Monday, September 25, 2017

Friend Request - Laura Marshall - Review AND Giveaway

Friend Request is Laura Marshall's debut novel - and I have a copy to giveaway to one lucky reader!

Here's the premise. 2016. Single mom Louise gets a Facebook friend request from Maria, a girl she went to school with back in 1989. It stops her cold - for you see, Maria is dead. Who would do such a cruel thing? But there's more. Louise was a different person when she was in school. Unsure of herself and desperate to be accepted by the 'cool' kids, she became part of a group that bullied Maria. Could Maria alive? And back for revenge? After all - her body was never found......

I truly detest bullying and found the scenes and passages describing the actual cruelty very hard to read. The full extent of that behavior is only slowly meted out as the plot progresses. Marshall does a good job with younger Louise's reasoning and self justification. It's not pretty, but it is believable. Those events from 1989 have coloured Louise's life ever since. She is a different person today, with much to lose.

Marshall uses a then and now narrative in Friend Request. This was very effective, as I had to keep reading just to 'see' what happened in the past and what was going to happen in the present. There are some italized passages along the way from an unknown author. I wasn't sure how they would fit into the plot. Marshall managed to keep me guessing for most of the book. She throws in some red herrings that make a few outcomes possible, but I truly didn't see the final reveal until it arrived.

Using social media as the means to ramp up the fear factor is very current - and very real. How much of your life is visible to others? Do you really want to get in touch with that person from your past?

Now, here's my only issue. And it's down to my pragmatic nature - why not go to the police and why lie to them when she did?  But, without those omissions, the book would not work!

I like the slightly titillating and sensationalistic tone of Friend Request - a Brit book. It made for a great beach read. Here's an excerpt of Friend Request.  Friend Request was a good first novel and I will watch for Marshall's next book. You can connect with Laura Marshall on her website, like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

If Friend Request sounds like a book you'd like to read, enter to win a copy using the Rafflecopter form below! Open to US and Canada, no PO boxes please. Ends October 7/17.

Friday, September 22, 2017

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #177

- 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
Another debut novel that caught my eye - The Visitors by Catherine Burns. The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. Two pretty different looks this week. The UK cover employs a very dark tone, in cover image, tagline and colour. Very ominous. And yet, I have to say, that I would be inclined to pick up the US cover. I would be curious as to who The Visitors are. I like the cover shot a lot - that peeling wallpaper is a great image. So, I'm going to go with the US cover this week. I find the UK cover just too lurid. Which cover do you prefer? Any plans to read The Visitors?
You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.

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.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Young Jane Young - Gabrielle Zevin

I adored Gabrielle Zevin's previous book, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry and was eager to read her just released novel, Young Jane Young.

We meet sixty four year old Rachel in the the opening chapters as she tries out online dating. I loved her sassy voice and dry sense of humour and found myself chuckling over her thoughts and comments. Her chapter then segues into the life of the next main character - her daughter Aviva. Aviva is working for a congressman - and crosses a line, having an affair with the married man.  Her life goes off the rails from the fallout of this decision, until she decides to start over with a new name - Jane. She relocates in another state - and daughter Ruby is born. Jane's chapter segues into Ruby's. And the inevitable fate that awaits all three. The last viewpoint is that of the congressman's wife Embeth.

What a rich and varied story this was! Young Jane Young was an unexpected, unpredictable and yet very satisfying read. This one event effects all four leads in so many ways and their various outlooks, reactions and responses are dependent on each individual's age, experience and life philosophy. I loved each voice and was hard pressed to have a favourite. But, if forced to pick, I would have to say that I enjoyed Ruby the most. Her letters to her penpal are the basis for a lot of what she is feeling and doing and a lot of it is heartbreaking. I loved the insertion of epistolary elements. Zevin employs this for Aviva/Jane as well. We are privy to her journal, written in a Choose Your Own Adventure style. Choices are given and we see how and why her life took the path it did.

"The rub of the Choose Your Own Adventure stories is that if you don't make a few bad choices, the story will be terribly boring. If you do everything right and you're always good, the story will be very short."

Mother, daughters, friends, the path taken and not taken. The echoes of a choice made, the denial and acceptance that we can't change what has been done - only move forward.

Zevin's writing is wry, witty and peppered with truths. See for yourself - read an excerpt of Young Jane Young.

You can connect with Gabrielle Zevin on her website, find her on Facebook and like her on Twitter.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Over the Counter# 381

What book caught my eye this week as it passed over the library counter and under my scanner?? The title of this one was a bit weddiculous....

Weddiculous: An Unfiltered Guide to Being a Bride Paperback by Jamie Lee. 

From HarperOne:

"n this irreverent wedding guide, MTV’s wedding planning guru and star of Girl Code, comedian and bride-to-be Jamie Lee, offers practical advice and hilarious insights on how to stay sane while planning your "big day."
Weddings. What was once a beautiful celebration of a couple coming together for a lifetime of happiness has become a bit ridiculous, complete with the whimsical monogrammed mason jars and unconventional photo shoots. The Epic task of creating that special event can be nightmarish—a dizzying maze of minutiae and seemingly endless choices that might tempt you to say yes to a quickie drive-through chapel in Vegas.

But weddings don’t have to be stressful. You don’t have to give in to the crazy—or give up completely. Famous funny gal Jamie Lee learned much more than she counted on pulling together her own wedding, and in Weddiculous she shares her first-hand experiences and hilarious hard-won insights with every girl who just said "yes."

Jamie gives you the real low-down, puts the madness into perspective, and walks you through the process step by step in a calm, realistic, and highly entertaining way. Weddiculous includes helpful checklists, timelines, and suggestions on everything from what questions to ask vendors to how to handle difficult bridesmaids to what’s worth the extra cost (and more importantly, what’s not). Throughout, Jamie provides guidance on when you should trust your gut and when you need to listen to others.

What Amy Sedaris has done for hospitality and crafting, Jamie Lee now does for weddings. Weddiculous will help remind you what’s really important about your wedding day: it’s just the first day in a long and happy marriage."

(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!)

Monday, August 28, 2017

How to Find Love in a Bookshop - Veronica Henry

I do love my mysteries, but every so often I crave a sweet, feel-good read with a happy ending. How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry was all of the above and the perfect read for a lazy Sunday.

Nightingale Books has been a fixture in the village of Peasedale for almost thirty years. "After all, a town without a bookshop was a town without a heart." Julius, the owner, is just as beloved by the residents. When he passes away, his daughter Emilia returns home to take over the shop she grew up in.

"Millions - there must be so many millions - of words. All those words, and the pleasure they had provided for people over the years: escape, entertainment, education...He had changed minds. He had changed lives. It was up to her to carry on his works so he would live on...."

Well, starting off with a bookshop at the heart of a tale had me hooked without turning a page! And then I met the inhabitants of Peasedale and became totally immersed in Henry's imaginings. Her characters were so warm and real. They're people you would like to have in your circle of friends. Many of them are holding on to secrets, running from or wishing for love and happiness - and some of them don't even realize it....

Henry's emotional descriptions of her characters and their wants and wishes was very well done. The memories of Julius had me reaching for a tissue more than once. I could only hope that they all would find what they needed by the end of the book. There are lots of miscommunications, missed cues and missteps along the way. But, this being a chick lit type of book, we know we can expect some happy endings by the final pages....and the journey there was so very enjoyable.

There were so many great book quotes and references throughout the novel. Bibliophiles will appreciate them all. "There's a book for everyone, even if they don't think there is. A book that reaches in a grabs your soul."

I really enjoyed How to Find Love in a Bookshop - it was charming, sweet and a lovely read. Five stars for pure escapist enjoyment reading. I'll be checking out what else Henry has written. Read an excerpt of How to Find Love in a Bookshop.

Fans of Jenny Colgan would enjoy Veronica Henry. You can connect with Veronica on her website, like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Giveaway - Eastman Was Here - Alex Gilvarry

Alex Gilvarry's new novel, Eastman Was Here has been named 'one of the most anticipated novels of the summer' by Buzzfeed, Nylon, and Huffington Post. And I have a copy of Eastman Was Here to giveaway to two lucky readers!

What's it about? From the publisher, Viking Books:

"An ambitious new novel set in the literary world of 1970s New York, following a washed-up writer in an errant quest to pick up the pieces of his life.

The year is 1973, and Alan Eastman, a public intellectual, accidental cultural critic, washed-up war journalist, husband, and philanderer; finds himself alone on the floor of his study in an existential crisis. His wife has taken their kids and left him to live with her mother in New Jersey, and his best work feels as though it is years behind him. In the depths of despair, he receives an unexpected and unwelcome phone call from his old rival dating back to his days on the Harvard literary journal, offering him the chance to go to Vietnam to write the definitive account of the end of America’s longest war. Seeing his opportunity to regain his wife’s love and admiration while reclaiming his former literary glory, he sets out for Vietnam. But instead of the return to form as a pioneering war correspondent that he had hoped for, he finds himself in Saigon, grappling with the same problems he thought he’d left back in New York.

Following his widely acclaimed debut, From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant, Alex Gilvarry employs the same thoughtful, yet dark sense of humor in Eastman Was Here to capture one irredeemable man’s search for meaning in the face of advancing age, fading love, and a rapidly-changing world." Read an excerpt of Eastman Was Here.

“With his second book, Gilvarry establishes himself as a writer who defies expectation, convention and categorization. Eastman Was Here is a dark, riotously funny and audacious exploration of the sacred and the profane—and pretty much everything in between.” —Téa Obreht, New York Times bestselling author of The Tiger’s Wife."

"Alex Gilvarry is the author of From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant, winner of the Hornblower Award for a First Book, named Best New Voice 2012 by Bookspan.  He has received fellowships from the Harry Ransom Center and the Norman Mailer Center. He is a professor at Monmouth University where he teaches fiction." You can connect with Alex Gilvarry on his website and follow him on Twitter.  And if you'd like to read Eastman Was Here, enter to win one of two copies I have to give away. Open to US only, no PO boxes please. Ends Sept. 9/17.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Back to School with DK Canada

It's hard to believe that summer has sped by and that back to school is right around the corner. DK Canada (always!) has some great books to help with any project or subject.

Little Guy and Gramma thought that the Children's Illustrated Dictionary(Canadian edition) looked like a book we would like to explore further. The pictures on the cover immediately caught his eye, but he didn't know what the knight was. Perfect - let's go find out.

There are many ways to 'read' this book. You could start at the beginning and go page by page. Or pick a letter to explore fully - it's easy to choose as the letters are on the cut edge and the current one is highlighted. But Little Guy has no interest in being methodical. Instead he just started in the middle and stopped whenever a picture caught his eye. At first it was the ones he recognized and we would talk about it, with Gramma taking a quick peek at the text accompanying the picture to see if there was any additional facts I could mention. Now, not every entry has a picture, but as an example, a page with eighteen entries had thirteen images. The images are a mixture of actual and drawn. I do think having all actual images would be more 'real'. The drawn images are accurate, but not as appealing to view.

The words chosen are of course not what you would find in an adult discretionary, but they are words that would be appropriate for learning and confirming for a variety of ages. The recommended age says 5-9. I do think that some nine year olds may find this a bit juvenile. The explanations are short and sweet, but do convey the meanings well. Little Guy will be able to grow with this book. Right now, some of the words are above and beyond his vocabulary, but the sheer volume of pictures and things he does recognize and can name greatly appeals to him.

As always, the book is printed on good quality paper, with full colour images and easy to read type, well spaced and inviting to look at. Appendices included are abbreviations, spelling guide, word building, facts and figures and countries of the world - these are most definitely for older readers.

This was a good introduction to a reference book. And it's one that keeps him interested while Mom is making supper.

Friday, August 25, 2017

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #173

- 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
Sue Grafton's latest Kinsey Millhone book, Y is for Yesterday has just released. One more to go and I guess the series will end? The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. Well, let's see. I just find the UK cover to be overdone - dark road, woman on the run from a car in the night. Scraggly trees (I had to try and see if I could use scraggly two weeks in a row) Both covers do use a yellow 'Y'. But I much prefer the font of the US 'Y'. And I like the cleaner look of the US version. It matches the rest of the series. Interesting that the US actually spells out the whole title, while the UK doesn't. So, US for me this week.Which cover do you prefer? Any plans to read Y is for Yesterday? You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.

Film on Friday #53 - All Saints

The best stories in life are the true ones. All Saints is one of those stories. The movie releases today from Affirm Films and Sony Pictures.

"All Saints is based on the inspiring true story of salesman-turned-pastor Michael Spurlock (John Corbett), the tiny church he was ordered to shut down, and a group of refugees from Southeast Asia. Together, they risked everything to plant seeds for a future that might just save them all."

John Corbett has long been a favourite actor of mine and the choice to cast him as Mike Spurlock was perfect casting. He captures the newness of this pastor and his determination to do the best he can for his flock, despite the directions to shut down the church. Sometimes his eagerness lands him in trouble. But his enthusiasm for the newest members of his congregation - refugees from Burma - knows no bounds. And that's what makes this such a great movie - that these events are true - and the outcome is lasting.

Spurlock is sure he can control things and that the outcome he foresees will come to fruition. But we all know that saying - Man plans and God laughs. Things do not go according to the plan Mike has envisioned - and yet he is so sure that this is what God wants. Without spoiling anything, these events only serve to show that we cannot know what God has planned for us. And that sometimes failure is success.

The supporting cast is wonderful, from the grumpy church ladies, resident curmudgeon Forrest (Barry Corbin) and especially the Karen people. Nelson Lee does a wonderful job as Ye Win, the 'leader' of the refugees. I hope that viewers can appreciated the difficulty and challenges of being new to a country and culture. Faith is the unifying tie for this church's members.

All Saints was shot on location at the actual All Saints Church. I appreciated seeing the actual church and surrounding grounds.

All Saints is a wonderful, joyful, inspiring, affirming film, one suitable for the whole family. See the trailer below. Affirm Films has a wonderful discussion guide for All Saints.

 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Quiet Child - John Burley

John Burley has just released his third novel, The Quiet Child.

1954 - Cottonwood, California. Many residents of this small town are ill, including the McCrays. Although there are environmental reasons that might explain the sicknesses, fingers are instead pointed at six year old Danny McCray, who doesn't speak. But how could a child bring so much illness to the town and his own family? When Danny and his older brother Sean are kidnapped, the townsfolk whisper that it's maybe for the best. But Sheriff Jim Kent and the boys' father Michael are determined to bring them home.

Now, with that description, you may think the book is a mystery - and yes, it is. Who has taken the boys and why? The Quiet Child has echoes of Burley's first book, The Absence of Mercy - fathers and sons, a suspicious small town, what a parent would do for a child and at what cost?

Burley's writing is beautifully descriptive and atmospheric - many passages are worth reading again to savour. I've found that its impossible to determine where Burley is going to take his stories - and this was proven again in The Quiet Child. There are almost 'otherwordly' tones to the book. I was surprised by the turn the story took in the last few chapters - it was completely unexpected.


I was interested to read in the author's notes at the end of the book that Cottonwood is a real town - one Burley visited while writing the book. I wonder what the residents think of this book?Read an excerpt of The Quiet Child.

"John Burley is the award-winning author of The Absence of Mercy, which won the National Black Ribbon Award recognizing a new voice in suspense writing. He attended medical school in Chicago and completed his emergency medicine residency at University of Maryland Medical Center and R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. He continues to serve as an emergency medicine physician in Northern California, where he lives with his wife, daughter, and Great Dane." You can connect withJohn Burley on his website,like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.  See what others on the TLC book tour thought. Full schedule can be found here.

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

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Over the Counter #380

What book caught my eye this week as it passed over the library counter and under my scanner. The portability of this idea.....

My Tiny Veg Plot:  Grow Your Own in Surprisingly Small Places Hardcover by Lia Leendertz.

From Pavilion Books:

"Food can be grown just about anywhere, and lack of space should not put you off growing and enjoying the taste of your own fresh vegetables. Not everyone has access to outside space or what we traditionally think of as a garden, but we all have window ledges, doorways, often stairways, sometimes even a balcony or roof space. This book offers solutions and inspirations for these tricky spots that we frequently overlook or neglect, and highlights some unusual growing spaces such as a minuscule balcony in Bristol, an innovative installation of hexagonal polytunnels full of salad leaves in Amiens, France, and an ingenious self-sufficient growing system that provides a wealth of vegetables in an old swimming pool in Phoenix, Arizona.

Filled with practical advice, inspiration and planting and design ideas, My Tiny Veg Plot tells you how to prepare your beds whatever the size and situation; there is advice on filling containers, creating ingenious planters, using planting mediums, soil and water and which fruit and vegetables will thrive in which spot.

My Tiny Veg Plot contains straightforward information on what to grow and how to grow it, from seed to ready to eat."

(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, August 22, 2017

The Good Daughter - Karin Slaughter

Karin Slaughter is simply one of the best mystery/thriller writers out there. I am always eagerly awaiting her next book. Her latest, The Good Daughter was an absolutely fantastic read!

1989. The Good Daughter opens with a grab you by the throat, can't look away, opening chapter. A mother and her two daughters (Sam and Charlie), home when they were expected to be out. Two masked gunman, looking for their father Rusty - a lawyer who defends almost anyone. The consequences of that day - horrific. Seriously, take a deep breath before you start.....

And then Slaughter slams the reader again, jumping forward twenty eight years to that same town and to what has happened in that time span. One of the daughters survives and is working as a lawyer like her father. When a school shooting occurs, it is exactly the kind of case Rusty takes. Daughter Charlie was there when it happened.

Oh, there is so much going on in this book! The relationships between the girls, the girls and their parents, spouses, friends, enemies and selves are intricately complicated and so well written. And just as intricate is the shooting case - something doesn't add up. The crime and investigation is brilliant, with no way to guess where things were going to end.

But best of all are the twists the Slaughter throws into her narrative. Without spoiling anything, suffice it to say that just when I felt I had a handle on what happened in the past, Slaughter pulled the rug out from under me. It's impossible not to become immersed in this story. Emotional, addictive and simply excellent - read an excerpt of The Good Daughter. (Gentle readers take note that Slaughter doesn't shy away from violence in her books.)

Monday, August 21, 2017

Giveaway - Seeing Red - Sandra Brown

Sandra Brown's latest novel, Seeing Red, has just released - and I have a copy to giveaway to one lucky reader!

Seeing Red is a stand-alone thriller. Here's more from Grand Central Publishing:

"#1 New York Times bestselling author Sandra Brown delivers nonstop suspense and supercharged sexual tension in a thriller about tainted heroism and vengeance without mercy.

Kerra Bailey is a TV journalist hot on the trail of a story guaranteed to skyrocket her career to new heights. Twenty-five years ago, Major Franklin Trapper became a national icon when he was photographed leading a handful of survivors to safety after the bombing of a Dallas hotel. For years, he gave frequent speeches and interviews but then suddenly dropped out of the public eye, shunning all media. Now Kerra is willing to use any means necessary to get an exclusive with the Major--even if she has to secure an introduction from his estranged son, former ATF agent John Trapper.

Still seething over his break with both the ATF and his father, Trapper wants no association with the bombing or the Major. Yet Kerra's hints that there's more to the story rouse Trapper's interest despite himself. And when the interview goes catastrophically awry--with unknown assailants targeting not only the Major, but also Kerra--Trapper realizes he needs her under wraps if he's going to track down the gunmen . . . and finally discover who was responsible for the Dallas bombing.

Kerra is wary of a man so charming one moment and dangerous the next, and she knows Trapper is withholding evidence from his ATF investigation into the bombing. But having no one else to trust and enemies lurking closer than they know, Kerra and Trapper join forces to expose a sinuous network of lies and conspiracy--and uncover who would want a national hero dead." Read an excerpt of Seeing Red.


"Sandra Brown is the author of sixty-eight New York Times bestsellers. There are over eighty million copies of her books in print worldwide, and her work has been translated into thirty-four languages. She lives in Texas." For more information you can visit Sandra Brown on her website, like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

And if you'd like to read Seeing Read, enter for a chance to win a copy using the Rafflecopter form below. Open to US and Canada, no PO boxes please. Ends Sept. 3/17,

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Black Mad Wheel - Josh Malerman

Josh Malerman's first book, Bird Box, was one of the best audio books I've ever listened to. I was eager to see what his newest book, Black Mad Wheel, would bring.

In Bird Box, it was sight, seeing and not seeing, that was at the heart of the terror. This time around, Malerman brings hearing and sound as the focal point of the plot.

1957. A group of musicians, all part of the band The Danes, as well as being former soldiers, are drafted by the US government to hunt down the source of a sound. A sound that by all descriptions will drive a person mad. They agree (the money they're offered seals the deal) and head to Africa. Former expeditions have defined an area that is believed to be at the heart of the sound. Those expedition members are dead.....

The narrative goes from past to present so there is another point of view - that of a nurse called Ellen. She is responsible for only one patient in the government facility she works in - that of a sound survivor - Phillip Tonka of The Danes. While most of the book surrounds Phillip, I found the character I liked the most was Ellen.

I liked the idea of a sound as a weapon or evil. And Malerman's enigmatic depiction of the sound is definitely scary. But for this listener Black Mad Wheel just never met my expectations. Which admittedly were very high as I adored Bird Box. I thought the enlisting of musicians, albeit ex soldiers, a bit of a stretch.  For me,  the 'horror' elements of this latest were just too... hmm...too something that I just can't define. Maybe amorphous is the word I'm looking for - the evil was just too vague for me. Malerman's latest work has been referred to as metaphysical by other reviewers.

Black Mad Wheel's scenes and characters do benefit from Malerman's musical and band life. He is the lead singer of the band The High Strung.

I chose to listen to Black Mad Wheel. The narrator was Robertson Dean. He has a rich, full voice with a nice low, mellow undertone. It's pleasant to listen to and the low tone and measured delivery fits the story well. He uses different tones and tenors to represent different characters. Listen to an excerpt. Or if you prefer, read an excerpt.

I'll still pick up Malerman's next book and I wonder if speaking will be at the crux of the book. We've had see no.....hear no.....

Friday, August 18, 2017

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #172

- 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
It was the subtitle on Elisabeth Carpenter's forthcoming book that caught my eye. 99 Red Balloons: A chillingly clever psychological thriller with a stomach-flipping twist. It is on my TBR stack, so we'll see if it lives up to that  description. So, the US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. Two very similar looks this week. The title fonts are the same, but with a slight change in the tone of the red. Same tag line - switching candy for sweets. A different playground apparatus in each. Of course a red balloon in each. Scraggly (I love that descriptor) tree branches. Big difference - an actual girl in the US shot and a child's shoe only in the UK shot. But despite all those similarities, I think I prefer the UK cover this week. It seems more ominous - I think it's the background shading. Which cover do you prefer? Any plans to read 99 Red Balloons? You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.