Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Certain Dark Things by Sylvia Moreno-Garcia

Oh man, oh man, oh man! Readers, I absolutely adore those reading days when everything comes into perfect alignment. When a topic you've been dying to read about just happens to be the topic of your next planned read and the writing is amazing and the story is the kind you don't want to put down no matter what else might be going on. That's what happened with Sylvia Moreno-Garcia's Certain Dark Things.

There are no vampires in Mexico City. There haven't been for quite some time. And yet, when Domingo meets Atl, he discovers this isn't quite true. 

Atl has been orphaned thanks to an all out war with a rival vampire family. And she's come to Mexico City in search of something - alone. When she crosses paths with young Domingo, she plans only to pay him for a night of blood. But Domingo has other ideas. 

Meanwhile, Nick Godoy has followed Atl to Mexico City, intent on killing her. But Nick is a loose canon, impossible to control and guaranteed to draw attention to the presence of vampires in the city. Which is exactly what he does and exactly how Ana Aguirre ends up on the hunt. And she's not the only one. 

Sylvia Moreno-Garcia has kind of flipped the vampire genre on its head here, combining Aztec and other lore to create a world with ten different kinds of vampires. And in this world, the vampires have become drug lords - warring against one another and human gangs as well.

Humans control Mexico City and so when they catch wind that the vampires have arrived, it's in their best interests to nip it in the bud as soon as possible. But Ana Aguirre, who came to Mexico City to get away from vamps, isn't sure she wants to align herself with gangs of any kind. This in spite of the fact that even though she's a. a cop and b. a cop with experience hunting vampires, she definitely isn't getting the support she needs from her department.

And then there's Atl and Domingo. Atl is twenty-three, a baby in vampire years. Her family are descended from some of the very first vampires in the world and can live for centuries. She's also a second daughter, which means she was allowed to run around spoiled. But now she's alone. All alone. And in a moment of weakness, she decides to take Domingo on as her companion - her Renfield. Which is cool with Domingo! An orphan himself, kicked out of his home when he was just thirteen, Domingo longs for a friend and is immediately smitten by Atl. Their bond only makes him that much more determined to do whatever he can to help her in her mission.

Drug wars, vampires, Mexico City and a smidge of history besides, and all set in the very near future, Certain Dark Things is a fabulous read. Fabulous! And highly original! And definitely one I'm recommending to EVERYONE!

Friday, October 21, 2016

What I'm Reading: Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff + a Giveaway

Morning, all! It's been a crazy month here - conferences, conferences, conferences, twitter pitch events, and I'm up to my eyeballs with manuscripts to read. And so though I'd planned a review of Gemina today, I haven't quite finished it yet. It is providing some much needed relaxation (i.e. bathtub) reading though :)

Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.

The saga that began with Illuminae continues on board the space station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of BeiTech’s assault. Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter, Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum may be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival. The fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.

But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.

So yes, this is the follow up to last year's Illuminae. And yes, even though this one does focus on two new characters, you do have to read them in order - Kady is present and the story picks up IMMEDIATELY after the events in Illuminae

I love not only the premise of these, but the overall experience of reading them. The story itself is built as a briefing meant to explain what's happened in the wake of an invasion. So rather than a straightforward narrative, the tale is presented as interviews, surveillance footage, chats, emails, etc. And there's a great design element that goes along with all of that as well: pages that shift between the normal white with black text to black with white text, illustrations, and formatting/design elements to indicate what kind of piece you're looking at (an email, chat, that sort of thing).  

And while the books do appear to be behemoths, each weighing in at about 600 pages, the formatting actually makes for a rather speedy read. As with its predecessor, Gemina has some pages that really have very little in the way of text to read at all. Combined with a gripping story (hate to use such an overused word there, but that's what it is), that framework of compiled documents really does allow the story to move quite quickly. 

So yeah, I'm digging it! 

Thanks to the publisher, I am able to offer up one copy of Gemina for a giveaway. To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, November 7. Open US only and no PO boxes please. 

Short Fiction Friday: Everything Belongs to the Future by Laurie Penny

Imagine what would happen if there was a cure for aging. A bit of the worst is exactly what Laurie Penny imagines in Everything Belongs to the Future. 

Aging is no longer inevitable. Not if you have the money for a daily dose of TeamThreeHundred's little blue pills. And of course only the most wealthy can afford them long term. Alex, Nina, Fidget, Margo, and Jasper are one of many groups who believes the current situation isn't fair. To fight a system they know is rigged, they filch and smuggle those blue pills, handing them out to people who would never afford them otherwise, sharing the wealth that is eternal youth. But even that has it's limits. Bringing one of TeamThreeHundred over to their side, though... That would make the whole enterprise much easier. And that's just the first step in upsetting the imbalance of power and youth. 

Unfortunately for them, their enemy knows exactly what they're up to. 

Everything Belongs to the Future is kind of a bleak tale. A future that is much like the present but for the fact that those in power have the added benefit of eternal life and youth on their side. It's not something I like to dwell on - ostrich, head, sand, all that.

Alex is a spy. He's infiltrated the group and weaseled his way into a top position and a relationship. His motives aren't altruistic - he doesn't go by any moral code or belief in the system. Instead, he's motivated by his reward for spying. And it's a skewed motivation all things considered.

Of course that's the point.

Penny's writing and character development are excellent. The story bounces a bit back and forth with letters from an incarcerated character to various others on the team. Those letters begin to make more sense as the story plays out and as the character's identity becomes clearer. Of course, as with Alex, each character has their own different motivation in the story. And each will likely appeal to different readers for different reasons. I, personally, quite liked Daisy. She's no hero, to be sure, but she's got oomph!

If you like your science fiction with a healthy does of too close to home, Everything Belongs to the Future is for you. And while avoiding the discomfort of the real world gets none of us anywhere, if you find you need a bit more escapism, you've been warned.

Rating: 3.5/5

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Fractured by Catherine McKenzie

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Catherine McKenzie's latest, Fractured.

One year ago, Julie Prentice and her family relocated to the charming Mount Adams area of Cincinnati. The move was supposed to be a chance to start over - anonymously. A chance for Julie and her family to feel safe again. 

Julie, author of the massively popular book The Murder Game, gained notoriety not just as an author but as an outspoken victim of stalking. In an era where internet crime is still a strange gray area, Julie's attempts at restraining orders and a lawsuit didn't leave her protected in the least. But her new home, where no one knows her as Julie Apple, and a security system with failsafes to guarantee someone knows where she is and if an alarm has gone off at all times, initially set her at ease. 

Unfortunately, it took less than twelve months for that ease and sense of security to crumble. 

Ooh, I love it! There's something a bit more voyeuristic than usual about this particular release from McKenzie. First, the plot does hit very close to home in the sense that there's been an increase in online harassment in general and in particular in the literary community. But the behind closed doors look inside Julie and her neighbor John's lives, and the way McKenzie has built the story, feels extremely peeping Tom like. There's almost a sense that you're seeing things you simply aren't meant to in these character's stories.

Of course, that's in part thanks to the way the story plays out. Do you root for Julie or John? It's clear from the beginning that their relationship, which starts off somewhat on the wrong foot anyway, has grown contentious. The story bounces between Julie's move in and one year later where it quickly becomes clear that there's some sort of trial beginning.

Fractured is definitely another win from McKenzie. Longtime readers know I'm a total fan girl, though, considering I've loved all of her books and have been singing her praises since Spin! I do love how the kinds of stories she writes are always changing. Her earliest works are a bit light with romantic twists while her latest stuff has provided keen insight into the deepest secrets and fears of relationships and marriages. Fractured is darker than all of her previous works - though not DARK by any means. But, McKenzie did one extra with this one - she wrote The Murder Game as well!

Yes, there's a companion book to Fractured, Julie Apple's The Murder Game, The Book as it's referred to in Fractured, is real and you can read it November 1!

So yeah, Catherine McKenzie wrote two books this round! And I can't wait to read "Julie's" contribution to the thriller world!

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

For more on Catherine McKenzie 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, October 18, 2016

How to Keep a Boy From Kissing You by Tara Eglington - Excerpt + Giveaway

Hi, everyone! Tara Eglington's debut doesn't officially hit shelves until October 25, but today I have a very special treat for you: an excerpt and a giveaway! But first, here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

Sweet sixteen and never been kissed . . .

That’s Aurora Skye’s big secret. And the way she wants it to stay. She’s not going to give away her first kiss to just anyone. Busy dodging suitors and matchmaking for her best friends, Aurora (not so) patiently awaits her prince.

But everything changes when Aurora is coerced into a lead role in the school production of Much Ado about Nothing. Which means she’ll have to lock lips with her co-star Hayden Paris—the smart and funny boy next door who also happens to be the bane of her existence, always around to see her at her worst.

Now Aurora is more determined than ever to have her first kiss with the one who’s truly worthy of it. But first she’ll have to figure out just who that person is.

How To Keep a Boy From Kissing You (the first Aurora Skye story) originally released in Australia in 2013. Now we get a crack at it here in the States and it sounds fantastic!

As promised, I have an excerpt to share with you today, courtesy of the publisher. 

How to Keep a Boy From Kissing You
by Tara Eglington

(excerpt from chapter 2)

2 􏰀the glide-by

“How do I look?” Jelena asked.

Cass and I carefully studied her as the three of us stood by the school gate the next morning.

“Amazing, as always,” I replied, looking at Jelena’s long, sleek black hair, navy-blue eyes, and alabaster complexion—features that have longing male gazes following her like children after the Pied Piper. Jelena has an exotic air that I’m convinced comes from her Russian ancestry.

“You’re positive?” she said.

Normally Jelena wouldn’t even consider the possibility that she might look anything other than perfect (and with her looks, it’s com- pletely understandable), but today was a crucial day. A day when an outfit could make or break a girl. The first day back after summer break.

Summer is a transformative time for any teen—just consider the movie Dirty Dancing—and there’s always a touch of uncertainty, a hint of fear, the essence of possibility in the air on the first day of the new school year. The entire social structure of a high school can revolutionize itself in those six short hours. I knew that Jelena wanted to be dead certain that her social status was secure for another year.

Jelena possesses such fabulous qualities as confidence, never- ending energy, and an innovative mind, but she has something of an obsession with being popular. Her goal is to be CEO of an inter- national company in ten years, and she thinks Jefferson High is the perfect place to practice using her influence. Ever heard the phrase “an iron fist in a velvet glove”? Well, that’s Jelena. On many an occa- sion I’ve had to talk her out of implementing a system of serfdom. It’s thanks to her that our group is, as she puts it, “akin to reigning tsars.”

Jelena looked at me critically, gesturing at her form-fitting cream- colored dress. Attending a school where free dress is permitted meant the stakes were especially high. “Are you absolutely sure, stake your future on it, that I look like a teen queen?”

“Yes!” I said. “And Cass, you look fab, too.”

Cassie wore dark denim short shorts, a baby-pink top, and a dia- manté headband atop her fairest-of-fair blond curls. Those curls, along with her fawn-colored eyes, petite features, and voluptuous pout, would probably enable Cass to get away with murder. However, she’s as good as she is beautiful.

“So let’s head on in,” I said. I was dying to see what was new on the first day back.

“I don’t know.” Jelena arched a brow. “It’s important to build an- ticipation.”

“Don’t you want to be the first to check out any new talent?” I asked.

If there’s one word that motivates Jelena, it’s first. She views life as a battleground in which she must be the constant victor.

“Let’s go,” she commanded.

We clicked our identity rings together, a gesture left over from primary school but one we can’t help resurrecting every so often. The rings reflect how we like to see ourselves. Cassie’s ring reads “Angel,” Jelena’s is “Power,” and mine, naturally, is “Princess.” Hayden Paris happened to catch sight of the ring years ago and now refuses to call me anything else. Probably in the hope of embarrassing me. There’s no knowing what goes on in that disturbed mind of his.

We smiled at each other and stepped onto the school grounds. Jelena gave a satisfied nod smile as she did a perimeter scan. “Fantastic. There’s no one capable of challenging our status.”

I spotted Hayden sitting among a group of guys underneath the big pine. Two of them were playing guitar. When Hayden caught sight of me, he sent me a cheeky grin.

“Hayden’s looking at you,” Cassie announced in a singsong voice.

I groaned. “Don’t remind me. He’s probably replaying the image of me sitting in that puddle, again and again, like some sweet reverie.” 

Cass, Jelena, and I are really close, but we also have two other girls who make up our group: Lindsay and Sara. They joined us at our surveillance spot at the edge of the school grounds.
Lindsay is petite, with wavy chestnut locks, dark eyes, and year- round bronzed skin, which half the school is jealous of and attempts to replicate with Ambre Solaire, with varying success rates. The other important thing to know about Lindsay is that she’s part of TylerandLindsay, which isn’t two businesses joined into one super- company but a couple who have been going out for so long and so seriously that the entire student body views them as a single entity. I was surprised that Tyler wasn’t glued to Lindsay’s side. I looked around and saw he was sitting nearby. Lindsay was blowing I-can’t- believe-we’re-separated kisses to him, and he was making a show of catching each one in his palm. Oh, brother.

Lindsay’s identity ring will come as no surprise—it reads “Love.” 

Sara was telling some long, involved story, as usual. “And then they told me that they were discontinuing that brand, so I said, ‘Well, how am I going to manage without it? Youths with significant ex- pendable incomes are looking to this pharmacy to provide different options!’ And then he got all self-righteous and so I demanded to see someone more superior and—”

Sara’s ring reads “Diva.” Everything about her is dramatic—from her bright-red hair to the way she handles situations. To get out of PE last year, Sara didn’t complain of PMS or a strained ankle; in- stead, she fainted and had half the basketball team carry her to the nurse’s office while the other half ran for water and smelling salts. It’s virtually impossible to keep up with her constant level of hyste- ria, so I tune her out when she’s not actually experiencing a real crisis. I think most of us do, to tell you the truth.

“HS.” Jelena’s voice was loud and clear.

We had a hottie spotting.

“Where?” Cass glanced everywhere, not so subtly.

“Don’t make it so obvious!” Jelena hissed. “Twelve o’clock!”

We all looked straight ahead, toward a group of guys from our grade. Among them were two new, highly attractive faces. The one on the left had sun-streaked blond hair and a wide grin that displayed dimples in both cheeks. Even from a distance, his baby blues were very striking.

“Potential Prince,” Cass breathed to me.

The guy on the right had something no other guy in the school had: a goatee. That alone was impressive. He leaned against the brick wall, showing off his muscular arms to perfection. Every so often he’d run his fingers through his dark, perfectly styled hair.

“Guy on the right looks potentially egotistical,” I said.

“Girl standing next to me obviously hit her head when she fell last night, because guy on the right is godly,” Jelena replied.

“Exactly—looking down on the rest of us mere mortals,” I re- torted.

“If he’s conceited, he has every right to be,” Jelena said. “Look at him! Should we approach?”

Sara was still going on with her pharmaceutical sob story, and Lindsay had obviously decided she couldn’t take the separation from her beloved any longer, since she and Tyler were now sharing a swing, so the three of us looked at each other and made a decision.

“High heels?” Cass asked.

“Check!” we all cried.

“Time for the Glide-By,” Jelena said.

The Glide-By, like scarlet lipstick, is based on evolutionary tendencies—though it’s likely Darwin never saw this one coming! In the Glide-By, you wear an eye-catching outfit but pair it with loud shoes. This is because, although a guy’s sight is his primary sense when it comes to attraction, you often need to combine the visual with sound to really make an impact. Back in caveman days, men were trained to focus on their direct line of sight in order to spot prey. This evolutionary tendency is still part of the modern man’s makeup, so he might not pick up on your presence, no matter how gorgeous you are, if you happen to be slightly out of his line of sight.

This is where the loud shoes are vital. They announce your pres- ence. The minute a guy hears a loud sound, such as a pair of heels among the near-silent scuffing of sneakers, he will almost always turn his eyes toward it—an instinct from the days when responding to a sound could mean life or death for him and his tribe. Once his eyes are on you, the gorgeous outfit will have its desired impact. And, if your glide-by is successful and he becomes smitten, he may even learn to recognize the exact sound of your particular heels in a crowd, the way penguins recognize a partner among thou- sands of identical birds.

We headed up the path toward the guys, our heels drumming an ancient arrival call. As we hit the spot, five yards away, all eyes lifted from various Hacky Sack games and skateboard tricks. The boys looked at us; we looked at them. There was this moment of intense silence during which we mutually evaluated each other. The Glide- By was running smoothly so far.

Just when it looked like we would attempt an approach, Cass, Jelena, and I smiled simultaneously, turned abruptly, and headed for the history and arts block. We could feel the gazes following us. The Glide-By was a success.

You should never speak too soon.

“Hey, Princess!” Hayden’s voice boomed out across the school- yard, instantly destroying any intriguing aftereffects of the Glide- By. “When am I going to get my jacket back?”

Huge thanks to St. Martins for setting up the blog tour!

For more on Tara Eglington and her work, you can like Aurora's page on Facebook and follow Tara on Twitter.

As promised, I am giving away a copy of How to Keep a Boy From Kissing You today. To enter simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, October 31. Open US only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, October 16, 2016

New Releases 10/18/16

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Tourist by Robert Dickinson

The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa

The Boy Is Back by Meg Cabot

Dear Amy by Helen Callaghan

IQ by Joe Tide

Pharaoh by Wilbur Smith

Paris for One & Other Stories by Jojo Moyes

The Obsidian Chamber by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

The Next by Stephanie Gangi

Seduced by Randy Wayne White

The Starlit Wood ed by Navah Wolfe & Dominik Parisien

The Supernaturals by David L. Golemon

Sun Born by W. Michael & Kathleen O'Neal Gear

Escape Clause by John Sandford

The Girl From Venice by Martin Cruz Smith

Rains by Gregg Hurwitz

Rose & Thorn by Sarah Prineas

Gemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

What Light by Jay Asher

New on DVD:
Independence Day: Resurgence
Alice Through the Looking Glass

New review at Bookbitch.com:
Otherworld Chills by Kelley Armstrong

Thursday, October 13, 2016

News of the World by Paulette Jiles + a Giveaway

Hi, everyone! I'm off at the Women Writing the West conference right now, which makes today's post pretty appropriate :)

Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Paulette Jiles's National Book Award nominated News of the World.

Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd spends his post war days traveling Texas's northern regions and sharing the news. It's a job he enjoys and takes pride in. One that is important to him. But his knowledge of the state, and his experience as a soldier, are exactly what's in need when Johanna Leonberger is rescued from Kiowa captives. The girl, orphaned and being transported to her only living relatives, doesn't remember her life before the Kiowa. Given the choice, she'd return to her adoptive family. But they no longer want her either. 

And so it's up to Captain Kidd to bring the girl from Wichita City all the way south to San Antonio. Their journey won't be an easy one, but hopefully, Kidd can protect the girl and succeed in his mission. 

News of the World is, if you're a fan of them, a western. If you're not a fan, though, trust me when I say that won't matter one bit! It's a story of survival and a story of friendship. The kind of story that, paired with Jiles's writing, defies genre and will appeal to a wide range of readers.

Set in post Civil War Texas, Kidd and Johanna travel the lands I've heard Paulette Jiles herself calls home and often travels by horseback. It's clear she shares a passion for the Lone Star State's history that Kidd himself would admire. In telling his tale, she has carefully researched the era and setting, drawing on real historical figures in her creation of Kidd and the tale. (Britt is real, for example, and, though fictionalized here, Kidd himself is real as well.)

I've not read all of Jiles's work. My own first time reading her was the quite different post apocalyptic Lighthouse Island. So I didn't know that Britt is a returning character. Fans of The Color of Lightning will no doubt be pleased to see him again, brief though it may be.

I loved the scenery painted by Jiles's prose. I am, somewhat, familiar with modern day Texas but admittedly haven't roamed the countryside that much. The land described here is the land my own great grandparents settled once upon a time. While I doubt they shared any adventures akin to that of Captain Kidd, I can imagine them there on their farm just outside of San Antonio, perhaps waving as Kidd and Johanna pass them on their journey.

And now for the giveaway: I have one hardcover copy to give away to one of you lucky readers today. To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, October 24. 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. And for more on Paulette Jiles and her work you can visit her website here.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble