Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Over the Counter #358

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? The animal kingdom this week.....

First up is Sad Animal Facts by Brooke Barker.

From Flatiron Books:

"A delightful and quirky compendium of the Animal Kingdom’s more unfortunate truths, with over 150 hand-drawn illustrations.

Ever wonder what a mayfly thinks of its one-day lifespan? (They’re curious what a sunset is.) Or how a jellyfish feels about not having a heart? (Sorry, but they’re not sorry.)

This melancholy menagerie pairs the more unsavory facts of animal life with their hilarious thoughts and reactions. Sneakily informative, and wildly witty, Sad Animal Facts will have you crying with laughter."

Next up is Not So Different: Finding Human Nature in Animals Hardcover by Nathan H. Lents.

From Columbia University Press:

"Animals fall in love, establish rules for fair play, exchange valued goods and services, hold "funerals" for fallen comrades, deploy sex as a weapon, and communicate with one another using rich vocabularies. Animals also get jealous and violent or greedy and callous and develop irrational phobias, just like us. Monkeys address inequality, wolves miss each other, elephants grieve for their dead, and prairie dogs name the humans they encounter. Human and animal behavior is not as different as once believed.

In Not So Different, the biologist Nathan H. Lents argues that the same evolutionary forces of cooperation and competition have shaped both humans and animals. Identical emotional and instinctual drives govern our actions. By acknowledging this shared programming, the human experience no longer seems unique, but in that loss we gain a fuller appreciation of such phenomena as sibling rivalry and the biological basis of grief, helping us lead more grounded, moral lives among animals, our closest kin. Through a mix of colorful reporting and rigorous scientific research, Lents describes the exciting strides scientists have made in decoding animal behavior and bringing the evolutionary paths of humans and animals closer together. He marshals evidence from psychology, evolutionary biology, cognitive science, anthropology, and ethology to further advance this work and to drive home the truth that we are distinguished from animals only in degree, not in kind."

(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, March 21, 2017

Every Wild Heart - Meg Donohue

Meg Donohue's latest novel, Every Wild Heart, has just released.

Gail Gideon, known as G.G., is the host of a successful talk radio show. Her own divorce was the fuel for her nightly advice program. She's also the mom of fourteen year old Nic.

But, not everyone loves Gail's show. There will always be detractors, but one seems to be ramping up into truly dangerous territory. Is it time for a change? And then Nic suffers an horse riding accident and comes out of her coma a changed person.

Donohue explores the ever evolving mother/daughter relationship with all its moments, worries and bumps - and love. But within that dynamic, she also has each character taking a look at themselves - being true to yourself and finding your own path - at any age.

Each character has a passion. For G.G. it's music and for Nic it is horses. Donohue does a good job of making those passions believable. I really enjoyed G.G.'s choice of tunes! Romance also plays a part in Every Wild Heart for both characters - sometimes love is found in the last place you look. And sometimes what seems perfect - isn't. Gail and Nic's paths mirror each other, but at two different stages of life. I liked Gail, but found her a bit harsh and aggressive. I really liked the character of Nic - her insecurities, her joys and her kindness were all well depicted. And I'm sure most readers can identify with those turbulent high school years.

The cover is attractive and there are elements of the story present - the cowboy books and the barn board. But I would have like to have seen something that actually matched the age and description of the main two characters from the book's real timeline instead of the past.

Every Wild Heart was an easy, breezy read - perfect for this summer's beach bag. Read an excerpt of Every Wild Heart.


"Meg Donohue is the USA Today bestselling author of How to Eat a Cupcake, All the Summer Girls, and Dog Crazy. She has an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University and a BA in comparative literature from Dartmouth College. Born and raised in Philadelphia, she now lives in San Francisco with her husband, three children, and dog." You can connect with  Meg on her website, follow her on Twitterand like her on Facebook. See what others on the TLC book tour thought. Full schedule can be found here.

I received this book for review from Harper Collins and TLC book tours.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Follow Me Down - Sherri Smith - Review AND Giveaway

Sherri Smith has written two historical novels, but her newest book, Follow Me Down, is a thriller. (And I have two copies to giveaway!)

Smith takes us to Wayouta, North Dakota. Mia and her twin brother Lucas could not wait to escape this small town, their drunken mother and the claustrophobic nature of everyone knowing you - and your business. Mia has made a life for herself in Chicago and works as a pharmacist. A pharmacist who tends to sample the product too much. Her brother went back though and works as a teacher at the local high school. Mia ends up back in Wayouta as well - but only after her brother is accused of killing the high school girl he was allegedly sleeping with. There's no way her brother could do such a thing....could he?

Smith has created one of those insular towns and filled it with people who happily jump on the bandwagon of popular theory. Lucas is guilty - they just need to find him. The police are sure that Mia knows where he is. Mia, for her part is just as determined to find him and prove his innocence. Wayouta is filled with a plethora of suspects, odd ducks, a dark underbelly and a questionable police department.

Mia is the narrator of the book, but she is distinctly unreliable."My face was splotchy; grass was in my hair. And I did look crazy. I did. For a full minute, I wondered if I was. If the pills had made my brain go runny and soft. That maybe I couldn't trust any of my own memories. That for me, reality was a multiple-choice questionnaire." Her tenacity and bullheadedness are appealing. And she has a wicked sense of humour. I quite liked her voice.

Relationships - especially those between a mother and child, play a large (and heartbreaking) part in the plotting. Sibling ties are also a focus of Follow Me Down.

I found Follow Me Down a bit slow to get started, but the story picked up speed after the initial characters were introduced and the time and place were set. Smith gives us lots of suspects and throws in some red herrings along the way. The final whodunit? Didn't see it coming! If I had to describe the feel of the book, I would say modern Gothic with a psychological twist. Read an excerpt of Follow Me Down.

"Sherri Smith has previously written two historical fiction novels with Simon and Schuster UK. When not writing, she spends time with her family and two rescue dogs, and restores vintage furniture that would otherwise be destined for the dump. She lives in Winnipeg, Canada, where the long, cold winters nurture her dark side." You can connect with Sherri on her website, follow her on Twitter and like her on Facebook.

And if you'd like to read Follow Me Down, enter to win one of two copies up for grabs using the Rafflecopter form below. Open to US and Canada, no PO boxes please. Ends April 1/17.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Fall From Grace - Tim Weaver

Fall From Grace is the fifth book in Tim Weaver's David Raker series. But it can certainly be read as a stand alone.

Who is Raker? Well, his background is in journalism, but he has since set himself up as private missing persons investigator.

Leonard Franks retires from the Metropolitan Police and heads to Dartmoor to spend his retirement years with his wife in the country. Until the day he goes out to get firewood and disappears. Not a trace of him, despite a police investigation. After nearly a year, his daughter Melanie, also working in the Met, employs Raker to have another look. This is unusual in that Raker and Melanie have a antagonistic past with each other. But, in spite of that Raker takes the case.

Raker's investigation is methodical and measured, with one revelation or clue leading to his next avenue of inquiry. But the case itself is not as straight forward. Weaver has created a mystery that is more complicated than what I initially imagined it would be. Many revelations along the way led to a much different outcome than the one I initially imagined. I did find the plot become a bit overly convoluted as the end neared.

Weaver weaves in a personal storyline for Raker. He has recently discovered he is the father of an adult daughter. Their relationship seems a bit forced to me, but it gives Raker more depth.

I've read previous books in this series, but chose to listen to this latest. The reader was Brit Michael Healy. His voice is measured and well modulated, with a slight gravelly tone His accent is easily understood. It conjured up a slightly different picture of Raker than the one I had in my head from previous books. But it fit - he sounds confident and in control. Dialogue and action scenes are given their due, with inflection and intonation. It's funny what you hear when listening to an audiobook. I could hear the sighs, some swallows and a few other non verbal sounds that make it actually sound like you are there. I like the Raker character, but did find that the audio version made him seen a bit pompous in parts. But this didn't detract from my overall enjoyment of the book.

Listen to an excerpt of Fall From Grace.

Friday, March 17, 2017

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #150

- 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've read or listened to all of the Jack Reacher titles from Lee Child. This collection of  eleven previously published short stories and a new novella releases on both sides of the pond in mid May. The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. The UK cover seems to mimic previous covers in this series. Lonely guy on a deserted road in the middle of nowhere. It does capture the essence of the character and the books. But you know, I would be much more likely to pick up the US cover. The image and the colours catch my eye. And Reacher does like his black coffee. So it's the US cover for me this week. Which cover do you prefer? Are you a Reacher creature? You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Say Nothing - Brad Parks

"Their first move against us was so small, such an infinitesimal blip against the blaring background noises of life, I didn't register it as anything significant."

That's the opening line of Brad Parks's new thriller Say Nothing.

And then it becomes real significant, real fast. Someone has kidnapped Judge Scott Sampson and his wife Allison's twins. Why his family? What do they want? Money? No, it's something else....

Parks has crafted an addicting read. There's a nice mixture of suspense, family dynamics and some legal scenes along with the tension filled race to try and get the children back. Who can they trust? And who could be doing this to them?

"That was like the first thing they said to me and the last thing: Say Nothing. Say Nothing."

Parks manipulates the reader with some red herrings and alternate paths along the way to the final pages. Chapters from the kidnappers are interspersed throughout the book. So, the reader knows the danger the children are in even as Scott tries to fulfill the kidnapper's demands and not involve law enforcement.  I have to say, Parks caught me off guard a few times with some of the turns his story took - most notably in the final pages. I like unpredictable. There were a few plot points that I thought were perhaps a bit far-fetched, but I didn't think too hard about them - instead I just kept turning pages.

Say Nothing was an entertaining read that was hard to put down. And it raises the question - what would you do to protect your family? I'm looking forward to the next book from Parks. Read an excerpt of Say Nothing. Fans of Linwood Barclay and Harlan Coben will enjoy Say Nothing.

You can connect with Brad Parks on his website, like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Over the Counter #357

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Pies please.....

First up is Flapper Pie and a Blue Prairie Sky:  A Modern Baker's Guide to Old-Fashioned Desserts Hardcover by Karlynn Johnston.

From the publisher, Appetite by Random House:

"Combining long-forgotten classics with deliciously revamped recipes and stunning photography is what Karlynn Johnston is all about. In her anticipated first cookbook, Karlynn covers everything you need to know about being a modern-day old-fashioned baker: from setting up your kitchen and stocking your pantry, to making pie dough and releasing a Bundt cake from its pan.

Once you’ve got the basics covered, you’ll be ready to bake time-honored desserts like Saskatoon Berry Pie, Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies, and No-Bowl Chocolate Vinegar Cake. Then, jazz things up with these recipes’ modern twists: White Chocolate Saskatoon Galette, Chocolate Buttercream-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Root Beer Float Cupcakes. And, of course, there’s the recipe that started it all: the almost-lost Prairie favorite, Flapper Pie. When Karlynn first posted this recipe on her blog, it went viral, drawing enthusiastic and sentimental responses from readers everywhere who wanted to reminisce about their childhood and family food memories.

An approachable book for every skill level, Flapper Pie and a Blue Prairie Sky covers all the cherished bake goods from Karlynn and her family. Featuring more than 120 recipes from cakes to candies, doughnuts to dainties, and pies to puddings, with the same gorgeous photography that has made The Kitchen Magpie a go-to blog for passionate home bakers, this book is a delicious demonstration of the comfort and closeness that baking can bring. Flapper Pie and a Blue Prairie Sky is destined to become a classic to be shared through the generations."

Next up is Art of the Pie: A Practical Guide to Homemade Crusts, Fillings, and Life Hardcover by Kate McDermott,  photography by Andrew Scrivani.

From Countryman Press:

"Kate McDermott, who learned to make pie from her Iowa grandmother, has taught the time-honored craft of pie-making to thousands of people. Here she shares her secrets to great crusts (including gluten-free options), fabulous fillings, and to living a good life. This is the only PIE cookbook you need.

One of 2016’s Best Cookbooks, The Pie-Baking Bible, an instant classic, with raves from NPR, Oprah.com, USA Today, Bon Appetit, Cosmopolitan, Outlander Kitchen, and more."

(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!)