Monday, November 30, 2015

Keeping Christmas - Dan Walsh

Dan Walsh's new (and timely) book is Keeping Christmas.

I love reading Christmas fiction in the weeks leading up to December 25th. Keeping Christmas was especially timely for me.

Judith and Stan Winters are empty nesters. But, for the first time, none of their three children can make it home for the holidays - Thanksgiving or Christmas. This affects Judith greatly - she has no interest in putting up a tree, listening to Christmas music or any of their usual traditions. Stan is not as affected - but he is worried about Judith as weeks go by and she is still uninspired - and depressed. Supportive friends Betty and Barney are also concerned.

Walsh has penned a story with it's roots in reality. It is incredibly hard to celebrate when family is scattered across the country. (Personally I thank goodness for Facetime!)

Through Judith's story, Walsh explores finding your Christmas spirit despite disappointments, finding new ways to celebrate and connect and thinking of others.

"What he did say was for those who loved the holidays to be mindful of those who found it harder to celebrate, and to do what they could to cheer them up. And he urged those who struggle to try to keep their minds on the 'reason for the season' rather than focusing on all the things that tend to bring them down during the holidays." Good words to take to heart.

Without giving much away, Keeping Christmas is also a love story and an exploration of friendship and family.

Keeping Christmas won't overly surprise you - the plot is somewhat telegraphed. What it will provide is food for thought, perfect for contemplating the coming holidays and how each of us can reach out and share the Christmas spirit.

It's a quick, easy read, at just over 200 pages. A heartfelt, heart-warming read, with a bit of a fairy tale ending.  Read an excerpt of Keeping Christmas.

Friday, November 27, 2015

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #81

- You can't judge a book by its cover - which is very true. 
 But you can like one cover version better than another.....

US cover
UK cover
Lisa Gardner's new book Find Her releases in February 2016. I've enjoyed her writing and will most likely pick this one up too. Now let's talk covers...The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. No contest for me this week - I am not a fan of the disjointed face on the US cover at all. So UK for me this week - although it's not a standout either. Do you plan on reading Find Her? Which cover do you prefer? You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular Saturday feature
 at A Bookworm's World.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Over the Counter #291

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? I've given up processed sugar, but looking at cookbooks satisfies my sweet tooth... or eye?...

First up is Get Your Bake On: Sweet and Savory Recipes from My Home to Yours by Brian Emmett.

From the publisher, Simon and Schuster:

"Cook up some delicious, down-home goodness with this cookbook of more than seventy-five sweet and savory recipes from Brian Emmett, grand prize winner of CBS’s The American Baking Competition.

In 2013, Brian Emmett burst onto the culinary scene with his charm, confidence, and superior baking and cooking skills on season one of The American Baking Competition. He won over the hearts of Americans nationwide, who watched this enthusiastic husband and father immerse himself in his passion—and, ultimately, take home the illustrious title of “Top Amateur Baker.”

Now, in Get Your Bake On, Brian shares over seventy-five recipes that leave no doubt as to why he was crowned champion on the show. This cookbook encompasses a hearty mixture of The American Baking Competition favorites, brand-new concoctions, and Emmett family recipes passed down through generations. Staying true to the show’s theme, there are plenty of sweets: From miniature tarts to his famous Cakey Chocolate Chip Cookie, Brian’s baked goods are sure to satisfy even the most demanding of sweet tooths. But Get Your Bake On also features a strong savory element with classic, feel-good recipes such as Sunday Brunch Strada and Beef Chili with Buttermilk Cornbread.

So grab a spoon, America—Brian’s back, and he’s ready to dish!"

Next up is Milk Bar Life: Recipes and Stories by Christina Tosi.

From the publisher, Clarkson Potter:

"Go off the clock with Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar as she bakes one-bowl treats, grills with skills, and embraces simple, nostalgic—and often savory—recipes made from supermarket ingredients.

For anyone addicted to crack pie®, compost cookies®, and cake truffles, here are their savory counterparts—such as Kimcheezits with Blue Cheese Dip, Burnt Honey–Butter Kale with Sesame Seeds, and Choose Your Own Adventure Chorizo Burgers—along with enough make-at-home sweets to satisfy a cookie-a-day habit. Join Christina and friends as they cook their way through “weaknights,” sleepovers, and late-night snack attacks to make mind-blowingly delicious meals with whatever is in the pantry.

(Over the Counter is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World. I've sadly come the realization that I cannot physically read every book that catches my interest as it crosses over my counter at the library. But... I can mention them and maybe one of them will catch your eye as well. See if your local library has them on their shelves!)

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Splinter the Silence - Val McDermid

Splinter the Silence is the newest (and ninth) entry in Val McDermid's Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series. (one of my favourite crime/detective series)

Splinter the Silence picks up a few months after the end of the last book Cross and Burn. (my review)

After a catastrophic case, ex-DCI Carol Jordan left the force and took refuge in restoring her dead brother's home. She's also taking refuge more and more in excessive drinking. Criminal psychologist and profiler Dr. Tony Hill is worried - very worried about Carol. Fate - and Tony - intercede and maybe, just maybe Carol has the chance to again prove why she's a brilliant DCI.

McDermid opens Splinter the Silence with the antagonist's thoughts...(and I was hooked immediately)

"Weekends were best. It was easy to avoid working then. So it was easier to watch the women he was interested in. Mostly they didn't go to work then either, so he had a chance to observe their routines and work out the best way to kill them."

McDermid uses a very current issue as the basis of her plot - on line bullying by trolls. Tony isn't looking for a case, but a recent spate of suicides just feels wrong to him. "Years of working alongside Tony had instilled in her an understanding that odd was often where the answers started." Familiar recurring members from previous books are assembled as they attempt to reunify as a team and discover if the deaths are suicide - or murder. Of course, as readers we know the answer but the thrill is in following the team's progress.

McDermid's plotting is always inventive and she is a master of the police procedural. But for this reader, it is the characters that draw me back time and time again. I truly had no idea where McDermid could take this series after the ending of the last book. I enjoy each and every player, but it is Tony and Carol's storyline is the one that intrigues me the most. It's real and raw - I sometimes feel like an interloper, inadvertently intruding on someone's private conversations and grief. Their relationship progresses two steps forward and one step back. Stacey is given a louder voice in this outing and the addition of two new players looks promising for future entries.

Splinter the Silence is brought to a satisfying end...but then McDermid throws in one last twist guaranteed to whet the reader's appetite for the next book in this absolutely wonderful series. Highly recommended.

Although you can read any of this series as a stand alone, I heartily recommend starting at the beginning with  the first book, The Mermaids Singing. A television series - Wire in the Blood - is also based on these characters. You can find Val McDermid on Twitter and on Facebook as well.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Stranger Child - Rachel Abbott

Stranger Child is the fourth book in Rachel Abbott's DCI Tom Douglas series.

I only discovered this series and author recently when I listened to the third book, Sleep Tight. I enjoyed Abbott's lead character and plotting and wanted to see what was next for Tom.

In Stranger Child, David Joseph lost his first wife and daughter in a car accident six years ago.  His wife was killed - but his six year old daughter Natasha simply disappeared. Seven years on, David is married again to Emma and has a new baby boy.

And then one day, when Emma is in the kitchen, a teenager appears behind her - and doesn't say a word. Could it be......Tasha? It is. But she won't speak, won't say where she's been and why she was able to simply reappear. While her father is overjoyed to see her, she makes Emma very, very nervous. David seems satisfied with not knowing, but Emma decides to contact her old friend DCI Tom Douglas.

I really liked Emma as a character. David - not so much. My thoughts on Natasha changed and evolved as the book progressed. Abbott manipulates the listener well, adding another piece, another revelation as the book progresses.

Abbot has penned an ambitious plot, with many twists and turns and lots of action.  I was completely caught up in wondering about the last seven years of Tasha's life. There were a few plot points that stretched credulity for me  - David not immediately calling the police when his daughter returned, no one taking her to the doctor and a few more. But.....the story is absolutely a page turner. I had my suspicions on the outcome, but was only proved partially right. Some previous loose threads from a secondary plot in Sleep Tight are tied up in Stranger Child. Well, not quite 100% - the door is open for the next entry in this series. I'll be listening.

The reader was Lisa Coleman, a different narrator from book three. I quite liked Coleman's voice. She has a strong, matter of fact kind of tone to her speaking voice. She easily conveyed male and female characters with her voice - I thought her characterization of each was distinct, suited and was easily identifiable. Coleman has a nice little gravelly undertone to her voice that is pleasant to listen to. My one suggestion would be to stick with one reader going forward to build continuity in future books.  Listen to an excerpt of Stranger Child.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Lake House - Kate Morton

Kate Morton has done it again - her latest release, The Lake House, is an absolutely fantastic read.

I was hooked from the opening page...

1933. "Back when it first happened she'd considered confessing, and perhaps, in the beginning, she might have. She'd missed her chance though and now it was too late. Too much had happened: the search parties, the policemen, the articles in the newspapers pleading for information. There was no one she could tell, no way to fix it, no way they would ever forgive her. The only thing left was to bury the evidence."

What happened? Who is speaking?

Morton again employs a then and now narrative from 1933 to the current 2003. (I love this format - but it keeps me up very late reading 'just one more chapter'!)  One of the main characters is writer Alice Edevane, who pens "crime novels reviewers liked to describe as 'psychologically taut' and 'morally ambiguous whydunits' as much as they were whos or hows." But, the greatest mystery in Alice's life is what happened to her wee brother Theo in 1933. Alice now makes her home in London, but still owns the Edevane family's Cornwall country house, unlived in for over seventy years. Detective Sadie Sparrow is on forced leave from the London force and retreats to her grandfather's home in Cornwall. While on a run, she stumbles across the abandoned estate deep in the woods.

Delicious, delicious premise!

Morton transports us back to 1933, a time of innocence, a time of  stricter social mores, a time where duty and responsibility took precedence, a time where 'things' were kept quiet and secrets were born. Morton's description of the country estate, Loeanneth, the rooms, the halls, the grounds - and the lake house, were vivid and detailed, creating a rich backdrop for the events that take place. And in seventy years, we see the estate through the eyes of Sadie. The grounds seem to echo and exude the memories of the family and its past glory. "Something niggled about this place. An odd feeling had come over her since she'd climbed through the gate, an inexplicable sense of things being not quite right."

The characters were just as richly drawn. I had a strong mental image of every character, no matter how minor their role. (I must admit to Alice being my favourite.)

And then there's the plotting. Brilliant. The past is slowly revealed in the 1933 chapters, with bits and pieces being added as the book progresses. Morton has the reader thinking one way, then changes direction with each new revelation added. In the present, that same past is being just as slowly uncovered. The reader is lucky enough to be privy to both stories - we know more that Alice and Sadie. Or do we? I was quite sure I could predict where and what the endgame would be - and I'm happy to say I was wrong. Along with the intensely intricate plot Morton has woven, a secondary theme of mothers and motherhood is explored.

As Sadie says..."there was nothing as thrilling as unravelling a puzzle, particularly one like this..." The Lake House is absolutely, positively recommended - it's one of my fave reads for 2015. Read an excerpt of The Lake House. 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #80

- You can't judge a book by its cover - which is very true.
 But you can like one cover version better than another.....

US cover
UK cover
Tami Hoag's latest in the Kovac and Liska series releases in January in the US and March in the UK. The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. Both covers have a 'cold' feel that seems to suit the title. Different leaves. The font and style on the UK cover is more 'dangerous' looking and suggest a crime novel more than the US cover. But I'm not a fan of the purple. US for me this week. What about you? Will you be reading The Bitter Season? Which cover do you prefer?
You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular Saturday feature
 at A Bookworm's World.