Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Beartown - Fredrik Backman

Fredrik Backman's books have always affected me - made me laugh, made me cry and made me think. A Man Called Ove and Britt-Marie Was Here are my two favourites. His newest book, Beartown, has just released. And it is a powerful and compelling read.

Beartown's opening chapter makes it impossible to not keep reading....

"Late one evening toward the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barreled shotgun, walked into the forest, put the gun to someone else's forehead and pulled the trigger. This is the story of how we got there."

Beartown is a small town nestled deep in the forest. What you must know is that Beartown is a hockey town. The residents (well most of them) live and breathe hockey. They have their hopes pinned on the junior team. They've made it to the semi finals. But if they win - it could mean new hope for the dying town - jobs, a new rink, tourism, a hockey school, a shopping centre - and hope.

"We need to feel, just once, that we're the best. I know it's a game. But that's not all it is. Not always."

Backman excels at characterizations. But the scope of Beartown is simply amazing. There are a core group of players and their families, but the supporting cast is just as well fleshed out. Every character in Beartown has a story. The setting is just as much a player as well. I could hear the pucks, feel the cold and picture the trees.

It is impossible not to be drawn into the story of Beartown. As we come to know the characters, it is their attitudes, outlooks, plans, schemes and dreams that drive the story forward. Forward to that first chapter.

An ugly event occurs that changes the lives of the players, their families and the townsfolk forever. Part two deals with the fallout from that event. As I mentioned, Backman's books make the reader feel - and again I was moved to tears, shaking my fist in anger and my head in disgust. I wanted so badly to skip to the last chapter to see what ending and resolution Backman had planned, but I managed not to. And I am glad I didn't - for it's all about storytelling in Beartown. To know the ending and not the path there would have robbed me of a fantastic read.

There are so many moments, truths and 'aha's' throughout Beartown. Although hockey is the focus of this book, you could easily substitute another sport - football comes to mind. And the question should be in every reader's thoughts - what price is too high to ensure a win?

From the book..."Why does anyone care about hockey? Because it tells stories." With Beartown, Backman tells one helluva of a story. Read an excerpt of Beartown.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Giveaway - The Resurrection of Gavin Stone - DVD/Blu-ray Combo Pack

Flash giveaway!! I had a chance to watch and review The Resurrection of Gavin Stone last week. In case you missed it, you can read my review here. It's a wonderful film - and I have two Blu-ray/Dvd combo packs to giveaway courtesy of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment!

Synopsis: "Gavin Stone (Brett Dalton, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) is a former child star whose hard-partying ways get him in trouble, forcing him to do 200 hours of community service at a church in his hometown. Gavin pretends to be a Christian to land the part of Jesus in the church's annual Passion Play and discovers that the most important role of his life is far from Hollywood in this inspirational comedy about faith, forgiveness and second chances from the director of What If…. Also starring Neil Flynn (The Middle), D.B. Sweeney (The Cutting Edge) and WWE legend Shawn Michaels."

Check out the trailer below for The Resurrection of Gavin Stone. May 2nd is the home release date. Scroll down to enter the Rafflcopter giveaway! This is short and sweet readers - you have until midnight Wednesday April 26th EST to enter. I'll need the winner's info by end of day on Thursday, so watch your inboxes! Open to US only.

Beyond the Wild River - Sarah Maine

I really enjoyed Sarah Maine's debut novel, The House Between Tides, last year. I noted at the end of my review that I was looking forward to Maine's next book. Well that next book is here - Beyond the Wild River.

1888. Beyond the Wild River opens with a heartbreaking prologue - and death - on the Ballantyre Scottish estate.

1893. Nineteen year old Evelyn Ballantyre lives with her widowed father on their somewhat isolated estate in Scotland. Her father is often away for business and Evelyn finds herself somewhat bored. But when she begins an innocent friendship with a servant, it is seen as dangerous - in many ways. Evelyn will be accompanying her father on his next trip. That trip takes them to New York City, The World's Fair in Chicago and up to the wilds of Canada to fish in the Nipigon area. But that event from 1888 has reverberations that cross years and oceans.

I enjoy historical novels and their sense of propriety and manners as well as the language. But those same mores are confining. I appreciated Evelyn's questioning and quick mind, but her naiveté is worrying. She could easily be taken advantage of. And of course there is someone quite prepared to do that - after all as the only child, she will have quite the dowry and inheritance coming to her. But fate steps in in the form of James, a favourite groom from Evelyn's childhood who now works as a fishing guide in Canada. But how did he end up here and more importantly why? That night in 1888 holds the answers.

At the heart of Beyond the Wild River is the secret of that fateful night in 1888 and it's repercussions. The who, why and ending were well executed. But there's also a young woman's coming of age as well as a romantic thread.

Maine does a lovely job of weaving history into and throughout her story. I especially enjoyed those scenes set in Canada, having visited the Lake Nipigon area.

Historical novels such as this take time to tell their story.  Those looking for a fast paced read won't find it here. Those looking for an atmospheric tale to savour will want to pick up Beyond the Wild River.

Read an excerpt of Beyond the Wild River. And yes, I will be looking forward to Sarah Maine's third book! You can find Sarah Maine on her website, follow her on Twitter @SarahMaineBooks and like her on Facebook.

Giveaway - The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence - Alyssa Palombo

'Alyssa Palombo has a gift for asking “what if” about major historical events. In her just released second novel, The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence, she supposes that Botticelli's muse, Simonetta Vespucci (whose feet he asked to be buried at), was really - scandalously - his mistress and what comes forth is a heartbreaking story of true love that readers cannot help but fall in love with.' And I have a copy to giveaway to one lucky reader! Read on for more about the book and author.

From St. Martin's Griffin:

"A girl as beautiful as Simonetta Cattaneo never wants for marriage proposals in 15th Century Italy, but she jumps at the chance to marry Marco Vespucci. Marco is young, handsome and well-educated. Not to mention he is one of the powerful Medici family’s favored circle.

Even before her marriage with Marco is set, Simonetta is swept up into Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici’s glittering circle of politicians, poets, artists, and philosophers. The men of Florence—most notably the rakish Giuliano de’ Medici—become enthralled with her beauty. That she is educated and an ardent reader of poetry makes her more desirable and fashionable still. But it is her acquaintance with a young painter, Sandro Botticelli, which strikes her heart most. Botticelli immediately invites Simonetta, newly proclaimed the most beautiful woman in Florence, to pose for him. As Simonetta learns to navigate her marriage, her place in Florentine society, and the politics of beauty and desire, she and Botticelli develop a passionate intimacy, one that leads to her immortalization in his masterpiece, The Birth of Venus.

In the grand tradition of Girl with a Pearl Earring, Alyssa Palombo’s The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence vividly captures the dangerous allure of the artist and muse bond with candor and unforgettable passion." Read an excerpt of The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence.

Alyssa Palombo is the author of The Violinist of Venice. She has published short fiction pieces in Black Lantern Magazine and The Great Lakes Review. She is a recent graduate of Canisius College with degrees in English and creative writing, respectively. A passionate music lover, she is a classically trained musician as well as a big fan of heavy metal. The Violinist of Venice is her first novel. She lives in Buffalo, New York." You can connect with Alyssa on her website and follow her on Twitter.

And if you would like to read The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence, enter to win a copy using the Rafflecopter form below. Open to US and Canada no PO boxes please. Ends May 6/17.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Celebrate Earth Day with DK Canada!

Today is Earth Day and I can't think of a better book to be reading today than Smithsonian Earth: The Definitive Visual Guide from DK Canada. (This is the second edition of this title. More than one million copies of this title have been sold!)

Our world is simply an amazing place. The old saying 'a picture is worth a thousand words' definitely applies here. Earth the book is filled with gorgeous colour photographs throughout the five main sections - Earth, Land, Ocean, Atmosphere and Tectonic Earth. There are numerous sub sections within each of those main areas.

Although they are all fascinating, I was really drawn to the Land and Ocean chapters. Descriptions, photos and facts about places I will never get to visit in person captivate me. Continents, countries, mountains, deserts, oceans, lakes, cities and rural areas and so much more. The 'technical' descriptions of the science covered in the book is presented in clear, easy to understand language. The photographs and images are all sharp, defined and in colour. The text boxes used contain clear, concise information.

Earth is an incredible reference book - the wealth of information presented is staggering.  (IMO, DK publishes some of the best reference books around!) The timeline is fascinating to follow - from the beginning to present day.

Earth has found a home on my coffee table, ready to be picked up and leafed through - finding something new every time I do.






Friday, April 21, 2017

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #155

- 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
The cover blurb from Ruth Ware on both US and UK covers was enough to convince me to put Erin Kelly's forthcoming novel, He Said, She Said, on my to read list. The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. At first glance the covers appear to be almost the same. And they are - except the US cover has a starry background on the blue part of the picture. The UK cover has a shot of a path/ground area. There's a hint of a burning page on the US cover, but the UK is 'hotter' with flames and smoke. But here's what tilted my decision to the US cover this week. There's a hint of a woman on the US cover,  but the UK is not so shy . We've got a full image of the back of a woman. Surprise! And I am tired of women in danger or dangerous women photos. Which cover do you prefer? Any plans to read He Said, She Said? You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.

Film on Friday #51 - The Resurrection of Gavin Stone

I covered the last of the leftovers and washed the last dish last Sunday. Easter Sunday in fact. And then I sat down to watch what turned out to be a perfect movie for the day - The Resurrection of Gavin Stone.

Gavin Stone was a child television star. But that fame has fizzled and Gavin is now just another washed up actor. In trouble. Sentenced to community service, Gavin picks a church in his old home town to do those hours. But when he sees that the church is running a play, he decides to audition for the role of Jesus. The catch - he pretends to be a Christian.

I knew I was going to like the movie right from the opening scenes. It had a very modern (and funny) feel to it.

Brett Dalton was a great choice for the lead - his transformation from smug 'star' to finding his faith is well portrayed - and believable. The supporting cast of characters were just as great. I really liked ex-wrestler Shawn Michaels in his role as Doug. And D.B. Sweeney has just the right tone as the church's pastor. Wise enough to know when to let things play out, but full of good advice when needed.

Gavin fumbles and bluffs his way through what he believes a Christian 'looks' like. His first church service was quite funny - Communion wafers and wine, the collection plate and his idea of the way he should dress and behave. And the rockin' live band quite surprised him.

But it the way we live that professes our faith. This is what Gavin eventually sees - the members of the church living their faith. The play within the movie was very moving, with key scenes of Christ's life portrayed. As Gavin acts his way through the production, he begins to change......

The relationship between Gavin and his father needs repairing as well. I liked the understated way this was handled. Again, very believable.

I did mention earlier that The Resurrection of Gavin Stone was the perfect movie for Easter Sunday viewing. But, it would be great viewing anytime for those looking, exploring or confirming their faith. A wonderful film to show at church or watch with friends. Suitable for family viewing as well and a great soundtrack as well! Check out the trailer below.


"Movie has been provided courtesy of Mongrel Media and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc."

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Close Enough to Touch - Colleen Oakley

Close Enough to Touch is Colleen Oakley's newest novel.

Our protagonist is Jubilee Jenkins who suffers from a rare condition - she is deathly allergic to other people. Being touched by them specifically. Understandably, Jubilee has retreated from the world. But when her mother dies, financial straits drive her out into the world.

I quite liked the character of Jubilee - she's quirky with a great sense of humour. But what clinched the deal was her love of books. She manages to secure a job as a library assistant. Here, Oakley had me nodding uh huh and laughing out loud. You see, I work in a public library as well. Warning someone about viewing questionable material (okay let's just say it - porn) in a public space, amorous patrons in the stacks, toilet paper thievery and more. I loved this (very true) line: " The job is really only about sixty percent books. The other forty percent is community service. Mostly mental health."

Okay, I digress. Now that she's managed to get out in the world, Jubilee is of course going to be in contact with people. Not necessarily physical. She meets Eric and his son Aja at the library. Eric and Aja both are 'wounded' as well. Eric is divorced and his daughter won't speak to him. Aja's birth parents are dead and he and Eric are still trying to figure things out.

I enjoyed Jubilee's rediscovery of the world, her forays into friendship and her hopes for what might be. Aja was also a favourite. His view of the world and his coping mechanisms were heart-breaking. It's no wonder that he and Jubilee bond. But here's where I had a hard time. I just didn't like Eric. I found him insensitive, self-centered and self serving. Yes, he is trying to reconnect with his daughter - through texts as she won't speak to him, but he isn't really seeing the child in front of him. And even after he learns of Jubilee's condition, he still wants to reach out and touch her. I just couldn't buy the 'so enamoured I can't help myself.'

Close Enough to Touch is one of those books that you can't predict where its going to go. And as the end drew near, I grew quite happy with the turn things took. And then Oakley changed the direction of the ending. Abruptly. And this reader didn't like it. In an effort to remain spoiler free, I won't go into details. But if you've read the book, I'd love to know what you thought about the ending. Read an excerpt of Close Enough to Touch.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Giveaway - The Secret Room - Sandra Block

Sandra Block has just released The Secret Room, the third book in her Dr. Zoe Goldman series.

From Grand Central Publishing:

"Her patients are dying. Some are apparent suicides and others possible accidents, but rumors are flying that Dr. Zoe Goldman is an angel of death- intentionally helping hopeless cases go to a "better place"- or, worse yet, a dangerously incompetent doctor.

As a new psychiatry fellow at the local correctional facility, Zoe is still learning the ropes while watching her back to avoid some dangerous prisoners. As the deaths mount up, Zoe is wracked with horror and guilt, feverishly trying to figure out what is going wrong and even questioning her own sanity.

What Zoe doesn't realize is that someone is targeting her patients to get to her. Someone who has access to her deepest secrets and fears. Someone who will stop at nothing to take everything Zoe has, even her life." Read an excerpt of The Secret Room.

"I am a forever-fan of the Zoe Goldman series and will read anything Block writes. You should too." Lisa Scottoline, New York Times bestselling author.

Sandra Block graduated from college at Harvard, then returned to her native land of Buffalo, New York, for medical training and never left. She is a practicing neurologist and proud Sabres fan and lives at home with her family and Delilah, her impetuous yellow lab. She has been published in both medical and poetry journals. You can connect with Sandra Block on her website, like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

And if you 'd like to read The Secret Room, enter to win a copy using the Rafflecopter form below. Open to US and Canada, no PO boxes please. Ends May 6/17.

Over the Counter #362

What book caught my eye this week as it passed over the library counter and under my scanner? A 'far-out' memoir....

Bleaker House: Casing My Novel, to the End of the World by Nell Stevens.

From Knopf Canada:

"On a frozen island in the Falklands, with only penguins for company, a young would-be writer struggles to craft a debut novel...and instead writes a funny, clever, moving memoir that heralds the arrival of a fresh new literary talent.


Twenty-seven-year-old Nell Stevens was determined to write a novel, but somehow life kept getting in the way. Then came an irresistible opportunity: she won a fellowship to spend three months, all expenses paid, anywhere in the world to research and write a book. Did she choose a glittering metropolis, a romantic village, an exotic paradise? Um, no. Nell chose Bleaker Island, a snowy, windswept pile of rock off the Falklands. There, in a guesthouse where she would be the only guest, she imagined she could finally rid herself of distractions and write her 2,500 words a day. In three months, surely she'd have a novel, right?

     It's true that there aren't many distractions on Bleaker, other than sheep, penguins, paranoia and the weather. But as Nell gets to work on her novel--a delightful Dickensian fiction she calls Bleaker House--she discovers that an excruciatingly erratic Internet connection and 1100 calories a day (as much food as she could carry in her suitcase, budgeted to the raisin) are far from ideal conditions for literary production. With deft humour, this memoir traces Nell's island days and slowly reveals details of the life and people she has left behind in pursuit of her art. They pop up in her novel, as well, as memoir and novel start to reflect one another. It seems that there is nowhere Nell can run--neither a remote island nor the pages of her notebook--to escape herself.

     A whimsical, entertaining, thought-provoking blend of memoir and travelogue, laced with tongue-in-cheek writing advice, Bleaker House brilliantly captures the hopes, fears, self-torture and humour of being young and yearning to make a creative life. With winning honesty and wit, Nell's race to finish her book emerges as a fascinating narrative in its own right."

(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, April 18, 2017

The Perfect Stranger - Megan Miranda

Megan Miranda's debut adult novel, All the Missing Girls, was a fantastic read. I couldn't wait to read her latest, just released book - The Perfect Stranger.

We meet Leah Stevens in the prologue. She's left her job in the city and moved to a small town to work as a teacher. Not a planned move, but...."(I) could start over. Be the Leah Stevens I had planned to be."

The why of her departure from her former life is only revealed slowly, in memories and offhand comments. And what of her roommate, the enigmatic Emmy? They lived together back in Leah's college days and now again by good fortune.

And then a woman is killed in that new, quiet small town. And Emmy goes missing.

Can I say that Miranda does missing girls really, really well. That first book also had us hunting for a missing girl. Miranda has again come up with a fantastic plot line in which nothing is as it appears - in part one. But in part two the mouse becomes the cat.....

"Truth and story - doesn't matter which comes first, as long as you get where you need to be at the end. As long as you end at the truth, all's fair."

So, who's telling the truth? I could see the danger ahead and found myself wanting to shout at the character to open her eyes and see what was coming! You know, those 'don't go in the basement' moments in a scary movie. She doesn't listen however. Thankfully, because otherwise the reader would be robbed of a heck of a good read. And no psychological thriller should be without that last gotcha ending. The Perfect Stranger ends with a 'just right' one. Read an excerpt of The Perfect Stranger.

Another great page-turner from Megan Miranda - this reader will be eagerly awaiting her next book.

You can connect with Megan Miranda on her website and follow her on Twitter.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Giveaway - Any Day Now - Robyn Carr

The latest book in Robyn Carr's Sullivan's Crossing series  - Any Day Now - releases tomorrow - and I have a copy to giveaway to one lucky reader!

What's it about? From Mira Books:

"The highly anticipated sequel to #1 New York Times bestselling author Robyn Carr’s What We Find transports readers back to Sullivan’s Crossing. The rustic campground at the crossroads of the Colorado and Continental Divide trails welcomes everyone—whether you’re looking for a relaxing weekend getaway or a whole new lease on life. It’s a wonderful place where good people face their challenges with humor, strength and love.

For Sierra Jones, Sullivan’s Crossing is meant to be a brief stopover. She’s put her troubled past behind her but the path forward isn’t yet clear. A visit with her big brother Cal and his new bride, Maggie, seems to be the best option to help her get back on her feet.

Not wanting to burden or depend on anyone, Sierra is surprised to find the Crossing offers so much more than a place to rest her head. Cal and Maggie welcome her into their busy lives and she quickly finds herself bonding with Sully, the quirky campground owner who is the father figure she’s always wanted. But when her past catches up with her, it’s a special man and an adorable puppy who give her the strength to face the truth and fight for a brighter future. In Sullivan’s Crossing Sierra learns to cherish the family you are given and the family you choose."

"Robyn Carr  is the author of more than 50 novels, including 11 #1 New York Times bestsellers, as well as the beloved Virgin River and Thunder Point series. In 2016, she was awarded the Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award from Romance Writers of America." You can connect with Robyn on her website, like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

And if you'd like to read Any Day Now, I have a copy to giveaway to one lucky reader. Enter using the Rafflecopter form below. Open to continental US only, ends April 29/17.




Friday, April 14, 2017

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #154

- 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'm a big Linwood Barclay fan and have quite enjoyed the Promise Falls series. Parting Shot is the fourth book. It releases later this month in the UK, but not until November in the US. The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. I find the UK cover a bit bland, but the tagline is good. I like the broken font on the title on the US cover, but I'm not too sure about the photo. At first glance I saw a face with the headlights for eyes and the legs for a nose! So I am going to call a draw for myself this week. What about yourself? Any plans to read Parting Shot? Which cover do you prefer?
You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.

Giveaway - To the Stars Through Difficulties - Romalyn Tilghman

Books, libraries, art - all figure into the plot of Romalyn Tilghman's debut novel - To the Stars Through Difficulties - that releases today! And I have a copy to giveaway to one lucky reader!

From the publisher:

"Andrew Carnegie funded fifty-nine public libraries in Kansas in the early 20th century―but it was frontier women who organized waffle suppers, minstrel shows, and women's baseball games to buy books to fill them. Now, a century later, Angelina returns to her father's hometown of New Hope to complete her dissertation on the Carnegie libraries, just as Traci and Gayle arrive in town―Traci as an artist-in-residence at the renovated Carnegie Arts Center and Gayle as a refugee whose neighboring town, Prairie Hill, has just been destroyed by a tornado.

The discovery of an old journal inspires the women to create a library and arts center as the first act of rebuilding Prairie Hill after the tornado. As they work together to raise money for the center, Traci reveals her enormous heart, Angelina discovers that problem-solving is more valuable than her PhD, and Gayle demonstrates that courage is not about waiting out a storm but building a future. Full of Kansas history―from pioneer homesteaders to Carrie Nation to orphan trains―To the Stars through Difficulties is a contemporary story of women changing their world, and finding their own voices, powers, and self-esteem in the process."

"Straight out of graduate school, Romalyn Tilghman was hired as Executive Director of the Association of Community Arts Councils of Kansas. From there, she went on to work for the National Endowment for the Arts as Regional Representative. For more than twenty years, she has worked as a freelance consultant in the arts. She has served on the boards of Americans for the Arts, Association of California Symphony Orchestras, and Western Arts Alliance, as well as on numerous national panels. She lives in Long Beach, California." You can connect with Romalyn Tilghman on her website.

Sound like a book you'd like to read? Enter to win a copy using the Rafflecopter form below. One copy, open to US and Canada, no PO boxes please. Ends April 29/17.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Rise - Cara Brookins

Cara Brookins is the author of a number of children's books. But Rise: How a House Built a Family is her own story.

A victim of domestic violence, Cara found the strength to leave that relationship. But years of uncertainty and fear had taken a toll on not just herself, but her four children. The home they were living in was full of bad memories and the abuser knew where they were living. In an attempt to heal herself and her family, Cara came up with a plan - they would build a new home for themselves. Not simply have somewhat build it for them - but actually do the work themselves. If they built a house, could they rebuild their family?

I was fascinated by this idea. Brookins herself is the narrator of the audiobook, which gave the book so much more depth. Hearing someone tell the story of their own life is very powerful.

Can you imagine building a house from the ground up with no previous experience? What would you do? Cara turned to YouTube videos and they went from there. The trials and tribulations of building a house with your children would be near impossible for many. Cara did it while still working full time as a computer analyst.

The descriptions of the abuse, (psychological and physical) danger and fear that the family lived in is hard to hear - but it is more than overshadowed by the strength Cara and her children draw on. Rise is one of those triumph of the human spirit stories that I love to read - uplifting and inspiring.

I really enjoyed Rise. But with an audiobook, there's no access to pictures. And pictures themselves tell a story. See pictures of their journey here.  Read an excerpt of Rise. Or listen to an excerpt of Rise.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Giveaway - Speed of Life - Carol Weston

Carol Weston's new middle grade novel, Speed of Life, has just released.(Movie rights have already been sold!) And I have a copy to giveaway to one lucky reader!

What's it about? From the publisher, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky:

"Sofia lost her mother eight months ago, and her friends were 100% there for her. Now it's a new year and they're ready for Sofia to move on.

Problem is, Sofia can't bounce back, can't recharge like a cellphone. She decides to write Dear Kate, an advice columnist for Fifteen Magazine, and is surprised to receive a fast reply. Soon the two are exchanging emails, and Sofia opens up and spills all, including a few worries that are totally embarrassing. Turns out even advice columnists don't have all the answers, and one day Sofia learns a secret that flips her world upside down.

Speed of Life is the heartbreaking, heartwarming story of a girl who thinks her life is over when really it's just beginning. It's a novel about love, family, grief, and growing up." Read an excerpt of Speed of Life.

"Carol Weston has been the Dear Carol advice columnist at Girls’ Life since 1994. Her sixteen books include Ava and Pip (which the New York Times called “a love letter to language”), Ava and Taco Cat, Ava XOX, The Diary of Melanie Martin, and Girltalk, which came out in a dozen languages. Weston has been a guest on The Today Show, The View, and Oprah, and her work has been featured in The New York Times, Parenting, Redbook, Cosmopolitan, and Seventeen. She has had over 45 letters to the editor in The New York Times. Carol studied literature at Yale, graduating summa cum laude, and has an MA in Spanish from Middlebury. She lives in Manhattan." You can connect with Carol on her website, like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

And if you'd like to read Speed of Life, enter to win a copy using the Rafflecopter form below. Open to US only, no PO boxes please. Ends April 22/17.

Over the Counter # 361

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner. Gettin' crafty and creative this week.....

First up is Craft for the Soul: How to Get the Most Out of Your Creative Life Hardcover by Pip Lincolne.

From Penguin Random House Australia:

"Pip Lincole is often approached by people who want to be creative, but don't know where to start. This book shows you it is as simple as setting up a routine, and creating time and space for new ideas to come in. She shares her wisdom regarding priotizing your own creativity, doing new things, finding things that spark your excitement and passion, being positive, creating routines, loving your work, and much more. And of course, no Pip book is complete without some crafty projects. Here are 10 original, exclusive projects to get you started on your creative journey: crochet, knitting, pompoms and paint—something for everyone."

Next up is Your Idea Starts Here: 77 Mind-Expanding Ways to Unleash Your Creativity Hardcover by Carolyn Eckert.

From Storey Publishing:

"With change happening faster and faster in our tech-ruled world, being able to think creatively, flexibly, and quickly is more important than ever. In Your Idea Starts Here, graphic designer Carolyn Eckert offers 77 specific questions, techniques, and exercises — cleverly combined with fascinating infographics and other visuals — to jump-start creative thinking.

Don’t know what you want your project to be? Make a list of things you don’t want it to be. Wondering where to start? Say one word that relates to your idea and invite a friend to say another word that relates to yours. See where five or ten rounds take you. Work within a time limit, look in unexpected places, think tiny, do the opposite, shuffle your papers, and explore your creativity to the fullest! There’s something here to inspire and strengthen every smart idea, all in an innovative little book that makes a perfect gift for anyone, including yourself."

(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, April 11, 2017

Mississippi Blood - Greg Iles

I have been impatiently awaiting Mississippi Blood, the third book in Greg Iles' epic 'Natchez Burning' Trilogy. The last few chapters of the middle book, The Bone Tree, left me gasping, crying and re-reading to make sure what I thought happened, really happened. It did and I've been desperate to see where Iles would take the narrative. For those of you who haven't read this series (you need to) here's a quick overview from the publisher:",....tale of love and honor, hatred and revenge that explores how the sins of the past continue to haunt the present."

So, Mississippi Blood picks up a few weeks later. Penn Cage is speaking to the reader and says..."If you don't want the truth, stop reading now. If you go on, don't say I didn't warn you." Not a chance in heck I could stop reading.

I have no idea how I'm going to truly do this book justice with my own words. There is hands down one of the best courtroom scenes I've ever read at the heart of the book. Tom Cage seems determined to not defend himself in court. The defence mounted by attorney Quentin Avery seems to be not mounting any defence at all. Tom's son Penn is desperate to save his father - and what is left of his family. Is Tom guilty of murder? Who else could have killed Viola? (Who really did will stun you!) Surrounding the trial is more danger, death, love, hate, lies, fears, hopes and more. Iles captures the attitudes, history (much of this trilogy is based on fact) and racial tensions of Mississippi through his characters, their dialogue, settings and situations. The words fairly simmer on the page. But amongst all of the ugliness are those who want better for themselves, their families and their communities.

I was all over the place reading - angry, scared, hopeful and teary again. (Seriously, another beloved character gone?!) I could not put the book down. I was sucked back into the story on page one and only emerged three days and almost seven hundred pages later.

The title? "Mississippi blood is different. … there’s strength in it too. Strength that’s been beat but not broke. That’s Mississippi Blood." Read an excerpt of Mississippi Blood.

If you haven't read this trilogy, you are missing out on some phenomenal storytelling. Storytelling that unfortunately is based in reality. Absolutely recommended. And don't you dare read this book until you've read the first two.

"Greg Iles spent most of his youth in Natchez, 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 lives in Natchez with his wife and has two children." Find out more about Greg at his website, follow him on Twitter, and connect with him on Facebook as well as on Instagram.

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, April 10, 2017

Garden of Lamentations - Deborah Crombie

I'm a big fan of Deborah Crombie's series that features Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James. The latest (#17) is Garden of Lamentations.

Now both working for Scotland Yard, Gemma and Duncan have two puzzling - and disturbing - cases on their hands. Gemma is after the murderer of a young woman found in a private London garden. And Duncan believes that there's a traitor in the ranks - especially after a former mentor is attacked. This thread has been present in the last few books - and comes to a head in Garden of Lamentations.

I've written in my previous reviews ..."the most captivating of all, is the large group of characters that appear in each book, their lives changing and growing with every new entry.  They're so well drawn, they've become almost real, especially Duncan, Gemma and their children. I feel like I know them. Although others may complain that the domestic details of the characters detracts from a good mystery, I find it gives the story much more depth. I've become invested in their lives and want to see where Crombie takes them from here. Sitting down with the latest feels like catching up with old friends." This is what has me always eagerly awaiting the next book from Crombie.

But Crombie's mysteries and investigations are just as strong as her characterizations. The clues, suspicions and what-ifs are there for the reader to discover along with the police. I enjoy not knowing the 'whodunit' until the final pages. Crombie gives us lots of choices along the way.

I'm not sure what the next book will bring - there's a plot turn that has me wondering if the series will continue or is simply moving shop....Read an excerpt of Garden of Lamentations. If you've not read Crombie before, I suggest starting with earlier books - this latest draws on previous events.

You can find Deborah Crombie on Facebook and on Twitter.

Giveaway - The Seventh Sun - Kent Lester

Kent Lester's debut novel, The Seventh Sun, releases April 18/17 - and I have not one, but three copies to giveaway to three lucky readers! What's it about you ask?

From Forge Books:

"In a breathtaking debut, Kent Lester has married fast-paced narrative and cutting-edge, reality-based science to produce an edge-of-the-seat thriller in The Seventh Sun.

A seemingly random murder alerts scientist Dan Clifford to a global conspiracy that stretches from the halls of Washington to the Honduran coast. Illegal, undersea activities have unwittingly uncovered a primordial secret that is wreaking havoc on aquatic life and the local human population.

When the CDC and the full resources of a U.S. “threat interdiction” team fails to uncover the source of the devastation, Dan and a brilliant marine biologist, Rachel Sullivan, must race to unravel an unimaginable, ancient mystery in the murky depths. It's up to them to stop this terror before a determined multi-national corporation triggers a worldwide extinction event, the Seventh Sun of ancient myth." Read an excerpt below.

Kent Lester is an entrepreneur who has started several successful businesses. He has always had a strong interest in science, technology, and oceanography, which is reflected in the scientific accuracy of The Seventh Sun, his first novel. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia, where he is hard at work on the next Dan Clifford thriller. You can connect with Kent on his website,like him on Facebookor follow him on Twitter.


If you'd like to read The Seventh Sun, enter to win a copy using the Rafflecopter form below. Open to US and Canada, no PO boxes please. Ends April 22/17.

Friday, April 7, 2017

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #153

- 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
Mark Billingham writes one of my favorite crime series -the Tom Thorne books. This latest - Love Like Blood - will release in June on both sides of the pond and is on my must read list. The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. I'm not a fan of the US cover at all. The sense I get from it is more espionage or political thriller - both of which I don't enjoy. The UK cover seems to say 'crime.' I'm not sure what that is laying on the path and the one lit window is making a point of some kind. So, easy for me this week - UK. Which cover do you prefer? Have you read Mark Billingham? You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Bridge - Stuart Prebble

The Bridge is Stuart Prebble's latest book.

Michael has been dating Alison for a few months now. They're on the way to meet his Grandma Rose, when the radio newscast reports a madman picking up children and throwing them over the Waterloo Bridge. Horrific, Alison and Michael agree. And then the meeting with Rose goes badly as well. Perhaps it was too soon. Or perhaps he doesn't know Alison well enough yet. The Madman strikes again, again targeting children.

Unbelievably, the police finger Michael as a person of interest. He was in the vicinity of each occurrence and they have other evidence that  they say ties him to the crimes.

Prebble leads the reader with many red herrings along the way, igniting our suspicions as to the final whodunit. I must admit, I was pretty sure I had sussed out the answer about midway through. I was wrong, but....I found the coincidences that drove the plot forward to the final reveal to be just too far-fetched. The whodunit was overwrought and overwrote in my opinion. The Bridge was just an okay read for me. Read an excerpt of The Bridge.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

How Did This Happen? - Review and Giveaway

Now, I don't read a lot of poetry, but the subject matter of How Did This Happen? :Poems for the Not So Young Anymore by Mary D. Esselman and Elizabeth Ash Velez definitely caught my eye. Topical and timely for this reader.

"This is for every woman who has faced "OMG, how did this happen?"

Poetry books are not meant to be read front to back in my opinion. Instead they invite browsing. How Did This Happen gives you other options. The poems have delightfully been categorized:

Insult: When You Don't Recognize Yourself
Injury: When You Realize Aging Is A Thing
Defiance: When You Think You Can Make It All Go Away
Dread: When You Can't Even
Grit: When You Find A Way to Live With Yourself
Grace: When You Find A Way to Live In The World

There are truths in every entry.....I enjoyed "Being Called Ma'am" and "There Is A Girl Inside".

Esselman and Velez provide an introduction to every chapter, sharing their own and other's experiences. Mary D. Esselman is a freelance writer and teacher currently working for the University of Virginia's Women's Center. Elizabeth Ash Velez is the academic coordinator of the Community Program and professor of feminist theory at Georgetown University.

Check out the website - Aging While Female or the Facebook page and follow along on Twitter.

If you would like to read How Did This Happen?, enter to win a copy using the Rafflecopter form below. Open to US and Canada, no PO boxes please. Ends April 15/17.

Over the Counter #360

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Cookbooks inspired by fiction....

First up is An Irish Country Cookbook: More Than 140 Family Recipes from Soda Bread to Irish Stew, Paired with Ten New, Charming Short Stories from the Beloved Irish Country Series by Patrick Taylor.

From Forge Books:

"From New York Times, USA Today, and Globe and Mail bestselling author Patrick Taylor comes ten new short stories in the popular An Irish Country series paired with more than 150 delicious Irish family recipes in An Irish Country Cookbook.

Told from the perspective of beloved housekeeper Kinky Kincaid, one of the cherished starring characters in Taylor’s An Irish Country series, An Irish Country Cookbook explores Ireland’s rich culture through its delicious dishes and stories of its charming people. These authentic tried-and-true family recipes have been passed down from generation to generation, and are the original comfort food for millions. Organized into sections such as: starters, soups, breads, mains, sides, sauces, desserts, cakes, candy and treats, and Ulster Christmas recipes, this cookbook brings the magic of Irish cooking and time-honored Irish traditions to life.

The ten short stories starring Dr. Fingal Flahertie O'Reilly, Dr. Barry Laverty, and the colorful village of Ballybucklebo will delight fans of the series and new readers alike. From starters to sauces, Irish soda bread to Christmas dinner, these memorable dishes will bring a taste of the world of the Irish Country books to every kitchen."

Next up is A Game of Thrones: A Feast of Ice and Fire - The Official Companion Cookbook by  Chelsea Monroe-Cassel and Sarianne Lehrer.
Foreword by George R. R. Martin

From the publisher, Bantam:

"Ever wonder what it’s like to attend a feast at Winterfell? Wish you could split a lemon cake with Sansa Stark, scarf down a pork pie with the Night’s Watch, or indulge in honeyfingers with Daenerys Targaryen? George R. R. Martin’s bestselling saga A Song of Ice and Fire and the runaway hit HBO series Game of Thrones are renowned for bringing Westeros’s sights and sounds to vivid life. But one important ingredient has always been missing: the mouthwatering dishes that form the backdrop of this extraordinary world. Now, fresh out of the series that redefined fantasy, comes the cookbook that may just redefine dinner . . . and lunch, and breakfast.

A passion project from superfans and amateur chefs Chelsea Monroe-Cassel and Sariann Lehrer—and endorsed by George R. R. Martin himself—A Feast of Ice and Fire lovingly replicates a stunning range of cuisines from across the Seven Kingdoms and beyond. From the sumptuous delicacies enjoyed in the halls of power at King’s Landing, to the warm and smoky comfort foods of the frozen North, to the rich, exotic fare of the mysterious lands east of Westeros, there’s a flavor for every palate, and a treat for every chef."

(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, April 4, 2017

Ragdoll - Daniel Cole

Ragdoll is Daniel Cole's first novel - and what a heck of a lead off book!

Our introduction to Detective William 'Wolf' Fawkes is through a shocking courtroom prologue. Well, with my interest definitely piqued,  I quickly turned to the first chapter - and that was even more shocking. Wolf is called out to a murder - and here's the thing - it's not one body. It's six body parts - sewn together. And the killer seems to be sending a message to Wolf......

Many times a book can be deemed character or plot driven. Ragdoll is definitely plot driven with lots and lots of action. But the characters were just as well developed and important. This is the first book in a series, so the groundwork is being laid. Honestly, I really enjoyed each character - from the rash, unpredictable, unstable Wolf to the supporting cast. That cast includes Emily - a detective with anger and hostility issues. Wolf's ex wife Andrea - a television news reporter who believes the story is everything and she'll do anything to get it. Finlay is the old man on the team with only two years left 'til retirement. But I have to say my favourite was Edmunds - the newbie on the team. He's overlooked, undervalued, but tenacious.

Cole's plotting kept me completely off balance throughout the book. There was no way to imagine where the story was going to go. There were so many possibilities presented for whodunit.I cannot tell you how much I appreciate being surprised by an author. There may be a few instances that I thought things were a wee bit far-fetched. But in no way did this detract from my rapid turning of pages. You'll also find some great gallows humour sprinkled throughout the book.

Fair warning to gentle readers - this book is probably not for you. Crime fans like myself - an excellent read! See for yourself  - read an excerpt of Ragdoll.

Entertaining, page turning and addictive? Check. Looking forward to the next in the Detective William Fawkes series? Absolutely. Ragdoll has been translated into over 30 languages and production rights have been snapped. Crime fans, put this on your must read list.

I loved this bit from Cole's bio: "At 33 years old, Daniel Cole has worked as a paramedic, an Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals officer and most recently for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, driven by an intrinsic need to save people or perhaps just a guilty conscience about the number of characters he kills off in his writing." You can follow Daniel Cole on Twitter.

I received this book from HarperCollins Canada for review.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Foxlowe - Eleanor Wasserberg

Foxlowe is Eleanor Wasserberg's debut novel.

I loved the cover - creepy, Gothic looking manor - there can only be a good story lurking behind those rusty closed gates.

Foxlowe is the name of the estate, tucked away in the moors and crumbling into ruin. But it is home to a number of people living communally. There are three children in the group. One barely remembers the 'Outside', one was born in the house and one arrived as a baby. Their world is Foxlowe - they've never traveled outside it's confines. The narrator of the story is Green - the girl born in the house.

While the adults believe they are living in an idyllic world, this is far from the truth. Relationships begin to crumble, the rituals meant to keep their collective safe don't seem to have the same power and as the children grow, some of them begin to wonder what is Outside the gates. Is it truly the Bad that they've been warned about?

Green's voice is by turns fierce, frightened, clear and confused. The three have no reference beyond what they have learned from the adults in the group. I desperately wanted to rescue them. Freya is the leader of the group and oh, she was easy to despise. We can see that many of her rules and ceremonies are harmful, yet the Family seem to blithely accept them.

Descriptions of the house were detailed - I had a vivid sense of place.

I literally couldn't put the book down, caught up in this 'utopian' setting. The arrival of the end of part one caught me unawares. I had unanswered questions! Part two takes a circuitous route from present to past that again, only encourages the reader to keep turning pages late into the night.

The last chapter and especially the last paragraph were unexpected, negating the ending I anticipated. One last shiver before I closed the cover. I really enjoyed Foxlowe. I had no idea where Wasserberg was going to take her story - I quite appreciate a book being unpredictable. Read an excerpt of Foxlowe.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Kill the Father - Sandrone Dazieri

Kill the Father is Italian author Sandrone Dazieri's North American debut.

When a woman is beheaded in Rome and her six year old son taken, the major crimes Chief calls in an unexpected duo to secretly track the killer and find the boy. Deputy Captain Colomba Caselli is still recovering from her last case or catastrophe, depending on your viewpoint. She is joined Dante Torre, a man who spent his childhood trapped inside a concrete silo fed by the gloved hand of a masked kidnapper who called himself 'the Father'. He escaped but has been irreparably damaged by his horrific ordeal.

I thought this was an excellent premise. The two leads were well drawn and I am always attracted to the 'walking wounded' protagonists. Kill the Father is listed as the first book in the Columba Caselli series. So, a great introduction to this character and her back story. Torre is of course, horribly affected by his ordeal as a child, but I found that his reactions to situations etc. became somewhat repetitive as they were described over and over again.

The plot is intricate and complex, but I found it started to drag over the course of the 500+ pages and I found my attention wandering.

I chose to listen to Kill the Father. I do find when I read a book vs. listening to it, that it's a different experience. Repetitive descriptions that I may have glossed over in physical book format are more pronounced in audio. The character seem more 'real' when they have an actual voice.

The reader of Kill the Father was Cassandra Campbell - one of my favourite audio book presenters. Her performance was excellent. She has such a smooth voice that is so pleasant to listen to. There's a melodic undertone that makes her voice sound so polished and effortless. I liked her interpretation of the Columba character. It fit the mental image I had created for the character. Her pacing of the narrative is good, as are the inflections she gives to dialogue and action. She handles the Italian phrases used in the book admirably. Listen to an excerpt of Kill the Father.

Great audio performance, but overall, Kill the Father was just an okay book for me. Read an excerpt of Kill the Father.