Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Trespasser - Tana French

Tana French's books have won books the Edgar, Anthony, Macavity, and Barry awards, the Los Angeles Times Award for Best Mystery/Thriller, and the Irish Book Award for Crime Fiction. But I only discovered her when I read her previous book, The Secret Place. It was a fantastic read and French is now on my must read list.

Her newest book is The Trespasser - the 6th entry in her Dublin Murder Squad series. It too is a fantastic read, better than The Secret Place in my opinion.

Detective Antoinette Conway set the Murder Squad as her goal when she joined the Dublin police force. She's made it there - but it's not what she had hoped. She's the 'odd man out' and by default so is her partner Stephen Moran. The rest of the squad seems to be hell bent on driving her out of the unit. Conway and Moran's cases are mostly domestics and their hope is for something bigger, one to make their mark.

They're sent to a death - at first glance it looks like another domestic. But when the higher ups send along another Detective to 'help' them, Conway wonders why. And when the pressure mounts to solve the case quickly, Conway digs in her heels.

I love Conway as a character - she's unbelievably tough, tenacious, fearless and smart. But this unrelenting harassment is beginning to chip away at her - there are some chinks in her armour. Moran is just as well drawn - there is more to him that what he presents to the world. He was the narrator in The Secret Place, so he was a character I already knew and liked. The dynamic between the two is evolving, unpredictable and addicting to follow.

The plotting is simply unbelievable - intricate and evolving as the book progresses. At no time did I ever think I could predict where things were going to go. Instead, I felt like I was there with Conway and Moran as they try to puzzle out the latest lead or brainstorm a theory. The procedural details ring very true. What's not as clear are the undercurrents and the unspoken. Everyone lies. Everyone has their own agenda. Who can Conway and Moran trust?

French's settings and descriptions are rich and detailed. I felt like I was walking the cold, damp streets with an eye on the alleyways. French makes her home in Dublin and that personal knowledge enhances time and place.

Dark and gritty, this is mystery writing at it's best. I'm really looking forward to the next in this series - and who will be the narrator. I'm invested in French's characters and intrigued by the cases she imagines. This series is definitely recommended! Read an excerpt of The Trespasser.  You can connect with Tana French on her website

Monday, October 24, 2016

Giveaway - Lovers and Newcomers - Rosie Thomas

Lovers and Newcomers by Rosie Thomas releases on November 1/16 - and I have three copies to giveaway to three lucky readers!

What's it about? From the publisher, Overlook Press:

"By the bestselling author of The Kashmir Shawl, the mesmerizing novel of old friends reunited...and torn apart once again

Rosie Thomas, beloved by readers for her brilliantly realized characters and twisting, page-turning plots, turns her "sharp nib" (Washington Post Book World) to a group of older friends in this evocative story of camaraderie and its challenges.

Miranda Meadowe decides a lonely widowhood in her crumbling country house is not for her. Reviving a university dream, she invites five of her oldest friends to come and join her to live, and to stave off the prospect of old age. All have their own reasons for accepting.

To begin with, the omens are good. They laugh, dance, drink and behave badly, as they cling to the heritage they thought was theirs for ever: power, health, stability. They are the baby boomers; the world is theirs to change.

But as old attractions resurface alongside new tensions, they discover that the clock can’t be put back. When building work reveals an Iron Age burial site of a tribal queen, the outside world descends on their idyllic retreat, and the isolation of the group is breached. The past is revealed – and the future that beckons is very different from the one they imagined." Read an excerpt of Lovers and Newcomers.

"Rosie Thomas is the author of numerous critically acclaimed, bestselling novels. She has won the Romantic Novel of the Year Award twice, for her novels Iris and Ruby and Sunrise. Born in a small village in northern Wales, Thomas discovered a love of traveling and mountaineering when her children were grown. In the years since, she has climbed in the Alps and the Himalayas, competed in the Peking to Paris car rally, trekked in the footsteps of Shackleton on South Georgia Island, and spent time on a tiny Bulgarian research station in Antarctica. To research The Kashmir Shawl, she traveled to Ladakh and Kashmir." You can connect with Rosie on Facebook as well as on her website.

And if you'd like to read Lovers and Newcomers, enter to win of three copies using the Rafflecopter form below. Open to US only, no PO boxes please. Ends Oct. 31/16.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Product review - OXOQO iPhone 6/6s Waterproof Case

My husband and I have taken up kayaking this year. I've enjoyed taking picture of our travels on the local waterways, but I've been terrified of dropping my Iphone in the water. So when I was offered a chance to review.

On opening the package, I noticed the instructions were inside the waterproof case. My suggestion would be to have them kept separate. I wasn't quite sure how the case opened and didn't want to snap the latches, negating the whole waterproof concept. The case is made of heavy duty plastic material which seems like it would stand up to a drop or two.

There is a card included indicating you should do a waterproof test first using paper towel. I folded a large square inside, snapped the unit shut and submerged it in a large bowl of water. I left it for an hour and there wasn't a drop of water on the paper towel. Check. The unit has an IP68 rating which is: "Protected from total dust ingress. Protected from long term immersion up to a specified pressure."

That same card indicated there is a piece of protective film on the inside screen that needs to be removed before use. I have to say - it was quite difficult to remove this as there was no 'pull tab' or larger edge to grasp. I had to scrape an edge loose with my fingernail to remove it.

Be sure to buy the right size for your phone. My phone fit in snugly and the case latched securely. Instructions indicate you should "set the phone to flight mode, cancel screen automatic lock, raise the screen brightness and be in camera mode before closing the case up, I was intrigued by the wide angle lens (170 degrees) built into the case. The screen covering the control panel is quite thin, so operating the phone was no problem. The wide angle does produce fish eye pictures, but the images are clear and crisp. Sealed stainless steel pins allow you to operate the side buttons.

The set comes with a neck lanyard - very handy to have. The case can be removed from the lanyard to use without having it on your neck. One suggestion would be to have a quick release safety latch on the lanyard. A wrist strap is also include with a lock. This also worked well.

Also included are a number of attachments allowing you to attach the case to your bicycle handlebars (I did try this and it worked) or if the pictures are correct - to your helmet.

I would suggest that OXOQO have someone with substantive English writing skills edit their instruction booklet. I do question the use of a brand name GoPro in their literature and product description.

Overall, this product did exactly what I hoped it would do - kept my Iphone safe from water splashing, ensured that if I did quickly drop it into water, it would be okay (Although I don't think I could do total immersion - just my own fears). I'll be using it at the beach as well to keep the sand out.  And the splash pad. Bottom line - it allowed me to take pictures with less worry!

Friday, October 21, 2016

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover#128

- 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 every book in John Sandford's 'Prey' series. A character named Virgil Flowers started appearing in the books. His popularity grew and he now has his own series - one I follow as well. The newest book featuring Virgil is Escape Clause. The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. Hmm, so both covers feature a cityscape. Lightning in one, ominous skies in the other. Bright colours used in both. But I think the UK colours grab my attention a little bit sooner. So, UK for me this week. But no matter what cover, I'll be reading Escape Clause. Which cover do you prefer? Are you a Virgil Flowers fan. You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World. 

Unlock the Weird with Ripley's Believe It or Not

The Ripley's Annuals have been a staple in our house for many, many years. When my son was young, it was hard to get him to read. But we found he enjoyed the weird and wonderful, so every Christmas he would receive the latest Ripley's Annual.

Well, he's in his late twenties now.....and he still hasn't lost his love of the strange but true tales you find in Ripley's. The latest entry, Unlock the Weird is newly released. And he will still be reading it cover to cover. But here's the thing - it's not just him that enjoys reading it. I've left it out on the coffee table before and everyone who stops by can't help but pick it up. It is addictive - and fascinating to read of the odd, the strange and the downright bizarre. Current day and historical. I dare you to read just one entry! (I can't!)

The cover is 3-D and those eyeballs are a little freaky. Okay, delving in.....

The story of the same greeting card, mailed back and forth between friends for almost 65 years.
The researcher who donned prosthetics and lived like a goat to study the animals.
It is common for Chinese schools to practice fire alarms - using real fire.
How about the guy who tried to smuggle 146 iPhones across a border.
And the man who had his ears removed and his face and eyes tattooed to look like his pet parrots.
Or the man who spent $75000 on plastic surgery to look like Madonna.

Oh my gosh....there's so much more drawing from categories such as: Believe It, World, Animals, Body, Pop Culture, Transport, Feats, Art, Food and Beyond Belief. Be forewarned - there are some gross pictures (in full colour)

Unlock the Weird is another great entry in this series. And the bottom line? Truth is truly stranger than fiction!

Ripley's are always on the lookout for new additions. So if you can do something extraordinary, they'd love to know. Send them your photos or video. More information can be found at www.ripleys.com/unlock the weird.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Heart of Henry Quantum - Pepper Harding

The Heart of Henry Quantum is the 'first' novel for Pepper Harding. Pepper Harding is the pen name of a 'San Francisco writer known for an entirely different kind of literature.'

Its close to Christmas and advertising exec Henry Quantum is on a mission. He needs to buy his wife Margaret a bottle of perfume. He starts out with great purpose, but is easily distracted along the way by well, just about anything. But the one thing that captures Henry's attention is running into his old flame Daisy.

The novel is told in three narratives - from Henry, Margaret and then Daisy. Henry leads things off. And I think it's here that readers will either like or dislike Henry. His mind is a (very) busy place. His thoughts hop from one to another and another and another. Very stream of consciousness writing with lots of run on sentences. Here's the thing - I didn't like him, didn't feel sorry for him, didn't become engaged with him at all. Without revealing too much, he's a bit of an a**. "How is it that the woman you loved last year is no longer the woman you love this year? And to whom was he referring? Daisy or Margaret." I pitied Margaret being married to him.

And then I started Margaret's chapter, fully expecting to empathize and engage with her, based on my opinion of Henry and his actions and thoughts. Surprise! I didn't connect with her either. She too has her own agenda and isn't very likeable.

We see some of the same events from Henry and Margaret's lives from each of their perspectives that goes far in explaining who they are today.

Daisy. I was really hoping for a character I could like. And I did like Daisy. But, by this time, I truly wondered why anyone would want to be in a relationship with Henry. There are some positives in Daisy and Henry's past, but negative baggage as well.

The ending is just right for the book, but didn't redeem it in my eyes. Yes, I read it all - curiosity as to where the book would go and what further revelations Pepper would reveal kept me turning to the last page. I can't say it was a satisfying read for me, but it was definitely a different one. See for yourself - read an excerpt of The Heart of Henry Quantum.

I chose to read The Heart of Henry Quantum based on the publisher's description - "In the bestselling tradition of A Man Called Ove." I loved Ove - his cantankerous ways, grumpy demeanor and his heart of gold. I personally didn't find much similarity between the two books. Another descriptive phrase, 'Socially awkward', from the publisher is the only similarity I agree with.

We Know It Was You - Maggie Thrash

We Know It Was You is the first novel in Maggie Thrash's Strange Truth series. I always imagined myself as an 'investigator' when I was younger, so the premise of We Know It Was You appealed to me. But...

Fifteen year olds Benny and Virginia are the only members of The Mystery Club at Winship Academy. Up until now their cases have been fairly pedestrian, such as a missing musical instrument. But when the Winship Wildcat mascot throws him/her self off a bridge, Benny sees an opportunity for a bigger case. You see, there's a camera with footage.....and Benny sees and takes it before the cops get there.

I initially liked Benny and Virginia as lead characters. They're somewhat dorky and social misfits of a sort. But I found their initial characterization at odds with the situations and actions that Thrash assigns to them. As the book progresses Thrash has Benny, but mostly Virginia, in situations that were completely out of character and frankly unbelievable. Now if you plan to read We Know It Was You, stop here. Spoilers ahead.

Serious stuff on the camera they stole - filming underage girls in the locker room. Fifteen in a bar. Porn rings. Not going to the cops. Hypnotizing someone to have sex with them. Rape. A student who carts around his grandfather's gun, complete with bayonet on campus. And a whole descriptive scene where he masturbates to/with the gun. What did this add to the novel? (answer = nothing) And Benny and Virginia never go to the school or the police about what they know.

But this is where Thrash completely lost me. This is a conversation good old Coach Miles is having with his male students. Bolding is mine.

"Everyone one of you is a potential rapist. You've got the hardware." "So what can you do to make sure you respect the ladies and never rape them accidentally." "Well first throw out your dictionary. You need to learn girl language. And in girl language, everything means no. No means no; I don't know means no; maybe means no. Being drunk means no. Being a lot younger than you means no. " What if they say yes?" " Sometimes even yes means no. So how can you tell? Well here's what you do, guys. If she says yes - and don't f****** count on it - if she says says yes, you reach up her skirt and feel around. If she's nice and lubricated - " "If she's nice and wet, then you go ahead and seal the deal. If she's not, then sorry buddy, yes means not and you better seek other accommodations." The rape of a male character is fluffed off.

Are you freakin' kidding me?! Really?! In this day and age?! 

The disjointed plot was all over the map and full of holes. Stereotypical characters. I did plow through to the end. Why? I think I was so incensed by the above dialogue, I just wanted to see if it could get any worse.

The publisher has this in the description of the book: "Twin Peaks meets Pretty Little Liars."  Sorry, not even close. If  this was meant to be a parody or a satire, then I missed the memo. Definitely not recommended for the YA crowd its being targeted to. If you like, you can read an excerpt of We Know It Was you here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Over the Counter #337

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Ahh, one of my guilty pleasures this week.....Now, I don't have cable, but when I visit my daughter, I'm always up for a HGTV marathon!

First up is The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines.

From Thomas Nelson:

"Are you ready to see your fixer upper?

These famous words are now synonymous with the dynamic husband-and-wife team Chip and Joanna Gaines, stars of HGTV’s Fixer Upper. As this question fills the airwaves with anticipation, their legions of fans continue to multiply and ask a different series of questions, like—Who are these people?What’s the secret to their success? And is Chip actually that funny in real life? By renovating homes in Waco, Texas, and changing lives in such a winsome and engaging way, Chip and Joanna have become more than just the stars of Fixer Upper, they have become America’s new best friends.

The Magnolia Story is the first book from Chip and Joanna, offering their fans a detailed look at their life together. From the very first renovation project they ever tackled together, to the project that nearly cost them everything; from the childhood memories that shaped them, to the twists and turns that led them to the life they share on the farm today.

They both attended Baylor University in Waco. However, their paths did not cross until Chip checked his car into the local Firestone tire shop where Joanna worked behind the counter. Even back then Chip was a serial entrepreneur who, among other things, ran a lawn care company, sold fireworks, and flipped houses. Soon they were married and living in their first fixer upper. Four children and countless renovations later, Joanna garners the attention of a television producer who notices her work on a blog one day.

In The Magnolia Story, fans will finally get to join the Gaines behind the scenes."

Next up is Better Than New: Lessons I've Learned from Saving Old Homes (and How They Saved Me)  by Nicole Curtis.

From Artisan Books:

"For the first time, Nicole Curtis, the star of the megahit HGTV and DIY Network show Rehab Addict, reveals her private struggles, her personal victories, and the inspiring lessons we can all learn from them.

Part celebrity memoir and part self-help book, Better Than New goes behind the scenes with an entrepreneurial single mom who worked her way from waitress/real estate agent to home renovation expert, preservationist, and television star. With eight chapters in the book—eight lessons told through her life story and through several of the homes she has remodeled—readers will get to see another side of Nicole Curtis, including the private and personal struggles that are not seen on TV. Working in Detroit and Minneapolis, Curtis has opened her fans’ eyes to the beauty of older homes and the value of reclaiming and reusing authentic original materials rather than sending dumpster loads to the local landfill. Curtis applies the same principles to her personal life—valuing old friends, rescuing dogs, and advocating for the wounded, the elderly, and the disadvantaged. Readers will find inspiration to apply to their own lives supplemented with never-before-seen photos of Curtis and the homes she renovates. Better Than New is a visual treat, packed with more than 75 color photographs from Curtis’s personal collection, ranging from family photos to before-and-after photos of the rehabbed homes’ interiors and exteriors."

(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!)

Superfood Breakfasts with DK Canada

I know breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But for years, I just skipped it, either too rushed, too lazy or not hungry.

I've changed my ways and now try to get up and eat breakfast before I head to work. And yes, I've noticed a difference.

So Superfood Breakfasts: Quick and simple, high-nutrient recipes to kickstart your day from DK Canada's Great Tastes Boutique definitely caught my eye. And so did the line ...."the recipes have been compiled with busy, modern lifestyles in mind." Quick, nutritious and all the planning already done for me? Umm, yes please. The other must for me was gluten and refined sugar free. Check.

What is a superfood you ask? From the opening chapter: "These are foods that are nutrient-dense, with vitamins and minerals for the perfect functioning of our bodies." There's a great pictorial index of the superfoods along with each one's benefits.

There are 25 recipes included with lots of choice in both content and time. Me, I like the good to go ones - take it with me and eat it when I get there. Included are recipes for something I've always wanted to try, but hadn't gotten around to - Overnight Oat Jars. Well, I don't know why I haven't done it - it was really easy and only took a few minutes the night before. Or taking it with me. Smoothies are easy to drink on the drive to work.

But there are some great make aheads too. I've made the quinoa and buckwheat granola and it was really, really good. I tried it as a breakfast bowl, but found I also liked it on yogurt and as a snack in midafternoon. The quinoa superseed bread is next up for a make ahead.

With more time on weekends, the Rainbow Vegetable Frittata and Blueberry Oat Pancakes have been enjoyed by my husband as well. The breakfast parfaits would appeal to kids for a fun looking (and good for them) breakfast.

As with all DK books, the layout is great - clear and easy to read alongside great colour photos. And the bottom line? Always packed with great, useful, up to date information. Superfood Breakfasts hasn't made it to the bookshelf yet - it's been in constant use on the side kitchen counter. Recommended! See below for some sample pages.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Giveaway - Edgar Allan Poe: An Adult Coloring Book - Odessa Begay

With Hallowe'en only two weeks away (have you decided on a costume yet?) I have the perfect (and timely) giveaway for you today!

Edgar Allan Poe: An Adult Coloring Book: An Adult Coloring Book  by Odessa Begay.

From Sterling Publishing:

"Dive into the macabre, mysterious world of Edgar Allan Poe’s chilling tales with popular coloring book artist Odessa Begay (Little Birds). Inspired by Poe’s beloved stories, Begay has created images that reference settings, motifs, and details that fans will recognize." Take a peek inside!

"Odessa Begay resides in Philadelphia, PA. She is a graduate of NYU/The Tisch School of the Arts where she studied photography and imaging. She has licensed her work widely in the children's/baby markets, as well as botanicals for home d├ęcor, paper, and fabric." Learn more about her at her website, find her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

And if you'd like to get coloring, enter to win a copy using the Rafflecopter form below. Open to US and Canada, no PO boxes please. Ends October 29/16.