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Wednesday, October 31, 2018

REVIEW: Hark! The Herald Angels Scream @vintageanchor

Hark! The Herald Angels Scream
Christopher Golden (editor) and contributors:
Kelly Armstrong
Scott Smith
Seanan McGuire
Thomas E. Sniegoski
Sarah Lotz
Josh Malerman
Jeff Strand
James A. Moore
Sarah Langan
Joe R. Lansdale
Elizabeth Hand
Jonathan Maberry
John M. McIlveen
Angela Slatter
Tim Lebbon
Michael Koryta
Sarah Pinborough

Publisher:  Anchor
Publish Date: October 23, 2018
384 Pages
Genre: Short Stories, Horror

Eighteen stories of Christmas horror from bestselling, acclaimed authors including Scott Smith, Seanan McGuire, Josh Malerman, Michael Koryta, Sarah Pinborough, and many more.

That there is darkness at the heart of the Yuletide season should not surprise. Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol is filled with scenes that are unsettling. Marley untying the bandage that holds his jaws together. The hideous children--Want and Ignorance--beneath the robe of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. The heavy ledgers Marley drags by his chains. In the finest versions of this story, the best parts are the terrifying parts. 
Bestselling author and editor Christopher Golden shares his love for Christmas horror stories with this anthology of all-new short fiction from some of the most talented and original writers of horror today.

My Review:

Every year I say that Halloween doesn't get what it deserves... Thanksgiving is shortly behind and Christmas is frantically trying to cut the line.  So when I received a horror anthology catering to a Christmas theme, well color me ecstatic!

Now, I'm not usually big on short stories - sometimes they stick, but usually I just have this hankering for more... this one hit a few buttons for me.  Equal parts thrilling, filling and just ok - I got what I expected... but THEN SOME.  I recognized most of the names of those who contributed but found some new cats I can't wait to skin.

While some stories dealt with actual Christmas type events, others just were set during Christmas time and didn't quite bring in a Christmas theme - personally, I was A-OK with that!  The best part of the Halloween to Christmas time is that we get to take this time of ghoulishness to jolly celebration and make them all into something sinister if we want.  Bring it on! As far as I'm concerned, it's Halloween October 1 - December 31st... oh who am I kidding, bring on the creepy ALL YEAR LONG!

Stand outs for me are: Christmas in Barcelona by Scott Smith, Honor Thy Mother by Angela Slatter and Yankee Swap by John M. McIlvee.  The reason why they're stand outs is that I haven't read these authors before.  Other stories were also well done by authors I do like to read such as Sarah Pinborough and Josh Malerman.  Ultimately I will say that this was one of my favorite short story collections to read. With the mix of good and not so good that comes with any anthology, this one was an easy one to fly through.


REVIEW: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

A Discovery of Witches
by Deborah Harkness

I have had this book on my kindle for ages!! When someone had requested via Instagram that I do a readalong, I was so happy to have the motivation to finally start it rather than having it sit in limbo (it had already been far too long).

Thanks to everyone who joined in! A fun, on the lighter side, October read - see what I thought below:

Publisher:  Penguin
Publish Date:  February 8, 2011
Kindle Edition
594 Pages
Series: All Souls Trilogy #1
Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy

Deep in the stacks of Oxford's Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell. 

My Review:

Ok, I think there's a reason I'm a binge reader.  I feel if I let a book go on for too long, it's just my natural inclination to not like it as much as I thought it would.  In this case I'm not even sure if it's the book's fault or my own for being oh so VERY busy while trying to read this.  I started this on the 19th and am just now finishing (on the 31st).  Highly recommended to me by quite a few people, I was so excited to do a read-along as suggested by a fellow bookstagrammer. Thanks so everyone who participated!

I did enjoy this book for the most part.  However, I did think it dragged on quite a bit in a few places and was a bit over detailed/descriptive in certain parts. I felt myself getting lulled into a hypnotic state during these - maybe it was the witch! We have the usual independent female who meets a male who frustrates the ever living shit out of her... sign everything that they are going to fall in love... but not without some things getting in their way first! Then it's the I'll save you, you save me back and forth that I hated about Outlander.. but that's a whole other story.

I love any fresh new take on how vampires, witches and any "creature" live and what happens in these new worlds created by fresh minds such as Harkness.  Also taking into consideration this was her debut novel, huge props to this world that she created.  A Romeo & Juliet type romantic scenario stuck in a world full of witches, vampires and daemons living in the "human world".  The history of these characters, their families and how they've come was quite interesting but not enough to really satiate the fact that the book never really quite got anywhere.  It read more to me as a set up for the next two books in the trilogy and I think (hope) there will be more action coming in books two and three.

While this has been likened to a Twilight for adults, I felt like it was a cross between Twilight and Outlander.  And as a book catered for adults, I did feel it read more like a YA.  Also, I need more bad guys - they just seemingly pop up here and there with no particular rhyme or reason.  If you're going to get detailed oriented and long winded, it's in these sections that I'd like to see it the most.

Liked but didn't love. 


#allthebookreviews: The Au Pair by Emma Rous @berkleypub @ejrous

The Au Pair
by Emma Rous

Thanks so much to Berkley Books for these gorgeous copies!
Goodreads synopsis has it right when they say this is the literary love child of V.C. Andrews and Kate Morton! Continue below to see what Jessica and I thought of this fantastic and crazy story!

Publisher: Berkley Books
Publish Date: January 8, 2019
368 Pages
Genres: Fiction, "Gothic Thriller"

Seraphine Mayes and her twin brother Danny were born in the middle of summer at their family’s estate on the Norfolk coast. Within hours of their birth, their mother threw herself from the cliffs, the au pair fled, and the village thrilled with whispers of dark cloaks, changelings, and the aloof couple who drew a young nanny into their inner circle.

Now an adult, Seraphine mourns the recent death of her father. While going through his belongings, she uncovers a family photograph that raises dangerous questions. It was taken on the day the twins were born, and in the photo, their mother, surrounded by her husband and her young son, is beautifully dressed, smiling serenely, and holding just one baby.

Who is the child and what really happened that day?

One person knows the truth, if only Seraphine can find her.

My Review:

What would you do if you found a photo that left you questioning who you really were?  Do you chase after answers or leave things as they are?  Seraphine needs answers.  Her mother threw herself off a cliff shortly after the birth of her and her twin brother, Danny.  Her father recently died from a tragic accident and there's rumors about their estate and how twins typically do not survive.  If only Seraphine can find Laura, the au pair, then maybe she can find the answers she now desperately seeks.  We transverse between the past through the year Laura spent at the Mayes estate to the present with Seraphine's determination to figure out the mystery behind the photo she found. 

Just by reading the synopsis where it states that this is a literary love child of V.C. Andrews and Kate Morton, you knew you were going to get crazy.  We get a little gothic historical feel ala Kate Morton with the crazy intertwining family strife we have seen a lot from Andrews.  Now, no one is going to top the weaving of family webs like Andrews does so don't go into this read expecting that full on crazy.  However, do prepare to suspend a little bit of reality while we get pummeled with red herrings, twists (albeit slightly predictable) and a story about family secrets - by now, readers, we know these can never lead to good things!

This did run a little slow for me at first and there were definitely some parts towards the end where I kind of rolled my eyes like REALLY?!  But yet, I couldn't put this book down.  There's one part of the book that I just can't... and I can't say why or I give a big part away so if you've read this COME TALK TO ME!!  

Honestly, you need to just wrap your arms around the crazy wtf-ness of this novel and take it for what it is.  A debut novel no less!! I'll be looking out for more from Rous as she is currently working on her second novel.

If you love insane family drama with an air of gothic thriller surrounding a beautiful estate atop cliffs, well then this is the perfect story for you!  A touch of crazy with a slight family curse.  I can't help myself, I liked it!


Jessica's Review:

First of all, I had an incredibly hard time believing that this was a debut novel. So impressed and I can’t wait to see what Emma Rous has in store for us next! THE AU PAIR is an atmospheric read with a slower build to it – but just enough to keep pulling you through the chapters. My curiosity was piqued and I couldn’t put this one down, I know for some people this one will be on the slower side than what they are hoping for, but it worked for me.

The day that Seraphine and her brother, Danny, were born their other unexpectedly threw herself off a cliff only hours after their birth. The mystery and rumors that swirled around this never truly left the family. Years later, after the death of her father, Seraphine is going through his belongings to find a photograph. You would think family memories would be a happy discovery, well, not this photograph. This raises more questions and has Seraphine determined to find the first au pair, Laura, the family had to get much needed answers.

We go back and forth between present day (Seraphine trying to uncover the truth) and the past, during Laura’s time with the family. I will always love a good domestic thriller/suspense novel, especially the ones packed with red herrings and twists. This was exactly that and I know that’s the reason I was glued to the pages. While I know some twists will be on the more predictable side for avid thriller readers, they didn’t take away from the story.

Overall, I would highly recommend this to those looking for an atmospheric domestic drama. Plenty of secrets, lies, red herrings, and dysfunction – this is one that is perfect for your fall/winter TBR.

4/5 stars

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

SPOTLIGHT: Give Place to Wrath by Steven C. Harms @steven_c_harms

Give Place to Wrath
by Steven C. Harms

Detective Roger Viceroy awakes one morning to a bombing in a wealthy suburb of Milwaukee. As he dives into the investigation, a mysterious clue launches a manhunt with scant other evidence. Over the coming weeks, related murders unfold, each with a unique twist and the same clue left behind. Viceroy uncovers one other common thread - a seemingly random association with the small north woods town of Curwood. As the death toll mounts, Viceroy has to connect the dots and stop the carnage before it reaches the final target, Governor Kay Spurgeon. 

Steven C. Harms is a professional sports business executive with a career spanning over thirty years across the NBA, NFL, and MLB. He deals with Fortune 500 companies and professional athletes, managing a portfolio of multi-million dollar sports partnerships. He’s an accomplished playwright having written and produced a wildly successful theatrical production which led him to tackling his debut novel, Give Place to Wrath. A native of Wisconsin, he graduated from the University of Wisconsin–La Crosse. He now resides in Oxford, Michigan, a small, rural suburb of Detroit.

Friday, October 26, 2018

REVIEW: The Art of Losing by Lizzy Mason @soho_teen @LizzyMason21

The Art of Losing
by Lizzy Mason

Thank you to Soho Teen for this copy! A great message on the tough subject of addiction.

Publisher: Soho Teen
Publish Date:  February 19, 2019
336 Pages
Genres:  YA, Contemporary

On one terrible night, 17-year-old Harley Langston’s life changes forever. At a party she discovers her younger sister, Audrey, hooking up with her boyfriend, Mike—and she abandons them both in a rage. When Mike drunkenly attempts to drive Audrey home, he crashes and Audrey ends up in a coma. Now Harley is left with guilt, grief, pain and the undeniable truth that her ex-boyfriend (who is relatively unscathed) has a drinking problem. So it’s a surprise that she finds herself reconnecting with Raf, a neighbor and childhood friend who’s recently out of rehab and still wrestling with his own demons. At first Harley doesn’t want to get too close to him. But as Audrey awakens and slowly recovers, Raf starts to show Harley a path forward that she never would have believed possible—one guided by honesty, forgiveness, and redemption.

My Review:

I feel like once you hit a certain age, you begin to forget what it's like to be a teenager.  Life was so different then - not so many cares in the world as when you're an adult . At seventeen I was working my first job, going to high school and just trying to figure out where to go to college.  I couldn't imagine being Harley - who caught her long-term boyfriend cheating on her with her sister.  Then abandoning her in rage just for said boyfriend to drive drunk to get her sister home and getting into a car accident he walked away from... but that put her sister in a coma. PHEW!

The best part of this book is the author's notes and how she takes her own experiences to put us in Harley's though processes as she deals with a variety of emotions - anger, guilt, love and forgiveness.  Her relationships with Mike and Raf - both addicts dealing with their addictions in different ways. The influences that shape how they feel and act.  How addiction never goes away.

As a YA novel, this didn't delve into so much of the nitty gritty though it was definitely a bit of a somber read.  The message is clear.  The actions of one person irrevocably affects each and every person around them.  The loneliness and solitude addicts feel during recovery is real - giving up all their friends who can trigger them can lead to a solitary life that can also trigger them.  It's a hard ride to take but a necessary one.  The positive spin is that it is NOT the end of the world. Things DO get better and everyone, including the people who are the support system, need to take things one day at a time.  All so much easier said than done.

The ending got a little too "after school special" for me, but I absolutely appreciate the story and the author's courage to put her experiences into a book that can help readers who may be going through the same thing.  I'm not sure YA books about addiction really are the books for me, but for those who like these kinds of reads, this is one to put on your list.


Thursday, October 25, 2018

SPOTLIGHT: What's Love Got to Do With It by Anna Premoli @aria_fiction

What's Love Got to Do With It
by Anna Premoli

Thank you to Aria Fiction for this stop on the Blog Tour - continue below to learn about the book, the author and read an excerpt.

Kayla David is a high-flying journalist in New York City, spending all her time drinking martinis and writing about fashion trends. She is perfectly happy with her life, and she certainly has no time for falling in love.

That is, until, her boss decides to send her on a secret mission back to her hometown of Arkansas: she is tasked with exposing the truth about the fracking industry and to use her reputation as a lifestyle columnist as a disguise. She is horrified at the thought of returning to this boring country town, but up for the challenge.

Yet, she didn’t plan on having to deal with Grayson Moir, the sexy but aloof mayor of Heber Spring. As Kayla settles into life there she soon realises that it might be a bit more difficult than she thought to keep her real mission a secret. And what’s more, she finds it increasingly difficult to keep her heart under control too… 

Anna was born in Croatia but moved to Milan as a young child and has lived there since. She has worked in the Asset Management industry for JPMorgan and is now employed in Private Banking for an Italian bank, where she manages HNW positions. She started writing romantic comedies to fight financial markets stress after the Lehman crack, when she was expecting her son, now six. Writing was supposed to be only a hobby, but her husband self-published her first novel as a birthday present four years ago, and it was a great success in Italy.


The pickup of the man who hates electric blue pulls up in front of a pretty house with planking walls and a dark roof. It is surrounded by a garden full of flowers and bushes and shady areas from tall trees. The grass is perfectly mown and the plants beautifully kept. I can’t help but smile at the thought of what a perfectionist Aunt Jill is – or at least, she is with her plants and flowers. She doesn’t care about much more important stuff, but she’s absolutely hardcore about the height of the grass or the shapes of the bushes. I guess each of us decides our own priorities in life.
I pull up behind him and stop the car. The cowboy gets out of his truck and waits for me to join him. “There you go: Jill Ferguson’s house,” he declares with satisfied look on his face.
I recognise it immediately. It’s true that I haven’t been here much over the last few years, but my mother used to bring me to see Aunt Jill quite often when I was a child. I used to like it here, and I used to like hanging out with her. I remember that we had a lot of fun together. She used to be pretty eccentric, and I hope she still is. I think that happy people age better.
“Home and dry,” I say with a grateful smile. “Okay, well, thanks a lot…” I suddenly realise I don’t know his name.
“Greyson,” he informs me.
“Thanks a lot, Greyson. I am Kayla,” I reply, and stretch my hand out to shake his. He takes it very firmly, and the contact between our hands is surprisingly intense. Well, to be completely honest, it’s not that surprising.
“Yes, I know,” he says as if it was perfectly normal, and then turns round to walk back to his car.
I give him a curious look. “And just how, exactly, do you know?”
He stops for a moment and then climbs into the pickup. “I know everything,” he says, giving me a wink.
Greyson’s car has just left when Aunt Jill appears and starts running over to greet me. She’s just how I remember her except for one small detail: her hair is blue. Not completely blue and absolutely not electric blue, but close enough. Greyson must have decided the whole family is crazy and that our obsession with this colour is in our DNA, something we’ve passed down from generation to generation. And to judge by the sight of Aunt Jill, I can’t totally exclude the idea.
“Kayla!” she says while she hugs me. She’s small and skinny, but she’s gripping me tighter than a boa constrictor. I must remember to ask her about her training routine.
“Aunt Jill! You haven’t changed at all!” I exclaim in surprise. I didn’t want her to look old, of course, but she looks even younger than the last time I saw her.
“Oh, what nonsense,” she replies immediately. “I’ve changed plenty – but for the better.” She really is the same person I remembered: straight shooting and a little crazy. “Let me take a good look at you instead… That big city’s air isn’t good for you at all, my dear – why, you’re as pale as a sheet!” she informs me. To be fair, this year we haven’t really had a proper spring yet, which is why my complexion is still so winter like. I also have dark hair, which makes my skin look even paler than it actually is.
“I’ve been writing a column about night life in New York, so I never really get much of a chance to spend any time in the sun…” I say, trying to justify myself as best as I can.
She glares at me. “I know. It’s obvious that you don’t take good care of yourself. But your bag is fabulous!” she exclaims, staring at it ecstatically.
“And you haven’t even seen my shoes…” I say, showing them off very proudly.
She bursts out laughing. “If only I was about fifty years younger I’d steal them from you. But as I’m eighty-two already, I think that might be a little dangerous.”
“Well, thanks for admiring them anyway,” I say. “Finally, someone who appreciates beautiful accessories.”
“Why, who had the cheek not to like them?” she asks so seriously that I love her even more.
“Oh, nobody important… I had to ask some guy for directions to get to your house. He was driving along the highway and stopped to help me. He’s called Greyson, do you know him? Tall, blond…” I say, trying to keep my voice and my expression as neutral as possible.
I must have failed though, because now she’s looking at me with a very curious expression on her face. “Honey, this town is very small and everybody knows everybody. So of course I know Greyson.”
Yes, I was afraid she might. “And is he trustworthy, as far as you’re aware? Or is he a serial killer?”
My aunt starts laughing as if I had said the most ridiculous thing in the world. “Oh my God! Greyson a serial killer? No, he’s not a serial killer. I can assure you that you’re completely safe with him.”
Personally speaking, I wouldn’t use the word ‘safe’ to talk about a man like that. He might have a reassuring face, but apart from that he doesn’t look safe at all. He’s a mystery. I can’t say why, but I know men enough to recognise one who might be dangerous for me. And I’m not talking about the kind of danger where you get dragged into the woods… The risk concerns me, mostly: I might end up doing something stupid. I need to be careful, because I came here for a very precise reason. Or actually, for two very precise reasons, one of which is official and the other of which must remain secret. Both things will keep me busy enough, though, so I mustn’t waste energy with dumb daydreams.
“Well, it doesn’t matter anyway. I doubt I’ll run into him again,” I conclude, although I’m clearly just trying to reassure myself.
But with my aunt, things are never that easy. “Oh I’m sure you are going to run into him again. And often too.” She makes it sound like a threat – a scary one.
“Well anyway, let’s forget about Greyson for now. Let’s talk about serious stuff: are you sure that you’re okay with me staying with you for a few months? You’re sure I’m not going to be bothering you?” I ask. I’ve called her to ask if I could stay about twenty times already, but I feel I should ask her again, this time in person. When you look someone in the eye, it’s easier to tell if they’re just being nice or lying.
My aunt is being honest though, much to my surprise. She looks very serious as she says, “Of course I’m okay with it! I’ve been getting so bored… you have no idea! You’ve come just in time to save me from a very dull period. At my age it’s really hard to meet interesting men…”
Her words make me smile. “And you can’t imagine how hard it is at my age…” I admit.
She stares at me sceptically. “Well, at least they’re almost all still alive at your age. You have a wider selection to choose from. At my age they’re mostly underground… It’s a pain in the ass that we women live longer. I’m not joking: it’s a serious problem.”
“So what’s the problem, then? Just go after younger ones!”
I’m just kidding around, but Aunt Jill’s answer sounds very serious.
“I’ve already tried that, my dear, and I realised just how many immature men there are around. It’s amazing.”
What can I say, I totally agree with her. I should probably have some witty comeback, but I can’t come up with anything. My aunt has succeeded where many others before her have failed: leaving me speechless.
“Anyway, your room is ready. It’s the same one you used to stay in when you were a kid. Do you remember it?”
Unfortunately I remember that room very well… My aunt is lovely, but our tastes in interior design couldn’t be more different. I think her inspiration comes mostly from the British nineteenth century, because she really loves floral wallpaper and coordinated accessories. I prefer something a bit more minimalist, personally: white walls, a few pieces of furniture in neutral or grey shades and some tasteful ornaments.
Trying not to feel too depressed at the thought of the room, I grab my luggage from the back seat of the car and follow her inside. There are flowers everywhere, even more than I remembered. I just hope that they are all fake, otherwise there’s a good chance that I’ll die of hay fever. And in fact, in less than a minute I start sneezing. It’s practically a record.
“Are you OK?” asks Aunt Jill, turning towards me.
The first thing I need to do today is look for a pharmacy. There must be at least one even in this place, right? I really need some powerful antihistamines. In big dosages.
“Absolutely,” I smile.

Monday, October 22, 2018

REVIEW: The Current by Tim Johnston @algonquinbooks @tjohnstonwriter

The Current
by Tim Johnston

Thank you to Algonquin Books for this copy! Releasing in January - this is one to add to your TBR.

Publisher: Algonquin Books
Publish Date:  January 22, 2019
416 Pages
Genres:  Mystery, Thriller, Suspense

When two young women leave their college campus in the dead of winter for a 700-mile drive north to Minnesota, they suddenly find themselves fighting for their lives in the icy waters of the Black Root River, just miles from home. One girl’s survival, and the other’s death—murder, actually—stun the citizens of a small Minnesota town, thawing memories of another young woman who lost her life in the same river ten years earlier, and whose killer may yet live among them. One father is forced to relive his agony while another’s greatest desire—to bring a killer to justice—is revitalized . . . and the girl who survived the icy plunge cannot escape the sense that she is connected to that earlier unsolved case by more than a river. Soon enough she’s caught up in an investigation of her own that will unearth long-hidden secrets, and stoke the violence that has long simmered just below the surface of the town. Souls frozen in time, ghosts and demons, the accused and the guilty, all stir to life in this cold northern place where memories, like treachery, run just beneath the ice, and where a young woman can come home but still not be safe.

My Review:

From the very first page, I could tell this was going to be an atmospheric read.  There's country/small town and big city books.  A lot of what we read in the mystery/thriller genre is based in larger cities such as London and New York.  Then we get ones like this that are catered to that small town feel.  A more intimate setting where people know each other and their families for decades and the sting is sharper and the reveal or overall coming is told in a more subtle, concise way that still leaves a mark.  That is what this story did for me.  

This book transverses from past to present and could be a little confusing at the beginning.  I'm a big believer in using quotation marks for dialogue and the author doesn't for the past conversations but does for the present.  It didn't quite bother me in this book as it has in others because at least there was a pattern to it - I think some of you know what I mean.  The way this was written was absolutely beautiful. I enjoyed this style a lot - at times it felt (to me) like that narrator from the movie 300 telling me the story.. but then my mind is a strange place. ūü§£

I felt great compassion for the characters - Johnston really brings out their raw emotions and makes you feel each and every one of them.  From the girls and their skin crawling encounters, to the men and women who have lost their children.  I'm a tad confused at the ending and would have like a little closure on one particular part... however, this is an extraordinary book.  Absolutely solid in the somber feel from page one to the very last.  

This book gave me a little bit of Reconstruction Amelia and Good as Gone feels but I couldn't tell you exactly why.  Sometimes a book just reminds you of another one and they could have absolutely nothing in common but evoke a feeling.  

Atmospheric, Emotional and Raw.


Saturday, October 20, 2018

REVIEW: Need to Know by Karen Cleveland @randomhouse #ballantinebooks #karencleveland #allthebookreviews

Need to Know
by Karen Cleveland

Jessica and I both agree this is a 5 star read - if you haven't read it yet, put it on your TBR - continue below to see why.

Publisher:  Ballantine Books
Publish Date: January 23, 2018
304 Pages
Genres: Spy Thriller, Suspense

In pursuit of a Russian sleeper cell on American soil, a CIA analyst uncovers a dangerous secret that will test her loyalty to the agency—and to her family.What do you do when everything you trust might be a lie?

Vivian Miller is a dedicated CIA counterintelligence analyst assigned to uncover the leaders of Russian sleeper cells in the United States. On track for a much-needed promotion, she’s developed a system for identifying Russian agents, seemingly normal people living in plain sight.

After accessing the computer of a potential Russian operative, Vivian stumbles on a secret dossier of deep-cover agents within America’s borders. A few clicks later, everything that matters to her—her job, her husband, even her four children—are threatened.

Vivian has vowed to defend her country against all enemies, foreign and domestic. But now she’s facing impossible choices. Torn between loyalty and betrayal, allegiance and treason, love and suspicion, who can she trust?

My Review:

It's like the show The Americans came to me in book form... but BETTER!  Addictive from page one, this is nonstop and had I not started it late last night, would've been a one sit read.  Cleveland does such an impressive job of building the angst, paranoia, loyalty, disloyalty, the fine line in between it all and just how far you'd go for your family in only 304 pages.  

I've had this on my backlog shelf for MONTHS.  Not one typically in for political or spy type thrillers, I had set this aside even though I had heard nothing but good things.  When my book club decided this would be our October/November read, I was so happy!  One, it's always nice to get a book chosen that you already have on your shelf... but to then knock out a backlog book in the process??? WIN WIN!  I am now KICKING myself for waiting so long.  I was hooked only 5 pages in and half way through the book before I even knew it.

I mean, what would you do if you found out the person you trusted the most wasn't the person you thought he was.... or is he?  They say you never really know how far you'd go for someone until you have children and Vivian is one woman you definitely do not want to mess with.  She may not go all Red Sparrow on you or kill ten men with only her tiny fists, but she's smart...  we'll just have to hope she's smart enough. **wink**

An absolutely addictive read that I highly recommend.  For those who have reached out to say you have this on your shelf, I recommend you drop whatever you're reading right now and pick this one up ASAP!


Jessica's Review:

If you've followed my reviews before, you'll know that I love a great political or espionage thriller. So when I read the synopsis for Karen Cleveland's debut NEED TO KNOW, I needed it! Russian sleeper cell in the US and a CIA agent uncovering a conspiracy - what more could I ask for in an espionage thriller?

Vivian Miller works in the CIA counterintelligence as an analyst, her job is to uncover the leaders of Russian sleeper cells within the United States. She's developed an incredible system for identifying and uncovering different Russian agents - they're always living in plain sight and leading seemingly normal lives. Vivian is working hard for a promotion, and in her work she stumbles upon a secret dossier including deep undercover agents within the US. As she continues searching through the dossier, she quickly finds herself and her family in grave danger.

As a devoted CIA agent, Vivian finds herself in a place she never wanted to be. She has vowed to protect the United States at all costs against all enemies, foreign and domestic. But with her family on the line, she must make the impossible choice between allegiance and treason, loyalty and betrayal - who and what can she trust?

Being a political science and international relations major in college, this is the kind of thing I love. My senior project was on espionage (Cuban Missile Crisis) so this is a topic that I have some knowledge on and every new story I hear just fascinates me. Cleveland's background as a CIA analyst and from working in counterterrorism shines through in this novel. I would love to see more suspense novels like this from her in the future.

Overall, if you want a gripping thriller with a CIA conspiracy woven in, then you'll love this! If you aren't a big fan of anything with a political flair, then this might not be for you. That being said, it's not too technical or overly political - so it doesn't read as heavy as some political thrillers can.

I give this 5/5 stars!

SPOTLIGHT and GIVEAWAY: Love on the Rocks by Kerry Evelyn @TheKerryEvelyn

Excited to be on the Blog Tour for LOVE ON THE ROCKS.
Today I'm spotlighting this romantic story AND have a giveaway!
This is book 2 in the Crane Cove Series.

Kat Daniels regrets the day she chose barrel racing over her fianc√©. After a year of reckless choices that led to an incident she’d like to forget, she's back in Crane’s Cove wondering how it all went wrong and trying to pick up the pieces. Easton Crane has loved Kat for as long as he can remember. But when she shows up after rejecting his proposal a year ago, he’s more confused than ever. After all, he's already sacrificed six years of his life to care for her after her traumatic brain injury. If his proposal couldn't keep her in town, what was it that brought her back? Was it him or was Kat hiding something? When a hurricane hits Crane’s Cove and threatens the life of Kat’s beloved horse, the two are faced with the challenge of working together to save her. Can they battle the storm of old memories and wounds to rebuild their love stronger than before?

Kerry Evelyn has always been fascinated by people and the backstories that drive them to do what they do. A native of the Massachusetts SouthCoast, she changed her latitude in 2002 and is now a crazy blessed wife and homeschooling mom in Orlando. She loves God, books of all kinds, traveling, taking selfies, sweet drinks, and escaping into her imagination, where every child is happy and healthy, every house has a library, and her hubby wears coattails and a top hat 24/7.

for music which inspired the story.

Enter for a chance to win an autographed set of Crane's Cove novels and a $25 Amazon gift card. 
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Friday, October 19, 2018

Q&A + GIVEAWAY: The Winters by Lisa Gabriele @vikingbooks @lisagabrieletv

The Winters
by Lisa Gabriele

I've partnered with Viking to give you this Q&A from Lisa AND a chance to win one finished copy on my Bookstagram account - U.S. Entries ONLY - see my 5 star review HERE.

Publisher:  Viking Books
Publish Date:  October 16, 2018
320 Pages
Genres:  Thriller, Suspense

A spellbindingly suspenseful new novel set in the moneyed world of the Hamptons, about secrets that refuse to remain buried and consequences that cannot be escaped.

After a whirlwind romance, a young woman returns to the opulent, secluded Long Island mansion of her new fiancé Max Winter--a wealthy senator and recent widower--and a life of luxury she's never known. But all is not as it appears at the Asherley estate. The house is steeped in the memory of Max's beautiful first wife, Rebekah, who haunts the young woman's imagination and feeds her uncertainties, while his very alive teenage daughter Dani makes her life a living hell. She soon realizes there is no clear place for her in this twisted little family: Max and Dani circle each other like cats, a dynamic that both repels and fascinates her, and he harbors political ambitions with which he will allow no woman--alive or dead--to interfere.

As the soon-to-be second Mrs. Winter grows more in love with Max, and more afraid of Dani, she is drawn deeper into the family's dark secrets--the kind of secrets that could kill her, too. The Winters is a riveting story about what happens when a family's ghosts resurface and threaten to upend everything.

A Conversation with Lisa Gabriele
Author of The Winters

1.       The Winters begins like a lot of books, with a handsome man sweeping a young woman off her feet. But at its heart, this is a story about women—our unnamed heroine, plucked out of her quiet existence; Rebekah, the dead first wife who haunts her dreams; and Dani, Rebekah’s vengeful teenage daughter. Did you set out to write a story about female relationships, power, and sexuality?

Yes. I’m obsessed with female relationships, sex, and power, and how they intersect. These are my favorite things to read and write about. The genesis of this book began with me thinking about the women in Rebecca, and all the ways modern female characters and a new setting would completely change their relationship with each other. Suddenly The Winters became an exercise in demonstrating how much women have changed in contemporary times, and how some men, especially rich and powerful ones, really have not. I mean, think about all the different ways patriarchy still shapes and molds our lives as women. My narrator certainly has agency, she has a job of her own that she’s quite good at, and a potential role model of a single working woman, but despite this, she’s still deeply susceptible to the lure of a “happily ever after.” And with Max’s daughter Dani, I got to play around with some of my worst fears around young women and social media, on the difficulty of getting your new boyfriend’s kid to accept you, and about feminism’s so-called generational divide. Dani is 15 going on 40, an heiress with a chauffeur, a tutor, and thirty thousand Instagram followers. She isn’t going to make life easy for her new stepmother-to-be. And what better wedge for her to use than the memory of her dead (perfect) mother, Rebekah? The relationship between her and the narrator was explosively fun to write. But this time, the primary question that hovers over the narrator’s image of the dead Rebekah isn’t about her sexuality, but rather her role as a mother—a much more loaded question these days.

2.      The Winters is inspired in part by Daphne du Maurier’s classic novel, Rebecca—an instant bestseller, first published in 1938, that has never gone out of print, reportedly selling 50,000 copies a year. And it’s obvious you’re a fan. What do you love about it, and what made you use it as the launching point for your novel?

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a big fan of Rebecca. My mother, who died almost twenty years ago, introduced me to Alfred Hitchcock’s movie first, and whenever I miss her I reach for it. In the fall of 2016, in the despairing days of the U.S. election, I bought some ice cream and threw in the DVD to drown out the bad news. But this time, instead of comforted, it left me feeling deeply uneasy. I had to remind myself that in Daphne du Maurier’s book Maxim de Winter killed his sexually rebellious first wife, a fact that Hitchcock, due to Production Codes at the time, erased. I suddenly felt this strong desire to avenge Rebecca and punish Maxim. So I guess you could say nostalgia inspired me to reread the book, but anger drove me to write mine.

3.      Much of The Winters is set at Asherley, Max Winter’s opulent estate in the Hamptons. Why did you choose that setting?

I’ve always been fascinated with Long Island’s moneyed elite; a couple of my favorite books are set there. I loved the storied Gold Coast of The Great Gatsby, and the deceptively serene town in The Amityville Horror. I needed a place that combined history and horror and the Hamptons seemed like a natural choice. However, to pull off the violent conclusion, I also needed a location that wasn’t only private, but remote. In the research stage, I visited the Suffolk County Historical Society in Riverhead and read about Gardiner’s Island. It’s one of the biggest swaths of privately owned land in America, purchased by Lion Gardiner from the Montaukett Indians in the 1600s, in exchange for a large black dog and some Dutch blankets. Today it’s worth more than $125 million dollars so keeping the island in the family has driven generations of Gardiners to sometimes concoct nefarious plots. So Winter’s Island was born, as was a motive for murder. I changed some geographic details, but the rest of its history and topography, its dense forests, the old ruins, the private beach and thick, marshy shores, are the same. Then there’s the mansion. I love a looming turret, so I made Asherley a Queen Anne Victorian—spookier, in my opinion, than the typical center hall design from the Gilded Age. Entering the house, with its paneled walls, oak and marble floors and mullioned windows, the reader falls back in time. The only modern touch is a dramatic, star-shaped greenhouse, Rebekah’s pride and joy, lodged, incongruously and a little violently, against the house, a constant reminder that this was once herdomain. 

4.      As our narrator spends more time at Asherley and begins to discover her new family’s dark secrets, The Winters becomes a gripping slow-burn thriller. What are your tricks for building suspense and keeping the reader on the edge of their seat?   

E.L. Doctorow said, “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” With The Winters I never set out to “write a thriller.” I just metaphorically made my headlights a little dimmer and the road ahead a little snakier, but kept the speed the same, (barely) avoiding smashing through the guardrails. Also the whole story is told from one POV. The narrator’s. We are only in her head. We only know what she knows. And she’s fed different versions of the same stories. So who to trust? You can also use short staccato sentences. They ratchet up the tension. Sometimes.

5.      Like many fictional politicians—from House of Cards’ Frank Underwood to the Senator in Joyce Carol Oates’ Black Water—Max Winter is powerful, charismatic, and fiercely ambitious. Why did you choose politics for Max’s career, and what made you want to dip into that world? 

As I mentioned above, the 2016 U.S. election consumed me, and the subsequent presidency has upended all norms. It’s been a struggle to keep up with the controversies, the news being, for this former journalist, a constant distraction. But it’s also a source of inspiration. So I stopped fighting it. Since I couldn’t get away from the news, I folded some of my current fixations into my book. I didn’t want to date the book, or bog it down in current affairs, but divisive politics, and the corrosive effects of both social media and (questionable) Russian money on modern American life all make cameos. Presciently I finished the book at the start of the #metoo movement, which, like my book, demonstrates how important it is to believe women.

6.      You’ve been a journalist and an award-winning producer, in both radio and TV, for more than twenty years. When (and how) does your journalism background seep into your novels?

It always does, sometimes subtly and sometimes more obviously, but I am first and foremost a journalist. The books I write require research to get the settings, tone, and era right, but it’s my favorite part of the job. And for me it’s unavoidable. My characters tend to arrive almost fully formed. So when the unnamed narrator of The Winters insisted she worked on boats, and Max decided to run for reelection in Suffolk County, I had some research to do. Learning about politics at the state level and proper boat terminology was interesting and fun. But I also consult experts. I reached out to a PhD in mortuary archeology to confirm how many years it would take for a body buried in a shallow grave to completely turn to skin and bones. And, thankfully, one of my best friends is a family lawyer, so I ran by her all the details about conservatorships and inheritances. The hardest part was trying to understand the murderous lengths to which some people will go to maintain their wealth and privilege, but one need only turn on CNN these days for that kind of research.

7.      The Winters takes many of its cues from classic novels—a plain unassuming heroine; a dashing older gentleman; a lavish estate; an inconvenient first wife. But the ending is decidedly more modern—even feminist. Without giving too much away, can you speak to how you went about crafting a contemporary version of these kinds of novels?

Writing a modern book that that still pays tribute to a beloved classic is a tricky balancing act. I am a huge fan of the ones done well: Jane Smiley’s King Lear redux, A Thousand Acres, Jean Rhys’ The Wide Sargasso Sea (which is actually a prequel to Jane Eyre, which du Maurier herself retold with Rebecca), Curtis Sittenfeld’s Eligible (a hilarious retelling of Pride and Prejudice), and Joanna Trollope’s Sense and Sensibility. The best ones preserve the original’s landmarks, though the terrain is completely different. They’re written in a contemporary style, though a sharp-eyed reader will spot my own iambic hexameter. And while the characters feel familiar, they’re not facsimiles. No character embodies all of these ideas more than Dani Winter, a 15-year old girl with all the traits of the average Millenial, minus any disadvantages. She has everything a girl her age could want, plus total freedom and the run of the house. She plays with her mother’s clothes and makeup, and the stories she tells about her run completely counter to her father’s. This presents a very current dilemma for our narrator. Does she believe the man she loves or his bratty kid? Dani becomes, then, a reminder that we longer live in an era where stories men tell about women take primacy over the ones they tell about themselves, as the #metoo movement is proving. Women just aren’t having that anymore. I know Dani’s generation isn’t.

8.      Finally, considering the evocative setting of The Winters, where do you think is the best place to read a book like this?

You should read The Winters at one of my favorite hotels, The Chequit Inn, on Shelter Island. You should be sitting on the deep front porch that overlooks the Peconic River, sipping sweet tea. Funny enough, in a very early draft I wrote a scene where our teary, breathless narrator, running for her life, bursts into the lobby of The Chequit Inn demanding to use their phone. They let her. They get her a glass of water and calm her down. They offer her a chair. In the end, the incredible staff at even my imaginary Chequit Inn sucked the tension right out of the scene, so I had to redirect.