Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Murders in the Mist

Whispers in the Mist (County Clare Mystery #2) by Lisa Alber (Midnight Ink trade paperback, 8 August 2016).

We return to the village of Lisfenora, this time in early September, a year after the events of Kilmoon.  The fog is unusually thick and eerie this year, and there is talk of the Grey Man, a cruel fae of local superstition who snatches the souls (and bodies) of the innocent.

Merrit Chase, the protagonist of Kilmoon, is a secondary character here.  The focus of the story is Detective Sergeant Danny Ahern, who is brooding about the anniversary of his daughter's death, and his wife's resulting depression.  

Then he's called to the body of a young man lying in a field.  When Danny touches his wrist, he's surprised to find a pulse, but the boy dies before the ambulance arrives.  He's not a local, and has no identification, and Danny suspects his identity may be difficult to determine, as it's the middle of the Matchmaking Festival and the village is filled with visitors.

Meanwhile, Merrit's been accosted by a young woman who steals the necklace right off Merrit's neck.  Gemma McNamara and her brother Dermot explain that they are in Lisfenora because they need to see the Matchmaker, but refuse to say why. 

The mysteries abound, and the ever present fog seems to intensify the disorientation.  For a time the reader feels lost in the mist, just like Danny, but the confusion is neatly cleared up.

Having read Kilmoon is helpful in understanding Whispers in the Mist, but it's not absolutely necessary.  Much like Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad series, the books are connected by setting and background.  

This is a quick and gripping read, and will leave you wanting to spend more time in Lisfenora.

FTC Full Disclosure:  Many thanks to the author for sending me an Advance Reader's Copy.

Monday, August 22, 2016

2016 Hugo Awards

The 74th World Science Fiction Convention, MidAmeriCon II, announced the winners of the 2016 Hugo Awards at a ceremony on the evening of August 20, 2016.

Best Novel
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)

Best Novella
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com)

Best Novelette
Folding Beijing” by Hao Jingfang, trans. Ken Liu (Uncanny Magazine, Jan-Feb 2015)

Best Short Story
Cat Pictures Please” by Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld, January 2015)

Best Graphic Story
The Sandman: Overture written by Neil Gaiman, art by J.H. Williams III (Vertigo)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
The Martian screenplay by Drew Goddard, directed by Ridley Scott (Scott Free Productions; Kinberg Genre; TSG Entertainment; 20th Century Fox)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
Jessica Jones: “AKA Smile” written by Scott Reynolds, Melissa Rosenberg, and Jamie King, directed by Michael Rymer (Marvel Television; ABC Studios; Tall Girls Productions;Netflix)

Best Editor, Short Form
Ellen Datlow

Best Editor, Long Form
Sheila E. Gilbert

Best Professional Artist
Abigail Larson

Best SemiproZine
Uncanny Magazine edited by Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas, Michi Trota, and Erika Ensign & Steven Schapansky

Best FanZine
File 770 edited by Mike Glyer

Best Fan Writer
Mike Glyer

Best Fan Artist
Steve Stiles

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (Not a Hugo Award, but administered along with the Hugo Awards) went to:
Andy Weir

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Double-Booked Tour

Featuring special guests Shannon Baker and Jess Lourey.

Hi, Marlyn!
Thanks for setting out the tea cups and –is that a plate of butter cookies?!-- for this stop on our cyber travels. We’re really tickled to be here today. We are Jess Lourey and Shannon Baker. We’re buddied up for this road trip because A) it’s always more fun to travel with a friend and 2) we’re a two-fer for blog readers, a real bargain!

Jess’s new release is Salem’s Cipher (Midnight Ink), a political suspense novel featuring Salem Wiley, an agoraphobic cryptanalyst who must crack codes that Emily Dickinson hid 100 years earlier in order to save the first viable female presidential candidate from assassination. It releases on September 6th and is available for preorder.

Shannon’s new mystery is the first in the Kate Fox series. Stripped Bare (Forge) is also landing on September 6th and also available for preorder Set in the Nebraska Sandhills, it’s been called Longmire meets The Good Wife.

Let’s get right to the questions of the day. 

Jess, just like real life, our characters don’t live in isolation. Sometimes secondary characters are as interesting and fun as the main event. Tell us about your favorite secondary character in Salem’s Cipher.

Such a good question, Shannon. I fell in love with most of the characters in that book, but my *favorite* secondary character is actually one of the bad guys. His name is Jason, and he’s an assassin with a twist: due to a genetic mutation (sentient Sharpey’s fibers, the microscopic fingers of collagen that connected bone to muscle to skin), he’s able to reshape his face and thereby change his appearance. In his own words, “If he’d been born a hundred years earlier, he’d have ended up in a traveling freakshow, next to the Bigfoot Lady, the Man with Three Eyes, Camel Girl, and two-faced Edward Drake.” Jason bears an eerie resemblance to actor Michael Fassbender in his given face, but with slight twitching, he becomes unrecognizable. 
Who’s your favorite secondary character in Stripped Bare, Shannon?

Kate is one of nine kids and lives in the tiniest dot on the Nebraska map. There’s no lack of secondary characters running around. In Stripped Bare, one of Kate’s older sisters, Louise, poked her head into Kate’s door and then pushed her sizeable self right on in. Since Kate’s mother is not exactly the nurturing type, Louise has declared herself the matriarch of the clan and administers advice, orders, and food, most of which is ignored by the rest of the brothers and sisters. She means well, of course, organizing family potlucks and delivering brownies and runzas uninvited. Kate calls her offerings turds of love.

One of my favorite characters in Stripped Bare plays a bit role and comes around again in Dark Signal (next year’s book). May Keller is old enough to have shared a kindergarten desk with Methuselah, has been a widow since WW II (under suspicious circumstances), and is as tough as buffalo jerky. We’ll be seeing more of her, I’m sure.

Jess, one of your secondary characters, Mrs. Berns, nearly takes over your Murder-by-the-Month series (Midnight Ink). She’s so much fun and has a lot in common with May Keller. Tell us how you came up with Mrs. Berns.

Ahh, thank you for caring about Mrs. Berns! She’s one of my favorite inventions, pulled half from real life and half from my neuroses. In 1988, country mouse me moved to the big city of Minneapolis, where I ended up working at an import shop with an east coast transplant named Berns. She was everything I wasn’t—articulate, confident, gorgeous. She so intimidated me that the only thing I could work up the nerve to say during our first shift together was that something in the garbage smelled like a rotten orange. She tossed her curls and said, “You know what would take care of that rotten orange smell? A bag of shit.” And then she walked into the next room. Mrs. Berns was born of that moment, except I made her an 85-year-old woman because I’m scared of getting old and want to envision it as a better time when I can say exactly what’s on my mind and not care what anyone thinks. 
Shannon, you had a similar life-based character near and dear to your heart in your fantastic Nora Abbot series with Midnight Ink, right?

I loved Abigail, Nora’s mother in my first series. She started out based on the mother of one of my dearest friends, always socially correct, terribly concerned with image, and a big spendthrift. And yet someone I really love for her good heart. I added Abigail for some humor, to keep the books from getting too dark. Over the course of the three books, though, Abigail developed a character arc of her own, as well as being instrumental in Nora’s arc. Like a real person, as I got to know her better, I grew to love her more. 


Jess and I are each giving away a copy of our new books, Salem’s Cipher and Stripped Bare. For a chance to win, share your favorite secondary character or leave a comment below.

And just in case we haven’t been fun enough:

If you order Salem's Cipher before September 6, 2016, you are invited to forward your receipt to salemscipher@gmail.com to receive a Salem short story and to be automatically entered in a drawing to win a 50-book gift basket mailed to the winner's home!

If you order Stripped Bare before September 6, 2016, you are invited to forward your receipt to katefoxstrippedbare@gmail.com to receive a Kate Fox short story and be entered for a 50-book gift basket mailed to your home.

For a review of our books, join us Monday, August 22 as the Lourey/Baker Double Booked tour stops at Books and Needlepoint. We’ll be with Terry Ambrose on Tuesday, and Wednesday at Do Some Damage.


A little about our books:

Salem Wiley is a genius cryptanalyst, courted by the world's top security agencies ever since her quantum computing breakthrough. She's also an agoraphobe shackled to a narrow routine since her father's suicide. When her intelligence work unexpectedly exposes a sinister plot to assassinate the country's first viable female presidential candidate, Salem finds herself both target and detective in a modern day witch hunt. Drawn into a labyrinth of messages encrypted by Emily Dickinson and codes tucked inside the Beale Cipher a hundred years earlier, Salem begins to uncover the truth: an ancient and ruthless group is hell-bent on ruling the world, and only a select group of women stands in its way.

Just when everything seems about perfect, someone leaves the barn door open and all hell breaks loose. At least, that’s what it feels like for Kate Fox. Born and raised in the Nebraska Sandhills, smack in the middle of eight interfering siblings, related to everyone in the county by one degree of separation or less, Kate’s managed to create a her perfect life.
A shattering phone calls hits Kate like a January blizzard. A local rancher is murdered and Kate’s husband, the sheriff, is shot. When her husband is suspected of the murder, Kate vows to find the killer.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Cozy Monday

All the Little Liars (Aurora Teagarden #9) by Charlaine Harris (Minotaur hardcover, 4 October 2016).

Aurora Teagarden has always been my favorite of Charlaine Harris' protagonists (sorry, Sookie), so of course I was excited to hear that there was a new Aurora book being released, more than a decade after the last one (Poppy Done to Death, 2003).  

All the Little Liars picks up shortly after Poppy, which ended with mystery author Robin Crusoe proposing to Aurora, who had just discovered that she was pregnant.  It's about three weeks after the wedding, and the couple have just returned from their honeymoon.

They're preparing to share their news of the pregnancy with their families, and Aurora is adjusting to the physical changes she's experiencing.  Her younger half-brother Phillip is still living with them, and will be starting at the local high school in January.  Aurora is pleased with the way Phillip is adapting to life in Lawrenceville, which is considerably more stable than living with his parents ever was.

When Phillip tells Aurora he needs to talk to her about something, she's on her way out the door, but she assures him that they'll talk when she gets home.  But between dealing with issues at work, appointments with the doctor, and talking to her mother, she forgets until the next day. 

Phillip texts Aurora to tell her that he's hanging out with his friend  Josh, so she's not worried.  But when Josh's mother calls in the early evening, asking if she'd heard from the boys, Aurora feels a premonitory shiver.  Neither Phillip nor Josh are answering their phones, so after Aurora and Robin drive around town and don't find them in any of the usual places, Aurora insists on calling the police.  

It turns out that not only are Josh and Phillip unaccounted for, but Josh's twin sister Joss, as well as a younger girl named Liza, the daughter of the local Episcopalian minister.  

Impatient with the Lawrenceville PD's lack of progress, Aurora and Robin investigate on their own, and learn some horrific things about their neighbors.  

Fans of Charlaine Harris will love this book, especially those, like me, who really missed Ms. Teagarden. 

FTC Full Disclosure: Many thanks to the publisher for sending me an Advance Reading Copy of this book to review.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Funny Friday

Zits by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman                                                        October 2, 2013

Sunday, July 31, 2016

At Sea

Tod and I spent last week exploring Seattle.  We had a great time, and I would have chronicled our adventures, but the internet connection at the B & B we stayed at (the Mozart Guesthouse, which was otherwise delightful). 
The biggest highlights were two fantastic restaurants. We had an early dinner at  Shaker + Spear one evening after skipping lunch (due to a very late breakfast!). Some good friends took us to the Blackboard Bistro, an amazing tapas-style place in West Seattle.

For me, the highlight of our sightseeing was the Toys of the 50s, 60s and 70s exhibit at MOHAI, which will be there until September 25th, if you are interested and able.  It was a real walk down memory lane, seeing toys I had (and even more toys that I wished I had)!

Saturday morning, we headed to the Seattle cruise terminal, along with the kids and their partners, to board the MS Westerdam for a cruise to Alaska.  Today is our first full day, and we are at sea.  Tomorrow, we will anchor in Juneau.  We don't have any excursions planned, so we'll just explore on our own.

I didn't get much reading done over the past week, but I did finish Jessica Spotswood's latest novel, Wild Swans, which I loved.  I hope to post a review later this week.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Fantasy Friday

Roses and Rot by Kat Howard (Saga Press hardcover, 17 May 2016).

Imogen and Marin grew up with an abusive mother.  A woman who fit the classic fairy tale wicked stepmother stereotype, but was their real mother.

As a teen, Imogen escaped by going to boarding school, but Marin, several years younger, was stuck behind.  Imogen tried to keep in touch, but Marin never responded, so she assumed that her sister was angry with her for leaving.

Now, as adults, they've both been accepted to Melete, a prestigious privately funded artists' retreat.  Imogen is a writer; Marin, a ballet dancer.  Marin convinced Imogen to apply, hoping that spending several months together would help them to repair their relationship.

At first, Melete seems perfect.  The artists have the luxury of concentrating on their work, with few restrictions, although they do have to connect with a resident mentor on a regular basis.  

Marin and Imogen share a house with two other women.  Each has a private room and workspace, but they share the living area and kitchen.  They don't really have to worry about cooking, however, as custom meals are provided for each artist. 

The story is told in first person, from Imogen's point of view.  She's thrilled for the opportunity to have Marin to herself, where their mother cannot reach them, but is also aware that they both have work to do. 

Melete is an isolated village in New Hampshire, perfect for artists trying to concentrate on their work, but Imogen can't help feeling that there's something odd about the place.  Not only does it seem just too perfect, she occasionally sees buildings or structures out of the corner of her eye, which aren't there when she turns her head.  She keeps telling herself she's just imagining it, but can't figure out why.

In her debut novel, Kat  Howard has created an astonishing world melding dreams and reality;  drawing upon fairy tales and mythology from multiple traditions.  And, as in many classic tales, it's the women who are challenged and survive.

It's an intense, riveting story that will completely draw you in.  Make sure you set aside a large block of time to read it; you won't want to put it down.

FTC Full Disclosure:  I borrowed this book from my local library.