Saturday, December 10, 2016

Product Review - Seagull Black Laptop Backpack

Now that I am flying so much, I needed to re-evaluate what I was travelling with as onboard luggage. As well as how many bags I was toting travelling back and for each day to work.

I was offered the opportunity to try out the Seagull Black Laptop Backpack. While it holds up to a 15.6" laptop, I live and breath on my Ipad, which comfortably fits in the padded computer slot, secured with a velcro closure.

Both the back and backpack straps are padded for comfort. The straps are adjustable and are securely fastened to the main unit. There is lots and lots of storage in this backpack. There is a pocket and sunglasses hanger on the straps. Two water bottle nets are on each exterior side. There are five zippered pouches of increasing size in this backpack, not including an interior pen/pencil/phone (eyelet headphone slot as well)  storage.

The exterior would repel rain, but is not completely waterproof - don't set it in a puddle! An exterior carry handle at the top allows the backpack to be carried by hand or attached to a suitcase. The zipper teeth are medium weight nylon, the pulls are metal and both seem quite sturdy. Side clasps allow the user to keep the pack in tight or looser mode.

There is a great deal of room in this backpack! It would suffice for a weekend bag - and it meets the carry on measurements for plane travel. I've loaded my lunch and workday bits and bobs in and there's still room for me. It looks good too with the black (won't show the dirt!) and red accents. Overall I really like it!

Friday, December 9, 2016

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #135

- 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
My Not So Perfect Life is a stand alone novel forthcoming from Sophie Kinsella. It sounds like a fun read, so I've added it to my TBR list. The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. So, let's take a peek - two very different backgrounds - green vs. white and two very different looks. I have to admit - I just don't like the overall look or feel of the US cover. The image seems very dated and old to me and the premise of the novel is quite modern. I find the UK cover bright and enticing and it seems to promise a fun, light read much more than the US cover. Which cover do you prefer? Any plans to read My Not So Perfect Life? You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World. 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Rains - Gregg Hurwitz

Quite a few of my favourite adult authors have started writing young adult books - many of them series.

Gregg Hurwitz has just released The Rains  - the first in his new young adult series. And though it's marketed to teens, this adult reader quite enjoyed The Rains.

That ominous cover would lead you to believe weather is the inspiration for the book title. Well, something does fall from the sky, but it's not rain. Instead it's some sort of parasitic spore that infects anyone over eighteen, turning them into some sort of zombie. The driving force behind this attack may be  an alien race. So, who are the Rains? Fifteen year old Chance Rain and his seventeen year old brother Patrick Rain. And the third person on the cover is Patrick's girlfriend Alex. Together, they're leading force behind the battle for survival for the rest of the under eighteens kids.

Chance is our narrator - indeed it is his journal we are reading. "If you're reading this, your life is at risk. Maybe, just maybe these pages will give you a chance."

Hurwitz has plotted an inventive mashup between aliens and zombies and added lots of action and nail biting scenarios. But he has also developed his lead characters well. They have depth and feeling and the reader will immediately be drawn to them., especially Chance. Chance does a lot of growing up as the book progresses. There is also a romantic thread running through the book between Patrick and Alex, but it too is portrayed realistically. Alex is just as strong a lead as the boys. The relationship between the brothers is well drawn, believable and heartstring tugging.  And with every story there has to be a negative character. Readers will love to hate Ben, who is the antithesis of the boys. Hurwitz himself is the owner of a number of Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs. In the book, Chance also raises Ridgebacks. They too endear themselves to the reader as part of the 'good guys' team. (But I have to say, there's one chapter where I yelled No, no, no!)

I liked the rural setting - our heroes are a little more down to earth and pragmatic than some of the zombie novels set in cityscapes. A few of the plot devices are a bit too pat - but this is the adult mystery reader in me speaking. Just go with the flow and enjoy The Rains. It's a great addition to the teen fiction scene and would appeal to both male and female readers. See for yourself - read an excerpt of The Rains.

You can connect with Gregg Hurwitz on his website, like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.  And keep your eyes peeled for the next book -  Last Chance.

The Other Child - Lucy Atkins

Clare Mackintosh's blurb on the cover of Lucy Atkin's novel The Other Child caught my eye and introduced me to a new (to me) author.

British single mom Tess falls head over heels for American born surgeon Greg. When he is offered a promotion in America, Tess and Greg decide to marry before moving to the US. That and there's a new brother or sister on the way for her son Joe.

But everything is decidedly not rosy when they arrive in Boston. The house is too large and sterile. The neighbourhood is like a showcase, the neighbours are standoffish, if not downright rude, Tess is alone much of the time and Joe is having trouble assimilating. But things only go downhill from there - is Greg having an affair with the neighbour? Who is that dark figure she sees standing staring at her house? Has someone been in the house? Tess thought she knew her husband well, but now begins to doubt him - and starts looking into his past. And what she finds begs the question: 'How well do you know your husband?'

This is the kind of book I love to read. You know - if it was a movie, you'd be yelling at the actor - 'Don't go in the basement!". That's what I wanted to do - yell at Tess - 'Can't you see he's lying!' But no, Tess keeps making excuses for his behaviour, for what might be going on, for the little white lies...

There were a few convenient plot devices that I questioned - it's my pragmatic nature. But, I let it go and kept reading. I wanted to keep turning pages - it's that kind of book. What will happen next? Is Tess really in danger? What secrets is Greg hiding? The tension builds with every new chapter.

I was a bit unhappy with some of the choices Tess made regarding Joe's care. The ending isn't quite what I imagined the final pages would bring - I would have liked a different outcome. Even so, I found The Other Child quite entertaining. Read an excerpt of The Other Child.

You can connect with Lucy Atkins on her website and follow her on Twitter. Watch for Lucy Atkins' new book, The Night Visitor, coming in June 2017. I'll be picking it up.


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Over the Counter #343

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? This week it's stuff - too much stuff......

Junk : digging through America's love affair with stuff  by Alison Stewart.

From the publisher, Chicago Review Press;

"Junk has become ubiquitous in America today. Who doesn’t have a basement, attic, closet, or storage unit filled with stuff too good to throw away? Or, more accurately, stuff you think is too good to throw away.

When journalist and author Alison Stewart was confronted with emptying her late parents’ overloaded basement, a job that dragged on for months, it got her thinking: How did it come to this? Why do smart, successful people hold on to old Christmas bows, chipped knick-knacks, VHS tapes, and books they would likely never reread? She discovered she was not alone.

Junk details Stewart’s three-year investigation into America’s stuff, lots and lots and lots of stuff. Stewart rides along with junk removal teams from around the country such as Trash Daddy, Annie Haul, and Junk Vets. She goes backstage to a taping of Antiques Roadshow, and learns what makes for compelling junk-based television with the executive producer of Pawn Stars. And she even investigates the growing problem of space junk—23,000 pieces of manmade debris orbiting the planet at 17,500 mph, threatening both satellites and human space exploration.

But it’s not all dire. There are creative solutions to America’s overburdened consumer culture. Stewart visits with Deron Beal, founder of FreeCycle, an online community of people who would rather give away than throw away their no-longer-needed possessions. She spends a day at a Repair CafĂ©, where volunteer tinkerers bring new life to broken appliances, toys, and just about anything. Stewart also explores communities of “tiny houses” without attics and basements in which to stash the owners’ trash.
          
Junk is a delightful journey through 250-mile-long yard sales, and packrat dens, both human and rodent, that for most readers will look surprisingly familiar."

Next up is Downsizing The Family Home: What to Save, What to Let Go by Marni Jameson and Mark Burnetz.   
                            

"It’s a rite of passage almost no one will escape: the difficult, emotional journey of downsizing your or your aging parents' home. Here, nationally syndicated home columnist Marni Jameson sensitively guides readers through the process, from opening that first closet, to sorting through a lifetime's worth of possessions, to selling the homestead itself. Using her own personal journey as a basis, she helps you figure out a strategy and create a mindset to accomplish the task quickly, respectfully, rewardingly—and, in the best of situations, even memorably. Throughout, she combines her been-there experience with insights from national experts—antiques appraisers, garage-sale gurus, professional organizers, and psychologists—to offer practical wisdom and heartwarming advice so you know with certainty what to keep, toss or sell."

(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, December 6, 2016

The Lost Gift: A Christmas Story - Kallie George and Stephanie Graegin

There's nothing like reading holiday books to get ready for Christmas!

Author Kallie George and Illustrator Stephanie Graegin have a new Christmas story out called The Lost Gift.

Santa and his sack of gifts are flying over the forest when a gift tumbles out of the sleigh, unnoticed by Santa. But four animals of the forest, Bird, Rabbit, Deer, and Squirrel, take notice and wonder what they should do.

The animals debate on what should be and this opens up many opportunities for discussion with your child in the The Lost Gift. What would you do if you found a parcel meant for someone else? Lots of right/wrong and feeling questions that could be brought up. What do you think is in the parcel? What are you hoping for for Christmas? George's story is thoughtful and I like that it's brought to life with animals as the main character.

There's always one in the crowd - and this time it's Squirrel, who provides the negative outlook. Again, more discussion opportunities about friends.

The 'word pages' are laid out well, offering up time to enjoy the illustrations as well. Again, lots of inspiration for talking about your family's traditions - tree decorating, visiting etc. for example.

The faces and expressions of the animals are appealing and kind. Graegin's illustrations match the tone and tenor of the story, are detailed (I enjoyed finding the little house on various pages) and colorful.

George has penned a wonderful message in The Lost Gift - perfect for this time of the year. Thumbs up from Little Guy and Gramma for this sweet, charming tale. The Lost Gift has been added to their holiday bookshelf, ready for future Christmastime reading. Peek inside The Lost Gift.

The Twelve Days of Christmas: A Peek-Through Picture Book - Britta Teckentrup

It's that time of the year! Christmas is around the corner!

Britta Teckentrup has a taken the classic Yuletide song, The Twelve Days of Christmas, and written and illustrated a peek-through picture book for the younger crowd.

Teckentrup's elves have engaging, welcoming faces, sure to draw a child in. The cover's snowflakes and holly are in silver foil, giving the book a definite festive feel and look.

Most of us know the song, with the number of gifts increasing on each day. Teckentrup starts with a small cutout for day one of just the partridge in the pear tree. My little guy was immediately drawn to the cut out on the right hand page, wanting to know what was on the next page, and the next and the next. With each turned page, the cut-out increases in size to accommodate the growing number of gifts. (Trivia fact - if you received all the gifts you would have 364!)

There are many ways to enjoy this book - we sang the song, pointed to the right gifts/pictures and did some counting as well. By the time we reached the last page, it was full of presents. For these eyes, they were a bit small (necessary to fit them all in) but little guy has sharp eyes and enjoyed pointing out the details to me. The illustrations are quite detailed and have a vintage feel to them.

The left hand page is paler than the more vibrant cut-out page - which certainly directs your attention the main area. But, I thought that perhaps providing more to look at on the opposite page - elves to find or elves engaged in some activity - would have provided even more reading/viewing opportunities.

This book is geared for preschool to grade 2 - perfect for little guy and Gramma. We quite enjoyed Britta Teckentrup's interpretation of this classic holiday favorite. The book been added to their holiday bookshelf and will be part of future Christmastime traditions.

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Witches of New York - Ami McKay

Don't you love the cover of Ami McKay's latest book - The Witches of New York?

I had no idea what it was about when I picked it up, but I love McKay's writing, so I knew it would be good. And it was wonderful - literally magical!

I began to read and was thrilled to find a character named Moth from McKay's The Virgin Cure. Moth has reinvented herself as Adelaide Thom and opened a tea shop with Eleanor St. Clair. The two women sell more than tea though. Eleanor outright describes herself as a witch and Adelaide has an innate ability to read people. When young Beatrice Dunn arrives looking for employment, Eleanor recognizes the untapped abilities and power the girl possesses. McKay's lead characters are magical, but not perfect which hits the right note. Others also see Beatrice's potential - witch hunters, religious fanatics, those desperate to contact the dead and an alienist. The sense of impending danger from these players had me not wanting to turn the page at some junctures. But of course I had to. There are also some decidedly unusual supporting characters - a raven who may not really be a bird, myriad ghosts and a pair of dream fairies.

The setting is just as much of a player in the novel. McKay's depiction of 1880's New York conjured up vivid scenes crackling with detail and interspersed with historical fact. McKay captures the tone and fascination of the time period with conversing with the spirit world. And she had me wondering as well as I read the spells, wondered about that sudden breeze in a closed room and tried to remember the dream I had last night.

McKay's prose are meant to be read slowly, savouring each sentence and situation and pausing to wonder what if? The Witches of New York is another wonderful read from a very talented storyteller. See for yourself - read an excerpt of The Witches of New York. I think there's more to this story - I wonder if McKay thinks so too?

You can find Ami McKay on her website, like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Friday, December 2, 2016

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #134

- 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
You see the pattern don't you - I love suspense and thrillers. What caught my eye was a blurb by one of my fave authors - Harlan Coben. And the catchphrase 'Why is everyone talking about the ending of Sarah Pinborough's Behind Her Eyes?' Well, now I need to know! So, the US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. The first thing I noticed is that the US has eyes open and the UK is eyes closed. Snippet of a woman's face on the US, more on the UK. And colour and lack of. The UK cover is a little more lurid than the US, but in terms of picking either up to read more on the flyleaf, I would be more inclined to pick up the UK cover - my choice this week. What about you? Which cover do you prefer? Any plans to read Behind Her Eyes? You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World. ?