Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Travelers - Chris Pavone

I've read and enjoyed Chris Pavone's previous two books, his award winning debut novel, The Expats and The Accident.

His latest book is The Travelers.

Travelers is a travel/lifestyle magazine. It has correspondents (travelers) traipsing across the globe writing and experiencing. And some of those correspondents are carrying out their other assignments. For you see, Travelers Magazine is a front for a spy organization.

Will doesn't know that. He only knows that his boss asks him to drop off sealed envelopes on certain trips. But on a trip to Argentina, Will makes a bad decision - he sleeps with a beautiful woman who turns out to be more than a one night stand. To protect his marriage, he agrees to her terms. And he is thrust into a different web of international intrigue. Who works for who? Who is legit? Government sanctioned? Rogues? Demands and tension ratchet up as competing organizations cross paths.

Pavone incorporates his own experience into his books. He's a former book editor and has lived abroad for years.  He does the international/espionage thing very well. I enjoyed the premise and thought it was quite clever. What better cover than a person paid to travel and write about it? But it took me a bit to finish the book - I found myself getting bogged down and losing interest. The same thing seemed to happen more than once, just in a different setting. The random sexual scenes thrown in seemed gratuitous. I wanted a quicker paced read than the slow pace The Travelers was offering. I did finish the novel and appreciated the plotting, but this one was just an okay read for me. Read an excerpt of The Travelers.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Over the Counter #321

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Running and running shoes this week......

First up is My Year of Running Dangerously by Tom Foreman.

From the publisher, Blue Rider Press:

"CNN correspondent Tom Foreman’s remarkable journey from half-hearted couch potato to ultra-marathon runner, with four half-marathons, three marathons, and 2,000 miles of training in between; a poignant and warm-hearted tale of parenting, overcoming the challenges of age, and quiet triumph.

As a journalist whose career spans three decades, CNN correspondent Tom Foreman has reported from the heart of war zones, riots, and natural disasters. He has interviewed serial killers and been in the line of fire. But the most terrifying moment of his life didn’t occur on the job–it occurred at home, when his 18-year old daughter asked, “How would you feel about running a marathon with me?”

At the time, Foreman was approaching 51 years old, and his last marathon was almost 30 years behind him. The race was just sixteen weeks away, but Foreman reluctantly agreed. Training with his daughter, who had just started college, would be a great bonding experience, albeit a long and painful one.

My Year of Running Dangerously is Foreman’s journey through four half-marathons, three marathons, and one 55-mile race. What started as an innocent request from his daughter quickly turned into a rekindled passion for long-distance running–for the training, the camaraderie, the defeats, and the victories. Told with honesty and humor, Foreman’s account captures the universal fears of aging and failure alongside the hard-won moments of triumph, tenacity, and going further than you ever thought possible."

And I'm not sure what shoes Foreman was wearing......maybe a pair of Phil's?

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight.

From Scribner Books:

"In this candid and riveting memoir, for the first time ever, Nike founder and board chairman Phil Knight shares the inside story of the company’s early days as an intrepid start-up and its evolution into one of the world’s most iconic, game-changing, and profitable brands.

Young, searching, fresh out of business school, Phil Knight borrowed fifty dollars from his father and launched a company with one simple mission: import high-quality, low-cost running shoes from Japan. Selling the shoes from the trunk of his Plymouth Valiant, Knight grossed eight thousand dollars that first year, 1963. Today, Nike’s annual sales top $30 billion. In this age of start-ups, Knight’s Nike is the gold standard, and its swoosh is more than a logo. A symbol of grace and greatness, it’s one of the few icons instantly recognized in every corner of the world.

But Knight, the man behind the swoosh, has always been a mystery. Now, in a memoir that’s surprising, humble, unfiltered, funny, and beautifully crafted, he tells his story at last. It all begins with a classic crossroads moment. Twenty-four years old, backpacking through Asia and Europe and Africa, wrestling with life’s Great Questions, Knight decides the unconventional path is the only one for him. Rather than work for a big corporation, he will create something all his own, something new, dynamic, different. Knight details the many terrifying risks he encountered along the way, the crushing setbacks, the ruthless competitors, the countless doubters and haters and hostile bankers—as well as his many thrilling triumphs and narrow escapes. Above all, he recalls the foundational relationships that formed the heart and soul of Nike, with his former track coach, the irascible and charismatic Bill Bowerman, and with his first employees, a ragtag group of misfits and savants who quickly became a band of swoosh-crazed brothers.

Together, harnessing the electrifying power of a bold vision and a shared belief in the redemptive, transformative power of sports, they created a brand, and a culture, that changed everything."

(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, June 28, 2016

All the Missing Girls - Megan Miranda

Looking for a great suspense summer read? Then you must pick up Megan Miranda's debut adult suspense novel - All the Missing Girls.

Nic Farrell's father is failing. Reluctantly she heads back to her hometown of Cooley Ridge to help her brother deal with things. Nic escaped right after high school graduation ten years ago - right after her best friend Corrinne went missing. The police always thought that Nic and her friends knew more than they were letting on.

But within days of Nic's arrival in town, another young woman goes missing.....

Always a great premise - an unsolved mystery from the past, the present mirroring that past and the same players involved. Who knows what? What are they hiding? Why?

"The official line: Corrinne last existed to everyone who knew her just inside the entrance to the fair, and from there, she disappeared. But she didn't, really. There was more. A piece for each of us that we kept hidden away." Delicious!!

But here's the hook that makes All the Missing Girls an even better read - it's told backwards! We meet Nic, see her present life, travel with her as she arrives back in town, connects with her dad, brother and some old friends. And then another girl disappears........

And Miranda jumps the timeline two weeks forward. And bits and pieces of the past start to reveal themselves even as the present plays out. DO NOT flip to the end - yes I know there are some of you out there that like to know what's going to happen and then go back to the beginning. But it would spoil the fun of this book. Keep your eyes peeled for a sentence, a thought or a mention of something you didn't know in the last chapter and add it to your interpretation of what happened - then and now. There are lots of lovely twists and turns along the way to the final reveal. (And I loved the ending)

Some interesting relationship dynamics are explored as well. I 'bought' the characters, could picture them and believe in their actions, emotions and flaws.

Great summer reading! Read an excerpt of All the Missing Girls.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Giveaway - You'll Grow Out of It - Jessi Klein

If you like to laugh - I've got a great giveaway for you today!

Jessi Klein is the Emmy and Peabody award-winning writer and executive producer of Comedy Central’s critically acclaimed series Inside Amy Schumer.

And now, she's written a book - You'll Grow Out of It releases July 12 - and I have 2 copies to giveaway to 2 lucky readers!

From Grand Central Publishing:

"You'll Grow Out of It hilariously, and candidly, explores the journey of the twenty-first century woman.

As both a tomboy and a late bloomer, comedian Jessi Klein grew up feeling more like an outsider than a participant in the rites of modern femininity.

In You'll Grow Out of It, Klein offers-through an incisive collection of real-life stories-a relentlessly funny yet poignant take on a variety of topics she has experienced along her strange journey to womanhood and beyond. These include her "transformation from Pippi Longstocking-esque tomboy to are-you-a-lesbian-or-what tom man," attempting to find watchable porn, and identifying the difference between being called "ma'am" and "miss" ("Miss sounds like you weigh ninety-nine pounds").

Raw, relatable, and consistently hilarious, You'll Grow Out of It is a one-of-a-kind book by a singular and irresistible comic voice." Read an excerpt of You'll Grow Out of It.

“Jessi Klein is a brilliant comedic mind and this book is a perfect reflection of that. It’s like having a glass of wine with the best friend you wish you had.” —Amy Schumer

"Jessi Klein is the Emmy and Peabody award-winning head writer and an executive producer of Comedy Central's critically acclaimed series Inside Amy Schumer. She's also written for Amazon's Transparent as well as Saturday Night Live. She has been featured on the popular storytelling series The Moth, and has been a regular panelist on NPR's Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! She's been published in Esquire and Cosmopolitan, and has had her own half-hour Comedy Central stand-up special." You can follow Jessi on Twitter.

And if you'd like to read You'll Grow Out of It, enter to win one of two copies using the Rafflecopter form below. Open to US and Canada, no PO boxes please. Ends July 16/16.

Friday, June 24, 2016

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #111

- 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 really enjoyed Laura McHugh's first novel, The Weight of Blood and am looking forward to her forthcoming book Arrowood. "“This robust, old-fashioned gothic mystery has everything you’re looking for: a creepy old house, a tenant with a secret history, and even a few ghosts." The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. Same idea on both covers, two little girls, a large old house and trees. I think I prefer the US cover this week. I like that the girls are in motion and that the house is decrepit. Which cover do you prefer? Any plans to read Arrowood?
 You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Over the Counter #320

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? A pair of memoirs this week - mothers and daughters.....

First up is The Bridge Ladies: A Memoir by Betsy Lerner.

From the publisher, Harper Wave:

"A fifty-year-old Bridge game provides an unexpected way to cross the generational divide between a daughter and her mother. Betsy Lerner takes us on a powerfully personal literary journey, where we learn a little about Bridge and a lot about life.

After a lifetime defining herself in contrast to her mother’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” generation, Lerner finds herself back in her childhood home, not five miles from the mother she spent decades avoiding. When Roz needs help after surgery, it falls to Betsy to take care of her. She expected a week of tense civility; what she got instead were the Bridge Ladies. Impressed by their loyalty, she saw something her generation lacked. Facebook was great, but it wouldn’t deliver a pot roast.

Tentatively at first, Betsy becomes a regular at her mother’s Monday Bridge club. Through her friendships with the ladies, she is finally able to face years of misunderstandings and family tragedy, the Bridge table becoming the common ground she and Roz never had."

By turns darkly funny and deeply moving, The Bridge Ladies is the unforgettable story of a hard-won—but never-too-late—bond between mother and daughter.'

Next up is White Walls: A Memoir About Motherhood, Daughterhood, and the Mess in Between  by Judy Batalion.

From the publisher, New American Library:

"Judy Batalion grew up in a house filled with endless piles of junk and layers of crumbs and dust; suffocated by tuna fish cans, old papers and magazines, swivel chairs, tea bags, clocks, cameras, printers, VHS tapes, ballpoint pens…obsessively gathered and stored by her hoarder mother. The first chance she had, she escaped the clutter to create a new identity—one made of order, regimen, and clean white walls. Until, one day, she found herself enmeshed in life’s biggest chaos: motherhood.

Confronted with the daunting task of raising a daughter after her own dysfunctional childhood, Judy reflected on not only her own upbringing but the lives of her mother and grandmother, Jewish Polish immigrants who had escaped the Holocaust. What she discovered astonished her. The women in her family, despite their differences, were even more closely connected than she ever knew—from her grandmother Zelda to her daughter of the same name. And, despite the hardships of her own mother-daughter relationship, it was that bond that was slowly healing her old wounds.

Told with heartbreaking honesty and humor, this is Judy’s poignant account of her trials negotiating the messiness of motherhood and the indelible marks that mothers and daughters make on each other’s lives."

(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, June 22, 2016

Disappearance at Devil's Rock - Paul Tremblay

Paul Tremblay's novel, A Head Full of Ghosts was the winner of the 2015 Bram Stoker award for superior achievement in a novel. His newest novel is Disappearance at Devil's Rock.

If you're a parent, you know the fear of loosening the ties - letting your child have a little more freedom, letting them go out without you right behind them. Letting them sleep over at someone else's house. But there's always that 'what if' worry in the back of your head.....

And that worry comes true for Elizabeth Sanderson - her thirteen year old son Tommy and his two friends had planned a sleepover at one of the other boy's houses. But first they grabbed some beers and went out exploring the woods of the Borderland park. Two came back, but Tommy is missing.....

As the hours tick by and turn into days, the police have no concrete leads or answers. But what does appear are pages from Tommy's diary, deposited on the living room floor in the middle of the night. And Elizabeth is sure she saw Tommy or a shadow or a vision or something in the corner of her room. And other town residents begin to see someone outside their windows in the middle of the night as well. And then the other two boys begin to slowly give up their secrets.....

Tremblay's story is driven by many things - the relationships between Elizabeth and her children, as well as her mother, the remaining boys and their parents and most importantly the dynamics between the boys. Tremblay portrays these relationships very well - especially those of the teen aged boy. What is so frightening is that what went on with the boys is not out of the realm of possibility at all.

And then he adds in those elements that make you wonder - how are those notebook pages getting there? Did Elizabeth see Tommy or was it pure want? Is there something about that Devil's Rock in the forest?

I appreciated the subtle, slow building tensions of these unanswered questions that cast doubt on my pragmatic thoughts and presented other possibilities. Tremblay has been classed as a horror writer, but it's not in your face, overt blood and gore horror.  Instead, it's the possibilities presented and the reader's own reaction and interpretation that will have you turning on another light. A very different read from my normal tastes - but it's good to step outside our reading comfort zones once in a while. Read an excerpt of Disappearance at Devil's Rock.

"Paul Tremblay is a multiple Bram Stoker Award finalist and the author of the crime novels The Little Sleep and No Sleep Till Wonderland. He has served as the president of the board of directors of the Shirley Jackson Awards, and his essays and short fiction have appeared in the Los Angeles Times and numerous year’s-best anthologies.

Find out more about Paul at his website, and connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

See what others on the TLC book tour thought - full schedule can be found here.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Evicted - Matthew Desmond

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond.

When this title arrived at the library, I read the description and knew I had to listen to it.

Shelter is one of the first building blocks in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. And yet, so many struggle to keep a roof over their heads.

"Matthew Desmond takes us into the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee to tell the story of eight families on the edge."

These are stories of real people, their struggle to feed themselves and their family after spending most of what they have each month on rent. Rent for substandard living conditions. On the flip side, Desmond interviews two landlords who rent out these rundown apartments, homes and trailers. This is how they make a living - they're not in it for charity. Eviction is the word, the threat, the reality.

Oh, my heart broke as I listened to these stories. Yes, it's very easy to say, just get a job and manage your money better. And many of these tenants are desperately trying to do that. But easier said than done in many cases. Despair drives people to self destructive behaviour sometimes. I got so angry at the callous nature of the landlords, not seeing their tenants as people, but as dollar signs.

Evicted is a microcosmic look at a bigger problem. Desmond immerses himself, collecting data, recording stories and proposing changes......this is an important book for everyone to read. We all need a safe place to call home.

Listen to an excerpt now. Dion Graham was the narrator and did an excellent job.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Under the Harrow - Flynn Berry

Under the Harrow is Flynn Berry's debut novel.

Nora is traveling to her sister's home for the weekend. She's a bit late, but when she arrives Rachel isn't there to meet the train. Nora instead walks to the house where she finds Rachel and her dog - brutally murdered.

Rachel was attacked as a teenager and the crime was never solved. Since then, she and Nora have always combed the crime reports, attended trials and more in an attempt to find the man who assaulted Rachel. Could he have found her after all this time? Is it someone in the village? A lover? A jealous wife? A stranger?

"Rachel said there was something wrong with the town, only a few weeks ago"

The search for answers consumes Nora - she stays in the village, unable to return to her own life. She becomes obsessed, certain she can find the killer as she feels the police aren't making any headway.

Under the Harrow is of course a mystery - there are many suspects offered up. And I liked that I was kept guessing until the very last pages.

But Under the Harrow is also an exploration of the relationship between the two sisters. How well do we really know those we love? How well do we know ourselves? What does such a calamitous event do to a person's psyche? For me, this was the strongest part of the book. Berry puts us in Nora's head - her staccato thoughts, memories, hazy recollections and fractured thinking is mirrored in her dialogue and actions. The reader is kept off kilter, trying to keep up with Nora's galloping 'stream of consciousness' thoughts. And I began to question Nora's memories. Are they true or her remembered truths?

The title? It's a C.S. Lewis quote from A Grief Observed:

"Come, what do we gain by evasions? We are under the harrow and can't escape."

This was a strong debut and an author I would pick up again. Read an excerpt of Under the Harrow.

Friday, June 17, 2016

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #110

- 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
Beth Lewis's debut novel, The Wolf Road, is one I'm looking forward to. "A debut literary thriller from an incredible new voice. What do you do when the man who gave you everything turns out to be a killer? Perfect for fans of Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel." The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. The font is very similar on both covers. I think those are trees in a forest on the US cover. But I think the UK cover conveys more of the story with the cold landscape, the wolf eyes, the running girl and as always with UK covers, the great tagline. Which cover do you prefer?
Any plans to read The Wolf Road?
You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Among the Wicked - Linda Castillo

Among the Wicked is the eighth book in Linda Castillo's 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" in her teens. She has an understanding of both communities and it serves her invaluably in her work.

And it is that combination of skills and knowledge that has a police department from New York State asking for Kate's assistance. A young Amish girl has been found dead, the community isn't providing any answers and in fact seem quite frightened. Rumours abound about the new Bishop who seems to rule with a heavy hand. They want Kate to go in undercover - and she agrees.

It was interesting to see the Amish community through Kate's eyes this time as she lives among them, rather than outside of the community looking in. Castillo use lots of detail to bring the Amish settings, culture and language to life.

I really like Kate as a character - she's tough, loyal, kind and devoted to justice. But Castillo's latest plot will test Kate to the limits, physically and mentally. There's some really horrible stuff going on in the Roaring Springs community. The 'bad' guys immediately elicit strong feelings from the reader. Castillo's plot is on the dark side this time 'round - definitely in wicked territory. She ramps up the tension as the story unfolds, with Kate alone and in danger. And still, Kate won't give up......

Procedural details aren't overly employed, instead Castillo moves things along with deductions and action. I do wonder if these types of crimes 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."

Kate's personal life is a continuing storyline across the books. Her relationship with State Agent John Tomasetti is solid, but not without bumps. The interaction between the two comes across as real and believable.

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. Among the Wicked was another engaging read from Castillo. Read an excerpt of Among the Wicked.

You can connect with Linda Castillo on her website, find her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Over the Counter #319

What book caught my eye this week? Well, this week, it's one that I'm hoping my library orders. I started watching the Starz television series based on Diana Gablaldon's Outlander novels. It was inevitable that a cookbook follow......

Outlander Kitchen: The Official Outlander Companion Cookbook by Theresa Carle-Sanders.

From the publisher, Delacorte Press:

"Take a bite out of Diana Gabaldon’s New York Times bestselling Outlander novels, the inspiration for the hit Starz series, with this immersive official cookbook from founder Theresa Carle-Sanders!

Claire Beauchamp Randall’s incredible journey from postwar Britain to eighteenth-century Scotland and France is a feast for all five senses, and taste is no exception. From Claire’s first lonely bowl of porridge at Castle Leoch to the decadent roast beef served after her hasty wedding to Highland warrior Jamie Fraser, from gypsy stew and jam tarts to fried chicken and buttermilk drop biscuits, there are enough mouth-watering meals along the way to whet the appetite of even the most demanding palate.

Now professional chef and founder of Theresa Carle-Sanders offers up this extraordinary cuisine for your table. Featuring more than one hundred recipes, Outlander Kitchen retells Claire and Jamie’s incredible story through the flavors of the Scottish Highlands, the French Revolution, and beyond. Following the high standards for prodigious research and boundless creativity set by Diana Gabaldon herself, Carle-Sanders draws on the events and characters of the novels to deliver delicious and inventive dishes that highlight local ingredients and traditional cooking techniques. Yet amateur chefs need not fear: These doable, delectable recipes have been updated for today’s modern kitchens. Here are just a few of the dishes that will keep the world of Outlander on your mind morning, noon, and night:

• Breakfast: Yeasted Buckwheat Pancakes; A Coddled Egg for Duncan; Bacon, Asparagus, and Wild Mushroom Omelette • Appetizers: Cheese Savories; Rolls with Pigeons and Truffles; Beer-Battered Corn Fritters • Soups & Stocks: Cock-a-Leekie Soup; Murphy’s Beef Broth; Drunken Mock-Turtle Soup • Mains: Peppery Oyster Stew; Slow-Cooked Chicken Fricassee; Conspirators’ Cassoulet • Sides: Auld Ian’s Buttered Leeks; Matchstick Cold-Oil Fries; Honey-Roasted Butternut Squash • Bread & Baking: Pumpkin Seed and Herb Oatcakes; Fiona’s Cinnamon Scones; Jocasta’s Auld Country Bannocks • Sweets & Desserts: Black Jack Randall’s Dark Chocolate Lavender Fudge; Warm Almond Pastry with Father Anselm; Banoffee Trifle at River Run

With full-color photographs and plenty of extras—including cocktails, condiments, and preserves—Outlander Kitchen is an entertainment experience to savor, a wide-ranging culinary crash course, and a time machine all rolled into one. Forget bon appétit. As the Scots say, ith do leòr!"

(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, June 14, 2016

I'm Thinking of Ending Things By Iain Reid

Iain Reid is the author of two award winning non-fiction titles. (I really enjoyed One Bird's Choice - my reviewI'm Thinking of Ending Things is his fiction debut.

Rather than try to paraphrase the plot, I'm simply going to quote from the publisher....

"You will be scared. But you won't know why....

In this deeply suspenseful and irresistibly unnerving debut novel, a man and is girlfriend are on their way to a secluded farm. What follows is a twisted unraveling and an unforgettable ending that will haunt you long after the last page is turned."

True, true, true! Oh, this was such an unsettling, disturbing, addicting little read. (I literally read it straight through in one sitting - it's 224 pages)

Jake and his unnamed girlfriend are travelling in the car. There seems to be a serious disconnect between the two looking in from the outside. Jake is quiet, intellectual, but a bit off in some way. The girlfriend is torn - they have been happy, maybe they still could be, but maybe it's just not working. She's thinking of ending things.

"I’m thinking of ending things. Once this thought arrives, it stays. It sticks. It lingers. It’s always there. Always."

There's some weird stuff in her own life, a stranger that keeps phoning her over and over with the same message. Things get odder when they reach their destination and downright terrifying when they leave. My thoughts and feelings about each character changed many times over the course of the book.

Interspersed are comments after a death takes place. No name is ever uttered, but there are clues in these remarks.

I kept turning pages, getting closer to the end, but not feeling sure of anything that was happening. I was frightened, horrified and quite shocked and surprised by the time I read the last pages. Enough so, that I had to go back to the beginning and take a second look at how Reid adroitly manipulated me. A second read is not out of the question, now that I know what I know. Events, actions, thoughts and dialogue would take on a whole different tenor. Read an excerpt of I'm Thinking of Ending Things.

You can connect with Iain Reid on his Website and follow him on Twitter.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Security - Gina Wohlsdorf

Security is the newly released debut novel from Gina Wohlsdorf.

Tessa and her team are scrambling the night before to put the final touches in place for the opening night of Manderly, an uber-luxurious hotel. In addition to the opulent touches, the security system is the ultimate in high tech.

"This place is something....supposed to be the safest hotel in the world, right?"

But is it enough to stop the two killers that are calmly strolling throughout the hotel, knocking off the employees one by one? The hotel is large, sprawling, and equipped with a hidden elevator - the employees have no idea that they are being hunted down - until it's too late.

But Tessa is a fighter, having survived a rough childhood with her foster brother Brian - who has stopped by the hotel to catch up. As the night progresses, they will have to draw on that toughness if they hope to see morning.

Wohlsdorf weaves a rich past and romance for Brian and Tessa amongst the carnage of the Manderly. These tender moments are juxtaposed by the calmness of the killer as they just go about their work. Romantic horror?

But - there's one more person at the Manderley - the one watching the security cameras. Who is he? The mastermind? Another hired assassin?

I loved the 'split screen' pages that echoed multiple camera views from someone watching in a security room. It was a unique idea and it really made the reader feel like they were in the room watching as well.

Wohlsdorf has a darkly wicked sense of humour. Which seems odd in what I've just described, but it really works.

Security really defies being slotted into a genre. I was kept completely off kilter. It's a nail biter and I can absolutely see it on the big screen. And, I might be a little paranoid the next time I check in at a hotel - "The most thorough safety is safety one's object of protection doesn't know about."  Read an excerpt of Security.

Friday, June 10, 2016

You Can't Judge A Book by Its Cover #109

- 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 love Alex Marwood's books and can't wait to get my hands on her latest, The Darkest Secret. The  US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. The empty little pool ring echoes the story, that there is a missing child,. But I'm not too sure about all those lines. That being said it does illustrated fractures and perhaps lies. The UK cover also brings in a child and water. And a really good tagline! I think this week Im going to go with the UK cover. How about you? Which cover do you prefer?
Any plans to read The Darkest Secret?
 You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Conjuring 2 gift pack giveaway!

The Conjuring 2 from Warner Brothers releases today in theatres. To celebrate I've got a great prize pack giveaway for one lucky reader! (scroll to the bottom for details.)

The Conjuring 2 synopsis:

"Based on a true story, The Conjuring 2, recounts a haunting in London, England that plagued a single mother, Peggy (played by Frances O’Connor), and her four children, Margaret, Janet, Johnny, and Billy. The church sends world renowned paranormal investigators Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) to investigate the authenticity of the haunting and help the family.

What begins as an investigation turns into a battle of good vs evil in which faith and scripture become the necessary tools to defeat a powerful entity. The Conjuring 2 is a story of overcoming fear and the power of God’s love and protection against evil."

Here are two great articles sure to promote discussion - The Reality of Evil or one to discuss with children- A Parent's Guide to Scary Movies.

Get a sneak peek of The Conjuring 2 - watch the trailer below!

And enter for a chance to win The Conjuring 2 prize pack that includes:
**2 movie money passes, Leather bound journal, 2 T-shirts, 2 cups **
Open to US and Canada, ends June 18/16

Die of Shame - Mark Billingham

Mark Billingham has been on my must read list for many years. I love his DI Tom Thorne series. His newest book is a stand alone called Die of Shame.

Six recovering addicts meet on Monday nights in their therapist's home office. They are varied group - straight, gay, rich, poor, male, female, working, unemployed, young, old etc. But addiction doesn't discriminate.

Billingham employs a then and now format in his novel. (I always enjoy this style - two stories running concurrently until they inevitably collide.) Then is meeting the participants, sitting in on the group meeting, observing the interactions, the dynamics and the tensions. And Tony the therapist's questionable therapy method. He wants each member to expose the thing they are most ashamed of in front of the others.....

The now? One of the members is dead. Is it a random killing? Could it be one of the remaining five? The reader is privy to insider knowledge that the police don't have - what happens in the circle can't be repeated.

Spliced into the story are short meetings between a convict and an unknown visitor. " '...all those questions, and I reckon you just want to know what it's like.....To kill someone.' 'The visitor's face breaks into a grin. Oh I wouldn't worry too much about that. I'll know for myself soon enough."

Billingham has written a slower paced suspense novel this time 'round. The focus is more on the characters, their actions, reactions, mindsets, thoughts and judgements rather than on crime details. Die of Shame is more of a psychological mystery than a plot driven read.

I thought all of the players were extremely well drawn - none of them are very likable, but the reader still feels empathy. I thought Billingham did a good job of depicting recovering addicts. There was one character that I had my suspicions about. And I was proven right - but the reason behind it was a surprise. The investigating team of Tanner and Chall are also given a good backstory (especially Tanner - it would be nice to see more of her) and do their job well, but I wasn't as invested in them as Tom Thorne. (Yes, I miss him)

The last sentence of the book was absolutely perfect and had me exclaiming out loud. I'm very curious if this will go further or it was just a nice little ending to grab the reader. Read an excerpt of Die of Shame.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Over the Counter #318

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Well, these two books from our 'new' shelf could give you a head start....

First up is A Year of Gingerbread Houses: Making and Decorating Gingerbread Houses for All Seasons Paperback by Kristine Samuell. "

From Lark Books:

"Nothing's more enticing for any holiday or special occasion than an awesome, lusciously decorated gingerbread house. With designs for Christmas, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, and birthdays, these exquisite projects include a cottage, chalet, and two-story house. Options as customized windows, doors, chimneys, paths, trees, topiaries, and even lighting add to the charm. More than 200 helpful step-by-step process shots; informative sections on tools, techniques, and components; and patterns, piping templates, and tips on baking, assembling, and troubleshooting assure magical results."

Next up is "Tis the Season to be Felt-y by Kathy Sheldon with Amanda Carestio.

Also from Lark Books:

Fa la la la . . . MORE! Crafters couldn't get enough of the adorable projects in Fa la la la Felt, so here are over 40 new ones to celebrate Christmas. From over a dozen ornaments to garlands, decorations, and lots of stockings to hang by the chimney with care, these holiday items will make your season merry and bright."

(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, June 7, 2016

Giveaway - Wilde Lake - Laura Lippman - 3 copies!

I really enjoyed Laura Lippman's newest book, Wilde Lake. You can read my review here. And you can too - I have three copies to giveaway!

Here's the synopsis from the publisher:

"The New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed standalones After I’m Gone, I’d Know You Anywhere, and What the Dead Know, challenges our notions of memory, loyalty, responsibility, and justice in this evocative and psychologically complex story about a long-ago death that still haunts a family. Luisa “Lu” Brant is the newly elected—and first female—state’s attorney of Howard County, Maryland, a job in which her widower father famously served. Fiercely intelligent and ambitious, she sees an opportunity to make her name by trying a mentally disturbed drifter accused of beating a woman to death in her home. It’s not the kind of case that makes headlines, but peaceful Howard county doesn’t see many homicides.

As Lu prepares for the trial, the case dredges up painful memories, reminding her small but tight-knit family of the night when her brother, AJ, saved his best friend at the cost of another man’s life. Only eighteen, AJ was cleared by a grand jury. Now, Lu wonders if the events of 1980 happened as she remembers them. What details might have been withheld from her when she was a child? The more she learns about the case, the more questions arise. What does it mean to be a man or woman of one’s times? Why do we ask our heroes of the past to conform to the present’s standards? Is that fair? Is it right? Propelled into the past, she discovers that the legal system, the bedrock of her entire life, does not have all the answers. Lu realizes that even if she could learn the whole truth, she probably wouldn’t want to."  Read an excerpt of Wilde Lake.

"Since Laura Lippman’s debut, she has won multiple awards and critical acclaim for provocative, timely crime novels set in her beloved hometown of Baltimore. Now a perennial New York Times bestselling author, she lives in Baltimore and New Orleans with her family." You can connect with Laura Lippman on her website, find her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.
 And thanks to the publisher, Harper Collins, I have three copies of Wilde Lake to giveaway! Open to US and Canada only, no PO boxes please. 
Enter using the Rafflecopter form below. Ends June 18/16.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Summer Living Boutique with DK Canada

It's finally here to stay - warm weather and summer living!

DK Canada has put together a great selection of books in their Summer Living Boutique - books "full of fun activities and pastimes from firing up the barbeque or prepping your trusty bicycle, to checking out what is growing in your backyard or happening in your local park, our Summer Living boutique has lots of books to inspire you to make this summer your best ever."

For me, summer means spending as much time outside as possible - and not in the kitchen! So, Cook Healthy and Quick is the perfect cookbook for me. Over 300 recipes. Check. Nutritious meals in 30 minutes or less? Even better!

Breakfasts, lunches, mains, sides and desserts are all covered. The cheese and bacon muffins were a healthy and easily transportable breakfast on an early morning road trip. I can't wait to try the buckwheat pancakes with cherry almond sauce on a Sunday morning.

There are so many salad recipes, all unique and using fresh vegetables and herbs that are readily available in the summer. The swiss chard and sweet potato is so colourful and looks so good. (and good for you!)

Make up some almond and apricot energy balls to take on your hike. Picnicking? Upscale your sandwiches from peanut butter. How about stuffed ciabatta buns with grilled veggies? Zucchini and pea mini tortillas? And my fave - turkey, avocado and greens. And of course quick brownies for dessert. ;0)

The pad thai recipe was great and literally took twenty minutes start to finish. There are many more mains - lots to put into play in the winter as well. (When I still strongly dislike spending more time than I have to in the kitchen)

I was delighted to find vegetarian, dairy-free and gluten-free selections as well. Big plus - the nutrition information per serving is included.

As with all DK books, there are gorgeous full colour photos on lovely glossy stock accompanying each recipe. See below for an example. For some reason, I don't mind cooking so much when I can see what the dish will look like. And a picture kinda makes your mouth water too. Here's an extended peek inside Cool Healthy and Quick.

Friday, June 3, 2016

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #108

- 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
Well, I can never get enough of thrillers! Two very different looks for Shari Lapena's forthcoming book The Couple Next Door. The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right.  An easy choice for me this week - UK. I know that's a woman's silhouette on the US cover, but it's too dark and somehow just too messy for me. And that line of type under the word door and above the author's name almost looks like fangs. I like the colour of the UK cover, the rainy glass wiped away looking at another house and as always, a great tagline. Which cover do you prefer? Any plans to read The Couple Next Door? You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The City of Mirrors - Justin Cronin

Well, the wait is finally over for fans of Justin Cronin's Passage trilogy. The third and final book, The City of Mirrors, has just released. And for those of you who haven't read any of the books yet - lucky you - you can start at the beginning and binge read right to the final page. And actually, that's what I did - I went back to the beginning and re-read the first book, The Passage, and the second book, The Twelve. There are very few books I would read a second time, but this series is one of them.

Now, I can't imagine you haven't heard of this series, but just in case here's the backstory.....

The Passage: "The Andromeda Strain meets The Stand in this startling and stunning thriller that brings to life a unique vision of the apocalypse and plays brilliantly with vampire mythology, revealing what becomes of human society when a top-secret government experiment spins wildly out of control. At an army research station in Colorado, an experiment is being conducted by the U.S. Government: twelve men are exposed to a virus meant to weaponize the human form by super-charging the immune system. But when the experiment goes terribly wrong, terror is unleashed. Amy, a young girl abandoned by her mother and set to be the thirteenth test subject, is rescued by Brad Wolgast, the FBI agent who has been tasked with handing her over, and together they escape to the mountains of Oregon. As civilization crumbles around them, Brad and Amy struggle to keep each other alive, clinging to hope and unable to comprehend the nightmare that approaches with great speed and no mercy. . . "

The Twelve: "A literary thriller revealed in multiple time frames, The Twelve is a suspenseful tale of the human capacity for sacrifice and the transformative power of renewal. In the present day: As three strangers attempt to navigate the chaos cast upon civilization by a U.S. government experiment gone wrong, their destinies intertwine. More than a hundred years in the future: Amy, Peter, Alicia and the others introduced in The Passage pinpoint the weaknesses of the twelve original vampires . . . even as they confront a betrayal by one of their own."

Myself and multitudes of fans have been waiting four years for the final entry to this absolutely fantastic series. I was so eager to reconnect with loved (and hated) characters, meet new ones and re immerse myself in this future. Familiar faces have aged, some are gone and a new generation has grown. As has complaceny. The virals are gone aren't they? Cronin takes us full circle, returning to that first mutant - named Zero. His narrative is a large part of The City of Mirrors. And he's not gone.....

"To make the world a wasteland; to bring upon it the mirrored image of my wretched self; to punish…my friend, my enemy, who believed he could save a world that was not savable, that never deserved saving in the first place."

I simply can't detail the width and breadth of these books.  And if you think they're just run of the mill vampire killing books, you're very, very wrong. The characters are so detailed, the dystopian world building is brilliant and the plots continually surprise me. And honestly, they're quite literary.

But as I drew closer to the final pages, I was torn. I wanted to see what ending Cronin had imaged, but I didn't want the book to end. Put it down and make it last or......well, binge reading won out. Yes, these are the final battles - action, adventure to keep you on the edge of your seat. Answers to questions left unanswered over the last two books. And an emotional roller coaster as the last stand takes place. And oh, the end - those last few pages had me in tears....Read an excerpt of The City of Mirrors.

I have no idea how Cronin could top this series, but I seriously hope he's writing his next book. You can connect with Justin Cronin on Twitter and find him on Facebook.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Giveaway - The California Wife - Kristen Harnisch.

Kristen Harnisch has just released The California Wife, the sequel to her debut novel, The Vintner's Daughter. And I have a copy to giveaway to one lucky reader!

What's it about?

"In the sweeping, poignant sequel to The Vintner’s Daughter, the Lemieux family’s ambition to establish an American winemaking dynasty takes Sara and Philippe from pastoral Napa to the Paris World’s Fair and into the colorful heart of early 20th-century San Francisco.

It is 1897, and Sara and Philippe Lemieux, newly married and full of hope for the future, are determined to make Eagle’s Run, their Napa vineyard, into a world-renowned winemaking operation. But the swift arrival of the 20th century brings a host of obstacles they never dreamed of: price wars and the twin threats of phylloxera and Prohibition endanger the success of their business, and the fiercely independent Sara is reluctant to leave the fields behind for the new and strange role of wife and mother.

An invitation to the World’s Fair in 1900 comes just in time to revive the vineyard’s prospects, and amid the jewel-colored wonders of Belle Époque Paris, Sara and Philippe’s passion is rekindled as well. But then family tragedy strikes, and, upon their return to California, a secret from Philippe’s past threatens to derail their hard-won happiness in one stroke.

Sara gains an ally when Marie Chevreau, her dear friend, arrives in San Francisco as the first female surgery student to be admitted to prestigious Cooper Medical College. Through Marie, Sara gets a glimpse of the glittering world of San Francisco’s high society, and she also forges friendships with local women’s rights advocates, inciting new tensions in her marriage. Philippe issues Sara an ultimatum: will she abandon the struggle for freedom to protect her family’s winemaking business, or will she ignore Philippe and campaign for a woman’s right to vote and earn a fair wage?

Fate has other plans in store in the spring of 1906, which brings with it a challenge unlike any other that the Lemieux family or their fellow Northern Californians have ever faced. Will the shadow of history overwhelm Sara and Philippe’s future, despite their love for each other? In The California Wife, Kristen Harnisch delivers a rich, romantic tale of wine, love, new beginnings, and a family’s determination to fight for what really matters—sure to captivate fans of The Vintner’s Daughter and new readers alike.'
Cr: Alix Martinez 

"Kristen Harnisch drew upon her extensive research and her experiences living in San Francisco and visiting the Loire Valley and Paris to create the stories for The California Wife  and her first novel, The Vintner's Daughter. Ms. Harnisch has a degree in economics from Villanova University and currently resides in Connecticut with her husband and three children."

You can connect with Kristen on:  ||  Website  ||  Facebook  ||  Twitter ||

“Kristen Harnisch’s follow-up to her wine-soaked debut, The Vintner’s Daughter, is just as sumptuous as her first offering. . . . This vital, sweeping story is delivered in Harnisch’s silky, upscale prose. Much like a fine glass of wine, The California Wife is a highbrow indulgence that is tasteful, captivating and heady.”—The Globe and Mail

“Harnisch’s lyrical descriptions underscore the beauty of winemaking, political activism, and even surgery. Combined with her first novel, The California Wife feels like the second season of a period miniseries, best enjoyed with a glass of zinfandel.”—Booklist

If you'd like to read The California Wife, I have a copy to give away to one lucky reader. 
Enter using the Rafflecopter form below. 
Open to US and Canada, no PO boxes please. Ends June 11/16.

Over the Counter #317

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Making things from scratch this week.....

First up is Kitchen Creamery: Making Yogurt, Butter and Cheese at Home by Louella Hill, photographs by Erin Kunkel.

From the publisher, Chronicle Books:

"As the DIY movement continues to gain momentum, it's no wonder home cheesemaking is the next hot topic. And from cheesemaking authority and teacher Louella Hill comes an education so timely and inspiring that every cheese lover and cheesemonger, from novice to professional, will have something to learn. Kitchen Creamery starts with the basics (think yogurt, ricotta, and mascarpone) before graduating into more complex varieties such as Asiago and Pecorino. With dozens of recipes, styles, and techniques, each page is overflowing with essential knowledge for perfecting the ins and outs of the fascinating process that transforms fresh milk into delicious cheese."

And how about some soap to wash your hands after making all that cheese? You might want to pick up DIY Artisanal Soaps: Make Your Own Custom, Handcrafted Soaps! by Alicia Grosso.

From the publisher: "Making your own luxurious and lovely soaps is easier than you think! With DIY Artisanal Soaps, you'll find everything you need to make all-natural, custom-designed soaps using locally sourced ingredients and beautifully scented essential oils. Featuring easy-to-follow instructions and tips for personalizing your designs, this book guides you through every step of soapmaking, allowing you to create unique bath and home products every time. Learn how to turn your garden or farmers' market finds into beautiful, handcrafted soaps, with invigorating scents like peppermint and rosemary or the summer-inspired pairings of ginger and papaya. You can even customize the fragrances and textures in the recipes to create the perfect product for your skincare needs.

Complete with stunning photographs and unique ideas for gifting, packaging, and selling your creations, DIY Artisanal Soaps helps you bring the vibrant colors and scents of nature into your home."

(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!)