Saturday, September 22, 2018

Earthly Joys - Philippa Gregory

While mysteries and suspense are my favourite genres, I do enjoy historical fiction as well. I've often had patrons at the library recommend Philippa Gregory to me. Earthly Joys is the first book I've read by Gregory.

Earthly Joys opens in 1603 with the death of Queen Elizabeth and the succession of  her cousin King James VI of Scotland - the beginning the Stuart reign of England. Earthly Joys is written through the eyes of and life of gardener John Tradescant. It was only on further investigation that I learned that Tradescant is an actual historical figure. He was gardener to the aristocracy , a traveler, a collector and much, much more.

Gregory's research is detailed and her fictionalization of Tradescant's life is fascinating. He is a strong personality, but loyalty, honour and duty drive the decisions in his life. I quite liked him to begin with, but found my opinion often changed as his life progressed. And that was true of many of the characters, including his wife Elizabeth and son John. They are not as mercurial as John the Elder, but I applauded their views, beliefs and hopes for a different society. There are some particularly vile characters - notably the Duke of Buckingham.

Tradescant's love of plants and trees and his skills are so vividly depicted that I felt I could 'see' his garden. Rich detail is woven throughout Gregory's narrative clearly illustrating both time and place.

Now, this isn't a time period I would normally gravitate to, but I chose to listen to Earthly Joys, which made a huge difference. I felt drawn into the story, could make sense of what political machinations were afoot and the characters sprang to life for me.

The reader was David Rintoul and he was absolutely wonderful. He has a powerful voice and uses it well. He captured the character of John the Elder perfectly, using his voice to interpret Gregory's work and bring it life. His tones are rich and sonorous with a lovely gravelly undertone. He uses a softer tone for the female players that works just as well. His voice is pleasant to listen to and easy to understand. He matches his voice to the tenor of the tale. Listen to an excerpt of Earthly Joys.

Earthly Joys covers the whole of John the Elder's life. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Tradescant story continues in a sequel titled Virgin Earth with John the Younger taking the lead role.

Friday, September 21, 2018

The Boy at the Keyhole - Stephen Giles - Review AND Giveaway

The Boy at the Keyhole is the latest novel from Stephen Giles.

1961 Britain. A run down estate. A surly housekeeper. And a young boy dependent on that housekeeper while his mother is away. All the elements for a read with a gothic feel to it.

But is his mother away? After many months, young Samuel is desperate to see his mother again. And then doubt begins to creep in and with his imagination in overdrive, Samuel begins to wonder if Ruth could have killed his mother.....

Giles ups the ante by pitting a child against an adult. Ruth is more than surly - she rules the house with a heavy hand. A hand she uses against Samuel. The bulk of the book is a back and forth battle between the two over the whereabouts of the mother. I did find this got a bit repetitive over the course of the book. Clues as to his mother's whereabouts are slowly revealed through Samuel's narrative. As adults, we can read a bit more into the letters he finds than a child can. But Giles still caught me unawares with the final chapters, although I found the ending is a bit ambiguous.

The Boy in the Keyhole is light gothic fare, perfect for a rainy night and a comfy chair, easily finished in one sitting. Read an excerpt of The Boy at the Keyhole.

"Stephen Giles is the Australian author behind the lauded children’s series “Anyone But Ivy Pocket”, penned under the pseudonym Caleb Krisp. The series, published in the US by HarperCollins/Greenwillow and the UK by Bloomsbury, appeared on the New York Times Best Seller List, has been translated into 25 different languages and was optioned by Paramount Pictures.Prior to selling his first book, Stephen worked in a variety of jobs to supplement his writing including market research, film classification and media monitoring. “The Boy at the Keyhole” is Giles’ first work for adults and the film rights for this book have been acquired by New Regency." See what others on the TLC book tour thought - full schedule can be found here.

And if you'd like to read The Boy at the Keyhole, enter to win a copy using the Rafflecopter form below. Open to US and Canada, no PO boxes please. Ends Sept 29/18.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #229

- 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 a number of Lou Berney's books and see that he has a new book, November Road, releasing in October in NA and next spring in the UK. The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. So at first glance, very similar looks. The same image of a young girl. Differences? The black and read font colour is switched on each cover. Sepia tones vs. black and white. The 'Kennedy Assassinated' headline placement from top to middle.  A taglines on the UK cover. A newspaper in used on both, but is more recognizable on the US cover. Hmm, this week I'm going to go with the UK cover - I just like the black and white better. Which cover do you prefer? Any plans to read November Road?
You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Over the Counter #445

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

Conan Doyle for the Defense: The True Story of a Sensational British Murder, a Quest for Justice, and the World's Most Famous Detective Writer by Margalit Fox.

From Random House:

"For all the scores of biographies of Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the most famous detective in the world, there is no recent book that tells this remarkable story—in which Conan Doyle becomes a real-life detective on an actual murder case. In Conan Doyle for the Defense, Margalit Fox takes us step by step inside Conan Doyle’s investigative process and illuminates a murder mystery that is also a morality play for our time—a story of ethnic, religious, and anti-immigrant bias.

In 1908, a wealthy woman was brutally murdered in her Glasgow home. The police found a convenient suspect in Oscar Slater—an immigrant Jewish cardsharp—who, despite his obvious innocence, was tried, convicted, and consigned to life at hard labor in a brutal Scottish prison. Conan Doyle, already world famous as the creator of Sherlock Holmes, was outraged by this injustice and became obsessed with the case. Using the methods of his most famous character, he scoured trial transcripts, newspaper accounts, and eyewitness statements, meticulously noting myriad holes, inconsistencies, and outright fabrications by police and prosecutors. Finally, in 1927, his work won Slater’s freedom."

(Over the Counter is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World. I've sadly come the realization that I cannot physically read every book that catches my interest as it crosses over my counter at the library. But... I can mention them and maybe one of them will catch your eye as well. See if your local library has them on their shelves!)

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Transcription - Kate Atkinson

Oh my gosh, how do I even begin to describe Kate Atkinson's just released novel, Transcription? Brilliant! Mesmerizing! Incredibly clever! Uh huh - that good!

Juliet is 18 years old in 1940. She is recruited into the murky world of MI5 as a transcriptionist. She puts to paper the recordings of British Fascist sympathizers. 1950 - the war is over and Juliet is now working for the BBC. She assumes she has left the past where it belongs, but it's not to be.......

Juliet is such a great lead character. I adored her spunk and her acerbic sense of humour. Her naivete about some things makes her all the more human, likeable and believable.

Atkinson's plotting is intricate, richly detailed and so well done. There is no way to predict where the story was going to go, what would happen next and what the final pages would bring. It's a joy to be completely surprised by a story. Atkinson only slowly reveals an 'event' that happened at the end of Juliet's MI5 career. I was so curious to find out what that was - and how it affected the present in 1950. And the ending? Caught me completely unawares!

"And together they had committed a hideous act, the kind of thing that binds you to someone for ever, whether you like it or not."

Atkinson's plot found inspiration in National Archive releases - transcripts of an actual WWII agent's infiltration of Fascist support organizations. I loved the historic details of dress, settings, mores etc. of the time period. It was so easy to imagine the little apartment where Juliet toiled. And ten years on, her time at the BBC is just as vividly drawn.

 I mentioned Juliet's acerbic sense of humour. I laughed out loud many times - her inner dialogue is so sharp and witty. The descriptions of the BBC players, writers and programming are 'dreadfully' clever. As are Atkinson's prose. She is truly a gifted wordsmith.

And that flamingo? What a great cover! It's mentioned in the latter half of the book and pivotal to the plot....

If you've read Atkinson before, you know you're in for a treat. And if you haven't - I can't recommend her books enough! Read an excerpt of Transcription.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Giveaway - We All Love the Beautiful Girls - Joanne Proulx

Let's start off the week with another great giveaway! We All Love the Beautiful Girls by Joanne Proulx is perfect for "fans of Rick Moody, Lauren Groff, and Celeste Ng."

From Grand Central Publishing:

"Who suffers when the privileged fall?

One frigid winter night, Mia and Michael Slate's comfortable world dissolves in an instant when they discover that their best friend has cheated them out of their life savings. At the same time, a few doors down, their teenaged son passes out in the snow at a party--a mistake whose consequences will shatter not just their family, but an entire community.

In this arresting, masterful page-turner shot through with fierce, clear-eyed compassion and a sublime insight into human fragility, award-winning novelist Proulx explores the savage underpinnings of betrayal, infidelity, and revenge--and a multilayered portrait of love, in all its glory, that no reader will soon forget." Read an excerpt of We All Love the Beautiful Girls.

"Joanne Proulx’s fist novel Anthem of a Reluctant Prophet won Canada’s Sunburst Award for Fantastic Fiction and was named a best debut by The Globe and Mail and Kirkus Reviews. A feature film adaptation will be released in 2018. A graduate of the Bennington Writing Seminars, Joanne lives, writes and teaches in Ottawa, Canada." You can connect with Joanne on her website and follow her on Twitter.

And if you'd like to read We All Love the Beautiful Girls, enter to win a copy using the Rafflecopter form below. Open to US and Canada, ends Sept. 23/18.

Friday, September 14, 2018

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #228

- 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've enjoyed Diane Setterfield's previous books and was excited to learn that has a new book called Once Upon a River coming out this winter on both sides of the pond. The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. So, two very similar looks this week. A river in the UK cover, complete with water plants and a black background. Also a black background in the US cover, but the river image is actually a swan's neck. And the plants are more suited to land. Having read the synopsis, it sounds like a magical read. I am hard pressed to choose a favourite this week, but if pressed will choose the UK cover. What about you? Which cover do you prefer? Any plans to read Once Upon a River?
You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.