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A Peek Inside My TBR Stack

As I was perusing the opening passages of books I’ll be reading over the next month or so, for myself and for Shelf Awareness, I thought it’d be fun to share them with you. We all like discovering new books and authors, right? Several of these are new to me, and in a couple of cases that’s because the novels are the authors’ first.

Here’s the stack:

TBR stack Jan 2015

And the openings:

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

I may have found a solution to the Wife Project. As with so many scientific breakthroughs, the answer was obvious in retrospect. But had it not been for a series of unscheduled events, it is unlikely I would’ve have discovered it.

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

Orange juice was not scheduled for Fridays. Although Rosie and I had abandoned the Standardized Meal System, resulting in an improvement in “spontaneity” at the expense of shopping time, food inventory, and wastage, we had agreed that each week should include three alcohol-free days. Without proper scheduling, this target proved difficult to achieve, as I had predicted. Rosie eventually saw the logic of my solution.

Canary by Duane Swierczynski

November 27

Hi, Mom. Last night I got arrested. (Sort of.)

I’m writing this so I can sort out the details, just like Dad taught me. He always said things have a weird way of making sense once you write them down. Putting this on physical paper (and not on the laptop) for a number of reasons:

1. These days you have to assume that anything you type on a computer or cell phone can be read by some random geek anywhere in the world

2. Nobody can ever see this, and I don’t want some random geek trolling for revenge porn yanking it off my laptop

3. Paper burns

My Sunshine Away by M. O. Walsh

There were four suspects in the rape of Lindy Simpson, a crime that occurred directly on top of the sidewalk of Piney Creek Road, the same sidewalk our parents had once hopefully carved their initials into, years before, as residents of the first street in the Woodland Hills subdivision to have houses on each lot. It was a crime impossible in the daylight, when we neighborhood kids would have been tearing around in go-karts, coloring chalk figures on our driveways, or chasing snakes down into storm gutters. But, at night, the streets of Woodland Hills sat empty and quiet, except for the pleasure of frogs greeting the mosquitoes that rose in squadrons from the swamps behind our properties.

All the Old Knives by Olen Steinhauer


There’s a delay taking off from San Francisco—caused, I’m guessing, by an overburdened airport, but no one will tell us for sure. At times like this, sitting stalled on the tarmac, it’s easy to think apocalyptically—airports at the bursting point, highways clogged with SUVs helmed by citizens in meltdown, smog alerts and gridlocked emergency rooms, corridors lined with the bleeding. When you’re in California this kind of vision explodes into grandiosity, and you imagine the earth ripping apart, spilling all this overconsumption, all the cell phones and seaside villas and hopeful young starlets noisily into the sea. It almost feels like a blessing.

Dark Rooms by Lili Anolik

The first time I saw Nica after she died was at Jamie Amory’s Fourth of July party. I’d slipped into the study, dark and cool and strictly off-limits, was crossing the carpet to get to the liquor cabinet, when I felt someone behind me. I paused, flesh prickling. Slowly I began to turn. A set of doors, French. On the other side of the glass, a girl. I didn’t run, didn’t move, didn’t even breathe, just stood there looking, looking, this girl so familiar: straight black hair, narrow nose, scarlet bloom of mouth, top lip nearly as fat as bottom. My skin recognized her before I did, rippling once then tightening on my bones.

My sister, Nica.

Done in One by Grant Jerkins and Jan Thomas

White. Nothing but white. Stretching to the horizon in every direction, infinite and limitless and as full of potential as an unpainted canvas or a child’s soul—pure, clean, unsoiled. But that will change.

The Swimmer by Joakim Zander

July 1980

Damascus, Syria

Every time I hold you is the last time I hold you. I’ve known that since the very first time. And when you came back, and I held our child in my sleepless arms, all I could think was, this is the last time.

The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen

The reader was at first surprised, then shocked, as the criminal Raskolnikov was abruptly slain in the middle of the street, right before her eyes. Sonya, the hooker with the heart of gold, shot him through the heart. It happened midway through an essay on the Dostoevsky classic.

See anything you like?

Since you’ve read this far, I’m happy to say that not only am I sharing these openings with you, I’d like to give you the chance to win two books from this stack: The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect.

Project was an international bestseller and one of the best reviewed books of 2013, with its movie rights optioned by Sony Pictures. Effect is the just-released sequel. The first is a paperback copy and the latter will be hardcover.

To enter, leave a comment telling me what kind of effect you have on other people. As usual, fanciful answers and outright lies are encouraged.

Giveaway ends Tuesday, January 27, 9 p.m. PST. US residents only, per publisher’s request.  Winner will be randomly selected and have 48 hours after notification to claim prize before an alternate winner is chosen.


Book Giveaway: WE ARE NOT OURSELVES by Matthew Thomas

If you’re a big reader and frequent a lot of bookish sites, you may not have been able to avoid hearing about one of the buzziest books this year—Matthew Thomas’s debut novel, We Are Not Ourselves. The author supposedly received a huge advance and the book has garnered raves from many publications, including The New York Times and Publishers Weekly.

And now you have a chance to win a hardcover copy here.

First, the official description:

we are not ourselvesBorn in 1941, Eileen Tumulty is raised by her Irish immigrant parents in Woodside, Queens, in an apartment where the mood swings between heartbreak and hilarity, depending on whether guests are over and how much alcohol has been consumed.

When Eileen meets Ed Leary, a scientist whose bearing is nothing like those of the men she grew up with, she thinks she’s found the perfect partner to deliver her to the cosmopolitan world she longs to inhabit. They marry, and Eileen quickly discovers Ed doesn’t aspire to the same, ever bigger, stakes in the American Dream.

Eileen encourages her husband to want more: a better job, better friends, a better house, but as years pass it becomes clear that his growing reluctance is part of a deeper psychological shift. An inescapable darkness enters their lives, and Eileen and Ed and their son Connell try desperately to hold together a semblance of the reality they have known, and to preserve, against long odds, an idea they have cherished of the future.

Through the Learys, novelist Matthew Thomas charts the story of the American Century, particularly the promise of domestic bliss and economic prosperity that captured hearts and minds after WWII. The result is a riveting and affecting work of art; one that reminds us that life is more than a tally of victories and defeats, that we live to love and be loved, and that we should tell each other so before the moment slips away.

Epic in scope, heroic in character, masterful in prose, We Are Not Ourselves heralds the arrival of a major new talent in contemporary fiction.

To enter, leave a comment answering this question: What does your version of the American Dream look like?

Giveaway ends next Tuesday, September 16, 9 p.m. PST. US addresses only, please, per the publisher’s request. Winner will be randomly selected and have 48 hours after notification to claim prize before an alternate winner is chosen. Good luck!


Giveaway: WAYFARING STRANGER by James Lee Burke

The good people at Simon & Schuster are letting me give away two copies of James Lee Burke’s new novel, Wayfaring Stranger, which comes out July 15. Here’s the book description from the author’s website:

wayfaring strangerFrom “America’s best novelist” (The Denver Post): A sprawling thriller drenched with atmosphere and intrigue that takes a young boy from a chance encounter with Bonnie and Clyde to the trenches of World War II and the oil fields along the Texas-Louisiana coast.

It is 1934 and the Depression is bearing down when sixteen-year-old Weldon Avery Holland happens upon infamous criminals Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow after one of their notorious armed robberies. A confrontation with the outlaws ends as Weldon puts a bullet through the rear window of Clyde’s stolen automobile.

Ten years later, Second Lieutenant Weldon Holland and his sergeant, Hershel Pine, escape certain death in the Battle of the Bulge and encounter a beautiful young woman named Rosita Lowenstein hiding in a deserted extermination camp. Eventually, Weldon and Rosita fall in love and marry and, with Hershel, return to Texas to seek their fortunes.

There, they enter the domain of jackals known as the oil business. They meet Roy Wiseheart—a former Marine aviator haunted with guilt for deserting his squadron leader over the South Pacific—and Roy’s wife Clara, a vicious anti-Semite who is determined to make Weldon and Rosita’s life a nightmare. It will be the frontier justice upheld by Weldon’s grandfather, Texas lawman Hackberry Holland, and the legendary antics of Bonnie and Clyde that shape Weldon’s plans for saving his family from the evil forces that lurk in peacetime America and threaten to destroy them all.

Want a copy? Enter by leaving a comment answering this question: If you could go back in time, with whom would you like to have a chance encounter?

Giveaway ends next Tuesday, July 8, at 9 p.m. PST. US addresses only. Winners will have 48 hours after being notified to claim the prize before alternate winners are chosen.



harry quebertWhen Penguin Books acquired US rights to Joël Dicker’s The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair last year, it announced the book was the publisher’s biggest acquisition in history.

Why so much money for a debut novel by a young unknown writer? Because the book was already a smash hit in France and other European countries. Now American readers get to see why.

The story opens in August 1975 with a woman’s urgent call to the police, saying she sees a man chasing a young girl through the woods near her house. Cut to 33 years later, when young author Marcus Goldman is having a major case of writer’s block after his first novel was a runaway bestseller. He calls up his old college professor, Harry Quebert, for help and inspiration.

Harry invites Marcus to his home in Somerset, a remote (fictional) town in New Hampshire, to get away from New York City distractions and focus on writing. Marcus has barely arrived in Somerset when the body of 15-year-old Nola Kellergan is dug up on Harry’s property by a landscaping crew.

Nola was the girl seen running through the woods all those years ago; she subsequently disappeared without a trace. Now she’s found clutching a handwritten manuscript of Harry’s career-making novel, The Origin of Evil. Harry is arrested, and the case against him looks worse when he admits he was in love with Nola and they had a romantic but nonsexual affair.

Harry claims, however, that he had no idea what happened on the night Nola disappeared. Marcus is the only person who believes Harry and he sets out to prove his mentor’s innocence. In the process, he rediscovers his passion for writing.

Though the novel is 640 pages, it’s an addictive read, making me flip pages so I could finish it within two days. Dicker’s style is accessible and his plot complex and twisty. I rarely knew where the story was going, just sat back and enjoyed the revelations as they came. Dicker credibly brings to life the small town’s characters, each with his/her hopes, loves, and disappointments.

Nola remains somewhat a cipher, however, and seems to have had Madonna/whore syndrome. Depending on which town denizen Marcus talks to, Nola was either the sweetest girl ever or someone who did some shocking things (that were not entirely convincing). Nevertheless, her story is a sad one, and Harry’s grief believable.

Dicker offers amusing insights into the publishing world via the ridiculous demands Marcus’s publisher makes on him, while Harry has Marcus rethinking his views on writing:

“Don’t write in order to be read; write in order to be heard.”

Harry also points out to Marcus that:

“The writer’s disease isn’t an inability to write anymore; it’s being incapable of stopping.”

The Harry Quebert Affair is a sprawling novel for mystery lovers and those who appreciate the art of writing. If you fall into either or both categories, you can enter to win a copy, courtesy of Penguin Books.

Enter by leaving me a comment answering this question: Do you ever lament a lost love and if yes, who? As usual, lies are accepted. This is to keep entries interesting; I’ve really enjoyed your creative answers in past giveaways.

Giveaway ends next Friday, June 13, at 9 PST. US addresses only, please. Winner will have 48 hours after notification to respond before an alternate winner is chosen.


Review & Giveaway: THE THREE by Sarah Lotz

This review originally appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers and is reprinted here with permission.

the threeSouth African author Sarah Lotz’s The Three begins on January 12 in 2012—later known as Black Thursday—when four airplanes crash in four different parts of the world, leaving only one child alive from each flight, except for the one that crashes in Africa. The survivors are dubbed The Three in the media, which goes wild with conspiracy theories about how these children survived such devastation.

In the aftermath, the questions become more about how and why they survived and then what they are, for relatives of the children notice they’re not quite the same as they were before the crash. Unexplainable things start happening around them—some good things, some benign, and some creeeepy. Are these children miracles, harbingers of End Times, aliens, or simply traumatized innocents being hounded by the media and gullible masses?

The story is presented as a book within a book, a journalist’s nonfiction tome called Black Thursday: From Crash to Conspiracy that includes interviews and conversations with people connected to the crashes. Lotz writes convincingly in the different voices of the interviewees, men and women of different ethnicities, regions, and walks of life. The sense of dread builds as characters’ paranoia mounts, and some plot twists are shocking. The coincidence of this novel coming so soon after the real-life disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 only adds to the eeriness. The ending may be frustratingly ambiguous for some, but this epic tale shouldn’t be missed. Just don’t read it on a plane.

Nerd verdict: Engrossing Three

Read also my interview with Sarah Lotz here.

Giveaway: The good people at Little, Brown are allowing me to give away one copy of this book to a PCN reader. To enter, leave a comment answering this question: What was the last unexplainable thing that happened to you? As usual, lies are accepted. Got to keep entries interesting, right? US/Canada only.

Giveaway ends next Tuesday, June 3, at 9 p.m. PST. Winner will be randomly selected and have 48 hours to claim prize. Good luck!


Giveaway: SUSPICION by Joseph Finder

I’m excited to say I get to give away three copies of Joseph Finder‘s latest thriller, Suspicion. This is just the first of several fantastic giveaways I’ll be hosting for the next month. If you’ve been a longtime reader here, you know I don’t do giveaways often. I turn down many requests to do them because I only offer you books I’ve liked or ones I want to read.

But some really interesting books are being released in the next few weeks and I want to help put them in your hands. For some reason, my e-mail subscription function isn’t working so you’ll have to keep checking back here or follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or via Bloglovin. (No, this isn’t a ploy to get more followers. Just letting you know the e-mail subscription service has stopped working.)

Anyway, on to Suspicion. Here’s the official description:

suspicionSingle father Danny Goodman would do anything—anything—to protect his teenaged daughter, Abby, from more unhappiness after her mother’s death. Struggling to keep her at the private school she loves, he accepts a favor from an unexpected benefactor: Thomas Galvin, father of Abby’s best friend and one of the wealthiest men in Boston. Galvin offers Danny a loan that would be enough to pay Abby’s tuition and relieve some of Danny’s other financial pressures, and Danny can’t help but be charmed by Galvin’s generosity and kindness.

Danny’s new friend, however, turns out to have some dangerous enemies—including some Federal investigators who think Danny’s in a perfect position to collect evidence against Galvin. The moment Galvin’s loan hits Danny’s account, Danny finds himself trapped into a dangerous undercover assignment that will put both his life and his daughter’s at risk. Danny tells one lie after another to hide more and more secrets, weaving a net that will ultimately require a desperate plan of action.

Suspicion is everything readers expect from a Joseph Finder thriller, and more.

Because this giveaway is in conjunction with Riffle and Dutton Books, the instructions are a little different this time. Click on the link below and fill out the form for your chance to win one of three finished copies. Giveaway ends May 27, when the book will be available in bookstores everywhere. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Giveaway: THE COLD NOWHERE by Brian Freeman

Just popping in to give you a chance to one of three copies of Brian Freeman‘s The Cold Nowhere from Quercus. I haven’t had a chance to read this one yet so the review will come later.

Here’s the description from the author’s website:

cold nowhere coverThe eighth psychological suspense novel by international bestselling author Brian Freeman brings the long-awaited return of Lieutenant Jonathan Stride to the bitter cold of Duluth, Minnesota.

“My mother told me that if there was ever a time in my life when I needed protection, and no one was around for me, I should go to you. Find Mr. Stride, she told me. She said you’d help me.”

As Jonathan Stride returns home to his cottage on the shore of Lake Superior after midnight, he finds a teenage girl hiding in his bedroom. She’s pretty, scared, and soaked to the bone…and she says that someone is trying to kill her. The girl isn’t a stranger to Stride. She’s the daughter of a woman he tried—and failed—to protect from an abusive, murderous ex-husband years earlier.

With the guilt of that failure still hanging over his head, Stride is determined to protect this young girl, Cat Mateo, from a shadowy predator. However, Cat seems to have secrets of her own. She’s led a tough life on the streets; she doesn’t always tell the truth; and she has an unhealthy obsession with knives. Stride’s partner Maggie is convinced that the girl can’t be trusted, and she’s afraid that Stride may be putting himself in danger by letting Cat inside his house.

Wherever Cat goes, death seems to follow. A journalist who interviewed the girl has disappeared. Two more women are found murdered. Stride feels as if he is always one step behind a brutal killer who has Cat in his sights, and as the investigation races ahead, he finds himself on a collision course with another detective—a woman who shared his bed for years: Serena Dial. With all of their fragile relationships hanging in the balance, Stride, Serena, and Maggie must find out why this young girl has been targeted for death – and why a decade-old crime is coming back to life.

Sound good to you? Enter by answering the following question in the comments: What/who is the strangest thing/person you’ve ever found in your bedroom? As usual, lies are accepted. All entries without an answer will be disqualified. If you don’t even want to read all of this post for the instructions, you probably don’t want to read the book that much.

Giveaway ends next Wednesday, April 30, at 9 p.m. PST. Winners will have 48 hours after being notified to claim the prize before alternate winners are chosen.

Good luck! Let me know what funkiness you’ve found in your bedroom!


Book Giveaway: SUSPECT by Robert Crais

suspectHello, dear PCN readers, are you still there?

In case anyone noticed, I have been away for a while, not just from this blog but from home. I spent the last 6 weeks of 2013 on the East Coast visiting different family members, eating extremely well (my daddy can cook!), but also freezing my buns off, which counteracted any weight gain from aforementioned delicious food.

While traveling, I stayed away from blogging and almost all social media activity, and found myself not missing it at all. I loved the real life that was happening: face-to-face conversations, laughter over late-night coffee in my parents’ kitchen, birthday celebrations, actual hugs, and snuggling with my cute-beyond-words niece/goddaughter. But I can’t mooch free food off relatives forever, and my toes threatened to fall off due to frostbite, so it’s back home and back to business.

I’m starting off the year with a giveaway of one of my favorite books from last year, Suspect by Robert Crais. The paperback was released this past Tuesday, and the kind folks at Berkley are allowing me to give away two copies of the paperback to PCN readers. Enter by leaving a comment below, telling me something you suspect will happen for you this year. As usual, lies are accepted; this rule is simply to make comments/entries interesting.

Giveaway ends Friday, January 17, 9 p.m. PST. Winners will be randomly selected and have 48 hours to claim prize before alternate winners are chosen. US addresses only, please. Good luck!


Giveaway: The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

I really enjoyed Liane Moriarty’s What Alice Forgot two years ago, so when Lydia at Putnam Books offered me the chance to host this giveaway of the author’s new novel, The Husband’s Secret (July 30), I thought it’d be a good way to introduce you to Liane’s work.

Here’s the description from her website:

At the heart of The Husband’s Secret is a letter that’s not meant to be read…

My Darling Cecilia, if you’re reading this, then I’ve died…

Imagine your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret—something with the potential to destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others, too. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive . . .

Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all—she’s an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her small community, and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But that letter is about to change everything, and not just for her. Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia—or each other—but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret.

To enter, leave a comment telling me what would be earth shattering for you to discover about someone you know. You can make it up; this is just for fun and to make the entries interesting.

Giveaway ends next Tuesday, July 30, 9 p.m. PST. One winner will be randomly selected and have 48 hours after notification to claim the prize, which will come in a Tupperware container (it’s related to Cecilia’s job; wish I could show you the picture of the packaging but for some reason it won’t upload). US/Canada addresses only.


Giveaway: SUSPECT by Robert Crais

Wow, it’s good to be back. If you visited this site over the past several days, you probably saw a “suspected malware” warning, which was extremely upsetting to me. I hired a company to scan the site, and the problem was my WP software and some other plug-ins and files were outdated. I don’t always upgrade right away because sometimes the new versions are full of bugs (Apple Maps, anyone?), but I’ve updated everything, installed extra security plug-ins, and Google has removed the warning. It’s important for me to make clear I’d NEVER knowingly install or host malware of any kind.

Anyway, on to some good stuff. Thanks to Lydia at Putnam, I get to give away an advance reading copy of Robert Crais’s highly anticipated Suspect, which doesn’t come out until January 22, 2013, but you can have the ARC before Christmas if you’re good. And lucky.

This is a standalone featuring LAPD’s Officer Scott James and his new partner Maggie, a former military working dog retrained for the K-9 platoon. They’ve both suffered on-the-job injuries—physical and emotional ones—and the deaths of their former partners. Together they track the killers of Scott’s previous partner, and learn to trust and heal each other along the way.

I think you will fall in love with Maggie; she made me cry. Crais writes several chapters in Maggie’s POV and, based on my former ownership of a German shepherd, her thoughts and actions seem spot on. The relationship between her and Scott is life-affirming.

For a chance to win the ARC, share an amazing dog story in the comments. Could be about your dog, someone else’s, one you read about, or saw on YouTube. Let’s make this a celebration of our four-legged friends. I’ll take entries only until this Sunday, December 16 at 9 p.m. PST. US addresses only.

As with my other giveaway, please only enter if you can check back to see if you’ve won because I may not get around to contacting you by email. The winner will be randomly chosen, announced here on December 17, and have 48 hours to claim the ARC before I select someone else.

In related news, the Kindle version of L.A. Requiem, a game changer in Crais’s Elvis Cole and Joe Pike series, is on sale for only $1.99. Don’t know how long it’ll stay at that price so grab it now.


Book Giveaway: THE WOMAN WHO DIED A LOT by Jasper Fforde

It’ll probably be at least another week before I get caught up with my life (trying to finish an editing assignment before I leave for Bouchercon tomorrow), but I wanted to pop in to post a fun giveaway.

Yesterday saw the publication of the new installment in Jasper Fforde’s popular Thursday Next series, and the good people at Viking are allowing me to give away one copy.

Check out the official description:

Peppered with illustrations by Dylan Meconis and Bill Mudron, THE WOMAN WHO DIED A LOT takes place over the course of a week in the life of Thursday Next, famous in several dimensions as the Bookworld’s leading enforcement officer. After being forced into semiretirement, thanks to an assassination attempt, Thursday takes what was described to her as a “cushy” job as chief librarian at the Swindon All-You-Can-Eat-at-Fatso’s-Drink Not Included Library.

Thursday’s first week on the job proves to be unusually hectic, even by her high standards. As the library faces 100 percent budget cuts, Thursday struggles to remember why she can’t remember that her third child, Jenny, doesn’t exist, even though “Jenny is a mindworm” is tattooed on the back of her hand.

At home, things aren’t any better: her son Friday faces a loss of purpose after his future career as a time-traveling hero is relegated to “might-have-been” status, and her genius teenage daughter is embroiled in a race against the clock to stop a vengeful god from smiting Swindon at midday Friday. On top of it all, Thursday’s nemesis Jack Schitt has returned and is plotting something even more nefarious than usual.

Interested in getting your hands on this? Enter by leaving a comment about the cushiest job you’ve ever had (or wish you had), something you can’t believe someone gets paid to do. Giveaway ends next Wednesday, October 10, at 9 p.m. PST. US residents only. Winners will be randomly selected and have 48 hours after notification to claim the prize.

Have fun! Make up a cushy job if it doesn’t exist already!