Monday, July 24, 2017

The Lying Game - Ruth Ware

If you love psychological suspense, you're going to love Ruth Ware's novels. Her third book, The Lying Game has just released and yes, I loved it!

Isa, Kate, Thea and Fatima all attended the same seaside boarding school. While there, they played what they called The Lying Game. They lied to everyone but adhered to the one rule they laid down - never lie to each other. But their game and their time together abruptly comes to an end when something tragic occurs. Expelled and split up, they go their own ways, except Kate, who stays in Salten. Now grown with careers and families, they only sporadically stay in touch. But, when Kate sends a text with the words 'I need you' to the other three, they immediately come back to Salten. You see, the past can only stay buried so long - and an omission is as good as a lie....

I am a huge fan of 'unreliable narrator' tales - I love trying to suss out what is actually the truth. This time we have multiples - four self proclaimed liars. Isa is our lead character. We see both the present and the past through her eyes and memories. More of what I love - that back and forth only heightens the tension of a book. We know something has happened in the past - unclear references hint at something terrible, but it is never completely spelled out. (And is only finally revealed in the last few chapters.) I need to know what the secret is! The book then switches back to the present - another sure fire technique for keeping me up late reading.

The Lying Game has a mystery at its core, but it is also an exploration of female friendship and familial relationships. These four wouldn't seem to be drawn together as friends - they're all very different in personality and temperament. Ware does a wonderful job portraying and exploring the bonds of friendship, loyalty and time. The same goes for the family piece - what defines a family and where does loyalty lie?

The setting is perfect - a remote coastal town, an isolated school, a ruin of a building that has housed family, friends and secrets for many years, as well as a surrounding village filled with distinctly contentious inhabitants. All of this just adds a great atmospheric backdrop for the all the possibilities, scenarios and questions I came up with.

The Lying Game is a character driven novel with a secret at the heart of it. A secret that changes the course of many lives. It's an addictive read - one I didn't want to put down - and one I finished far too fast again. This reader will be waiting for book number four. Read an excerpt of The Lying Game.

You can connect with Ruth Ware on her website and follow her on Twitter.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Zip! Zoom! On a Broom - Teri Sloat, Illustrated by Rosalinde Bonnet

Zip! Zoom! On a Broom by Teri Sloat is the latest in the Gramma and Little Guy reads.

Little Guy knows what Hallowe'en is and immediately labeled the book as a Hallowe'en read from the witches on the cover. We had to look at the witches's faces before opening the book and he found some of them to be 'mean.' Onward to the inside.....

Zip! Zoom! On a Broom is specifically a Hallowe'en themed counting book. Ten witches end up packed onto a broom - we count up as they appear and down as they leave the broom.

The prose are in rhymes that allows the reader to achieve a nice rhythm. But there are a few that seem somewhat stilted and forced and just not quite 'there'. "Seven spiral through a cloud. One witch whirls off, shrieks out loud!" Some of the words used are perhaps a bit above the reading level of those who would pick up this book - incant and plummet definitely are. Those that would perhaps understand those words are beyond counting to ten.

Rosalinde Bonnet's illustrations are quite unique, distinctive and detailed. However I found some of the pages to be just too dark, both physically and in tone. Little Guy found the witches and creatures that populate the pages to be just too mean and scary, especially the wolf that catches the last witch.

We'll try this one again later, but both Gramma and Little Guy can only give it a middle of the road rating - *** - right now.

Friday, July 21, 2017

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #168

- 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

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Two Nights - Kathy Reichs

I'm always up for a new read from Kathy Reichs. Her newest book, Two Nights, is a stand alone that introduces us to a great female lead named Sunday Night.

Sunday is ex-military and a former cop turned walking wounded private investigator in South Carolina. She's carrying a lot of baggage from her own past, both psychological and physical. She's smart, tough and tenacious with the attitude to match.

When she's asked to look for a young girl who has been missing for more than a year, she takes the job - there are aspects to the case that strike a personal chord.

Two Nights? Sunny has a brother named August - Gus for short. And he too has a wide and varied skill set. I enjoyed his laid back, smooth style. The two have worked together before and team up again for this latest. The banter between the two is quick and the dialogue is staccato and sharp. This is true of the whole book.

The plot borrows from current news headlines, but Reichs puts an inventive spin on her plotting. She keeps us guessing about Sunnie's past with memories and asides. As the book progresses, more and more is revealed until we discover the truth in the last few chapters. (And she caught me off guard....) Cut between chapters are italicized chapters from a woman being held in captivity that count down from two weeks ago to the present. Time seems to be of the essence in both plot lines.

Yes, Two Nights is a departure from the tone and tenor of the Tempe Brennan novels. It's definitely action oriented and almost read like movie. And yes, some of the plotting is a bit far fetched. But you know - I enjoyed seeing something new and different from an author I follow. I thought Sunday was a great new lead character - and you can never have enough female kick butt leads. I found Two Nights to be an entertaining read. I wonder if there will be another Night novel? If so, this reader would pick it up. Read an excerpt of Two Nights.

You can connect with Kathy Reichs on her website, like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Over the Counter #375

What book caught my eye this week as it passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Well, this one seems quite apropos.....

The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures - Compiled by the Library of Congress and Foreword by Carla Hayden. (Foreword)

From Chronicle Books:

"The Library of Congress brings booklovers an enriching tribute to the power of the written word and to the history of our most beloved books. Featuring more than 200 full-color images of original catalog cards, first edition book covers, and photographs from the library's magnificent archives, this collection is a visual celebration of the rarely seen treasures in one of the world's most famous libraries and the brilliant catalog system that has kept it organized for hundreds of years. Packed with engaging facts on literary classics—from Ulysses to The Cat in the Hat to Shakespeare's First Folio to The Catcher in the Rye—this package is an ode to the enduring magic and importance of books."

(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, July 18, 2017

The Breakdown - B.A. Paris

I loved B. A. Paris's debut novel, Behind Closed Doors. (my review) I was very excited to see what she had in store for readers in her newest book, The Breakdown.

Cass takes a shortcut home late one rainy night through a  dark wooded area. She comes across a parked vehicle and wonders if the woman driver needs help. She pulls over, but the woman never exits her vehicle, so Cass drives on, thinking she will phone the police to let them know there's a possible breakdown. But she forgets to call and is stunned to find out that a woman named Jane was murdered on that same shortcut road last night. Cass seems to forget a lot these days and she is terrified that she has the same early onset dementia that her mother had. And she is just as terrified that the murderer may have seen her license plate as she drove by. And then things start happening....

"It's hard to believe that my split-second decision to take a shortcut through the woods that fateful Friday night has had such a devastating impact on my life. Jane may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time but so was I. So was I."

Wonderful premise! And a decidedly unreliable narrator - are the 'things' happening all in her own mind? Or are they real?  Is the murderer after her as well? And her memory seems to be rapidly deteriorating....

Paris introduces a set of friends and family and because we only meet them through Cass, I was suspicious of them all. The tension builds and builds as Cass becomes even more paranoid and terrified. The last one hundred pages turns everything upside down, providing the twist that psychological suspense lovers like myself are just waiting to discover. Read carefully as Paris drops little snippets of dialogue along the way that will point the reader in the right direction for the final whodunit. There are one or two pieces of the resolution that require a few grains of salt to be taken, but this didn't detract from my overall enjoyment of the book in any way. (In fact it ended up being read in a day on the weekend!) The Breakdown was another great read for me and I will be looking forward to Paris's next book. Read an excerpt of The Breakdown.

I always enjoy a clever title - Breakdown can be interpreted a couple of ways in this case.  You can connect with B.A. Paris on Twitter.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Marsh King's Daughter - Karen Dionne

Karen's Dionne's newest novel, The Marsh King's Daughter has been getting so much press - I was eager to listen to it.

Helena was born to her sixteen year old mother and her mother's kidnapper, a survivalist known as The Marsh King. The three lived deep in the marsh, in a rustic cabin, hidden for twelve years. Helena did escape and is now a mother to two little girls. She has changed her name and hidden her history - not even her husband knows her background. But when she hears a news report about her father's escape from prison, she knows he is coming for her. He trained her in wilderness survival and she will now need all her skills to find him and......

There seems to be more and more of these real life abduction stories in the news, with movies and books following. And somehow it is hard not to want to know more. Dionne takes a real life situation and puts her own (great) spin on things.

The Marsh King's Daughter is told from Helena's viewpoint, both past and present. Because she has only her mother and father as references, her early views of the world and relationships are skewed. She adores her father, not realizing that their family unit is not normal. Her treatment of and attitude towards her mother is not pretty. We get to 'know' her father better through her adult memories. Those memories are triggered by the need for adult Helena to find and capture her father. Are her skills equal to his? Or better.....

Dionne has written an addictive thriller - I ended up listening to 'just one more chapter' long into the night. And the final few chapters made it impossible to stop listening. Readers will be firmly in Helena's camp, holding their breath as a cat and mouse game plays out - in both the past and the present.

Cut between chapters are excerpts from Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale - The Marsh King's Daughter. The excerpts used often mirror what is currently happening in the book.

I was thinking as I was listening to The Marsh King's Daughter that it would make a great movie. Dionne just announced last week that screen rights have been sold.

Emily Rankin was the narrator for this audiobook. Her voice suited both young and adult Helen - innocence and later determination. She communicates the tension, danger and suspense of thise novel well. Her voice is easily understood and pleasant to listen to.  Listen to an excerpt of The Marsh King's Daughter. Or read an excerpt.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Vintage Springtime Club - Beatrice Meier

I appreciate a good romance book, but I'm reaching that age where I appreciate one with characters that are a bit older. Betrice Meier's new book, The Vintage Springtime Club is a perfect fit! But it's not just a romance tale, it is one of friendship as well.

Let me back up.  Philip returns home to Cologne, Germany. His mother has passed away and he needs to take care of her affairs and decide what to do with her apartment. And he just happens to run into Ricarda, his old flame. Who just happens to need a place to live. The apartment is large and to make Ricarda comfortable, he finds another three old friends that are happy to be part of the 'flatshare.' They each have their own eccentricities and habits. Can they all live together?

I enjoyed the characters as they felt 'real'. Five new roommates creates the same issues for any age - food, noise, rooms - and Ralf the dog. Although this story has been told before from varying ages and viewpoints, I appreciated Meier's making her cast older. (sixty somethings in this case). Their troubles, ailments, worries and joys come from a different place - one with experience. But older doesn't mean done with life. The yes/no/maybe so between Ricarda and Philip keeps the reader wondering until the end. A serious illness befalls one of the five and brings a sobering reality to their shared home.

Younger readers may find this story a bit slow moving. Older readers will appreciated the pacing of The Vintage Springtime Club. It's a lovely little read in the vein of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. (This book was adapted to a German television movie as well.)

Friday, July 14, 2017

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #167

- 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 really looking forward to Louise Penny's latest installment in her Inspector Gamache series. Glass Houses releases August 29. The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. So, both use cool, blue tones. The US cover looks more like ice and water to me than glass. The UK cover looks like a broken window. It also features 'the bench' in Three Pines. It's a tough call this week.....but, although I find the US cover quite striking, overall I prefer the UK cover. Which cover do you prefer? Any plans to read Glass Houses?  You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.


Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 1/4 Years Old - Hendrick Groen

'For fans of  A Man Called Ove...'. That first line in the publisher's description of The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 1/4 Years Old  by Hendrik Groen had me eager to pick up this book. But it was the voice of Hendrik Groen that has added the book to my list of favourites of 2017.

"I hereby declare that in this diary I am going to give the world an uncensored exposé: a year in the life of the inmates of a care home in North Amsterdam."

I love epistolary novels - they're quite intimate, letting us into the private world of a character. Through Hendrik's diary entries, we experience the highs and lows of living in a senior's care facility - the conflicts, the friendships, the day to day interactions, the worries, some shenanigans, memories, regrets, hopes and more. And though it's been done before - the us vs. them of management vs. seniors will have the reader cheering for the senior's 'team'.

Hendrik is so wonderfully drawn - he has a good heart, is kind and thoughtful, has a wry sense of humour, is a keen observer and determined to not just 'exist' for however long he may have left. And from that desire, the Old But Not Dead Club is born. The other members of the club are the supporting characters we come to know the most - especially Hendrik's best friend, the irreverent Evert ("His philosophy: the only point of being alive is to kill time as pleasantly as possible. The trick is not to take anything too seriously.") and the simply lovely Eefje.

Hendrik's observations will perhaps encourage the reader to take time with and listen a little more carefully to those nearing the end of their lives. Perhaps they'll also envision what they want their own later years to look like. While this novel is a picture of aging in the Netherlands, the emotions and thoughts expressed are universal.

" Our calendars are completely blank - today, tomorrow, and the rest of the year. We have all the time in the world. We once complained about being overscheduled; now we're thrilled to pieces if there's something to jot down other than a doctor's appointment."

"Old people are forever grunting and groaning. Sometimes it's out of exertion or pain, but more often simply out of habit. I have made a small study of it."

Now, don't think this book is a 'downer' - there are lots of laugh out loud and joyful moments, alongside the realities of being eighty four years old. (And yes, you may need a tissue or two) I found The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen to be a heartstring-tugger of a read and absolutely adored it! Read an excerpt here.

I've discovered that there is another 'Hendrik' diary coming out - "As Long as there is Life continues the story of protagonist Hendrik – now aged 85-years-old - and follows the adventures of The Old But Not Dead Club in the Amsterdam retirement home in which he resides. Internationally, Hendrik Groen has sold in 30 territories including in the US, and a Dutch TV series based on the books, "in the vein of 'The Office', is currently in production.

Giveaway - The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 1/4 Years Old

I adored The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 1/2 Years Old! (my review) I know you will too. And thanks to Grand Central Publishing, I have a copy to giveaway to one lucky reader!

What's it about? From the publisher:

"For fans of A Man Called Ove comes a funny, big-hearted tale about an old man who is young at heart.

Hendrik Groen may be old, but he is far from dead and isn't planning to be buried any time soon. Granted, his daily strolls are getting shorter because his legs are no longer willing and he has to visit his doctor more than he'd like. Technically speaking he is...elderly. But surely there is more to life at his age than weak tea and potted geraniums?

Hendrik sets out to write an exposé: a year in the life of his care home in Amsterdam, revealing all its ups and downs--not least his new endeavor the anarchic Old-But-Not-Dead Club. And when Eefje moves in--the woman Hendrik has always longed for--he polishes his shoes (and his teeth), grooms what's left of his hair and attempts to make something of the life he has left, with hilarious, tender and devastating consequences.

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen will not only delight older readers with its wit and relevance, but will charm and inspire those who have years to go before their own expiry date."

And you may be wondering who the author is? Anonymous! Read an excerpt of The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 1/4 Years Old.

And if you too would like a peek inside The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 1/4 Years Old, enter to win a copy using the Rafflecopter form below. Open to US and Canada, ends July 29/17.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Dark Saturday - Nicci French

Back in 2012, I read the first book (Blue Monday) in Nicci French's new series featuring psychotherapist Freida Klein. I've just finished Dark Saturday (yes, the series follows the days of the week) and am kind of kicking myself that I haven't read the books in between as I really enjoyed this latest (#6) - Dark Saturday.  (Which can easily be read as a stand alone.)

The opening prologue immediately grabs the reader and poses the questions - who, where and why.

Frieda has tried to distance herself from working with the police as it has brought violence to her own life. But she owes a large favour and agrees to see Hannah Docherty to give her professional opinion. Hannah is notorious for killing her parents and younger brother many years ago. She's been locked up since being found guilty. But that time hasn't treated her well or has the system. Frieda is horrified and despite her best intentions finds herself drawn into Hannah's case review. Could she be innocent? As Frieda questions the initial casework, she makes herself the focus of those who don't want it revisited.

I quite like Frieda as a lead character - she's prickly, dogged, compassionate, says what she thinks and is seemingly fearless (but hides her fear well.) Recurring characters include a handyman, friends, Frieda's niece Chloe and her own therapist and various police officials. I enjoy most of them, but find Chloe quite annoying.

The case is gritty and French doesn't flinch from writing some dark and disturbing scenes from inside the hospital where Hannah is housed. There are also short chapters from another resident inside that hospital that make us worry for what might be awaiting Hannah. (And I wonder at the state of mental health facilities in England.)

French has crafted a puzzling plot. I always enjoy trying to figure out the whodunit before the last pages, but was nowhere near the solution this time out. There's a secondary story line that has been a common thread through the last few books. There's a killer who has his eye on Frieda - he seems to think he is 'protecting her'. The last bit of the book nicely sets up things for the next entry. I wonder where the series will go from there? Hopefully it's not the end. Read an excerpt of Dark Saturday.

Louise Penny provides a nice cover blurb...."Fabulous, Unsettling and Riveting."

Nicci French is the pseudonym of English wife-and-husband team Nicci Gerrard and Sean French. Their acclaimed novels of psychological suspense have sold more than 8 million copies around the world. You can connect with Nicci French on Twitter and like Nicci French on Facebook. 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.

Over the Counter # 374

What book caught my eye this week as it passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Living......

Driving Miss Norma: One Family's Journey Saying 'YES' to Living by Tim Bauerschmidt and Ramie Liddle.

From HarperOne:

"When Miss Norma was diagnosed with uterine cancer, she was advised to undergo surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. But instead of confining herself to a hospital bed for what could be her last stay, Miss Norma—newly widowed after nearly seven decades of marriage—rose to her full height of five feet and told her doctor, “I’m ninety years old. I’m hitting the road.”

And so Miss Norma took off on an unforgettable around-the-country journey in a thirty-six-foot motor home with her retired son Tim, his wife Ramie, and their dog Ringo.

As this once timid woman says “yes” to living in the face of death, she tries regional foods for the first time, reaches for the clouds in a hot air balloon, and mounts up for a horseback ride. With each passing mile (and one educational visit to a cannabis dispensary), Miss Norma’s health improves and conversations that had once been taboo begin to unfold. Norma, Tim, and Ramie bond in ways they had never done before, and their definitions of home, family, and friendship expand. Stop by stop, state by state, they meet countless people from all walks of life—strangers who become fast friends and welcome them with kindness and open hearts.

Infused with this irrepressible nonagenarian’s wisdom, courage, and generous spirit, Driving Miss Norma is the charming, infectiously joyous chronicle of their experiences on the road. It portrays a transformative journey of living life on your own terms that shows us that it is never too late to begin an adventure, inspire hope, or become a trailblazer."

(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, July 11, 2017

Gone Without a Trace - Mary Torjussen

More psychological suspense for my summer reading bag - Gone Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen. Yes, I love a good twisty read!

Hannah Monroe comes home from work one day to find that her live-in boyfriend Matt is gone. Not simply not there, but gone. Every piece of furniture, picture, glass and more that he moved in with is no longer there. The house looks exactly the same as when Hannah lived there alone. But wait, there's more - his phone is disconnected and any interaction they had on social media has disappeared as well. How can that be? Why? Has Matt chosen to disappear or is foul play involved?

Her best friend Katie and her boyfriend James don't seem as worried about the missing Matt as they are about Hannah. She insists that someone is coming into the house when she's not there. Is it Matt?

Hannah was a difficult character for me. I sympathized with her at the beginning, then took a step away as her worry turned to all consuming obsession. Some of her comments and interactions started raising red flags. The relationship between Hannah and Katie raised some flags as well - they seem to have a history of playing a game of one upmanship.

Great premise - there were lots of questions and situations that only kept me turning pages trying to figure out where Torjussen was going to take her tale. And honestly, she broadsided me with only a few chapters left. I did not see the twist coming at all! My suspicions had been nicely manipulated by Torjussen along the way. Well done! And that last line is a really good one. Good summer escapist reading!  Read an excerpt of Gone Without a Trace.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Giveaway - Sun at Midnight - Rosie Thomas

Sun at Midnight by Rosie Thomas is being released on July 25 - and I have four copies to giveaway to four lucky readers!

What's it about? From the publisher, Overlook Press:

"Alice, who as a scientist relies on method, precision, and tangible proof, is forced to critically evaluate her own life for the first time when her relationship with her artist boyfriend collapses spectacularly. Heartbroken, childless, and tied down by her work, it is time to break away. Accepting an invitation to join an expedition to the southernmost point of the earth, Antarctica, Alice ventures beyond all that she’s known.

Upon arrival, she meets James Rooker, a man who, like her, has nowhere further to run in Antarctica's beautiful but unforgiving environment. Living on a tiny research base with only a small group of people, the isolation wipes out everyone's past, but there is a jolt of recognition between Alice and Rooker that cannot be denied. Geographically and emotionally on the brink of sublime, new terrain, Alice discovers something that will change her life forever . . . if she survives. "

"Thomas brings the Antarctic to life in this novel, in which one woman’s exploration of the snow-covered landscape is as much a scientific expedition as it is a time of self-discovery . . . Illuminating yet quietly revealing, Thomas’s latest is elevated by its unique setting and its strong characterization.” —Publishers Weekly"

"Rosie Thomas is the author of numerous critically acclaimed, bestselling novels, and has twice won the Romantic Novel of the Year Award. Born in a small village in northern Wales, Thomas discovered a love of traveling and mountaineering when her children were grown. In the years since, she has climbed in the Alps and the Himalayas, competed in the Peking to Paris car rally, and trekked in the footsteps of Shackleton on South Georgia Island." You can connect with Rosie Thomas on her website and like her on Facebook.

And if Sun at Midnight sounds like a book you'd like to read, enter to win a copy using the Rafflcopter form below. Open to US only, ends July 17th.

Giveaway - The Nearness of You - Dorothy Garlock

Dorothy Garlock's newest book, The Nearness of You releases on July 11/17 - and I have a copy to giveaway to a lucky reader! (Don't you love that cover!)

What's it about? From Grand Central Publishing:

"Hooper's Crossing, New York, 1952. The post-war boom seems a million miles away . . . especially for a sheltered librarian who longs for the adventure and excitement of the big city.

New York City. The hustle and bustle. The people and the excitement. It's all Lily Denton dreams about. But ever since her mother died, her overprotective father won't ease up on her. So she spends her days working at the library and her nights hoping life doesn't pass her by . . . until the Fall Festival. As tourists fill the streets, the crisp autumn air sneaks in-as does the thrill of a far more dangerous kind.

Some men have a gift for avoiding trouble. Professional photographer Boone Tatum isn't one of them. In fact, that penchant for trouble is exactly what landed Boone in this small town in the middle of nowhere in the first place. Yet the moment he meets beautiful Lily Denton and snaps her photograph, everything changes. Suddenly leaving is the furthest thing from Boone's mind-or his heart.

But danger has slipped silently into this sleepy town, marking Lily as its own. And Lily and Boone's dream of a life together is thrown into peril-unless Lily finds the courage to stand up for herself and a man she only just met . . . and can't live without." Read an excerpt of The Nearness of You.

"Dorothy Garlock is the author of more than 50 novels that have sold 15 million+ combined copies and are published in 15 languages. She lives in Iowa." And if you'd like to read The Nearness of You, enter to win a copy using the Rafflecopter form below. Open to US and Canada, no PO boxes please. Ends July 22/17.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Do it Yourself - with DK Canada!

I am a huge DIYer. I love fixing, building, creating and learning. What better book to have as a reference than Do It Yourself: A step-by-step guide to fixing, building and installing almost anything in your home by Julian Cassell, Peter Parham and Jon Eakes. Do It Yourself is only one of the great reference books available at DK Canada. This edition has been adapted for Canada by Jon Eakes and complies with Canadian building codes.

I've lived in a fixer upper for many years. We're heading into the home stretch - just in time to start all over again! It's been a learning curve! This is a great 'how do you do it?' for anyone starting out in their first home or those just looking to make sure they're on the right track.

You'll find scores of subcategories under these main headings: Tools, Equipment and Materials, Alterations and Repairs, Kitchens and Bathrooms, Decorating and Finishing, Improving HOme Performance, Outdoor Alterations and Repairs, Electrical, Plumbing and Heating. Whew! I think that covers everything you might need help with in your house!

What makes this book one of my favourite reference books are the pictures. I am a visual learner and following the clear concise directions accompanied by detailed colour images makes me feel confident in both the instructions and my ability to follow them. Every 'task' includes an overview, a materials and equipment list and is then broken down into steps. This attention to detail makes even large jobs seem doable. There's nothing like doing it yourself.

I've had great fun flipping through and reading various entries. There are some great ideas throughout. As well as some 'problem solver' sections and safety precautions. What's really neat are the 'green' entries - conserving energy using solar power, wind power and more.

Just an excellent book all round! Now, I'm off to lay out a cement pad for my new garden shed!

Friday, July 7, 2017

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #166

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

US and Canadian cover
UK cover
I adore Flavia de Luce! I was so excited when I saw that Alan
Bradley was releasing the ninth book - The Grave's a Fine and Private Place - in this delightful series! And then I looked at the date.....early 2018. Oh well, it will be worth the wait. The Canadian and US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. Both covers incorporate the same colour tones and travelling on a waterway. But it's an easy choice for me this week - the Canadian/US cover. The skeleton and this look has been used on all previous eight covers and I associate it with this series. What about you? Are you a Flavia de Luce fan? Which cover do you prefer? You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Foundling - Paul Joseph Fronczak

Truth really is stranger than fiction. The Foundling: The True Story of a Kidnapping, a Family Secret, and My Search for the Real Me by Paul Joseph Fronczak with Alex Tresniowski is one of those 'I can't believe its true', shake your head stories ......

As a child, Paul always felt a little out of step with the rest of his family. When he was ten, he found a box of newspaper clippings in the basement covering the 1964 kidnapping and (a few years later) recovery of a Baby Paul. Stunned, he asked his parents about it and was rebuffed. As an adult, Paul pursued the details and discovered fifty years later that he was in fact, not the kidnapped Fronczak baby.

Can you even begin to imagine this!? Paul embarks on a near impossible task to discover who he really is. And where could the real Paul be? The best tools in the box? Genealogy and DNA.

I was fascinated (and in awe) of the search techniques employed by both the professional and amateur genealogical sleuths that take Paul's case on. Step by step we follow along as Paul hits another dead end or finds a possible link. This was a long and almost impossible journey.  Yes, he does find answers......but perhaps not the ones he imagined when he began his search. Fronczak's search will raise question for the listener or reader. What is family? How do you define family? How important is it to know your roots? Those questions also arise for Paul - his search for his 'real' identity and family wreaks havoc with his own family and parents. I didn't agree with every decision or pronouncement Paul made, but I was fascinated by this story.

I chose to listen to this book  - the reader was Kirby Heyborne. Heyborne's voice was quite suited to the content of this book. He captured and illustrated Paul's hurt, hope, despair, incredulity and joy with his voice. His reading is well paced, well modulated and his voice is very easy to listen to.

Listen to an excerpt of The Foundling. You can find more about this story on Facebook and on Paul's website.

The Sixth Victim - Tessa Harris

Tessa Harris's latest historical mystery is The Sixth Victim  - this is the first book in her new Constance Piper series.

Harris sets her novel in a time a place that I love to read - London, England's East End in the 1880's. 1888 to be exact - the time frame that Jack the Ripper was making himself known.

Flower seller Constance Piper has tried to better herself, learning to read and write with the help of Miss Emily Tindall. But when Emily goes missing, Constance cannot believe she would leave without saying good-bye. As Jack's kills start to populate Whitechapel, Constance is frightened that an unidentified corpse may be that of her beloved teacher. And a high-born lady fears it may be her sister. Who could this unknown victim be? Teacher, sister or another of Jack's victims - the sixth?

Harris's historical detail is well researched. Her descriptions, language and settings immediately drew me into the past - the dirty streets, the social strata and the fear of that time period.

Clairvoyance is all the rage in Victorian England and Constance seems to have the sight. Although based in fact, this is where the story fell down for me. I loved the mystery, the possibilities and the characters. Constance is a wonderful lead. But I'm just not sure I bought into the paranormal aspect that Harris introduces. While it is a driving part of the story, I would have been just as happy without it.

I chose to listen to this book. There were two readers - Fiona Hardingham  and Gemma Dawson. I really like more than one narrator - it feels like more of a production if you will. Hardingham and Dawson were fantastic. Their British accents ranged from educated and posh to the streets of Whitechapel. Realistic and so believable. And easy to listen to and understand. I'm not sure which actress voiced Constance, but the voice immediately created a vibrant picture of the character.

Harris has penned an unusual mystery and a strong lead off in this new series. Listen to an excerpt of The Sixth Victim.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Giveaway - Take Out - Margaret Maron

I've got a great giveaway today for all the mystery readers out there! Margaret Maron's newest (and possibly last) book, Take Out, has just released!

From Grand Central Publishing:

"From New York Times bestselling, award-winning author Margaret Maron--winner of the Edgar Award, Agatha Award, Anthony Award, and Macavity Award for her classic mystery The Bootlegger's Daughter--comes a stunning new mystery featuring NYPD Detective Sigrid Harald.

Sigrid is still reeling from the untimely death of her lover, acclaimed painter Oscar Nauman, when she is called to investigate the deaths of two homeless men in the West Village. The police at first assume an overdose, until they realize that one of the men shows no signs of drug use. Then when containers of poisoned takeout food are found nearby, Sigrid's case is suddenly much more complicated. As Sigrid investigates, she uncovers an intriguing neighborhood history: a haughty mafia widow and her disgraced godson, a retired opera star with dark secrets, an unsolved hit-and-run, and the possible discovery of a long-missing painting that will rock the art world. Soon the case is fraught with myriad suspects and motives. Who killed the two homeless men, and why? And which one was the intended victim? Or was the poisoned food meant for someone else entirely?

Throwing herself into the murder investigation to distract herself from her personal grief, Sigrid still can't stop wondering what led Nauman across the country to the winding mountain road that took his life. Until she meets a man who may hold the answers she seeks.

In her newest gripping mystery, Margaret Maron's beautifully drawn characters and unpredictable plot twists prove once again why she's one of today's most beloved writers." Read an excerpt of Take Out.

Margaret Maron grew up in the country near Raleigh, North Carolina, but for many years lived in Brooklyn, New York. When she and her artist husband returned to the farm that had been in her family for a hundred years, she began a series based on her own background. The first book, Bootlegger's Daughter, became a Washington Post bestseller that swept the major mystery awards for its year-winning the Edgar, Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity Awards for Best Novel-and is among the 100 Favorite Mysteries of the Century as selected by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association. And in 2013, the Mystery Writers of America celebrated Maron's contributions to the mystery genre by naming her a Grand Master-an honor first bestowed on Agatha Christie. To find out more about her, you can visit MargaretMaron.

And if  you'd like to win a copy of Take Out, enter for a chance to win a copy using the Rafflecopter form below. Open to US and Canada, no PO boxes please. Ends July 15/17.

Over the Counter #373

What book caught my eye this week as it passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Well, this week's entry isn't published yet - but the title caught my eye...and my sweet tooth....

BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts Hardcover by Stella Parks. 

From the publisher, W.W. Norton and Company:

"From One-Bowl Devil’s Food Layer Cake to a flawless Cherry Pie that’s crisp even on the very bottom, BraveTart is a celebration of classic American desserts. Whether down-home delights like Blueberry Muffins and Glossy Fudge Brownies or supermarket mainstays such as Vanilla Wafers and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream, your favorites are all here. These meticulously tested recipes bring an award-winning pastry chef’s expertise into your kitchen, along with advice on how to “mix it up” with over 200 customizable variations—in short, exactly what you’d expect from a cookbook penned by a senior editor at Serious Eats. Yet BraveTart is much more than a cookbook, as Stella Parks delves into the surprising stories of how our favorite desserts came to be, from chocolate chip cookies that predate the Tollhouse Inn to the prohibition-era origins of ice cream sodas and floats. With a foreword by The Food Lab’s J. Kenji López-Alt, vintage advertisements for these historical desserts, and breathtaking photography from Penny De Los Santos, BraveTart is sure to become an American classic."

(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, July 4, 2017

The Reason You're Alive - Matthew Quick

July 4th seems like the right day to review Matthew Quick's new novel - The Reason You're Alive.

David Granger is a sixty eight year old Vietnam vet. He's also a father, a grandfather, a widower, a businessman, a friend, an enemy and a man with a brain tumor. The book opens with Granger recovering in hospital from surgery, seemingly reporting to a 'government representative' about his past. Specifically about a man he calls Clayton Fire Bear. "But I can't tell you everything about Fire Bear before I put it all in context." But there's also another driving force behind his staying alive... his son and granddaughter ...."My old man's dying words echoed in my head once more. It was clear that I had one last mission. And I always, always, always complete my mission." And so begins David Granger's tale.....

I must admit I was hesitant when I first started reading The Reason You're Alive. Granger is a 'tell it like I see it' narrator. His language is not politically correct or are some of his viewpoints. I continued though, as I was curious as to where Quick would take Granger's life. And in the end, I was so very glad I did - by the last few chapters I had tears in my eyes. (and a few other times as well) Yup, that much of a turnaround. I think we've all met a David Granger - gruff words and exteriors hide the fortitude, resolve, pain, stoicism and more behind the front presented to the world.

The foreshadowing at the end of many chapters had me reading 'just another chapter' until I finished all 240 pages in a morning. I enjoyed the dark humour peppered throughout. Quick's depiction of a vet with PTSD is eye opening, frightening and truly saddening. But the book itself also funny, redemptive and heartwarming.

As with previous Quick books, there are some plot pieces that seemed a little far fetched - but that's the type of book and characters I have come to expect and enjoy from Quick. The Reason You're Alive is clever, serendipitous and so very good. If you enjoyed The Silver Linings Playbook, this is a book you'll enjoy as well. (And it is being developed for film as well.) Read an excerpt of The Reason You're Alive.

You can connect with Matthew Quick on his website and follow him on Twitter.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Local Girl Missing - Claire Douglas

It's no surprise that psychological suspense if one of my favourite genres! So Local Girl Missing by Claire Douglas sounded like it was perfect for my next hammock read!

Frankie Howe left the village of Oldcliffe-on-Sea almost twenty years ago. That's when her best friend Sophie disappeared, with no trace ever found. But with the news of a body located that may be her, she reluctantly heads back at the request of Sophie's brother.

Oh, Frankie is a mercurial, unreliable (and unlikable) narrator. Are her memories accurate or has time blurred the sharp edges?  Frankie often (and rapidly) changes her opinion on people and events in present day. We learn about her take on the past through her internal conversations with the long gone Sophie. "Because the truth is bound to come out, Soph, and with it the dark secret we kept back then; the one thing we could never tell anyone else. Ever." But Sophie also has a voice - through her journal entries from 1997 we see what happened from her point of view.

The supporting characters are also hard to gauge - they seem to have their own agendas and their view of the past is again different from Frankie's.

 I did find I grew a bit tired of Frankie's back and forth after a bit as I found it somewhat repetitive - perhaps this could have been shortened up a bit. Douglas drops hints as the book progresses that had me guessing at what some of that dark past might be. I was partially right, but not completely. Douglas drops a nice little twist in at the end. Local Girl Missing is perfect reading for the beach bag. Read an excerpt here.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The 11th Annual Canadian Book Challenge Begins!

It's time for the next round of The Canadian Book Challenge to begin! This is year 11! This will be the 8th year I've participated.

 John Mutford of The Book Mine Set hosted for the first ten years. Taking over this year is Melanie of The Indextrious Reader.

What's the Challenge?

"The Canadian Book Challenge is an annual online reading challenge in which participants from Canada and around the world aim to read and review 13 or more Canadian books in a one year span: Canada Day to Canada Day. Reviews must be posted online and participants are asked to share links to their reviews with other participants.

This year's theme is a map: "We've all travelled a long way together over the past 10 editions of the challenge, so this year's theme is a readerly road trip over the highways of Canada."

I've met the challenge every year so far! It's a wonderful way to sample the great writing Canada has to offer and discover new authors. Interested in joining? Further details and sign up info can be found here. I'll be using this post to track my progress.

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Friday, June 30, 2017

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #165

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

UK cover
US cover
I am one or two books behind on Sue Grafton's Kinsey Milhone series, but I plan to finish it - just one more letter to go after this newest - Y is for Yesterday. The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. The US cover continues the look that the previous books have had - very plain with the letter taking center focus. The UK cover is a little more interesting with the car and the (surprise!) running girl. Yellow is used for both 'Y's. Hmm, I appreciated the continuity of the US cover, but I think I actually prefer the UK cover this week. Which cover do you prefer? Have you been following this series?
You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.

Cover Reveal - Things to Do When It's Raining - Marissa Stapley

I'm looking forward to reading Marissa Stapley's new book - Things to Do When It's Raining. The book releases in February 2018, but the cover is being revealed today!

From Simon and Schuster Canada:

"When secrets tear love apart, can the truth mend it?

Mae Summers and Gabe Broadbent grew up together in the idyllic Summers’ Inn, perched at the edge the St. Lawrence River. Mae was orphaned at the age of six and Gabe needed protection from his alcoholic father, so both were raised under one roof by Mae’s grandparents, Lily and George. A childhood friendship quickly developed into a first love—a love that was suddenly broken by Gabe’s unexpected departure. Mae grew up and got over her heartbreak, and started a life for herself in New York City.

After more than a decade, Mae and Gabe find themselves pulled back to Alexandria Bay by separate forces. Hoping to find solace within the Summers’ Inn, Mae instead finds her grandparents in the midst of decline and their past unravelling around her. A lifetime of secrets that implicate Gabe and Mae’s family reveal a version of the past that will forever change Mae’s future.

From the bestselling author of Mating for Life comes a poignant generational story about family and secrets. With honesty and heart, Marissa Stapley reminds us of the redemptive power of love and forgiveness, and that, ultimately, family is a choice."

"Marissa Stapley, bestselling author of Mating for Life, is a newspaper journalist and a National Magazine Award–nominated magazine writer. Her book reviews appear regularly in the Toronto Star and she writes a commercial fiction review column, Shelf Love, for The Globe and Mail. She has also taught creative writing at the University of Toronto and editing at Centennial College." She lives in Toronto with her family. Visit her at MarissaStapley.com or follow her on Twitter @marissastapley.

Film on Friday #52

HBO Home Entertainment released Season one of Divorce, starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Thomas Haden Church last month.

What's it about? "Divorce centers on Frances, who after more than a decade of marriage and two children, has suddenly begun to reassess her life and her strained relationship with her husband Robert."

I love HBO series, I've enjoyed Parker in many previous roles and Haden Church is a perennial favourite of mine. So, I should have loved Divorce, right? But I just didn't.

Parker earned a Golden Globe nomination, Best Actress in a Comedy for Divorce. But Parker didn't earn my laughs or sympathy, this time round. Instead I found her to be unlikable, selfish, self serving and surprised when things don't go her way. Haden Church steals the show in my opinion. His bumbling confusion, bewilderment at what is happening and his dogged initial efforts to make things right do put me firmly on his side. His delivery and actions do fill the 'comedy' tag of the show. Molly Shannon adds her manic sense of humor for some over the top scenes that did have me laughing.

Marriage and relationships are exposed and explored through each character's observations and many of them ring true. But in the end, I found the whole thing rather sad and could only watch an episode at a time, rather than my usual series bingeing. I finished it but won't be watching Season Two.

Check out the trailer below for a sample of Divorce....

  

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Fierce Kingdom - Gin Phillips

So, you've heard readers say, "I couldn't put the book down"....but honestly, I truly couldn't put down Gin Phillips' new thriller Fierce Kingdom!

Her premise is terrifying......Joan and her four year old son Lincoln are amongst the stragglers leaving the zoo late one day. They're on their way to the exit when Joan hears 'popping' sounds. It's only when she sees the first dead body that she realizes that there is a killer on the prowl within the confines of the zoo. And he's walking on two legs carrying a gun.....

Okay, the idea alone is scary enough, but the fact that I have visited the zoo with my young grandson made it even more real. Recent newspaper headlines make it a plausible and appalling scenario.

Phillips' descriptions of Joan's love for Lincoln has been described by the publisher as primal - an apt and realistic picture of fierce mother love. Their interactions and Lincoln's imagination and questions all ring so true. Joan's ferocious desire to ensure her son survives this horrific situation had me on the edge of my seat for all 288 pages and the three hours that the novel takes place in.

Joan and Lincoln often visit the zoo - she knows the layout and will use that knowledge to try and evade the killer. But how do you keep a four year old quiet? Transmit the danger without terrifying him? What decisions does she have to make to ensure his survival? The killer is also given a voice with some chapters dedicated to his thinking and reasoning. His actions are frightening enough, but the impetus for his actions is downright terrifying - again taken from real life events. There are others hiding as well and we also hear a bit from them.

Fast paced, breakneck action will keep you turning pages 'til the wee hours. The tension and the fierce love between Joan and Lincoln will leave you breathless (and hugging the little ones in your life a little bit tighter). An excellent read for those who love thrillers and suspense. I dare you to try and put it down....I can see this novel as a movie as well.

Read an excerpt of Fierce Kingdom. You can connect with Gin Phillips on her website.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Over the Counter #372

What book caught my eye this week as it passed over the library counter and under my scanner? One for the crafty cat lover in the crowd......

Crafting for Cat Ladies by Kat Roberts.

From the publisher, Lark Crafts:

"For cat-crazy crafters, these 35 unique projects are absolutely purr-fect. Sweet and trendy, creative and fun to make, the crafts are divided into four sections—accessories, apparel, home, and party. Projects range from a kitty clutch wallet and cat embroidered jeans to kitty-shaped coasters and cat-themed plates. Each project includes easy-to-follow step-by-step photography as well as an overview of the tools and materials used in the book and all necessary templates."

(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, June 27, 2017

Giveaway - June is Audiobook Month! (JIAM)

June is Audiobook Month! I'm today's stop on the month long APA tour celebrating listening to books!

I listen to at least two books at a time - while still reading print copies. Why, you ask? Audiobooks are an experience for me - I feel more drawn into the story by listening to it. Listening to the story come alive with interpretation, inflection and more makes it an intimate experience.

Two at a time? Yes, my commute to work is about 75 minutes each day, back and forth - that enough time for one disc and bit of the next one. I've been asked if I can concentrate on the story while still paying attention to my drive. The answer is yes, it's no different than having a conversation with a passenger. And for those time, I do need to concentrate, it's easy to hit the off button.  The other time I listen is before falling asleep. I usually listen on my MP3 player or my iPhone. Both have a timer, so it's easy to set it to 30 or 60 minutes for auto shut-off. And if I'm quilting or sewing, I like to listen as well.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Bird Box, written by Josh Malerman and read by Cassandra Campbell. Just try listening to this one in the dark. Scary! (my review)
Any of Louse Penny's Inspector Gamache series! How the Light Gets In is read by Ralph Cosham. (my review)


These are two of my favourite trilogies - I've actually read the books and then listened to them as well! Justin Cronin's The Passage read by Scott Brick. (one of my fave readers!)
The Bone Tree by Greg Iles and read by Robert Petkoff.

See what others have to say about audiobooks (and more giveaways) on the JIAM tour. Full schedule can be found here. 30 days, 30 bloggers! #loveaudiobooks

To help celebrate JIAM, I have a wonderful giveaway today for those of you who already love love audiobooks and for those of you who'd like to give them a try! I've got a set of earbuds and a voucher for three audiobook downloads on Audiobooks.com. Enter using the Rafflecopter form below. This one's short and sweet - Ends July 1, open to US only.

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Cafe by the Sea - Jenny Colgan

I love Jenny Colgan's books - they're the perfect 'feel-good' read. Her latest North American release is The Cafe by the Sea.

What makes Colgan's books such a delight to read? Her characters first and foremost. There's always a fun female lead facing decisions, both professionally and personally. This time 'round it's Flora, born on the remote Scottish island of Mure. When her mother died, Flora fled to London to pursue her career. Three years on she hasn't returned, even for a visit. But when her boss (yes she does have a crush on him - this is another integral part of Colgan's books - the romantic will they, won't they component) sends her there for work, she is forced to confront her past - and look to her future. (Another few pieces of the feel-good read - conflict and heart-string tugging.)

Flora is a perfect lead - fun, quirky and very likable. The supporting cast also endears themselves to the reader - Flora's loud and noisy family, the townsfolk - and two other possible romantic entanglements......

The grief and loss Flora is experiencing over her mother's death is very well written. Anyone who has suffered such a loss will find themselves shedding a tear or two. But there's lots of joy as well - rediscovering that place we call 'home' and finding your own passion - the thing you were meant to do. The title gives you a pretty broad hint of what Flora's passion might be. Colgan's description of the joy of food and baking was, well, mouthwatering! The descriptions of Mure are vivid, bring the imaginary isle to life - and had me wanting to visit. And who doesn't love a good romantic tale - the meandering path to true love - all the while knowing that yes, there's a happy ending. But sad for the reader when the end is reached. More please!

The Cafe by the Sea is the perfect summer (okay, really anytime) read - engaging, touching, joyful, romantic, humourous and more. Loved it! Read an excerpt of The Cafe by the Sea.

You can connect with Jenny Colgan on her website, like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter. (And I have to say that I look forward to reading the note from the author at the beginning of Colgan's books - her warmth and wit shine through and add a personal note to the novels.)

(Note that this is the same novel as the British titled The Summer Seaside Kitchen.)

Friday, June 23, 2017

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #164

- 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
Shari Lapena's first book, The Couple Next Door, was a
bestseller. Her second book, A Stranger in the House is due out in August of this year. The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. Blue background, white font and a window is used in both covers. But very different pictures. I'm not a fan of the US shot at all. Women on covers is getting very tired for me. And it's just kind of static. The blowing curtain and looking out from inside on the UK cover appeals to me more. And the tagline gives us a bit more. Any plans to read A Stranger in the House? Which cover do you prefer? You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.