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Friday, September 22, 2017

A Conspiracy of Ravens by Terrence P. McCauley - Excerpt + a Giveaway

The third book in Terrence McCauley's James Hicks series is out now and I've got a sneak peek to share with you! I'm also giving away a copy, so be sure to read through to the end to enter.

Before we dive into the excerpt, though, here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

James Hicks finally knows his true enemy: the criminal organization known as The Vanguard. They mysterious group has been known as an organization of weapons dealers, drug runners and money launderers for years, but has now decided to add regime change to the mix. But knowing the enemy is one thing. Being able to defeat it is another matter entirely. When Hicks uncovers a solid lead on his new adversaries, his world explodes. His home base is attacked, his operatives in the field are wiped out and, for the first time, The University finds itself in open combat against an unknown enemy. In a battle that rages from the streets of Manhattan to the halls of power in Washington to the dark alleys of Berlin, Hicks will have to use every resource at his disposal to defeat A CONSPIRACY OF RAVENS.

As I said, this is the third in the series, following Sympathy for the Devil and A Murder of Crows. And yes, you should read them in order. 

And now for a peek inside the latest James Hicks thriller:

A Conspiracy of Ravens
by Terrence P. McCauley

CHAPTER 1

2:00 A.M.

James Hicks was two hours south of Manhattan, driving to a meeting he didn’t want to attend in Washington, when his dashboard screen flashed red. It was a Proximity Alert from OMNI.

POSSIBLE SURVEILLANCE IN PROGRESS

“Goddamn it.” Hicks pounded the steering wheel. “Not this shit again.”

Surveillance was the whole reason he was driving to Washington, D.C. in the first place.

The Optimized Mechanical and Network Integration System (OMNI) was one of the most advanced computer networks in the world, giving the University one of the few advantages it enjoyed over the larger, federally-funded agencies. OMNI’s access to satellites, data systems, and communications networks collected more data in a millisecond than any human mind could ever comprehend, and saw more than any human eye could see.

Since being selected as Dean of the University weeks ago, the network now dedicated part of its impressive bandwidth to constantly scan his immediate area for patterns and signals that may constitute a threat to Hicks.

He had refused the security measures at first, finding it intrusive for a man who had spent most of his life in the shadows. He had managed to stay alive this long without babysitting. He had seen no reason to allow it now.

But the protection came with the job and could not be refused, not even by the Dean. Given the number of people who had tried to kill him in the past few months, Hicks decided an extra set of eyes watching his back might not be a bad idea.

The automatic alert he was reading now proved he had made the right choice.

He tapped the dashboard screen for more information.
TARGET CAR: BMW 750i
TAIL TIME: 30 minutes and counting
SPEED: Matching 70 miles per hour
ERROR: New Jersey license plates do not match VIN on black box

The fact that a car had been behind him for thirty minutes didn’t bother him. People often popped on the cruise control and let the car do the driving in light traffic like this.

It was the problem with the plates that bothered him. They didn’t match the Vehicle Identification Number OMNI detected from the signal on the BMW’s black box. That was unusual. Too unusual for it to be written off as a mistake.

Hicks had been checking his mirrors constantly during the drive south. He hadn’t detected anyone following him, but it was difficult to track a car in the middle of the night.

Hicks tapped a button on the Buick’s steering wheel, accessing the OMNI network. “Get me an Operator.”

“Contacting an Operator,” the female electronic voice answered as it connected him to one of the dozens of technicians located throughout the world who constantly monitored OMNI’s field operations.

A man’s voice, betraying a slight British inflection, came over the Buick’s speakers. OMNI may have been a secure closed network operating entirely on its own bandwidth, but University Operators still answered using a standard protocol script. “You’ve reached the switchboard. How may I help you?”

“This is Professor Warren.” It was the signal that he was not in any immediate danger and free to talk. If he had given them any other name, the Operator would have assumed he was in trouble and activated necessary security measures. Even with twenty-first-century technology, old tricks like code words still had a place. “Looks like I’ve become pretty popular. I need more information.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, sir.” Hicks heard the Operator’s fingers work a keyboard as he accessed OMNI to find his location and the alert that had flashed on the dashboard screen. “I see the nature of the problem now. The plates match the exact make, model, and year of the BMW following you, but the VIN is completely different.”

Hicks knew that ruled out any government agencies following him. They would not need to steal plates for a vehicle.

But someone did.

“Who owns the car, according to the VIN?” He heard the Operator typing. “Records show it was delivered to a BMW dealership in New Jersey late last week.” More clicks. “No record of sale. No stolen car reports with the police, either. It’s possible they stole the car tonight from the dealership after it closed.”

Convenient timing. “Who owns the plates?”

More clicks of the keyboard. “Michael Spatola of Franklin Lakes, New Jersey. Zooming in to get eyes on his address now.” More clicks on the keyboard. “Satellites show his BMW is still parked in his driveway, but the license plates have been removed from the vehicle.”

Hicks kept his eyes on the road. Someone had been smart enough to steal plates matching the same make, model, and year of the vehicle they had just stolen. Even if a cop decided to run the plates, they would be close enough to match and the cop would probably let them go. Both the car and the plates would be reported stolen eventually, but not for several hours.

That kind of pairing took planning and access. It took effort that common car thieves wouldn’t have gone through. And the odds that common car thieves just happened to be following him this long by accident were astronomical.

Everything about the car and the plates showed intent. It showed planning.

Hicks didn’t like it. He needed answers and, under the circumstances, there was only one way to get them.

“Check traffic and toll cams based on my route. I’m looking for a visual of the driver. Send anything you get to my screen.”

Thirty seconds later, the Operator said, “Sending an image to you now.”

Hicks glanced at the screen while keeping his eyes on the road. A blurry image of two white males at a toll booth in the BMW appeared on his dashboard screen. Judging by the way they filled their seats, he guessed they were each over six feet tall and powerfully built.

The Operator explained, “That picture was taken as they blew through an EZ Pass station without an EZ Pass. I’ll keep looking for a clearer image, but that’s all I have for now.”

Hicks didn’t care about clearer pictures. He needed to find out who was driving that car.

“I’m in a generous mood tonight,” Hicks told the Operator, “so let’s do Mr. Spatola a favor. Enter the theft of the plates and the vehicle into the police network. Say the suspects should be considered armed and dangerous and are believed to be heading for the D.C. area.”

More keyboard clicks. “Doing it now, sir.”

Another idea came to him. “Show me the closest patrol unit on my map.”

A few more clicks. “I’ve just posted the location of the closest unit to your position on your map, sir. The blue icon is the closest police car—a county sheriff ’s deputy manning a speed trap approximately three miles and closing from your current position. The tail car is the red icon on your map, while your car is black.”

Hicks would have preferred a state trooper, but at least a county cop wasn’t some local Barney Fife looking to be a hero.

Hicks pulled the gloves tighter on his fingers. “Plot the nearest off-ramp between here and the speed trap. Something that gives me easy access back onto the highway.”

A blue line appeared on the map of his dashboard screen.

“There’s an off-ramp approximately two miles ahead of you, sir, but be advised: you may not be able to outrun the BMW. It’s got a twin 445 horsepower V8 engine. With all due respect, sir, that’s a tough engine for an old Buick to beat.”

Hicks smiled. That’s why I’ve got an Aston Martin V12 engine under the hood. “Consider me advised. Since the alert is already on the system, send a message directly to the deputy’s onboard computer. Tell him the vehicle is heading his way. Let’s see what he does.”

“Doing it now,” the Operator replied. “And good luck, sir.”

Hicks killed the connection. He never believed in luck. Only in himself.


Excerpted from A CONSPIRACY OF RAVENS © Copyright 2017 by Terrence McCauley. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.


About the Author: Terrence McCauley is the award-winning author of two previous James Hicks thrillers: SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL and A MURDER OF CROWS, as well as the historical crime thrillers PROHIBITION and SLOW BURN (all available from Polis Books). He is also the author of the World War I novella THE DEVIL DOGS OF BELLEAU WOOD, the proceeds of which go directly to benefit the Semper Fi Fund. His story "El Cambalache" was nominated for the Thriller Award by International Thriller Writers.

Terrence has had short stories featured in Thuglit, Spintetingler Magazine, Shotgun Honey, Big Pulp and other publications. He is a member of the New York City chapter of the Mystery Writers of America, the International Thriller Writers and the International Crime Writers Association.

A proud native of The Bronx, NY, he is currently writing his next work of fiction. Please visit his website at terrencemccauley.com or follow him at @terrencepmccauley.


Big thanks to Terrence McCauley's publicist for sharing the excerpt and for letting me give away a copy today!

And now for the giveaway! To enter, simply fill out the Raffelcopter below before Monday, October 9. Open US only and no PO boxes please. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Paperbacks From Hell: A History of Horror Fiction From the '70s and '80s by Grady Hendrix with Will Errickson

Oh, horror fans, is this the read for you! I normally steer clear of non fiction, but this was definitely an exception that I had to make.

One summer a few years back, Grady Hendrix and Will Errickson came together for a Tor.com series called "Summer of Sleaze." The two horror aficionados covered some of the schlockiest installments in horror history, beginning with a book about Nazi leprechauns (which turns out not to be leprechauns at all). And oh, I did love each and every post.

It wasn't all schlock, though. They took time out to focus on Thomas Tryon and James Herbert, Graham Masterton, and even Michael McDowell. For sixteen weeks (and then two subsequent series later on) they teased my TBR with posts about a bevy of horror delights that my itchy hands were (mostly) dying to find.

And that's a bit of the origin story behind Paperbacks From Hell!


Paperbacks From Hell is focused on the paperback (in particular) popularity of the horror genre that hit in the wake of the likes of Rosemary's Baby, The Other, and The Exorcist. (Levin, Tryon, and Blatty, if you're unfamiliar.), tracing the trends in both titles and cover illustrations that ruled over the course of roughly two decades.

Books about possession, devil worshipping, evil children, killer creatures and more captured the readers' imaginations! Hendrix touches on everything from the gory and grotesque to the literary classics that have survived the test of time. Many of the houses have died, some of the authors have too, but the shelves of used bookstores nationwide are still full to the brim with these gems. I should know, I've browsed enough of them to build my own small collection.

Let me be clear, I was not able to delve into the heyday horror fiction until the 90s due to age limitations. Mom but the kibosh on anything beyond the YA category until the summer I hit the age of fourteen and put my foot down - it was time to allow for adult horror reading!

So I missed out on a lot of the titles Hendrix is focusing on here, at least when they originally released.

But not all. Because there are some shining genre examples that have defied the inevitable death of most backlist, still read and released today! And Hendrix does take a breath to hit on the teen horror market of the day as well - Christopher Pike and R. L. Stine in particular, the gateway drugs for many of the horror fans of my own generation. And oh, what a glorious gateway it was for me! I can still recall my first Stine and Pike purchases (Haunted at a school book fair and The Chain Letter on a trip to Mandeville to visit a friend). I trolled the bookstore YA shelves for any and every creepy looking title I could find, all the while gazing longingly at the shiny Stephen King and Dean Koontz titles that beckoned from the forbidden adult section. And I'm always heartened to hear that I wasn't alone - lots of readers of my generation share almost the same story!

Horror is and probably always will be my go to when it comes to books and movies. I like to blame it on the fact that my parents admit to having taken me to the drive in with them to see Return of the Living Dead when I was a baby (in other words, way too young for it to have mattered, especially since I no doubt slept through it and probably couldn't see the screen). I can certainly trace it back to the first ghost story my parents bought me to try and encourage me to read back in second grade. And I can definitely trace it back to my discovery of R.L. Stine's Fear Street hiding out on a Scholastic book fair shelf in third grade. And while I may have missed many of the titles Hendrix talks about when they originally released, I'm making up for it now!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Lie To Me by J.T. Ellison + a Giveaway

Happy Monday, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for J.T. Ellison's latest, Lie To Me. If you visit frequently, then you may recall I already posted an excerpt of this one last month. If you missed it, be sure to check it out here.

Well now I get to follow up with my review!

And do be sure to read through to the end - I'm giving away a copy of Lie To Me to one of you lucky readers!

To the outside world, Sutton and Ethan have the perfect marriage. Two authors, each successful in their own right, who together seem to have it all. But the reality of their marriage is anything but perfect and certainly isn't happy these days. Ethan's latest book deal has been cancelled and their relationship is on the rocks after the death of their child. 

And then Ethan wakes one morning to find Sutton gone. All of her things - her purse, her computer, her phone, her clothes - are still there but Sutton is missing. And then Ethan finds the note: she's left him and doesn't want him to try and find her. 

Ethan wants to respect her wishes, but he fears something terrible may have happened. And when her friends suggest maybe Sutton didn't leave at all but that Ethan may have done something, Ethan knows he can't sit idly by. 

If you're a fan of domestic noir/thrillers, you're going to absolutely love this latest from J.T. Ellison. Love it! There's a definite Gone Girl feel to this one. A missing wife, a suspected husband, the niggling feeling that our narrator can't be trusted... But don't worry, Lie To Me definitely stands on its own.

Ethan, when the story begins, is no perfect hubby. In fact, he's kind of a dick. I say this because in the very first pages he's musing over how he needs a hottie on his arm because he himself is a hottie and Sutton has kind of let herself go of late. What!? But even as Ethan does his damnedest not to endear himself to the reader, it's kind of impossible not to sympathize with him as suspicions turn his way.

And Sutton hasn't helped in that regard. The picture she's painted to those around her definitely doesn't put Ethan in a good light either.

The did he or didn't he would be enough to grab any reader's attention, but there are chapters narrated by someone unknown as well. Someone we're told from the start we're going to hate. Who is this person!?

Lots of interrobangs here, you'll notice. Because this is a book that deserves more than simple question marks and exclamation points. Lie To Me is super good, y'all. The pacing is intense and the story keeps you guessing all the way to the end. If you aren't reading J.T. Ellison yet, this is definitely the perfect place to start.

Lie To Me is excellent all around and one I highly recommend for any thriller fan!

And now for the giveaway. To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, October 2. Open US only and no PO boxes please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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

For more on J.T. Ellison 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


Sunday, September 17, 2017

New Releases 9/19/17

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Autonomous by Analee Newitz

Null States by Malka Older

The Good People by Hannah Kent

An Echo of Murder by Anne Perry

The Scarred Woman by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Keep Her Safe by Sophie Hannah

White Bodies by Jane Robins

Best Day Ever by Kaira Rouda

Solar Bones by Mike McCormack

The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott

The Cuban Affair by Nelson DeMille

Obsession by Amanda Robson

Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore

Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco

Release by Patrick Ness

A Poison Dark and Drowning by Jessica Cluess

One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake

New on DVD:
Wonder Woman
The Big Sick

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
Casa Marcela by Marcela Valladolid

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Crows of Beara by Julie Christine Johnson + a Giveaway

Annie Crowe has hit rock bottom. Her husband has kicked her out and her company has given her an ultimatum: one final job to prove she can get back on her feet and stay sober. 

The job, doing PR for a mining company that wants to bring copper mining back to Ireland, won't be easy. The locals need the money and the jobs but the threat to their land is something they aren't going to compromise on. At the center of the efforts is the red-billed chough, a rare bird that happens to have one if its last nesting grounds in an area that would be impacted by the mines. 

Annie is entranced by the beauty of the village and its coast. But failing would mean the end of her career. As she fights not to fall prey to her own personal demons, she finds a guiding force in Beara. But can she decipher the meaning of the words whispered on the wind before she loses everything?

The Crows of Beara isn't a long book, and yet it feels sweeping nonetheless. Epic in its hints of mythology and its approach on the magic of Ireland - literal and figurative. Though one could say the magic of nature is literal...

Annie is out of rehab and fighting to stay sober, one day at a time, when the story begins. But the fall out from her mistakes hasn't ended. And that's when she decides that maybe a trip to Ireland, while potentially hiding many dangers to a newly sober and struggling person, might instead be exactly what she needs.

We learn that Annie has a lot of baggage. A lot of things she's still trying to work out, tracing all the way back to an injury that crushed her leg and her then athletic dreams. But none has been as crushing as the loss of her brother. And her crutch, that of alcohol, not only allowed her not to confront these things, but obviously made it worse.

At the same time, Annie isn't alone. Daniel, who turns out to be not only her neighbor in Ireland but the brother of the head of the conservation efforts, has his own demons as well. An accident landed him in prison and has kept him sober ever since, but he has never accepted the forgiveness offered by the family of his victim. As such, when his friends and family ask him to take more of a role in their efforts, becoming the face of their campaign, he resists.

But he finds it hard to resist Annie. And hears the same whispered words that she does.

Chapters alternate between Annie and Daniel as both their stories and that of Beara play out. How it ends for all of them is something you have to find out for yourself, but the journey is a beautiful one all around!

(Don't miss Julie Christine Johnson's fantastic guest post on Ireland and the seeds that would lead The Crows of Beara here.)

As promised last week, I do have one copy of The Crows of Beara to give away to one of you very lucky readers. To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, September 25. Open US only and no PO boxes please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, September 10, 2017

New Releases 9/12/17

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Twelve-Mile Straight by Eleanor Henderson

Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke

The Man in the Tree by Sage Walker

Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford

An Excess Male by Maggie Shen King

Taste of Marrow by Sarah Gailey

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

The Names of Dead Girls by Eric Rickstad

A Column of Fire by Ken Follett

Lightning Men by Thomas Mullen

The Unquiet Grave by Sharyn McCrumb

Madness Treads Lightly by Polina Dashkova

The Bloody Black Flag by Steve Goble

We Were Strangers Once by Betsy Carter

When I Cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter

Odd & True by Cat Winters

Warcross by Marie Lu

Nyxia by Scott Reintgen

Shadowhouse Fall by Daniel José Older

New on DVD:
It Comes at Night
The Mummy
Beatriz at Dinner

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
Y is For Yesterday by Sue Grafton

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Pre Pub Book Buzz: Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich

So one of the many hats I wear these days is at a local bookstore as Local Author Coordinator. It pairs nicely with the agenting and with the blogging, giving me a chance to meet local authors and writing groups, work and in hand with local authors I've already met at conferences and events, and of course be around bookstore people even more. One of them, aware of my fondness for post apocalyptic tales and such, has raved about Louise Erdrich's latest. So of course I'm dying to read it now, too!

Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

The world as we know it is ending. Evolution has reversed itself, affecting every living creature on earth. Science cannot stop the world from running backwards, as woman after woman gives birth to infants that appear to be primitive species of humans. Thirty-two-year-old Cedar Hawk Songmaker, adopted daughter of a pair of big-hearted, open-minded Minneapolis liberals, is as disturbed and uncertain as the rest of America around her. But for Cedar, this change is profound and deeply personal. She is four months pregnant.

Though she wants to tell the adoptive parents who raised her from infancy, Cedar first feels compelled to find her birth mother, Mary Potts, an Ojibwe living on the reservation, to understand both her and her baby’s origins. As Cedar goes back to her own biological beginnings, society around her begins to disintegrate, fueled by a swelling panic about the end of humanity.

There are rumors of martial law, of Congress confining pregnant women. Of a registry, and rewards for those who turn these wanted women in. Flickering through the chaos are signs of increasing repression: a shaken Cedar witnesses a family wrenched apart when police violently drag a mother from her husband and child in a parking lot. The streets of her neighborhood have been renamed with Bible verses. A stranger answers the phone when she calls her adoptive parents, who have vanished without a trace. It will take all Cedar has to avoid the prying eyes of potential informants and keep her baby safe.

A chilling dystopian novel both provocative and prescient, Future Home of the Living God is a startlingly original work from one of our most acclaimed writers: a moving meditation on female agency, self-determination, biology, and natural rights that speaks to the troubling changes of our time.

This sounds pretty amazing in my humble opinion and I will definitely be looking forward to getting my hands on a copy!

Future Home of the Living God is due out in November from Harper. 

Friday, September 8, 2017

Short Fiction Friday: Acadie by Dave Hutchinson

Duke never wanted to be president, and that's exactly why the Colony has chosen him. Theirs is a settlement that has created some of the smartest minds evolution will allow. Their founder has figured out a way to hack DNA, molding and creating to her heart's content. But she has no interest in leading.

Which is unfortunate because she's the one Earth is after. For generations, the Colony has been on guard, prepared for the day when Earth discovers their whereabouts. And when a small vessel is discovered in their vicinity, Duke is convinced it's no coincidence.

I was certain, at the start, that I wasn't going to make it through Dave Hutchinson's latest. It reminded me of my earliest days trying to read sci fi, when everything went literally over my head and I became convinced there was some super secret primer all the sci fi fans must have read but me.

We're dropped down in the middle of Duke's story. A ship has made its way into the Colony's space and, while many want to blow it off and forget about it, Duke is convinced it means they're about to be discovered.

But why the worry?

As the story progresses, we get to flash back to Duke's own origins. How he came to be part of the Colony and even how the Colony came to be in the first place. And as Duke's backstory is revealed, all becomes suddenly clear!

Thankfully this happens right about the time I was ready to throw in the towel, which was fortunate because I really didn't want to give up on this one.

Acadie is a fun read, even with the rocky start. There's a bit of a playful edge to the whole thing, made clear first by flying cats (no gravity!). And Duke, as an average person of average intelligence, making his way amongst a society of super brains, is a great narrator to get behind.

But that end. Oh, that end! That was the real kicker. That was what made this all worth it and, if I'm honest, completely unforgettable!

I won't ruin it for you, don't worry.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Guest Post by Julie Christine Johnson

Good morning, readers! I've been quiet this week - I've had my agent hat on preparing for an upcoming conference and reading through manuscripts. But today I have a treat for you - two posts, starting with a guest post from Julie Christine Johnson, whose latest book, The Crows of Beara, released this week.

Before I hand things over to Julie, here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

When Annie Crowe travels from Seattle to a small Irish village to promote a new copper mine, her public relations career is hanging in the balance. Struggling to overcome her troubled past and a failing marriage, Annie is eager for a chance to rebuild her life.

Yet when she arrives on the remote Beara Peninsula, Annie learns that the mine would encroach on the nesting ground of an endangered bird, the Red-billed Chough, and many in the community are fiercely protective of this wild place. Among them is Daniel Savage, a local artist battling demons of his own, who has been recruited to help block the mine.

Despite their differences, Annie and Daniel find themselves drawn toward each other, and, inexplicably, they begin to hear the same voice--a strange, distant whisper of Gaelic, like sorrow blowing in the wind.

Guided by ancient mythology and challenged by modern problems, Annie must confront the half-truths she has been sent to spread and the lies she has been telling herself. Most of all, she must open her heart to the healing power of this rugged land and its people.

Beautifully crafted with environmental themes, a lyrical Irish setting, and a touch of magical realism, The Crows of Beara is a breathtaking novel of how the nature of place encompasses everything that we are.


And now, over to Julie!

A Writer’s Ireland

May 2002. My first trip to Ireland. Alone, I join a small group of strangers to hike the Beara peninsula, West Cork. I fall deeply in love with a land of impossible greens, peaches-and-cream sunrises and salmon-flesh sunsets, lashing rain and wind, always wind.

On the flight home two weeks later, I turn my face to the window, sobbing. I am as if torn from a lover, forever. Ireland has changed me. Beara has given me a sense of peace and wholeness I have never before experienced.

The years pass and I return to Ireland several times, hiking the Wicklow Way, Connemara, the Dingle and Kerry peninsulas; exploring Dublin, Galway, Limerick, Kenmare, Tralee. But Beara remains a dream crystallized in photographs and memories.

I dream of a land of poetry and legends, of An Cailleach, Clan Ó Súilleabháin, St. Caitighearn; a land of sky and water where battles were fought on gorse-cloaked mountains and warriors marked their Ogham runes on tall pillars. Where the ruined shadows of famine houses pale against the shadows of history cast by circles of ancient altars—slabs of stone sculpted by Bronze Age hands now scratching posts for the russet and inky-black flanks of Angus and Friesian.

I dream of villages where rows of Crayon-bright houses march up narrow streets, lace curtains fluttering in open windows. Where breath-stealing laughter falls from open pub doors, chased by heart-stealing songs.

I dream of a hiker high on the Slieve Miskish, peering into the green and blue infinity, boots soaked through with bog, fingers wrapped around a trekking pole, pack cinched around her waist like a lover's arms. She is so happy she could explode from the very fullness of her heart.

I dream of a humped, ragged block of stone perched on hill overlooking Ballycrovane Harbor. One edge resembles the profile of a woman, her furrowed brow arched over a proud nose, her gaze fixed on the Atlantic Ocean. She is An Cailleach Bheara, the Hag of Beara, mother of Ireland. Her story is Ireland's story, her survival the enduring drama of a tortured land of legendary beauty.

January 2014. I set the first draft of my first novel aside to rest, exhausted by the effort to corral a 170,000-wordsoup into a 99,000-word manuscript. That novel becomes my 2016 debut In Another Life, recently awarded Gold Winner for Fantasy by FOREWORD Indies at the American Library Association Annual Conference in June 2017. I leave behind a timeslip of modern and medieval southwest France to enter the cool, scabrous beauty of southwest Ireland.

I create the story of a recovering alcoholic who has a marriage to repair and a career to salvage, and another of an artist who cannot forgive himself for the tragedy he caused. As my characters begin to take shape, I know the threads connecting them will be found in the presence of the Hag. Her voice filters through these characters’ pain to reveal their authentic selves.

June 2015. Thirteen years after that first trip to the Beara peninsula, I'm in a blue room at an artist’s retreat center outside Eyeries. Tucked in bed, I watch the sun sink behind distant hills until suddenly it is morning. And I set forth to revisit the land of my dreams, discovering it anew.

September 2017. Fifteen years after that first trip to the Beara peninsula, I celebrate the release of my second novel, The Crows of Beara, a work shaped by this place of incomparable beauty and spirit.


About the author:  Julie Christine Johnson is the author of In Another Life (Sourcebooks, 2016). Her short stories and essays have appeared in many journals and anthologies, and she lives and writes in the seaside village of Port Townsend, Washington.  

Huge, huge thanks to Julie for being on the blog today! For more on Julie and her work, be sure to head over to her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

The Crows of Beara is on shelves now, so run out and buy a copy! And be sure to check back here for my review of The Crows of Beara (psst, I'll also be giving away a copy to one of you lucky readers!)

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Auctioneer by Joan Samson

How's this for a throwback post? So I recently dove into Grady Hendrix'x Paperbacks From Hell (review to come) and was inspired to seek out some of the titles he highlighted, including this one from 1977.

John Moore and his family may not have much, but they have each other. And they have their land. Paid off in full, the property has been in the family for generations. John and his wife, Mim, work hard to care for and live off of the land and it's their every intention to pass it along to their daughter one day. 

After a spate of crime rocks their small community, the local sheriff is grateful to the help offered by the new auctioneer in town. His weekend events have raised money enough to add more than one deputy to the force as well as a number of other assets. But when the auctions continue, week after week, the locals begin running out of things to give. 

The Auctioneer reminded me, to some extent, of Needful Things. Except instead of giving, the auctioneer takes. And takes and takes and takes.

This is a quiet tale compared to a lot of genre reads. It's not very graphic and it's definitely not in your face horror. Instead, it's a story of an insidious creeping kind. The horror sneaks up on you, just as it does on the characters in the story. And by the time you're well into it, it's much too late to turn back.

John Moore lives by his land. It's his everything. So at first, giving to the local auction, for a good cause, is fine. Even still, he should listen to his initial discomfort when he meets the auctioneer. But the auctioneer is good at what he does - he manipulates people. Sometimes it's through cleverness and charm, other times it's by other means. Either way, he gets the people in the community right where he wants them.

The moral of this story is the danger of standing by. The danger in assuming that if something isn't immediately affecting you, you're safe from the danger. And though it was published over 30 years ago, it's a moral that's all too timely today.

Incidentally, this is the only book Samson ever wrote. She unfortunately passed away shortly after this one was published. At the time, there was supposed to be a movie adaptation in the works that apparently also fell through when Samson passed.

The Auctioneer is currently out of print but I was able to find a used copy fairly easily. Maybe if there's enough demand a certain publisher that has brought back quite a few OOP horror titles will add it to their catalog!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Everything We Lost by Valerie Geary

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Valerie Geary's latest, Everything We Lost.

On December 5, 1999, Lucy's brother, Nolan, disappeared. Lucy was just fourteen at the time. Now, ten years later, she can't forget Nolan. And she can't move on with her life. So she returns to the place Nolan disappeared, reuniting with her estranged mother, and facing the secrets her family has hidden for so long. 

So Nolan headed off into the desert in search of UFOs, or at least that's what Lucy thinks happened. The story alternates between her present day story and Nolan's story leading up to his disappearance, giving readers the chance to see things from both sides. Which is helpful when your narrator isn't completely dependable - no one would be recalling things from when they were a kid!

My expectations were mixed with this one - I was intrigued by the promise of UFOs and such, but suspected it really wouldn't quite be the X-File kind. And I was right. Instead, the book is about mental illness and coming of age and such. Which was fine, but maybe not what I was exactly in the mood for. The book was also billed as a psychological thriller and I'm not sure that's completely accurate in setting up expectations either.

Nonetheless, Everything We Lost was an intriguing read and the mystery behind Nolan's fate had me fully engaged. Which is fortunate because this is a bit of a long one! Everything We Lost is a bit of a genre mash up, which I love, and the perfect read for a book club looking for a meaty story with lots of discussion points!

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

For more on Valerie Geary and her work you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Instagram.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Sunday, August 27, 2017

New Releases 8/29/17

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Sip by Brian Allan Carr

Valley of Terror by Zhou Haohui

The Final Hour by Tom Wood

The Tragedy of Brady Sims by Ernest J. Gaines

Glass House by Louise Penny

The Burning Girl by Claire Messud

Seance Infernale by Jonathan Skariton

My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent

The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas

Extinction Evolution by Nicholas Sansbury Smith

The Hidden Light of Northern Fires by Daren Wang

Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

Ban This Book by Alan Gratz

Red Dirt by Anna Jarzab

All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis

Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller

The Dazzling Heights by Katharine McGee

Zero Repeat Forever by G. S. Predergast

The Girl With the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke

New on DVD
Baywatch

Friday, August 25, 2017

Lie to Me by J.T. Ellison - Excerpt

Happy Friday, everyone! And what a Friday it is! I have a fabulous treat for you, as part of the TLC blog tour for J.T. Ellison's latest, Lie To Me, I get to share an early excerpt!

Y'all, J.T. Ellison is one of my favorite authors! In fact I can still remember - as a very new reviewer - getting an ARC of Ellison's first Taylor Jackson book, and I knew then that she was going to be a longtime favorite of mine.

So yeah, I'm pretty stoked to be able to share this with you today.

Before we dive in though, here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

They built a life on lies

Sutton and Ethan Montclair’s idyllic life is not as it appears. The couple seems made for each other, but the truth is ugly. Consumed by professional and personal betrayals and financial woes, the two both love and hate each other. As tensions mount, Sutton disappears, leaving behind a note saying not to look for her.

Ethan finds himself the target of vicious gossip as friends, family and the media speculate on what really happened to Sutton Montclair. As the police investigate, the lies the couple have been spinning for years quickly unravel. Is Ethan a killer? Is he being set up? Did Sutton hate him enough to kill the child she never wanted and then herself? The path to the answers is full of twists that will leave the reader breathless.


Ooooh! I can't wait! And hopefully neither can you, but if you're still wavering, there are a series of excerpts you can check out to entice you further! I am, as part of the excerpt tour, the fifth stop. If you want to read the rest in order, you can check out the full list here.

Lie To Me
by J.T. Ellison

Beauty and the Beast 

Then

Ethan’s agent nudged him. “There is a woman watching you from across the room.”

Ethan glanced over, didn’t see anyone of note. Then again, he was lubed up, like a lock drenched in oil. He’d already had a few cocktails, and had plans for a few more before he passed out in his soft king bed upstairs. He liked the rooms in the hotel, they were clean and spacious and pleasant, not at all threatening, unlike some of the aggressively modern places his publisher put him up at, thinking the extravagant price tag was a justifiable expense to keep their cash cow happy.

All he wanted from the evening was a solid drunk and a good night’s sleep. He didn’t have to fly back to Nashville until late in the afternoon. He could sleep in, have some room service delivered, take a long, hot shower and grab the car to the airport with plenty of time to spare. He had nothing else on his calendar, and he was glad for it. The week in New York had damn near killed him. Breakfasts and lunches and dinners, a few women taken back to that soft king bed, endless talking and applauding and schmoozing.

He needed a break from his life.

You wanted this, jackass. Be careful what you wish for.

“Ethan. Did you hear me? There’s a woman over there who’s practically drooling.”

“Bill, I have no time for more women. You know that.”

A hearty laugh and a punch on the arm. Sometimes he wondered if Bill was humoring him, being kind because he was making them both so much money. He thought they were friends; Bill knew almost everything there was to know about Ethan. Almost everything. But sometimes he wondered. Ethan had made Bill rich. Very, very rich. It wasn’t out of the realm of possibility that the man loathed him and was simply in it for the house in the Hamptons he would soon be able to buy with his fifteen percent.

Bill leered at him. “If you’re not interested, maybe you could throw an old dog a bone.”

“You’re married.”

“I’m married, I ain’t dead. I can look. Pretty please? Her dress is cut so deep in the front I won’t even have to stand on my tippy toes to look down it.”

Ethan glanced down at the much smaller man, shrugged. “Fine. Let me get a beer and we’ll wander over so you can gander at the lass.”

There were two lines at the bar. It was moving quickly. Maybe he’d have a Scotch instead of a beer. He started looking at the bottles lined up behind the bartenders; saw a Macallan 18. Nice. That would do.

He felt a hand on his arm. Glanced to his right. A woman stood next to him. Not the one from across the room. This one was tall, with long strawberry blond hair pulled back in a severe ponytail, and seemed endlessly fascinated with his arm. It wasn’t like she was touching him to get his attention, it was almost as if she was caressing him. It was a strange touch, wildly erotic, and the rest of the room bled away in an instant.

Was she drunk? She didn’t seem drunk. She seemed…hungry. And not in the let me take you to dinner way.

He smiled down at her. “I have another, if you’re wondering.”

She jerked back as if burned. Her face turned a becoming shade of red. She had freckles across her nose. Clean skin devoid of makeup. She didn’t need any. But no mask? In this mess? Interesting.

“Can I help you with something?” he asked.

She started to move away, still watching him.

“Wait.” What are you doing, you fool? Chick’s crazy, just another groupie. Let her go, stick with the plan.

The stranger halted, a deer in the headlights. Her voice was soft, her eyes clearly showing deep embarrassment and something else, something intriguing and attractive.

Her voice was throaty, and he felt something deep inside when she spoke.

“I’m so sorry. I don’t know what came over me. I promise you I don’t go around touching strange men.” She turned on her heel and started off.

He stopped her, grabbed her hand. “Wait. Don’t run off. I don’t even know your name. I’m Ethan.”

She froze, glanced down at his hand, so large over hers. “I know. Ethan Montclair. I’m a fan of your work.”

He heard it so often it had become rote, but from this woman’s lips, it felt different. Like a prayer. A promise.

“Who are you with?”

“I’m sorry?” She finally met his eyes, and he had his first good look at her. What he saw was entrancing. She was pretty, wholesome, Irish descent, probably, with that reddish hair and the blue eyes. Her sleek black dress showed off a great figure, hourglass but lithe. She looked fresh, innocent. Girl next door, the kind you grow up crushing on, your best friend’s older sister. And then you become old enough to bed her legally, and the tables turn. This one, though, still had the suburban stink all over her. Intern, he thought.

“I meant, what house are you with?”

“Oh. None.”

“What are you doing here, then?”

“I…” The way she dropped her eyes when she was embarrassed, like a courtier looking up at him from her lashes, was maddening, in all the best ways. She took a deep breath. “Okay. We’re at the same house. You’re light years ahead of me, though.”

A small zing. “You’re not an intern?”

“I’m a writer.”

“Do you have a name?”

The blush deepened. “Sutton. Sutton Healy.”

Lie To Me is due out September 5 (so, super soon!) from Mira. I'll be doing a review as part of the tour on September 18, so be sure to check back then. 

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

For more on J.T. Ellison 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

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Doll Funeral by Kate Hamer

Hi, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Kate Hamer's latest, The Doll Funeral.

Ruby is thirteen when she finds out she's adopted. 

Her home life isn't great. Her father is abusive and her mother is the only thing that stands between Ruby and his ever present anger. So when things get too bad, Ruby takes off. She heads into the woods in hopes of finding her birth parents. With her best friend, Shadow, alongside her, Ruby settles with a family of siblings living in the Forest of Dean. With a real family, finally, it looks as though things have started to change for the better for Ruby. But as time passes, she isn't so certain this is the case anymore. 

The Doll Funeral is kind of a strange read. Ruby is an imaginative girl and it isn't always clear what's real and what isn't. This aspect adds a level of almost magical realism to the tale. I say almost, because it's not quite that, just bordering on it. It's the kind of book that really blends and melds aspects of multiple genres to create a story that defies easy labeling.

The story alternates between Ruby's perspective, her birth mother, Anna, and Ruby's friend Shadow. Anna's story begins in 1970, Ruby's begins in 1983, and Shadow's pieces are told alongside Ruby's. Shadow in particular adds another strange element to the novel. He seems to be a spirit drawn to Ruby...

Throughout the tale, there's this great underlying sense of mystery and even dread. And Ruby's story is dark, to be sure, again she's a child in an abusive home - that's dark enough. But the woods, the kids hiding out in the woods, Shadow... This underlying darkness, the kind you'd see in gothic fiction or even a fairy tale, never overwhelms the story, but it's there the whole time, giving the story shadowy corners and things seen from the corner of the eye.

The narrative really does pull you along as a reader. The strange blending of genres, the wonderful atmosphere Hamer threads throughout the story, and short, clipped chapters make the book more accessible than you might think. And it makes the story move along rather quickly as well. Plus, Ruby is an endearing character who you want to see get some sort of happily ever after resolution.

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

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

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


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Bannerless by Carrie Vaughn

I'm not going to lie, readers, August has been a crappy reading month for me. One of the main reasons for this seems to be thanks to the weather. Apparently I get barometric pressure headaches. I've known this for quite some time and I've joked frequently about being a human barometer. But I've always had headaches caused by various things on a pretty regular basis all my life and I've learned to pretty much live with them and function around them.

This month, though, has been a challenge. It's been raining quite a bit and with each rainstorm, the human barometer that's me gets an increasingly strong headache. Which sucks because I actually love the rain. To top it off, barometric pressure headaches can kick off migraines, and I was lucky enough to have that happen twice so far this month. TWICE! Two migraines in one month is new to me. I get them pretty rarely (thank GOD) but I'd really rather get them never!

So yeah, reading has been a challenge this month and it pushed me right into a reading slump. Ugh. Fortunately I seem to be coming out the other side, helped along by some really fun reads like this latest from Carrie Vaughn.

After the collapse of society, people have rebuilt in small, carefully controlled, communities. These communities grow only what they need to support those who live there. Every member of a household has a job and a purpose. And if there's excess or success that proves another can be provided for, they're granted a banner and permission to have a child. Then and only then are they allowed to remove the implant that prevents pregnancy. Then and only then are they allowed to procreate. They know it's the only way to survive and avoid the same fate that claimed their ancestors. 

Enid is a member of Haven, where she's lived her whole life. And she's started a household with three others, a household that has recently been granted its own banner. Enid is an investigator, her society's version of law enforcement. It's her job to travel where needed, answering the call for help whether it be an accusation of hoarding, an illegal pregnancy, or worse. 

When Enid and her enforcer, Tomas, are called to Pasadan to look into a suspicious death, they find they aren't entirely welcome. The dead man fell and the people of Pasadan are sure it was an accident. But Enid isn't so certain. As she begins her inquiry, questioning the people of Pasadan, she's met with increasing resistance. And though the village seems quiet and law abiding on the surface, Enid soon learns that may not be the case at all. 

Bannerless is a post apocalyptic dystopian novel - and I'm not going to lie when I say I'm not done with this genre by a long shot! So knowing that from the outset made this one an appealing read. That it's set generations after said apocalypse, when society has moved on and learned to live with and work with what they have is of even more appeal.

Enid is aware of some of what came before the fall. She's spent time reading the (fortunately) paper journals kept by the only member of Haven who lived through it. And she knows that even her job was much different before the fall. But she doesn't have those technologies at hand to help her in her investigation. Instead, she has to rely on instinct and questioning.

The story is told through two alternating timelines - the Pasadan investigation "present day" and Enid's past, the time before she started her household. It's this past timeline that really gives the reader a better understing of Enid's world.

In that timeline, she travels from community to community, remarking on the things she sees and experiences, broadening our sense of the world as it is now. She passes ruins of a big city, now said to be overrun with thieves and scavengers of the type worth avoiding. She passes an outpost quarantined and off limits. But it's not all doom and gloom, she also passes villages that celebrate visitors and news from other communities. People who are happy to share what little they have in exchange for what a traveler can offer. In this way, Enid gives readers a chance to see the world through her eyes and learn what's become of it and how it all works.

But her past also informs her present in many ways. First, it allowed her to experience things beyond Haven and to grow as a person. Second, it helped her decide to become and investigator. And third, well, you'll kind of have to see for yourself.

For some, Enid's point of view may prove to be a bit limiting in terms of world building, but I quite loved Enid and enjoyed experiencing her world alongside her. Plus, this is apparently the first in a series, so limited or not it's not the only piece of this world we'll be getting!

I also really liked the way the mystery built. It's not what I would call a suspenseful read in the traditional sense, but the suspense is there. What happened to the dead man? Why was he so universally disliked? And what is really going on in Pasadan?

I found Bannerless to be great fun, just the thing I needed to help me get through a slump!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter

Good morning, readers! Today I'm kicking off the TLC blog tour for Karin Slaughter's latest, The Good Daughter.

Charlie was only thirteen when her mother was murdered. Her father, a defense attorney known for getting some of the most controversial defendants in their area off, had made a lot of enemies. In fact, just one week earlier their house had been burned in the wake of yet another accused being set free under her father's eye. But this crime, this one was one meant to wipe out a debt. And Charlie witnessed the whole thing. 

Twenty-eight years later, Charlie has taken up the mantle as an attorney herself. And like her father, she's chosen defense as her specialty. Unlike her father, though, most of her cases are juveniles and drug offenders - a bit less likely to catch the ire of the Pikeville's public. 

Charlie's worked hard to get where she is and to put her past behind her. To bury the memories of that terrible night. But when she becomes witness to a shocking crime, all of those old memories come back to haunt her. 

I love a book that's the whole package - insane pacing, fabulous plotting, and characters that leap off the page. The Good Daughter has all of that and more!

The book begins with Charlie's sister Sam. It's 1989 and just eight days after their house has been firebombed. They've taken up residence in a musty farmhouse whose owner died in one of the lower bedrooms. This fact is something that keeps both Sam and Charlie from venturing into said room! Sam answers a call from her father who says the sheriff is sending a man over because his (dad's) latest case has gone in his favor once again. Given the result last time (the fire) he's concerned.

But the sheriff is too late. Sam and Charlie witness their mother's murder. Sam is shot and buried alive. And she has no idea whether Charlie, who she ordered to run, has made it away. But both girls know the name and face of one of their attackers.

And that's our prologue!!! And I don't know if you can imagine it, but the book gets more intense from there!

And poor Charlie (though she wouldn't want your sympathy) is going through a lot when we jump to present day. She's in the midst of a separation that hasn't yet become a divorce, and it's clear she doesn't want it to. And then she witnesses a terrible crime. And becomes wrapped up in the case. Which, as I mentioned, brings back tons of old memories of the day that's pretty much defined her life, much as she'd like to say it hasn't.

Fair warning, this book delves into some pretty dark territory. Slaughter never shies away from that, to be honest, and has literally no problem putting her characters through the virtual ringer.

The Good Daughter is a stand alone, so if you've been curious about delving into Slaughter's work but haven't been sure where to start, this is a great place! And though this one is a bit of a chunkster, just over 500 pages, it moves super fast. Though you probably will want to carve out a day to devote yourself to it, it's definitely not one you want to put down once you've begun!

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

For more on Karin Slaughter and her work you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


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

Awakening

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.

“DADDY?”

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!