Monday, September 26, 2016

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd - Alan Bradley

Okay, hands up if you've been waiting (and not patiently) for the next entry in Alan Bradley's Flavia de Luce series. Well, the wait is over - the eighth book - Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd has just released. I've devoured it and will be waiting (and not patiently) for the ninth book in this absolutely wonderful series.

Early 1950's. Twelve year old Flavia has been drummed out of Miss Bodycote's Female Academy in Canada and sent packing back to England. She arrives home in time for the Christmas holidays, but much has changed in the few short months she's been gone. But what hasn't changed is Flavia's penchant for finding dead bodies. Or should I say that the bodies find Flavia? On an innocent errand for the vicar's wife, Flavia stumbles across yet another. And her reaction?

"It's amazing what the discovery of a corpse can do for one's spirits."

I'm drawn to the time period, the crumbling mansion the de Luces live in, the small village of Bishop's Lacey, the quirky inhabitants of the village, the characters and the whole idea of a very clever amateur girl detective.

A younger cousin has been introduced in the storylines of the last two books. I'm not completely sure yet how I feel about her (and either is Flavia), but Undine is beginning to grow on me. The enigmatic family retainer, Dogger, is my favourite supporting character, turning up at just the right moment with just the right (or no) words. He sees past the clever front Flavia presents, to the sometimes lonely little girl often left to her own devices. (Did I mention the chemistry lab in the moldering east wing? Flavia is quite adept at poisons....)

Lonely enough that her best friend is Gladys - her bicycle. Flavia often attributes her own feelings and thoughts to Gladys.

"Gladys gave a little squeak of delight. She loved coasting as much as I did, and if there was no one in sight, I might even put my feet up on her handlebars: a bit of bicycle artistry that she loved even more than ordinary free-wheeling."

"Gladys loved to pretend she was being abducted. She was being amusing, I knew, and because it helped pass the time until we reached the road, I did not discourage her."

I enjoy the mysteries that Bradley concocts and this one is fairly complex - woodcarvers, witches, childhood storybooks and more, but it is Flavia that's the main event for me. I love her mind, her deductions and her outlook on life:

"Life with my sister Daffy had taught me that you could tell as much about people by their books as you could by snooping through their diaries - a practice of which I am exceedingly fond and, I must confess, especially adept."

"Thanks to my Girl Guide training, I was able to bluff convincingly when required. All those wet and windy Wednesday evenings spent in cold, drafty parish halls were paying off at last."

"There is an art to staging a convincing accident. It is not as easy as you may think - particularly on short notice. First and foremost, it must look completely natural and spontaneous. Secondly, there must be nothing comical about it, since comedy saps sympathy."

I've said it before and I'll say it again...."Flavia is one of the most endearing, captivating, curious, beguiling, precocious characters I've ever discovered in the pages of a book." I always wanted to be a detective (like Nancy Drew or Harriet the Spy) when I was younger. In Flavia I get to imagine it all over again.

"The world can be an interesting place to a girl who keeps her ears open."

The mystery is solved by the final pages, (and really with Flavia on the case, was there ever any doubt?) and the door has been left open (a bit of a shocking ending really) for the next entry in this series. Each entry in this series answers question, but (happily for this reader) leaves just as many unanswered.

The titles for Bradley's novels are always curiously interesting. This latest, if you've not already recognized it, is a line from the witch's scene in Shakespeare's Macbeth. Double, double, toil and trouble......

Read an excerpt of Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd. I loved it - five stars for this reader!

(And yes, I suppose you could read this as a stand-alone, but I really think you should start at the beginning with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.)

Friday, September 23, 2016

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #124

- 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 am a faithful fan of Lee Child's Jack Reacher novels. (Although I am still having a hard time with Tom Cruise portraying him in the movies) The 23rd book in the series, Night School releases in November on both sides of the pond. The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. The US cover certainly catches your eye with the bright colours. The UK version uses more of an actual scene, which is in keeping with their previous covers shots. In previous cover it's just been a shot of one man. It's interesting that there are a man and a woman on this cover. Hmm, what's up Jack? I am torn this week. In the end I guess I'll go with the US cover simply because its so bright. What about you - any plans to read Night School? Which cover do you prefer? You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World. 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Bookshop on the Corner - Jenny Colgan

Oh, can I tell you how much I enjoy Jenny Colgan's books! A lot - I could happily live in any one of the worlds that Jenny has created in her books.

Her latest North American release is The Bookshop on the Corner - and its my new favourite. (Released in Britain as The Little Shop of Happy-Ever-After - which I prefer as a title.)

What makes this latest my favourite? Books, books, and more books and oh yeah, a bookbus!

Jenny's Message to Readers before you even read the first page sets to the tone and stage for booklovers everywhere. Literally - it's a discussion of where to read - bathtub? Bed? Etc. Colgan's humour and warmth leap off the page. Somewhat - no, just like her writing.

Nina Redmond is a librarian in Birmingham England, happy in her job, connecting readers with just the right book. (And reading as much as she can.)

"Helping to match people to the book that would change their life, or make them fall in love, or get over a love affair gone wrong."

Until her library board decides to 'compress library services, become a hub with a multimedia experience zone, a coffee shop and an intersensory experience." Bottom line? Nina is out of a job. Does she dare to bring her dream of a travelling bookshop to fruition?

She does - and the reader is happily along for the ride as she navigates buying a van, finding books, finding a new home, finding herself and maybe, just maybe, finding love.......

Nina is a wonderful character, someone you would absolutely love to count among your friends. The supporting cast is fun and quirky - notably best friend Surinder - and the residents of Kirrinfief, Scotland. And the two (yes, two) romantic interests - lovely as well.

You certainly don't need to be a librarian to love this book (although if my library decides to downsize, I think a travelling bookshop is a splendid dream job.....) If you think you would enjoy a sweet, delightful, heartwarming story punctuated by books, with a lovely helping of romance, then The Bookshop on the Corner is a match for you. I loved this one - five stars for me. I can't wait for Colgan's next book! Read an excerpt of The Bookshop on the Corner.

Jenny Colgan is the New York Times bestselling author of numerous novels, including Little Beach Street Bakery, Christmas at Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop, and Christmas at the Cupcake Café, all international bestsellers. Jenny is married with three children and lives in London and Scotland.You can connect with Jenny Colgan on her website, find her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Over the Counter #333

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? A pair of memoirs with varying degrees of light....

First up is I Do It With the Lights On by Whitney Way Thore.

From the publisher, Ballantine Books:

"From the star of TLC’s My Big Fat Fabulous Life and the YouTube sensation “A Fat Girl Dancing” comes an empowering memoir about letting go of your limitations and living the life you deserve. Right now.

Whitney Way Thore stands five feet two inches tall and weighs well over three hundred pounds, and she is totally, completely, and truly . . . happy. But she wasn’t always the vivacious, confident woman you see on TV. Growing up as a dancer, Whitney felt the pressure to be thin, a desire that grew into an obsession as she got older. From developing an eating disorder as a teenager, to extreme weight gain in college, to her ongoing struggle with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), Whitney reveals her fight to overcome the darkest moments in her life. She holds nothing back, opening up about the depths of her depression as well as her resilience in the face of constant harassment and mistreatment.

Now Whitney is on top of the world and taking no BS (Body Shame, of course). And she’s sharing the steps she took to get there and the powerful message behind her successful No Body Shame campaign. She even reveals her favorite “F” word (it’s probably not what you think), the thrill of doing it with the lights on, and the story behind the “Fat Girl Dancing” video that started it all.

Exuberant and utterly honest, I Do It with the Lights On is the inspiring story of how Whitney finally discovered her fabulousness when she stepped off the scale and into her life, embracing herself unconditionally—body, heart, and soul."

Next up is Sunny's Nights: Lost and Found at a Bar on the Edge of the World by Tim Sultan.

From the publisher, Random House:

"Imagine that Alice had walked into a bar instead of falling down the rabbit hole. In the tradition of J. R. Moehringer’s The Tender Bar and the classic reportage of Joseph Mitchell, here is an indelible portrait of what is quite possibly the greatest bar in the world—and the mercurial, magnificent man behind it.

The first time he saw Sunny’s Bar, in 1995, Tim Sultan was lost, thirsty for a drink, and intrigued by the single bar sign among the forlorn warehouses lining the Brooklyn waterfront. Inside, he found a dimly lit room crammed with maritime artifacts, a dozen well-seasoned drinkers, and, strangely, a projector playing a classic Martha Graham dance performance. Sultan knew he had stumbled upon someplace special. What he didn’t know was that he had just found his new home.

Soon enough, Sultan has quit his office job to bartend full-time for Sunny Balzano, the bar’s owner. A wild-haired Tony Bennett lookalike with a fondness for quoting Shakespeare and Samuel Beckett, Sunny is truly one of a kind. Born next to the saloon that has been in his family for one hundred years, Sunny has over the years partied with Andy Warhol, spent time in India at the feet of a guru, and painted abstract expressionist originals. But his masterpiece is the bar itself, a place where a sublime mix of artists, mobsters, honky-tonk musicians, neighborhood drunks, nuns, longshoremen, and assorted eccentrics rub elbows. Set against the backdrop of a rapidly transforming city, Sunny’s Nights is a loving and singular portrait of the dream experience we’re all searching for every time we walk into a bar, and an enchanting memoir of an unlikely and abiding friendship."

(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, September 20, 2016

The Perfect Girl - Gilly MacMillan

Gilly MacMillan's first novel, What She Knew, was an Edgar nominated, New York Times Bestseller. Her second novel, The Perfect Girl, is newly released.

Seventeen year old Zoe is a brilliant piano virtuoso. Her mother Maria has nurtured her career from the very beginning.  An accident three years ago ended with one of Zoe's friends dead. But, she's served her time, she and her mother have moved and they have a new family unit. But while giving a concert in their new hometown, a man bursts in ranting and disrupts the event. And six hours later, Maria is dead......

Who killed Maria is the question that needs answering by the end of the book. And there are a few obvious choices. But it is the exploration of the characters, their lives, their thoughts and their reasoning that make The Perfect Girl a 'literary suspense' novel.

There are eight main characters in The Perfect Girl, but only four of them are given a voice with their own chapters. I was surprised at those that were - Tessa and Richard, Zoe's aunt and uncle and Sam, Zoe's previous solicitor.  A fifth, Lucas - Zoe's new stepbrother, we come to know through his film script.

Zoe is driven to be perfect - in her piano playing and in her behavior. After all, this is her Second Chance with her new Second Chance family in their new Second Chance home. It's heartbreaking to read Zoe's chapters, as we learn of her past and the events that lead to that fateful night. But I found her a hard character to actually like. Maria is also driven as well to make everything 'perfect'. Maria is not given a voice and we only learn about her from others - notably her sister Tessa (who seems to be the most reasonable character)  Chris, Maria's new husband, also only becomes known through his actions and dialogue described by others. (But he's a real piece of work) It was Uncle Richard that I was drawn to the most, despite his spectacular lack of perfection. I understand Sam's inclusion in the book, but felt he was quite removed from the 'main event'.

These are all fractured people with fractured lives and secrets, some holding it together better than others. It was hard to really like any of them, but as a 'removed' observer, I was caught up in their turmoil. The final whodunit isn't the ending I had predicted, but seems, well, just perfect. Read an excerpt of The Perfect Girl.

"Gilly Macmillan is the Edgar Nominated and New York Times bestselling author of What She Knew. She grew up in Swindon, Wiltshire and lived in Northern California in her late teens. She worked at The Burlington Magazine and the Hayward Gallery before starting a family. Since then she's worked as a part-time lecturer in photography, and now writes full-time. She resides in Bristol, England." You can find Gilly MacMillan on her website, like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter. See what others on the TLC book tour thought. Full schedule can be found here.

I received this book for review from HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Giveaway- Between Breaths - Elizabeth Vargas

'I've got an absolutely inspiring, honest memoir and giveaway for you today.

Between Breaths: A Memoir of Panic and Addiction by Elizabeth Vargas has just released.

From Grand Central Publishing:

"From the moment she uttered the brave and honest words, "I am an alcoholic," to interviewer George Stephanopoulos, Elizabeth Vargas began writing her story, as her experiences were still raw. Now, in Between Breaths, Vargas discusses her accounts of growing up with anxiety-which began suddenly at the age of six when her father served in Vietnam-and how she dealt with this anxiety as she came of age, to her eventually turning to alcohol for relief. She tells of how she found herself living in denial, about the extent of her addiction and keeping her dependency a secret for so long. She addresses her time in rehab, her first year of sobriety, and the guilt she felt as a working mother who had never found the right balance.

Honest and hopeful, Between Breaths is an inspiring read. Elizabeth Vargas is the Co-anchor of 20/20 on ABC News. She resides in Manhattan with her two children."

Read an excerpt of Between Breaths.  If you'd like to read Between Breaths, enter to win one of two copies I have to giveaway using the Rafflecopter form below. Open to US and Canada. Ends October 1/16.

Friday, September 16, 2016

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #123

- 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 read everything that Emma Donoghue has written - and loved them all. I knew she had a new book coming and placed my hold at the library without even reading the synopsis. I've just read it now and am even more eager to read her new book The Wonder. The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. Two quite different covers this week. Both dark in tone. But I think that I prefer the US cover. That antique spoon just appeals to me and I wonder what the story behind it might be. The UK cover is quite fanciful with the gold. The title underneath the ground and a tree must have some significance as well to the story. Do you have any plans to read The Wonder? 
Which cover do you prefer? 
You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.

Inkspirations: Fruit of the Spirit - illustrated by Lorrie Bennett - Review AND Giveaway

Do you colour? I loved to colour as a child. I was somewhat sceptical when adult colouring books became a 'thing'. But then I tried it - and discovered that I still enjoyed it very much. And yes, I found it relaxing!

Inkspirations Fruit of the Spirit: Coloring Designs to Nourish You with Love, Joy, Faith, Peace and More with illustrations by Lorrie Bennett is my latest colouring book.

Spirit is a faith based colouring book, with each line drawing accompanied by a quote from the scriptures. Words to ponder as you colour. Words everyone can take to heart and live by. Bennett's illustrations perfectly complement the quotes.

When I was young, I was a 'don't go out of the lines' colourer (is that even a word?). I wanted my finished product to be perfect. And I would colour the pages in order. Well, I'm way beyond that now - if I slip a bit, it doesn't bother me. Now, I just jump in, picking a page and colours that appeal to me. My effort is on the right here.

For those of you who would like a little direction, the first few pages discuss colouring tips and tools, how to choose colours, colours that harmonize and picking your palette. The binding allows the pages to lay flat, but the pages are also perforated, allowing for easy tear-out.

Spirit is just one in a line of colouring books from HCI Books. Check out the entire line of colouring books as well as their greeting cards.  HCI  Books also has a private labeling program for an Inkspirations coloring book designed personally for your organization. You can find Inkspirations on their website and follow them on Facebook and share your work on their Instagram.

"Lorrie Bennett is blessed to live her life as an artist, crafter, teacher, graphic designer, and best of all, a mother. She is passionate about the divine inspiration that is the source of her creativity, and the happiness and beauty that it can bring to others."

See what others on the TLC book tour thought - full schedule can be found here. And if you'd like a copy of Inkspirations: Fruit of the Spirit for yourself, enter to win a copy using the Rafflecopter form below. Open to US only. Ends October 1/16.