The Imperial Wife by Irina Reyn

Bloodline: Wars of the Roses by Conn Iggulden

The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan

Hell Divers by Nicholas Sansbury Smith

Imprudence by Gail Carriger

A World Without You by Beth Revis

The Revivial by Chris Weitz

New on DVD:
A Perfect Day
Batman v Superman

New reviews at
With Malice by Eileen Cook