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Blog Tour: A Beautiful Breed of Evil

Available for Free on Kindle Unlimited!

Thank you Emma Welton @damppebbles for organizing this tour and finding a space for me!

Synopsis

He’ll never speak of the evil they did…

A former Swedish ambassador lies dead in his swanky Mayfair flat. With his tongue torn out and placed on a Bible. Competing theories swirl. A religious maniac? A psychopath? The truth is far darker than either. DCI Stella Cole’s search for the killer takes her to Sweden. There, she discovers a horrific chapter in the country’s history that throws the case into turmoil. And then more people start dying.


Teaming up with Swedish cops Oskar Norgrim and Johanna Carlsson, Stella pieces together Ambassador Brömly’s shocking past. And discovers the killer’s motive.

Meanwhile, Stella’s personal life is about to take a significant turn as her boyfriend, Jamie, suggests a change in their relationship. But as Stella tries to process what it means, she makes a fateful decision.


Why won’t the dead stay buried?

On the other side of the Atlantic, a kid practising BMX stunts over water finds a skeleton on a lake bed. When the victim is revealed to be a British cop, the FBI ask for assistance. Stella’s arch-enemy from her own department gets the case. She flies to Chicago and soon discovers the murderer’s identity.

The scene is set for a showdown in Sweden as DI Roisin Griffin pursues her vendetta against Stella all the way to the north of Sweden during the annual festival of Midsommar.


A fast-paced, twisty crime thriller …

A Beautiful Breed of Evil is the fifth book in this series of hard-hitting crime thrillers. Much of the action takes place in Sweden, home to fictional detectives Martin Beck, Kurt Wallander, Harry Hole and Saga Norén.

Even as Stella is fighting to bring the killer to justice, shadowy figures from her past are planning to silence her before she can expose their brutal methods.


Review

A Beautiful Breed of Evil is the 5th in the DI Stella Cole series but my first. It takes off pretty quickly with the discovery of three bodies in the first two chapters. The action takes place in the UK, Sweden and the United States so readers are jet-setting around the world in this transcontinental chase.*

DI Stella Cole is looking into the murder of a man who everyone claims is a saint. But what gets her is the mutilation of the body. Why rip out his tongue? And why place it on a Bible? What is the killer trying to tell her? What sins or secrets does the good Ambassador have in his closet? Is it a warning for others to be quiet? Or a sensual thing? Could the killer be a jilted lover or a victim of past sexual assault?

The first thing that struck me as odd was that in the UK the police do not have guns. As the manner of death was by gunshot wound it makes Stella’s job easier. As less people carry guns it will be easier to track down the murder weapon. Another factor that made this book all the more interesting is that Stella herself is not innocent. Her hands have blood on them and her past is bearing down on her. As a newcomer to the series I do not know how much of this was revealed in earlier books but I found that I enjoyed trying to unlock the mystery of Stella. Maslen does not spoon feed the reader either. Bit by bit over a few chapters he peels back the layers revealing one truth at a time. I think this made the book more intriguing as it gave me the opportunity to put the puzzle pieces together.

Although Stella is flawed she does have her own moral code that she follows. So yeah there is right and wrong but can you justify her actions? I think you can and this is what becomes the hardest for people in her life to reconcile themselves with. Especially when they can see themselves doing the same thing if they were put in her shoes. Stella is strong and smart but she still shows vulnerability. She’s still dealing with trauma and psychoses. Perhaps PTSD and dissociative disorder? Maslen does not make this the focus but his descriptions make her character more human and relatable.

Overall I really enjoyed reading the book. The twist in the middle really got me. I thought I had it all figured out. But Maslen saves the best for last, especially with that little teaser at the end. Looking forward to completing the rest of the series and getting to know Stella better. Highly recommend.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Meet Andy Maslen

Andy Maslen was born in Nottingham, in the UK, home of legendary bowman Robin Hood. Andy once won a medal for archery, although he has never been locked up by the sheriff.

He has worked in a record shop, as a barman, as a door-to-door DIY products salesman and a cook in an Italian restaurant.

He lives in Wiltshire with his wife, two sons and a whippet named Merlin.

Where You Can Find Andy


Stop by and visit these other blogs on the tour!

*For those of you doing the 2021 PopSugar Challenge this qualifies for Prompt 29.

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Blog Tour: Just My Luck

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Synopsis

Adele Parks has brought her #1 Sunday Times sensation, JUST MY LUCK (MIRA Trade Paperback; April 6, 2021; $17.99) to the US! 

Be careful what you wish for… 

After spending happy hours, parenting classes and barbeques together for the last 15 years, Lexi and Jake Greenwood have celebrated and shared almost everything with the Pearsons and the Heathcotes, including their lottery numbers. Then one night, the unthinkable happens. Someone has been telling lies – lies dark enough to burn bridges and tear the tight group of friends apart. When the Greenwoods win a stunning $23 million in the lottery with their group’s numbers shortly after their dramatic falling out, the Heathcotes and Pearsons believe they’re entitled to part of the prize… and the three couples will do anything to claim what is theirs. 

Reader beware: the last chapter will change everything. 

A compulsively readable portrait of the fragility of friendship, the corrosiveness of sudden wealth, and the dark side of good luck, Adele Parks’ latest domestic thriller will make you think twice about trying your hand at the lottery. 


Review

When I first started reading this book I thought it was just going to be a Contemporary fiction about winning the lottery and how it impacts people. How do you change when you have money; a lens on greed, selfishness and the chaos that would ensue around a lottery win.

In Just My Luck you have these three couples who have been friends for 15 years. They met in Lamaze class and stuck together through Mommy and Me. Now their kids are also best friends. But then there is a fallout at one of their weekly parties which causes a rift between the parents. A week later Lexie playing their usual numbers strikes it big with a winning lottery ticket.

Lexi and her husband Jake’s responses are like fire and ice. Lexi tries to be calm, modest and responsible. Jake hits the ground running. Bubbling over with excitement and lofty ideas he comes up with extravagant ways to splurge. His indiscretions quickly lead the family down the path to ruin but read like delicious bits of drama as all kinds of hell breaks loose.

This book has also been billed as a mystery/thriller. However, the “mystery” here does not start until about 70% through. For me the mystery portion was just tacked on and not thoroughly fleshed out. Kind of quick, fast and loose. I also found that the mystery was easily solved. So if you are looking for a case to solve this may not be for you. But as a contemporary novel Just My Luck shines and is engrossing and compelling. Would recommend to readers of domestic suspense and drama.


Meet the Author

Adele Parks is the #1 Sunday Times bestselling author of twenty novels, including Lies Lies Lies and Just My Luck, as well as I Invited Her InJust My Luck is currently in development to be made into a movie. Her novels have sold 4 million copies in the UK alone, and her work has also been translated into thirty-one languages.

Where You Can Find Her

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Blog Tour: Libertie

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Synopsis

The critically acclaimed and Whiting Award–winning author of We Love You, Charlie Freeman returns with an unforgettable story about the meaning of freedom.

Coming of age as a free-born Black girl in Reconstruction-era Brooklyn, Libertie Sampson was all too aware that her purposeful mother, a practicing physician, had a vision for their future together: Libertie would go to medical school and practice alongside her. But Libertie, drawn more to music than science, feels stifled by her mother’s choices and is hungry for something else—is there really only one way to have an autonomous life? And she is constantly reminded that, unlike her mother, who can pass, Libertie has skin that is too dark.

When a young man from Haiti proposes to Libertie and promises she will be his equal on the island, she accepts, only to discover that she is still subordinate to him and all men. As she tries to parse what freedom actually means for a Black woman, Libertie struggles with where she might find it—for herself and for generations to come.

Inspired by the life of one of the first Black female doctors in the United States and rich with historical detail, Kaitlyn Greenidge’s new novel resonates in our times and is perfect for readers of Brit Bennett, Min Jin Lee, and Yaa Gyasi.


Review

Libertie is an historical fiction set in the late 1800s. Our titular character is named for her dying father’s wish for her to know true freedom. But Libertie, although intelligent, well spoken, and beautiful will struggle to be released from society’s strongholds. In the book her mother’s character is loosely based on Susan McKinney Steward, the first black doctor in New York state. Although this bit of history is interesting, Libertie is not focused so much on the mother’s accomplishments but on the relationship between mother and daughter. Throughout the book we are asked to consider what freedom is in all its nuances and to examine the chains that hold us captive.

Susan McKinney-Steward

The book opens with Dr. Sampson raising a man from the dead. Libertie stands in awe of her mother and begs her to teach her how to heal. But she soon realizes that this man — although he escaped the shackles of slavery and the grip of death — he is not free. His undying devotion to a dead woman leaves him haunted by her memory and Libertie skeptical about love.

Libertie’s mother is able to get her medical degree as she passes for white. But she knows this option is not open to her dark skinned daughter. She goes about trying to find a way to ensure her daughter’s agency in a new unsure landscape where freedom has just been won for the slave. But in her doing so, she ends up thrusting her aspirations upon Libertie.

Despite her status and fair skin our doctor is still bound by other women’s perception of her, their judgment and their fickle natures. She is confined by grief over the loss of her husband and family and fear for the safety of her daughter. Her tongue is tied every time a white patient shuns Libertie or remarks on her color.

When Libertie travels to Haiti we are able to see the contrast between the two countries. Haiti gains its independence early on and is under the rule of black people. But there still exists a separation between those that serve and those that are in authority.

Through these experiences Libertie comes to know that freedom is not just escaping that which binds you, but knowing who you are, what you want and finding the voice to proclaim it boldly.


Kaitlyn Greenidge

Kaitlyn Greenidge’s debut novel is We Love You, Charlie Freeman (Algonquin Books), one of the New York Times Critics’ Top 10 Books of 2016. Her writing has appeared in the Vogue, Glamour, the Wall Street Journal, Elle.com, Buzzfeed, Transition Magazine, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Believer, American Short Fiction and other places. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Whiting Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study other places. She was a contributing editor for LENNY Letter and is currently a contributing writer for The New York Times. Her second novel, Libertie, will be published by Algonquin Books on March 30, 2021. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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Blog Tour: Tell No Lies

On Sale tomorrow 3/30/21!

Praise for Allison Brennan’s Quinn & Costa Series

“Leave all the lights on… you’ll be turning the pages fast as you can. The Third to Die is the first in Brennan’s amazing new thriller series. Dive in and enjoy this nail-biter.”—Catherine Coulter, New York Times bestselling author of Labyrinth

“Bestseller Brennan’s intriguing sequel to 2020s The Third to Die…Fast-paced action….[with a] well-constructed mystery plot.”
Publishers Weekly

“An edge of the seat, can’t-put-it-down thrill ride.”Marcia Clark, author of Snap Judgment

“Riveting, terrifying, and simply fantastic. Brennan ratchets up the tension to the breaking point with her new FBI MRT team chasing a devious killer. This is classic crime fiction at its best. With deep characterizations and a truly scary villain driving the twisted plot, this is the start of a brilliant new series from the queen of the thriller.” —J.T. Ellison, New York Times bestselling author of Tear Me Apart


Synopsis

New York Times bestselling author Allison Brennan’s newest thriller again features an edgy young female LAPD detective and an ambitious special agent, both part of a mobile FBI unit that is brought in to investigate the unsolved murder of a college activist and its alleged ties to high stakes crime in the desert Southwest.

Something mysterious is killing the wildlife in the desert hills just south of Tucson, Arizona. When Emma Perez, a college-intern-turned activist, sets out to collect her own evidence, she too ends up dead. Local law enforcement seems slow to get involved. That’s when the mobile FBI unit goes undercover to infiltrate the town and the copper refinery located there in search of possible leads. Costa and Quinn find themselves scouring the desolate landscape that keeps on giving up clues to something much darker—greed, child trafficking, other killings. As the body count continues to add up, it’s clear they have stumbled on more than they bargained for. Now they must figure out who is at the heart of this mayhem and stop them before more innocent lives are lost.

Brennan’s latest novel brims with complex characters and an ever-twisting plotline, a compelling thriller that delivers.


Meet Allison Brennan

ALLISON BRENNAN is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of over thirty novels. She has been nominated for Best Paperback Original Thriller by International Thriller Writers and the Daphne du Maurier Award. A former consultant in the California State Legislature, Allison lives in Arizona with her husband, five kids and assorted pets.

Interview With Allison Brennan

Q: How much research do you do before beginning to write a book? Do you go to locations, ride with police, go to see an autopsy, etc.

A: Research is one of my favorite parts of writing. Because I’ve been writing for more than a decade, I’ve been doing research for just as long. I’ve been to most locations I’ve written about, though sometimes long ago (and I rely on Google Earth, books, and friends to keep me up to date about changes.) I’ve gone on ride-alongs with law enforcement, I’ve been to the morgue twice and observed not only an autopsy, but have talked to technicians and toured the crypt.

I also went through the FBI Citizens Academy in 2008, when I was in the middle of writing my 8th book. After that, I had multiple agents to call upon for help with details; I toured Quantico twice, the national FBI Headquarters, interviewed both senior and brand new agents about their different experiences in the academy and on the job, and participated in numerous SWAT training drills as a “role player.” What does that mean? I’ve played the part of the bad guy, a hostage, and a victim based on the scenario they were training for. I’ve observed dozens of different scenarios as they drill them, including high-risk traffic stops. I once observed a live ammunition drill from the catwalk, which was both scary and exhilarating. 

I recognize that I can’t put everything I learn into my books, and that because I write fiction sometimes reality is too slow and I need to speed things up (trust me, you don’t want to watch my characters doing paperwork!) But I try to write my books to be as realistic as possible.

Q: What’s your favorite part of writing suspense?

A: Everything! I love suspense. I read it as a child (Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew, Agatha Christie, Stephen King) and I read it now. I love romantic suspense (I’m a sucker for happy endings); police procedurals; and race-against-time thrillers. When I’m writing, my absolute favorite part is when everything comes together near the end and I have that “AHA!” moment. It’s exhilarating and worth every struggle along the way. 

I’d also have to say that suspense is part of every story. If there’s no suspense, it’s a boring character study. I want to have that physical reaction in my story — the sense of impending doom and “OMG, how are they going to get out of this?” — and if I get it while writing, my readers will feel it when reading.

Q: From the books you’ve written or read, who has been your favorite villain and why?

A: The Man in Black, Randall Flagg, is one of the most compelling and scary villains I’ve read, created by the master Stephen King in THE STAND (though Flagg has also shown up in other books.) Favorite? Maybe not. But definitely the villain that stuck with me for the rest of my life. In my books, I’ve created a couple of villains who I’ve actually sympathized with (while condemning their crimes) because their backstories are so tragic — such as in TEMPTING EVIL. My favorite villain to write was Elise Hansen Hunt who popped up in several books, including the recent COLD AS ICE. She is young, reckless, violent, and I never knew what she might do. I’ve written several serial killers, who are always scary because you never quite know what’s going to happen with them. For example, in the first Quinn & Costa book, the killer was so focused and determined I worried he would outwit my good guys. 

Villains should be both believable and realistic, so sometimes the most compelling are those who you can almost sympathize with, or at least understand, even when you are horrified by their crimes.

Q: What hobbies do you enjoy?

A: Reading (duh!), baseball (go Giants!), television (too many shows to list), hiking (except during the Arizona summer), shooting at the gun range (my daughter is a cop and great instructor), video games (with my boys — at least that’s my excuse.) A little known fact about me … for years I used to make my own soap. It was fun, relaxing, and always made the house smell amazing. 

Q: Do you write under one name for all books across genres or do you have other AKA’s?

A: Just me! Allison Brennan is my legal name. In fact, I once told my husband if he ever left, I was keeping the name. Ha. 

Funny story — I bought my website domain allisonbrennan.com right after I sold my first book. This was 2004. I wanted to make sure I had it when I had books to put up there. A year later I got an email from someone named Allison Brennan. She tried to buy the site but couldn’t — she was also a writer (a journalist) and wanted to know how I picked the name and if she could buy it from me. Small world! (There’s also an Allison Brennan who is a Olympic diver, an Allison Brennan who is a gymnast, and an Allison Brennan who lived in my town — we used the same pharmacy, the same vet, went to the same church, and both had sons named Luke. Yet we never met!)

Where You Can Find Allison Brennan

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Blog Tour: Danger in Numbers

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Synopsis

On the edge of the Everglades, an eerie crime scene sets off an investigation that sends two agents deep into a world of corrupted faith, greed and deadly secrets.

A ritualistic murder on the side of a remote road brings in the Florida state police. Special Agent Amy Larson has never seen worse, and there are indications that this killing could be just the beginning. The crime draws the attention of the FBI in the form of Special Agent Hunter Forrest, a man with insider knowledge of how violent cults operate, and a man who might never be able to escape his own past.

The rural community is devastated by the death in their midst, but people know more than they are saying. As Amy and Hunter join forces, every lead takes them further into the twisted beliefs of a dangerous group that will stop at nothing to see their will done.

Doomsday preppers and small-town secrets collide in this sultry, twisty page-turning thriller.


Excerpt

PROLOGUE

Fall 1993

Sam

Sam Gallagher stood in the forest, deep within the trees, holding his wife and son to him as closely as he could, barely daring to breathe.

They would know by now. He and Jessie would be missed. He could imagine the scene: Jessie wouldn’t have appeared bright and early to help prepare the day’s meal with the other women. He wouldn’t be there to consume the porridge and water that was considered the ultimate meal for the workday—the porridge because it was a hearty meal, the water because it was ordained as the gift of life.

Their absence would be reported to Brother William, sitting his office—his throne room, Sam thought—where he would be guarded by his closest associates, the deacons of his church.

The family had only been in woods for a few minutes, but it seemed like an eternity. Jessie was so still Sam couldn’t hear her breathing, just feel the tremor of her heart.

Cameron was just six. And yet he knew the severity and danger of his situation. He stood as still and silent as any man could hope a child might be.

Panic seized Sam briefly.

What if Special Agent Dawson didn’t come? What if there had been a mix-up and he hadn’t been able to arrange for the Marshals Service to help?

What if they were found?

Stupid question. He knew the what if.

He gritted his teeth and fought against the fear that had washed over him like a tidal wave. Dawson was a good man; Sam knew he would keep his word. He’d arrived at the commune undercover, having the intuition to realize Sam’s feelings, his doubt, and his fear for his wife and his son. Together, Dawson had told him, they would bring down the Keepers of the Earth. His actions would free others. No, their actions would free others.

Today was the day. Just in time. Sam had known the danger of remaining, felt the way he was being watched by the Divine Leader’s henchmen.

They had to leave. Leave? No, there was no leaving the compound. There was only escaping.

Alana Fisk had wanted to leave, and they knew what had happened to her.

It had been Cameron who had found his beloved “aunt” Alana’s body at the bottom of the gorge, broken, lying beneath just inches of dry dust and rock, decomposing in her shallow grave. It had been Cameron, so young, who had become wary and suspicious first. He’d seen a few of the older boys in the area when he’d last seen Alana there, and he didn’t trust them. They were scary, Cameron said.

Sam tightened his hold on Cameron. Seconds ticked by like an eternity.

Sam closed his eyes and wondered how they had come to this, but he knew.

He and his wife had wanted something different. A life where riches didn’t make a man cruel.

Jessie hadn’t hated her father; she had hated what he stood for. And Sam knew the day when her mind had been made up. Downtown Los Angeles. They had seen a veteran of the Vietnam War, homeless, slunk against a wall. Only one of his legs remained; he had been struggling with his prosthetic, his cup for donations at his side. The homeless veteran had looked at Jessie’s father and said, “Please, sir, help if you can.”

Peter Wilson had walked right by. When Jessie had caught her father’s arm, he had turned on her angrily. “I didn’t get where I am by giving away my hard-earned money. He’s probably lying about being a vet. He can get himself a damned job doing something!”

Sam had been walking behind them. Embarrassed, he tried to offer Jessie a weak smile. He hadn’t come from money, and he had lost his folks right after his twentieth birthday, but he was working in a coffee shop, dreaming he’d get to where he could work, go to college and have time left over to be with the woman he loved.

He had given the man a dollar and wished him well. Jessie had turned away from her father.

It was the last time Jessie saw her father. Despite the man’s efforts to break her and Sam up—or because of them—Jessie and Sam had eloped. The plan was to both get jobs and finish college through night school. Her father had suspected her pregnancy; he’d wanted her to get over Sam and terminate the baby.

Jessie quickly made friends at a park near their cheap apartment. They were old flower children, she had told Sam. Old hippies, he’d liked to tease in return. But those friends had been happy, and they’d talked to Jessie about the beauty of their commune, far from the crazy greed and speed of the city.

In the beginning, Brother William’s commune did seem to offer it all: happiness, unity, love and light.

But now they knew the truth.

Brother William—with his “deacons,” his demands on his “flock” and the cache of arms he kept stowed away as he created his empire, demanding absolute power for himself, complete obedience among his followers. And it became clear Brother William’s will was enforced; he had those deacons—Brothers Colin, Anthony and Darryl, and the squad beneath them. They received special treatment.

Sam clutched his family as he strained to hear any unfamiliar sound in the woods. Was that footsteps? Was the rustling of branches just the breeze?

He had to stop dwelling on fear.

He had to stay strong. Maybe not ruminate on what they’d been through.

But there was nothing else to do while they waited, barely breathing.

Think back, remember it all.

Excerpted from Danger in Numbers by Heather Graham, Copyright © 2021 by Heather Graham Pozzessere Published by MIRA Books

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

My Thoughts

As I was reading this book I was trying to figure out the significance of the title. As the book is based on a killer whose modus operandi is inspired by the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse I wondered if its meaning was biblical. Numbers is the fourth book of the Old Testament. Written by Moses it not only takes census, but follows the Israelites in their time wandering the desert in search of The Promised Land. Because of their doubt they spend 38 years being lost and tested as God reminds them that there is a cost to rebellion.

Here we have a family in exodus. Later there will be a woman missing in the wilds of the Florida Everglades. And throughout there is a cult whose members know a high price will be levied should they disobey their “Divine leader”. Probably a stretch with the connection there, but the premise behind this book and the ritualistic murder were certainly intriguing. It seems that Danger in Numbers is a start of a new series featuring partners in love and crime – Amy Larson and Hunter Forrest. Would recommend to those who are thrilled by fanatical cults and not feint of heart.


Meet the Author

Heather Graham is the New York Times and USA Today best-selling author has written over two hundred novels and novellas, has been published in approximately twenty-five languages and with about 60 million books sold in print in the categories of romantic suspense, historical romance, vampire fiction, time travel, occult, and Christmas holiday fare.

Where You Can Find Her

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#5 On My TBR – Green Covers

5 On My TBR is a weekly meme that gets you digging into your massive TBRs to find five special books. Created by E@LocalBeeHuntersNook this meme centers on a new prompt each Monday.

This week’s theme celebrates the beginning of Spring and St. Patrick’s Day– the color GREEN.

For those of you interested in participating in #5 On My TBR you can find additional info and future prompts here.

So let’s get to it!

#1 – Love is a Revolution

From New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Rene Watson comes a new YA–a love story about not only a romantic relationship but how a girl finds herself and falls in love with who she really is.

When Nala Robertson reluctantly agrees to attend an open mic night for her cousin-sister-friend Imani’s birthday, she finds herself falling in instant love with Tye Brown, the MC. He’s perfect, except . . . Tye is an activist and is spending the summer putting on events for the community when Nala would rather watch movies and try out the new seasonal flavors at the local creamery. In order to impress Tye, Nala tells a few tiny lies to have enough in common with him. As they spend more time together, sharing more of themselves, some of those lies get harder to keep up. As Nala falls deeper into keeping up her lies and into love, she’ll learn all the ways love is hard, and how self-love is revolutionary.

In Love Is a Revolution, plus size girls are beautiful and get the attention of the hot guys, the popular girl clique is not shallow but has strong convictions and substance, and the ultimate love story is not only about romance but about how to show radical love to the people in your life, including to yourself. 


#2 – Wow, No Thank You

A new essay collection from Samantha Irby about aging, marriage, settling down with step-children in white, small-town America.

Irby is turning forty, and increasingly uncomfortable in her own skin. She has left her job as a receptionist at a veterinary clinic, has published successful books and is courted by Hollywood, left Chicago, and moved into a house with a garden that requires repairs and know-how with her wife and two step-children in a small white, Republican town in Michigan where she now hosts book clubs. This is the bourgeois life of dreams. She goes on bad dates with new friends, spends weeks in Los Angeles taking meetings with “skinny, luminous peoples” while being a “cheese fry-eating slightly damp Midwest person,” “with neck pain and no cartilage in [her] knees,” and hides Entenmann’s cookies under her bed and unopened bills under her pillow.


#3 – Black Women in the Ivory Tower 1850 -1954: An Intellectual History

Evans chronicles the stories of African American women who struggled for and won access to formal education, beginning in 1850, when Lucy Stanton, a student at Oberlin College, earned the first college diploma conferred on an African American woman. In the century between the Civil War and the civil rights movement, a critical increase in black women’s educational attainment mirrored unprecedented national growth in American education. Evans reveals how black women demanded space as students and asserted their voices as educators–despite such barriers as violence, discrimination, and oppressive campus policies–contributing in significant ways to higher education in the United States. She argues that their experiences, ideas, and practices can inspire contemporary educators to create an intellectual democracy in which all people have a voice.


Among those Evans profiles are Anna Julia Cooper, who was born enslaved yet ultimately earned a doctoral degree from the Sorbonne, and Mary McLeod Bethune, founder of Bethune-Cookman College. Exposing the hypocrisy in American assertions of democracy and discrediting European notions of intellectual superiority, Cooper argued that all human beings had a right to grow. Bethune believed that education is the right of all citizens in a democracy. Both women’s philosophies raised questions of how human and civil rights are intertwined with educational access, scholarly research, pedagogy, and community service. This first complete educational and intellectual history of black women carefully traces quantitative research, explores black women’s collegiate memories, and identifies significant geographic patterns in America’s institutional development. Evans reveals historic perspectives, patterns, and philosophies in academia that will be an important reference for scholars of gender, race, and education.


#4 – No Heaven For Good Boys

Set in Senegal, this modern-day Oliver Twist is a meditation on the power of love, and the strength that can emerge when we have no other choice but to survive.

Six-year-old Ibrahimah loves snatching pastries from his mother’s kitchen, harvesting string beans with his father, and searching for sea glass with his sisters. But when he is approached in his rural village one day by Marabout Ahmed, a seemingly kind stranger and highly regarded teacher, the tides of his life turn forever. Ibrahimah is sent to the capital city of Dakar to join his cousin Etienne in studying the Koran under Marabout Ahmed for a year, but instead of the days of learning that Ibrahimah’s parents imagine, the young boys, called Talibe, are forced to beg in the streets in order to line their teacher’s pockets.

To make it back home, Etienne and Ibrahimah must help each other survive both the dangers posed by their Marabout, and the darker sides of Dakar: threats of black-market organ traders, rival packs of Talibe, and mounting student protest on the streets.

Drawn from real incidents and transporting readers between rural and urban Senegal, No Heaven for Good Boys is a tale of hope, resilience, and the affirming power of love.


#5 – The Hole

Winner of the Akutagawa Prize, The Hole is by turns reminiscent of Lewis Carroll, David Lynch, and My Neighbor Totoro, but is singularly unsettling.

Asa’s husband is transferring jobs, and his new office is located near his family’s home in the countryside. During an exceptionally hot summer, the young married couple move in, and Asa does her best to quickly adjust to their new rural lives, to their remoteness, to the constant presence of her in-laws and the incessant buzz of cicadas. While her husband is consumed with his job, Asa is left to explore her surroundings on her own: she makes trips to the supermarket, halfheartedly looks for work, and tries to find interesting ways of killing time.

One day, while running an errand for her mother-in-law, she comes across a strange creature, follows it to the embankment of a river, and ends up falling into a hole—a hole that seems to have been made specifically for her. This is the first in a series of bizarre experiences that drive Asa deeper into the mysteries of this rural landscape filled with eccentric characters and unidentifiable creatures, leading her to question her role in this world, and eventually, her sanity.

*All synopses were taken from Goodreads.*

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Blog Tour: The Jigsaw Man

Synopsis

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery…

When body parts are found on the banks of the River Thames in Deptford, DI Angelica Henley is tasked with finding the killer. Eerie echoes of previous crimes lead Henley to question Peter Olivier, aka The Jigsaw Killer, who is currently serving a life sentence for a series of horrific murders.

When a severed head is delivered to Henley’s home, she realizes that the copycat is taking a personal interest in her and that the victims have not been chosen at random.

To catch the killer, Henley must confront her own demons – – and when Olivier escapes from prison, she finds herself up against not one serial killer, but two. 


Review

See no evil. Speak no evil. Hear no evil.

Wiser words have never been spoken. But our hero DI Anjelica Henley has seen it all. She’s a young up and coming detective in the Serial Cases Unit who is responsible for taking down one of London’s most sadistic killers. Dubbed “The Jigsaw Man” for dismembering the bodies of his seven victims, Peter Olivier sits in jail serving consecutive life sentences. He is the epitome of an evil psychopathic genius. Think Anthony Hopkins’s betrayal of Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs. So when body parts start popping up along the Southern banks with signs of his M.O. everyone is praying that he didn’t have a partner, someone he groomed and trained. Despite the fact that Henley is still suffering from PTSD as a result of her previous encounters with Olivier she is best person for the job. No one knows him like she does.

The Jigsaw Man keeps you on the seat of your pants with all its twists and turns. But what I really appreciated was the character development. I liked that Anjelica is strong yet vulnerable. That her character handles micro-aggressions and outright prejudice with aplomb. That she has loyal people in her corner. Both Stanford and Ramouter were likeable characters that I would have enjoyed seeing more of. Olivier was so bad he was good. The Yin to her Yang; the dynamic between two really kept things interesting. And that ending begs for more. I can see a series with DI Henley and Olivier in the future and I’m all here for it.


Meet Nadine Matheson

Nadine Matheson is a writer of crime fiction, contemporary fiction and occasionally dips into the world of speculative fiction.  In 2016, she won the City University Crime Writing Competition with the short story that later became The Jigsaw Man.

When Nadine is not writing, she works as a criminal lawyer and lecturer. She lives in London and in her fantasy life would write comic books for a living.

Where You Can Find Nadine

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Blog Tour: Home is Not a Country


Genre: Young Adult
Publication Date: March 2rd, 2021
Publisher: Penguin Random House

Buy Links

Special thanks to Siham at Qamar Blog Tours for arranging this tour.

Synopsis

Nima doesn’t feel understood. By her mother, who grew up far away in a different land. By her suburban town, which makes her feel too much like an outsider to fit in and not enough like an outsider to feel like that she belongs somewhere else. At least she has her childhood friend Haitham, with whom she can let her guard down and be herself. Until she doesn’t.

As the ground is pulled out from under her, Nima must grapple with the phantom of a life not chosen, the name her parents didn’t give her at birth: Yasmeen. But that other name, that other girl, might just be more real than Nima knows. And more hungry. And the life Nima has, the one she keeps wishing were someone else’s . . . she might have to fight for it with a fierceness she never knew she had.


My Thoughts

What does it mean to be home?

Is home your country? Your neighborhood? Your house?

For Nima, a young girl born in America to immigrant parents neither country feels like home. She has a feel for the old country through the stories and songs and pictures that she lovingly hoards as the “Nostalgia Monster” but she is not the traditional girl. She doesn’t dress herself up all fancy to appease the aunties. Despite the fact that it hurts sometimes when she overhears them gossiping about how she doesn’t fit the mold. Though immersed in American culture at school, she still stands out and must face discrimination. This is why for Nima home is not some randomly constructed border called country, but the community that she lives in. It’s the people around her. The people who love her and care for her like Haitham.

Elhillo explores borders further through the character Yasmeen. Fans of the poet were first introduced to Yasmeen in a poem about identity:

Yasmeen’s character allows us to venture into the possibilities of life. A lot of times, especially as a teenager, you are trying to figure out who you are and what your place is in this world. Time is spent imagining a different reality. What if I were skinny, rich, . . . whatever, what would my life be like then? What if? Even as adults we wonder how our world would be different if certain events had not happened to us. Yasmeen allows Nima to see what those possibilities could be. Nima learns that she is not beholden to borders whether they be political lines or societal stereotypes. Most importantly, — those little boxes that we draw ourselves into, those self-imposed barriers — can be breeched and hurdled.

Home is Not a Country is a beautiful book both inside and out. I don’t feel as if there are any words that I can say that could capture the wonder and the richness of this work. I first “met” Safia Elhillo in BreakBeat Poets, Vol.2: Black Girl Magic. So when I heard that this book was coming out I immediately requested the audiobook through my library. This gave me the opportunity to read the book in print while listening to Elhillo tell Nima’s story. Besides her cadence, I really appreciated listening to her speak and sing Arabic. This was truly a multi-dimensional experience for me that was heightened by the music in Elhillo’s Spotify playlist.


Safia Elhillo

Safia Elhillo is the author of The January Children (University of Nebraska Press, 2017), which received the the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets and an Arab American Book Award, Girls That Never Die (One World/Random House, forthcoming), and the novel in verse Home Is Not A Country (Make Me A World/Random House, 2021). 

Sudanese by way of Washington, DC, she holds an MFA from The New School, a Cave Canem Fellowship, and a 2018 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. Safia is a Pushcart Prize nominee (receiving a special mention for the 2016 Pushcart Prize), co-winner of the 2015 Brunel International African Poetry Prize, and listed in Forbes Africa’s 2018 “30 Under 30.”

Safia’s work appears in POETRY Magazine, Callaloo, and The Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-day series, among others, and in anthologies including The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop and The Penguin Book of Migration Literature. Her work has been translated into several languages, and commissioned by Under ArmourCuyana, and the Bavarian State Ballet. With Fatimah Asghar, she is co-editor of the anthology Halal If You Hear Me (Haymarket Books, 2019). She is currently a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University and lives in Oakland. 


Here’s Where You Can Find Safia

Blog Tour Schedule

Show some love to these other creators on the Home is Not a Country tour:

Disclaimer: An ARC of the book was provided to me by Qamar Blog Tours and Penguin Random House as part of a promotional tour.

Featured

Blog Tour: One Perfect Grave

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Synopsis

She didn’t see the patch of black ice until it was too late. The car started to spin, and as it veered off into the deep ditch and the mounds of snow beside the road, she saw him. The little boy frozen in the ice.

When the remains of two bodies are found in an open grave along a desolate highway in Stillwater, Minnesota, Special Agent Nikki Hunt knows exactly who they are. The bright blue jacket lying on the frozen earth belongs to Kellan Rhodes, the missing boy she’s desperately been trying to find for the last two days. The other body is his mother Dana, who had been Nikki’s lead suspect.

Although the wounds on Dana’s body suggest she murdered her son and took her own life, Nikki finds evidence that suggests she was a victim too. Dana was desperately trying to regain custody of Kellan, and Nikki finds boot prints at the scene that belong to someone else.

When another child is reported missing, local journalist Caitlin Newport claims the cases are linked: Zach Reeves was taken away from his own mother in a custody battle, just like Kellan was.

Caitlin once helped Nikki find out the truth about her own parents’ murders, but her desire for a story nearly cost Nikki her life. Now, Nikki must decide if she can trust Caitlin again, before time runs out to find the killer and bring Zach home alive…

An unputdownable thriller that will make your heart pound until its final, shocking conclusion. Perfect for fans of Robert Dugoni, Karin Slaughter, Lisa Gardner and readers who want to binge read into the night.


My Review

Dana Rhodes is a woman who has gone through the fire. As a recovering methamphetamine addict, she has faced an uphill custody battle with her older sister Maggie. Understandably, because of her past it is hard for the family to trust her. When she and her son Kellan go missing everyone assumes the worst. Has Dana relapsed? Did she kidnap her son? Would she harm him?

When their bodies are found in a frozen grave what first appears to be an isolated murder-suicide starts to read like a totally different crime. FBI agent Nikki Hunt has an eye for detail and she quickly discovers that there is more to this crime than first meets the eye. Then, another boy around Kellan’s age goes missing. He too was the subject of a custody battle. Two boys missing within the same timeframe. Could there be a connection? Nikki Hunt is not so sure but reporter Caitlin Newport is adamant that the cases are linked. Despite their past differences, Nikki keeps an open ear and goes where the evidence leads her.

As a character Nikki is smart and sensitive. She is a devoted mom who will drop everything at the drop of a hat to comfort her daughter. She shows compassion and empathy for the victims while doggedly pursuing her cases. Although I did not have the chance to read The Girls in the Snow before One Perfect Grave I felt that I knew Nikki. One Perfect Grave was a fast paced thriller that kept me hooked. I actually read this one in a day. I most certainly will be continuing with this series and recommend that you do too. Special thanks to Noelle Holten and Bookouture for granting me access to this book.


Meet the Author

Stacy Green is the author of the Lucy Kendall thriller series and the Delta Crossroads mystery trilogy. ALL GOOD DEEDS (Lucy Kendall #1) won a bronze medal for mystery and thriller at the 2015 IPPY Awards. TIN GOD (Delta Crossroads #1) was runner-up for best mystery/thriller at the 2013 Kindle Book Awards. Stacy has a love of thrillers and crime fiction, and she is always looking for the next dark and twisted novel to enjoy. She started her career in journalism before becoming a stay at home mother and rediscovering her love of writing. She lives in Iowa with her husband and daughter and their three spoiled fur babies.

Where You Can Find Her

Featured

#5 On My TBR – Retellings

Hello Everyone! I know I haven’t done one of these in a while but I’m back to join in on the fun. This week’s theme is retellings. Ever since watching The Wiz as a kid I have had a soft spot in my heart for books that capture the essence of beloved classics.

5 On My TBR is a weekly meme that gets you digging into your massive TBRs to find five special books. Created by E@LocalBeeHuntersNook this meme centers on a new prompt each Monday. For those of you interested in participating in #5 On My TBR you can find additional info and future prompts here.

So let’s get to it!

#1: These Violent Delights

From GoodReads: “The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.


#2: Sansei & Sensibility

From GoodReads: “In these buoyant and inventive stories, Yamashita transfers classic tales across boundaries and questions what an inheritance―familial, cultural, emotional, artistic―really means. In a California of the ’60s and ’70s, characters examine the contents of deceased relatives’ freezers, tape-record high-school locker-room chatter, or collect a community’s gossip while cleaning the teeth of its inhabitants. Mr. Darcy is the captain of the football team, Mansfield Park materializes in a suburb of L.A., bake sales replace balls, and station wagons, not horse-drawn carriages, are the preferred mode of transit. The stories of traversing class, race, and gender leap into our modern world with wit and humor.”


#3: Legendborn

From GoodReads: “After her mother dies in an accident, sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews wants nothing to do with her family memories or childhood home. A residential program for bright high schoolers at UNC–Chapel Hill seems like the perfect escape—until Bree witnesses a magical attack her very first night on campus.

A flying demon feeding on human energies.

A secret society of so called “Legendborn” students that hunt the creatures down.

And a mysterious teenage mage who calls himself a “Merlin” and who attempts—and fails—to wipe Bree’s memory of everything she saw.

The mage’s failure unlocks Bree’s own unique magic and a buried memory with a hidden connection: the night her mother died, another Merlin was at the hospital. Now that Bree knows there’s more to her mother’s death than what’s on the police report, she’ll do whatever it takes to find out the truth, even if that means infiltrating the Legendborn as one of their initiates.

She recruits Nick, a self-exiled Legendborn with his own grudge against the group, and their reluctant partnership pulls them deeper into the society’s secrets—and closer to each other. But when the Legendborn reveal themselves as the descendants of King Arthur’s knights and explain that a magical war is coming, Bree has to decide how far she’ll go for the truth and whether she should use her magic to take the society down—or join the fight.”


#4: The Wife Upstairs

From GoodReads: “Meet Jane. Newly arrived to Birmingham, Alabama, Jane is a broke dog-walker in Thornfield Estates––a gated community full of McMansions, shiny SUVs, and bored housewives. The kind of place where no one will notice if Jane lifts the discarded tchotchkes and jewelry off the side tables of her well-heeled clients. Where no one will think to ask if Jane is her real name.

But her luck changes when she meets Eddie Rochester. Recently widowed, Eddie is Thornfield Estates’ most mysterious resident. His wife, Bea, drowned in a boating accident with her best friend, their bodies lost to the deep. Jane can’t help but see an opportunity in Eddie––not only is he rich, brooding, and handsome, he could also offer her the kind of protection she’s always yearned for.

Yet as Jane and Eddie fall for each other, Jane is increasingly haunted by the legend of Bea, an ambitious beauty with a rags-to-riches origin story, who launched a wildly successful southern lifestyle brand. How can she, plain Jane, ever measure up? And can she win Eddie’s heart before her past––or his––catches up to her?”

With delicious suspense, incisive wit, and a fresh, feminist sensibility, The Wife Upstairs flips the script on a timeless tale of forbidden romance, ill-advised attraction, and a wife who just won’t stay buried. In this vivid reimagining of one of literature’s most twisted love triangles, which Mrs. Rochester will get her happy ending?


#5: The Bird and the Blade

This one is a retelling of an Italian Opera – Turandot by Giacomo Puccini.

From GoodReads: “As a slave in the Kipchak Khanate, Jinghua has lost everything: her home, her family, her freedom … until the kingdom is conquered by enemy forces and she finds herself an unlikely conspirator in the escape of Prince Khalaf and his irascible father across the vast Mongol Empire. On the run, with adversaries on all sides and an endless journey ahead, Jinghua hatches a scheme to use the Kipchaks’ exile to return home, a plan that becomes increasingly fraught as her feelings for Khalaf evolve into a hopeless love.

Jinghua’s already dicey prospects take a downward turn when Khalaf seeks to restore his kingdom by forging a marriage alliance with Turandokht, the daughter of the Great Khan. As beautiful as she is cunning, Turandokht requires all potential suitors to solve three impossible riddles to win her hand—and if they fail, they die.

Jinghua has kept her own counsel well, but with Khalaf’s kingdom—and his very life—on the line, she must reconcile the hard truth of her past with her love for a boy who has no idea what she’s capable of … even if it means losing him to the girl who’d sooner take his life than his heart.”