Thursday, August 22, 2019

Hideaway - Nicole Lundrigan

Oh Nicole Lundrigan, you have a frightening imagination! I simply could not put down your latest release, Hideaway! Start to finish on a recent day off.

Gloria is a devoted wife to her husband Telly and mother to her teenaged son Rowan and young daughter Maisy. That's what you would see from the outside looking in. But inside it's a different matter. Gloria's moods swing from high to low with little warning. She either loves her children or 'disappears' them by banishing them to a room or a place and not speaking to them. When Telly leaves Glow for another woman, it tips her over the edge. One night Rowan has had enough and runs into the woods. And there, under a bridge, he meets Carl - a kind man who is battling his own demons - and Rowan decides to stay. And Gloria? I just don't want to say any more and spoil your discovery of the lengths a jilted (and unstable)  woman will go to to get her husband back. (But he too is, as my gran used to say, a piece of work) Yep, this is where things get downright terrifying.......

Lundrigan's character building is so very good. I don't even know how to describe Gloria. She's a master manipulator, devious, cunning and cruel. We see her actions, but don't really get a look at her inner thought processes. Instead we see them - and the aftermath - through the eyes of Rowan and Maisy. And yes, these are heartbreaking to read. It was the 'what is going to happen to Rowan and Maisy ?' that kept me reading for the whole day. Lundrigan takes her story places I couldn't have imagined .The tension was unbearable in parts and I really had to fight myself to not skip to the last chapter to make sure things turned out the way I needed them to.

It seems a little off for me to say how much I enjoyed this book given the darkness it explores. But there are patches of light as well. An easy five stars and one of my most addictive reads this year. See for yourself - here's an excerpt. This was a first read of Lundrigan for me - and it won't be the last.

Cr: AnnaLena Seemann
"Nicole Lundrigan is the author of six critically acclaimed novels, including The Substitute and Glass Boys. Her work has appeared on best of the year selections of The Globe and Mail,, and Now magazine. She grew up in Newfoundland, and now lives in Toronto." You can connect with Nicole on her website and like her on Facebook.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Over the Counter #414

What book caught my eye this week as it passed over the library counter and under my scanner? One that many of us will connect with....

Take Care, Son: The Story of My Dad and his Dementia by Tony Husband.

From Little Brown Books:

"Hi Dad . . . can we have a chat about your dementia . . . Can you remember how it started?

When Ron Husband started to forget things - dates, names, appointments . . . daft things, important things - it took a while to realize that this was 'a different form of forgetting'. But it was just the first sign of the illness that gradually took him away from the family he loved.

This is the touching, illustrated story of Tony's father and how dementia slowly took him away from his family. The title is a reference to his last words to his son - on a day when Tony had spent the day in the care home with no sign of recognition. The book is framed as a chat between Tony and his dad, who fades away through the last few pages of the book."

(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 20, 2019

Big Sky - Kate Atkinson

I was so happy when I heard that Kate Atkinson was penning a new Jackson Brodie novel. It's been nine years, but oh it was worth the wait. Big Sky was a fantastic read.

I loved settling in to catch up with Brodie. Atkinson has moved things along in real time - the book is set in 2019. He's living in a seaside town with his old doh, has contact with his son and is working as a private investigator. Lot of 'catch them cheating' cases, but hey, they pay the bills. He's out walking one evening when he comes across a desperate man standing on the edge of a cliff, ready to end things. This chance encounter leads Brodie down a dark and twisted path.

Oh, I had missed Jackson's irreverent sense of humour, his inner dialogue and his innate ability to land himself in the thick of things. With a few side trips....

Atkinson's plotting is impeccable, detailed and so current. The crime could be inspired by many newspaper headlines. But Atkinson puts her own twist and delivery on the crime. And I wondered how all the threads were going to be connected by the end. Where Atkinson shines for me is in her characterizations and dialogue. Each character, including minor players, are fully fleshed out and so detailed. I love that we're privy to each player's inner thoughts. I was particularly fond of Crystal - a wife and mother trying to leave her past behind. Her stepson Harry was another character I was drawn to. Fans of the series will recognize Reggie - now grown up and a policewoman. She and her partner Ronnie are a great duo - I hope we see more of them.  Just as detailed are her descriptions of time and place. The vaudeville-esqe theater, the boardwalk and it's tacky attractions and more.

Atkinson's work is meant to be savoured and enjoyed, taking in the details she provides in every aspect of the book. All four hundred delicious pages. Love, love, loved it! Here's hoping we don't have to wait another nine years for more of Jackson! Read an excerpt of Big Sky

Monday, August 19, 2019

Lady in the Lake - Laura Lippman

Laura Lippman takes us back to the Sixties in her new stand alone novel Lady in the Lake. Its also set in the city she knows so well - Baltimore.

The prologue had me hooked - its the voice of a dead woman, cursing the woman who wouldn't let her lie in peace. Curioser and more curiouser....

Maddie is the perfect housewife, but she's growing bored with her life, wondering if this is all there is and seeing nothing but the same for years to come. So - she leaves her husband, gets an apartment and a lover and an unexpected job at a local newspaper. Determined to make her mark as a reporter,  she latches on the story of a young woman found murdered.

Now, here's the neat thing about this book. While Maddie is the driving force, almost every person she comes into contact with is given the next chapter in the book. The reader gets an in depth look at many characters and their connection to both Maddie and the dead woman. (Cleo) This format provided a very different reading experience. It had the feel of a serialized news story. With so many points of view, I felt like I knew something about each player, but didn't really know them - and I wanted to know more about many of them. (This speaks volumes about Lippman's characterizations!) Maddie is the exception as her voice and chapters are updated as the book progresses. I felt one way about Maddie in the beginning and quite liked her. But as the book progresses, she grows harder, becoming quite conniving when it comes to getting a story and I found I was becoming disillusioned with her. But - you don't have to like a protagonist.

Lippman always brings the city of Baltimore to life for the reader. The racial tensions, mores of the time, gender and class divides, the newspaper industry (always well done as Lippman herself was a reporter) and more are woven into the story.

The ending provides a great twist - I like being surprised with unexpected turns. And it was only on finishing the book that I discovered that Lady in the Lake  takes inspiration from an actual murder.

Lippman is an excellent wordsmith. I quite enjoyed this character driven, different style of narrative. Have a look for yourself - here's an excerpt of Lady in the Lake.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

The Helpline - Katherine Collette

The Helpline is Katherine Collette's debut novel.

Germaine Johnson loves math and sudukos. She firmly believes that a formula can be found for everything in life. But such is not the case when an unfortunate happenstance at her insurance company job results in her being let go. But through a family connection she lands a job on a senior citizen's telephone helpline.

Although it is never specified, it is apparent that Germaine is somewhere on a spectrum - Asperger's? A telephone hotline is probably not the best fit for someone with her interests. But an unscrupulous city official has recognized that Germaine's naivete and attraction to a male Suduko player can be exploited.

And this is the part that saddened me. She has been taken advantage of more that once - the insurance company situation is particularly disheartening. But counterbalancing that are her new fellow employees at the council office. They are a quirky bunch, but for the most part good-hearted and accepting. They provide a needed balance to offset the nefarious mayor and counterparts. The seniors at the community center are also kind. And are also being taken advantage of.

And yes, you can see where the book is going to go. Can Germaine see and participate in life beyond the narrow constraints she has set for herself? Find friends and a new place for herself? Do the seniors take back their center? And is the mayor thwarted?

I liked the premise, but I must admit to having a harder time liking Germaine. I felt like I should be drawn to her as she's the lead character. But I wasn't. She is written with many hard edges and an inability to feel sympathy or empathy. This may be attributable to her 'condition', but I think I was expecting someone more like Don in The Rosie Project. Likable.

There are some funny moments in The Helpline. (I enjoyed the workplace fight for the biscuits) But I didn't find so many that I agreed with the idea that this would be a charmingly funny debut.

The ending provides a turn that I think it supposed to be humourous, but it fell flat for me and only solidified my inability to be on board with Germaine. Sadly, this book was just okay for me.

Others quite liked The Helpline - you can find those reviews on Goodreads. Read an excerpt of The Helpline.

Friday, August 16, 2019

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #276

- 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 know, it's a Christmas book! Sophie Kinsella has a new entry - Christmas Shopaholic - in the Shopaholic series releasing in October on both sides of the pond. The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. There's no mistaking that its a Christmas book with the presents featured on both covers.  Both colour schemes are holiday oriented. I do find the US colors a bit muddy and dull though. I much prefer the brights used on the UK cover. The white background makes the colors pop as well. I quite like the tree made from presents as well. The UK cover lets you know it's part of a series and includes a tag line. I feel the UK cover conveys the 'too much' conundrum that Becky Bloomfield invariably finds herself in. An easy choice for me this week - UK. What about you? Which cover do you prefer? 
Any plans to read Christmas Shopaholic?
You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Someone We Know - Shari Lapena

I read Shari Lapena's first thriller, The Couple Next Door, in 2016 and loved it. I promptly added Lapena to my 'must read' list. Her latest suspense novel is Someone We Know.

Okay, here's the premise - and it's a really good one!

A quiet suburb. A bored teenager who has decided to break into his neighbour's homes and have a look around. Maybe check out what's on their computers, send some emails and see what happens. It might have gone unnoticed had the teenager's mom not left an 'I'm sorry' note at the houses for the break-ins she knows about. Not a good idea at all - there is someone who has a very dark secret in the quiet neighbourhood. And truly, almost every household has secrets they would prefer not to see the light of day.

Great set-up and excellent execution! One action leads to another action and so on, changing the direction of what is going to happen with each new development. (and for many of them, I was mentally yelling no, don't do that!) Lapena kept me guessing - it was impossible to predict what happen next. I quite enjoyed trying to solve the whodunit - yes, there is murderous intent within! And many suspects to choose from.

Suspense and mystery woven together in a very readable, fast paced package. Someone We Know was an excellent read, one I had a hard time putting down. And one that might have you wondering about that neighbour at the end of the an excerpt of Someone We Know.