Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Over the Counter #354

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? I don't read true crime reader, but I was intrigued by two books penned by investigative reporters who became consumed, obsessed even, by the cases they were looking into....

First up is The Spider and the Fly: A Reporter, a Serial Killer, and the Meaning of Murder By Claudia Rowe.

From the publisher, Dey Street Books:

"“Extraordinarily suspenseful and truly gut-wrenching. . . . A must-read.”—Gillian Flynn, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Gone Girl

In this superb work of literary true crime—a spellbinding combination of memoir and psychological suspense—a female journalist chronicles her unusual connection with a convicted serial killer and her search to understand the darkness inside us.

"Well, well, Claudia. Can I call you Claudia? I’ll have to give it to you, when confronted at least you’re honest, as honest as any reporter. . . . You want to go into the depths of my mind and into my past. I want a peek into yours. It is only fair, isn’t it?"—Kendall Francois

In September 1998, young reporter Claudia Rowe was working as a stringer for the New York Times in Poughkeepsie, New York, when local police discovered the bodies of eight women stashed in the attic and basement of the small colonial home that Kendall Francois, a painfully polite twenty-seven-year-old community college student, shared with his parents and sister.

Growing up amid the safe, bourgeois affluence of New York City, Rowe had always been secretly fascinated by the darkness, and soon became obsessed with the story and with Francois. She was consumed with the desire to understand just how a man could abduct and strangle eight women—and how a family could live for two years, seemingly unaware, in a house with the victims’ rotting corpses. She also hoped to uncover what humanity, if any, a murderer could maintain in the wake of such monstrous evil.

Reaching out after Francois was arrested, Rowe and the serial killer began a dizzying four-year conversation about cruelty, compassion, and control; an unusual and provocative relationship that would eventually lead her to the abyss, forcing her to clearly see herself and her own past—and why she was drawn to danger."

Next up is True Crime Addict: How I Lost Myself in the Mysterious Disappearance of Maura Murray By James Renner.

From the publisher, Thomas Dunne Books:

"When an eleven year old James Renner fell in love with Amy Mihaljevic, the missing girl seen on posters all over his neighborhood, it was the beginning of a lifelong obsession with true crime. That obsession leads James to a successful career as an investigative journalist. It also gave him PTSD. In 2011, James began researching the strange disappearance of Maura Murray, a UMass student who went missing after wrecking her car in rural New Hampshire in 2004. Over the course of his investigation, he uncovers numerous important and shocking new clues about what may have happened to Maura, but also finds himself in increasingly dangerous situations with little regard for his own well-being. As his quest to find Maura deepens, the case starts taking a toll on his personal life, which begins to spiral out of control. The result is an absorbing dual investigation of the complicated story of the All-American girl who went missing and James's own equally complicated true crime addiction.

James Renner's True Crime Addict is the story of his spellbinding investigation of the missing person's case of Maura Murray, which has taken on a life of its own for armchair sleuths across the web. In the spirit of David Fincher's Zodiac, it is a fascinating look at a case that has eluded authorities and one man's obsessive quest for the answers."

(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!)

Friday, February 17, 2017

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover # 146

- 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
Matthew Quick's new novel, The Reason You're Alive releases in the US on July 4/17 and the UK a week later. The Independence Day release date seems tailored to fit the premise of the book. "The New York Times bestselling author of The Silver Linings Playbook offers a timely novel featuring his most fascinating character yet, a Vietnam vet embarking on a quixotic crusade to track down his nemesis from the war. Through the controversial, wrenching, and wildly honest David Granger, Matthew Quick offers a no-nonsense but ultimately hopeful view of America’s polarized psyche." The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. Truthfully, I have no idea what the colours on the cover are meant to convey. Confusion? Camouflage? Art? I can say that if it wasn't Matthew Quick's name on the cover, I would not even pick the book up. For me, the cover doesn't invite the reader in. So, it's a draw for me this week - I dislike them both equally. What about you - any plans to read The Reason You're Alive? Which cover do you prefer?
You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Odds of You and Me - Cecilia Galante

The Odds of You and Me is Cecilia Galante's latest novel.

It was the cover that first drew me to the book. I love those little sneakers protected by the bigger pair.

And that's the premise of the book....

Bird Connolly is a young single mom to four year old Angus. She loves him more than anything, but wishes their lives were different. Living with her mother cleaning houses was not what she imagined for herself. At one time, she wanted to be a nurse. But some bad choices have set her back. But her probation is almost up and she has plans. Until the past comes barreling into the present.

A young man she used to work with commits a serious crime. He escapes police custody, but is injured. Holed up in the local church, Bird inadvertently comes across him...

....and now new choices must be made. Help him? At what cost? Or walk away? When is the wrong choice the right choice?

I liked Bird as a lead character and her love for her son is well portrayed. The relationship between Bird and her Ma is quite fractious and in the first bit of the book, I could see both sides. But as the book progressed, their bickering grew tiresome and repetitive. Ma is quite religious, bordering on fanatical. When Bird reveals a horrific event from her past to her mother, Ma's reaction is downright shameful. And I ended up firmly in Bird's camp. But, there is much to be fixed in this relationship - on both sides.

Galante explores many relationships in The Odds of You and Me with both the main players and the supporting cast - parent and child being in the forefront.

There are a number of coincidences that drive the plot of this book, but who's to say serendipity doesn't exist?  Or second chances? I was urging Bird on out loud many times - I wanted her to succeed. I had no idea where Galante was going to take the ending. I can't say it's the one I wanted, but it seems right. Read an excerpt of The Odds of You and Me.

Cecilia Galante, who received an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Goddard College, Vermont, is the author of eight young adult novels and a children’s chapter-book series. She has been the recipient of many awards, including an NAIBA Best Book of the Year, and an Oprah’s Teen Read Selection for her first novel, The Patron Saint of Butterflies. She lives in Kingston, Pennsylvania with her three children. Find out more about Cecilia at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and and follow her on Twitter.

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.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Over the Counter #353

What books caught my eye this week as it passed over the library counter and under my scanner? I love abandoned buildings, flea markets, curbside treasures and more......

First up is Junk Gypsy: Designing a Life at the Crossroads of Wonder and Wander by Jolie Sikes and Amie Sikes.

From Touchstone Books:

"In their first book, the Junk Gypsies—sisters and stars of the popular Texas-born brand and HGTV show—combine big dreams, stories of roadside treasures found, and down-home design projects inspired by epic makeovers for friends like Miranda Lambert, Billie Joe Armstrong, and Sadie Robertson.

Amie and Jolie Sikes, the Thelma and Louise of the design world, are the Junk Gypsies: a family with an addiction to flea markets, wanderlust, and Americana inspired design. In their world, cowgirls are heroes, road trips last forever, and junk is treasured.

Beginning with a little bit of faith and a whole lot of heart and soul, the sisters travelled the back roads of America like gypsies, collecting roadside trinkets and tattered treasures while meeting kindred spirits and lively characters along the way. With a mix of hippie, rock n’ roll, southern charm, and big dreams, these small-town Texas girls became restless wanderers and owners and operators of their dream business and bohemian brand, Junk Gypsy.

Filled with stories from their unique journey as well as DIY projects and bohemian inspired designs, Junk Gypsy is a tribute to all the rowdy gypsies, crafty junkers, free-spirited romantics, and true-blue rebels who have ever dared to dream big."

Amazing Barn Finds and Roadside Relics by Ryan Brutt.

From the publisher, Motorbooks:

"Something that to the rest of the world is nothing but a forgotten automotive hulk slowly degenerating into a pile of iron oxide is to the car enthusiast something so much more. Like those who restore Victorian homes or antique furniture, car guys see not a decrepit piece of junk, but a desirable object that "just needs some attention." And should the vehicle abandoned in a field or lying in a creek bed be too far gone to resurrect, car enthusiasts can simply enjoy it for what it once was (while lamenting that it has come to such a sad end).

Finding a lost, restorable car is every auto collector's dream! Amazing Barn Finds and Roadside Relics taps into the thrill of the hunt with hundreds of photos of lost cars - each accompanied by detailed information covering the nature of the find and details about the car. Ride along as author Ryan Brutt, the "automotive archaeologist," travels the United States documenting lost and abandoned automotive gems."

(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, February 14, 2017

A Darkness Absolute - Kelley Armstrong

A Darkness Absolute is the second book in Kelley Armstrong's Casey Duncan series. I devoured the first book, City of the Lost, and have been eagerly awaiting this next entry.

Casey Duncan was a homicide detective 'down south'. She also killed a man before she became a cop. But the past caught up with her. So, she and her friend Diana, headed for an off the grid town called Rockton, deep in the wilds of the Canadian north. Rockton doesn't exist on a map and everyone in town is running from something or someone. Casey is admitted to town based on her profession -  and she's now Rockton's detective.

The first book laid the groundwork for the series, introduced us to the town and had a darn good mystery included. And, yes some romance - with the town sheriff.

In a Darkness Absolute, Casey and her deputy Will, storm stayed outside the town's borders, take refuge in a cave. It is there that they find a former town resident held captive for more than a year. So..... a detective in a hidden town that doesn't exist on any map and populated by criminals and those looking to disappear. Well, that makes for a wealth of suspects, doesn't it?

The search to find the perpetrator is a page turner. I love the voice Armstrong has given Casey. She's intuitive and clever. The supporting cast is wide and varied, all hiding secrets. Casey has her work cut out, trying to ferret out the truth.

Armstrong's setting is fascinating. There very easily could be a hidden settlement in the north. But what's outside those town boundaries is just as intriguing. There are those living even more 'lost' than the townsfolk of Rockton. Armstrong is slowly giving us glances at these people.

Solving the case is full of twists, turns and lots of action. Lies and false leads keep the reader guessing until the final pages. And although the end is satisfying.....I want more.....I can't wait 'til book number three is released!

Read an excerpt of A Darkness Absolute. You can connect with Kelley Armstrong on her website and follow her on Twitter.

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Impossible Fortress - Jason Rekulak

I love finding a book that is completely different from my usual reading fare - quirky, funny, heartwarming and just fun to read. The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak is one of those finds.

I think it was nostalgia that sold me on reading The Impossible Fortress. Set in the late 1980's in New Jersey, we meet a trio of fourteen year olds determined to get their hands on the latest Playboy - featuring Vanna White. That's the premise but there is so much more to the tale.

It's a story of friendship, growing up, first love, dreams, discoveries and yes - disappointments. And who doesn't remember those years - good and bad?

Rekulak's trio - Billy, Alf and Clark - are wonderful characters - they're a misfit bunch, but eminently likeable. As adults, we can easily see that their schemes are likely to fail, but their hopes and enthusiasm are contagious.

Computer programming is in it's infancy in the 1980's. Billy and Mary (yes, there's a girl involved) are fascinated by this new technology. Remember the Commodore 64? There's coding at the beginning of every chapter - take the time to read it - Rekulak cleverly ties the coding to the story.

Engaging, entertaining and oh so eighties. Here's an excerpt of The Impossible Fortress. This is another one of Entertainment Weekly's 'Most Anticipated Novels of 2017."

Check out Jason Rekulak's website and play The Impossible Fortress game. (It's really kind of fun!)

And as an aside - Rekulak is "the publisher of Quirk Books, where he has acquired a dozen New York Times bestsellers. Some of his most notable acquisitions at Quirk include Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and the YA fantasy novel series Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, which has spent five years on the New York Times bestseller list."

Friday, February 10, 2017

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #145

- 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 enjoyed British author Paula Daly's previous books. Her latest, The Trophy Child, is on my ever teetering TBR pile. "A thrilling tale of ambition and murder, Daly’s richly imagined world of suburban striving and motherly love is an absorbing page-turner about the illusions of perfection and the power games between husband and wife, parent and child." The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. Two very different looks this week. Just on first look the US cover appeals to me more. The US's overgrown hedges and the gate and fence underline the 'what happens behind closed door' part of the plot. The colours on the UK cover don't appeal to me at all. But the image of a child studying is part of the plot as well. So, any plans to read The Trophy Child? Which cover do you prefer?
You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.