Friday, July 22, 2016

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #115

- 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
I've not read Michael Koryta before, but his new book, Rise the Dark is on my TBR list. Two very different looks this week. The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right.  I like the colours of the US cover, but I'm really over the 'girl looking back over her shoulder' shot. (although is is a part of the plot)I would have picked it up to read the flyleaf without the girl on the cover. It seems a bit more sensationalistic than the UK cover. But, I'm going to go with the UK cover this week. I like the stark, black and white look, the empty road and the figure in black. Have you read Michael Koryta before? Which cover do you prefer? You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Dark Matter - Blake Crouch

Praise from some of my favourite authors (Lee Child, Harlan Coben and Justin Cronin) had me eager to dive into Blake Crouch's new novel, Dark Matter.

And if that wasn't enough, this description from the publisher, sealed the deal.

" “Are you happy with your life?” Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious. Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits. Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”"

I love this type of storyline - an everyday person thrown into an extraordinary situation - with no idea who, what, where and why. I can't wait to dig in find the answers alongside the main character. Crouch's writing easily draws the reader in - and then keeps them captivated until the last page is turned.

The publisher has suspense/thriller and science fiction as genres for Dark Matter. But, if you're thinking, oh I don't like sci-fi, think again. It doesn't define the book completely. Yes, there are some mind bending theories to wrap your head around, but there's action, suspense, twists and yes - a love story. I know eh? Heck of a mix. But Crouch makes it really, really work.

I want to be somewhat vague in describing the plot - I'll just say this - multiverse vs. universe. Uh, huh, the possibilities are endless.....and had me wondering what if?

I raced through Dark Matter, totally caught up in Jason Dessen's world and desperate race to find answers and resolution. Five stars for this one!  Read an excerpt of Dark Matter.

Crouch has also penned the Wayward Pines books, made into a Fox television series, that I really enjoyed as well. (Can't wait for season two.) Dark Matter would also make a great series or feature film. You can connect with Blake Crouch his website, and follow him on Twitter.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Over the Counter #324

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Two for the crocheters in the crowd this week.....

First up is Twinkie Chan's Crocheted Abode a la Mode: 20 Yummy Crochet Projects for Your Home.

From Creative Publishing International:

"Crochet the cutest food-themed home goods you'll ever see with Twinkie Chan's new book of patterns!

Crochet designer and craft superstar Twinkie Chan is back with her highly anticipated book Crocheted Abode a la Mode: 20 Yummy Crochet Projects for Your Home. This is the follow-up to Chan's first book, which featured food-inspired crocheted accessories. In Crocheted Abode a la Mode, Chan unveils twenty new food-themed crochet patterns for crafters to follow as they crochet their living space into a cozier, yummier place. The book is organized according to rooms in your house: kitchen and dining, living and lounging, bath and beauty, and home office.

Helpful diagrams, step-by-step instructions, and colorful photos help crocheters of all skill levels create Chan's cute and cozy home decor pieces. Readers are guaranteed to find several adorable, food-forward patterns to bring to life with their crochet hooks--everything from giant donut floor poufs to sweet honeybear aprons to savory corn dog pen cozies.

Chan's signature style is cute, colorful, food-themed, and always functional, which highlights an attribute she likes to call "cute-tility." Her fun, unique designs are inspired by Japanese kawaii (cute) culture as well as her childhood collection of faux food toys. Her patterns appeal to crafters of all ages, and her warm, conversational writing style welcomes them into her cozy crocheted world, encouraging everyone to get creative. So, what are you waiting for? Let the fun unravel!

Now, my library does not own this one, but it seemed apropo. Next up is Animal Heads: Trophy Heads to Crochet by Vanessa Mooncie.

From The GMC Group:

"This amazing collection of trophy animal heads to crochet will be a stunning addition to any home. Inside this colourful book there are 10 fabulous trophy animals to choose from. Simply place above the fireplace for a great conversation piece or on a child’s bedroom wall for a playful decoration. The projects vary in level of complexity and there is a comprehensive techniques section to help you learn all the necessary skills. Each project includes beautifully drawn crochet charts and detailed instructions. Projects include: hare, mouse, ram, bear, stag and zebra."

(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!)

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Trap - Melanie Raabe - Review AND Giveaway

The Trap is Melanie Raabe's debut novel. The tagline on the cover is a great invitation to open up the book and read more..."I know who killed my sister. I wrote this book for him."

Author Linda Conrads has not left her house in eleven years. The death of her sister was incredibley traumatic - she was brutally murdered in her own home - and Linda saw the man as he fled the house. The killer was never apprehended. Linda has retreated..."It's not a wide world, my world, but it is safe. At least that's what I thought."

While watching the news on television one evening, Linda is stunned - she has immediately recognized the murderer on the screen. Unable to leave her house, she is determined to catch the killer with the only power she has - the written word. Linda Conrads' newest book will mirror the circumstances and details of the actual case - and draw out the murderer.

Or will it? As her plan comes to fruition, Linda is now not as sure as she was and she begins to doubt her memories -  and her sanity.

Oh, my goodness, does Raabe play with the reader. I was on board with Linda and her idea to expose the crime through her book. (Linda's parallel book is within the pages of The Trap. As the book progresses, we learn more of the past) But then, Raabe turns things upside down. Our narrator may not be as reliable as we initially believed. I love unreliable main characters, trying to decide what's real, right and the truth as I read. Raabe turns things around more than once as the book progresses. There's a lovely little cat and mouse game between Linda and the alleged murderer. Hmm, makes the title The Trap even more apropos.

I did however, find some of  the plot devices a bit of a stretch. Linda never confides in her friends, never talks to police about her suspicions, but instead devises a plan that will take quite a while to execute - she needs to first write a book. But it is a novel idea. (yes, pun intended )  I was drawn in by Linda's history, story and quest, but only as a removed, impartial witness - I never really connected personally with her and her grief and guilt.

The word thriller has been attached to the promotion of The Trap. I myself found it to be more of a slow building plot, drawing on alternate scenarios and answers, before making its way to the final reveal.

Read an excerpt of The Trap. Sony Pictures has already picked up the film rights for The Trap.

Melanie Raabe was born in 1981 and grew up in a small village in former East Germany. After studying media and literature, she went on to become a magazine editor, freelance journalist, writer, and stage actor. While juggling several jobs by day, she wrote at night, crafting two plays and THE TRAP, which is her debut novel. Melanie Raabe currently lives in Cologne and loves the stage, traveling, cooking, bungee jumping, tattoos, indie rock, and cats. You can connect with Melanie on Twitter.

If you'd like to read The Trap, I have two copies to giveaway. Enter using the Rafflecopter form below. Open to US and Canada, ends July 30/16. 

Giveaway - Orchard - Jack H. Bailey

Here's a great giveaway today for readers who like historical fiction - Orchard by Jack H. Bailey.

From the publisher:

"This much is true. It's 1899. Harry Orchard is a member of the fire-breathing Western Federation of Miners. While other members labor underground to harvest the riches of the earth, Orchard is paid to kill men who are a problem for the union. He's an interesting killer, well-liked by his peers and by the ladies.

After years of cat-and-mouse pursuit by legendary Pinkerton, Charles Siringo, when he's arrested in 1906 for the murder of Idaho's former Governor, Frank Steunenberg, he's killed nineteen men in Idaho and Colorado. Even today, in the silver mining towns of northern Idaho, his name is spoken in whispers by those familiar with his deeds." Read an excerpt of Orchard.

"Descended from gold miners, Jack H. Bailey grew up in and around the locales frequented by Harry Orchard. It was while living in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, that his fascination with Orchard began. Jack joined the Navy at 17 and served in WWII aboard the aircraft carrier USS Lexington until she was sunk in the Battle of the Coral Sea. He graduated from USC with a BA in English and spent 16 years in aerospace during which time he wrote two critically praised novels, The Number Two Man and The Icarus Complex. Jack wrote prolifically until his death in 2010. Most notably, Jack was an annual participant in the prestigious Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting, sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and was one of only a handful of writers to have advanced in the competition seven times."

If you'd like to read Orchard, enter to win a copy using the Rafflecopter form below. 
Open to US only, ends July 30/16.

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Last One - Alexandra Oliva

I always get a little tingle when I realize after the first few pages of a new book that I'm not going to be able to put it down. That's exactly what happened with Alexandra Oliva's debut novel The Last One. I started it early on a Sunday morning and read straight through to the end (somewhat delaying our afternoon plans....)

Admit it, you've watched at least one episode of a reality television show. (There's lots to choose from!)  In The Last One, Oliva has twelve contestants participating in a remote wilderness challenge, seeing how far they can push themselves.

"That's the whole idea behind the show, after all - to break the contestants. Though the twelve who entered the ring were told that it's about survival. That it's a race. All true, but. Even the title they were told was a deception. Subject to change, as the fine print read."

Oliva nicely skewers reality tv, with the producer and editor's comments, the cheesy host, the dehumanizing of the participants by giving them descriptors as names - Waitress, Tracker, Black Doctor, Zoo, Biology and others. It's only the contestants themselves who use their real names. The manipulation of what has been filmed, presenting the storyline they want viewers to see. "All they care about is that the viewers watch to the end." Chat room responses to the show reinforce this.

But while they're removed from society, something happens. Some sort of deadly pathogen strikes the country. While some participants realize this, others don't - they still believe they're on the show - and that the cameras are still rolling. Zoo is one of those who has no idea. The reader walks along with Zoo, who is determined not to quit - she is going to be the last one standing.

We know something has happened and see Zoo's thoughts and choices through that knowledge and question her logic. But seen through her eyes, her choices make sense. She is in survival mode - both physically and mentally.

"I had no idea it would be like this. They didn't say anything about a fake pandemic or props shaped like dead people. About animatronics or feral cats. Empty towns and abandoned children. They didn't say anything about being so alone for so long."

Dystopian/apocalyptic novels are a favourite of mine and Oliva has put a delicious spin on hers. I really liked Zoo as a character (her real name is only mentioned once). Her determination, resilience and stamina to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Oliva's imagining of her journey totally captured me - who knows what's around the next bend, what she will face, if she'll survive. There was no way to predict where the story was going to go and I was on the edge of my seat for most of the book.

Oliva ends the book on a great turn. I had wondered how she could finish off such a great read, but she surprised me. The ending was just right. The Last One is absolutely one of my favourite reads this year. Read an excerpt of The Last One.

You can connect with Alexandra Oliva on her website, follow her on Twitter and find her on Facebook. I can't wait to see what she writes next.

Friday, July 15, 2016

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #114

- 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
I've got Lisa Jewell's new book, The Girls in the Garden on hold at the library. Jojo Moyes liked it and there was an 'if you liked Paula Hawkins' reference. But when I went looking for a comparison cover this week, I discovered that the same book was called only 'The Girls'. I wonder why that is? So, US cover on the left and UK cover on the the right. Easy choice for me this week. I like the ivy covered mansion - these kind of shots always bring hidden secrets to mind. The UK cover looks far too juvenile to me, given the premise. But as always, there's a great tagline. Which cover do you prefer?
Any plans to read this book?
You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.

Miracles From Heaven - Sony Home Entertainment

I'd heard about  Christy Wilson Beam's book when it crossed over the library counter. I had a quick glance at it as I signed it out for a patron, but never got around to reading it myself. But, when the chance to view the movie of Miracles From Heaven was offered, I happily accepted.

Based on true events, Miracles From Heaven tells the story of Annabel Beam - a young girl suffering from a rare digestive disease. An accidental fall finds Annabel miraculously cured after her rescue.

One of my favourite actresses, Jennifer Garner, plays mom Christy in the movie. I just like Garner, her acting, her choice of roles and her genuineness. I thought she was a great choice for the lead in this film. The rest of the casting was great as well - Queen Latifah is always a treat, Martin Henderson as Kevin Beam conveyed his unwavering support and faith perfectly. Kylie Rogers as Anna does a great job - she has such an expressive face and eyes. John Carroll Lynch was inspiring as Pastor Scott.

I was crying in the first half hour of the film, saddened by Anna's plight, Christy's frustration with the medical community who took forever to diagnose her condition and empathizing with having a sick child.

Miracles From Heaven is yes, about a miracle - but it's also about faith. Faith is a large part of the Beam family's life. But, Christy loses her faith when Anna falls ill, unable to understand how God would let a child fall so ill. Remarks and reactions from some of the congregation have her refusing to attend church. She finds herself unable to even pray. Kevin and the other two daughters hold fast in their belief - as does Anna. She herself never wavers - knowing there is more. There are some great conversations and scenes that explore belief and some of those hard questions.

Miracles From Heaven is an extraordinary story, offering the viewer a chance to reaffirm their belief in a higher power, or an opportunity to explore the idea that yes, miracles do exist. There's a great quote from Albert Einstein used in the film:

"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." Uh, huh, take a second look around you .....

There's some great music in the film as well - particularly in the church scenes featuring the band Third Day. And for a sneak peek at the movie, check out the trailer below. Great family viewing too.

"Movie has been provided courtesy of Sony Entertainment Canada and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc."

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Here's to Us - Elin Hilderbrand

My beach bag reading list wouldn't be complete without the latest Elin Hilderbrand novel. This summer's new title is Here's to Us.

Hilderbrand takes us back to her favourite setting - Nantucket. Her descriptions of the island and locale make me want to visit - or better yet - live in a lovely old wooden cottage by the ocean.

One of those cottages has been the vacation home of one man, Deacon Thorpe -  and over the years - his three wives and children. But with Deacon's death, the three women and their families have gathered at the cottage to spread Deacon's ashes.

They may have all loved Deacon, but they can't stand each other. This forced togetherness brings up the past both good and bad.

It took me a few chapters to put all the characters in their place - who was who, who was related etc. Once I had that down, I formed an attachment with some - first wife Lauren, adopted daughter Angie from marriage number two and local guide JP. I was torn on how I felt about Deacon - he was a conflicted man, but loved his children. Wives two and three (Scarlet and Belinda) were horrid, vapid, vindictive and shallow. Supporting male characters were a mixed bag. I was confused by Deacon's best friend Buck's actions - his long time attraction to Laurel is thrown away for a few minutes of sex with one of the other exes. I found this somewhat jarring and not what I expected from Hilderbrand.

But without having characters that aren't likable, we wouldn't have the tension, recriminations, secrets and ultimately at the end, a form of resolution. I'm sure that some of Hilderbrand's situations are not that far from the truth for some. Food plays a part as well, with many of Deacon's recipes included.

Here's to Us is a good escapist beach read, but I've enjoyed other Hilderbrand novels more. Read an excerpt of Here's to Us.  You can connect with Elin Hilderbrand on her website, find her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.