Friday, July 31, 2015

Film on Friday #39 - Belle and Sebastian

When I saw this new release from Film Movement - Belle and Sebastian - I just knew it was one I had to watch. As with all Film Movement releases, it was a featured film at many festivals and was the Grand Prize Best Film at the New York International Children's Film Festival.

My now twenty something son absolutely adored the cartoon series about a boy and his giant white dog. We had a very large white Alaskan Malamute at the time and I know he played out many adventures with Murphy in the backyard.

The film takes place in 1943 in the French Alps. Sebastian lives with an old shepherd named Cesar.  The village is worried about a 'beast' who has been attacking the local flocks and have vowed to kill it. Young Sebastian comes across the dog the villagers are seeking and instead, befriends it. The dog becomes Sebastian's protector. For there is danger in the village - the Nazis have occupied it - and the villagers are moving Jewish refugees across the border into Switzerland. You guessed it - Belle and Sebastian are a part of that.

This is such a great movie for families. There's danger, adventure and of course a dog who is so very special. Who wouldn't want to imagine themselves as Sebastian? Prepare to have your heartstrings tugged. (For younger viewers, please take not that there are some some animals killed as part of the story.)

The movie is worth watching for the scenery alone - the views and vistas of the French Alps are absolutely magnificent. The scenes shot in the snow are real - and just as magnificent.

Young Félix Bossuet is such a natural actor. His lines were believable and his facial and body language also spoke volumes. It was easy to believe him as just a boy and his dog. Tchéky Karyo plays 'grandfather' Cesar. I had literally just watched him in the television series The Missing and enjoyed his performance. I thought he did a great job in this film as well. And a review of the actors would not be complete without mentioning the dog - well trained and perfect casting!

Families watching with children will likely choose the English dubbing. It seemed a bit off to me in the beginning, but wasn't badly done at all. I did find that of the dialogue could have used a bit more editing before being used  - some of the phrases and language just didn't seem to fit the time and place. I chose to watch with the subtitles instead. There's a 30 minute plus feature included on the making of the film as well.

Director Nicolas Vanier did a great job of bringing Cecile Aubry's classic book to the screen and a new audience. And now I'm going to pass my copy on to that twenty-something son....

France/99 minutes/Original French with English subtitles/ English

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Over The Counter #274

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? This week - books people have written about their jobs. Or memoirs if you prefer.

First up is The Story: A Reporter's Journey by Judith Miller.

From the publisher, Simon and Schuster:

"Star reporter for the New York Times, the world’s most powerful newspaper; foreign correspondent in some of the most dangerous fields; Pulitzer winner; longest jailed correspondent for protecting her sources, Judith Miller is highly respected and controversial. In this memoir, she turns her reporting skills on herself with the intensity of her professional vocation.

Judy Miller grew up near the Nevada atomic proving ground. She got a job at the New York Times after a suit by women employees about discrimination at the paper and went on to cover national politics, head the paper’s bureau in Cairo, and serve as deputy editor in Paris and then deputy at the powerful Washington bureau. She reported on terrorism and the rise of fanatical Islam in the Middle East and on secret biological weapons plants and programs in Iraq, Iran, and Russia. She covered an administration traumatized by 9/11 and an anthrax attack three weeks later. Miller shared a Pulitzer for her reporting.

She turns her journalistic skills on herself and her controversial reporting which marshaled evidence that led America to invade Iraq. She writes about the mistakes she and others made on the existence in Iraq of weapons of mass destruction. She addresses the motives of some of her sources, including the notorious Iraqi Chalabi and the CIA. She describes going to jail to protect her sources in the Scooter Libby investigation of the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame and how the Times subsequently abandoned her after twenty-eight years.

The Story describes the real life of a foreign and investigative reporter. It is an adventure story, told with bluntness and wryness."

Next up is Does This Mean You'll See Me Naked: Field Notes From a Funeral Director by Robert Webster.

From the publisher, Sourcebooks:

"With curious anecdotes and unbelievable truth, funeral director Robert Webster reveals that answer and more, offering readers entertaining and quirky stories gleaned from a life lived around death. Webster tackles those embarrassing questions we all have about what really goes on behind the scenes when you've left this world:

- Strange things people put in caskets - The biggest rip-offs in the business - The crazy things that happen to a body after death - Lime, wax, and other ways to hide the truth - The most important thing an undertaker does - How to avoid the high-pressure funeral parlor - What, that's not a coffin the body is resting in "

(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!)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Bug in a Vacuum - Melanie Watt

Melanie Watt (Author of  the Scaredy Squirrel and Chester books, among others) has come out with a brilliant new picture book. I first heard about Bug in a Vacuum from the children's selection librarian at work - she raved about it. And, now that I'm a Gramma (insert big smile) picture books are back on my radar!

I knew it was going to be clever from the first pages...

Bug: 1. An insect  2. An unexpected glitch
Vacuum: 1. A cleaning machine  2. A void left by a loss.

I loved the cover, with its retro feel in colour, tone -  and vaccum style. Indeed, every illustration is a painting filled with details for old and young. The can of dandelion repellent in one of the first few pages  contains "Poisonous Chemicals to difficult to spell." Each product featured comes with similar warnings and labels. Small items lost under the fridge, tables etc., and found again in the vacuum also encourage playing I Spy.

Young readers will have fun tracing the bug's path as he flies in and through the house. Until the moment he/she meets...the vacuum. Napoleon the dog has lost his little friend to the vacuum as well.

Adults will recognize the five stages of grief as our poor little bug goes through them - Denial, Bargaining, Anger, Despair and Acceptance. ("The five stages of grief, also know as the Kubler-Ross model, introduced in 1969, are a series of emotions commonly experienced when facing a life-changing event.") Words are used sparingly - to great effect. The story could be told simply with the illustrations. Napoleon the dog only has thought bubbles, but he has too is going through the five stages. Or, using the dialogue, much discussion could be had about emotions, talking about how the bug is feeling and acting. Or just read it for fun!

Officially listed as a 5-9 years age range, I beg to differ. This story has appeal for all ages and can be read on so many different levels.  It's clever, humourous and beautifully illustrated. Watt is both the writer and illustrator. I absolutely loved it! 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Finding Audrey - Sophie Kinsella

The opening prologue of Finding Audrey - the newest novel from Sophie Kinsella - had me hooked. We're quickly introduced to the Turner family - as they attempt to dissuade Mum from throwing her son Frank's computer out the upstairs window. Dad and younger son Felix are outside, pleading with her to not do it.  The last family member is Audrey - who is watching from inside the house with her sunglasses on.

The novel is told from Audrey's view. Her voice and the reason for the dark glasses are immediately compelling....

"The trouble is, depression doesn't come with handy symptoms like spots and a temperature, so you don't realize at first. You keep saying 'I'm fine' to people when you're not fine. You think you should  be fine. You keep saying to yourself: 'Why aren't I fine?'"

Kinsella does a fantastic job tackling the issues of anxiety and depression. The exact circumstances that led to Audrey's current situation are never fully detailed - which is perfect. Instead the focus is on Audrey and her progress. And that progress picks up speed when she meets Frank's friend Linus....

I loved this book!  I found myself laughing out loud many, many times. And just as many spent on sympathizing with Audrey's plight.

The characters are so engaging. It's impossible not to like Audrey. Her brother Frank's strategies and ploys to circumvent Mum's computer ban are epic. Wee Felix has few lines, but his sweetness is tangible. Dad is a bit of a bumbler and Mum is a bit of hard nose. (It was Mum I had the hardest time liking) But what they all share is a love for Audrey and a desire to help her feel better. Each family member is coping and supporting her in their own way. Linus - well, Linus is lovely. And I truly hope there are teen boys like him out there. Audrey's psychiatrist, Dr. Sarah, was also a great addition to the supporting cast. Her quiet advice is full of many truths.

Finding Audrey is about Audrey finding herself - and realizing that " is all about climbing up, slipping down, and picking yourself up again. And it doesn't matter if you slip down. As long as you're kind of heading more or less upwards. That's all you can hope for. More or less upwards."

Kinsella injects her humourous style into her first YA novel, but also handles real and serious issues with a realistic eye. Well done.

Read an excerpt of Finding Audrey. You can connect with Sophie Kinsella on her website, on Twitter and on Facebook.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Giveaway - Rome in Love - Anita Hughes

Summer isn't over yet! Today's giveaway is the perfect addition for your beach bag!

Rome in Love by Anita Hughes releases August 4/15 and I have a copy to giveaway to one lucky reader!

From the publisher, St. Martin's Griffin:

"When Amelia Tate is cast to play the Audrey Hepburn role in a remake of Roman Holiday, she feels as if all her dreams have come true. She has a handsome boyfriend, is portraying her idol in a major motion picture, and gets to live in beautiful, Italian city of Rome for the next two months. Once there, she befriends a young woman named Sophie with whom she begins to explore the city. Together, they discover all the amazing riches that Rome has to offer. But when Amelia's boyfriend breaks up with her over her acting career, her perfect world begins to crumble.

While moping in her hotel suite, Amelia discovers a stack of letters written by Audrey Hepburn that start to put her own life into perspective. Then, she meets Philip, a handsome journalist who is under the impression that she is a hotel maid, and it appears as if things are finally looking up. The problem is she can never find the right time to tell Philip her true identity. Not to mention that Philip has a few secrets of his own. Can Amelia finally have both the career and love that she's always wanted, or will she be forced to choose again?

With her sensory descriptions of the beautiful sites, decadent food, and high fashion of Rome, Hughes draws readers into this fast-paced and superbly written novel. Rome in Love will capture the hearts of readers everywhere." Read an excerpt of Rome in Love.

Credit: Sheri Geoffreys

"Anita Hughes is the author of Lake Como, Market Street, and Monarch Beach. She attended UC Berkeley’s Masters in Creative Writing Program, and has taught Creative Writing at The Branson School in Ross, California. Hughes lives in Dana Point, California, where she is at work on her next novel." You can connect with Anita Hughes on her website, as well as on Twitter and on Facebook.

Sound like a book you'd love to read?! Enter to win a copy using the Rafflecopter form below. Open to US only, no PO boxes please. Ends August 8/15.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #63

- 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'm really looking forward to Karin Slaughter's newest book releasing in September in the US and July in the UK. She's a fantastic crime novelist. Pretty Girls is a stand alone. The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. Well, both covers have a blurb from Lee Child. The UK is more explicit and definitely lets you know it's a crime novel. But this week, I think I am drawn more to the subtlety of the the locket falling in the  US cover. What cover do you prefer? Do you plan to read Pretty Girls?
You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is 
a regular Saturday feature at 
A Bookworm's World.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Film on Friday #38 The Longest Ride

The Longest Ride, based on the best selling novel by Nicholas Sparks, has just released on Blu-ray from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Director George Tillman Jr. does a fantastic job of bringing this love story to the screen. (And staying true to the book)

Bullrider Luke (Scott Eastwood) is 'back in the saddle' trying to return to the top of his sport after an injury, when he meets Sophia (Britt Robertson) - a college student ready to graduate and pursue her dream job in the art field. When the two meet, sparks fly - but can love overcome dreams and ambitions? What, if any, choices and sacrifices will each be willing to make?

What makes The Longest Ride such a wonderful film to watch is the parallel story set in the 1940's. Luke and Sophia rescue Ira (Alan Alda) an older man and his box of letters from a car crash. Sophia continues to meet with Ira and from her letter reading we relive the love story of Ira and his wife Ruth. (Oona Chaplin is fantastic as young Ruth. Jack Huston is young Ira) The two stories mirror each other across the generations, through good and bad, only serving to illustrate that love takes sacrifice and the path to happiness is never smooth.

Watching The Longest Ride is going to make you happy though. Who doesn't love a love story? Great sets and scenery, a perfectly cast group of actors, some tastefully done steamy scenes, lots of action in the bull ring and an ending that's just right, all add up to a sweet, satisfying movie night at home. The Longest Ride is perfect to share with that special someone in your life or maybe as a girl's night at the movies. (As one supporting character says early on "I want a cowboy." Uh huh.)

Tillman took great care with realistically portraying the bull riding. Two of the special features on the disc follow Eastwood's training as well as the real riders. Fascinating stuff. There's also some good interviews with cast members, director and Sparks as well.

The title refers to the eight seconds a rider must stay on the bull to score, but The Longest Ride is also a nod to relationships - staying the course through a bumpy ride as well. Well worth watching for this movie lover!

And in case you missed it - you have until midnight tonight to 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Over the Counter #273

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Well, I was hot and was looking for a cool drink......and the cover pictures caught my eye.

First up is Quench: Handcrafted Beverages to Satisfy Every Taste and Occasion by Ashley English.

 From the publisher, Roost Books:

"From homemade root beer to hard cider, fresh-squeezed ginger lemonade to handcrafted Irish cream, do-it-yourself beverages are gaining interest and intrigue across the culinary spectrum. Professional mixologists and amateur home cooks alike are looking for beverages to inspire and satisfy, sourced from a variety of natural and seasonal ingredients. Quench offers the solution, covering the entire beverage range with hot, cold, fermented, infused, and cured offerings. There’s something here for every palate, occasion, and need. Quench promises to help you pour a glass of whatever it is you're thirsting for."

Next up is The Land Where Lemons Grow: The Story of Italy Its Citrus Fruit by Helena Attlee.

From the publisher, Countryman Press:

"The Land Where Lemons Grow is the sweeping story of Italy’s cultural history told through the history of its citrus crops. From the early migration of citrus from the foothills of the Himalayas to Italy’s shores to the persistent role of unique crops such as bergamot (and its place in the perfume and cosmetics industries) and the vital role played by Calabria’s unique Diamante citrons in the Jewish celebration of Sukkoth, author Helena Attlee brings the fascinating history and its gustatory delights to life.

Whether the Battle of Oranges in Ivrea, the gardens of Tuscany, or the story of the Mafia and Sicily’s citrus groves, Attlee transports readers on a journey unlike any other."

(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!)

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A New Hope - Robyn Carr

A New Hope is the 8th entry in the Thunder Point series by best selling author Robyn Carr.

I don't read a lot of romance, but a co-worker mentioned that she had enjoyed quite a few Robyn Carr titles. I was looking for an easy, feel good read, so A New Hope seemed like a good bet.

Ginger Dysart has suffered great personal loss. Still grieving, she moves to the small town of Thunder Point, Oregon, to help out her cousin.  Carr quickly introduces us to the many residents of the town, each with their own story and personality. I must admit to feeling slightly overwhelmed in the beginning, with the sheer number of story lines and connections.

Ginger is a likable character, as are most of the players. Thunder Point is that mythical little town, where everyone knows your name (and your business) the neighbours pitch in and help is always just around the corner. Idyllic and a perfect setting.

At a local wedding, Ginger is hit on by a drunken Matt Lacoumette, who has also suffered loss. Sober, he comes by to apologize to Ginger and.....well, you can see it coming can't you? No surprise - - their relationship grows from no thanks, to friends and onward. Carr grows this relationship nicely, with more than a few truths and some thoughtful introspection along the way.

My only complaint would be the inclusion of what I viewed as somewhat gratuitous sex scenes. No, it's not me being prudish. I just thought they felt forced, or injected into the story as a prerequisite element. I was enjoying the story without these insertions.

What I did really enjoy was that caring town and its residents. Carr has included a wide variety of characters, from young to old, each with their own story. It's easy to see why readers get hooked on such series. It's lovely to imagine such a place as Thunder Point might exist.

The growing relationship between Ginger and Matt is of course a given, despite the setbacks thrown in their paths. But that's why we read romance isn't it? For that happy ever after. Readers will find that ending in A New Hope. Read an excerpt of A New Hope.

"Robyn Carr is a RITA® Award-winning, #1 New York Times bestselling author of almost fifty novels, including the critically acclaimed Virgin River series. Robyn and her husband live in Las Vegas, Nevada. You can visit her at her website, connect with her on Facebook, as well as on Twitter.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Hand That Feeds You - A. J. Rich

The Hand That Feeds You is a newly released psychological thriller from A.J. Rich. (A pseudonym and collaborative effort from authors Amy Hempel and Jill Clement.)

Morgan Prager comes home to her apartment to a horrific sight. Her fiancé Bennett is dead - seemingly killed by Morgan's three dogs. When she attempts to notify his family of his death, she can't find them - or any trace of the man she was to marry. Nothing he told was true. Morgan met Bennett through an online dating site and a questionnaire she created for her thesis on victim psychology. Could Morgan be the victim herself?

And of course, along with Morgan, the reader wants to know who Bennett was as well.

I was intrigued by the premise and Morgan's search for who Bennett really was. But I found myself reading as an observer, removed from the story and not as a engaged participant. I just couldn't connect with Morgan. I didn't overly like her, despite her being the protagonist.  She alternates between being self aware to downright naive. But she remained flat for me, never generating a strong response.

The inclusion of death by dog was quite different. Dogs, dog rescue, dog temperament and dog law play a large in the plot of The Hand That Feeds You. Hempel is a founding member of two dog rescue organizations and her knowledge adds much to a distinctly different whodunit plot. I learned quite a bit, but sometimes I felt like this information and storyline detracted from the main plot. I did think that the idea of someone falsely representing themselves online was excellent - and timely.

Rich does include a lot of extraneous detail - about food/drink/prices that seem like filler, as well as other odd bits, such as a description of a 'green' funeral that really don't have anything to do with the plot at all.

The whodunit is fairly obvious, despite the choices offered, but I kept reading as I wanted to confirm my suspicions and find out the fate of the dogs. I found the ending and resolution a bit rushed in the less than two pages allotted to it.

The Hand That Feeds You was just an okay read, for me, and fell short of the publisher's description of  'smart, thrilling, sexy, and emotionally riveting.' See what you think - read an excerpt of The Hand That Feeds You.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Giveaway - Sisters of Treason - Elizabeth Fremantle

Calling all historical fiction fans! I've got a great giveaway for you today. Elizabeth Fremantle's novel, Sisters of Treason, is newly released in paperback - and I have a copy to giveaway to one lucky reader!

From the publisher, Simon and Schuster:

"From the author of Queen’s Gambit, which People magazine called, “A must-read for Philippa Gregory fans,” a gripping historical novel about two sisters who tread as dangerously close to the crown as their tragic sister, Lady Jane Grey, executed after just nine days on the throne.

Early in Mary Tudor’s turbulent reign, Lady Catherine and Lady Mary Grey are reeling after the brutal execution of their elder seventeen-year-old sister, Lady Jane Grey, and the succession is by no means stable. In Sisters of Treason, Elizabeth Fremantle brings these young women to life in a spellbinding Tudor tale of love and politics.

Neither sister is well suited to a dangerous life at court. Flirtatious Lady Catherine, thought to be the true heir, cannot control her compulsion to love and be loved. Her sister, clever Lady Mary, has a crooked spine and a tiny stature in an age when physical perfection equates to goodness—and both girls have inherited the Tudor blood that is more curse than blessing. For either girl to marry without royal permission would be a potentially fatal political act. It is the royal portrait painter, Levina Teerlinc, who helps the girls survive these troubled times. She becomes their mentor and confidante, but when the Queen’s sister, the hot-headed Elizabeth, inherits the crown, life at court becomes increasingly treacherous for the surviving Grey sisters. Ultimately each young woman must decide how far she will go to defy her Queen, risk her life, and find the safety and love she longs for.

From “a brilliant new player in the court of royal fiction,” (People) Sisters of Treason brings to vivid life the perilous and romantic lives of two little known young women who played a major role in the complex politics of their day."

"Elizabeth Fremantle is the author of Queen's Gambit and has contributed to Vogue, Elle, Vanity Fair and The Sunday Times among other publications. She lives in London, England." Read an excerpt of Sisters of Treason. There's a reading group guide available as well as a video to help you get to know Elizabeth better. Or connect with Elizabeth on her Facebook page.

Sound like a book you'd like to read? I have one copy to giveaway. Open to continental US only, no PO boxes please. Enter using the Rafflecopter form below. Ends August 1/15.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Tea Book - Linda Gaylard

I've been drinking tea as long as I remember. Some of my fondest memories are having tea parties with my grandmothers when I was young. We used a tiny china tea set (that I still have) and very milky tea! I'm still a tea lover and drinker to this day.

DK Canada has a great Food and Drink Boutique with a selection of food and beverage titles for the foodie in your life. One of their newest titles - The Tea Book  by Linda Gaylard - definitely caught my eye!

Gaylard is a tea sommelier - " the tea sommelier has the challenging task of convincing tea drinkers that there is much more to tea than a mug and a tea bag. Beyond the bag there is mystery, history, travel, industry, culture and ceremony: a whole new world to explore." 

I have tried some loose teas, but I do generally use the same brand of bag and a mug, so I was up for learning something new and venturing beyond my usual fare.

Gaylard's book starts literally from the ground up, detailing the anatomy of a tea plant, the growth and  harvest. (From seed to plant ready for plucking can take 5 to 7 years) I truly had never thought to consider the process of plant to cup before - up to nine processes!  I drink quite a bit of tea - and am happy to report there are quite a few health benefits to tea, including stress relief and higher bone density. Who knew? Herbal teas have long been known to have medicinal properties. Gaylard has included a 'wheel of wellness' - matching an ailment (headache, cough etc) along with a tea that might help.

I loved this fact - tea bags were an accidental invention. In 1908 a tea merchant sent his clients samples in a silk drawstring bag. They clients brewed the tea in the bags instead of removing the leaves. And tea bags were born! I've discovered while travelling in the US to say 'hot tea' - which is sometimes met with puzzled looks. This stat explains those looks - "80% of tea consumed in the United States is in the form of iced tea."

Brewing and infusing techniques, including equipment such as infusers, water temp, type of water, infusion time and measured amounts to use are covered in meticulous detail, accompanied by charts, coloured pictures and drawings.

Just as tea with my grandmother was an occasion, so is it across many cultures. Gaylard explore ceremonies and traditions in numerous countries. (The British afternoon tea was familiar and a favourite)

A large chapter on tea recipes was an unexpected bonus! There are cold, hot and alcoholic tea recipes, using all types of tea. How about making your own bubble tea?

The Tea Book is a complete, comprehensive guide to the world of tea from start to finish - seed to sipping. Gaylard knows her tea - and I now know a lot more. And I think I'm ready to supplement my bag and mug with some loose tea! The Tea Book is another great reference book from DK - filled with great clear, concise information, complemented by colour photos and drawings. Here's a peek inside The Tea Book.

"Linda Gaylard is the author of The Tea Book. Linda is also a Certified Tea Sommelier located in Toronto, Canada. She graduated from a comprehensive program of study developed by George Brown College in conjunction with The Tea Association of Canada. During her training, Linda experienced more than 350 hours of focused tastings and workshops as well as training in tea and food pairing, social history of tea and tea garden management.

Prior to her tea studies, Linda achieved renown as a wardrobe stylist and influencer within the fashion world. Her experience provides a unique perspective for readers who are seeking a diverse approach to tea appreciation." You can keep up with Linda Gaylard on her website and well as on Twitter.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #62

- 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
Sue Grafton's latest Kinsey Millhone mystery, X, the
latest (#24) in her alphabet series releases August 25/15. I must admit, I've read them all. What's interesting this week is the similarity between the two. (But really, how much can you do with X for a title!) The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. I'm going to go with the UK cover this week. Although I think the US cover is trying for stark, bold and catch your eye, I find it a little boring. The UK cover hints at more with the dried landscape/ominous clouds and the bird circling above. I like that the X is transparent. And it mentions that it's a Kinsey novel. Do you plan on reading X? Which cover do you prefer? 
You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular Saturday feature at A Bookworm's World.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Grand Summer Reads Giveaway - The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street - Susan Jane Gilman

Grand Central Publishing is running a summer long program aptly named Grand Summer Reads featuring four GCP titles to keep you in "reading bliss."

The second title is The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman. And I have three copies to giveaway to three lucky readers!

From the publisher:

"Now in paperback, bestselling author Susan Jane Gilman's IndieNext Pick novel about an immigrant girl's transformation into an indomitable businesswoman in early 20th century New York.

As a child in 1913, Malka Treynovsky flees Russia for New York with her family--only to be crippled and abandoned in the streets. Taken in by a tough-loving Italian ices peddler, Malka survives. When she falls in love with Albert, they set off together across America in an ice cream truck to seek their fortune; slowly, she transforms herself into Lillian Dunkle, "The Ice Cream Queen of America"--doyenne of an empire of ice cream franchises and a celebrated television personality.

Spanning 70 years, Lillian's rise--fraught with setbacks, triumphs, and tragedies--is inextricably linked to the course of American history itself, from Prohibition to the disco days of Studio 54. And when her past starts catching up with her, her world implodes spectacularly." Read an excerpt of The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street.

"Susan Jane Gilman is the bestselling author of Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress, Kiss My Tiara, and Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven. She provides commentary for NPR and has written for the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Ms. Magazine. She earned an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan. She divides her time between Geneva, Switzerland, and her hometown of New York." You can connect with Susan Jane Gilman on her website, as well as on Twitter and on Facebook.

Check out the other titles for the Grand Summer Reads(And enter to win all four titles from Grand Central Publishing!)

Ice Cream Queen? What a great, cool book for a hot summer read! I have three copies to giveaway to three lucky readers!! Open to US and Canada, no PO Boxes please. Ends August 1/15. Enter using the Rafflecopter form below.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Over the Counter #272

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? This week it was a couple of cookbooks that caught my eye...

First up is The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook:Wickedly Good Meals and Desserts to Die For by Kate White.

From the publisher, Quirk Books:

"Hard-boiled breakfasts, thrilling entrees, cozy desserts, and more--this illustrated cookbook features more than 100 recipes from legendary mystery authors. Whether you're planning a sinister dinner party or whipping up some comfort food perfect for a day of writing, you'll find plenty to savor in this cunning collection. Full-color photography is featured throughout, along with mischievous sidebars revealing the links between food and foul play. Contributors include Lee Child, Mary Higgins Clark, Harlan Coben, Nelson DeMille, Gillian Flynn, Sue Grafton, Charlaine Harris, James Patterson, Louise Penny, Scott Turow, and many more."

And next up is Better on Toast: Happiness on a Slice of Bread--70 Irresistible Recipes by Jill Donenfeld.

From the publisher, William Morrow:

"A fresh, fun, easy, cookbook, filled with color photographs, that reveals all the delectable things you can do with toast, one of today’s hottest culinary trends. The recipes serve as a flavor profile building blocks, making Better on Toast a great introductory cooking guide, too! Whether she’s frantically preparing for an impromptu gathering with friends, looking for an energy boost before the gym, or home alone staring into the fridge for a midnight snack, Jill Donenfeld turns to one dish that always satisfies—Toast. Tartine, open-faced sandwich, smørbrød—whatever you call it, it’s that single slice of perfect bread stacked high with fresh, flavorful toppings. Better on Toast features delicious, quick, easy-to-follow recipes for toasts with every possible topping—from hot to cold and savory to sweet. Anyone can make delicious toasts, no matter his or her level of experience or kitchen size. Whether you use thick-cut French bread, slices of whole wheat, or her gluten-free bread recipe, Jill puts emphasis on flavor, using quality, wholesome ingredients to make each recipe stand out.

With Better on Toast, you can enjoy these elegant yet simple meals anytime and for any occasion, using classic ingredients in new ways and playing with interesting ingredients you’ve always wondered about."

(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!)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

After the Storm - Linda Castillo

Linda Castillo's  newest book, After the Storm, has just released. It's the seventh entry her wonderful Kate Burkholder series.

Kate is the Chief of Police in the town of Painters Mill, Ohio. The area also has a large Amish population. Kate was born into the Amish community, but chose to leave and live as an "Englischer". She has an understanding of both communities and it serves her invaluably in her work.

A prologue from the past sets up the premise for After the Storm. And in the present, a tornado tears through the area of Painters Mill, wreaking havoc - and exposing that past. A set of bones is found under the wreckage of an old barn - and it was no accidental death.

I loved settling in for what I knew would be a great read - and catching up with Kate.

Kate's personal life is a continuing storyline across the books. Her relationship with State Agent John Tomasetti has reached a new level - and new hurdles. I like the continuity across the books as the personal lives of the characters change and grow with each new entry. The supporting cast is solid and dedicated to their Chief. Kate's own conflicts between the community she was raised in and the world she now lives in also provide a great secondary story line. Castillo use lots of detail to bring the Amish settings, culture and language to life.

The whodunit is nicely played - not overly hard to solve, but still enjoyable.Castillo provides lots of suspects along the way for the reader to choose from. Procedural details aren't overly employed, instead Castillo moves things along with deductions and action. I do wonder if these crimes (because some of them are quite ugly) happen in the Amish community? A quote from Kate: "The Amish have all the same weaknesses as the rest of us. Including the human capacity for violence."

Castillo's premise and use of the Amish community and their way of life in her books is interesting and different enough to separate it from other series. After the Storm was an engaging, enjoyable book - a perfect porch read. Read an excerpt of After the Storm.

You can connect with Linda Castillo on her website, as well as on Twitter and on Facebook.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Fold - Peter Clines

I don't read a lot of science fiction, but I know a good story when I see it - or hear it, in this case. I've also seen techno-thriller attached to this book as a label, which I think is better fitting.

The Fold is the first book I've read by Peter Clines, but it won't be the last.

It was the lead character that caught my interest in the first few chapters and held me until the very end.

Mike Erikson is a small town teacher in New England. He's happy at his job and enjoys his students. He also happens to be a genius with an eidetic memory, able to recall anything and everything he's ever seen, read or heard. He doesn't advertise this ability, preferring to live the quiet life he's chosen. One friend is aware of his skill set though - and asks Mike to take a look at a project he's funding. He's not sure if the group is telling him the truth about their results.

The project? Time travel, using a 'fold' of time that allows the user to travel great distances in a single step. Mike is intrigued.......and quite sure that the group is indeed harboring secrets - dangerous ones.

Well, of course I wanted to know what the secret was! The premise was great and the journey to the answers was intriguing. The story moved along at a fast pace, with lots of action as Mike ferrets out the truth and the resulting chaos. Cline's writing flows easily and was fun to read.

Mike's recall is fascinating - he uses ants as a mental depiction - black for memory, red for analysis. He was a a really likable character. The supporting cast is a mixed bunch - and although some of them are a bit clichéd (the lead scientist is quite obvious in his obfuscation) - they provided a good foil. A secondary plot involving a love interest between Mike and Jamie, one of the scientists, lends a personal note. Clines injects humour along the way as well.

Ray Porter was the reader - and he was fantastic. His voice exactly matched the mental image I had created for Mike. Supporting characters, many female, also had their own distinct voices, each creating and matching Cline's players. What I was amazed with was the quickness of the change in voices, sometimes in mid scentence. I absolutely felt like there were two or more people having a conversation - instead of one man playing many parts! Porter's voice reminded me somewhat of Robert Downey Jr's - a quick way of speaking, with lots of inflection and attitude easily conveyed.

I liked the ending, it's open ended enough for further books with Mike. I do hope this is the case - I would absolutely love to listen to another one - as long as its Ray Porter narrating. ;0)

(On a side note - this was the first time I've downloaded from Audible. It was very easy, the sound quality was great and it was available across all my devices. I downloaded to a mobile device - the app was great with lots of added features, such as a timer - I tend to listen before I go to sleep. I would absolutely download again.)

Monday, July 13, 2015

Giveaway - Devil's Harbor - Alex Gilly

Love fast-paced thrillers? Then I've got a great giveaway for you today!

Devil's Harbor is Alex Gilly's newly released debut novel - and I have THREE copies to giveaway to lucky readers!

From the publisher, Forge Books:

"With heart-stopping thrills, a Walter White-esque villain, and a fascinating hero, Alex Gilly's Devil's Harbor is a thriller unlike any you have read before Nick Finn and his partner and brother-in-law, Diego Jimenez, are used to rough water. As Marine Interdiction Agents for Customs and Border Protection, the two hunt drug smugglers, human traffickers, and other criminals who hide in the vastness of the waters surrounding southern California. One night, Finn and Diego track a phantom boat off the Los Angeles coast, but it disappears before they can intercept it. They find a dead body in its wake, ravaged by sharks. Their investigation into the floater stalls when Finn is accused of using excessive force following the death of a suspected drug smuggler.

Then Diego is murdered - and Finn is the number-one suspect. As he races to find the real killer and save his marriage, Finn is forced to partner with Linda Blake, the desperate captain of the Pacific Belle and mother of Lucy, a very sick little girl, to attempt the one thing he has devoted his life to stopping. In order to clear his name and save a child's life, Finn must smuggle narcotics by sea into the United States…and avoid the net that his CBP colleagues have cast for him."

Sounds like a great non-stop action filled read! See for yourself - read an excerpt of Devil's Harbor.

"Alex Gilly is a writer and an internationally bestselling translator who was born in New York City. His published translations include the best-selling INCAS trilogy (The Light of Machu Picchu, The Puma’s Shadow and The Gold of Cuzco) by A. B. Daniel, published by Scribner in the United States, and Thierry Cruvellier's Master of Confessions, a non-fiction account of the first of the Khmer Rouge trials in Phnom Penh. He is also the official translator for award-winning novelist Amin Maalouf’s blog. Gilly has lived in Australia, Canada, France, California, and the UK, and he currently lives in Sydney with his wife and son." You can connect with Alex Gilly on Twitter.

If Devil's Harbor sounds like a book you'd enjoy, enter using the Rafflecopter form below. Open to US and Canada, no PO boxes please. Ends July 25/15.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #61

- 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'm really looking forward to the latest entry in Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache series. The Nature of the Beast releases in August 2015. The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. Well, both covers are definitely ominous! The cave on the US cover goes a bit better with the title I think. But those circling birds are a harbinger of something bad. This week it's the US cover for me. What cover do you prefer? Do you plan to read The Nature of the Beast?You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular Saturday feature at A Bookworm's World.

Friday, July 10, 2015

A Robot in the Garden - Deborah Install

Oh, do you ever get that tingly little feeling after a few pages of a new book? And realize you've just re prioritized your to-do list so you can keep reading?

Deborah Install's debut novel A Robot in the Garden did just that!

Sometime in the near future in England, androids are an accepted part of everyday life, doing the cooking or gardening - even driving. They're high functioning, replacing the original robots.

Ben Chamber's wife Amy would like an android to help around the house (According to her, Ben does very little to help, well, very little anything) One morning though... "There's a robot in the garden" my wife informed me.

Ben is fascinated by the little robot - he's battered and worn and wherever could he have come from? He decides to keep him. But Amy has decided not to keep Ben - the marriage is done and she moves out. "But one thing she had said hurt more than anything else. 'He's never actually achieved anything.' She was right. I hadn't. It was about time I did."

And so Ben decides to save Tang, the broken robot. He will find his owner and get him fixed!

Tang and Ben set off on a journey that will hopefully heal Tang - and without him noticing - Ben as well. A Robot in the Garden houses quirky characters, odd situations, adventures and a pair of lead characters that you can't help but cheer for, between its pages. Ben is a perennial nice guy, who has just lost his way for a bit. And, as funny as it sounds, Tang has quite the personality, despite his limited vocabulary and boxy body.

I honestly laughed out loud so many times at Tang's antics. Tang was actually inspired by Install's own young son. As one character remarks "He's not so very different from a child if you ask me." Ben too is quite funny, albeit unintentionally sometimes.

I'm not going to spoil the book for you by revealing any more. Suffice it to say that the road trip to fix Tang is one you want to take.

A Robot in the Garden was funny, heartbreaking, heartwarming and so very, very good.  How else could I describe The Robot in the Garden? Well, if you loved The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry - cross that with Wall-E and you'll have an idea. Absolutely, positively recommended!

Read an excerpt of Robot in the Garden.

"Deborah Install has been writing fiction since childhood, submitting her first book to a publisher at the age of 8. Her love of writing persisted, leading to a number of jobs, including web journalism and her most recent role as copywriter at a design and marketing agency. She lives in Birmingham, UK, with her husband, toddler and affectionate but imperious cat." You can connect with Deborah on Twitter.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Over the Counter #271

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? A pair of memoirs this week - and it was the covers that drew me to both.

First up is The Shepherd's Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks.

From the publisher, Doubleday Canada:

"Old world met new when a shepherd in the English Lake District impulsively started a Twitter account. A routine cell phone upgrade left author James Rebanks with a pretty decent camera and a pre-loaded Twitter app--the tools to share his way of life with the world. And what began as a tentative experiment became an international phenomenon. James has worked the land for years, as did his father, and his father before him. His family has lived and farmed in the Lake District of Northern England as long as there have been written records (since 1420) and possibly much longer. And while the land itself has inspired great poets and authors we have rarely heard from the people who tend it. One Twitter account has changed all that, and now James Rebanks has broken free of the 140-character limit and produced "the book I have wanted to write my whole life." The Shepherd's Life is a memoir about growing up amidst a magical, storied landscape, of coming of age in the 1980s and 1990s among hills that seem timeless, and yet suffused with history. Broken into the four seasons, the book chronicles the author's daily experiences at work with his flock and brings alive his family and their ancient way of life, which at times can seem irreconcilable with the modern world.

An astonishing original work, The Shepherd's Life is an intimate look from inside a seemingly ordinary life, one that celebrates the meaning of place, the ties of family to the land around them, and the beauty of the past. It is the untold story of the Lake District, of a people who exist and endure out of sight in the midst of the most iconic literary landscape in the world."

Next up is The Skeleton Cupboard: The Making of a Clinical Psychologist by Tanya Byron.

From the publisher, Harper Collins Canada:

"In my session with Imogen, the words were still not coming. I had to move past my own frustration and relax. But it is very hard to relax when you are looking into the eyes of a mute little girl who wants to be dead. You don’t want to relax; you want to pull her into your arms, hold her and then shake her until she tells you why. You long to say, "Why do you want to die? You’re twelve years old." Gripping, unforgettable and deeply affecting, The Skeleton Cupboard recounts the patient stories that most influenced Dr. Tanya Byron, covering years of training that forced her to confront the harsh realities of the lives of her patients and the demons of her own family history. Among others, we meet Ray, a violent sociopath desperate to be treated with tenderness and compassion; Mollie, a talented teenager intent on starving herself; and Imogen, a twelve-year-old so haunted by a secret that she’s intent on killing herself.

Byron brings the reader along as she uncovers the reasons each of these individuals behave as they do, resulting in a thrilling, compulsively readable medical mystery that sheds light on mental illness and what its treatment tells us about ourselves."

(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!)

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Name of the Devil - Andrew Mayne

FBI Agent Jessica Blackwood returns in Andrew Mayne's new novel - Name of the Devil.

Blackwood is a unique character - she's a magician turned cop. Mayne's own background as a magician and a family in law enforcement add much to his books.

A new nemesis awaits Jessica this time out. A massacre in a small town church seems to point to spontaneous human combustion, exorcism, madness - and the devil. The residents in town are frightened and local enforcement baffled, so the Bureau is called in. And so is Jessica - to consult. For she sees with a different set of eyes and a different logic. I really enjoy the trickery, the sleight of hand, if you will, that Mayne uses in his plots. I like the behind the scenes, alternate explanations and illusions that Jessica exposes.

Jessica is a likable character. This time around, we get to know a bit more of her background with flashbacks from her childhood. Her magician grandfather is someone who fascinates me - there's much more to the man than simple magic tricks. Another recurring character is Damien, the extremely dangerous, seemingly all seeing man who seems to have his eye on Jessica - watching for her safety and providing her clues in an oblique fashion.

Mayne's plot is intricate, involved and far-reaching in Name of the Devil. Some of it is a wee bit over the top and asks the reader to suspend disbelief. And you should - it fuels an already action-filled read. Mayne has conjured up another great cat and mouse game with a unique protagonist - perfect for summer escapist reading. I loved the ending and will be watching for number three. Read an excerpt of Name of the Devil.

"Andrew Mayne is the star of A and E's magic reality show Don't Trust Andrew Mayne, and has worked with David Copperfield, Penn and Teller, and David Blaine. He lives in Los Angeles." You can connect with him through his website, on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter. See what others on the TLC book tour thought. Full schedule can be found here.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Hungry Ghosts - Peggy Blair

I am a huge fan of Peggy Blair's Inspector Ramirez series. The third book - Hungry Ghosts - has just released.

From the opening pages, I slipped back into the world of Inspector Ramirez of the Havana, Cuba police department. Ramirez is called to investigate an art exhibit vandalization. While there, a ghost joins him. Yes, Ramirez sees the dead - specifically the murdered. And one of those now following him is another dead prostitute - strangled with a pair of stockings.

Up in the colder climates of Canada, Detective Charlie Pike is also called to the murder of a dead woman on the Manomin Bay First Nation Reserve. She too has a stocking around her neck......

Blair's plotting is meticulous, inventive and oh, so well played. The two investigations mirror each other, from the crimes, the detectives, the metaphysical, politics and more. The cases are told in alternating chapters, guaranteeing that 'just one more chapter' late night read. Lots of twists and turns tie the two cases together in a most unexpected manner.

The plotting is rich, but so are the settings. The details surrounding both locales give the reader a vivid picture of both Havana and Northern Ontario, using architecture, the natural world, rules, laws, attitudes and language to bring both sites to life. I am fairly familiar with the First Nations lore and location, but did indeed learn something new. I am constantly fascinated by the details of Havana and the descriptions of what is not there (soap, meat and more) the limitations placed on the citizens, the city and land, as well as the customs and culture.

Blair winds social commentary about both countries throughout her novels to great effect. The novel is set in 2007 and many news/historical events are referenced, such as residential schools and Guantanamo Bay. This reality gives the books added depth.

But it is the characters of Ramirez and coroner Hector Apiro that have captured me. Ramirez is one of the last few honest cops left on Havana's force (although he does borrow rum from the evidence locker). He's dogged and determined and deftly weaves his way through the political mire of the department and country to achieve results. Seeing the dead only adds to the plot and the characters. Apiro's mind is brilliant and his personal storyline is both unique and moving. However, with this third novel, I found the character of Charlie Pike appealing to me just as much. His personal storyline is just as rich and compelling. Supporting players are just as well drawn.

The title? "...there are three kinds of ghosts. There are orphan ghosts, who have no children to honour them properly. There are the ghosts of those who die violently, who sometimes come back for revenge. And then there are the hungry ghosts, the ones who can't feed themselves enough no matter how hard they try. Most murdered women are hungry ghosts."

Hungry Ghosts was another satisfying read on so many levels. And an excellent addition to a wonderful series. Absolutely recommended - I'll be waiting for the next book. Read an excerpt of Hungry Ghosts.

Hungry Ghosts could certainly be read as a stand alone, but I really recommend you read the first two books - The Poisoned Pawn and The Beggar's Opera. They're both just as good and you'll get to know the characters from the beginning.

"Peggy Blair was a lawyer for more than thirty years. She is the author of the award-winning and critically acclaimed Inspector Ramirez mysteries The Beggar’s Opera and The Poisoned Pawn. She lives in Ottawa." You can connect with Peggy Blair on her blog, on Twitter as well as on Facebook.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Giveaway - The Longest Ride on Blu-ray!

Let's start the week off with a fantastic giveaway!

The Longest Ride releases on July 14th from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment - and I have a copy to giveaway to one lucky reader!

"What would you do for the love of your life? Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment invites you to grab the bull by the horns in THE LONGEST RIDE, which releases on Blu-ray™ and DVD July 14. Up-and-coming stars Britt Robertson and Scott Eastwood will tug at your heartstrings as they bring Nicholas Sparks’ beloved novel to life. Also starring Jack Huston, Oona Chaplin, and Alan Alda.

Based on the bestselling novel by master storyteller Sparks, The Longest Ride centers on the star-crossed love affair between Luke, a former champion bull rider looking to make a comeback, and Sophia, a college student who is about to embark upon her dream job in New York City’s art world.  As conflicting paths and ideals test their relationship, Sophia and Luke make an unexpected connection with Ira, whose memories of his own decades-long romance with his beloved wife deeply inspire the young couple.  Spanning generations and two intertwining love stories, The Longest Ride explores the challenges and infinite rewards of enduring love.

THE LONGEST RIDE Blu-ray™ comes packed with 45 minutes of extra features that will take you further into the film’s two central love stories. Join Eastwood on the ranch as he learns from the world’s best bull riders to control the beasts and learn more about the production with audio commentary from director George Tillman, Jr. and star Oona Chaplin."

The Longest Ride Blu-ray™ special features include:
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes 
  • A Writer’s Journey: A Day in the Life of Nicholas Sparks 
  • Beyond the Ride 
  • Bringing it to Life 
  • Meet The Real Bull Riders 
  • Luke’s Bull Riding School 
  • Audio Commentary by George Tillman, Jr. and Oona Chaplin
  • Gallery

    Sound like a movie you'd like to own? Enter for a chance to win using the Rafflecopter form below. Open to US and Canada. Ends July 25/15. I'm looking forward to it as well - watch for my review.