Monday, July 16, 2018

Tuesday Tomorrow

Competence by Gail Carriger
Published by: Orbit
Publication Date: July 17th, 2018
Format: Hardcover, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Accidentally abandoned!

All alone in Singapore, proper Miss Primrose Tunstell must steal helium to save her airship, the Spotted Custard, in a scheme involving a lovesick werecat and a fake fish tail.

When she uncovers rumors of a new kind of vampire, Prim and the Custard crew embark on a mission to Peru. There, they encounter airship pirates and strange atmospheric phenomena, and are mistaken for representatives of the Spanish Inquisition. Forced into extreme subterfuge (and some rather ridiculous outfits) Prim must also answer three of life's most challenging questions:

Can the perfect book club give a man back his soul?
Will her brother ever stop wearing his idiotic velvet fez?
And can the amount of lard in Christmas pudding save an entire species?"

I do think the perfect book club could restore a soul...

Kill the Farm Boy by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne
Published by: Del Rey
Publication Date: July 17th, 2018
Format: Hardcover, 384 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Once upon a time, in a faraway kingdom, a hero, the Chosen One, was born . . . and so begins every fairy tale ever told.

This is not that fairy tale.

There is a Chosen One, but he is unlike any One who has ever been Chosened.

And there is a faraway kingdom, but you have never been to a magical world quite like the land of Pell.

There, a plucky farm boy will find more than he’s bargained for on his quest to awaken the sleeping princess in her cursed tower. First there’s the Dark Lord, who wishes for the boy’s untimely death . . . and also very fine cheese. Then there’s a bard without a song in her heart but with a very adorable and fuzzy tail, an assassin who fears not the night but is terrified of chickens, and a mighty fighter more frightened of her sword than of her chain-mail bikini. This journey will lead to sinister umlauts, a trash-talking goat, the Dread Necromancer Steve, and a strange and wondrous journey to the most peculiar “happily ever after” that ever once-upon-a-timed."

Is this farm boy poor and perfect? You'll just have to read to find out!

The Girl in the Green Silk Gown by Seanan McQuire
Published by: DAW
Publication Date: July 17th, 2018
Format: Paperback, 352 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Once and twice and thrice around,
Put your heart into the ground.
Four and five and six tears shed,
Give your love unto the dead.
Seven shadows on the wall,
Eight have come to watch your fall:
One’s for the gargoyle, one’s for the grave,
And the last is for the one you’ll never save.
For Rose Marshall, death has long since become the only life she really knows. She’s been sweet sixteen for more than sixty years, hitchhiking her way along the highways and byways of America, sometimes seen as an avenging angel, sometimes seen as a killer in her own right, but always Rose, the Phantom Prom Date, the Girl in the Green Silk Gown.

The man who killed her is still out there, thanks to a crossroads bargain that won’t let him die, and he’s looking for the one who got away. When Bobby Cross comes back into the picture, there’s going to be hell to pay—possibly literally.

Rose has worked for decades to make a place for herself in the twilight. Can she defend it, when Bobby Cross comes to take her down? Can she find a way to navigate the worlds of the living and the dead, and make it home before her hitchhiker’s luck runs out?

There’s only one way to know for sure.

Nine will let you count the cost:
All you had and all you lost.
Ten is more than time can tell,
Cut the cord and ring the bell.
Count eleven, twelve, and then,
Thirteen takes you home again.
One’s for the shadow, one’s for the tree,
And the last is for the blessing of Persephone."

How does Seanan put out SO MANY books in a year without the James Patterson tag-team gig?

Like Never and Always by Ann Aguirre
Published by: Tor Teen
Publication Date: July 17th, 2018
Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Liv Burnham thinks nobody knows Morgan Frost like she does, but a terrible accident pushes her down the rabbit hole where Morgan's secrets hide and she'll be lucky to make it out alive....

On a hot summer night, Liv, Morgan, Clay and Nathan are on the way home from a party in Clay's convertible. Best friends dating brothers? It doesn't get better than that. But the joyride ends in sudden impact, a screech of brakes, and shattering glass. On that lonely country road, four lives change forever.

Liv wakes in the hospital. At first she's confused when they call her Morgan, but she assumes it's a case of mistaken identity. Yet when the bandages come off, it's not her face in the mirror anymore. It's Morgan's.

Morgan always seemed to have the perfect life. But as Liv tries to fit herself into Morgan's world, she discovers endlessly disturbing secrets of the criminal and murderous variety and a dark task to finish...if she doesn't lose her mind first.

Forced to confront the disturbing truths that Morgan kept hidden in life, Liv must navigate a world of long-buried murder, a dangerous love affair―and a romance that feels like a betrayal."

This sounds like something Wes Craven would make into a film... 

The Art of Inheriting Secrets by Barbara O'Neal
Published by: Lake Union Publishing
Publication Date: July 17th, 2018
Format: Paperback, 364 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"When Olivia Shaw’s mother dies, the sophisticated food editor is astonished to learn she’s inherited a centuries-old English estate—and a title to go with it. Raw with grief and reeling from the knowledge that her reserved mother hid something so momentous, Olivia leaves San Francisco and crosses the pond to unravel the mystery of a lifetime.

One glance at the breathtaking Rosemere Priory and Olivia understands why the manor, magnificent even in disrepair, was the subject of her mother’s exquisite paintings. What she doesn’t understand is why her mother never mentioned it to her. As Olivia begins digging into her mother’s past, she discovers that the peeling wallpaper, debris-laden halls, and ceiling-high Elizabethan windows covered in lush green vines hide unimaginable secrets.

Although personal problems and her life back home beckon, Olivia finds herself falling for the charming English village and its residents. But before she can decide what Rosemere’s and her own future hold, Olivia must first untangle the secrets of her past."

Just take book, add English estate, and I'm sold...

Friday, July 13, 2018

Book Review - Rebecca Rosenberg's The Secret Life of Mrs. London

The Secret Life of Mrs. London by Rebecca Rosenberg
ARC Provided by the Publisher
Published by: Lake Union Publishing
Publication Date: January 30th, 2018
Format: Paperback, 348 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy

Charmain London loves her husband Jack, the famous author, but sometimes their marriage feels like a boxing match both literally and figuratively. He longs to be surrounded by his comrades and friends while he holds court at his agrarian utopia, Beauty Ranch, while Charmain, his Mate-Woman, longs to be alone with him. She longs to share the same bed, feel his arms around her, but instead he uses his mate as he sees fit, even if it's fodder for his new book, The Little Lady of the Big House. He seems to be pushing her into the arms of their friend Lawrence all for his narrative needs. But when Charmain finally succumbs their world comes crashing down. Because that's the night that she not only betrayed her husband, but the night Wolf House, Jack's dream home, the monument to his success, what they had scrimped and saved and slaved for for years burned to the ground. Did Jack set the fire himself realizing what he drove his wife to? Or did Lawrence set the fire because he knew Charmain would never be his for more than a few moments? All this and more hangs over the couple when someone new enters their life. One night they go to see Houdini perform in San Francisco and Charmain is brought on stage to assist Houdini and his with Bess with their "Metamorphosis" act. Afterwards the two couples go out for dinner and Charmain and Bessie form a friendship over the struggles of loving men who are larger than life. Their friendship just begun must soon be tried as Jack's ill health returns and Charmain decides to take him to Hawaii, where they were happiest. Hopefully the magic will return to their marriage. Only she can't help thinking of another magic man... Houdini has worked his way into her heart and he will be there for her when she needs him most. But is it right to fall for her friend's husband? And who is she without Jack?

There are certain shared experiences that everyone connects to. A historical event you remember, a book you read, a movie you saw. These events make up our collective unconscious. Let's take The Call of the Wild. Every schoolkid growing up in America has in all likelihood read Jack London's The Call of the Wild or White Fang. In fact they're probably the only books your teachers made you read that you rather enjoyed. For me it was The Call of the Wild in seventh grade and I can still remember Buck's journey as being an escape from the drudgery and crippling amount of schoolwork. We all have Jack London's second wife and subject of this book, Charmain London, to thank for championing him after his death and making sure he became a part of our collective unconscious. Though for most of us it's been years, perhaps decades since we read these books and therefore the power of Jack London's writing is forgotten amongst his narrative. Recently I was rewatching Northern Exposure and I was reliving my main obsession with the show, which was my love of the ex-con DJ Chris Stevens, when I had the delightful surprise of Chris reading from The Call of the Wild. During the season three episode, "The Three Amigos," the words of Jack London served as a counterpoint to Maurice and Holling journeying out into the wilderness to bury their friend. But what struck me was the lyricism and power of London's writing. Sometimes just reading a book doesn't give you the full experience, you have to hear it aloud to fully appreciate it.

This new appreciation of London's writing was one of the reasons I was drawn to The Secret Life of Mrs. London and signed up for this blog tour. Rebecca Rosenberg's book deepened my admiration of London as she has begun each chapter in the first two parts with a quote from London's writing, whether novel or letter. It's a bold choice for a first time author. Because no matter what, the reader is going to compare her writing to London's, whether that was the intent or not. Whether her writing holds up... that's another question. Rosenberg tells her story plainly and interestingly, but she never reaches the lyricism of London. Yet this works in her favor. London's writing, while beautiful, can be a bit inaccessible. Sometimes it's so dense that it takes several readings to understand what he's getting at. Whereas Rosenberg's writing is accessible. She never hides her story behind verbose verbiage. This helps to mirror and bring home to the reader the loving yet somewhat antagonistic relationship between Charmain and Jack. Charmain is so relatable and Jack is a bit enigmatic, his motives even questioned by his wife, so that as a reader you can't help but root for Charmain. She is our heroine. Whatever happens, wherever she goes, whatever decisions she makes, both sound and slightly insane, by using London's own words against him we modern readers will always side with Charmain. She is our avatar to this world of literary wonders and she's able to make it real in a way London's writing doesn't for today's audience. No matter how much he was trying to capture the real on the page.

While reading The Secret Life of Mrs. London one can't help but think of 2016's much talked about and lauded book about Beryl Markham by Paula McLain, Circling the Sun. These are both women who were true originals, they were free spirits that didn't quite feel of their time. Adventurers that broke with conventions. What I find interesting is that many great writers live within these bubbles that are out of sync with their times and embrace free love. While Kenya was the haven for this kind of bed-hopping behavior, any community of artists would come under this kind of scrutiny and notoriety. They were known for standing out from the crowd and throwing convention to the wind. Rosenberg does a good job though in grounding Charmain within this lifestyle. This solid footing makes Charmain far more sympathetic and her actions understandable, not a betrayal to her husband. Being raised by her Aunt Netta she was exposed to a lifestyle that was fluid when it came to love, as Netta had two men in her life. Therefore when Charmain became London's lover and subsequently his second wife she understood that he was liable to wander. Being a very sexual being herself she understood this, but her dalliance that commences the book almost seems indulged in because it's what Jack wanted. He was playing a game with his wife for his own literary means. Yet she heavily feels her betrayal and when he betrays her in return it's just pain heaped on pain. They are by no means a functional couple, but they have a symbiotic relationship. They need each other, but at the same time they need more.

What Charmain ends up needing is Houdini, her Magic Man. What is so interesting about The Secret Life of Mrs. London is that it shows how truly messy love is. Jack is everything to Charmain, her home was where he was, and yet, despite him saying that she was his everything in return, it was clear through his infidelities that she wasn't. You can spout free love, but the truth of it was, Charmain wanted to remain loyal to her husband but her heart and her needs took her elsewhere. I don't know if the same could be said of her husband. Because she was willing to give him all the he got elsewhere, yet he never compromised and gave her what she needed. I couldn't help thinking about Hamilton while reading this book. Their wives, despite not having perfect husbands, are the ones who carried on their legacies, told their stories. Would London and Hamilton be this well remembered to this day if not for their beleaguered spouses? To an extent even Bessie Houdini carried on her husband's torch, holding a seance for him yearly after his death, just as he requested. All this is so interesting to me in that it's all about these women whose lives were in the shadows, yet were remarkable in their own right. History is putting them rightly back in their places and examining what their impact was. Charmain was Jack's editor and typist for years, her thoughts, her ideas, spun into his stories, and yet she is only remembered as Mrs. London. Living her life through these great men while never really living a life of her own. The end of the book gives you hope, but at the same time, she still, to this day, is only known as Mrs. London. Hopefully this book will help redress this wrong.

But now I must nitpick... Writing historical fiction that actually includes real historical figures as your leads is tricky. You are fictionalizing their life, to an extent. You have to get in their head and tell the story you want to tell but within the framework of their life, and I'm not convinced that Rebecca Rosenberg fully succeeds. The biggest problem I have is moving the burning down of Wolf House, Jack London's dream domicile, two years into the future so that it happens at the same time as the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition. You can not do that! These are very specific set events! It's like saying, hey can we just move the start of World War I so that it fits my narrative better? Your narrative has to fit events not the other way around. Rosenberg admits that she condensed the timeline to be two instead of five years, but from my point of view she really didn't need to do this. The narrative could have easily spanned more time. The only reason I can see that this was done was in order for Charmain to think she was pregnant, father unknown, when she met the Houdinis. Which was, in my mind, unnecessary. But I'm sure Rosenberg would justify this with comparing the once fertile Charmain with the childlike Bessie... But back to my main point, Rosenberg has lots of weird time anomalies, some of which, such as the burning down of Wolf House I previously mentioned, I'm pretty sure she's aware of, as well as certain Houdini stunts that were shifted, while others are "words from the future." Yes, she uses words that are anachronistic to the time. Guess what? Pheromones didn't exist as a word until 1959, four years after Charmain died. A good editor should have flagged this... but editors, and good ones, are a dying breed. So authors, if you don't want your audience being temporarily taken out of the narrative, double and triple check everything.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Dickson Street Bookshop

Bookstore: Dickson Street Bookshop

Location: Fayetteville, Arkansas

Why I Love Them: So, to recap for those who didn't read last Friday's post, I was still on my road trip for my friend Sarah's wedding and now we'd reached Arkansas, the final destination state. The wedding itself was taking place in Eureka Springs, a quaint yet odd town full of dichotomies, bikers surrounded by prosperous frontier town opulence with a religious bent. But my friend Matt and I arrived early and went to Sarah's home in Fayetteville. Knowing we were there a day early in order to help and then haul whatever needed hauling to Eureka Springs I didn't do any prep in advance as to sightseeing in Fayetteville. Yet Sarah knows we well, in fact she's known me since I was fourteen so she took me straight to a bookstore. Ah, the Dickson Street Bookshop, a bookstore that knows what a bookstore should be, stretching farther and farther back, steps up into other buildings, shelves precariously packed, and aisles you could barely squeeze through. The gauntlet that every book lover hopes to run. I could have spent days in there and not discovered everything. There was even a side annex that just had science fiction laid out on tables. Tables and tables of cheap paperbacks, it was almost too much to hope for! If I had had more time who knows how much money I would have spent! But as it turns out, this wouldn't be where I spent most of my money, that honor was reserved for the gift shop at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum that we stumbled upon in Missouri. But I still found something... one can never leave a bookshop without finding something!

Best Buy: Sometimes before really digging into a bookstore I do a quick sweep. I basically name-check all my favorite authors and if the store has them then I know it's worthwhile to dig in deep. Mitfords, check, Durrells, check, I knew I'd find something here! So a bit of history. Ever since I was younger I've been collecting the Everyman's Library Children's Classic Series. It started with Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan and has expanded as often as I can stumble on the editions. My copy of Little Women was even bought at Orchard House! In fact on a few recent outings I added three new volumes, two in one day, and I couldn't believe my luck. The problem is that the website list that Penguin Random House has posted is incomplete! It omits editions that have gone out of print, such as Little Men. So while they say there are 58 volumes in the series, and I have 37, there are certainly more than 21 volumes I need to still find... which is why my trip to the Dickson Street Bookshop was so fortuitous. I had scoured the store. All the back rooms, all the weird nooks with history books, and I'd even gone through some of the science fiction. My friend Sarah even offered to help because if my traveling companion Matt doesn't eat on time he becomes obstreperous and it was dinnertime. So my time looking for books was coming to a close even with Sarah's help. As I was about to give up I was right near the counter, heading for the door and I saw this "special edition" section. It was rather small but there were two books from the Everyman's Library Children's Classic Series! Two! One of them was The Pied Piper of Hamelin. Do you think the book was trying to tell me something?

Monday, July 9, 2018

Tuesday Tomorrow

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
Published by: Del Rey
Publication Date: July 10th, 2018
Format: Hardcover, 480 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A fresh and imaginative retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale from the bestselling author of Uprooted, which was hailed as “a very enjoyable fantasy with the air of a modern classic” by The New York Times Book Review.

With the Nebula Award–winning Uprooted, Naomi Novik opened a brilliant new chapter in an already acclaimed career, delving into the magic of fairy tales to craft a love story that was both timeless and utterly of the now. Spinning Silver draws readers deeper into this glittering realm of fantasy, where the boundary between wonder and terror is thinner than a breath, and safety can be stolen as quickly as a kiss.

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, but her father’s inability to collect his debts has left his family on the edge of poverty—until Miryem takes matters into her own hands. Hardening her heart, the young woman sets out to claim what is owed and soon gains a reputation for being able to turn silver into gold.

When an ill-advised boast draws the attention of the king of the Staryk—grim fey creatures who seem more ice than flesh—Miryem’s fate, and that of two kingdoms, will be forever altered. Set an impossible challenge by the nameless king, Miryem unwittingly spins a web that draws in a peasant girl, Wanda, and the unhappy daughter of a local lord who plots to wed his child to the dashing young tsar.

But Tsar Mirnatius is not what he seems. And the secret he hides threatens to consume the lands of humans and Staryk alike. Torn between deadly choices, Miryem and her two unlikely allies embark on a desperate quest that will take them to the limits of sacrifice, power, and love.

Channeling the vibrant heart of myth and fairy tale, Spinning Silver weaves a multilayered, magical tapestry that readers will want to return to again and again."

I've always been a sucker for a fairy tale retelling!

Deep Roots by Ruthanna Emrys
Published by:
Publication Date: July 10th, 2018
Format: Hardcover, 352 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Ruthanna Emrys’ Innsmouth Legacy, which began with Winter Tide and continues with Deep Roots, confronts H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos head-on, boldly upturning his fear of the unknown with a heart-warming story of found family, acceptance, and perseverance in the face of human cruelty and the cosmic apathy of the universe. Emrys brings together a family of outsiders, bridging the gaps between the many people marginalized by the homogenizing pressure of 1940s America.

Aphra Marsh, descendant of the People of the Water, has survived Deep One internment camps and made a grudging peace with the government that destroyed her home and exterminated her people on land. Deep Rootscontinues Aphra’s journey to rebuild her life and family on land, as she tracks down long-lost relatives. She must repopulate Innsmouth or risk seeing it torn down by greedy developers, but as she searches she discovers that people have been going missing. She will have to unravel the mystery, or risk seeing her way of life slip away."

Yes for a more direct Cthulhu continuation! 

European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman by Theodora Goss
Published by: Saga Press
Publication Date: July 10th, 2018
Format: Hardcover, 720 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"In the sequel to the critically acclaimed The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, Mary Jekyll and the rest of the daughters of literature’s mad scientists embark on a madcap adventure across Europe to rescue another monstrous girl and stop the Alchemical Society’s nefarious plans once and for all.

Mary Jekyll’s life has been peaceful since she helped Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson solve the Whitechapel Murders. Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherine Moreau, Justine Frankenstein, and Mary’s sister Diana Hyde have settled into the Jekyll household in London, and although they sometimes quarrel, the members of the Athena Club get along as well as any five young women with very different personalities. At least they can always rely on Mrs. Poole.

But when Mary receives a telegram that Lucinda Van Helsing has been kidnapped, the Athena Club must travel to the Austro-Hungarian Empire to rescue yet another young woman who has been subjected to horrific experimentation. Where is Lucinda, and what has Professor Van Helsing been doing to his daughter? Can Mary, Diana, Beatrice, and Justine reach her in time?

Racing against the clock to save Lucinda from certain doom, the Athena Club embarks on a madcap journey across Europe. From Paris to Vienna to Budapest, Mary and her friends must make new allies, face old enemies, and finally confront the fearsome, secretive Alchemical Society. It’s time for these monstrous gentlewomen to overcome the past and create their own destinies."

Just like I'm a sucker for fairy tale retellings, so may it be said for interesting continuations of horror classics.

Murmuration by Robert Lock
Published by: Legend Press
Publication Date: July 10th, 2018
Format: Kindle, 368 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"'Murmuration is a magically woven tale of human connectivity, frailty, and the hold the past can have over the present. My promise of just one more page was constantly broken' Laura Parish, Novel Kicks.

The starlings dance in mesmerising patterns. In and out they fold. Up and down. Below them a Victorian pier has stood the test of time, carrying each generation over a cold and relentless sea.

As the birds dance they watch the lives of those who pass beneath. Two scandalous comedians born a century apart; a seemingly ageless deckchair attendant; the fortune-teller who believes no one can see the future. And in this seaside town one man knows the only way to stop history repeating itself is to solve a mystery as old as the pier."

I've always wondered what life would be life viewed from the collective unconscious of a bird... 

Murder at the Flamingo by Rachel McMillan
Published by: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: July 10th, 2018
Format: Paperback, 352 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Hamish DeLuca has spent most of his life trying to hide the anxiety that appears at the most inopportune times -- including during his first real court case as a new lawyer. Determined to rise above his father’s expectations, Hamish runs away to Boston where his cousin, Luca Valari, is opening a fashionable nightclub in Scollay Square. When he meets his cousin's “right hand man,” Reggie, Hamish wonders if his dreams for a more normal life might be at hand.

Regina “Reggie” Van Buren, heir to a New Haven fortune, has fled fine china, small talk, and the man her parents expect her to marry. Determined to make a life as the self-sufficient city girl she’s seen in her favorite Jean Arthur and Katharine Hepburn pictures, Reggie runs away to Boston, where she finds an easy secretarial job with the suave Luca Valari. But as she and Hamish work together in Luca’s glittering world, they discover a darker side to the smashing Flamingo nightclub.

When a corpse is discovered at the Flamingo, Reggie and Hamish quickly learn there is a vast chasm between the haves and the have-nots in 1937 Boston—and that there’s an underworld that feeds on them both. As Hamish is forced to choose between his conscience and loyalty to his beloved cousin, the unlikely sleuthing duo work to expose a murder before the darkness destroys everything they’ve worked to build."

Ah, the bygone eras of crime solving, why are they always so much more glamorous? 

Plaster Sinners by Colin Watson
Published by: Farrago
Publication Date: July 10th, 2018
Format: Kindle, 160 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Sergeant Love is a sucker for a picturesque country cottage.

But he finds himself quite literally knocked out by the little bas-relief plaster cottage that’s on display at Flaxborough’s antiques auction. This pretty but rather crudely painted trinket mysteriously sells for hundreds of pounds having sparked a heated bidding war, while the Sergeant gets floored by a would-be cottage thief.

So DI Purbright, teamed up with a world-weary brother officer down from London, must dig deep into the dubious past of the local gentry, the laconic Moldhams, in their crumbling stately pile, to find out how the little plaster picture leads to a tale of heirlooms and murder.

Witty and a little wicked, Colin Watson’s tales offer a mordantly entertaining cast of characters and laugh-out-loud wordplay."

The thing I love most about Kindles are they keep bringing back forgotten classics! 

Hope Never Dies  by Andrew Shaffer
Published by: Quirk Books
Publication Date: July 10th, 2018
Format: Paperback, 304 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"This mystery thriller reunites Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama for a political mashup full of suspense, intrigue, and laugh out loud bromance.

Vice President Joe Biden is fresh out of the Obama White House and feeling adrift when his favorite railroad conductor dies in a suspicious accident, leaving behind an ailing wife and a trail of clues. To unravel the mystery, "Amtrak Joe" re-teams with the only man he's ever fully trusted--the 44th president of the United States. Together they'll plumb the darkest corners of Delaware, traveling from cheap motels to biker bars and beyond, as they uncover the sinister forces advancing America's opioid epidemic.

Part noir thriller and part bromance novel, Hope Never Dies is essentially the first published work of Obama/Biden fanfiction--and a cathartic read for anyone distressed by the current state of affairs."

I need an escape from the currents state of affairs... 

Friday, July 6, 2018

Left Bank Books

Bookstore: Left Bank Books

Location: St. Louis, Missouri

Why I Love Them: Back in 2010 my friend Sarah was getting married in Arkansas and that meant a road trip was in order! My friend Matt is from St. Louis so on the way to and from Arkansas we stopped for a few days in his hometown. With his family obligations and going to his favorite haunts it felt a little like pulling teeth to get a bookstore on the itinerary. But I prevailed! I wasn't going to go to St. Louis and NOT visit Left Bank Books. For years I'd heard of them because some publishers view the only stop in the Midwest worth sending their authors to is St. Louis. Hello, you've heard of Chicago right? It's a FAR EASIER drive for someone from Wisconsin, in that it's not over six hours one way! But enough about my gripes, because I finally got to pass through the hallowed doors of Left Bank Books and was surprisingly a little let down. The neighborhood is cute, lots of old brick buildings and mature trees. Inside though it's smaller than I imagined, not that that's a bad thing. I just couldn't picture how they had these massive signings on site, I now realize they probably were all offsite... But more than anything it was really open and bright and didn't have much stock. No signed editions laying about, no carefully curated specialty editions of books. Instead it seemed space was desired over books, and I personally can never approve that kind of stylistic choice, especially in a bookstore! Yet my issues do not indicate that I was unable to find something special... because there was one part of the store I loved. The basement!    

Best Buy: The basement of Left Bank Books is what a bookstore should be so it's rightfully where I found my best buy. It was jammed with shelves and shelves of used, remainder, overstock, all the goodness that I love. Here was the carefully curated sections that the first floor had eschewed. Here was a place where I could spend hours. Though I didn't have hours with a family dinner looming, I was able to take advantage of it's labyrinthine structure to get "lost" for awhile. Yes. I hid. Amongst the books. On purpose. There's never a better place to get lost. Plus, on a side note, we really didn't need to hurry as the dinner prep hadn't even started by the time we arrived. I could have stayed with the books longer! But no matter how long I stayed at the store I had already found my best buy, so time was now irrelevant. As I remember it I found a first edition of George Mann's The Affinity Bridge surrounded by light as there was this large window right next to the science fiction section with a white brick ledge. But I know this can't be so, we were underground! Looking on Google Earth there's no convenient pit or egress, so where did this light come from? Perhaps it was just the book. It knew it had to be mine because I'd heard such good things about it and as it turned out in just over a year I would meet George at TeslaCon. He has easily become one of my favorite writers, and I consider him a friend. All of this goes back to that bookstore and the light from a window that couldn't have been.      

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Barnes & Noble Oakbrook Center

Bookstore: Barnes and Noble Oakbrook Center

Location: Oak Brook, Illinois

Why I Love Them: The Barnes and Noble at the Oakbrook Center is a pretty typical Barnes and Noble for it's kind. Meaning for a Barnes and Noble attached to a shopping mall and having an outdoor entrance leading to the parking lot and an indoor entrance leading to the mall. It's pretty cookie cutter; two stories, rather narrow, and could be a Barnes and Noble basically anywhere. In fact it really looks like the one outside Milwaukee. Not that there's anything wrong with that! Sometimes it's nice to go to a foreign town and be surrounded by the familiar. Why do you think that when you're traveling so many of the restaurants you see along the road are ones you could find in your own backyard? To some it's depressing, to others it's comforting. For me, it is how it is and it's nice to know that I can at least count on the layout and the signing protocols to be the same. Because let's face it, there's only a few reasons I stop at a Barnes and Noble while traveling, I'm there for a signing, there's something particular I'm picking up, or I'm going from point A to point B and I know I can be assured a restroom and a Starbucks. So thank you Barnes and Noble for your events and for a safe space to pee. What is so nice about this particular Barnes and Noble is that right around the mall is a restaurant, Mon Ami Gabi. The restaurant is basically your mall version of a French Bistro, but somehow, unlike Barnes and Noble, it doesn't feel like a chain. There's lovely crunchy warm bread with jam to spread on it! Scallops that are to die for. And just so much food that I want to order that I wish there was one in Wisconsin! Perhaps one day...  

Best Buy: As for why I trekked south to a Barnes and Noble in Illinois? Well that's all due to my best buy, Patricia Briggs's Frost Burned. Patricia Briggs rarely comes to the Midwest. In fact, since I've been a fan of hers I think this is the ONLY time she has set foot within a few states radius of me, and believe me this is something I pay attention to. For years I had relied on Murder by the Book with a few outlier bookstores, Mysterious Galaxy, and The Bookworm, for signed editions, but I finally had a chance to get one signed in person! Patricia Briggs might just be my favorite Urban Fantasy author out there... or at least a solid tie with Charlaine Harris, because I really love Charlaine and her books were my gateway drug into this genre. I think I'd have to meet Patricia a second time, because I've meet Charlaine twice, so she does have a competitive edge... But what I loved so much about seeing Patricia Briggs is that she really knows her readers. She knows they are shy introverts for the most part and when you get up to see her in the signing line she asks you what color pen you'd like your book signed in. She told me it's a way to get the ball rolling, because color choice is a very personal decision, notice my pink? After that the conversation flowed more easily and I got to tell her about my all time favorite creature in the Mercyverse, the Otterkin, who appear in River Marked. She then told me the inspiration for those evil water dwellers and how it oddly tied into the Chicago area. This just made me love those evil Otterkin even more, if becoming even more wary of Otters! 

Monday, July 2, 2018

Tuesday Tomorrow

The Corpse at the Crystal Palace by Carola Dunn
Published by: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: July 3rd, 2018
Format: Hardcover, 288 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A casual outing to the Crystal Palace in London takes a mysterious and murderous turn in The Corpse at the Crystal Palace, the latest mystery in Carola Dunn’s beloved Daisy Dalrymple series.

April 1928: Daisy Dalrymple Fletcher is visited in London by her young cousins. On the list of must-see sites is the Crystal Palace. Discovering that her children's nanny, Nanny Gilpin, has never seen the Palace, Daisy decides to make a day of it―bringing her cousins, her 3-year-old twins, her step-daughter Belinda, the nurserymaid, and Nanny Gilpin. Yet this ordinary outing goes wrong when Mrs. Gilpin goes off to the ladies’ room and fails to return. When Daisy goes to look for her, she doesn't find her nanny but instead the body of another woman dressed in a nanny's uniform.

Meanwhile, Belinda and the cousins spot Mrs. Gilpin chasing after yet another nanny. Intrigued, they trail the two through the vast Crystal Palace and into the park. After briefly losing sight of their quarry, they stumble across Mrs. Gilpin lying unconscious in a small lake inhabited by huge concrete dinosaurs.

When she comes to, Mrs. Gilpin can't remember what happened after leaving the twins in the nurserymaid's care. Daisy's husband, Detective Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher of Scotland Yard, finds himself embroiled in the investigation of the murdered nanny. Worried about her children's own injured nanny, Daisy is determined to help. First she has to discover the identity of the third nanny, the presumed murderer, and to do so, Daisy must uncover why the amnesic Mrs. Gilpin deserted her charges to follow the missing third nanny."

Favorite author, Carola Dunn, check, favorite sleuth, Daisy Dalrymple, check, favorite location, the Crystal Palace, check, check, and check! 

April in Paris, 1921 by Tessa Lunney
Published by: Pegasus Books
Publication Date: July 3rd, 2018
Format: Hardcover, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Kiki Button―war veteran, party girl, detective, and spy―finds that she can’t outrun her past exploits, even in the glittering world of Jazz Age Paris.

Paris in 1921 is the city of freedom, where hatless and footloose Kiki Button can drink champagne and dance until dawn. She works as a gossip columnist, partying with the rich and famous, the bohemian and strange, using every moment to create a new woman from the ashes of her war-worn self.

While on the modelling dais, Picasso gives her a job: to find his wife’s portrait, which has gone mysteriously missing. That same night, her spymaster from the war contacts her―she has to find a double agent or face jail. Through parties, whisky, and seductive informants, Kiki uses her knowledge of Paris from the Great War to connect the clues.

Set over the course of one springtime week, April in Paris, 1921 is a mystery that combines artistic gossip with interwar political history through witty banter, steamy scenes, and fast action."

Who wouldn't pick up a story with a heroine whose name is Kiki Button? Personally, I don't want to know that person. 

Caught in Time by Julie McElwain
Published by: Pegasus Books
Publication Date: July 3rd, 2018
Format: Hardcover, 464 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Still stranded in 1815, FBI agent Kendra Donovan finds herself on the trail of a vicious murderer with a shocking secret. October 1815: There is only one place Kendra Donovan wants to travel―back to her own time period in the twenty-first century. But since that’s not happening, she agrees instead to travel with her new guardian, the Duke of Aldridge, to one of his smaller estates in Lancashire. Their journey takes them through Yorkshire, a region whose breathtaking beauty masks a simmering violence brought on by the Industrial Revolution, which pits mill owner against worker.

When Kendra and the Duke encounter a band of Luddites on a lonely, fog-shrouded road, the Duke informs the authorities in the nearby village of East Dingleford that mischief may have been done at the local mill. However, it isn’t just mischief but murder that is discovered, when the body of the mill manager, Mr. Stone, is found brutally bludgeoned to death in his office.

The Constable is certain the radical-minded Luddites committed the murder. One look at the crime scene and Kendra knows they did not, prompting the Duke to shock the locals by volunteering their services to catch the real killer. Joined by lover Alec and Bow Street Runner Sam Kelly, Kendra must sort through the puzzle of Stone’s rather unsavory life, picking apart alibies and dissecting carefully created deceptions from a growing list of suspects.

As a special agent for the FBI, Kendra thought she’d encountered every kind of evil. But when another, even more vicious murder rocks East Dingleford, Kendra realizes that they’re dealing with a stone-cold killer―one who has a shocking secret that he will do anything to protect."

Third book is three times the yas! 

The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal
Published by: Tor Books
Publication Date: July 3rd, 2018
Format: Paperback, 432 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"On a cold spring night in 1952, a meteorite falls to earth and destroys much of the eastern seaboard of the United States, including Washington D.C. The Meteor, as it is popularly known, decimates the U.S. government and paves the way for a climate cataclysm that will eventually render the earth inhospitable to humanity.This looming threat calls for a radically accelerated timeline in the earth’s efforts to colonize space, and allows a much larger share of humanity to take part in the process.

One of thesenew entrants in the space race is Elma York, whose experience as a WASP pilotand mathematician earns her a place in the International Aerospace Coalition’sattempts to put man on the moon. But with so many skilled and experienced womenpilots and scientists involved with the program, it doesn’t take long before Elmabegins to wonder why they can’t go into space, too―aside from some peskybarriers like thousands of years of history and a host of expectations aboutthe proper place of the fairer sex. And yet, Elma’s drive to become the first Lady Astronaut is so strong that even the most dearly held conventions may notstand a chance against her."

If you're a fan of Mary Robinette Kowal you should be worried that her books have gone from hardcover releases to paperback and they're burning off this duology over the summer months. Methinks Tor is trying to finish off her contract quickly...

Smoke and Iron by Rachel Caine
Published by: Berkley
Publication Date: July 3rd, 2018
Format: Hardcover, 448 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"To save the Great Library, the unforgettable characters from Ink and Bone, Paper and Fire, and Ash and Quill put themselves in danger in the next thrilling adventure in the New York Times bestselling series.

The opening moves of a deadly game have begun. Jess Brightwell has put himself in direct peril, with only his wits and skill to aid him in a game of cat and mouse with the Archivist Magister of the Great Library. With the world catching fire, and words printed on paper the spark that lights rebellion, it falls to smugglers, thieves, and scholars to save a library thousands of years in the making...if they can stay alive long enough to outwit their enemies."

I feel like sitting down this summer and reading this entire series. Here's hoping I get to do just that!

A Study in Emerald by Neil Gaiman
Published by: Dark Horse Books
Publication Date: July 3rd, 2018
Format: Hardcover, 80 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"This supernatural mystery set in the world of Sherlock Holmes and Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos features a brilliant detective and his partner as they try to solve a horrific murder.

The complex investigation takes the Baker Street investigators from the slums of Whitechapel all the way to the Queen's Palace as they attempt to find the answers to this bizarre murder of cosmic horror!

From the Hugo, Bram Stoker, Locus, World Fantasy, Nebula award-winning, and New York Times bestselling writer Neil Gaiman comes this graphic novel adaptation with art by Eisner award winning artist Rafael Albuquerque!"

Neil Gaiman's short story combining two series of great mythology finally comes to comics!

Heroine's Journey by Sarah Kuhn
Published by: DAW
Publication Date: July 3rd, 2018
Format: Paperback, 384 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The third book in the smart, snarky, and action-packed Heroine series completes the "Heroic Trio" as Bea Tanaka joins her sister, Evie, and diva Aveda Jupiter in their quest to free San Francisco from its demon portal problem.

If there's one thing Beatrice Tanaka never wanted to be, it's normal. But somehow, her life has unfolded as a series of "should haves." Her powers of emotional projection should have made her one of the most formidable superheroes of all time. And she should have been allowed to join her older sister Evie as a full-fledged protector of San Francisco, pulverizing the city's plethora of demon threats.

But Evie and her superheroing partner, Aveda Jupiter, insist on seeing Bea as the impulsive, tempestuous teenager she used to be--even though she's now a responsible adult. And that means Bea is currently living a thoroughly normal life. She works as a bookstore lackey, hangs out with best friends Sam Fujikawa and Leah Kim, and calms her workplace's more difficult customers. Sure, she's not technically supposed to be playing with people's mental states. But given the mundanity of her existence, who can blame her?

When a mysterious being starts communicating with Bea, hinting at an evil that's about to overtake the city, she seizes the opportunity, hoping to turn her "should haves" into the fabulous heroic life she's always wanted. But gaining that life may mean sacrificing everything--and everyone--she holds dear..."

Have they thought of calling on Buffy Summers? 

Friday, June 29, 2018

Lake Forest Book Store

Bookstore: Lake Forest Book Store

Location: Lake Forest, Illinois

Why I Love Them: Back when I was writing about Myopic Bookstore I mentioned that I was profiling them, but with reservations. Stores always deserve a few chances to get things right, I mean think about how many times you send a book back to Amazon to get a copy in perfect condition? Or is that just me? The same rules have to be applied to brick and mortar stores. And in fairness to Lake Forest Book Store my issues with them probably have more to do with their overhead and staffing. Now this store is in the transitional category, almost moving on from bookstores I've been to to bookstores I've only ever dealt with online. I have actually never been to Lake Forest Book Store's brick and mortar location, but I have had PLENTY of contact with them over the years, because they are the bookstore that provides all the books at signings within the Illinois library system. So all those times I've ventured across the Wisconsin state line to the flatland to see Lauren Willig, sometimes with other authors, sometimes solo, I've bought my wares from the table set up and manned by Lake Forest Book Store. Nothing will ever beat the display when I went to a joint event with Lauren and Tasha Alexander, there were so many copies of their books the tables groaned. But at a recent event in 2016, Love Across Ages and Cultures which you had to register for so they had a head count, I had issues, in that they had no backlog of the author's work, even though I reached out to them in advance! In fact they were snippy and told me I was in the wrong when I confronted them at the event. So here's hoping they mended their ways? If not... there are plenty of other stores to support.   

Best Buy: My best buy was back in 2008 and was the first time I went to one of the events put on by the Illinois library system. Cozy Librarians, which is a now defunct website to the best of my knowledge, had brought together a plethora of amazing authors for a panel. I of course went for Lauren Willig, but because of this event Julie Hyzy became one of my mom's favorite authors. It was in the middle of one of my worst ever semesters at school and of course that meant that everything was conspiring against me, even my computer died! So funds were short but I knew the golden rule for book signings, you go, you buy a book. No. Matter. What. It doesn't even have to be the author you're going to see, but it does help. So I picked up a paperback copy of Lauren Willig's The Deception of the Emerald Ring, which I had in hardcover already, but I knew the rules. Ironically I would later make a point of having all Lauren's books in paperback and hardcover, for first editions versus ease of reading, but at the time I was just discovering her as a writer and this rule wasn't in effect. The event was wonderful and fun, all the authors doing a little intro about themselves but then having a wonderful back and forth discussion about murder mysteries. It basically made me want to just go home and read for days and days, which I didn't have the luxury of doing. But the signing line was really my jam. I finally got to talk to Lauren in person, versus just talking online, and I think my friend Huyen said it best, "Lauren feels like the kind of person we'd be friends with." I couldn't have agreed more.  

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