Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Over the Counter # 426

What book caught my eye this week as it passed over the counter and under my scanner? Yes, another dog book - I am still missing my old girl terribly....

Our Dogs, Ourselves: The Story of a Singular Bond by Alexandra Horowitz.

From Scribner Books:

"From Alexandra Horowitz, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Inside of a Dog, an eye-opening, informative, and wholly entertaining examination and celebration of the human-canine relationship for the curious dog owner and science-lover alike.

We keep dogs and are kept by them. We love dogs and (we assume) we are loved by them. We buy them sweaters, toys, shoes; we are concerned with their social lives, their food, and their health. The story of humans and dogs is thousands of years old but is far from understood. In Our Dogs, Ourselves, Alexandra Horowitz explores all aspects of this unique and complex interspecies pairing.

As Horowitz considers the current culture of dogdom, she reveals the odd, surprising, and contradictory ways we live with dogs. We celebrate their individuality but breed them for sameness. Despite our deep emotional relationships with dogs, legally they are property to be bought, sold, abandoned, or euthanized as we wish. Even the way we speak to our dogs is at once perplexing and delightful.

In thirteen thoughtful and charming chapters, Our Dogs, Ourselves affirms our profound affection for this most charismatic of animals—and opens our eyes to the companions at our sides as never before."

(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, November 12, 2019

White Elephant - Trish Harnetiaux


Next up in my Christmas listens is the newly released White Elephant by Trish Harnetiaux.

Do you know the White Elephant game? I've played it at holiday gatherings in the past. Everyone brings a wrapped gift with no name on it. Numbers are picked and gifts chosen - and then they can be stolen. But what if one of those gifts has significance to an attendee? A maybe murderous participant? Right from the start, the reader is aware that there is a murder in the mix. The who and the why remain to be seen.

Aspen real estate agents Claudine and her husband Henry are the hosts for this annual event. Their staff are all invited to the party and it's to be held at a home the pair are hoping to sell to pop star Zara. That Aspen setting guarantees snow - keeping people in - and the cops out. Harnetiaux also brings in some fact to her fiction - actual murder mysteries in the Aspen area are mentioned. I'm not sure this belonged with the somewhat cozy tone of White Elephant.

 None of the characters are particularly likable, except perhaps Zara. Claudine, Henry and Zara are all given a voice, as is a mystery fourth person. Claudine is the one you'll love to dislike - a lot.

The timeline flips from present to past as details are slowly added. I did find that there was almost too much detail and thought it slowed the book down. But overall, it was a fun, quirky little listen - a cozy Christmas mystery for the ears.

Renata Friedman was the narrator. She has a really pleasant voice that is easy to listen to and clearly understood. Her voice rises and falls as she reads, giving movement to the story. She interprets the book well and provides emphasis where the plot calls for it. The voices she provides for the different characters matched the mental images I had created. Listen to an excerpt of White Elephant.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Missing Person - Sarah Lotz

Missing Person is Sarah Lotz's latest book. It's a first read of this author for me, but won't be the last.

Irish bookseller Shaun has always believed his Uncle Teddy was dead. But then he learns the truth - his family lied. Teddy ran away to New York twenty years ago - and the family declared him dead. But why? Shaun can't leave it be and keeps asking questions, despite being warned off. But when he's contacted by an online missing persons group in the US, he might finally find some answers.

I adore epistolary novels - it feels like a more intimate read, like you're more 'in' the book. The group's questions, inquiries and internal conversations are all presented in a series of online chats, emails, messages, articles and more. Lotz does some great character building with the members of missing-linc.com. We are privy to their private lives, even though the members have not met one another. They're all battling something in real life and can be someone else online. But, one of those members has some personal knowledge of 'The Boy in the Dress' case. Shaun is just as well portrayed and I found myself quite drawn to him. There are four POV's - three members of the online group and Shaun. Lotz explores family, friendship, love, loss, grief and more through these characters alongside the investigations.

I liked having two settings - the US and Ireland. As well as investigating the case from two different countries. I thought the crime was well plotted. Lotz provides unexpected turns as the search for whodunit progresses. I was kept engaged the whole time. A quite different, but really good crime novel. See for yourself - here's an excerpt of Missing Person.

Friday, November 8, 2019

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #288

- 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
Long Bright River by Liz Moore releases at the top of 2020 on both sides of the pond. Blurbs by Paula Hawkins and Dennis Lehane had me taking a second look at this one. The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. Well, we have stark white font on both covers. And both are suitably dark. The US cover employs water in it's image, giving it movement. The UK cover has what looks to be a river as well, albeit a red river - death? I like the red, but what I don't need is another woman's face on the cover. I want to make my own mental images of characters from the author's words. For that reason alone, I'm going with the US cover this week. What about you? Which cover do you prefer?
Any plans to read Long Bright River?
You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Short and Sweet # 8 - The Reckoning - John Grisham

What? Well, time flies and sometimes I just seem to run out of it! So, Short and Sweet will be just that - some brief thoughts on books I've read or listened to. And when you see S and S, chances are I'm either busy, tired or on vacation!

The Reckoning by John Grisham was another back and forth to work listen. Narrated by Michael Beck.

From Random House Audio:

"October 1946, Clanton, Mississippi

Pete Banning was Clanton, Mississippi’s favorite son—a decorated World War II hero, the patriarch of a prominent family, a farmer, father, neighbor, and a faithful member of the Methodist church. Then one cool October morning he rose early, drove into town, and committed a shocking crime. Pete’s only statement about it—to the sheriff, to his lawyers, to the judge, to the jury, and to his family—was: “I have nothing to say.” He was not afraid of death and was willing to take his motive to the grave.

In a major novel unlike anything he has written before, John Grisham takes us on an incredible journey, from the Jim Crow South to the jungles of the Philippines during World War II; from an insane asylum filled with secrets to the Clanton courtroom where Pete’s defense attorney tries desperately to save him.

Reminiscent of the finest tradition of Southern Gothic storytelling, The Reckoning would not be complete without Grisham’s signature layers of legal suspense, and he delivers on every page."

My Thoughts:

I hadn't read or listened to a Grisham book in awhile and thought I would give this one a go. I hadn't read the premise before slipping in the first disc. I liked that it was a period piece, set in the years just after the war. The setting was the South, a place Grisham uses often and does well. And The Reckoning was no exception.

The shooting takes place in the first few chapters. The reason for that shooting is the mystery. And that's what kept me listening. As the book progressed, I had a pretty good idea of the why. But the ensuing trial and verdict takes place long before the end of the book - without revealing the why. The timeline switches back to before the shooting, when Pete was in a Japanese prisoner of war camp. I listened to a bit of this, but admit to fast forwarding - I just didn't want to listen to war atrocities. And then we bump back to the present where Pete's family is still trying to find that why. I found the timeline jumping jarring. And when I got to the final why, I was disappointed - in Pete and Grisham.

This was just an okay listen for me. Perhaps I went in expecting another type of read. The book is very well written - it's just not one I loved. But, I do have a hold on his forthcoming book, The Guardians.

Beck did a good job of capturing the character of Pete with his low tone and slower pace of speaking. His interpretation matched the mental image I had created for the lead character. His voice is clear, easy to understand and pleasant to listen to. Hear for yourself - here's an excerpt of The Reckoning.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Over the Counter #425

What book caught my eye this week as it passed over the counter and under my scanner? I'm a sucker for dog - and underdog - books.....

Hero Dogs: How a Pack of Rescues, Rejects, and Strays Became America's Greatest Disaster-Search Partners Hardcover by Wilma Melville with Paul Lobo. 

From St. Martin's Press:

"Lola was a buckshot-riddled stray, lost on a Memphis highway. Cody was rejected from seven different homes. Ace had been sprayed with mace and left for dead on a train track. They were deemed unadoptable. Untrainable. Unsalvageable. These would become the same dogs America relied on when its worst disasters hit.

In 1995, Wilma Melville volunteered as a canine search-and-rescue (SAR) handler with her Black Labrador Murphy in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing. At the time, there were only fifteen FEMA certified SAR dogs in the United States. Believing in the value of these remarkable animals to help save lives, Wilma knew many more were needed in the event of future major disasters. She made a vow to help 168 dogs receive search-and-rescue training in her lifetime—one for every Oklahoma City victim.

Wilma singlehandedly established the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (SDF) to meet this challenge. The first canine candidates—Ana, Dusty, and Harley—were a trio of golden retrievers with behavioral problems so severe the dogs were considered irredeemable and unadoptable. But with patience, discipline, and love applied during training, they proved to have the ability, agility, and stamina to graduate as SARs. Paired with a trio of firefighters, they were among the first responders searching the ruins of the World Trade Center following 9/11—setting the standard for the more than 168 of the SDF’s search-and-rescue dogs that followed.

Beautiful and heart-wrenching, Hero Dogs is the story of one woman’s dream brought to fruition by dedicated volunteers and firefighters—and the bonds they forged with the incredible rescued-turned-rescuer dogs to create one of America’s most vital resources in disaster response."

(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, November 5, 2019

Short and Sweet #7 - The Whisper Man - Alex North

What? Well, time flies and sometimes I just seem to run out of it! So, Short and Sweet will be just that - some brief thoughts on books I've read or listened to. And when you see S and S, chances are I'm either busy, tired or on vacation!

I was hearing good things about Alex North's latest book, The Whisper Man, and decided to make it my latest back and forth to work listen. Narrated by Christopher Eccleston.

From Macmillan Audio:

"In this psychological thriller, Alex North weaves a multi-generational tale of suspense, as a father and son are caught in the crosshairs of an investigation to catch a serial killer preying on a small town.

After the sudden death of his wife, Tom Kennedy believes a fresh start will help him and his young son Jake heal. A new beginning, a new house, a new town. Featherbank.

But the town has a dark past. Twenty years ago, a serial killer abducted and murdered five residents. Until Frank Carter was finally caught, he was nicknamed "The Whisper Man," for he would lure his victims out by whispering at their windows at night.

Just as Tom and Jake settle into their new home, a young boy vanishes. His disappearance bears an unnerving resemblance to Frank Carter's crimes, reigniting old rumors that he preyed with an accomplice. Now, detectives Amanda Beck and Pete Willis must find the boy before it is too late, even if that means Pete has to revisit his great foe in prison: The Whisper Man.

And then Jake begins acting strangely. He hears a whispering at his window..."

My thoughts:

Oh, what a great, creepy premise. Is the house haunted? Is Jake seeing things that are only in his head? Or are they real? Is there a killer about? The listener is never quite sure. North does a great job of keeping us guessing as the book progresses. North introduces events into the narrative that changed my thinking as it built momentum. The whodunit was one I didn't seen coming - and I always appreciate that. But for this listener, it was all about the journey and the uncertainty. Great listen!

And here's a fun fact: "The Whisper Man was inspired by North's own little boy, who mentioned one day that he was playing with "the boy in the floor."

Christopher Eccleston does a fantastic job or narrating. He has such a rich, sonorous, expressive voice - it's wonderful to listen to. He does a great job catching the tone of the book with his voice. And his reading of The Whisper Man rhyme gave me goosebumps. Listen to an excerpt of The Whisper Man.