Book Review: Blight by Alexandra Duncan

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Title: Blight
Author: Alexandra Duncan
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publication date: August 1, 2017

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Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble // Kobo // iBooks // Amazon
Indiebound // The Book Depository

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Blight
Alexandra Duncan
Greenwillow Books, August 2017
ISBN 978-0-06-239699-0
Hardcover

From the publisher—

When an agribusiness facility producing genetically engineered food releases a deadly toxin into the environment, seventeen-year-old Tempest Torres races to deliver the cure before time runs out.

From the author of the acclaimed American Booksellers Association’s Indies Introduce pick Salvage, which was called “Brilliant, feminist science fiction” by Stephanie Perkins, the internationally bestselling author of Anna and the French Kiss. This stand-alone action-adventure story is perfect for fans of Oryx and Crake and The House of the Scorpion.

Seventeen-year-old Tempest Torres has lived on the AgraStar farm north of Atlanta, Georgia, since she was found outside its gates at the age of five. Now she’s part of the security force guarding the fence and watching for scavengers—people who would rather steal genetically engineered food from the Company than work for it. When a group of such rebels accidentally sets off an explosion in the research compound, it releases into the air a blight that kills every living thing in its path—including humans. With blight-resistant seeds in her pocket, Tempest teams up with a scavenger boy named Alder and runs for help. But when they finally arrive at AgraStar headquarters, they discover that there’s an even bigger plot behind the blight—and it’s up to them to stop it from happening again.

Inspired by current environmental issues, specifically the genetic adjustment of seeds to resist blight and the risks of not allowing natural seed diversity, this is an action-adventure story that is Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake meets Nancy Farmer’s House of the Scorpion.

Genetically modified food is kind of a sore subject these days with some appreciating the enhancements and others being diametrically opposed for a number of reasons, not least of which are the known and unknown health risks. In Tempest’s world, not so very far in the future, such food has become the norm and a subclass of people has developed , those who can’t afford this food and must resort to stealing it or distributing contraband. Tempest has found her place in this agriculture-driven reality as a security guard and she’s very good at what she does. She knows herself and what she wants for her future…until the day disaster strikes and she has to make unexpected choices.

Tempest is an intriguing character and has a toughness about her that comes to stand her in good stead. When we first meet her, she seems to be quite focused and, in fact, she has been raised with very little softness or sentimentality. Inside, though, she’s not nearly so self-assured and the many facets of her personality begin to come to the fore; it’s especially interesting to watch her come to terms with some unhappy truths and figure out her place in an uneasy future. Essentially, this is kind of a coming-of-age story and getting to know this girl is what makes Blight a story to remember.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2017.

About the Author

Alexandra Duncan is a writer and librarian. Her first novel, Salvage, was published April 1, 2014, by Greenwillow Books. Her short fiction has appeared in several Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy anthologies and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. She loves anything that gets her hands dirty – pie-baking, leatherworking, gardening, drawing, and rolling sushi. She lives with her husband and two monstrous, furry cats in the mountains of Western North Carolina.

You can visit her online at http://alexandra-duncan.com/

WEBSITE | BLOG | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | GOODREADS

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Follow the tour:

Week One:

7/24/2017- Savings in Seconds– Review

7/25/2017- The Autumn Bookshelf– Interview

7/26/2017- Wandering Bark Books– Excerpt

7/27/2017- A Dream Within A Dream– Review

7/28/2017- Two Chicks on Books– Interview

Week Two:

7/31/2017- Buried Under Books– Review

8/1/2017- The Bewitched Reader– Guest Post

8/2/2017- Here’s to Happy Endings– Review

8/3/2017- Kati’s Bookaholic Rambling Reviews– Excerpt

8/4/2017- YABooksCentral– Review

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Giveaway

1 winner will receive a signed hardcover of BLIGHT
plus a set of the gorgeous prints in the photo, US Only.

Enter the drawing here.

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Book Review: Lowcountry Bonfire by Susan M. Boyer—and a Giveaway!

Lowcountry Bonfire
A Liz Talbot Mystery #6
Susan M. Boyer
Henery Press, June 2017
ISBN 978-1-63511-227-6
Trade Paperback
Also available in hardcover

From the publisher—

Private Investigators Liz Talbot and Nate Andrews have worked their share of domestic cases. So when Tammy Sue Lyerly hires them to find out what her husband is hiding, they expect to find something looney but harmless. After all, this is the guy who claims to have been a DEA agent, a champion bull rider, and a NASCAR driver. But when he turns up dead the morning after Liz and Nate deliver the incriminating photos, Tammy is the prime suspect.

Questioning the truth of Zeke Lyerly’s tall-tales, Liz and Nate race to uncover small town scandals, long buried secrets, and the victim’s tumultuous past to keep Tammy Sue out of jail and the case from going up in flames.

Zeke Lyerly was a teller of tall tales, many involving Army Ranger-style exploits, race cars, hot women, guns and the like and no one really believed them although they were certainly entertaining. His latest adventure wasn’t so captivating but was he really killed because of something so mundane as cheating on his wife? Tammy Sue can’t help but be Suspect Number One when Zeke is found in the trunk of his car, the very car she had set on fire with such vim and vigor, but Liz and Nate have serious doubts. Fortunately for all concerned, the police chief, who happens to be Liz’s brother, Blake, has to let them in on the investigation because of a contractual arrangement. Otherwise, they’d have to skulk around to clear their client.

As a group, the recurring characters in this series are among my favorites but none surpass the delightful Colleen who just happens to be a ghost and can be seen and heard by only Liz and Nate. Colleen has been a real help in solving cases because she can go places and see or hear things that Liz can’t and her snarky attitude always adds an element of humor. Unfortunately, Colleen is not around quite as much this time and our two private eyes have to work a little harder because of it.

The mystery of who killed Zeke and stuffed him in his own car is only the beginning of what could be quite a convoluted story but, in the end, all comes together. Liz and Nate, with more than a little help from friends and family, have to answer a lot of questions and connect the dots in their efforts to clear Tammy Sue (who, by the way, is a pistol). Secrets come to light and the ugly face of revenge surprises most of the residents of this tiny island. It just goes to show that living in a small community doesn’t necessarily mean that your neighbors know everything about you 😉

All in all, I enjoyed this sixth entry in the series every bit as much as the earlier books and my affection for these people hasn’t cooled at all. Ms. Boyer is just going to have to get the next one out PDQ!

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2017.

An Excerpt from Lowcountry Bonfire

The dead are not much given to hysteria. The morning Tammy Sue Lyerly piled her husband’s clothes into his Raven Black 1969 Mustang convertible and lit a match, my friend Colleen stayed oddly nonchalant. She’d been dead eighteen years and had seen a thing or two.

For her part, Tammy Sue was pitching an F5 hissy fit. She dug all ten fingers into her 1980s pile of long red hair, clutched her head, and bellowed, “Let it burn.”

Four Stella Maris volunteer firemen cast her worried looks but went about the business of hooking up the hose to the fire hydrant.

We stood in a loose huddle a safe distance from the burning car in the Lyerly driveway.

“I asked you what you were doing here,” said Blake.

My brother, Blake, was the Stella Maris Police Chief. My husband, Nate, and I were private investigators, and Blake purely hated it when we meddled in his business.

“I called her,” said Daddy. “I overheard at the flea market that your sister’d done some work for Tammy Sue recently. Thought maybe she’d want to know.” Daddy shrugged, looked innocent.

Mamma and Daddy lived across the street from the Lyerlys, so naturally Daddy was first on the scene. Mamma had come with him. She raised an eyebrow to let him know she had his number. It wasn’t yet eight o’clock. Daddy sipped coffee from a large insulated stainless steel travel mug, all nonchalant like.

“For cryin’ out loud, Dad. We don’t need the whole town out here this morning.” Blake gave his head a shake. He scanned the neighborhood we’d grown up in. Folks gathered in clumps under the shade of massive live oaks in bordering yards. They’d all come out to see the show. The audience was growing fast. It was early on a Tuesday in the middle of June. Some of those folks were missing work. Blake lifted his Red Sox cap, ran a hand through his hair, and resettled the cap.

Tammy Sue grabbed my arm with one hand and clutched her chest dramatically with the other. “Well, I want her here, and you don’t have a single thing to say about it. This is my property.”

“Yours and Zeke’s.” Blake kept his tone easy, casual. “Where did you say Zeke was again?”

“He’s with that cheap hussy, Crystal Chapman.” Tammy’s eyes glowed with crazy. She leaned forward and hurled the words at Blake. “And he’d better by God not come home unless he wants me to light his ass on fire too.”

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To enter the drawing for a print
copy of Lowcountry Bonfire

by Susan M. Boyer, just leave
a comment below. The winning
name will be drawn on Wednesday
night, August 2nd. This drawing is
open
to residents of the US.

Book Reviews: Charcoal Joe by Walter Mosley and Past Reason Hated by Peter Robinson

Charcoal Joe
An Easy Rawlins Mystery #14
Walter Mosley
Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, May 2017
ISBN 978-0-3855-3920-3
Trade Paperback

From the publisher:  Easy Rawlins has started a new detective agency with two trusted partners and has a diamond ring in his pocket for his longtime girlfriend Bonnie Shay. Finally, Easy’s life seems to be heading towards something that looks like normalcy, but, inevitably, a case gets in the way. Easy’s friend Mouse calls in a favor—he wants Easy to meet with Rufus Tyler, an aging convict whom everyone calls Charcoal Joe. Joe’s friend’s son, Seymour, has been charged with the murder of two white men. Joe is convinced the young man is innocent and wants Easy to prove it no matter what the cost. But seeing as how Seymour was found standing over the dead bodies, and considering the racially charged nature of the crime, that will surely prove to be a tall order.

One of his two partners, Tinsford “Whisper” Natly, is described as “a Negro from St. Louis who could find anyone, anywhere, given the time and resources.  Easy describes himself as a “poor black man from the deep South . . . lucky not to be dead and buried, much less a living, breathing independent businessman.”  Their receptionist, Niska Redman:  “Butter-skinned, biracial, and quite beautiful . . .  twenty-four and filled with dreams of a world in which all humans were happy and well fed.”  Easy says of himself “I had two great kids, a perfect island woman that I would soon propose to, a profession I was good at, friends that I liked, and access to powers that most people in Los Angeles (white and black) didn’t even know existed.”

Easy’s friend Mouse is a welcome presence in these pages.  Forty-seven, he still has never worked “an honest job” and is accused by Etta as having been an outlaw since he was five, which he cannot deny.  When Mouse asks Easy to help him out with Charcoal Joe, he cannot refuse. Fearless Jones (who Easy calls “the black Prince Charming”) also plays a big role in the tale.

Another wonderful entry in this series, and another one which is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, June 2017.

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Past Reason Hated
An Inspector Banks Novel #5
Peter Robinson
William Morrow, March 2016
ISBN: 978-0-0624-3117-29-6
Trade Paperback

From the publisher:  Chief Inspector Alan Banks knows that secrets can prove fatal, and secrets were the driving force behind Caroline Hartley’s life . . . and death.  She was brutally stabbed in her own home three days prior to Christmas. Leaving her past behind for a forbidden love affair, she mystified more than a few.  And now she is dead.  In this season of giving and forgiving, Banks is eager to absolve the innocent of their sins.  But that must wait until the dark circle of his investigation finally closes . . . and when a killer makes the next move.

Since she was the only member of the CID on duty that night, newly promoted Detective Constable Susan Gay, on only her second day on the job at the CID at Eastvale Regional Headquarters, finds the challenge quite exciting. A call had come in from a neighbor of the dead woman, who had gone rushing into the street screaming.  As the tale proceeds, there are references to the current public image of the force, tarnished by race riots, sex scandals and accusations of high-level corruption.  As the investigation unfolds, there are quite a number of suspects among the various friends, family and colleagues of the dead woman, which after a while made it a little difficult to differentiate among them.  Banks’ erudition in matters of classical music comes in very handy, as a piece of music, playing on an old-fashioned phonograph at the murder scene, becomes a disturbing clue that he feels is very significant as his investigation continues.  And then they realize that the dead woman was in a lesbian relationship.

Banks, now 39 years old, had only been promoted to Detective Superintendent only a few weeks ago, is still “learning the ropes,” and is always a fascinating protagonist who has come to trust his instincts, as has the reader.

Susan has also been tasked with looking into a series of vandalisms that have taken place in the area, and the author switches p.o.v. from Banks to that of Susan from time to time, making for some very interesting reading.  But that’s something we have come to expect from Mr. Robinson; this book is as beautifully written as his numerous prior novels.  This is the fifth of what is now 22 entries in the series.  Although I must admit that I found it a slow read in the early going as the case plods along, the pace soon picks up.  I must add that the many wonderfully descriptive sections of the wintry weather that prevails and its effects on driving and walking had me going to my closet for a warm sweater!

The book concludes with an excerpt from the next book in the series to follow this one, When the Music’s Over, and I have no doubt that that entry, as is this one, will be highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, March 2017.

In Pursuit of the Spirits

Jeanne Matthews is the author of the Dinah Pelerin international mysteries published by Poisoned Pen Press. Like her amateur sleuth, Jeanne was born with a serious wanderlust. Originally from Georgia, she enjoys traveling the world and learning about other cultures and customs, which she incorporates into her novels. She currently lives in Renton, Washington with her husband who is a law professor. Where the Bones Are Buried, the fifth book in the series, is in bookstores now . You can learn more about Jeanne’s books at http://www.jeannematthews.com

I turned a recent trip to England into a pilgrimage to seek out the watering holes of some of my favorite writers.  Having just read The Man with the Golden Typewriter, a compilation of Ian Fleming’s letters, I decided to begin my quest at the place that inspired James Bond’s passion for martinis.  Fleming regarded the preparation of a martini as high art, no less delicate and exacting than brain surgery.  Dukes Bar in London achieved his ideal of perfection.  As I wended my way down an unmarked alley into the hidden courtyard, I knew I was in for a serious encounter with the spirits.

The mixologists perform their sleight of hand tableside and the resulting concoction is as lethal as 007.  I remember taking a photo to commemorate the occasion.  Everything after the first two sips remains a blur.  I staggered out, both shaken and stirred.

The next stop on my pilgrimage was Oxford and a tour of Balliol College, Lord Peter Wimsey’s alma mater.  Lord Peter preferred wine to spirits, but he was no less picky than Bond.  In The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, he sent back a bottle of 1915 Romanée Conti because it was “rather unfinished” and requested a bottle of the 1908 vintage.  There are no hostelries in Oxford that claim a Dorothy Sayers connection.  Recalling that she considered her translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy to be her finest work, my husband and I toasted her with a modest little Chianti and shifted our attention to Colin Dexter and Oxford’s most famous fictional detective, Inspector Endeavor Morse.

Colin Dexter shared his hero’s fondness for real ale and malt whiskey and the city boasts a number of pubs frequented by both Dexter and Morse.  The BBC television series based on the Morse novels filmed scenes from various episodes in most of them.  The Eagle and Child was used as the location for Second Time Around and The Way Through the Woods.  The White Horse on Broad Street was featured in The Dead of Jericho, The Wolvercote Tongue, and The Secret of Bay5B.  And Morse and Sergeant Lewis pondered many of their toughest cases over a pint or two in the Randolph Hotel, which named its stylishly elegant bar, The Morse.

Of them all, the slightly ramshackle Turf Tavern has the longest and most colorful history.  Hard to find down a narrow alley known locally as Hell Passage, this unadvertised, unassuming pub is the site of Jude Fawley’s drunken rant in Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure.  In addition to Dexter and Morse, its patrons have included Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, Stephen Hawking, and the cast and crew of the Harry Potter movies.  The Australian Prime Minister and President Bill Clinton have contributed further to its cachet.

I couldn’t visit the ancient spa city of Bath without paying homage to Peter Lovesey’s brilliant and curmudgeonly Detective Superintendent Peter Diamond.  A few weeks earlier I had finished the eleventh book in the Diamond series, Stagestruck, set in and around the city’s Theater Royal.  Lovesey wove into his plot a local superstition that the theater is haunted and I found myself in pursuit of spirits of a different sort.

The ghost, it seems, is that of a young lady who fell madly in love with an actor.  Her husband challenged his rival to a duel and killed him.  Grief-stricken, she hanged herself in Garricks Head Pub next door to the theater.  Those who have seen her say she appears in 18th Century evening dress, but has absolutely no color.  Visitations of the so-called “gray lady” are accompanied by a strong whiff of jasmine and a lingering mood of sadness.  There’s also a butterfly superstition in the Theater Royal.  Seeing a live one bodes a successful performance and rave reviews.  In Lovesey’s story, the discovery of a dead butterfly foreshadows a murder and the patrons of the adjacent pub know more than they let on.

Garrick’s Head Pub, built in 1720, is home to other unhappy spirits.  Over lunch, our waitress recounted an incident in 1996 in which a poltergeist hurled the cash register over the bar causing an “almighty crash.”  It might have been the spirit of Beau Nash, Bath’s dissolute Master of Ceremonies who was the first occupant of the building.  Or it might have been his mistress, Juliana Popjoy.  She was so distraught at his death that she resolved nevermore to lie in a bed and lived out the rest of her days in a hollow tree.  Maybe she returns from time to time looking for her Beau.

My husband asked Garrick’s owner why he didn’t have copies of Stagestruck on display in the pub.  He’d never heard of the book or its author.  How is that possible?  I shook my head and ordered a gin and tonic.

 

 

Book Blitz: The Union Series by T. H. Hernandez

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The Union Series
by T.H. Hernandez
Science Fiction, Dysyopian, Young Adult

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Synopsis Book 1

After global warming and a second civil war devastated the former United States, two different societies rose from the ashes – the Union, a towering high-tech utopia, hugging the perimeter of the continent, and the devastated, untamed midsection known as the Ruins.

Seventeen-year-old Evan Taylor has an easy, privileged life in the Union. What she doesn’t have is any idea what to do with the rest of her life. She only knows she wants to do something meaningful, to make a difference in the lives of others.

When she’s kidnapped and taken into the Ruins as a pawn in a dispute involving her boyfriend, Bryce, her ideal world is turned upside down. What she learns while in the Ruins shakes her faith in everything she’s ever known, from Bryce, to her family, and even the Union itself.

Now Evan must choose whether to stay with Cyrus, the sexy, resourceful survivor who believes she’s in the Ruins for a reason, or return to the only life she’s ever known. But when she stumbles upon a dangerous plot that threatens both worlds, her decision could tear her apart.

The Union is a futuristic young adult romantic adventure.

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Synopsis Book 2

Heartbroken, grief-stricken, and wracked with guilt, seventeen-year-old Evan Taylor returned to the Union, leaving behind the boy she loved.

Now, she and her friends must find a way to do the impossible – warn the citizens of the Union about an impending rebel attack without alerting the government and risking retaliation against her friends in the Ruins.

When every move Evan makes is thwarted, it soon becomes clear she’s being watched. Faced with a daily fight to stay one step ahead of her pursuers, she returns to the Ruins. But life in the Ruins has its own dangers, and soon she’s fighting a different battle – to stay alive long enough to discover the truth.

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Synopsis Book 3

Recovering from a near-fatal gunshot wound, eighteen-year-old Evan Taylor must find a way to stop the Uprising, an underground movement committed to destroying the Union, before her homeland is attacked.

After spending the last four months in the Ruins trying to get back to the only girl he’s ever loved, nineteen-year-old Cyrus needs to get past his jealousy over Evan’s involvement with Bryce or risk losing her again.

Together, Evan and Cyrus join with their friends to devise a plan to save both the Ruins and the Union, but when the pressure’s on, bickering and infighting threaten to undermine their goals. New information revealing a weakness in the Uprising is uncovered, forcing them to act quickly or risk losing everything.

With the help of old friends and new allies they set out to make history, but it might just take a miracle for everyone to make it out alive.

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Synopsis Book 4

They failed. Evan and Cyrus risked everything to keep the Uprising from attacking the unarmed Union, but something went terribly wrong. Evan’s home has been invaded by soldiers who are killing government officials and occupying the homes of her fellow citizens.

Captured by the Uprising, Evan fights for her life and her sanity, desperate to escape so she can find Cyrus and her family.

Reeling from an unexpected discovery, Cyrus is adrift until he uses his Uprising training to find a way to fight back against the invading force the only way he knows how.

With the help of old friends and new, they will do whatever it takes to protect each other and those they love, even if it means sacrificing being together, their way of life, and even their very lives.

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Purchase:
(Book 1 is 99¢ for a limited time only)

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An Excerpt from Book 1, The Union

My eyes flutter open to complete darkness, my brain cloudy. My shoulders ache and my arms are numb from sleeping on them. When I try to sit up, the moments before I blacked out come rushing back, filling me with dread.

My hands are tied behind my back, so the best I can do is roll to my side. I strain into the darkness to make sense of my surroundings. I’m inside something that’s moving. It’s too dark to make out anything, so I rely on my ears. A train. But not the L-Train, nor a commuter train. Maybe a cargo. My pulse throbs behind my eyelids and I fight the urge to vomit.

Shit, shit, shit. Tears fill my eyes, but I can’t afford to cry. I need to figure a way out of this mess. Lisa and Colin must have looked for me when I didn’t come back. That only provides small comfort though, since I have no idea where I am or how they’d find me.

None of this makes any sense. The only kidnappings in the Union are due to custody disputes. Maybe Eddie had me kidnapped. Except that’s completely crazy. If he was going to do that, why wait until I’m almost an adult and already on my way to see him?

This must be about money. A ransom or something. That seems so fantastic though, like straight out of a movie. There was that one kid who disappeared a couple of years ago, but it turned out he’d just run away.

Maybe it’s got something to do with my Uncle David. As one of only seven governors, he has an incredible amount of power. Only the Prime Minister has more. Unfortunately, it’s the only thing that makes sense. If I have any hope of surviving, he might have to give them what they want.

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About the Author

T.H. Hernandez is the author of young adult books. The Union, a futuristic dystopian adventure, was a finalist in the 2015 San Diego book awards in the Young Adult Fiction category.

She loves pumpkin spice lattes, Game of Thrones, Comic-Con, Star Wars, Doctor Who marathons, Bad Lip Reading videos, and all things young adult, especially the three young adults who share her home.

When not visiting the imaginary worlds inside her head, T.H. Hernandez lives in usually sunny San Diego, California with her husband and three children, a couple of cats, and a dog who thinks he’s a cat, affectionately referred to as “the puppycat.”

You can find her online at http://thhernandez.com

Author links:

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Waiting On Wednesday (75)

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event that
spotlights upcoming releases that I’m really
looking forward to. Waiting On Wednesday
is the creation of Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week’s “can’t-wait-to-read” selection is:

Continue reading