Sunday, April 30, 2017

New Releases 5/2/17

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

Invisible Dead by Sam Wiebe

The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion

Goodnight From London by Jennifer Robson

I'll Eat When I'm Dead by Barbara Bourland

Skitter by Ezekiel Boone

What My Body Remembers by Agnette Fries

The Original Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig

The Jane Austen Secret by Kathleen Flynn

The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman

My Life With Bob by Pamela Paul

The Boy on the Bridge by M. R. Carey

The Baker's Secret by Stephen P. Kiernan

The Scattering by Kimberly McCreight

The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

Dreamfall by Amy Plum

Kill All Happies by Rachel Cohn

The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein

Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith

New on DVD:

New reviews at
The Last Night at Tremore Beach by Mikel Santiago
Gone Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Pre Pub Book Buzz: Y is for... by Sue Grafton

Holy moly it's almost time for another Kinsey Millhone mystery! Of course that means we'll be one more title closer to the series ending, which makes me sad. But I still can't wait to get my hands on this one.

Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

The darkest and most disturbing case report from the files of Kinsey Millhone, Y begins in 1979, when four teenage boys from an elite private school sexually assault a fourteen-year-old classmate—and film the attack. Not long after, the tape goes missing and the suspected thief, a fellow classmate, is murdered. In the investigation that follows, one boy turns state’s evidence and two of his peers are convicted. But the ringleader escapes without a trace.

Now, it’s 1989 and one of the perpetrators, Fritz McCabe, has been released from prison. Moody, unrepentant, and angry, he is a virtual prisoner of his ever-watchful parents—until a copy of the missing tape arrives with a ransom demand. That’s when the McCabes call Kinsey Millhone for help. As she is drawn into their family drama, she keeps a watchful eye on Fritz. But he’s not the only one being haunted by the past. A vicious sociopath with a grudge against Millhone may be leaving traces of himself for her to find…

Oooooh, the darkest and most disturbing!? I've fangirled over this series since the blog started, so hopefully each and every one of you has sought out Grafton's mysteries by now. But if you still haven't, Y isn't due out until August...

My bookseller pitch for these was always this: Sue Grafton said when she started the series, fresh off a divorce, all she could think about were all the ways she wanted to kill her ex. And so she began writing. 

The series is set in the 80s and features Kinsey Millhone, a clever and feisty PI with a penchant for quarter pounders and pb and pickle sandwiches. Each and every installment is brilliantly plotted - trust me, when I began them my senior year in high school I'd start one at midnight and turn in around 2 or 3 am when I'd finished, diving into the next one that very night! It's my very favorite series and while I used to have some comps (Linda Barnes, Jan Burke, and early Janet Evanovich), these days nothing new has come along to quite fill the Kinsey void that's coming. 

Friday, April 28, 2017

Short Fiction Friday: All Systems Red by Martha Wells

Tuesday marks the release of All Systems Red, the start of Martha Wells's newest series, The Murderbot Diaries. And if the name of the series isn't enough to catch your attention, maybe this review will!

It calls itself Murderbot. A SecUnit, assigned to protect a group of scientists involved in mapping and studying a mostly unknown planet, Murderbot spends her ample downtime binge watching shows. Of course, in order to do that in the first place, this unit had to hack her governor module. Which means it's pretty much autonomous - something its clients and the company can never find out.

Built for protection and defence, the SecUnit is a combination of organic and mechanical parts. Typically, orders and upgrades are downloaded directly, much as that of a computer. But because Murderbot has hacked its system, it can pick and choose. Which may choose to be a saving grace for both Murderbot and its humans.

All Systems Red immediately caught my attention. The synopsis, the cover art, and the always present fact that the novellas have in large part been some of my favorite reading of late. The promise was one of fabulousness and Wells definitely came through.

Murderbot is an android. It has human pieces and robot pieces and, as we learn, a mind of its own. The people around it, as we learn, don't really understand what the 'droids are or what they're capable of. And it's clear that Murderbot's own owners (the Company) are in the same boat.

Whether others are capable of the same is unclear as Murderbot is our narrator. What is clear is that in this case, the people its been tasked to protect are a bit unlike others its worked with before. And when Murderbot saves one of them, they begin to warm to it in ways its not sure it really likes.

Of course part of the fun in this tale is the fact that Wells humanizes Murderbot. I mean, it binge watches TV! And it forms its own opinions - opinions about the people it's tasked to protect, people it's worked for in the past, even the situation on the planet. Some of that is programmed, sure, but it does become very clear early on that Murderbot has thought and even emotion capabilities well beyond what can be explained by simple programming.

I loved All Systems Red and certainly don't want to spoil the fun for you! Murderbot definitely joins the ranks of favorite 'droids and bots in SF, though, and I'm dying to read more of its "diaries."

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Red Leaves by Paullina Simons

Hello, all! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Paullina Simons's latest, Red Leaves.

I'm short on time so I have to go with the Goodreads synopsis here:

As the star player of Dartmouth College’s women’s basketball team, Kristina Kim is beautiful, intelligent, and fearless. But though she’s just 21, Kristina has already had her share of heartache, loss, and dark secrets that haunt her. She’s best friends with Conni, Albert, and Jim, but the only one who seems to really know her is Albert. With long dark hair, tattoos, and a rebellious streak, Albert doesn’t fit in with the rest of the clean-cut Ivy Leaguers. Like Kristina, he has his share of secrets—secrets that are beginning to unravel this intimate circle of friends.

One wintry Thanksgiving weekend tragedy strikes...

When Detective Spencer O’Malley goes to investigate something suspicious at the foot of a steep hill on Dartmouth’s campus, he doesn’t expect that the frozen, naked body found in deep snow would belong to Kristina Kim—the remarkable young woman he met recently who entranced him. Now Spencer will never know if the chemistry he had with her was real. All he can do is find her killer.

Spencer is pulled into the strange, complex web of the surviving friends. Many important questions about Kristina’s murder cannot be answered, such as: why did none of them report her missing for nine days before her body was discovered? The more Spencer digs, the more clear it becomes that each of the three has a motive for killing Kristina. And as Spencer, seeking justice for a dead girl, is led down a labyrinth of deceit, every new revelation proves more shocking than the last….and more dangerous.

This is a bit of a break from what you might have read by Simons before: a mystery set around the death of a star college basketball player.

Kristina Kim is talented and pretty, a college student at Dartmouth who works part time at a facility for pregnant teens. To an outsider, she seems to have it all, but as the reader learns pretty immediately, she's got plenty of secrets.

Her friends are the prime suspects when Kristina turns up dead, and Detective Spencer O'Malley is determined to the point of stubborn doggedness to fine out who killed her. As the story progresses, it seems each of the other members of Kristina's close knit group could have been the one who murdered her.

I was excited at the prospect of a suspense thriller from such a beloved author, but I'll be honest, this one just did not work for me. The prose felt wooden and overly worked. There was so much minutia throughout that I found myself drifting as I was reading, unable to concentrate and never sucked into the story.

We are given an in depth look into Kristina, Spencer, and the three friends/suspects throughout the book. Simons does a good job of twisting the story in a way that the ultimate reveal is a surprise, but it was slow going to the point of being dry getting there.

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

For more on Paullina Simons you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Doctor Who + Roger Hargreaves

Oh, you guys! Doctor Who is back and I could not be happier. We're two eps into the new season (as well as the brand new spin off Class) and it's fab so far - as is the Doctor's new companion, Bill Potts! Oh, the anticipation of hearing her observation that the TARDIS is BIGGER ON THE INSIDE!

This week marks another new addition to the Doctor Who universe, these tiny little beauties from Penguin:

The series kicks off with these four installments, but not to worry there are four more due out this year (Doctors two, seven, eight, and nine, in fact).

The books are written and illustrated by Adam Hargreaves, in the style of his father, Roger Hargreaves, and the Mr. Men series and there's a ton of merch beyond the books (check out the BBC store). I'd love to get my hot little hands on some plushies... but if you happen to know me, a shirt would be a great bday gift (hint, hint, family).

If you know someone who needs a little Doctor Who happiness in their life, these cuties are perfect for big and little Whovians alike and feature a plethora of sidekicks and villains. I especially love how true the little stories are to each of the Doctor's various personalities!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Guest Post - Alyssa Polombo + a Giveaway

Happy Book Birthday to Alyssa Polombo! Her latest, The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence: A Story of Botticelli officially hits shelves today and I am pleased as punch to be able to welcome her to the blog today!

I am giving away a copy of The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence as well, so be sure to read through to the end to enter to win.

Before I hand things over to Alyssa, though, here's a bit about the book to whet your appetite:

A girl as beautiful as Simonetta Cattaneo never wants for marriage proposals in 15th Century Italy, but she jumps at the chance to marry Marco Vespucci. Marco is young, handsome and well-educated. Not to mention he is one of the powerful Medici family’s favored circle.

Even before her marriage with Marco is set, Simonetta is swept up into Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici’s glittering circle of politicians, poets, artists, and philosophers. The men of Florence—most notably the rakish Giuliano de’ Medici—become enthralled with her beauty. That she is educated and an ardent reader of poetry makes her more desirable and fashionable still. But it is her acquaintance with a young painter, Sandro Botticelli, which strikes her heart most. Botticelli immediately invites Simonetta, newly proclaimed the most beautiful woman in Florence, to pose for him. As Simonetta learns to navigate her marriage, her place in Florentine society, and the politics of beauty and desire, she and Botticelli develop a passionate intimacy, one that leads to her immortalization in his masterpiece, The Birth of Venus.

Alyssa Palombo’s The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence vividly captures the dangerous allure of the artist and muse bond with candor and unforgettable passion.

Historical fiction fans, this should definitely be your next read!

And now over to Alyssa!

As you can probably tell, based on the settings of my first two novels, I really love Italy. This love, for me, comes from a few different places, because truthfully I loved Italy way before I ever went there.

Based on my last name, I’m sure it’s no surprise that I am of Italian descent myself. I don’t know too much about the Italian side of my family – they didn’t talk much about their roots – but I know we are from northern Italy somewhere and that my great-grandparents came to the US through Ellis Island before WWII. So certainly a part of my interest in Italy comes in part from the fact that I have roots there, and that its history is my heritage. I keep meaning to start a genealogy project of some kind to learn more about my Italian ancestry – someday soon I will make the time!

Obviously, I’ve always had an interest in history, and my interest in Italian history specifically came about in my later teens. I had read all about the Tudors by then – so much that I started to get kind of sick of them – and so began reading a lot of historical fiction set in other eras. A few books set in Italy during different periods really sealed the deal for me, and from there I sought out nonfiction about different periods and historical figures in Italian history. What I found is that Italian history – especially of the Renaissance period – is absolutely fascinating. It’s peopled with ruthless politicians like Lorenzo de’ Medici, Niccolo Machiavelli, and Rodrigo and Cesare Borgia; the great artistic masters like da Vinci, Michelangelo, Botticelli, and Raphael; and exceptional and powerful women like Caterina Sforza and Isabella d’Este. There’s more sex and scandal and violence to be found than in Game of Thrones. I was completely engrossed in the history I was reading, and found it to be both informative and entertaining.

In addition, as a musician – I did a music minor in college and focused on classical voice – many of my favorite composers are Italian, and indeed opera was created by the Italians. This gave me another avenue through which to explore Italy’s history and legacy.

Then, of course, I started writing The Violinist of Venice and did a lot of research into 18th century Venice and composer Antonio Vivaldi, and Italian Baroque music more broadly. This is a period of history I didn’t know too much about prior to doing research for the novel, and I found Venice to be a place that completely captured my imagination.

It wasn’t until I was between the second and third drafts of The Violinist of Venice that I finally went to Italy, the country I’d been dreaming about for years by that time. I went to Venice, of course, to gather information for the novel, but on that same trip I also went to Florence and Rome as well. I’ve been back to both Venice and Florence since – the former simply because it is my absolute favorite place in the world, and the latter to do research for The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence – and I am still completely enamored of Italy. I love the language – I know enough to make my way around, order food, and also to have a very operatic and dramatic lovers’ quarrel if need be – I love the people, I love the landscape and the way each city and region is so individual and unique, I love the architecture, and of course I love the food and wine. But I also really love that Italy is a country with such a deep appreciation for its history, and for its exceptional artistic legacy.

Modern-day Italy is certainly a country with many problems, as in truth is any nation. Yet it is very much a place that inspires me and that I feel a deep connection to, and I am proud to be Italian myself. 

About the author: ALYSSA PALOMBO is also the author of The Violinist of Venice. She has published short fiction pieces in Black Lantern Magazine and The Great Lakes Review. She is a recent graduate of Canisius College with degrees in English and creative writing, respectively. A passionate music lover, she is a classically trained musician as well as a big fan of heavy metal. The Violinist of Venice is her first novel. She lives in Buffalo, New York.

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

Huge thanks to Alyssa for being here today and to the publicist for setting up this guest post!

The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence is out on shelves now.

And now for the giveaway: to enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter before Monday, May 8. Open US only.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Day I Died by Lori Rader-Day + a Giveaway

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Lori Rader-Day's latest, The Day I Died.

When a young child and his mother go missing, the police ask for Anna Winger's help in analyzing the note left behind. A handwriting specialist, Anna often helps with human relations and what she calls her lonelyhearts - those asking for Anna's opinion on a loved one's handwriting. It happens less often, but it's not rare for Anna to consult on a criminal investigation. 

What is rare is for Anna to get wrapped up in said investigation. But something about this one nags at her - the missing mother, the most obvious suspect in what the police are calling a kidnapping, is a woman who reminds Anna of herself. A woman Anna hopes got away from whatever her handwriting indicated she was frightened of. What Anna isn't so sure of is whether the mom took the toddler with her. And when the toddler's babysitter turns up murdered, she suspects the worst. 

Anna is an interesting character. She's jumpy and easily shaken, moving her little family of two around at the earliest sign of discovery. Discovery of her true identity, that is. See Anna is running from something herself. Something that forces her to pick up and relocate frequently.

But while Anna is mostly happy in her life, her thirteen-year-old son is not.

So Anna has complications in her personal life already when she's asked to consult on this case. And again, she makes great effort not only to not get involved, but to not get attached. She has no real friends and nothing ever tying her to any one place.

As the story unfolds, we learn more about Anna (Leeanna) her reason for constantly moving starts to become more clear, as does her increasing certainty that the mother in the missing child case isn't the culprit. But as the case progresses, her son Joshua begins acting out more and more and Anna's concentration is wavering. She thinks it's time to move again, she's sure her secrets have been found out, and it begins affecting her ability to do her job.

Of course the case becomes more complicated (see dead babysitter) and then the local sheriff begins asking for more and more of Anna's time.

Handwriting analysis is something I've come across only a few times so far. It's a fascinating science, one that adds to Anna's fearfulness - imagine if you could see anger and frustration otherwise hiding in those around you? Anna even takes pains not to look at her own son's handwriting. And to be fair, he takes pains not to let her see it - as do others - out of obvious fear of what Anna might glean.

I quite enjoyed this latest (my first) from Rader-Day. The pacing was great, a bit more of a slow burn than I'd expected but it worked perfectly for the story. There were, I felt, a few hiccups in the plot. Places where various threads came together a bit too fast and without being fully developed, but not to the point that it affected my overall enjoyment of the read.

All in all, The Day I Died is a solid thriller with a great heroine and Lori Rader-Day is definitely someone I'll be reading more of!

And now for the giveaway: to enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, May 8. Open US only. Easy peasy!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

For more on Lori Rader-Day 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