Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Over the Counter #384

What book caught my eye this week as it passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Such a small, simple idea...but so very big....

I Wish My Teacher Knew: How One Question Can Change Everything for Our Kids by Kyle Schwartz.

From Da Capo Press:

"One day, third-grade teacher Kyle Schwartz asked her students to fill-in-the-blank in this sentence: "I wish my teacher knew _____."

The results astounded her. Some answers were humorous, others were heartbreaking-all were profoundly moving and enlightening. The results opened her eyes to the need for educators to understand the unique realities their students face in order to create an open, safe and supportive place in the classroom. When Schwartz shared her experience online, #IWishMyTeacherKnew became an immediate worldwide viral phenomenon. Schwartz's book tells the story of #IWishMyTeacherKnew, including many students' emotional and insightful responses, and ultimately provides an invaluable guide for teachers, parents, and communities."

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

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Littlest Train - Eric Gall

Ahh trains - Little Guy loves his trains. So Gramma thought that The Littlest Train by Chris Gall might appeal to him....and it did!

He first noticed the 'nice' face (no scary faces for Little Guy) on the larger train and then spied the little train riding atop. He was definitely interested, so we turned the cover and started to read.

The Littlest Train lives on a train table until he is knocked off one day. He then goes exploring and is helped along the way by other, bigger trains to find his way back home.

The illustrations are quite lovely, done in muted, soothing colours. The introduction of lines and cross hatching throughout each item give the illustrations depth and texture. Those friendly faces extend to all the toys, trains and characters that populate the story. The little boy who owns the train table is named Mr. Fingers. Which makes sense from the train's point of view I suppose. But perhaps a name like Bobby would have been easier for a little one, with no explanation needed as to why he was called Mr. Fingers. We enjoyed looking at the pictures and places that the Littlest Train got to visit outside of his train table home. This did spark Little Guy to show his trains some new places in his home. Gramma quite liked the mouse's home. (The Borrowers came to mind!) The trains that help him find his way back are all different. (A description of each is included on the last page.) They have names that match their build - Farley Freighter, Sara Speedster etc.

I did like that some pages did not have dialogue. Instead, Little Guy was able to tell that part of the story himself by deducing what was happening from the illustrations. Discussions around exploring, helping and missing something or someone could be started from this story.

The setting, characters and plot will be somewhat familiar to those who have read or played with another well known train and his friends. And after closing the book, Gramma and Little Guy had to go play trains of course!



"Chris Gall is the award-winning author and illustrator of Dinotrux, a Publishers Weekly Best Children's Book which inspired a Netflix original TV series, and the other books in the series, including Dinotrux Dig the Beach and Revenge of the Dinotrux. His other picture books include Nanobots, Dog vs. Cat, Awesome Dawson, Substitute Creacher, and America the Beautiful, another Publisher's Weekly Best Children's Book. He lives in Tucson, Arizona."

Monday, September 18, 2017

Something Like Happy - Eva Woods

I was really intrigued by the inspiration for Eva Woods' new novel  Something Like Happy. I hadn't heard about the #100happydays challenge before this. (You can find out more at the website and on Twitter.)

In Something Like Happy, we meet Annie - who is definitely not happy. Her mother is ill, she hates her job, lives in a grubby flat, her marriage has broken up and there's a tragedy in her past that has crippled her moving forward. A chance meeting with Polly, a woman who is dying, changes her life. Polly has been given three months to live - and she has decided to not to waste a single day or opportunity - and to touch and involve as many people as she can in feeling happy. Every day for 100 days.

"I don't want to just...go through the motions of dying. I want to really try and change things. I have to make some kind of mark, you see, before I disappear forever. I want to show it's possible to be happy and enjoy life even if things seem awful."

It's impossible not to like Polly as her enthusiasm is infectious. On the flip side, it's very hard to celebrate each day as she does, knowing that she literally has one hundred days left. Doubly hard if you know someone who is terminally ill. But the message at the heart of the book is important. We truly do need to find something or someone to enjoy every day - whatever that may be. Happy is different for everyone.

Annie was a great foil for Polly. When we meet her, she is grumpy, depressed and simply existing. And although the reader is pretty sure how things will progress, her 'transformation' is still a pleasure to follow. I enjoyed the supporting cast, especially Costas, Annie's lodger. Dr. McGrumpy is a close second. He's also the romantic lead in Something Like Happy.

Woods takes some literary license with some of her plotting. Many scenes and developments take place in the hospital. And in 'real life' many of them just wouldn't happen. (Such as sharing other patient's diagnosis with volunteers) As with the romance, these plotlines have the feel of a chick lit read.

Something Like Happy is a double edged read. On one hand it's a feel-good, inspirational read. On the other, it is tinged with sadness and will have the reader perhaps recalling loss in their own lives. But, I think the takeaway will be inspirational as well. Even if you don't formally participate in the challenge, the idea of finding something to be happy for every day is a worthwhile goal.

"The thing about happiness, Annie - sometimes it's in the contrasts. Hot bath on a cold day. Cool drink in the sun. That feeling when your car almost skids on the ice for a second and you're fine - it's hard to appreciate things unless you know what it's like without them." Read an excerpt of Something Like Happy.

"Eva Woods was inspired to write SOMETHING LIKE HAPPY after surviving her own brush with cancer and the breakdown of her marriage. Woods lives in London, where she teaches creative writing and regularly contributes to Marie Claire UK, xoJane, and other publications."You can connect with Eva Woods on her website, like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

(And on a final note - "At the moment, the challenge has been taken by more than 8 000 000 people from 160 countries and territories around the world...")

Friday, September 15, 2017

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #176

- 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
Canadian cover
I adored The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry, so I was quite excited to find out that Gabrielle Zevin had a new book - Young Jane Young. The US cover is on the left and the Canadian cover is on the right. So this is interesting this week....same image and title font on both covers. But....in case you hadn't noticed, the background colour has been changed. That and the size of the font used for the author's name and the taglines. I have to say, that having read her previous book, the larger author name font on the US cover may catch my eye quicker that the Canadian cover. I wonder about that background colour - does that yellow cover seem warmer than the blue? Although they're very similar, I'm going to go with the Canadian cover this week. I find the blue crisper and better defined if that makes sense. Which cover do you prefer? Any plans to read Young Jane Young?
You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Over the Counter #383

What book caught my eye this week as it passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Truly, I am in awe of how many cat craft books there are....here's another one....

Cattastic Crafts: DIY Project for Cats and Cat People by Mariko Ishikawa.

From Zakka Workshop:

"Cat-Tactic Crafts contains over 30 amusing and easy craft projects to make for cats and cat people.

Build your cat the condo of his dreams, complete with scratching posts and canopies. Drive your kitty mad with delight with a handcrafted teaser on a string. Or sew your feline a one-of-a-kind costume for special holidays. These designs require only basic craft skills, so cat lovers of all abilities will be able to make and enjoy these fun projects. Cat-Tactic Crafts contains over 30 amusing and easy craft projects to make for cats and cat people.

Build your cat the condo of his dreams, complete with scratching posts and canopies. Drive your kitty mad with delight with a handcrafted teaser on a string. Or sew your feline a one-of-a-kind costume for special holidays. These designs require only basic craft skills, so cat lovers of all abilities will be able to make and enjoy these fun projects."

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

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

There's a Monster in Your Book - Tom Fletcher

There's a Monster in Your Book is newly released from Tom Fletcher. 

Now, with Little Guy, it's important that any 'monsters' have 'nice' faces and be 'not scary'. Greg Abbot's illustration of Tom's monster was approved by Little Guy, so Gramma started to read....

Well, Gramma can read the words, but There's a Monster in Your Book is an interactive experience. Young readers and listeners are encouraged to help shake, shout, spin, tickle, tilt and blow to get the monster out of the book. There was lots of silliness as we both participated in the actions needed

When the monster does get out of the book, he lands in the child's bedroom. Mom said she would have preferred the monster to land in any other room besides the bedroom. This opened up a good discussion - and of course the book reinforced that everything was okay. (There is a way to put the monster back in the book)

I think we read it together about three or four times and then Little Guy decided to read it to Gramma. The illustrations of each action are colorful, perfectly suited and allowed him to easily tell the story as well.

There's a Monster in Your Book was a fun, engaging read. Thumbs up from Little Guy and Gramma. See for yourself - here's an excerpt. While recommended for ages 3-7, I think the younger crowd would appreciate this book more than school aged.

Tom Fletcher is an award-winning songwriter, as well as a children’s author, YouTube star, daddy,
and McFly band member. He has 1+ million followers on Twitter and Instagram: @TomFletcher and on YouTube as tommcflytwitter. He has a huge social-media presence and his viral videos, including “Buzz and the Dandelions” and “My Wedding Speech,” have been featured on Good Morning America. He and his bandmate Dougie Poynter are the co-authors of the Dinosaur That Pooped picture books, which have sold over one million copies in England. Tom is married to the author Giovanna Fletcher, and they have two children.

Greg Abbott is an illustrator and graphic designer based in West Sussex, England. In addition to children’s books, he has created prints, apparel, toys, greeting cards, and other merchandise. Visit him on Tumblr or follow him on Twitter.


Monday, September 11, 2017

Glass Houses - Louise Penny

I am a devoted reader of Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache series. The latest (#13) is Glass Houses.

Glass Houses opens in a courtroom with Gamache on the stand. "He knew perfectly well who the murder was. He was just a little afraid that something would go wrong. And a particularly cunning killer would go free." Well, I was immediately hooked! So many questions. The reader slowly learns what led to the case Gamache is testifying at.

A hooded figure dressed in black stands on the square in the pretty little off the beaten village of Three Pines - home to Inspector Gamache. He or she is not committing a crime, but doing nothing but standing there is all the more terrifying.

"The actual act of terror created horror, pain, sorrow, rage, revenge. But the terror itself came from wondering what what going to happen next. To watch, to wait to wonder, To anticipate. To imagine. And always the worst."

Gamache and a small, select group of officers are also running an operation that seems to have been almost a year in the planning. But what exactly that is, is only slowly made clear to the reader. Very slowly - which only kept me turning pages late in the night, eager to see where and what was at the end. Penny brings in elements from the a previous long running (and very current) storyline.

I love Penny's prose and the voice she has created for not just Gamache, but for every player in her books. Her mysteries are always intriguing, but it is the characters themselves that have me eager to see what is going on in their lives. It feels like settling in with old friends when I pick up the latest book. And settling into a village I'd love to live in. Penny's description of Three Pines says much:

"Some might argue that Three Pines itself isn't real, and they'd be right, but limited in their view. The village does not exist, physically. But I think of it as existing in ways that are far more important and powerful. Three Pines is a state of mind. When we choose tolerance over hate. Kindness over cruelty. Goodness over bullying. When we choose to be hopeful, not cynical. Then we live in Three Pines."

Another fantastic entry in this wonderful series. Read an excerpt of Glass Houses.

Friday, September 8, 2017

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #175

- 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
Friend Request is Laura Marshall's debut novel - an entry into the psychological suspense genre. And yes, that is currently my favourite genre to read, so it is on my TBR list. (From the publisher: A pulse-pounding psychological thriller for fans of He Said/She Said, The Couple Next Door and I See You.) So, the US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. The first difference I see is dark vs. light. When I hear the words 'friend request', I immediately think of social media, so the cover image on the US version reflects that. I'm just very glad they didn't use a full facial image of the woman. The UK has a tagline that explains a bit more about Maria's request - that she is dead - or maybe not. So, I'm gathering she drowned given the floaty hair in the water shot. I'm not really a fan of either cover this week, but if I had to make a choice, I would go with the US cover. Which cover do you prefer? Any plans to read Friend Request?
You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Indigo Girl - Natasha Boyd

I knew I wanted to listen to Natasha Boyd's new novel, The Indigo Girl, when I heard it was based on a true story.

Boyd has blended fact and fiction to tell the story of Eliza Lucas Pinckney. Eliza was a sixteen year old girl in 1739 when she was left in charge of the family's plantations in South Carolina, while her father pursued his military career. Determined to offset the mortgages and debt on the properties, she envisioned growing indigo on the land. Previous attempts at this crop in The Colonies had failed, but Eliza is sure she can succeed.

What a story! Eliza is curious, ambitious, intelligent, outspoken and defiant, choosing to try and follow her heart, beliefs and conscience while still navigating the ways and mores of the time period. (And staving off her mother's attempts to have her married!) She is a woman far ahead of her time in terms of both age, ambition and temperament. Boyd has shaped her characterization of Eliza from actual letters and documents that have survived the centuries. Many passages from those documents are read/written into the book. Her internal dialogue lets the reader see the pressure, turmoil and strength of this young woman.

Boyd has done a first rate job in capturing the time period through both setting and dialogue. I always enjoy the verbal parrying of 'polite' society in this time period. The descriptions of the plantations painted vivid mental images. I was fascinated by the actual planting and harvesting of indigo. This time period includes slavery in the South. Again, Eliza's thoughts and actions defy what she has grown up with. Historical details surrounding the politics of the time also play into the plot.

I chose to listen to The Indigo Girl and I'm so glad I did. I just find books come alive for me when I listen. The reader was Saskia Maarleveld and she was a wonderful choice. I could easily imagine Eliza speaking from the light, 'younger' tone Maarleveld used. She also created believable voices for the male characters, lowering and roughening her voice. Her diction is clear and easy to understand, with a slight English accent.

The Indigo Girl was such a great read/listen. I'm still in awe of that fact that this is a true story. I enjoyed the author's notes at the end. Here's a fun fact for you - President George Washington was a pall bearer at Eliza's funeral. Those of you who love history and historical fiction, you're going to want to pick this one up. Definitely recommended. Listen to an excerpt of The Indigo Girl.

"Natasha Boyd is an internationally bestselling and award-winning author of contemporary romantic Southern fiction and historical fiction. She holds a bachelor of science in psychology and also has a background in marketing and public relations. After hearing one of Eliza’s descendants speaking about Eliza’s accomplishments, the need to tell her story became so overwhelming that it couldn’t be ignored. Hence, The Indigo Girl was born. Boyd also started an Instagram account to document the research she accumulated; visit @eliza.the_indigo_girl for more information." You can connect with Natasha Boyd on her website, like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Isn't the cover beautiful? The indigo wash and tones of blue tie in to the story wonderfully. The Indigo Girl releases October 3/17.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Over the Counter #382

What book caught my eye this week as it passed over the library counter and under my scanner? The sheer magnitude of doing something like this.....

Walking to Listen: 4,000 Miles Across America, One Story at a Time Hardcover by Andrew Forsthoefel.

From Bloomsbury Publishing:

"A memoir of one young man’s coming of age on a journey across America--told through the stories of the people of all ages, races, and inclinations he meets along the way.

Life is fast, and I’ve found it’s easy to confuse the miraculous for the mundane, so I’m slowing down, way down, in order to give my full presence to the extraordinary that infuses each moment and resides in every one of us.

At 23, Andrew Forsthoefel headed out the back door of his home in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, with a backpack, an audio recorder, his copies of Whitman and Rilke, and a sign that read "Walking to Listen." He had just graduated from Middlebury College and was ready to begin his adult life, but he didn’t know how. So he decided to take a cross-country quest for guidance, one where everyone he met would be his guide.

In the year that followed, he faced an Appalachian winter and a Mojave summer. He met beasts inside: fear, loneliness, doubt. But he also encountered incredible kindness from strangers. Thousands shared their stories with him, sometimes confiding their prejudices, too. Often he didn’t know how to respond. How to find unity in diversity? How to stay connected, even as fear works to tear us apart? He listened for answers to these questions, and to the existential questions every human must face, and began to find that the answer might be in listening itself.

Ultimately, it’s the stories of others living all along the roads of America that carry this journey and sing out in a hopeful, heartfelt book about how a life is made, and how our nation defines itself on the most human level."

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

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Late Show - Michael Connelly

Michael Connelly is hands down one of my favourite authors. I've really enjoyed the Harry Bosch character over the years, as well as newer addition Mickey Haller. But I was very excited to see that he has created a new lead in his latest novel, The Late Show.

Meet Renée Ballard, a detective in the LAPD who works the night shift, aka The Late Show. Ballard was moved to the night shift after a harassment charge against a superior officer was dismissed. The kicker? Her then partner knew the truth and refused to back her.

On the night shift, she and her new partner field calls, but pass them on to the day crew to pursue. But Renée's drive and determination to find answers and justice for victims is hard to suppress. She fields two calls one evening - the beating of a prostitute and a waitress killed on the periphery of a seeming gangland shooting. Against all protocol she decides to pursue both cases on her own in the day while still working the night shift.

Oh, The Late Show is so very, very good on so many levels. Renée is intelligent, driven and tough. She has to be to do what she does - and to put up with what her superiors and fellow officers throw at her. I like her back story - it has some depth, unusual elements, is believable and makes this lead even more 'human'. Connelly's plotting in this latest is impeccable - intricate, detailed and oh so addicting. The 'who' question in the one case is at the heart of everything. The reader is alongside Renée as she puts together the pieces. I enjoy not having 'insider' information that the lead doesn't have. Danger and action are part of this book as well as the police work. There are a few scenes where my heart was in my throat and I couldn't put the book down. (And I admit I did peek ahead a few pages as I had to know the outcome.) The settings are detailed and the police procedures detailed and with the ring of authenticity.

The Late Show was a fantastic read for me and I can't wait to see more of this character. Highly recommended! Read an excerpt of The Late Show.

The author's notes at the end intrigued me..."A great debt of thanks goes to LAPD Detective Mitzi Roberts, who served in so many ways as the inspiration for Renée." Of course I had to google her - and yeah, she's a heck of a inspiration. She worked the Black Dahlia case amongst many others. Connelly also sneaks in a cameo reference to Bosch the television series in the plot.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

The Blinds - Adam Sternbergh

The premise of Adam Sternbergh's new novel The Blinds, intrigued me.....

An isolated small town in Texas, home to those who can't remember why they were sent there. In their past lives, they were either criminals or witnesses. Now, their memories have been wiped out and they live in the town they refer to as The Blinds. They'll live and die there, as the agreement they made ensures they can't leave. But, after eight fairly peaceful years, Sheriff Cooper has trouble on his doorstep. A suicide, a murder and strangers arriving in town have upset the rhythm and routine of the town......

The Blinds has a distinctly unique plot driving the book forward. There was no way to even begin to predict where things might go. Carrying that plot forward are a fairly large number of residents. Those residents are only known by the names they chose when they arrived - a combination of a movie star and a President's name. (This alone fulfills the publisher's note that the book will appeal to Coen Brothers fans)  I wondered if anyone remembered their before - or was there anyone there who didn't have their memory wiped?  I found it was hard to really connect with the characters as they have no back story, no memories, no reasons - they are simply marking time until....? What are these government looking guys after? Their arrival did open up the possibility that we would learn more. And we definitely do - but truthfully I wasn't that invested by the time answers finally came. And maybe its because of my pragmatic nature, but I found the ending a bit hard to buy, as well as some of the later plot devices that led to the final resolutions. This was just an okay read for me, but I may be in the minority on this one - there are many who loved it.

I chose to listen to The Blinds. The reader was Stephen Mendel. He's a reader I've enjoyed before. His voice is clear, easy to understand and is expressive - rising and falling as he narrates. Mendel differentiates between characters with tone and tenor. His matter of fact tone suited the unusual plotting of The Blinds.

The Blinds defies being slotted into a genre. It's part mystery and thriller along with some sci-fi and Western overtones. See for yourself - Listen to an excerpt of The Blinds. Or if you prefer, read an excerpt.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Film on Friday #54 - Big Little Lies from HBO

A work colleague kept telling me I needed to read Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. I never got around to it - until now. She also raved about the newly released HBO mini series of Big Little Lies. (available on DVD and Bluray) So I thought I would read the book first - and she was right - it was addicting and so very good! After the last page, I couldn't wait to see what HBO had done with this tale.

Well, I have to say, they did very, very good things. I ended up binge watching over two days - and being exhausted was so very worth it! Now, in case you have no idea what it's about......

"Big Little Lies is based in the tranquil seaside town of Monterey, California, where nothing is quite as it seems. Doting moms, successful husbands, adorable children, beautiful homes: What lies will be told to keep their perfect worlds from unraveling? Told through the eyes of three mothers – Madeline (Reese Witherspoon), Celeste (Nicole Kidman) and Jane (Shailene Woodley) – Big Little Lies paints a picture of a town fueled by rumors and divided into the haves and have-nots, exposing the conflicts, secrets and betrayals that compromise relationships between husbands and wives, parents and children, and friends and neighbors."

Wow! The casting could not have been better. These three stars perfectly suited each role. Witherspoon's manic portrayal of Madeline seemed effortless. Kidman's embodiment of Celeste completely captured this private character. Woodley was a great choice for the younger Jane. Fantastic acting. The male supporting cast isn't mentioned, but I have to say they were just as good. Particularly Alexander Skarsgard - he was downright chilling.

The show unfolds in past and present scenes. We know from the first episode that something happens at the school talent show amongst the adults....but what? Police interviews, flashback scenes and memories start to fill in what we don't know - even as the present hurtles towards an inevitable conclusion. Twists, turns, secrets and reveals. Having read the book, I knew that there were darker turns along the way. I thought the way the mini series revealed things was really well paced and so suspensful. The music selections were great, the scenery breath taking, the cinematography was so effective and so much more.

Now, there are always changes when a book is adapted for the screen. The locale has changed from Australia to California. I have to say, I think it was very effective. The lives of the rich and privileged played out better in the US for this viewer. And of course there are affairs - who changes from book to movie. A few characters are missing or their roles reduced. The whodunit for the death on Trivia Night stays the same, but the reasons are not as defined. And things are of course more tided up in the final pages of the book.

I have to say that even though the book was good, the mini series was even better for me.  A definite five stars. Check out the trailer below.  "Big Little Lies garnered 16 Emmy nominations including best limited series, Witherspoon and Kidman as lead limited series actress, Laura Dern and Shailene Woodley as best supporting actress limited series and Alexander Skarsgard as best supporting actor in the category." Uh huh, that good. Talks are happening with Lianne Moriarty about writing a second season for HBO. Fingers crossed!

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #174

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

US cover
UK cover
 Jussi Adler-Olsen writes the Department Q series.  It's one you may not have heard of, but I highly recommend it. The seventh entry is The Scarred Woman. The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. Just looking at the two covers together, I am immediately drawn to the UK cover. It's striking and the size of the font grabs your attention. Interesting that it's the author's name that is so large and not the title. The US cover has the title and author in equal sized fonts. I do find that the red tag lines are a little lost in the black background on the US cover. This time 'round, I really like the scraggly (week three!) trees on the UK cover. So, overall I am going with the UK cover this week. Which cover do you prefer? Any plans to read The Scarred Woman? You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.