Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Natchez Burning - Greg Iles

I've read everything Greg Iles has ever written - he's an incredibly talented wordsmith. His novels are all quite different but with one similarity - they're addicting reads. (And bestsellers as well)

His latest book Natchez Burning has just released and it's an absolutely fantastic read - easily his best novel yet. It's been a while coming - Iles nearly died in an auto accident five years ago.

Natchez Burning is the fourth book to feature lawyer Penn Cage, now the mayor of Natchez, Mississippi.

Present day - Penn's father, Tom, the town doctor for over fifty years has been accused of murdering a black woman who was his nurse in the 1960's. Tom is known and loved by all of his patients, black and white. And Tom knows his father - there's no way he would have done such a thing. Penn is determined to clear Tom's name - even as Tom refuses to rise to his own defense. Penn's search for answers takes him back to...

"...1964, with three murders. Three stones cast into a pond no one had cared about since the siege of Vicksburg, but which was soon to become the centre of the world's attention. A place most people in the United States like to think was somehow different from the rest of the country, but which was in fact the very incarnation of America's tortured soul. Mississippi."

A splinter group of the Klan, calling themselves the Double Eagles, has been operating in Natchez for over fifty years, manipulating, controlling, killing and conspiring in this southern State. They're driven by hate and greed, with no intention of ever stopping. But Violet's death is the tipping point. Secrets buried and kept for a half century threaten to take down anyone and everyone - black and white.

Where to start? Each and every character Iles brings to the page is fully developed and the reader can't help but become engaged (or disgusted) with every player. I've been a fan of Penn Cage from the first book, but found other favourites in Natchez Burning. I quiet enjoyed Tom, described as Atticus Finch with a medical degree. Iles explores the relationship between Penn and his father, as every belief he holds about Tom is put to the test in Natchez Burning. But my favourite was Henry, the newspaper reporter who has been pursuing the Double Eagles for many years.

"Fate doesn't let men choose their wars. Or even their battles, sometimes. But one resolute man can sometime accomplish remarkable things against overwhelming odds."

Although Penn is the main voice of this novel, other characters are given a turn and we see the past and present from many differing views. Natchez Burning does not shy away from the violence that is the truth of this time and place. Gentle readers, there are some disturbing scenes and descriptions that may not be for you. Iles based his novel on actual events that occurred in Ferriday, Louisiana. Read the article from Stanley Nelson here. Or visit the Civil Rights Cold Case Project.

I loved the cover as well. Those heavy grey clouds hanging over the town, with the red simmering and a small glimmer from that one cloud. Kudos to the art department on this one. It perfectly captures the story within.

And that story is powerful, gripping, thrilling, sweeping and simply spectacular - 800+ pages that flew by for this reader. Absolutely, positively recommended.  Natchez Burning is the first of a trilogy. I'll be waiting and watching for the second book - The Bone Tree. Read an excerpt of Natchez Burning.

"Greg Iles spent his youth in Natchez, Mississippi, and studied the American novel under acclaimed southern writer Willie Morris at the University of Mississippi. His first novel, Spandau Phoenix, was the first of thirteen New York Times bestsellers, and his new trilogy continues the story of Penn Cage, protagonist of The Quiet Game, Turning Angel, and #1 New York Times bestseller The Devil's Punchbowl. Iles's novels have been made into films and published in more than thirty-five countries. He is a member of the lit-rock group the Rock Bottom Remainders and lives in Natchez with his two teenage children." You can find Greg Iles on Twitter and on Facebook.


See what others on the TLC book tour thought - full schedule can be found here.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Giveaway - Ladies' Night Goody Bag - Mary Kay Andrews

Today is the paperback release date of Mary Kay Andrews' book Ladies' Night!  (A great addition for this year's beach bag reading) And I have a signed copy - and a whole lot more to giveaway!

Think you'd enjoy reading Ladies' Night? Here's the synopsis, from the publisher St. Martin's Griffin.

"Take a splash of betrayal, add a few drops of outrage, give a good shake to proper behavior and take a big sip of a cocktail called…Ladies' Night!

Grace Stanton’s life as a rising media star and beloved lifestyle blogger takes a surprising turn when she catches her husband cheating and torpedoes his pricey sports car straight into the family swimming pool.  Grace suddenly finds herself locked out of her palatial home, checking account, and even the blog she has worked so hard to develop in her signature style.  Moving in with her widowed mother, who owns and lives above a rundown beach bar called The Sandbox, is less than ideal.  So is attending court-mandated weekly "divorce recovery" therapy sessions with three other women and one man for whom betrayal seems to be the only commonality.  When their “divorce coach” starts to act suspiciously, they decide to start having their own Wednesday "Ladies' Night" sessions at The Sandbox, and the unanticipated bonds that develop lead the members of the group to try and find closure in ways they never imagined.  Can Grace figure out a new way home and discover how strong she needs to be to get there? .

Heartache, humor, and a little bit of mystery come together in a story about life’s unpredictable twists and turns.  Mary Kay Andrews' Ladies' Night will have you raising a glass and cheering these characters on."  Read an excerpt of Ladies' Night. The audio version of Ladies Night sounds good too - watch for my reivew. Listen to an excerpt of Ladies' Night.
 
 You can keep up with Mary Kay Andrews on Facebook and on Twitter.

And here's a list of what will be in the fabulous goody bag:
 
Signed copy of LADIES' NIGHT in paperback
Set of 3 LADIES' NIGHT recipe cards
LADIES' NIGHT drink coasters
Cocktail umbrella
LADIES' NIGHT drink cup
Three different Mary Kay Andrews bookmarks
SAVE THE DATE magnet
Set of 3 SAVE THE DATE recipe cards
News about a special SAVE THE DATE pre-order gift
 
(Mary Kay Andrews' new book Save the Date releases June 3/14)
 
Whew! Simply leave a comment to be entered!
Open to US only, no PO boxes please. Ends May 17/14.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Dark Eden - Chris Beckett

I don't read a lot of science fiction, but I quickly became intrigued from the opening pages of Chris Beckett's award winning novel - Dark Eden. (It was the 2013 winner of The Arthur C. Clarke prize).

A runaway ship from Earth crashes on an unknown planet, along with the Orbit Police chasing them. Four men and one woman. Two of the five decide to stay on the planet they've named Eden, while the other three attempt to make it to Earth and send back help.

That was 163 years ago - and they're still waiting. All 532 people. They've lived and waited at the same landing spot, telling tales of the mother and father of their Family, fondling the few relics they have, acting out the past as they know it, and simply surviving. Because they believe that they will be rescued and taken to Earth - they just have to wait.

"We'll make a Circle of Stones here to show where Landing Veekle stood. That ways we'll always remember the place and know to stay here. And we'll tell our children  and our children's children , they must always stay here, and wait, and be patient, and one waking Earth will come.'

But young John Redlantern believes there is more to this planet they call Eden, more over the snowy passes, more on the dark side, more than the small same life the Family has been living for so many years, more than waiting.......

Beckett's world building is imaginative. There is no sun on this planet, but the trees themselves provide the light. Alien creatures abound, but with some similarities to ones we know. His descriptions paint a vivid picture of an alien land.

The language initially annoyed me - for emphasis, the inhabitants repeat a word - 'sad sad' or 'pretty pretty'. Some phrases took a bit of deciphering as they are evolved from original Earth words or phrases, such as Lecky-Trikity. But I quickly caught on and was caught up in Beckett's imaginings of a society started from two individuals. Two that really didn't like each other.

What I really wanted to see was what was beyond and over the mountain and after The Dark. What would they find?

Beckett tells his story from the viewpoint of more than just John. There are three young protagonists. John is the driving force behind the changes, but he wasn't my favourite. I found myself much more drawn to gentle Jeff, a young 'clubfoot', who is quiet, thoughtful and inventive. Many other characters, old and young, have a voice and a chapter as well, giving alternative views on the life and times of The Family.

Beckett has created an imaginative tale of 'what if'. I enjoyed the exploration of Eden, the society of The Family and what might be. But I almost wanted to stop reading during the last bit of the book. Dark Eden is also a sad reminder of human nature and that history does indeed repeat itself.

A different read for me - one I enjoyed. Read an excerpt of Dark Eden. You can find Chris Beckett on Twitter.

The Cold Nowhere - Brian Freeman

I've read the first couple of Brian Freeman's  novels featuring protagonist Jonathan Stride. His latest novel, The Cold Nowhere, is the sixth in the series.

A young girl trapped on a boat, pursued by an unknown assailant. She's not as helpless as her pursuer might think though...."Wherever she went, whatever she did, Cat always carried a knife." She escapes - and lands on Detective Stride's doorstep.

Stride is back working in Duluth, Minnesota. And his past has come back to haunt him as well. Stride knows Cat - he failed to save her mother. Michaela  was brutally murdered by her husband - stabbed to death, in fact. And now Cat swears someone is trying to trying to kill her too. Stride vows to help her. "He couldn't undo what was done or erase his mistakes. All he could do was make a promise."

Familiar and recurring characters appear in The Cold Nowhere - notably Stride's partner Maggie Bei and ex-lover/partner Serena Dial. I 've enjoyed these two female characters in the past. They're strong personalities. A secondary personal storyline always adds to a book. The sexual tension and rivalry between these two women and Stride has been carried on throughout this series. A little bit is good. A lot, not so much. In The Cold Nowhere, I found myself growing weary of the repetitiveness of it. And for me,  it cheapened the two female leads.

Stride is struggling with inner turmoil - for many pages.

"She'd opened the door for him, and all he had to do was walk through it. All he had do was open up. He wanted to tell her. He wanted to do what she'd done for him and lay himself bare."

Enough already.  I found myself skipping pages and glossing over these poignant moments by the middle of the book. I was looking for a novel closer to Freeman's first book (which was award winning) More crime, less angst.

The crime storyline was well plotted crime and the final whodunit was a good one. There were a few procedural/plot points that bothered me. An upscale prostitution ring may be operating because the rate of STD's in the city has risen? Hmm, if it's upscale, I wouldn't expect the rate of STD's to go up or raise suspicion. And the other one that bothered me was Maggie (who I really like) giving information about a crime/case to a civilian.

There were a few awkward similes....

"She should have been pretty, but life and want had gnawed at her face like an attack of bed bugs."

And more insects...

"Insanely cold - twenty degrees below zero. Stride felt the wind chewing like maggots at his face."

There was just too much 'stuff' that got in the way of what could have been a really good crime read. I'm in the minority on this one, as The Cold Nowhere was just an okay read for me.  Read an excerpt of The Cold Nowhere.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Winner - The Secret Life of Walter Mitty prizepack

And the very lucky winner of a Blu-ray copy of
a copy of James Thurber's short stories and a Let Life in Tumbler,
Deanna Watson!
Congratulations! I've contacted you by email for your mailing address. Please respond within 72 hours. After that time, a new winner will be chosen. Thanks to all who entered - check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

You Can't Judge A Book By It's Cover #1

Today is the first entry in a new regular feature here at A Bookworm's World
- You Can't Judge a Book By It's Cover -
Which is very true. But you can like one cover version better than another........

I was searching for the cover art for this week's
post on Frog Music 
by Emma Donoghue
and came across the
and the
US cover. (right)

Myself, I prefer the Canadian version......Which one do you prefer?

Friday, April 25, 2014

Film on Friday #13 - The Book Thief

I look forward to seeing movie adaptions of books I've enjoyed. But there's always the question of comparison. Will the movie measure up to a beloved book?

The Book Thief is newly released on DVD and Blu-ray from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Director Brian Percival had a challenge on his hands to bring Marcus Zuzak's bestselling The Book Thief' to the big screen. My opinion? He did a great job.

 For those who haven't read the book (and why haven't you!?) The Book Thief is the story of foster child Liesel, who lives in Nazi Germany in 1939. When she arrives at her new home, she cannot read. But she learns with the help of her new father. Her love of books grows as her things around her deteriorate. She 'borrows' books from a wealthy couple's library to share with her neighbours - and the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

There are some differences, (a few less characters and a few things happen in a different manner) but for me, there were no major ones that detracted from Zuzak's original story.

I thought that Sophie Nélisse was wonderful as Liesel.  Performances by Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson, as Liesel's parents, were just as standout. Their presentation  fit the mental images I had created of the character.

I knew the story going in - and the end - but I was captured from the first scene to the last. The Book Thief movie let me experience this wonderful tale all over again. And I cried all over again - so fair warning, have your tissues ready. Very well done in my opinion.



Thursday, April 24, 2014

Over the Counter #209

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Family memoirs this week.

First up was She Left Me the Gun by Emma Brockes.

From the publisher, Penguin:

"A chilling work of psychological suspense and forensic memoir, She Left Me the Gun is a tale of true transformation: the story of a young woman who reinvented herself so completely that her previous life seemed simply to vanish, and of a daughter who transcends her mother’s fears and reclaims an abandoned past.

“One day I will tell you the story of my life,” promises Emma Brockes’s mother, “and you will be amazed.” Brockes grew up hearing only pieces of her mother’s past—stories of a rustic childhood in South Africa, glimpses of a bohemian youth in London—and yet knew that crucial facts were still in the dark. A mystery to her friends and family, Paula was clearly a strong, self-invented woman; glamorous, no-nonsense, and frequently out of place in their quaint English village. In awe of Paula’s larger-than-life personality, Brockes never asked why her mother emigrated to England or why she never returned to South Africa; never questioned the source of her mother’s strange fears or tremendous strengths.

Looking to unearth the truth after Paula’s death, Brockes begins a dangerous journey into the land—and the life—her mother fled from years before.

A beguiling and unforgettable journey across generations and continents, She Left Me the Gun chronicles Brockes’s efforts to walk the knife-edge between understanding her mother’s unspeakable traumas and embracing the happiness she chose for her daughter."


Next up was They Left Us Everything by Plum Johnson.

Also from Penguin:

"After almost twenty years of caring for elderly parents—first for their senile father, and then for their cantankerous ninety-three-year-old mother—author Plum Johnson and her three younger brothers experience conflicted feelings of grief and relief when their mother, the surviving parent, dies. Now they must empty and sell the beloved family home, which hasn’t been de-cluttered in more than half a century. Twenty-three rooms bulge with history, antiques, and oxygen tanks.

Plum remembers her loving but difficult parents who could not have been more different: the British father, a handsome, disciplined patriarch who nonetheless could not control his opinionated, extroverted Southern-belle wife who loved tennis and gin gimlets. The task consumes her, becoming more rewarding than she ever imagined. Items from childhood trigger memories of her eccentric family growing up in a small town on the shores of Lake Ontario in the 1950s and 60s. But unearthing new facts about her parents helps her reconcile those relationships with a more accepting perspective about who they were and what they valued.

They Left Us Everything is a funny, touching memoir about the importance of preserving family history to make sense of the past and nurturing family bonds to safeguard the future."

(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!)
"[A] courageous, clear-sighted book, which shifts between memoir and elegy as it examines the persistence of family secrets and the fragile interface between innocence and knowledge ...  Brockes handles her toxic material with a lightness of touch that navigates skillfully between tragedy and bleak comedy... [Brockes's mother] did not need to leave her daughter a gun in the end. Her real bequest to Brockes was the psychological freedom to be able to confront the past without inhibition, and to take straight aim at it. The gun is this book." --The Guardian (UK)

"She Left Me the Gun is quite simply an extraordinary book. In the hands of any halfway decent author, this would be an incredible story: a mother with a mysterious South African past who arrived in England in her early twenties with a beautiful antique handgun and a mission to forget who she used to be. In the hands of a writer as gifted as Emma Brockes, it’s basically the perfect memoir: a riveting, authentic tale elegantly told.'  --Sunday Telegraph (UK)

"Full of intellect and feeling and dartlike expression. It’s one of those memoirs that remind you why you liked memoirs in the first place, back before every featherhead in your writers’ group was trying to peddle one. It has the density of a very good novel... As you do with the best writers, you feel lucky to be in Ms. Brockes’s company throughout She Left Me the Gun. She is mugged; her car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, and swastika-wearing bikers roar up. She never loses her composure... This is a grim story, but it’s also a love story."--Dwight Garner, The New York Times

"An exemplary family history and immensely brave... Brockes’s descriptions of South Africa and her newly discovered family (towards whom she is loyal and generously affectionate) are astute and, one feels, tempered by the tightly coiled wayward nature of the freshly grief-stricken. It makes the slow pace of the revelations all the more honourable and heartfelt. The result is a wise, tender letter of love to a mother and her incredible sense of love and ­necessary self-sufficiency." --Helen Davies, Sunday Times (UK)

"This soul-searching tale is a shocking trail of murder, violence, incest and betrayal that leaves her both shocked and proud ... Emma Brockes writes with dry humour and a refreshing lack of sentiment as she unravels the complex family ties that have become twisted into a difficult and at times almost impenetrable web of hidden suffering." --Daily Express (UK)

"The riveting memoir about how a prizewinning British journalist reclaimed her mother's traumatic past... The story of Brockes’ quest to understand her mother’s past is powerful on its own, but the backdrop against which most of the narrative unfolds—a country with its own history of rapacious violence—makes the book even more poignant and unforgettable."
Kirkus

“This astonishing, unsettling book examines the relationship between knowledge and love. Vigorously unsentimental, deeply absorbing, and written with fierce wit, it is an unstinting look at what it means to be innocent, at any stage of life, and how obsessively we all seek and avoid the many faces of truth.”
     —Andrew Solomon, author of Far From the Tree and The Noonday Demon

“A beautiful, wise book. It deals with some of the grimmest aspects of human experience, but it is also one of the most genuinely uplifting works I have read in years. Emma Brockes’s superb, clear-eyed narration is an object lesson for any aspiring memoir writer. She Left Me the Gun deserves to become a classic.”
     —Zoë Heller, author of The Believers and Notes on a Scandal

“Emma Brockes sets out on a delicate journey to uncover a secret locked in the heart of her own family’s darkness. A harrowing tale of murder and incest emerges, unfolding by stages in this utterly compelling psychological memoir.”
     —John Berendt, author of The City of Falling Angels and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Emma Brockes is the author of What Would Barbra Do?: How Musicals Saved My Life, which was serialized on the BBC. She writes for the Guardian’s Weekend magazine and has contributed to the New York Times, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and Elle. She lives in New York City.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Frog Music - Emma Donoghue

I studiously avoided reading any reviews or mentions of Emma Donoghue's latest release, beyond the publisher's synopsis. I knew Frog Music would be brilliant and I wanted to discover and savour the book with no spoilers.  I spent every spare minute for two days devouring Frog Music. And, just as I knew I would - I loved it.

Donoghue returns to the past in Frog Music, taking us back to San Francisco in the sweltering summer of 1876. A summer that also sees a smallpox epidemic hit the city.

French born Blanche makes her living as a burlesque dancer, supporting herself, her lover and most often her lover's companion as well. And if she sometimes does more than dance? Well...."She never exactly intended to be a soiled dove (that curious euphemism), but neither can she remember putting up any real objection. She stepped into the life like a swimmer entering a lake, a few inches at a time."

Blanche seems to be happy with her life, until the day she literally runs into Jenny Bonnet and discovers that "this is the friend Blanche has been waiting a quarter of a century for without even knowing it".  Neither knows that this chance meeting will end in Jenny's death. (No spoilers faithful readers - this happens in the first few pages of the book) Blanche is determined to find out who killed Jenny, even as her own life spirals out of control.

That's the bare bones premise of Frog Music, but there is so much more to the book. Donoghue deftly explores sexuality, love, parenthood, friendship, feminism, abuse and more in a richly detailed setting. And it's a good whodunit as well.

Blanche is a complicated character. She seems oblivious to how she is being used, yet has occasional flashes of clarity. My thoughts on her changed as the book progressed. At first, I didn't engage with her and viewed her quite dispassionately. But as I read further, I was quite sad at her self-deception, then sorry for her as more of her life was revealed, disappointed with some of her choices, then happy as she began to take charge of her own life and by the end was mentally urging her forward, hoping for the ending I wanted.

It is much easier to define how I felt about Jenny. I loved her - her joie de vivre, her happiness, her curiosity, her engagement with those around her and the world. The supporting characters also elicited strong reactions from this reader - particularly Blanche's lover Arthur - whom I despised.

Donoghue slowly plays out the story of Blanche and Jenny in now and then chapters, with a little more revealed each time, sometimes in a single phrase or sentence, connecting the events of those six weeks.

Donoghue's descriptions of time and place had me vividly imaging myself in the heat, the dirt, the dust, the clamour, the colours, the grit and the fear that was 1876 San Francisco.

I had to really stop myself from flipping ahead to see the final pages. I desperately wanted to know who the killer was and where Blanche would end up. I have to say, the murderer was not who I thought it might be. Donoghue plants many red herrings along the way.

The title is clever as 'frogs' and music figure many ways into the novel. Donoghue has compiled a collection of the songs quoted in the book. There are smatterings of French phrases and words throughout Frog Music as well - a glossary is also included.

But what is most fascinating is that Frog Music is based on fact. The time, the players and the events are all real. Jenny Bonnet was murdered - but the case was never solved. "Then, again, the explanation Frog Music offers of this still unsolved murder is only an educated hunch, which is to say, a fiction." Here's a link to Donoghue's list of sources used to write Frog Music."

I enjoy everything that Emma Donoghue writes, but I have to say my favourites are her historical books - a story taken from a bit of history and woven into a tale of what was and what might have been. Definitely recommended. Read an excerpt of Frog Music. You can keep up with Emma Donoghue on Facebook and on Twitter.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Under a Silent Moon - Elizabeth Haynes

Elizabeth Haynes writes crime thrillers - darn good crime thrillers. I've read and really enjoyed her previous three books and was eager to get my hands on her latest - Under a Silent Moon.

Haynes's first three books have been stand-alones, but the publisher's blurb lists Under a Silent Moon as the first in a new series.

The protagonist is Detective Chief  Inspector Louisa Smith. Louisa leads her first murder case when a young woman is found dead in a small village. The case doubles when another woman is found dead nearby, in what looks to be a suicide. And there more than geographical connections between the two women. Can the crime be a simple as a murder-suicide? Nope......

Haynes lays out a meticulous trail for the reader to follow as Louisa and her team struggle to make sense of the conflicting clues and information they gather. Connections and tendrils are there - as readers we know a bit more than the police. And a single little sentence lets us see what might happen. I was quite tempted to peek at the last few chapters 'just to see', but managed not to. And really, you wouldn't want to spoil this deliciously plotted thriller by reading out of turn. Haynes kept me guessing as to who the guilty party might be for quite awhile.

I love British crime novels. The solving of the crime is done with step by step police work rather than guns drawn and blazing. It is this aspect that I really enjoy and  Haynes does a phenomenal job. Her job as a police intelligence analyst brings so much authenticity and detail to all of her books. (The case documents of the crime in Under a Silent Moon are included as an appendix) And for those who want more, Haynes has written a great post on the technicalities of Under a Silent Moon.

The secondary storyline in Under a Silent Moon revolves around the personal lives of the team, notably Louisa. This was a great introduction to a team I hope to see more of. But, the private lives of the team figure significantly into the main plot as well.

I really enjoyed Under a Silent Moon. It was clever, authentic and a real page turner. I can't wait for the next book from Haynes! Read an excerpt of Under a Silent Moon.

"Elizabeth Haynes is a police intelligence analyst, a civilian role that involves determining patterns in offending and criminal behavior. She is the author of three previous novels: Human Remains, Dark Tide, and Into the Darkest Corner, which was selected as Amazon UK's Best Book of 2011. She lives in a village near Maidstone, Kent, with her husband and son." You can find Elizabeth Haynes on Facebook and on Twitter.

See what others on the TLC book tour thought - full schedule can be found here.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Reaching - Judy Ann Sadler

Every so often, I have to make some hard decisions - what books to donate or giveaway- as my bookshelves can only hold so many.  But the ones I don't 'cull' are the shelves with the children's books. And in fact, I add to it every so often. Yes, my kids are grown and gone - but one day I'll  be a grandmother. I can't wait to read to and share books with someone small again.

Reaching by Judy Ann Sadler is a wonderful picture book that I've recently added to that bookcase.

Judy Ann Sadler's story is presented in rhyming couplets easily flow off the tongue. When I read them out loud, I found myself using a sing song cadence that would make it easy for a small one to remember and join in with on subsequent readings.

The story is perfect for a family experiencing the addition of a baby to their family. And it's one that can be read over and over to that new baby as he or she grows. I really like that Sadler included everyone from grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles and pets in the story of Baby. And that all of them are reaching out.

The words themselves are not set straight in straight lines on the page, rather they're set in an arch, lending movement to the words. The rhymes are full of action words as well - hugs, kisses, tickling, dancing and of course reaching, that can be incorporated into an interactive reading of the book.

Susan Mitchell's illustrations are lovely. The colours are soft, warm and appealing. The faces of the characters are friendly and engaging. The backgrounds provide lots of other 'things to see' that children will recognize from their own lives.

I've just finished hiding Easter treats for my baby. And yes, he's in his twenties now. I'll watch as he easily reaches to find some in the high spots (he's six feet tall) and remember when I had to make sure they were all in low hiding spots where he could easily see them. And when he kisses me good-bye, he'll be the one reaching down.

Reaching is a beautiful picture book with a sweet story and charming pictures. It's one that will be waiting on my bookshelf.....
Age range 1-3 years. 32 pages.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Giveaway Winners!

And the winner of a copy of Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates's is:

Mystica!

Congratulations! I've contacted you by email for your mailing address. Please respond within 72 hours.



And the winner of a copy of The Accident by Chris Pavone is:

Daniel M!

Congratulations! I've contacted you by email for your mailing address. Please respond within 72 hours.


And last but not least, the winner of a copy of The Deepest Secret by Carla Buckley is:

Kirsten!

Congratulations! I've contacted you by email for your mailing address. Please respond within 72 hours.


Thanks to all who entered. Check the sidebar for other ongoing giveaways!

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Dying Hours - Mark Billingham

The Dying Hours is the eleventh book in Mark Billingham's Detective Inspector Tom Thorne series  - one of my favourite crime series.

The Dying Hours picks up right where the last book (The Demands) left off. Thorne closed the case, but not by the book. Over the last twenty five years, Thorne has bucked authority, ignored orders and operated by his own set of rules. But, it has finally caught up to him - he's been knocked back down into uniform and off his beloved Murder Squad.

Called to an apparent suicide, Thorne's radar 'tickles the back of his neck'. Something is 'off' and he asks the higher ups if it could be investigated further. His suspicions are brushed off, as is Thorne. More than brushing off really. There are many in the department who have it in for Thorne - and this demotion gives them every opportunity to put him in his place.

"The lecture about making choices, the gleefully sarcastic comments about what had happened in that newsagents five months before. The line that had stung more than anything else - Stop playing detective."

But we know Thorne is right - Dying Hours opens with a chilling prologue from the killer. A person with a list of names and a goal. As the book progresses, there are further chapters from this person. As a reader we know what they've done. And we're just hoping someone takes Thorne seriously.

The Dying Hours was an excellent crime novel on so many levels. Billingham's plotting is always inventive, dark and devious, designed to keep the reader wondering - and up late at night. The procedural details of the investigation always fascinate me.

But it is Thorne himself that makes this series such a standout. I'm always a sucker for 'buck the system' characters and Thorne is a prime example. But in this latest, he has to stop and ask himself some hard questions. What about his relationships? With his girlfriend and her son, with colleagues, with friends, with superiors? What is he willing to sacrifice in his pursuit for answers and justice? Who can he trust?

The Dying Hours kept me captive for an entire day when I was off sick. A riveting read is probably some of the best medicine one can ask for. Read an excerpt of The Dying Hours. The last line of the book did nothing but whet my appetite for number twelve - The Bones Beneath - due out in North America in June of this year. You can find Mark Billingham on Facebook.

Who else reads Mark Billingham? “Billingham is one of the most consistently entertaining, insightful crime writers working today.” — Gillian Flynn, author of Gone Girl"

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Over the Counter #208

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Hmm, must have been before break, I was thinking about fruit this week.

First up was Put 'em Up! by Sherri Brooks Vinton.

From Storey Publishing:

"A Comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the Creative Cook, from Drying and Freezing to Canning and Pickling
With simple step-by-step instructions and 175 delicious recipes, Put ‘em Up will have even the most timid beginners filling their pantries and freezers in no time! You’ll find complete how-to information for every kind of preserving: refrigerating, freezing, air- and oven-drying, cold- and hot-pack canning, and pickling. Recipes range from the contemporary and daring — Wasabi Beans, Cherry and Black Pepper Preserves, Pickled Fennel, Figs in Honey Syrup, Sweet Pepper Marmalade, Berry Bourbon, Salsa Verde — to the very best versions of tried-and-true favorites, including applesauce and apple butter, dried tomatoes, marinara sauce, bread and butter pickles, classic strawberry jam, and much, much more."

Next up was Dehydrating Food: A Beginner's Guide by Jay and Shirley Bills. I actually had a dehydrator given to me and have yet to use it, so I did sign this one out!

From Skyhorse Publishing:

"With the easy-to-follow, step-by-step directions here, anyone can have fun, save money, and create delicious meals by dehydrating food. Learn the basic methods—sun drying, oven drying, net bag, and commercial food dehydrators—before moving on to drying herbs for tea, making your own tasty (and healthier) jerky, and so much more. Also included is a section on the nutritional benefits of drying food. With 164 recipes ranging from breads to desserts, soups to pies, and cereals to entrees, Dehydrating Food is a book for anyone who is interested in learning how to save money and create delicious meals by drying their own food."

(Over the Counter is a regular weekly feature at A Bookworm's World. I've sadly come to 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, April 16, 2014

The Long Shadow - Liza Marklund

The Long Shadow is the eighth North American release in Liza Marklund's Annika Bengtzon series.

The Long Shadow picks right up from the last book, Lifetime. Annika's personal life is in shambles - her husband has left her for another woman, he has custody of their children and her home has burned down. She's just learned that she'll now be reporting to a man who used to be her subordinate at the Swedish newspaper she works at.

She's sent to Spain to report on the death of a former Swedish national. It looks like they were originally just targets of the latest European crime wave - pumping gas into the victim's home until they pass out, then robbing them. (This is frighteningly true!) But something went wrong this time - he and his family have been killed. Or was it deliberate?

Annika is a tireless reporter. Or perhaps obsessive is a more apt description. She's headstrong, impulsive and plunges headlong into her stories, often to her own detriment. But, she trusts her own instincts and follows them regardless. It often pays off - she saved the life a young boy in the last book. And this time is no exception. Annika knows this current story is much deeper than her editor thinks. When he wants her to move on to other pieces, she lets him believe she has - then pursues her own leads.

Marklund's plots are quite detailed and intricate. I do enjoy her style as it really keeps the reader engaged and on their toes. Having followed the series, I was easily able to keep up with the players and past references. But new readers might find the number of characters, established relationships and connections a mite confusing. Much of this book's plot is tied to previous cases. An interesting twist is slowly revealed through flashbacks to someone's childhood.

Woven throughout is the secondary storyline of Annika's personal life. I think Marklund has handled and written this very well throughout the series. . Although I've heard some other readers remark that this secondary storyline muddies the waters of the main plot, I disagree. I quite like seeing the two sides of Annika's life - personal and professional. For me, it makes the character more realistic and believable when we see vulnerability in such strong personality.

The setting was brought to life with detailed descriptions of ex-pats and luxury. And corruption and crime.

This is an excellent series with a character I quite like, even though she's not always likable. Definitely recommended. I'll be watching for the next in the series. Read an except of The Long Shadow. And on a side note, I was thrilled to discover that the Annika books have been made into films. And my library carries them! You can find Liza Marklund on Facebook .

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Giveaway - The Other Story - Tatiana de Rosnay

http://us.macmillan.com/author/tatianaderosnay Tatiana de Rosany's book, Sarah's Key, occupied the New York Times bestseller list for over two years Her newest book, The Other Story, releases today, and thanks to the great folks at St. Martin's Press, I have two copies to giveaway to two lucky readers!

What's it about? From the publisher:

"Vacationing at a luxurious Tuscan island resort, Nicolas Duhamel is hopeful that the ghosts of his past have finally been put to rest… Now a bestselling author, when he was twenty-four years old, he stumbled upon a troubling secret about his family – a secret that was carefully concealed. In shock, Nicholas embarked on a journey to uncover the truth that took him from the Basque coast to St. Petersburg – but the answers wouldn’t come easily.

In the process of digging into his past, something else happened. Nicolas began writing a novel that was met with phenomenal success, skyrocketing him to literary fame whether he was ready for it or not – and convincing him that he had put his family’s history firmly behind him. But now, years later, Nicolas must reexamine everything he thought he knew, as he learns that, however deeply buried, the secrets of the past always find a way out."

Page-turning, layered and beautifully written, Tatiana de Rosnay's THE OTHER STORY is a reflection on identity, the process of being a writer and the repercussions of generations-old decisions as they echo into the present and shape the future." Read the first two chapters of The Other Story.

You can find Tatiana de Rosnay on Facebook, on Twitter and on Instagram.

Sound like a book you'd like to read? Simply leave a comment to be entered. Open to US only, no PO boxes please. Ends May 3/14.                   

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules - Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg

As I've mentioned before, I have a fondness for heist tales, be it book or movie. Well, Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg has come out with a fun caper story, with a twist - The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules.

Seventy nine old Martha and her four friends reside at the Diamond Retirement Home in Sweden. The administrators  running the home have slowly but surely eroded the seniors' enjoyment of life, through tasteless meals, strict rules, rising costs and worse. They're bored. Surely even prisoners are treated better than they are!

Hang on....what if? You can see it coming, can't you.....

Martha and her newly formed League of Pensioners gang come up with a plan. They'll commit robberies and have themselves sent to prison. Surely they'll be treated better there! And a little bit of extra cash wouldn't go amiss either.

And half the fun is in the planning. Who is going to suspect five old folks with walkers? Well, it turns out they have a knack for crime, although their plans don't always execute quite the way they intended..

What I really enjoyed were the seniors themselves, their thoughts, interactions and desire to live an interesting, full, rich life despite their advancing age. I think older people are discounted far too often. Ingleman-Sundberg's take on her seniors' lives has a large dose of truth woven throughout. Her imaginings of what they might do to change their circumstances were really quite entertaining. For me, not quite the laugh out loud funny mentioned on the cover blurbs, but definitely charming. You'll be cheering for the 'gang'.

Being a crime fiction fanatic, I had to stop myself from picking apart plot points that were a bit far-fetched in places and just go with the story. Although, I can see this being made into a movie - and it would be fun to cast. There seem to be a lot of 'feisty old folks' films being produced lately.

The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules is a bestseller in Sweden (1.2 million copies sold!). I found the translation to English a bit wooden in spots and some references may have been 'lost in translation. If you enjoyed The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Window and Disappeared, you might enjoy this book. Read an excerpt of The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Earthly Pleasures with DK Canada

 
Well, we finally had a few days warm enough to start melting all the snow. There's still a few piles left in my yard, but I was out peeking at my flowerbeds today....and there's life under there!
 
To celebrate Earth Day (April 22nd),  DK Canada has a great selection of titles in their
Earthly Pleasures Boutique at 30% off until April 23/14.
 
"Celebrate the wonderful planet that we call home. "Make the world a better and more sustainable place for every living creature with organic primers or exercise your love of the outdoors with our gardening books filled with terrific tips and ideas for those with a green thumb. There's also a selection of children's books that showcase the natural world and ways to make a difference."
 
I've always been a vegetable gardener with a few flowerbeds. I'm looking to change that and expand the flowers. But no matter what you're looking to plant, I have the book for you - the Canadian Encyclopedia of Gardening - revised and updated March 2013. Editors: Christopher Brickell and Trevor Cole.

This book is amazing!! Literally anything and everything you wanted to know about gardening in Canada is covered. There are 760 pages chock full on any and all information you could ever want or need on gardening
The first part covers creating your garden. Do you need help designing? What will grow in your zone? (There's a hardiness zone map on the flyleaf)Choose your plants - and refer to the detailed description for almost every growing thing you can imagine -from fruits, vegetables, herbs, all types of outdoor plants, shrubs, trees, lawns, houseplants, water gardening and more.

And once you've got it all in the ground, you can refer to Part Two - Maintaining the Garden. Everything from tools and equipment, climate, soil, building plans and more. I found the visual guide to plant problems really good. Not sure what you're looking for? There's a wonderfully detailed index at the back.

DK produces the best reference books. They're always well laid out, easy to read and populated with wonderful photographs detailing the information. ( In this case there are over 4000 colour photos!)

The Canadian Encyclopedia of Gardening is the last reference book I think I'll ever need for gardening. And until I get out there and get my hands dirty, I'm having lots of fun daydreaming and planting on paper! That chapter on water features is getting another look.....

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Winner - Happy Blogiversary Giveaway

And the winner of the 6th Blogiversary giveaway is:

Karen B!

Congratulations!

I've emailed you for your mailing address. And I'll be sendin' some books your way.....

Friday, April 11, 2014

Film on Friday #12 - Forgetting the Girl

I'm a fan of Film Movement and their award winning films.  Film Movement has launched a new brand, Ram Releasing, that will be showcasing films of a different genre - thrillers, suspense, even horror films. And that's right up my alley - I love scary films. One of their first releases is Forgetting the Girl from director Nate Taylor.

The film opens with Kevin Wolfe filming a 'if you see this...' talk. Kevin is a photographer specializing in head shots. He asks out every woman whose portrait he takes. And most say no. The few that do say yes rarely say yes a second time. And it those women that Kevin wants to forget. To forget he engages in activities such as a shopping spree or joining the gym. The one person he can't remember and doesn't want to forget is his sister, who drowned when they were both children.

Spoilers below.

I thought Christopher Denham did a good job in the role of Kevin. He presents as an affable young man with a ready smile for those whose attention he wants. But there's something off about him. His sense of desperation and obsessiveness isn't far beneath the surface. And something else is behind that glib exterior as well. Lindsay Beamish is Jamie, his suicidal make-up artist, who is infatuated with Kevin. She too turned in a good performance. There are a few other characters as well. Kevin's grandmother Ruby is there to act a historical record of Kevin's past. Jamie's sponsor seemed awkward and seemed to only be there to underscore Jamie's fragile state. (The camping trip was ridiculous) And the creepy, porn watching landlord? A very obvious red herring. Although I must say, his brief role was frightening - especially in the elevator with one of Kevin's clients.

The exploration of Kevin's 'forgetting' would have been suitably creepy if it only applied to his adult life. And this would have sent the film in the direction that the trailer seemed to promise. I found the trailer misleading - the darkest bits of the film are showcased and seem to promise a different film than was delivered. Kevin's attempts to remember his sister just grew tiresome after a few times.

But things speed up as both Kevin and Jamie start to lose control and things hurtle towards an inevitable, but sadly surprising ending. Forgetting the Girl was just okay for this viewer. However, the two trailers included for coming releases, App and Hide and Seek do have me intrigued.



Thursday, April 10, 2014

Over the Counter #207

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Cityscapes and city folk.

First up was Beautiful Lego by Mike Doyle. The cover shot was amazing and the inside even more so!

From the publisher, No Starch Press:

"Mix hundreds of thousands of LEGO bricks with dozens of artists, and what do you get? Beautiful LEGO, a compendium of LEGO artwork that showcases a stunning array of pieces ranging from incredibly lifelike replicas of everyday objects and famous monuments to imaginative renderings of spaceships, mansions, and mythical creatures.

You’ll also meet the minds behind the art. Interviews with the artists take you inside the creative process that turns simple, plastic bricks into remarkable LEGO masterpieces."

Next up was Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton. 'Cause, really, who doesn't love to people watch?

From the publisher, St Martin's Press:

"Based on the blog with more than four million loyal fans, a beautiful, heartfelt, funny, and inspiring collection of photographs and stories capturing the spirit of a city.

Now an instant #1 New York Times bestseller, Humans of New York began in the summer of 2010, when photographer Brandon Stanton set out to create a photographic census of New York City.  Armed with his camera, he began crisscrossing the city, covering thousands of miles on foot, all in an attempt to capture New Yorkers and their stories.  The result of these efforts was a vibrant blog he called "Humans of New York," in which his photos were featured alongside quotes and anecdotes. 

The blog has steadily grown, now boasting millions of devoted followers.  Humans of New York is the book inspired by the blog.  With four hundred color photos, including exclusive portraits and all-new stories, Humans of New York is a stunning collection of images that showcases the outsized personalities of New York.

Surprising and moving, printed in a beautiful full-color, hardbound edition, Humans of New York is a celebration of individuality and a tribute to the spirit of the city."

(Over the Counter is a regular weekly feature at A Bookworm's World. I've sadly come to 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!)

I have to admit, I couldn't just browse both of this week's selections - I had to sign them both out!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Giveaway - The Secret Life of Walter Mitty on Blu-ray!! (and more!)


FROM EMMY AWARD-WINNER* BEN STILLER COMES AN AWE INSPIRING JOURNEY
The Must-Own Movie of the Year Arrives on Blu-ray™ and DVD April 15

Dare to live your dreams! Get Ready To Let Life In. Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment will take movie-lovers on an uplifting adventure when THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY debuts on Blu-rayTM and DVD April 15! Led by director Ben Stiller and an all-star cast, the film has been hailed by critics worldwide – THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY is a must-own for every collection.

With sweeping cinematography and stellar performances THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY, tells the story of a timid magazine photo manager who lives life vicariously through daydreams and when a negative goes missing must embark on an incredible true-life adventure.

With stand-out performances from Ben Stiller (Night At The Museum, Meet The Parents) Golden Globe** and six-time Emmy Award*** nominated actress Kristen Wiig (Saturday Night Live, Bridesmaids, How To Train Your Dragon), Adam Scott (Step Brothers) and Shirley MacLaine (Wild Oats), the THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY Blu-rayTM and DVD is loaded with more than an hour of behind-the-scenes special features, including deleted, extended and alternative scenes, featurettes that dive into filming in Iceland and Walter Mitty history, a gallery of exclusive reference photography, and music video "Stay Alive" by José González, and more." Enter to win a trip to Iceland - Let Life In. #LetLifeIn You can find Walter Mitty on Facebook and on Twitter, on Tumblr and Instagram. (And you can find my thoughts on The Secret Life of Walter Mitty here.)

Thanks to 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, I have a Blu-ray copy to giveaway to one lucky reader. But wait.....there's more!! The winner will also receive a copy of James Thurber's short stories that includes Walter Mitty.  And still more! A #LetLifeIn tumbler. Open to US and Canada. Simply leave a comment to be entered. Ends Saturday, April 26.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty - Digital HD

Do you remember reading James Thurber's short story The Secret Life of Walter Mitty ? Thurber wrote it in 1939. It's a delightfully droll story of a man who daydreams constantly of a life bigger than the one he's leading. He imagines himself as the hero, the savior, the one who can save the day.....and then he's dropped back into his humdrum life by the voice of reason - his wife.

Well, Ben Stiller has brought that little story to the big screen - directing, producing and starring in the movie version of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. It's available now to download in Digital HD format from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. You can download from your choice of sources - I used Google Play. Downloading films is something I've just started doing. The Digital HD format allows viewing on devices you can also read books on. For me that's my Ipad - it pretty much goes wherever I do, so I can always entertain myself! (And watch more than once!) I can watch on any and all of my devices, including our gaming system and computer. I was surprised to find that the Digital HD version came out 2 weeks before the Blu-ray and Dvd versions. (They're due out April 15 - Make sure you scroll to the bottom for a chance to win a Blu-ray copy!)

I'm always hesitant when a book is turned into a movie or when a classic show is redone. Will they stay true to the original? If it's different, is it within reason? Will I enjoy it? Well in this case the answer is yes, I did enjoy it. And yes, it's a bit different from the original. But I like Stiller's additions. After all, the short story only gave us a wee glimpse of Walther and his secret life. In the modern day version, Walter is not married, but is living a small, quiet life. He wants more - and he frequently 'zones out' imagining what he wants to do, be and have. The turning point comes when a negative of the last cover of Life Magazine is lost. This is Walter's job and he takes it seriously. He spontaneously embarks on a journey to find that photographer (Sean Penn) and 'frame 25'.

I really enjoyed The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. There's that rom/com will they, won't they element(Kristen Wiggplays Walter's crush Cheryl). Stiller plays a wonderful character - it's impossible not to feel for Walter when he's treated badly or faces another disappointment. And just as hard to not cheer him on when he decides to "Let Life In". His imaginary situations become reality and it kinda makes you want to be on the trip with him. Part of the film was shot in Iceland and some in British Columbia - the scenery is absolutely magnificent. Enter to win a trip to Iceland - Let Life In. #LetLifeIn You can find Walter Mitty on Facebook and on Twitter, on Tumblr and Instagram.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is just one of those feel good movies that make you smile. Eminently entertaining! Here's a sneak peek below. And click here to enter a giveaway for a Blu-ray copy of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty - and a copy of James Thurber stories - and a LetLifeIn Tumbler!


PG  Genre: Adventure  2013  Subtitles:English SDH, French, Spanish

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Wolf - Mo Hayder

I've said it before and I'll say it again - Mo Hayder scares the bejesus out of me.

I've been hooked on her Detective Inspector Jack Caffery series from Birdman, the first book. Wolf is the seventh book. I literally could. not. put. it. down. Every available minute for two days was spent on the edge of my seat.

Hayder masterfully preys upon our fears. Are we truly safe in our homes? Will our past come back to haunt us in ways we can't imagine? Can we ever really put a rational explanation to everything?

"When you're so scared that you'd do anything, anything at all, then we'll tell you what we want..."

I always stop to appreciate the covers of Hayder's book before I turn the first page. There's always a detail that hints at the dark story within. This time it's that splash of red on a picture of a bucolic country home. That - and the flies.

The Turrets is home to the Anchor-Ferrers family. The nearby grounds were home to a horrific crime fourteen years ago. When two policeman come to the door the family is fearful that the killer has been released from prison without their knowing - and that he's back in the neighbourhood.

A homeless man known to Jack as The Walking Man, finds a small dog with a cryptic 'help us' note tucked in his collar. Walking Man promises Jack information if he'll take the note seriously and look for the owners. Jack has been searching for answers to his brother's death for decades. In each book, a clue or a thread is exposed, leading Jack just a little bit closer to the resolution he seeks. In Wolf, Hayder gets us as close as we've ever been. I've loved the Jack Caffery character from the beginning. He's an enigma - flawed, fearless and full of secrets, but a dedicated cop - who plays by his own rules.

Hayder slowly and deliciously builds the tension - it is what might happen that has the reader metaphorically covering their eyes with a pillow. And just when we think we can look - she changes course, taking the narrative in frightening directions I didn't see coming. Hayder's plotting is terrifyingly brilliant. And the ending was perfectly disturbing. Hayder plumbs the depths of the human psyche in both her characters and her crimes. (Gentle readers, this one may not be for you.)

Wolf could be read as a stand alone. But to really come to appreciate this series, I would start with Birdman. Wolf is an absolutely and highly recommended read. Just make sure you lock the doors and turn on the lights. This is one of the best crime fiction series out there.

You can find Mo Hayder on Facebook.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Weight of Blood - Laura McHugh

Laura McHugh is garnering lots of attention with her debut novel, The Weight of Blood. (And it's all good!)

Seventeen year old Lucy Dane was born in the Ozark mountain town of Henbane, but has never been fully accepted by the community. Although her father is a native son, her mother Lila was an outsider, with rumours and suspicions constantly being whispered about her. Lucy doesn't remember her - she disappeared when she was a toddler.

Other people have disappeared from Henbane as well - including a friend of Lucy. Lucy wants answers - about her mother and her friend. And so she begins nosing about.....perhaps not the wisest choice in a town full of secrets - and secret keepers.

As a reader, we know much more. In part one, McHugh cuts the narrative between Lucy's present day search for answers and Lila's arrival and life in Henbane. Although a generation apart, Lila and Lucy's stories seem to mirror each other. Other voices are introduced in the next two parts, bring a different perspective and shedding further light on both the past and present.

McHugh does a great job in setting the tone of the novel. Details and descriptions of everyday life, the locale, the customs and the mood of the town and its inhabitants are richly drawn. I had vivid pictures of Lucy and Lila sitting on the same front porch.

Of the two main characters, I found myself most drawn to Lila, perhaps because I wanted things to be better for her. Lucy makes some rash choices that had me thinking 'oh no!' more than once. But, I did want her to find answers. Both for herself and me. I had a fairly clear idea of where things were going to end, but the journey there was a very good read. Tension filled and a page turner.

A few of the supporting cast of characters were a wee bit cliched. But, the reader has no trouble discerning who is 'good' and who is 'bad'. Or do they? For the lines are blurred in The Weight of Blood. Where does loyalty lie?

"You grow up feeling the weight of blood, of family. There's no forsaking kin."

I thought McHugh's choice of the name Henbane for the town was somewhat revealing.. Henbane is 'a coarse and poisonous plant of the nightshade family, with sticky hairy leaves and an unpleasant smell.' The case of Lucy's missing friend is based on a horrifying true event.

I reviewed a book last month that fell into a newly (to me)  coined genre - grit lit. The Weight of Blood has a distinctly Southern Gothic feel to it, but I would also tag it as grit lit. Dark, dangerous and grittily atmospheric. The Weight of Blood is an excellent debut and has marked McHugh as an  author I'll be watching. Her second novel Arrowood is in the works.

Read an excerpt of The Weight of Blood. You can find Laura McHugh on Facebook and on Twitter.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Duke City Split - Max Austin - Review

I admit to having a fondness for 'heist' tales - movies and books. So I was drawn to Max Austin's (a nom de plume of Steve Brewer) new eBook Duke City Split.

Bud Knox is a stay at home dad to his two girls while his wife works as a real estate agent. But over the last fifteen years, Bud has supplemented their household income.....by robbing banks. He and his partner Mick are careful and cautious about the jobs they do. Until the day Mick suggests a job worth millions. But it's local - and can they trust the kid who brought the idea to them?

And because it's a heist tale - you just know things aren't going to go smoothly......

Austin throws in lots of hurdles for out intrepid pair - the Mob, the FBI, crooked guards - and that inexperienced third partner. As is the case with caper tales, I found myself rooting for Bud and Mick to 'get away with it'.

Austin has created a likable duo with Bud and Mick. They're polar opposites, but both have redeeming qualities. Mick is the physical one out of the pair, ready with his fists or a gun. Bud, not so much. But they are fiercely loyal to each other. The relationship between Bud and his wife was surprisingly portrayed, with lots of sharing and caring - not quite what I had expected. Of the two, I found myself drawn to Bud.

Duke City Split was a fun, quick (255 pages) read that moved quickly. And I can absolutely it on the screen. Austin says this is the first in a planned trilogy, with Duke City Hit, coming out next December.

To See what others on the TLC book tour thought. Full schedule can be found here. And Random House has put together a great giveaway as well. A Grand Prize of a $30 egiftcard to the eBook retailer of the winner's choice, and a First Prize Mystery Prize Pack of mystery paperbacks from Random House: The Alpine Xanadu, Dying for Chocolate and A Bat in the Belfry.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Divorce Papers - Susan Rieger

The Divorce Papers is Susan Rieger's debut novel.

I quite liked the cover (it seemed to promise a fun read) and was excited about the epistolary style Rieger chose for her novel. I really like this format - it makes the reader feel like they are much more involved with the story, almost as if you're reading the documents, letters and notes at your own desk. This style also makes it easy to see the story from many viewpoints, with having to depend on one narrator.

Sophie Diehl is a criminal lawyer at a firm in New England. When the partners who would normally handle a divorce for a wealthy client's daughter are unavailable, Sophie is asked to conduct the intial interview with Mia. Just the one. Until Mia decides that Sophie is the only lawyer she wants.

Through the aforementioned notes, letters, documents etc., we come to know Sophie and her life very intimately - her best friend, her lover, her own family, and her boss and peers at the law firm. I was truly drawn to Sophie - she was wonderfully engaging and I became invested in her story. I also liked Mia - her missives are a little more heated. Who I did feel sorry for was Jane, the eleven year old daughter of the divorcing couple - it was heartbreaking to read the letters she pens. The rivalry amongst the lawyers was amusing as well. Rieger has done a great job with the personal correspondence.

Rieger is a lawyer, so she's writing what she knows. But for this reader, I became bogged down in some of the 'lawyerese'. Initially I read every document, but soon start glossing over case law excerpts and financial charts. It was too much information that seemed like an actual case. I was more interested in the people, and not so much with the dollar values and legal jargon. Rieger has set her book in 1999. I wonder if that's the time frame she's most familiar with legally? I think the book would be more relevant if it was set in present day.

Rieger is a talented writer and I enjoyed The Divorce Papers and this format, but not quite as much as I was hoping to. Read an excerpt of The Divorce Papers.