Monday, May 29, 2017

Little Boy Blue - M.J. Arlidge

I love reading mysteries, thrillers and police procedurals. I've had many a library patron recommend M.J. Arlidge's books to me, but until now I hadn't read or listened to any - but that will certainly be changing after listening to Little Boy Blue! This is the 5th book in the series featuring DI Helen Grace.

A young man is found dead - wrapped in plastic. He was involved in the BDSM scene, so it first appears to be a sex game gone wrong. But then another body turns up, also cruelly killed by asphyxiation. Here's the thing - DI Helen Grace also participates in BDSM  - and knew both victims. This couldn't be personal....could it?

Helen is a fantastic lead character. She's tough, speaks her mind, annoys her superiors, has the loyalty of her team, is intelligent, flawed and different enough to stand out from other female leads. I enjoyed the supporting cast of players as well. Not all are likeable which is much more realistic. The news reporter is horribly manipulative and aggressive - very easy to dislike intensely.

The circumstances around the crimes make it difficult to investigate. No one wants to step forward and reveal their lifestyle. Will Helen? I was intrigued as to how and where the plot would go. Arlidge has created a real page turner. Action, deceit, personal agendas and one great twist I didn't see coming. The ending provides the answer to whodunit - but not full resolution. The game continues and I will be hunting down the next in the series - Hide and Seek.

Elizabeth Bower was the reader. Her British accent is very easy to understand and very pleasant to listen to. Her voice is very expressive and she captures the tone of Arlidge's novel. And now, that I've started listening to the series - she is the voice of Helen Grace for me. Her voice suits the mental image I have created for Helen.

Listening to a book is often a quite different experience than reading a physical book. I feel much more involved when listening - you hear every word and nuance. It often feels like you're right there solving the crime along with the team. Great listen! See what you think - listen to an excerpt of Little Boy Blue.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

If You Ever Want to Bring a Circus to the Library, Don't! - Elise Parsley

If You Ever Want to Bring a Circus to the Library, Don't! is the third book in the 'Magnolia' series by Elise Parsley. Parsley is both the author and illustrator.

Magnolia has previously brought an alligator to school and a piano to the beach. So is a circus in the library a good idea? Well, the poster says...."You Can Do Anything at the Library!"

I work in a public library and have a small grandson who adores being read to as well as visiting the library so this newest book was a great fit for us.

He was interested in the book right away - the cover caught his eye - and it held his interest 'til the last page.

He started to remember the 'chorus' line with repeated readings...."You can do anything at the library - except......" and shouted the lines as they came up. There's a wonderful rhythm to reading this book out loud and so many opportunities to be vocally expressive. I do wonder if another word could have been found for 'concessions' (used in the food sense) as I ended up paraphrasing. There's a countdown moment that he loved as well.

Subsequent readings had us stopping to look at the pictures more closely (Library Gramma quite enjoyed the posters!) to see details more closely. There's lots of opportunity for discussion based on the book -  talking about what his library looked like and what he does at the library and what he might like to do - both 'approved' and over the top like Magnolia. I do want to say as a library employee that things have changed over the years. Things do get 'loud' at the library sometimes and we do bring in 'events'. Not a circus so far though....

Magnolia as a lead character is wonderful - she is full of life, enthusiasm and imagination. The illustrations are colourful and quirky. The facial expressions allow a little one to interpret what the characters might be thinking or feeling.

Gramma and Little Guy both enjoyed this book. You can connect with Elise Parsley on Twitter.

Friday, May 26, 2017

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #160

 You can't judge a book by its cover - which is very true.
 But you can like one cover version better than another....

Canadian/US cover
UK cover
Two Nights is a new stand alone from Kathy Reichs releasing at the end of June in the UK and beginning of July in North America. The  Canadian/US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. Two very different 'tones' between the two this week - cool and hot if you will. The UK cover includes a tagline, giving us a bit more bout the book. And the reflective picture of the woman is much better than 'woman in danger' images. But I think I prefer the US cover this week - the worn jetty, the gray, ominous tones in both water and sky hint at something dark. Any plans to read Two Nights? Which cover do you prefer? You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

A $500 House in Detroit - Drew Philp

I was born across the river from Detroit. As a child we often crossed the border to shop. I watched the fireworks on the river and my male relatives loved checking out all the new cars that Detroit was producing. Driving the tunnel under the river was an adventure.
That was many years ago and as everyone knows, the boom went bust for Detroit. We've read about Detroit's problems in the news, but what about the regrowth that is happening? Or the people that never left? Drew Philp. is one of those who believes in the city and wants to part of the regrowth. His book is called A $500 House in Detroit: Rebuilding an Abandoned Home and an American City.

Yes, fresh out of college, he bought a $500 abandoned house in an east Detroit neighbourhood called Poletown. He knows no one, has no steady job when he arrives, no money in the bank and is white. Poletown is predominantly a black community.

What follows is an absolutely fascinating memoir. Philp details his journey to rebuild the house bit by bit, by himself, as he can afford to. I used the word community above - and that's what he finds Poletown to be. There is crime, abandoned buildings, racial tension etc - but there is so much more to this neighbourhood. There are those who have persevered, those who believe as Drew does that the neighbourhood and city can be saved. We also learn the history of the downfall of this once great city and what contributed to it. I admit to be quite surprised (and appalled) by some of the facts presented.

I love old houses and rarely pass an abandoned house without exploring. Old houses have charm, personality and history. Personally though, I cannot imagine doing what Drew did. However, I am envious of his drive and appreciate his conviction and beliefs. And as Drew's belief in his community grows, so does he personally.

Philp's words flow so easily and his narrative is such an addictive listen. The audiobook narrator reader was Jacques Roy. His voice is well modulated and easy to listen to with a nice little gravelly undertone. The matter of fact tone to his voice seems to interpret Philp's prose and story as it was meant to be. Factual, but with conviction and feeling. Listening to a book seems to draw you deeper into the narrative.

As much as I love reading fiction, real life is so much more interesting. Absolutely recommended! Listen to an excerpt of A $500 House in Detroit.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Over the Counter #367

What book caught my eye this week as it passed over the library counter and under my scanner? It was the picture that first stopped me.....

All Birds Have Anxiety by Kathy Hoopmann.

From Jessica Kingsley Publishers:

"Life as a bird can be stressful! From worrying about airplanes, windows, and getting enough worms to eat, it is clear that birds can be anxious beings. Through a light-touch, quizzical depiction of bird behaviour, All Birds Have Anxiety uses colourful images and astute explanations to explore with gentle humour what it means to live with anxiety day-to-day, and how to begin to deal with it.

Following the style of the best-selling All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome and All Dogs Have ADHD, wonderful colour photographs express the complex and difficult ideas related to anxiety disorder in an easy-to-understand way. This simple yet profound book validates the deeper everyday experiences of anxiety, provides an empathetic understanding of the many symptoms associated with anxiety, and offers compassionate suggestions for change.

The combination of understanding and gentle humour make this the ideal introduction to anxiety disorder for those diagnosed with this condition, their family and friends and those generally interested in understanding anxiety."

(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, May 23, 2017

The Only Child - Andrew Pyper

The Only Child is the newest book from Andrew Pyper.

Dr. Lily Dominick is a forensic psychiatrist, specializing in the 'worst' cases and the most dangerous offenders. Much of her motivation for her chosen profession is the unsolved murder of her mother. Lily was there, but has only hazy, dream-like memories of the first six years of her life. Her latest patient, Client 46874-A, has committed a horrific crime and claims to over two hundred years old. What he also claims is knowledge of Lily's past - and her mother. When he escapes, Lily is driven to find him - and the answers she so desperately seeks.

The cover of The Only Child gives you a good idea of the story within. Gothic feel - foggy, old building, mysterious fleeing men wearing a black, somewhat capelike coat..... Uh huh, you got it. Pyper takes inspiration for his story from classic horror literature such as that from Stevenson, Stoker and Shelley. Indeed, they play a role in his tale.

Lily was a complicated lead to like. I never felt drawn to her, but rather questioned her choices and motivations. But her decision to pursue Client 46874-A are akin to those horror movies where you shout at the screen....'Don't go in the basement!" We know she is heading into danger, but are curious as to where and what Pyper has planned for her. Pyper has created his own monster with a modern twist. I did find Client 46874-A to be what I expected - he wasn't an overly original creation IMO.Is Client 46874-A truly dangerous? Or are the men hunting him the danger? Lily is torn by what to believe - especially after Client 46874-A reveals more and more of his connection to Lily.

The exploration of family and the need to know ourselves figure prominently into Lily's search. But, the sexual tension between the two leads is, well, just icky. Pyper's descriptions of characters and settings are dark, chilling and creepy. The tension escalates as the cat and mouse game progresses. Pyper ends The Only Child with a nice little twist that suits perfectly.

For this reader, The Only Child was an okay read, but not a stand-out. Was it my love for those classic tales? My feeling that I had read this story before? Not sure, but this was only a middle of the road read for me.

Read an excerpt of The Only Child. You can connect with Andrew Pyper on his website, like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Into the Water - Paula Hawkins

Paula Hawkins' first novel, The Girl on the Train, was a runaway success. Her much anticipated second novel is Into the Water.

Jules is returning to her hometown, not because she ever wanted to see the place again, but because her sister has died and her fifteen year old daughter Lena is alone. Nel died in the Drowning Pool - a bend in the river that has claimed the life of more than one woman in Beckford. (The prologue opens with the death of one of those other women.) The question is - did Nel jump or was she pushed? Her death follows on the heels of a teenager who also recently died in the Drowning Pool.

"Beckford is a place to get rid of troublesome women."

Into the Water is told from many, many different voices - there are actually 14 different points of view, which I admit I did find a bit confusing in the beginning, until I sorted them all out in my head. There are lots of unreliable narrators to choose from! The narrative also switches from present to past for the key players. We slowly find out what has happened in the past that may, no - does, have an impact on the present.

There are many secrets in this village as well. The reader slowly becomes privy to them as they are revealed by the salient characters. The choices for those with a reason to kill Nel are many. But why the teenager? There is a character included who claims she is a psychic and more. Her inclusion had me wondering if there would be a mythical element to the current day deaths. There are other mentions of smells and glimpses of someone there, but not, that added to that ethereal feeling.

"Some say the women left something of themselves in the water, some say it retains some of their power, for ever since then it has drawn to its shores the unlucky, the desperate, the unhappy, the lost. they come here to swim with their sisters.

I found I was not as drawn to lead character Jules as much as I was to some of the supporting players. She is emotionally wounded from her childhood in Beckford, but despite her past, I found it hard to connect with her. (There are many wounded souls in this village.) I did find myself quite drawn to Lena and old Nicky, the psychic. The water is a key character in the book as well - water imagery flows throughout the book.

...they never saw what the water really was, greenish-black and filled with living things and dying things."

The path to the final whodunit is clever. With so many characters with reason and motivation to kill, it's impossible to determine who the final whodunit might be. And I'm happy to say I was wrong - Hawkins includes a nice little twist at the end that negated my guess.

For this reader, Into the Water didn't quite reach the same level of suspense as The Girl on the Train, but I still found it to be a page-turning read, as I could not predict where the story was going to go. It's slower paced, but no less addicting. Add this one to your summer reading list.

Read an excerpt of Into the Water. Film rights to Into the Water have already been sold.

You can connect with Paula Hawkins on her website, like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.