Friday, August 14, 2020

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #325

- 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
Val McDermid is known as Britain’s Queen of Crime. She is indeed one of my fave mystery/police procedural authors. She writes a number of series. Still Life is the 6th entry in her Karen Pirie Series. The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. The water is featured on both covers. One is depicted in a busier locale - I have to believe that significant bridge on the US cover gets lots of use. At first glance I thought the bright fish pots on the US cover was a blanket! Ominous skies on both, but the blue on the US cover seems too fake for me.  A quieter tone on the UK cover, which I quite like. That seemingly never ending view is strangely appealing to me. The empty boat has lots of possibilities. So an easy choice this week - UK cover. What about you? Which cover do you prefer? Any plans to read Still Life?
You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World

Thursday, August 13, 2020

The Wicked Sister - Karen Dionne

Karen Dionne's debut novel, The Marsh King, was a runaway bestseller. She follows that success up with her newly released second novel, The Wicked Sister.

Rachel either committed or witnessed a horrific crime as a child. She has virtually no memory of the death of her parents at their remote log cabin. She ran into the woods and wasn't found for two weeks. Remarkedly, she was in good shape. Fifteen years later, she has chosen to keep herself voluntarily locked away in a psychiatric hospital. For company, she often speaks to the spider in the corner of her room. But when the journalist brother of another resident takes an interest in the killing and offers up new evidence, Rachel knows she has to confront her past - if she can remember it.

Dionne employs one of my favorite storytelling devices with past and present narratives. We follow Rachel in the present as she tries to find answers. And we meet Jenny, Rachel's mother as we come to know the past. How Rachel and her sister, Diana, grew up on a large wilderness property, communing with nature. That back and forth technique always makes for addictive reading - having to get back to a timeline, armed with new knowledge.

The Marsh King's Daughter had fairy tale elements woven through it and I found myself looking (and finding) the same in The Wicked Sister. Deep in a wood with an enchanted feel, animals endowed with a magical feel, a good sister vs. a bad sister, and more.

Dionne did a really good job with her characters. The confusion of one sister and the incarnate evil of the other jumped off the page. There are some really creepy scenes that had me shivering.

The title's a bit of a giveaway - we know that one of them is evil, but it's a roundabout trail to the final answer. One element used was a bit of a stretch for me -  but note that I am quite pragmatic. A decidedly different read with the suspense genre label. Here's an excerpt of The Wicked Sister.

Just for fun, look up the meanings of both names - I wonder if Dionne chose the names for her lead characters based on their meanings?

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Over the Counter #463

What book caught my eye this week?

Ice Walker: A Polar Bear's Journey through the Fragile Arctic by James Raffan

From Simon and Schuster:

"From bestselling author James Raffan comes an enlightening and original story about a polar bear’s precarious existence in the changing Arctic, reminiscent of John Vaillant’s The Golden Spruce.

Nanurjuk, “the bear-spirited one,” is hunting for seals on Hudson Bay, where ice never lasts more than one season. For her and her young, everything is in flux.

From the top of the world, Hudson Bay looks like an enormous paw print on the torso of the continent, and through a vast network of lakes and rivers, this bay connects to oceans across the globe. Here, at the heart of everything, walks Nanurjuk, or Nanu, one polar bear among the six thousand that traverse the 1.23 million square kilometers of ice and snow covering the bay.

For millennia, Nanu’s ancestors have roamed this great expanse, living, evolving, and surviving alongside human beings in one of the most challenging and unforgiving habitats on earth. But that world is changing. In the Arctic’s lands and waters, oil has been extracted—and spilled. As global temperatures have risen, the sea ice that Nanu and her young need to hunt seal and fish has melted, forcing them to wait on land where the delicate balance between them and their two-legged neighbors has now shifted.

This is the icescape that author and geographer James Raffan invites us to inhabit in Ice Walker. In precise and provocative prose, he brings readers inside Nanu’s world as she treks uncertainly around the heart of Hudson Bay, searching for nourishment for the children that grow inside her. She stops at nothing to protect her cubs from the dangers she can see—other bears, wolves, whales, human beings—and those she cannot.

By focusing his lens on this bear family, Raffan closes the gap between humans and bears, showing us how, like the water of the Hudson Bay, our existence—and our future—is tied to Nanu’s. He asks us to consider what might be done about this fragile world before it is gone for good. Masterful, vivid, and haunting, Ice Walker is an utterly unique piece of creative nonfiction and a deeply affecting call to action."

(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 the 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, August 11, 2020

The Shadows - Alex North

I listened to Alex North's previous book - The Whisper Man - and really enjoyed it. I was eager to listen to his newest - The Shadows.

The covers of both titles feature handprints - with a bit more when you look closely. I liked the elongated shadows and the figures making their way into .....?

The Shadows opens with a horrific crime in a small English village. Now, it's one you've read in the papers before. Or so I thought. I was wrong - there's so much more to this crime.

Paul Adams was a schoolboy when it happened. It involved the boys he thought were his friends. One died, one went to prison - and one - Charlie - was never seen again. That was twenty five years ago. Paul left the village and never returned, until now. And only because his mother is dying. And then - another boy is killed in a neighbouring village - and his death seems to be a copy of that old crime. Is Charlie back?

I'm not going to spoil things for you - the method of murder is frightening - and very, very creepy. (I love creepy!) Things start happening to Paul - someone following him, flashes of the past and what's in his mother's attic. (Attics or basements always house the gotcha stuff, don't they?) What's happening now? And what really happened then?

North does subtle creepy really, really well. A sound, a name, a memory, a possibility. The reader knows there is something bad out there and it is the anticipation that ramps up the creepiness factor over and over again. I loved the building tension. The Shadows are the woods behind Paul's boyhood home. The description of the woods themselves is enough to give you goosebumps.

I appreciate not being able to predict a plot. There was no way to know where North's story was headed and how it would end.

I chose to listen to The Shadows. The readers were Hannah Arterton and John Heffernan. I've said it before and I'll say it again - I become much more immersed in a tale when I listen. The Shadows absolutely was better for me in audiobook format. Both readers have lovely British accents that are easy to understand. They both enunciate well and speak clearly. Heffernan has a wonderfully expressive voice that captured the tone and tenor of the plot. The gravelly tone of his voice was perfect for the uncertainty, the danger and the spookiness of the book.  Arterton did a good job as well - she too has an expressive voice that's easy on the ears. Hear for yourself - listen to an excerpt of The Shadows.

Another atmospheric listen from North. I'll be watching for his next book.

Monday, August 10, 2020

When She Was Good - Michael Robotham

I'm a big fan of Michael Robotham's writing. I've really enjoyed the Joe O'Loughlin series, as well as the stand alones. Robotham introduced a new series last year featuring forensic psychologist Cyrus Haven. And it was just as good as I had hoped. (my review)

Haven returns in the newly released When She Was Good. And so does Evie Cormac - a teenager who was discovered in a hidden room when she was a young child. She can tell when anyone is lying to her. But who is she? She has never told anyone her real name - if she knows it. Or what happened to her or who might be responsible? But the past never stays buried does it? Cyrus has stirred things up - and Evie is on the run again.

I have been wondering if we would ever find out about Evie's past. She is a fascinating character - well, actually they both are. Cyrus also has a dark and troubled past. Robotham has a done a great job building the two leads. I like them and find myself fully engaged and interested in their stories.

The search for Evie's past - or is the past searching for Evie? Either way, it's a tense journey to the final pages. Danger, action, suspense, corruption and more propel the story forward. And long hidden memories and details up the ante. Things unfold through both Evie and Cyrus's voices. The plotting is intricate and well played.

I chose to listen to When She Was Good. And that choice was made based on the reader - Joe Jameson. He did the first book as well and I'm so glad he did latest as well. The continuity is great. His voice is rich and full and his speaking voice is clear and easy to understand. He created distinctive voices for each character The Cyrus is calm and measured. The Evie voice is great - I absolutely hear a teenage girl with a chip on her shoulder. Those unique voices have created clear mental images of the characters for me. He interprets the book well and uses his voice effectively for the emotions and action as they play out. I've said it before and I'll say it again - I find myself more drawn into a book when I listen to it. Hear for yourself - listen to an excerpt of When She Was Good.

Another excellent listen from Robotham - but hey, I knew it would be. An easy five star book.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Ask Me Anything - P.Z. Reizin

I enjoyed P.Z. Reizin's previous book, Happiness for Humans (my review). He has just released his newest book - Ask Me Anything.

Happiness for Humans featured two AIs (Artificial Intelligence) as lead characters.The two AI's decide to meddle in Jen and Tom's lives - and help the course of true love along.

Reizin employs the same premise in Ask Me Anything. But, in this case its a fridge/freezer leading the charge. He has decided that Daisy's choice in men is going nowhere. And so he, along with a plethora of other appliances and devices will help the course of love along.

The fridge/freezer has a fun voice - with a wry sense of humor and even philosophical. The supporting cast includes an electric toothbrush (his conversations tend to go in circles), a microwave, the television and more web devices outside Daisy's home, like bar cams, CCTV etc. And this is truly reality. And the appliances yes, they too have 'personalities'. I liked Daisy, but felt like she was more of a prop for the appliances and their agenda.

The road to love is a bumpy one, but you just know its all gonna work out in the end.

Now, I liked As Me Anything, but I felt like it was a story that I'd read before. And I started to grow tired of the fridge/freezers conversations/meetings and plans. It became repetitive - and slow. I ended up not reading straight through, but instead picked it up and down over the course of a few weeks.

Here's an excerpt of Ask Me Anything.

Friday, August 7, 2020

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #324

- 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 adored Anthony Horowitz's Magpie Murders. (my review). I was excited to see that there's a new Atticus Pund mystery coming out in November in NA, August in the UK. The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. Alright, lets get started. Two bold background colors on both covers. I do find the red moire appealing that the blue. As to images, the UK does have a moon referencing the title. Night scene, bare branches - and an owl - with one of the worst owl faces I've ever seen. It looks like he hit a building straight on and flattened out his face even more. Hmm, do you sense what cover I'm liking this week? The key image against the red makes me want to see what's inside. And the four little images - a (moon?) flower, a book, an X (marks the spot) and a hammer (murder weapon anyone?) And look at the left hand side cut out on the key - do you see the face. A most excellent cover - and an easy choice for me this week - US. What about you? Which cover do you prefer? 
Any plans to read Moonflower Murders?
You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.