Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Under a Dark Sky ~ Lori Rader-Day (Published August 7, 2018)

Rader-Day, Lori. 2018. Under a Dark Sky. New York, NY: William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0062846143. $26.99 USD.

Last year I read The Day I Died by Lori Rader-Day and knew I'd read anything she wrote going forward; so I was thrilled to get a chance to read Under a Dark Sky which will be published August 7th.

This novel has an Agatha Christie feel:  there are a group of people in a house with hidden secrets, motivations, and resentments. Then violent things start happening; but who is responsible for them? That's the mystery. But this book is more than just a who-done-it. It addresses themes of loss, grief, emotional trauma, revenge, and justice all wrapped in a mystery that isn't easy to figure out. I wasn't sure "who-done-it" until the very end, which is always a plus in a mystery!

Eden Wallace has developed Nyctophobia (fear of the dark) after the loss of her husband, Bix. She finds a reservation for a vacation at a dark sky park in Michigan after Bix's death, and decides to keep the reservation which coincides with what would have been their 10th anniversary, using the the time to try to figure out what her life will be like going forward. When she arrives at the park, she is surprised when the house that was reserved by Bix has other guests: a group of twenty-somethings who are staying there for a celebration of sorts. Since it's already too late for her to leave (it's dark outside, after all), she decides to stay one night. That turns out to be a mistake, because one of the group is murdered the first night, and she becomes a suspect.

There are a lot of surprises gradually revealed about all the characters in this book, and the author does a great job of dropping the unexpected into the narrative at just the right time. The story holds, which is my way of giving praise to an author's efforts to keep all the parts of the story in a fine balance. This one kept me up past my bedtime!

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Whistle in the Dark ~ Emma Healey

Healey, Emma. 2018. Whistle in the Dark. New York, NY: Harper Books. ISBN 978-0062309716. ISBN $27.99.

So many excellent books are mentioned each month in the Early Word Galley Chat (#ewgc on Twitter) that it's hard to limit how many I try to gain access to on NetGalley or Edelweiss! This one came highly recommended, and I was impressed with the well-constructed plot and emotional depth of the story.

It's every parent's nightmare - a missing child. In this case it's a teenage girl named Lana who goes missing on a mother/daughter vacation in the country. And although she is eventually found, Lana is unable or unwilling to tell her parents where she was for four days. Without giving too much away, this novel deals with a number of emotional issues not found in other missing-child stories, and is a sympathetic exploration of the bonds between mother and child.

I have customers who won't read stories of missing children, but I can recommend this one, as it deals with so many other issues that balance out the trauma of the story-line. Written in a more leisurely pace than other psychological thrillers, this story will especially resonate with those who have dealt  with the emotional experiences of teenagers.

Happy Reading!

All These Beautiful Strangers ~ Elizabeth Klehfoth

Klehfoth, Elizabeth. 2018. All These Beautiful Strangers. New York, NY: William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0062796707. $26.99 USD.

Portrayed as a cross between Gossip Girl and The Secret History, Klehfoth's debut delves into secrets, lies and betrayals, both past and present, set within the hallowed halls of an elite New England boarding school (campus mysteries are a weakness of mine)!  See my reviews of Christopher Swann's Shadow of the Lions ( ) and Dead Man's Bridge by Robert J. Mrazek ( for more campus mysteries!

Grace Fairchild, the wife of a wealthy real estate mogul, disappears without a trace one day, leaving behind her 7 year old daughter, Charlie. Years later, Charlie immerses herself in campus life at Knollwood Academy, and hopes to leave her shadowed past behind. Tapped to be initiated into a secret society called the "A's," Charlie finds herself risking everything to participate in the semester-long Game played by the "A's," and ultimately unlocks some of the secrets from her past.

When I finished All These Beautiful Strangers I was completely satisfied, just as I am with all the best books I read. It was a mix of the memories of my own adolescence and how things aren't always what they seem that was the appeal for me in this well-written, clever mix of family drama and mystery. Fully fleshed characters, chapter cliff-hangers that made me want to keep reading, short flash-backs that heightened my curiosity about what actually happened in the past - all these things combined made it a great read.  I will add this to my growing list of campus mysteries to recommend, though my all-time favorite is still Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl!

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Ghosted by Rosie Walsh (Mini-Review)

Walsh, Rosie. 2018. Ghosted. New York, NY:  Pamela Dorman Books (Viking/Penguin Random House). ISBN 978-0525522775. $26.00 USD.

I had heard quite a bit of buzz about Ghosted though social media, #ewgc (Early Word Galley Chat), and fellow librarians' reviews, and I was not disappointed! I loved the characters of Sarah and Eddie, as well as the peripheral secondary characters. Written with emotional depth,  poignancy and much heart,  I am convinced this book will be be read and enjoyed by many. Of course, I will read anything published by Pamela Dorman Books - these novels tend to satisfy me completely as a reader (Anyone remember Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine)? Thanks to the publisher and Edelweiss for the opportunity to preview the book.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, July 19, 2018


Image result for sahara desert dust storm

Sahara Desert Dust Storm 2018

Here in Texas, it's about as hot as it can get (108 degrees today), and apparently it's partially caused by dust from the Sahara Desert in Africa traveling 5,000 miles to settle on top of the Great State of Texas!  Read more about this phenomenon here: My car said 113 last night on my commute, and it's really hard to be outside, not only due to the heat, but also because of the irritants from the dust. So, the best thing to do is stay inside, read, and write about books! (check out that Oxford Comma, there #TeamOxfordComma)!

I didn't get a chance to participate in WWW Wednesday, so this has become WWW Thursday!

What are you currently reading?

A Key to Treehouse Living by [Reed, Elliot]

I started a wonderful little book yesterday at lunch called The Key to Tree House Living by Elliot Reed (Tin House Books/W.W. Norton/September, 2018 pub. date). Written entirely in dictionary/encyclopedia entries, from A to Z, this coming-of-age tale gradually reveals its story through the narration of a young boy attempting to define his world through research into words. It's wonderful, so far.  I love it when authors and publishers take risks with structure, and it's done well!

What did you recently finish reading?

The Last Equation of Isaac Severy: A Novel in Clues by [Jacobs, Nova]

This debut mystery by Nova Jacobs is amazingly well-written for a first-time author, with a clever premise: Hazel Severy receives a series of clues from her foster grand-father, Isaac (a brilliant mathematician, who has died under unexplained circumstances), instructing her to track down a secret equation he was working on prior to his death.  The characters are fully fleshed out and very distinct and it's an enjoyable read with some nice twists; but I found it ultimately had more of a melancholy and hopeless feel to it in the end than I expected.

What do you think you'll read next?

Clock Dance: A novel by [Tyler, Anne]

This is always the hardest choice!  I have so many great books to choose from, but I'm leaning toward starting Anne Tyler's Clock Dance. I have read this author's books since day one, and have loved most of them, especially the earlier works.  This one seems to harken back to those character-driven and quirky stories she started out with. Hope so, anyway!

Happy Reading!

Friday, July 6, 2018

Semiosis by Sue Burke

Semiosis: A Novel by [Burke, Sue]
Burke, Sue. 2018. Semiosis. New York, NY: Tor/Forge, an imprint of Macmillan Publishing.  ISBN 978-076539135. $25.99 USD.

Semiosis is a creative and unusual science fiction tale that describes several generations of space colonists who, hoping to create a self-sustaining utopia on Pax, find themselves sharing the planet with sentient beings - not all of whom are friendly to humans. I found this novel to be fascinating in the way it tells a different kind of story with each generation, such as space exploration and colonization, mystery, domestic drama and even horror. It addresses so many issues about life and humanity, and whether we are destined to repeat the past or learn as a society to do things differently. Really well done! From someone who doesn't normally read a lot of science fiction, I highly recommend Semiosis.

Happy Reading!

TANGIBLE SPIRITS ~ Lone Star Book Blog Tours Review and Giveaway!

Genre: Paranormal / Thriller / Suspense 
Publisher: Clear Creek Publishing
Date of Publication: May 13, 2017
Number of Pages: 316

  Scroll down for the giveaway!

Reporter Gera Stapleton has a difficult choice to make: write the story of a lifetime or save the legacy of a town—and a man—she has come to love. Assigned to a piece in Jerome, Arizona about a once-friendly ghost gone on a crime spree, Gera stumbles upon an amazing tale of greed, deception, and family honor—and murder. When the killer targets her as the next victim, an unlikely savior comes to her rescue. Smart dialogue, plenty of action, and a touch of the supernatural make this a must-read novel.

"Becki Willis blends bits of history with bits of fancy and weaves a tantalizing tale you won't soon forget."




2018 Best Paranormal Fiction
by The Association of Texas Authors 
2018 RONE Award Finalist for Paranormal Long
Crowned Heart Recipient from InD'Tale Magazine


Most days I think the internet is a wonderful thing, especially for an information-junkie like myself. At the touch of my fingers I can find out the answer to just about any question I can think of. But lately I’ve been thinking about how the internet has taken away a sense of wonder and curiosity about the world. As a child, I would lie on the grass in my yard, stare up at the sky and wonder about things like: how far away is the sun? why is the sky blue? how are clouds formed? Today, I would just Google it. But there are still some questions that cannot be answered by Google, and reading Tangible Spirits by Becki Willis reminded me that there are still many unknowns that are worth thinking about and pondering.

“There are things in life that are beyond explanation. The smell of the mountain air after a spring rain. The beauty of a sunset beyond those hills yonder. The translucent prisms of a rainbow across the clear Arizona sky...And the eternal and often tangible spirits of life.”

This quote, from one of the most interesting characters in the book, addresses that sense of the unexplainable and mysterious un-knowing that I miss in the internet age. But all the technology in the world still cannot tell us if “Dead is dead,” or whether ghosts really do, or do not, exist.

In Tangible Spirits, the main character is Gera (short for “Geraldine”) Stapleton, an ambitious journalist who got a bit of a late start to her hard-won career, and she is eager to make a name for herself. Imagine her consternation when she is assigned to write a story about Jerome, Arizona, a town of less than 500 residents, where ghosts are the main attraction - especially one named “Mac,” who has gone from friendly to fiendish lately.

As someone who absolutely does not believe in ghosts, Gera will be in for a surprise when, shortly after arriving in town, she happens upon a murder scene - and the main suspect is Mac, the ghost.

Filled with well-developed characters, snappy dialogue, a touch of romance, and interesting historical descriptions of the very real town of Jerome, Arizona, Becki Willis has written an excellent paranormal mystery that will keep you turning the pages. Although I did figure out a few little mysteries along the way, there were a number of unexpected surprises that I did not see coming. Other readers must feel the same way, because Tangible Spirits was named the Best Paranormal Fiction for 2018 by the Association of  Texas Authors!

This book led me to wonder, again, about the bigger mysteries in life, and reminded me that I have also “seen things. Heard things, felt things. Sensed things. Things that cannot be readily explained.” As one of the characters in the book says: "Call them what you may, but we have tangible spirits among us.”

Enjoy this engaging mystery, but be warned: you will be looking out of the corner of your eye at unexplained shadows for a few days!

I received a copy of  Tangible Spirits from Lone Star Book Blog Tours and the author in exchange for my honest review of the book.

To the delight of readers around the world, Becki Willis writes memorable characters in believable situations. Best known for Forgotten Boxes and The Sisters, Texas Mystery Series, Becki has won numerous awards, but says her biggest achievement is her family and her loyal reader base.


1st Prize: Signed Copy of Tangible Spirits + $20 Amazon Gift Card
2nd Prize: Signed Copy of Tangible Spirits
JUNE 27-July 6, 2018
(U.S. Only) 

Book Trailer
Author Interview
Author Video I
Author Video II

   blog tour services provided by

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

WWW Wednesday - Happy July 4th!

For those of you who write book reviews for a blog or other platform, or those who have wondered about those of us who do, I thought I’d write a little bit about my own process. Some might think that words flow magically from fingers honed by experience or talent, but that’s just not the case. It’s sometimes easy to write a book review, when you are inspired on the third Tuesday of the month, when Saturn is in its zenith, or something.  I love those times because you get a real sense of accomplishment when you are finished.  Most days, though, I will need to spend some time drafting in my head before it even reaches my fingers. I will “percolate,” as I call it, on a review for a while (just now, I was drafting this blog post in my head as I folded the mountain of laundry that comes from having a teen athlete (tennis/junior academy level) who plays in 100 degree heat these days. Ugh – and yes, he can do his own laundry, but I only have him for another year, and then it’s back to one basket a week, and I’ll miss it)!

Because the procrastination bug has bitten me a few times recently, I found the idea of “WWW Wednesday” quite appealing. (Thanks to The Bookish Chick who introduced me to the idea).  Instead of writing an in depth book review, on Wednesdays you just answer the following questions, on an abbreviated basis:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

On this holiday, and day off from work, it’s nice to just write casually about books!

What I am currently reading (I rarely read one book at a time):

Sadie by Courtney Summers and Star of the North by D.B. John.

Star of the North: A Novel by [John, D. B.]

I am fortunate to have access, occasionally, to books that aren't published yet called Advanced Reader Copies, either in print or digitally as e-galleys. Thanks to NetGalley, Edelweiss, and many publishers, including Macmillan, HarperCollins, Crown Publishing, to name a few, I may get print ARCs in the mail or get approved to download a digital copy. That’s how I was able to access Sadie, which will be published in September. The publishers prefer that no reviews be published less than 2 weeks to 30 days prior to publication, so I won't review it here. I will say that it is a mystery partially written as a serial podcast, and it's very good so far!  You can find out more about it here:

I’m also reading Star of the North by D.B. John. It’s a thriller and a fictional account of three separate narratives, which ultimately connect, about the Juche era of North Korea (the ideology authored by Kim il Sung). Although it’s fiction, by reading the author’s extensive notes at the end of the book, it is clear that many of the things that happen in Star of the North are factual accounts. It gives the reader an inside look at what the people in North Korea have experienced over many years, and I find it fascinating.

What did you recently finish reading?

Iron and Magic (The Iron Covenant Book 1) by [Andrews, Ilona]

I just finished Iron and Magic by Ilona Andrews, part of  The Iron Covenant Trilogy, which is a spin-off of the Kate Daniels urban fantasy series that I’ve been reading for years.  The final book in the latter series is out in August and I’m ever hopeful I will get a chance to read it before it comes out (let the begging commence)!  Iron and Magic is set in the same post-shift world as the Kate Daniels series, but occurs in Kentucky rather than Atlanta.  You can see my review of this title here:

What do you think you’ll read next?

The Girl He Used to Know by [Garvis Graves, Tracey]

This is a very hard decision for me, as I’ve recently received some excellent print ARCs from Macmillan and its imprints!  I’ve read a chapter in a book that comes out next April called The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves because one reviewer said “It’s comparable to The Rosie Project and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, but better,” and I loved those two books! 

This is one of the challenges of being a rabid bibliophile: picking the next book to read out of many, many excellent choices. Sometimes, it just becomes eenie, meenie, minee, mo or the flip of a coin!  And, whatever I decide to read next, I’m sure I’ll struggle over the book review, procrastinate, percolate, and then write it up on my blog. 

Until then, enjoy your holiday and Happy Reading!!

Monday, July 2, 2018

Iron and Magic - Book One of The Iron Covenant Trilogy ~ by Ilona Andrews

I mentioned on Twitter a few weeks ago that I was highly anticipating the final book in the Kate Daniels outstanding Urban Fantasy series, which will be published in August, and wondered if there would be any more books about the characters or a spin-off.  Happily the author tweeted back that one of the characters, Hugh D’Ambray (a kind of bad guy in the Kate Daniels series) would be getting his own trilogy!  Iron and Magic just came out last week and I devoured it over the weekend. It doesn’t end on a huge cliffhanger, which I always appreciate, but there is plenty of room for more story, especially finding out what kind of magical being is Elara, the other main character!

In their long-running Kate Daniels series, the husband and wife writing team known as Ilona Andrews has created a truly unique world – an alternate Atlanta unlike anything we’ve seen before.  In this world, magic existed for millennia, but the rise of technology caused an imbalance in the world and magic disappeared for a long time. When magic returned to the world, it did so with a vengeance, destroying buildings and releasing all kinds of creatures and dead gods back into the world.

Kate Daniels is a mysterious character with a magic sword who works as a bounty hunter of sorts, and responds to requests to capture dangerous creatures in order to keep the citizens of this Atlanta safe.  In this world, the magic and technology shift back in forth without rhyme or reason, and when the magic ascends, all technology, including guns, phones, lights, and cars ceases to work.

It’s a great world, filled with the Pack, shapeshifters who hang on to their human sides very carefully, the People, who are Masters of the Dead and control vampires created by an immortal being named Roland, as well as witches and all sorts of other magical beings, including old mythological gods. Kate and other characters in the novels have many action-packed adventures, some light romance, and their share of triumphs and tragedies. 

In Iron and Magic, Hugh D'Ambray, one of the minor characters from the Kate Daniels series, used to be a Warlord for Roland, and was in command of a large contingent of soldiers called The Iron Dogs.  For some reason, Roland cut Hugh off from his protection and power. Hugh spends his days being drunk and disorderly, waiting to die, his Iron Dogs forgotten. When some of his close cohorts finally get his attention, he finds out that the Iron Dogs are being picked off by the People and there are not very many left. He is ultimately convinced that he needs to help his friends find a secure base in which to defend themselves. To do so, he enters into a “marriage of convenience” with Elara, a witch of sorts, who has a castle and land in Kentucky, and needs help defending her people from outsiders.  That’s the basics of the plot for Iron and Magic.

It’s a very entertaining read. Hugh and Elara hate each other, because they need each other, and they spend a lot of time verbally sparring in the book. Fun!  Of course, there are bad guys coming to destroy them all, and Hugh and Elara will need to work together to keep their people safe – if they can stop fighting long enough to do so.

I really enjoyed this book a lot, other than a quite graphic and rather unexpected sex scene that seems to belong in an erotic romance rather than in an Urban Fantasy novel. It feels like the authors just decided to throw that in there to….I’m not sure exactly why they did!  There is romance in the Kate Daniels series, but not on that level.  I’m not a prude, but the scene just didn’t seem to fit the rest of the type of story the authors’ were trying to write.  That’s my only criticism of this excellent continuation of the wonderfully unique world created by two very imaginative and talented writers.

Happy Reading!

Magic Triumphs will be published on August 28th, and I'll be first in line to read it!